Happy Birthday Mel Blanc

Mel Blanc was born on May 30, 1908. Even if you don’t know his name (you should) you probably know many of the voices he provided for countless classic animated characters. Just look at a partial list: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, and the Tasmanian Devil. He was a huge part of my childhood. He died in 1989 at the age of 81.

This one is before my time but he was a regular on the Jack Benny show.

Grace and peace.

Advertisements

Happy Birthday G.K. Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born 142 years ago today. Chesterton is well known for his Father Brown mystery stories but he was an accomplished writer who tackled just about every subject imaginable. His views on both religion and politics were respected even by those who disagreed with him. I didn’t know it until recently but Chesterton was about the same size I am. He was 6’4″ and weighed nearly 290 pounds. He liked to wear a cape and crumpled hat. He also carried swordstick and often had a cigar dangling from his mouth. Needless to say, he was a character. He died in 1936 at the age of 62.  I want to close this with one of my favorite quotes from him.

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.

Amen brother Chesterton. Amen.

Grace and peace.

Gilbert_Chesterton

Stuff

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

 

I’ve got this passage on my heart today. These words convict me. Where is my heart? Am I really seeking the kingdom of heaven above all else? The truth is that I like my stuff. I think we all do. I don’t even think it’s wrong to like or have stuff. Many of us, however, are not content with the stuff we do have. We want more. We want bigger, better, and brighter. Too many times we forget that this stuff isn’t even ours to begin with. It’s on loan and God expects us to be good stewards with it. Perhaps we don’t get the bigger and better stuff because we misuse the stuff we already have. It’s something to think about.

Grace and peace.

Writing Songs

I have been writing songs for as long as I can remember. I started taking piano lessons when I was about eleven years old and the ideas for songs started around the same time. I was in junior high school before I started to attempt “serious” songwriting. It’s probably a good thing that most of those attempts did not survive. The oldest surviving song that I have left is a set of lyrics called No Sleep. I wrote them for a friend’s band when I was a senior in high school. They liked it enough that they asked me to write more. The second set of lyrics I wrote for them was All The King’s Men. I eventually joined their band and that began my official journey down the road of songwriting.

That was back in 1988. Since then I have written hundreds of songs. Many of them have survived and many haven’t. Some of them have been good but most of them have been average. I do think I have written one or two really good songs as well as some really bad ones. I am not a professional songwriter and I really don’t aspire to be one at this point in my life. I write them to entertain myself. I would say that the majority of the ones I write these days are average. I still get lucky every now and then and write something that I am proud of. Usually I just write to see what happens. That’s how my most recent song came about.

I listen to more CCM pop music than I would like to admit. There aren’t many radio stations up here and the two that come in the best are K-LOVE and FLR. There is a modern country station and a modern pop station but I really don’t like most of the music they play. The classic rock station doesn’t come in well so I rarely listen to it. That means I hear a LOT of CCM if the radio is on. That got me to thinking. What would happen if I tried to write a song like the ones I hear on K-LOVE or FLR. I didn’t know if I could even come close. Well, I sat down and started strumming my guitar and after an hour I had this song. I found a beat on my Casio keyboard and recorded it using my iPhone. This is the roughest of demos so don’t expect  professional production. I just wanted to see if I could pull it off. You be judge.

Grace and peace

It’s Not Over – SoundClick

Dust In The Wind

I will turn 46 in eight days. Geoffry turned 20 three weeks ago. Jamie will turn 11 in one month. Robin and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage five days after that. My grandson Marcus will be a year old in August. Chris will turn 16 in December. No matter how long I sit here and stare at those numbers on the screen it is still hard to believe that time moves so quickly. It doesn’t seem possible but one glance in the mirror confirms the reality. I am getting old.

I can remember a time when I believed 30 was old. As it got closer and closer I was filled with dread at the thought of growing old. I soon passed it and glumly looked ahead to 40. I reached it much quicker than I expected and I was soon worrying about the horrifying prospect of hitting 50. I am now closer to 50 than I am to 40 and as I said earlier, I have trouble wrapping my mind around that. There is no way I am almost 50 years old is there?

Dad’s father died when he was 58. I hadn’t been born yet. His mother died five years later at the age of 59. I was 4. Mom’s father died in 1988 at the age of 62. Three of my four grandparents died young. I obviously don’t remember my grandfather Modlin and I barely remember my grandmother Modlin. My grandfather Styons seemed old when he died that’s probably because he had been so sick and weak at the time. As I sit here and type this paragraph they all seem so incredibly young. We lost my grandmother Styons just a couple of years ago but she was 86.

I’m not trying to be morbid. However, I am keenly aware of my own mortality. I fully understand that I am not too young to die. My uncle Neil died five years ago. He was only 52. When you look at the ages of my close relatives who passed away you see that so far my grandmother is the only one to have had a long life. Dad (who turns 71 in November) has outlived both of his parents by a decade and Mom (who will be 68 in nine days) has outlived her father by six years. Perhaps the premature deaths of my grandparents and uncle are anomalies. There’s really no way for me to know.

Even if I don’t have some sort of internal genetic clock ticking down to an early death, I could always die in an accident or some other unexpected manner. Once again, I am not trying to be gloomy. If anything I am trying to remind myself that I am not promised anything. I may not see the end of this day. That should motivate me to make the most out of each and every moment I do have. To paraphrase Kevin Cronin from REO Speedwagon, I need to live every moment and love every day.

There’s actually another song that came to mind while I was sitting here writing this. All of you classic rock folks probably know. The opening line perfectly expresses what I feel sometimes. When I sit down and realize just how fast time flies by.

I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s gone
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind

Grace and peace.

 

Hard To Handle

I don’t know how many times I have had someone tell me that God will never give me more than I can handle. The majority of these people were family members and friends who were genuinely trying to encourage me while I was going through a difficult time. There have been times when I said it to others. I had heard it so many times that I just assumed it was something taught in the Bible. The problem is that it isn’t.

I assume that the idea comes from 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 when Paul writes these words:

 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (ESV)

Notice what Paul actually says here. God won’t let us be tempted beyond our abilities. He will always provide us a way out. That isn’t the same as saying God won’t give you more than you can handle. I think He does it all the time. There are a LOT of passages which seem to suggest that. Psalm 38:1-8 reads:

O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
    nor discipline me in your wrath!
 For your arrows have sunk into me,
    and your hand has come down on me.

 There is no soundness in my flesh
    because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
    because of my sin.
 For my iniquities have gone over my head;
    like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

 My wounds stink and fester
    because of my foolishness,
 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
    all the day I go about mourning.
 For my sides are filled with burning,
    and there is no soundness in my flesh.
 I am feeble and crushed;
    I groan because of the tumult of my heart. 

(ESV)

Does that sound like someone who can handle what he’s going through? I sure don’t think so. A brief glimpse at our own everyday lives show us that it is not the case either. Think of the families who are crushed by the untimely death of a loved one. Think of the pain and agony brought on by disease. Think of those who are hopelessly burdened by addiction or depression. Sometimes we do get to a place where we just can’t go on. That’s when we must rely on God’s strength and not our own.

I realize that it is easier said than done. Part of the problem is that many of us do believe that we can handle it and we don’t really need Him in our lives. I know that I have been there. I have felt alone and abandoned by God but in hind sight I realize that in most of the situations I was trying to go it alone. I deliberately turned away.

I also believe that one of the ways God helps us through those times is His Church. If God’s people would truly love Him above all and then love one another, we could bear one another’s burdens when they become to heavy to carry alone. I know I have benefited from other believers helping me get up and keep moving. I do my best to do the same for others. When we stop and put our trust in God we do see that in our weakness He is strong.

Grace and peace.

Too Busy Not To Pray

Bill Hybel’s wrote the book Too Busy Not To Pray over twenty years ago. I can remember reading it for one of our discipleship groups back at Roanoke Bible College in 1994. I think we read another of his books, Honest To God, that year as well. I have gone back and read both of those books multiple times but it often feels like I haven’t really learned what they were trying to teach. Personal time (some call it Alone Time) with God is crucial. I can’t speak for anyone else but I know that I need to really do a better job when it comes to spending that time with the Father.

When I look at the Gospels and see the things Jesus said and did there is one thing that keeps jumping out at me: he made time to be alone with the Father. Luke 5:16 says that Jesus “frequently withdrew to the wilderness to pray.” Mark 1:35 says that he got up while it was still dark and went off by himself (to a solitary place) to pray. Jesus didn’t do this every now and then, it was his habit. I have often wondered how Jesus could be a man and not sin at all. I think his habit of spending time with the Father probably had something to do with it.

Jesus told his disciples that he came to do the will of the Father. Over and over he reminded people that he was in tune (for lack of a better term) with the Father’s will. Even when he was facing death and agony he prayed in the garden. Jesus was always about his Father’s business. We see that when he was just twelve years old and sitting with the religious leaders at the temple. How did he perfectly follow the will of the Father? I would suggest that he was perfectly in touch with the Father.

We often make excuses why we don’t spend more time in prayer. We’re busy. This past week has been one the busiest weeks I can remember. I still have several things ahead of me before it is over. You know what? I will get every single one of them done. Why? I will make time to do them. It’s sad that I can squeeze all sorts of things into my schedule but often find myself saying that I don’t have enough time to spend quality time alone with the Father. Perhaps that should be higher on my list of priorities. Don’t get me wrong, I do pray and read my Bible every day. There was a time when I couldn’t say that. However, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about being completely quiet and alone with Father with no distractions and no scheduled tasks beckoning me.

What would my life and ministry look like if I took up Jesus’ habit? What would your life look like? I pray that we stop and prioritize things. Let us make time for the Father before anything else. We may be surprised at the results.

Grace and peace.

Heading Out

Chris and I will be joining some more guys from the church and heading down to a men’s retreat at Sylvan Hills. We’re leaving around 3:00 and will be back some time tomorrow afternoon. I’m excited for the program tonight and I’m excited that we’re able to stay and be a part of the work day tomorrow. This should be a great weekend.

I’ll close this very brief post with words from 1 John.

Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:5-10 (NET)

 

Grace and peace.

Let Love Rule

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)

 

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with allthe understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Mark 12:28-34 (ESV)

 

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Luke 10:25-28 (ESV)

 

To quote Jeff Lynne, “I can’t get it out of my head.” In the Luke passage Jesus follows  up by telling the parable of the good Samaritan. After telling it he asks who was the man’s neighbor. The lawyer correctly points out that it was the one who showed mercy. Jesus then tells him to do the same.

1 John 4:7-21 (ESV) says the following.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

 

There’s no getting around this love thing. I know that I haven’t always done a good job of showing love to those around me. It’s hard enough to love friends and family sometimes. It’s really difficult to love those we don’t like or agree with. However, Jesus covers that as well. In Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:27-36 he tells us to love our enemies as well. I am convinced that we cannot truly be Christians if we don’t love others. We definitely can’t claim to follow Jesus if we hate others. Back in that passage from 1 John it says that if we don’t love, we don’t know God. That’s pretty heavy. I pray that God will generate that love within me because I know that it can only come from Him. To quote Lenny Kravitz, I pray that I can “let love rule.”

Grace and peace.

 

Lord, You Took The Shadows

Over the past two years my heart has really been burdened for those who suffer from depression and anxiety. I have seen at least two families up here lose loved ones to suicide and it seems like more and more stories pop up every day. I deal with mild anxiety issues from time to time but nothing that makes me feel like the only answer is to end my life. However, those people are out there and they are suffering. I don’t know what the answer is because every situation is different. People hurt for various reasons and there isn’t one cure all that can help each and every one of them.

I am still trying to figure out how to make this part of my personal mission. I have gotten involved with a ministry that reaches out to those struggling with addictions. Many addicts deal with the same sort of issues that are connected with severe depression and suicide. Some of them eventually kill themselves as well. If I can just share hope with one person then I feel like I am moving in the right direction.

Other than that, I don’t know what to do outside of raising awareness. We can’t always look at someone and tell if he/she is struggling with suicidal thoughts. Many people are able to put on a happy face and there is no indication that something is wrong until it is too late. We need to pray for those who are hurting and we need to pray that we can be a ray of hope to them.

I’ll close with a snippet from a song by Rez Band.

God, are You there, can You hear me now?
Show me how to hope
Lost in the dark on a dead end road, please save me from myself

Lord, You, You took the shadows
– all my fears and doubt and brought me out of the night
Lord, You , You take the shadows
– give me hope and love and turn my darkness to light

 

I lift up every single soul out there who is hurting right now. I pray that grace and peace of Jesus overwhelms you. I pray that you reach out for help. I pray that someone is there for you.

Grace and peace.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)