Tag Archive | God

February’s Facination with Phil

Groundhog Day 2013It’s really quite clever when you stop to think about it – taking an otherwise common nuisance and transforming him into a local hero with a win-win message. Not only does he promote goodwill but he also brings people to a place where without him, they would never go! I’m talking about Punxsutawney Phil, the hero of Groundhog Day.

Each February 2, folks come from all over to see the Punxsutawney, PA dignitaries don their top hats and with ceremonious accord, drag this otherwise vile creature from his winter’s nap in the old oak on Gobblers Knob. If he sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter will remain, but if not, spring will follow right around the corner. Either way, you can’t lose as the time frame between the two is negligible. (Actually, Phil’s prognostications have only been correct 39% of the time.)

To view the 2013 event, click here. Caution: You’ll have to bear with a TV ad for just a few seconds prior to watching Phil make his debut.)

Whoever thought about capitalizing on this local tradition put a rural Pennsylvania town on the map. Yet, when you think about it, isn’t that what God does to us? We’re just like this ignoble woodchuck. When left to his own resources, his deeds are far from wholesome as he forages a destructive path through farmers’ fields and wreaks havoc in homeowners’ gardens. We are all sinners, both by birth and by choice. Though the level of damage each of us makes will vary, we cannot escape this fact that makes it impossible for us to enter heaven.

Punxsutawney Phil’s transformation from an ugly despised creature to the town hero results from a strong hope for resurrection from the desolation of winter. We also, when we take God’s message of redemption that Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection come as payment for our sin, are saved, and in accepting this truth for ourselves, we are permitted to enter His glorious Heaven. We become new creatures in Christ and a harbinger of the true Gospel message that does not change from year to year but remains unchanging for eternity.

I wonder if whoever came up with Groundhog Day knew he had copied God’s plan and message.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. I Corinthians 15:3 – 4

One more chance to get it right

On this Election Day 2012, the question in the minds of most of us is who will be the next President, Congressman, Senator or other State and local officials?  Hopefully by this point we’ve studied the issues, made our selections and have already voted or plan to do so before the polls close today. It is important, if not critical.

We’re told that elections are all about hearing the voice of the people and knowing how they think. Our chosen representatives are supposed to listen to our voices and stand up for our choices when they create and enforce legislation. That’s what our forefathers intended, but reality demonstrates something else coming out of Washington these days. Our Pledge of Allegiance states that we are one nation under God. Our currency bears the inscription, “In God we trust,” but neither appears to be evident. What changed?

Perhaps it’s we the people. Have we become so proud that we’ve placed our trust in men’s ideas instead of God’s wisdom? Are we so arrogant that we value prosperity above righteousness? Do we value convenience and comfort above human life?

Are we looking at this election the way God sees it? I’m just saying, our nation is in need of help in so many areas, and He says if we humble ourselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, He will hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land. I’m praying for one more chance to get it right.

What were you doing at 10?

Let me first put you on my page lest you think I’m investigating a crime. I’m not talking about 10 o’clock either AM or PM. Rather I mean age 10. I’ve been doing some reading on assessing your talents and gifts and discovering your purpose as part of God’s ultimate plan for your life. As human beings, we can get so distracted and off base. Many people say that age 10 is the time of life when your interests and leanings are in their purest form. I guess it makes sense then to look back if we don’t know where we should be going.

It seems like a long time ago, but I turned 10 when I was in 4th grade in Miss Lewis’ class. Miss Lewis was ahead of her time in many ways, and likely she rocked many conventional boats. I remember her deciding that a camping trip was a great way for our class to learn. To be honest, I don’t recall any scheduled classes, but we swam, hiked, played games and explored. Somehow she also convinced my parents to go along as chaperones, driver and cook. Miss Lewis would invite us over to her house and gave us opportunities to do things our parents would not. These were good things like painting her porch or real cooking. Our folks could not afford the time or extra paint/ingredients to let us do these things at home, but Miss Lewis did.

She also had an old fashioned player piano. The rolls were in good shape and not only could you pump out a proper tune, you could sing along because the words were also printed there. We had so much fun with it. Miss Lewis was unconventional in other way. She was not afraid of any question and got us involved in discussions quite often. We’d review subjects with games and other innovative methods more characteristic of today’s classroom. Though I did well academically in her class, I remember more about the relationships of the age.

I finished my 10th year in Mrs. Johnson’s class, a strict woman with shoulder length hair that appeared to be glued in place. No way would the wind move her “do.” I remember academics in her class as they seemed easy. It was in her class I realized I liked to write. Maybe I’d finally just learned the stuff I was supposed to as I recall getting a 100% on the California Achievement Test that year. Mrs. J was shocked. I guess I was her first student to do that. Whoa. I think I found my claim to fame. I wonder what I should do with it.

So how does all of this play into what I should be now that I’m grown up? I can see how these people impacted me, but I think the jury is still deliberating. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

How do you discover your niche?

Each of us is unique, and it’s got nothing to do with our gender or appearance. Even identical twins have differences, and sometimes the only thing they share in common is their looks and date of birth. This uniqueness has everything to do our purpose under heaven, yet for many it seems difficult to discover. So, how do you discover your niche?

In my efforts to reinvent myself for my later years, I found that I had a lot of interests and some knowledge and skill in each area, but I was not focused. Some people have a strong passion for one thing, and they can’t seem to help themselves. They have to pursue it.

Years ago, I had just such a student. Today, kids would call him a nerd because he zeroed in like a laser on anything that had to do with science. I’d continually have to tell him that science was not my forte, so he’d dumb down his theories for me until our next conversation. And the topic? You guessed it. Science. He loved it. If anyone tried to realign his thoughts, he’d always return to his favorite. He had focus.

I read something the other day from Brian Tracy on finding your competitive advantage, and I thought it might be applied as well to finding your niche and moving forward with it. It will require some time when you can be alone for some self-analysis, but hey, you’re worth it.

  • Identify your strengths – What do you think you’re good at? Where have you excelled in the past as well as the present? What do others see as your strongest qualities? Write them down even if they seem small. They may develop into a pattern.
  • Identify your interests – What do you really like to do? Pay close attention to your heart because your true interests may not be where you’re currently expending your energies. Someone mentioned that you should think back to age 10 and what you wanted to be when you grew up. Are you there?
  • Identify your area(s) of specialization and narrow it down to one or two core skills. Keep in mind that these should be in the area of your strengths and interests.
  • Identify areas within your specialization that could be further developed to add different and better value. You want to differentiate yourself from all the rest by excelling where others have not even thought to go.
  • Identify markets where your skills and talents will be best used or better yet, an unfulfilled need where you can forge into new territory.
  • Pray. God created you with a specific purpose in mind, and He delights in revealing His plans when you ask.

It took me a while to narrow my focus and find my niche, but I think I’m on the right track now. Don’t be discouraged that the process requires time. Remember, it’s what we’re here for.

The monarch is coming

In our area, August ushers in the last weeks of summer and with it the emergence of the monarch butterfly. The monarch egg hatches into a green caterpillar with black and gold stripes. By now he has had his fill of leafy greens, spun his chrysalis, experienced metamorphosis, and is preparing to emerge. What is interesting is that each year the process is repeated four times with four generations. You can click here to read more but that is not where I’m headed.

You may have heard this story about the monarch butterfly before, but I think it bears repeating. A young boy happened by the chrysalis of a monarch butterfly just as it was beginning to emerge. He watched the intriguing process and was touched by how hard the emerging butterfly had to work to break through to his new life. He wanted to help, so he slipped his pen knife from his pocket and began to gently cut away the butterfly’s prison walls so that he could be free. He continued to watch as the monarch spread his beautiful wings and died. When the troubled boy recounted this event to his father, the father explained that the process of breaking through the tough shell is what makes the wings strong enough for him to fly. Without the pain and struggle, he was too weak to live.

I like to be reminded of this illustration especially when life’s dramas tend to wear me down and choke out my hope for the future. Just like the butterfly, I need these struggles to change me and make me strong so that I can fulfill my unique purpose in life. Through such times I learn to see just how great God is. He uses these experiences to make me kinder, more forgiving, more compassionate and able to extend grace to those who are in need of it. And through it, I am prepared to continue to follow the plan God has for me. Isn’t it exciting to see how God uses His creation to explain many of the mysteries of life?

Fantasy vs. reality

Do the shootings in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater that killed 12 innocent people trouble you? You don’t need to answer, because I am sure they do. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. Yet we also struggle with the why of what would possess one human being to raise himself up against an unsuspecting crowd to try to annihilate them? Does dressing up as a fantasy villain excuse such violence? Why was it so difficult for him and other  people involved in similar tragedies to tell the difference between fantasy and reality?

Fictional superheroes and bad guys aren’t new. They were around when I was a kid, and likely when my parents and grandparents were also, but the difference seems to be that more people strove to be like the hero than the villain. Good and evil were clearly defined, and good always triumphed over evil.

Today’s heroes, whether it’s Batman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman or a host of aliens with a penchant for saving their worlds, are make believe, but then so are their arch enemies. Fictional stories can’t be the reason because even in the old westerns, people recognized that all the actors were playing a role. In fact, the actor meeting his demise in one film was often seen the next night in another show.  Even when it was based on true historical personages, you knew the bad guys from the good and you never wanted to be the ones wearing the black hats.

Maybe we need to hear more about the real life heroes who make sacrifices for other people. They do their best everyday at home and at work. They put food on the table, care for the sick and hurting as well as a host of other things that don’t get their names in lights. Maybe we should start sharing how these people make a real difference in defeating the negatives that permeate our worlds.

I wonder if the issue isn’t deeper than that. Perhaps it stems from the lack of absolutes in the world or more specifically from eliminating God from the picture. Maybe the real problem is that these folks don’t know that God not only exists, but that He loves them so much He sent His Son to die to pay the penalty for their sins so that they could be with Him forever. Maybe they don’t know that all men are evil and that only God can change them. Maybe we need to be bolder and tell them.

I don’t know what was going through this man’s mind when he conjured up his diabolical scheme, nor do I have an outline or list of bullet points to follow to eradicate such behavior. This I do know, however. We can do better at doing what is right and good. That’s a beginning and one that will make a difference.

Who controls the weather?

We used to get the Vermont news station when we lived in upstate New York. Actually, that was the only station we could get – this was before satellite dishes became popular. That said, the resident meteorologist had a favorite saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 24 hours and it will change.” Funny thing is that was probably the only thing he got right. Though they are making some strides, have you noticed that few weather forecasters have a high rate of accuracy?

Not only can we not accurately predict the weather 100% of the time, but we can’t control it even a fraction of a percent. Makes you wonder why scientists make such a big deal about their qualifications and predictions. Considering that we can only recognize some weather patterns, do you ever wonder if there is any significance in them? I do.

In the Biblical accounts of God’s dealing with Israel, we see that a drought was a sign that people were disobeying and neglecting God. Rain, in the right amount, was a sign of blessing. Earthquakes, wind and hail were signs of judgment. Yet today, we just look out the window or at the TV’s depiction of the aftermath of a devastating storm and never even consider if there is something that God is trying to say to us.

We do know this. Man cannot control the weather. We take what we get and accept that we cannot change it. So obviously, there’s a higher power in control. Sounds like God to me. I’d love to do a study on this so that I can learn more. For now though, I’m just full of questions.