May 25, 2017

I Spilled Coffee on My Shirt!

My mom instilled in me at an early age a sense for fashion. And, except for when I don’t, I always like to keep up my appearance. 

She believed that clothes should be kept clean (which was no small task for her since she had ten children). So each day my mom would wash and dry the laundry so that once again clothing would always be kept clean and ready for the next event.

Mom instructed me that clothes do make the man and therefore each fall she would take me shopping to pick out the newest style of clothing.

My mom was so in tune with fashion that I had bell bottoms the same season that they first came out in the seventies, along with paisley shirts, vests, bandannas, and tie-dyed t-shirts. She let us boys dress like hippies and the girls wear dresses made from paper.

When this new thing called “disco” came along, she took me to the store to purchase leisure suits with white and brown platform shoes. 

Fortunately, I quickly learned that "stayin alive" meant that I should not have anything to do with the whole disco scene, and I got as far away from it as I could possibly get!

Today, I may not always be in style (sometimes one must wait several years for an older style to come full circle), but I do have a sense of what looks good together

My dress shirts are sent to the local dry cleaner to be professionally cleaned; heavy on the starch. After wearing them for an event, I promptly send them back to the cleaners for a fresh start.

My suits are neatly hanging in a closet awaiting to be paired up with a pair of dress pants and a matching tie. My dress shoes are polished and shined to military precision.

I pay attention (and will even ask) if my socks match my pants.

Even when I am casual in my attire I care about whether what I am wearing matches; including when I am just running up to the store or cutting the grass.

Another thing that mom taught me was that it was important to not spill food on your clothing and to always keep it clean. When we were little, she made bibs to cover my clothing as I worked on getting food and beverages into my mouth without spilling.

I’ve worked with quite a few co-workers who could have used this training from my mom. In fact, it seems to me that each time they put on a new shirt, they insist on spilling food on it!

In fashion and food my mom taught me well.

So, you can imagine the horror when I spilled coffee on my shirt!

No, this wasn’t a special shirt, but the idea of staying clean in my appearance was put to the test as I tried to figure a way to conceal the major faux pas in the fashion world. I thanked God that Miranda Priestly wasn’t around!

Quickly I went to the nearest source of water to dilute the stain before it set in, knowing that it would still need to be pre-treated with laundry soap (to attempt) to remove it.

I realize that what I call a sense of fashion has the undertones of OCD; in that clothing really serves a basic need for modesty and warmth. Beyond that is mere vanity and preference.

And the delusion that I can always keep my clothes clean (or anything for that matter) is OCD in full bloom!

As the great comedian Phyllis Diller once said; “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing”

As delusional it is to think that I can keep my clothes always clean, it is even more delusional to think (and believe) that I can keep my life totally clean at all times.

Like a fresh shirt, my life can be an open target of the misdirected things that fly towards me (or out of my mouth) and land in places that puts my illusion of righteousness to the test as I tried to figure a way to conceal the major faux pas to others in my world.

My feeble attempts to stay clean or to even clean up and conceal my mess will always (in my efforts) fail miserably. Simply put, it won’t work.

Like spilled coffee on my shirt, I need to go quickly to the only source that can “dilute the stain” before it sets in, knowing that it will still need to be washed with something greater to remove it.

In Isaiah 1:18 the Lord calls out to all of us who have “spilled coffee on our shirts” (sin) that we can’t seem to remove;

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

The Lord wants to remove ALL of the stain so that there are NO reminders that anything was “spilled”.

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)

We may not be able to start each day with new, or at least clean clothes, but we can awaken with the hope that as we turn to God each day, we will find His mercy fresh and new waiting for us to use. Great is His faithfulness; in that we can place our hope!

Are you ready to get your life cleaned up? Have you tried to clean up your life with no success? Are you tired of trying to do it your way? Call 1-888-NEED –HIM; someone is waiting to talk with you.

All Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

May 18, 2017

Hey Mister, There’s Underwear Stuck To Your Shirt!

It was a long day filled with drama, intrigue, and mystery and I couldn’t wait to get home to do my best impersonation of Mister Rogers and change my clothes. I’m not sure why, but it helps me transition from where I was to what’s next on my agenda.

It felt as though all I did all day was make decisions at the speed of an air traffic controller, as all around me situations arose that needed my attention.

All day it felt as though decisions were made based on limited information that I was given. And, in time, when things came to the light, I realized that a more thorough investigation might have helped me make better decisions.

In one incident, something was “planted” to punk a staff member. And, judgment came way too soon until the whole thing was revealed to be a joke gone wrong. Fortunately those who were indicted were in on the joke and we all had a good laugh.

And now I was home and I made my way upstairs to my bedroom to change my clothes.

As I started to undress, a pair of black women’s panties fell to the floor and I thought of several things. First of all, the panties, being black, had probably clung to the t-shirt and weren’t noticed because the t-shirt was also black and had been covered up by a dress shirt.

Secondly, I was glad that I didn’t have anyone else see the panties.

Thirdly, I was grateful that the panties hadn’t fallen to the floor while I was at work. No, not because of any embarrassment on my part. Being that I am almost six decades old, I could use the “I’m an old man!” card and people would leave me alone.

No, I was grateful that the panties hadn’t fallen to the floor while I was at work because of what would probably had happened next.

During the day (M-F), I pastor by managing a program for men who are dealing with addictions and it is not unusual for some of the clients to fabricate the truth. 

And today had been one of those days when I had been chasing the wind trying to get the truth in a (potentially) volatile situation.   

One of those days when (sometimes) I resorted to being driven rather than being led and where I reacted rather than responding.

One of those days where I wondered whether or not the truth would ever come out as I tried to sift through distortion of the truth and we tried to unravel a web of stories as we sought the truth.

And, as the dust settles and the truth comes out, there are usually messes to clean up and apologies to be given for misreading the situation and not showing an attitude of grace. Or for not taking the time to pause awhile as we waited upon God for what we should do.

As I bent over and picked up the black panties, I thought about how on this day if they had been found by a staff, there was the potential of one of the men being accused of possessing something impropriate for them to have.

Accusations could have arisen trying to find the guilty person who would be so “sick” as to have a pair of women’s panties in their possession. Based on how we were dealing with things, we probably would have brought in someone from the Spanish Inquisition to assist us.

As I placed the panties in the clothes basket, I uttered a prayer of gratefulness that they hadn’t fallen out of my shirt. And for how aware I was for His grace that stopped an investigation.

Yes, we are called to hold people accountable; but to do it in ways that honor and care for each other. In ways in which we know we have not jumped to conclusions without ever really investigating.

We are called to love like we have been loved:   You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.”
              (Luke 6:36-37)

We are called to be like the One who has shown mercy upon us:
       “The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.” (Psalm 145:8-9)

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.  For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Luke 7:1-2)

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19)

All Scripture is from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

May 11, 2017

You’ve Stolen My Heart

At the time of this writing, I have four grandsons (Emmett, Everett, Gavin, and Rowan) and one granddaughter (Fallon Ann). I love each of them so very much, and oftentimes it is very hard for me after they have gone home (or when I have left their house). Each of them has a part of my heart.

I still don’t know how it happens, but (seemingly) each and every time we visit the grandchildren, they light up when they see us and come running over to give me (and Cathy) a hug.

And yet, because there is only one granddaughter, I can write this without offending the boys…that is until another granddaughter comes along.

But something happened to me on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 6:34 in the morning, when our daughter Elizabeth (with her husband Chris at her side) gave birth to her first child; Fallon Ann.

A casual look at my BlogSpot revealed that I have written about her at least sixteen times since she was born. I re-read some of them tonight as I am writing this week’s blog and cried because of my love for her.

I was thinking of the casual conversations Cathy and I had this past week when we spent time at Fallon’s hobby farm along with her brother Gavin, my daughter Elizabeth, and her husband Chris. Cathy and I had gone up to their home to help build a playhouse.

I should note that when I work on projects, I have a history of being goal orientated. But sometimes it has been at the expense of quality time with my children and grandchildren.  

This comes from my years working in construction where production meant profits. In fact, Cathy’s dad, when he was alive, used to “drive me nuts” when he would stop and start work on projects (such as when we built the cabin together) just so that he could spend time with his children and grandchildren.

He was a man who really knew that things were not more important than people and relationships. And so, as I thought of him on the drive up to the farm, I was determined this would not be one of those times so I asked Cathy to help me take some breaks to spend quality time with Fallon and Gavin.

I should note that even if I am focused or goal orientated, I have always made room for my children to help by handing stuff to me or swinging a hammer or cleaning up. Today was no acception as Gavin and Fallon worked alongside of us.

At one point towards five pm, Cathy told Gavin and Fallon that we would be staying over for supper so that grandpa could spend time with them. That was my cue to set down the hammer and stop working for the day.

And, just to make sure that I got the message, Cathy said gently said to me; “No more work so that you can spend time with them.” I took the opportunity to thank her and proceeded to go to Gavin and Fallon who called for me to push them on the swings.

It was a wonderful opportunity to swing and talk and laugh and spend quality time with just the two of them as mom and dad cooked supper with Cathy. During this time away from work, Fallon really touched my heart on two occasions.

The first came when I showed her a photo of a drawing that she did on the white board in our kitchen. The weekend before when she was at our house she started drawing a face in dry erase markers and I asked her who it was and she said; “It’s you” and gave me a big smile as she proceeded to draw another person whom I had assumed was grandma Cathy.

When I showed her the photo of the drawing and made a comment about grandpa and grandma, she said; “That’s not grandma, that is a picture I drew of you and me, grandpa”. I stood corrected and my heart was touched that she would draw a picture of the two of us.

After a while, Fallon said that she wanted to sweep out the clubhouse one more time before we ate, so I walked with her.

As we walked through her yard, talking about all sorts of things, Fallon said to me; “Grandpa, I’ve been trying to think of something special that just you and I can do together today.” This little girl was reciprocating love to me and desired to spend time with me and communicated it so very clearly.

And, as important as it was for her to get her clubhouse built, she wanted even more to spend time with the builder.

Now it is one thing to for me to think that I am a favorite person to my children and grandchildren and quite another when I find out that it may be true.

For some of us, this is easy to believe and receive. For others of us, this is not so easy to believe and receive. In fact, our minds can self-talk us into pushing it away.

And yet, the fact is my granddaughter loves her grandpa and wanted (wants) to spend time with him.

As I write this I realize that sometimes I do the same thing with God. Oh, I am grateful that He provides for me and forgives me (and doesn’t squash me like a bug).

But sometimes it is hard to believe and receive the fact that He wants to spend time with me; after all…if He only knew…oh wait, He does know…
Or that He could possibly ever say to me; “I’ve been trying to think of something special that just you and I can do together today.”

It is in these moments that I must believe that He has a part of my heart and stand on His Word that tells me that He demonstrated His own love toward me when I was a sinner and died for me.” (Romans 5:8)

He hung on a cross while we were yet sinners arms wide open, heart exposed, and longing for us to come to Him like my grandchildren do every time I see them.

And He isn’t as preoccupied with the religious things as we might think. And, as important as it is for us to do things for Him, He wants even more to spend time with the person doing the work.

He wants us to come to Him and spend time with Him as though nothing else matters.

How about you? Do you know that you are loved; really loved? Believe it or not you can. God is waiting for an opportunity to love you. But don’t take my word for it; take His – the BIBLE. Unsure where to start? Drop me a line

I would love to share with you how you, too, can have a slate that is clean and heart that is open to love.

Or call 1-877-2GRAHAM (1-877-247-2426) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

May 4, 2017

Boasting Weakness

“How was your game?” Cathy asked me when I came home from hockey this week. “Not great”; I told her.

I went on to say; “I played good defense and stopped and blocked several shots. At one point my goalie said thanks for saving some goals by taking the hit. But offensively, I didn’t score a goal or an assist and we seemed to be off as a team.”  

And, when I couldn’t play as well as I wanted to, I had to stop myself because I could feel self-criticism creeping into my vocabulary.

Yes, in the big picture, I will survive to play another and better game. And yes, it’s OK if I lose, but I don’t like to play and not make some difference to my teammates.

The fact is, parts of my game were out of my control and even though I did my best, I needed to admit that I had weakness in my game.

So, I have been pondering that word weakness” this week as around me things have been beyond my control. People I have been working with have been making dumb decisions and seemingly throwing away all my sage advice.

All around me seemed (with my distorted lenses on) to be people whose lives were in chaos. Some of them ended up (actually) dying by drinking themselves to death or continuing to kill a relationship that at one point meant something to them.

Weakness is translated in the Bible:  feebleness (of body or mind); by implication malady; moral frailty: - disease, infirmity, sickness, weakness. more feeble, impotent, sick, without strength

None of us like to admit we have weakness in any part of our game or our lives. We want to believe that we are the superstar, the champion, the one who still has it (whether we had before or not).

And yet we all have weakness, no matter how hard we try to change the circumstance, and we all have areas we still struggle in or that are out of our control in our lives; and in the lives we try to help put back together.  

Simply put, this week I needed to admit that I had weakness in my life if I was going to survive this game of life.

I remember 22 years years ago when I was a young pastor some counsel that another older pastor gave to me. He said that IF I was going to work with people who wanted to kill themselves, I had to be “ok” with the fact that they may end up killing themselves no matter what I said or did. The same was true with people pondering an abortion or a divorce or struggling with an addiction.

The apostle Paul wrote about his weakness saying that he BOASTED in and about his weakness.

He had an area of his life that wasn’t as he wished it to be and prayed that the Lord would heal him so that he wouldn’t be weak any more.

He wrote that he prayed to be healed three times and that the Lord said to Paul; My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 

Paul’s responds (this amazes me) by writing; So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Earlier in that same letter to the Church in Corinth he wrote;“Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.” (2 Corinthians 11:29-30)

Boasting in his weakness? How??? Because Paul came to realize that his weakness was a conduit for the Lord to show His glory (through) Paul’s life. He didn’t have to have every area of his life working perfectly (as he thought it should be) for the Lord to use him.

Simply put, he could do his best and trust that God could still do great things through his best attempt; even if it wasn’t his best “game”.

Paul responded to this revelation by writing; So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)

Paul is saying; “I just let Christ take over! And so, the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

That is the kind of man I want to be, whether playing in a hockey game or in the game of life. A man who boasts in his weakness that the power of God and the glory of God may be seen by others who observe my life!

All Scripture Taken from NLT Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.