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Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Cmon Lucky Ducky!

I guess you can say it is the “American Dream!”  For millions of people that dream begins when they win the lottery!  Of course the lottery commercials will tell you “You gotta play to win.”  Unfortunately when you play it is almost assured you will lose.  I remember when the lottery tickets sold here were just for my state.  You picked six numbers out of forty for a chance to win a million dollars.  What most people didn’t realize is that even when they won the million (which was maybe one in a million chance), they would only get a fraction of their winnings in a payment plan every year.  Still I guess it is the allure of owning a lottery ticket and having a chance (however minute it is) of winning.  Maybe that is the “thrill” of the game, although I’m sure that after losing for the umpteenth time it probably gets a little old throwing away the wasted lottery non winning tickets.  To make the games more appealing these days a few states have joined together to sponsor a power ball game.  These tickets can be bought in four or five states and if nobody wins the jackpot rolls over!  Did I say “if nobody wins?”  How can that be?  With millions and millions of people playing every week how can nobody win?  That just shows the insurmountable odds that are in play.  I’ve seen jackpots go over two hundred million dollars.  The higher the number the more tickets are sold because the lure is too much not to try.

A big jackpot line from just one store!

“Hey, come here!”  It was the man at the carnival behind his game.  I was thirteen and he had noticed I was studying his game.  The carnival was set up in the Zayre parking lot which was maybe a half a mile from my house.  For you kids out there Zayre was a popular department store back in the day.  I had walked over with maybe five or six dollars on me.  His game was a simple one.  All you had to do was pull a duck out of the water.  They were small rubber ducks that apparently had a number on the bottom.  The numbers were added together and when you reached a certain level you received your prize.  I was trying for a TV set that day and the magic number was twenty five.  I needed twenty five points to reach the prize!  It was a nice portable TV displayed in the back of his booth.   “Only a quarter”, he stated “pull a duck, win a prize!”  It seemed like a cinch!  A quarter a pull for a numbered duck!  In no time I will have accumulated enough points for the TV!  So I gave the man my quarter and picked up one of the ducks!  To my amazement I think it was four points!  Four or five pulls later and I was at 12 points!  I was almost halfway there and I had only used $1.50!  Suddenly I was informed that a different phase of the game was in session.  My pulls started getting a little more expensive.  Now they were 50 cents and after a couple of pulls they went to a dollar.  Suddenly I found myself out of money with twenty two points.  So close I thought and here I am without the money to finish the job.  I asked the man if he could hold my game for me so I could go home and get more money?  I’m sure that he gave me a time limit because off I went running back home!  I had some money on my dresser that I didn’t bring that day.  I have always been thrifty with my money and saved my allowances up.  This would be my chance to get something nice I thought.  The speed that I raced into the house and straight for my room got my parents attention.  I grabbed seven or eight more dollars and I was off!  I didn’t get to pull many more ducks that day.  To my surprise the price of duck went up again!  Now I was paying $2.00 per duck.  Another strange thing happened.  Although I was only three points away I started pulling ducks that had zero value.  After three or four more pulls I had no money left and was still two and a half points short.  When I ran out of money the carnival guy handed me a cheap plastic toy like camera he said I won.  I think I lost fourteen dollars that day and it’s value was a lot more than fourteen dollars today.  Just as I was finishing my losing game my dad pulled up.  I must have sputtered where I was going when I was hurriedly leaving the house.  He probably had remembered back in his youth a similar situation he had been through.  How nice it would be if we could learn from the mistakes of our parents.  Most of the time their mistakes do not have the same meaning as the ones we ultimately make.  My dad was too late to save my fate that day.  My money was all gone and the carnival man was looking for someone else to lure in.

Lucky Ducky? Hardly

I remember talking to someone from my old neighborhood years ago.  At the time she was married with two or three kids and they were barely paying the bills.  Apparently a week or two before in our Michigan Lotto game the jackpot hit forty million.  They had gotten the lottery fever and decided to spend money they couldn’t afford to spend.  They bought fifty lotto tickets that week and apparently hadn’t come close on any of them.  This is so typical of the “American Lottery Dream” mentality.  I see it all of the time and you probably do too.  The person ahead of you in line looks like they are poorer than poor and yet they are running up a big bill on the lottery.  Statistics show that out of people making $13,000 or less a year, they spend on average $645 on lottery tickets.  It comes to roughly nine percent of their income.

I realize that you will probably not listen to me as to how you spend your money.  I know that many of you have the lottery dream and nothing will stop you from trying.  However, as you pick up those losing lottery tickets again and again think about all of the money wasted.  Think about what nice things you might have been able to buy if you had it!  In Matthew 6:33 Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well.”  Is he talking about you winning mega millions?  No, he is talking about all of your “needs” being met.  In Matthew 6:20-21 Jesus said, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Did you know that as Christians we have unlimited riches in heaven?  Did you know that your mansion up there will make these earthly mansions look like sand castles?  Jesus said that he is going to prepare a place for us!  So I leave you with this question.  Are your treasures stored up in heaven or are you looking for that quick alluding worldly gain?  Is your faith based on Jesus the solid rock or are you trying to ride the back of a small rubber duck in a game that you cannot win?

The Election For Your Soul

Have you ever considered how many choices we make in a day?  Just the fact that you are reading this was a choice.  Just off of the top of my head we may make choices as to what time to get up, what to wear, what to eat for breakfast?  If you think deeper almost everything we do is a choice.  If I’m driving it could be how fast will I drive?  Should I pass this person?  Should I turn the radio on?  If I’m walking it is how fast and far do I walk?  Do I look around as I walk?  If I see something interesting do I take time to stop?  This is such an endless list because when we think about it our whole life is based on choices.  Each choice that we make has some kind of consequence, some more than others.  If I don’t eat breakfast I may not feel good later on.  If  I choose to not get eight hours of sleep I could get very tired later in the day.  It is true that we make thousands of choices every single day.  Some of the choices may not have lasting consequences like others.  If I choose to look out the window it won’t have the same consequences as if I choose to have a meeting with my boss.  Then there are choices within the choice.  Suppose I was upset with someone.  Do I talk to them about it?  If so when would be the best time?  What do I say to them?  What will they probably say back?  What is my goal in this situation?  Should I talk to them in person or on the phone?  Each little decision that I make will have some kind of consequence either good or bad that I will now have to live with.  If the decision takes some thought we ask ourselves What will happen if I do this?  Will I be happier or will it matter?

Of course there are daily decisions that we make and then there are decisions that are more long term.  These decisions are not limited to this list but might include What will I do for a profession? Who will I marry or will I get married?  Would I like to have kids?  Should I buy a house or rent?  Should I buy a used car or a new one?  Each decision in life starts to define us as people.  Other people look at us from a point of view of decisions that we made.  They define us based on those decisions because that is how people are.  Many times they may make a decision to become friends with us, or they may not like the decisions we made and stay aloof.

Election time is upon us again.  As I drive home I see all of the signs for this or that candidate.  If the phone is ringing there is a good chance it is about the election.  The commercials are constantly playing for one candidate or the other.  They are both out to get my vote and yours whether it is through the debates or creative ads.  Sometimes I think my vote isn’t really very important.  After all I only have one vote and there are millions of votes cast each election.  There are also millions of eligible voters who do not vote.  I guess they figure that their vote really doesn’t mean anything.  Though your vote and mine will not decide who wins this election there is an election that your vote and mine are always the deciding vote!

peoplevoting

You might ask “What election could I possibly be the deciding vote?”  It is the election of who you will worship?  You see we are all meant to worship something or someone.  It is the very essence of our existence.  You might make the argument that you don’t worship anyone or anything.  I have to strongly disagree with anyone with this view.  Ask yourself this question “What is the most important thing in my life?”  The answer to that question is the answer to who or what you worship.  Oh you say “I don’t worship this thing!”  The fact that it is number one on your list tells me that it takes up precious time in your heart and mind as well.  You may argue that your kids or your spouse are the most important.  These are good things and are blessings from God, but even good things can be in their wrong place.  If I put anything before God in my life I am in essence worshiping that instead of him.  All things are temporary in this life while he is eternal!  Whatever is the most important thing in your life and mine is what we worship.  We don’t need some kind of idol that we bow down to.  The little idols in our life could be anything that takes the place of God as number one.

You are the only voter in the election for your soul.  Like the presidential election millions of people vote, but each person in this election decides in their own personal election.  It is an election that determines which power will rule your life and mine.  Satan on one hand is the candidate that stresses living for today.  His platform is about the now.  His slogan is  live it up for today for tomorrow you may die.  He shows us nice things that we can have now.  He paints the picture that material things can buy us happiness for the future.  He is the candidate of promises that he can’t or has no intention of keeping.  He uses temptation like he did with Jesus on the mountain.  In that encounter Jesus had fasted for forty days and was extremely weak.  Satan tried to tempt him at his weakest point by showing him all of the kingdoms of his world.  “You can have it all if you bow and worship me!”  Unlike Jesus, many of us fall for his promises and deceit.  Many take him up on his offer and sell their souls for wealth and fame.  Many buy into his theory that life is for living now.  They buy into the get it while you can and if it feels good do it attitude he promotes.  The problem with Satan’s candidacy is that it has no substance.  In his live for today framework we have to sell our souls to him.  He is in a battle for souls and he wants your vote and mine.  He will do anything and everything in his power to get our vote.

Jesus Vs Satan Arm Wrestling wallpaper

Now let’s look at the other candidate Jesus.  Jesus is the solid rock as the song goes!  All other ground is sinking sand.  That song was about a parable Jesus used describing the wise builder as opposed to the one who built on sand.  The sand would be like Satan’s plan that is quickly blown away and destroyed.  Unlike Satan who makes promises he can’t keep and requires your soul, Jesus promises us eternal life if we come to him.  He offers a peace that is beyond understanding and a purpose that takes away the emptiness in our heart.  He is not out there in your face like Satan.   He lets his followers tell his story of how he has changed their lives  and how now they have hope for the future!

I’ve read so many times of people killing themselves when it appeared they had it all (fame and fortune) and everything to live for.   That is Satan’s ultimate victory as he takes one more soul with him.  They bought into his lie and when they found out the truth they felt it was too late.  It is never too late for Jesus.  He will take your empty life and change it no matter how much you bought into Satan’s lies in the past.  The best or worst thing that can happen to someone is when they reach their goals and dreams Satan has promised them.  Now they discover how empty his promises are.  Sometimes they turn to God as they realize they had everything this world has to offer and still were so empty.  Other times Satan has their soul and they see no way out.  There are consequences in the decisions that we make.

So election day is upon us.  Election day is every day.  Like in politics there may be a debate going on.  It is a debate within you as to who you should choose?  Satan will no doubt make the case that Christians are fools for not idolizing the things of the world.  He will forever make promises that he can’t keep just to claim your soul in his trophy room.   He never quits either and will tempt the believers who made the right choice in the past also.  He is relentless and never gives up.  Yet, he cannot send us to hell unless we choose to go.  Just remember his past record as Jesus stated, “He is a liar and the father of lies.”  Like the Bible says “choose this day who you will serve.”  Just remember though that your decision has a monumental effect on your future.  It’s a decision that will either send you to heaven or hell.   The wonderful thing is that we have a choice.  It doesn’t matter how anyone else chooses.  In politics many times the person we vote for loses because we are only one vote.  In this election our vote determines everything within our heart.  Choose this day who you will serve.  As for me and my house we will serve the Lord!  Election day is here, vote wisely!

Lost And Alone

The bus picked us up at 7:15 am.  I was eight years old and I was excited!  Somehow we had learned of some special programs Portage Central had put together for kids during the summer!  Portage Central would become the rival high school years later.  For now it was a place to go for a morning of fun!  Don was eleven and a friend of mine.  He was the neighborhoods best athlete.  Don was a big kid for his age.  He was a husky kid who just naturally excelled in any sport he tried.  After high school he was drafted by the White Sox!  He ended up taking a college scholarship and today is a baseball coach in Florida.    In the neighborhood football games Don would be on one side and one of the kids his age would captain the other.   Don always played, but on the other side the trio was either Dave, Chris, or Mike.  One thing was constant in those pickup football games.  I was always on Don’s team!  Don took a liking to me and I was thrilled.  I was just a little kid, small for my age.  My other friends were all much bigger.  In football my size was a disadvantage when it came to tackling those big kids.  Don took care of that because nobody ever got by him.  My strength was receiving his passes.  He always played quarterback and I don’t remember ever seeing anyone tackle him.  They would be grabbing at his legs and he would stand there like a tree and throw the ball way down field.  Being small I could sneak behind the enemy lines and many times catch his long throws.  One time we were playing at night.  The field we played on was maybe thirty yards from goal line to goal line.  On this night Don threw the ball way up in the air from one end to the other and each time I was catching it for touchdowns!  Don didn’t see any of my catches it was so dark.  He asked after each throw what happened and the other team reluctantly told him I caught it again!  After one of the last of several touchdowns that night Don looked at me and said “you are the best I have ever seen!”  For an eight year old kid coming from his hero of the neighborhood I don’t know if my feet hit the ground going home that night!

“The Baseball Clinic” a sand lot with instruction!

Don was going to be on that bus too!  You see one of the programs that Portage Central was running was called “The Baseball Clinic.”  Kids from eight to twelve would meet at the Portage Central school and be instructed on the fundamentals of baseball.  Usually after a teaching session we would be divided up and games would be played.  In later years I remember several games  played where we were divided according to our ages.  That first year there was usually one game as there weren’t that many kids and all of the ages were combined.  Talk about feeling over matched as I was batting at eight against an eleven or twelve year old pitcher!  My glove was always ahead of my batting.  My dad would take me out in the yard and play catch with me often!  We always had games in the neighborhood too and fielding was my thing!  In those early years I always wanted to be the catcher.  That very rarely happened as the instructors must have thought I was too small and might get hurt.  I guess I just liked the fact that the catcher wore all of that equipment!  I remember a year or two later I asked the instructor if I could catch and he looked at me and said “you do so well at shortstop, why do you want to catch?”  One time when I was eight they did put me back there.  With that big equipment on I must have looked like the kid from mars as the shin guards went all of the way up my legs.  One thing was for sure that day, nothing was going to hurt me!  All of my body had some kind of protection from head to toe and the equipment actually overlapped.  No need to crouch either as I could just stand and catch I was so small.

It was the equipment that I wanted to wear!

From that first day I discovered why the bus came so early.  It had to make several stops to pick kids up.  My sister would sometimes come along and go to the arts and crafts program they were running.  They had several other special programs too, but the main program was summer school.  Back then if you didn’t do well in classes you had to go to summer school.  Although several of us were on the bus for the special programs, most of the kids were on there for summer school.

I loved the baseball clinic!  Watching Don play in those games I realized that not only was he the best in my neighborhood, he was also the best player at the clinic!  It was an honor for me to be his friend because I was simply in awe of him!  Don had friends his own age that he hung around with too.  I would tag along with them.  I needed to tag along  because there was usually about an hour from the time the clinic ended until we would catch the bus for home.  There were several buses too.  I guess I never bothered to think independently back then.  As long as I was with Don, he knew what bus to take and what our bus number was, when it would come, and where it would be.  After the games we usually went to a little store down the road where we could buy candy and pop!  My usual thing was to buy a can of pop (usually rock n rye), that was ice cold and some Turkish Taffy which was banana flavored!  How I loved that combination of the cold pop and the chewy candy!  It was something to look forward to after a hot morning on the baseball diamond!

This particular day started out like the rest.  The baseball clinic lasted for six weeks on weekdays during the summer and this was one of those.  We played our games and went to the store afterwards and all of that.  Somehow though, when I looked around Don and his friend were gone.  I don’t know if he didn’t know how much I depended on him or what happened?  Suddenly here I was miles and miles from home (probably eight miles but to a kid it felt like a million).  I walked all around looking for Don but he wasn’t to be found.  All the while I am getting scared out of my mind!  My dad was working and my mom didn’t have a car, so even if I thought of calling home (which I didn’t), I wouldn’t have had success.  The more I wandered around that area looking for Don at every turn, the more scared I got.  I was alone and lost I thought.  There was no way home and I didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t see any buses and I figured after awhile that I must have missed it.  Confused, scared, and at my wits end I tried to open the door of the school to find some help.

I had missed my only way home!

The door was one of those steel doors and there were several of them all in a row.  To my despair all of them were locked.  At this point I started crying uncontrollably.  I started pounding on that door with everything that I had.  After a minute or two I heard some life.  An older gentlemen maybe in his fifties heard the commotion and came to the door.  He must have been surprised to see a little eight year old kid decked in his baseball cap and carrying his glove crying uncontrollably.  I sputtered out how that I didn’t have a ride home and had missed the bus.  Without hesitation that kindly old man (well he seemed very old to me that day), told me he would take me home.  I don’t remember the details of what his car looked like.  I don’t know if he worked alone or how he was able to just leave work and take a stranded kid home, but he did!  Obviously this was the days before any navigating tools.  I told him if he could get to Portage Road I could direct him from there.  He did and he complimented me on knowing the way home.  I’m sure this guy has long since departed, but what he did for me that day will live in my heart as one of the kindest things anyone ever did!  I needed someone desperately.  Looking back I didn’t even know his name and he didn’t know mine, but he offered a helping hand in my hour of need!

Perhaps you are at a place that I was on that day years ago.  Maybe you thought you could count on someone or something and all of the sudden you discovered you couldn’t.  Perhaps the people who are heroes in your life have let you down. Maybe you feel lost and confused as you struggle to keep going.  Maybe like me you want to bang on that door in frustration.  There is a door that will lead you home!  It will not be going back to the old way of life where hope is lost and heroes fade.  Just as that janitor did the kind deed for me that day, Jesus wants to take you home.  He wants to take you from desperation to hope!  He wants to take you from your lost and alone state to a place where there is purpose and peace!  You won’t have to pound on that door like I did.  A gentle knock will bring Jesus to you.  He won’t have to ask what is wrong.  He will take the role of your hero,  as he leads you by the hand  to hope and victory!

Knock and the door will be opened!

Rock of Aging

I was walking near the football stadium before the game of my college Alma mater when I spotted four older gentlemen all together by their car tail gait.  It had been raining all morning and still was when I offered some type of small conversation.  We might have talked about the rain or something but the conversation got more involved.  I found out that these four gentlemen were past college players for my university.  They played back in the 1950’s but as we talked their memories were like those years were yesterday.  As we talked further I realized that one of the gentlemen was my old gym teacher in high school.  I found out that the teams in the 1950’s that they played on didn’t have the best records.  I also learned that they all played both ways back then, both offense and defense.  We talked about the old days and what it was like.  We talked about who the dominate team was in the conference in those years.  I could tell that those four guys really appreciated looking back!  You could see their faces come alive at the memories!

One of the four told me that his high school team had my ex gym teachers high school team’s number back when they played.   Of course there was a comeback from the latter that it was one against eleven in those matches.  You see he was a star running back that after college had a short run with the New York Giants until he got his back injured and required surgery.  In fact when he told me all of the injuries he had incurred it was amazing to me that he could walk!  Yet the years have treated him kindly as he was getting around just fine!  He later went into teaching and coaching the football team at my high school.  Now, these four gentlemen are near eighty, but they get together and attend a football game each year and remember.  They remember the old times as they watch the current team play.  I’m sure that watching the teams through the years brings back times when they were out on that field!  I’m sure they talk about old times and what they would have done on given plays.  In these times for an hour or two they may forget that many years have passed as they relive their past.  Though they are older now, their minds are sharp and they have stories to tell that I absolutely enjoyed!  I wonder how many people are really interested in their stories of years gone by?  How many that actually sit in the seats near them realize that they were former players?  I’ll bet that coaching staffs and current players could tap into a boat load of knowledge from those four gentlemen.  I seriously doubt that their knowledge and experience are frequently used.

1950’s football..What they might have looked like in their glory years

After talking to these four gentlemen, I realized more than ever that older people have a lot to say!  Their vast experience in life should be looked on as a great asset!  We should be seeking advice from older people who have lived what we are going through.  They have vast knowledge about what road we should take as we could learn from their failures and success.  As it is, our current national policy seems to be to get the older people out of the way.  The commercials we see today have young people enjoying the latest automobile, or young people enjoying the nice trip.  What commercials pinpoint the older audience?  Usually the laxative commercials or the life insurance ones.  I realize that I am right at that age.  Not the age of the real old, but certainly not in the young target market anymore.  In fact I’m much closer to the other end.

Recently I went to a retirement seminar that was explaining the benefits we would be eligible to receive when we retired.  Only the people with a few years to work were there.  I realized that I hadn’t seen some of the people in many years.  I couldn’t get over how much everyone had changed.  When I looked closer I recognized them.  It was strange how every day I saw some of the same people.  In my mind they were forever twenty five, or thirty, or even thirty five years old.  Having not seen some for the last twenty years I had to look closer.  Oh yes, there is so and so.  I could recognize their mannerisms and even their faces but my had the years taken their toll.  Of course I never think that they are thinking the same thing after seeing me.  Sometimes I feel like the person that goes to their class reunion of thirty or thirty five years.  I must be in the wrong room they think.  This room only has old people in it!

So here I am thinking that sometimes I don’t feel as relevant as I used to in this world. It’s at these times I make myself change the channel. I’m not talking about the TV channel, it’s about the channel in my brain. It’s natural in a society that caters to the youth that as I get older I feel left out. I feel like my accomplishments are in the past. At times I feel lonely or unloved. I feel at a standstill as the world is moving swiftly along. These all can be real feelings but I’ve found that instead of feeling sorry for myself I need to fight back!  I know that no matter how old I get God still loves me.  In fact every day that I live is a blessing he gives!  Sometimes he puts people  in my life to inspire me!

Inspiration came in an unexpected way when I talked to those gentlemen at the football game!  I think that it helped me see a different perspective.  A vision of how things can be when the wars of life are fought together.  After all, we do not live in a vacuum.  There are other people our age that are going through the same things we are!  The beautiful part of the story for these gentlemen is how they have moved on with their lives, but at the same time can look back at the good things and the mistakes that they made along the way.  I loved the way they were still feisty as they recalled events and let me share their feelings and philosophies of years gone by.  I heard in one of their voices disappointment in those years as he felt the team ran an outdated offense “the single wing.”  Yet, through the disappointment I could sense a lot of pride from those four,  being some of the very few who not only attend the games regularly, but also had the experience of being out on that field with the crowds cheering!

My ex-gym teacher told me to keep working for as long as I was enjoying it!  I thought that was very sound advice from someone who had lived through that decision in his own life!  I conclude that getting older is a good thing.  Obviously we have no choice, but it should be a time of helping as our wisdom is at it’s highest level!  I’ve heard that in other countries older people are revered.  There is a real respect from the youth as they realize what great life lessons are stored up just waiting to be released!  Not so much in our country.  Sometime I feel like older people are pushed aside and the young are taking over.  It feels like the old saying “out with the old, in with the new.”  I totally disagree with this philosophy and I hope you do too!  After all, sometimes it’s the old shoes that are the most comfortable!  Sometimes it is the old school thinking that makes more logical sense!  Sometimes it is the old sayings that offer wisdom!  Always it is the old time gospel that is the heavenly path!  This country would be a better place to live if older people meant more.  If we discovered the knowledge that is being wasted because we fail to tap into it’s resource!  As Ronald Reagan so eloquently stated in one of his debates “I will not make age an issue of this campaign.  I am not going to exploit,  for political purposes, my opponents youth and inexperience.”  George Bernard Shaw stated that “It’s a pity that youth is wasted on the young.”   So why the title “Rock of Aging?”, you may ask.  Well Jesus is the rock and if we keep our feet planted on him, we can be here to bless others!  We can share his message through the wisdom we have been granted today, and the hope we have for tomorrow!

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