Saturday, December 31, 2016

Pamplona or Bookstore?

Lemuel stopped in Barnes & Noble Thursday – the place was packed, the checkout line was long, people were walking from aisle to aisle in a hurry, some had their eyes glued to their smart phones.

He asked me, “Where are they all going in such a hurry? Will they know when they’ve arrived?”

“Bob, why go to a bookstore if you are going to have your nose in contact with your smartphone?”

Bookstores used to be peaceful places, somewhat like libraries. Maybe there are times they are still like that, maybe there are times when you can still browse and peruse without risking being trampled on, without thinking you are in Pamplona – but according to Lemuel it wasn’t like that this week.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Jake and Gloria’s Christmas Eve

One of the blessings I’ve enjoyed the past few years is working with Gloria Jacobs. I first met Gloria in the early 1990s when we were both involved in our industry’s state trade association. I always considered Gloria “Ms. Drucker & Falk”, the firm she was with for 35 years and the firm I’ve been with for almost 6 years. While Gloria has been “retired” for over a year now, we still keep in touch for we were more than business associates, we are friends. There are many reasons I’m thankful for Gloria, and one of them is that, as friends, we can talk about life, not just business – which is now behind us – but life; there is nothing quite like sharing the essentials of life with friends.

A few days ago Gloria wrote the following to me and when I asked for her permission to post it on a blog she gave it – it’s a story worth telling.

Good evening Bob.

There is a story I want to share with you tonight.  You asked if we had a good Christmas, but I want to share something that happened 50 years ago on Christmas Eve in Pennsylvania.  Jake's dad had suffered a heart attack and we were at the hospital when a blizzard began. We left the hospital to return to my mother's home about 20 miles away.  It took us about two hours to get home.  Roads and conditions were terrible.  When we arrived home, thankful to be there, my mother met us with two suitcases and told us that Jake's dad had passed away.  She knew we would want to get to Jake’s mother, who was at her home, as soon as possible since she was alone.  

We left my mother's home and tried many roads to get to his mother's, only to turn around and try another route.  We even ran into a snow plow driver and told him what had happened.  He told us if he believed everyone he wouldn't get home that night so he refused to help us.  After many hours in vain of trying to get to her, we ended up on a country road and our car went into a snow drift.  This was before cell phones and it was already some three hours after we left my mother's home.  We left the car and carted our suitcases and found a telephone booth.  We called the State Police to see if they could assist and were told that nothing was moving.  Fortunately, Jake was involved with a Boy Scout Explorer Post (older teenagers) and one of them lived within three miles of where we were.  Jake called them and they told us to get to them as soon as we could.

We walked those three miles in snow that was to our knees in a blinding snow storm.  It was the first time in my life that I actually laid down in the snow after walking about two miles and felt warmth like I had never felt before.  Jake forced me to get up and continue the walk with him.  When we finally arrived at the home of the Boy Scout parents they were waiting for us with blankets and warm food.   We felt good to be safe, but felt we had ruined their Christmas.  We told them we would try to keep quiet until after they celebrated Christmas.  We were able to contact his mother and mine to tell them where we were.

The next morning we slept late as we were both exhausted.  When we entered their kitchen food was waiting as well as information about our vehicle. They had alerted all of the Explorer Post’s teens to what had happened.  They not only had dug out our vehicle, but had plowed the road in the neighborhood, and our car was waiting outside the home we were staying in.  They did this during the early morning hours of Christmas Day.   We were able to get to his mother that morning.

I've never shared this story with anyone before, but for some reason felt I needed to tonight with a dear friend.  It has been 50 years and I can still remember almost every detail.  GOD is Great and he certainly was with us that night.

Also, my mother passed away on December 27th many years ago, so you see Christmas has different meanings to us, but we believe that my mother and Jake's dad are in HIS loving care.  We certainly believe HE was watching over us that Christmas Eve.

Thank you for being my friend, Bob.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

The House of Christmas

The House of Christmas

By: G.K. Chesterton

There fared a mother driven forth 
Out of an inn to roam; 
In the place where she was homeless 
All men are at home. 
The crazy stable close at hand, 
With shaking timber and shifting sand, 
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand 
Than the square stones of Rome. 

For men are homesick in their homes, 
And strangers under the sun, 
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land 
Whenever the day is done. 
Here we have battle and blazing eyes, 
And chance and honour and high surprise, 
But our homes are under miraculous skies 
Where the yule tale was begun. 

A Child in a foul stable, 
Where the beasts feed and foam; 
Only where He was homeless 
Are you and I at home; 
We have hands that fashion and heads that know, 
But our hearts we lost - how long ago! 
In a place no chart nor ship can show 
Under the sky's dome. 

This world is wild as an old wives' tale, 
And strange the plain things are, 
The earth is enough and the air is enough 
For our wonder and our war; 
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings 
And our peace is put in impossible things 
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings 
Round an incredible star. 

To an open house in the evening 
Home shall men come, 
To an older place than Eden 
And a taller town than Rome. 
To the end of the way of the wandering star, 
To the things that cannot be and that are, 
To the place where God was homeless 
And all men are at home. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

No Church on Christmas

If we choose to meet on Sundays on a regular basis, and we do not meet on Christmas Sunday – what exactly does that say to the world? To other religions?

What does that say to our children and grandchildren?

To our coworkers?

Our neighbors?

What does this say about whether we see ourselves as God’s People before we are any other people?

What does this say about our desire to witness?

What does this say about us being in the world but not of the world?

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Shopping Cart – Part 2

Just a few days after the shopping cart experience I related in a recent post I returned to Walmart. I selected a cart from the group at the entrance, tested it by rolling it back and forth and sideways, and satisfied that the wheels were good I embarked on my shopping quest.

For the first few aisles things went smoothly…until…thump, thump, thump. I couldn’t believe it. I decided to immediately return to the store entrance and get another cart. When I got there I saw a cart that a lady had just returned on her way out of the store, so I thought, “I’ll take that cart, it must work because she had a few bags of merchandise, if it hadn’t worked she wouldn’t have used it.”

For the first few aisles things went smoothly and I congratulated myself on switching carts. But then…thump, thump, thump. How could this be? Were the shopping-cart gods conspiring against me? Were they making sport? Did they have an office pool on Mt. Olympus to see how many carts I would go through before giving up?

I pushed my cart toward a mother with a young child in the child’s seat of her cart, as my cart approached with a “thump, thump, thump” and squeaks and groans the child started crying and the mother looked at me as if to say, “Couldn’t you be more considerate of others? You are frightening my child.”

I saw a group of employees hiding behind a display and looking at me. I am sure I heard one of them say, “That’s the guy who was in here last week who abandoned his cart – you’d think he’d learn.”

Well, you would think they’d number the carts the way NASCAR numbers cars, that way the poor customer would have some defense. We could have a smartphone app that tracks bad carts and warns us not to use number 54, or 35, or 678.

After a few more aisles I did what any self-respecting shopper would do, I once again left my cart, picked up my merchandise, and headed to a checkout line. At this rate I’ll be making multiple trips in and out of the store on each visit.

That night I awoke at 3:23 AM, I was certain I heard “thump, thump, thump.”

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Shopping Cart

I often take a shopping cart from the parking lot into the store for two reasons, one is that I am saving a store employee a little work, and the other is that with the cart in front of me that cars are more likely to let me traverse the crosswalk. With this in mind I took a shopping cart from the cart corral in Wal-Mart’s parking lot into the store and started shopping for a few items.

At first the cart was fine, but then the right front wheel began to turn and squeak and rumbled and it was as if I was driving over logs – and the noise! I turned the cart this way and that, thinking that the right combination of twists and turns would remedy the problem – to no avail.

Unfortunately the few items I needed were at opposite ends of the store. Well, I would do my best to make it from the hardware section to the grocery section. It got worse. I used a store phone to call customer service to request that someone bring me another cart, no one answered. Then, since we have road service through our insurance company, I called the 800 number only to have the person on the other end hang up as I was explaining my dilemma.

Thump, thump, thump went the cart. I was halfway through the store, from the hardware section to the grocery section. Thump, thump, thump went the cart. (You would think they’d supply spare wheels for such occasions). I still had to go to the back end of the grocery section and then to the front of the store. I was surprised the thump thump thump wasn’t registering on the Richter scale. There were Gremlins in the wheel. I needed a NASCAR pit crew to change this tire but there were none to be found. There were employees hiding behind displays looking and laughing. Security was having a hoot observing me on cameras – no doubt betting on whether I would make it to the front of the store with the cart. I was amazed that the thump thump thump didn’t crack the floor tile. I was surprised that the vibrations from the thump thump thump hadn’t caused pyramids of merchandise to cascade to the floor burying customers and employees under an avalanche of Walmart falling prices.

A filling was jarred out of a tooth.

I stopped the cart. Gathered what I had in my arms. Quickly walked to the grocery section and picked up one more item, found the cashier with the shortest line, and mercifully ended my travail without dropping anything.

I got in the car and called the dentist. “I just had a filling fall out while I was shopping. It was the strangest thing,” I told the receptionist.

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Mind if I ask what store?”


“I bet it was the shopping cart wheel, we get a lot of those.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

This Didn’t Feel Right Either

The day that I attended the Celebration of Life service began with a men’s breakfast at another church, not the church I attended for the Celebration of Life. As with the latter church, the former church is a church that believes that the Bible is the Word of God. The food was good, the conversation was good; I was pleasantly surprised when a man sat down at my table and reintroduced himself to me as someone who had been in a small group with me at least 20 years ago.

When the food portion of our morning was concluded a speaker began a presentation – no Bible, no Biblical content, no focus on Jesus. Where is the public reading of Scripture? The presentation was “self-help” – when will we learn that only Christ and His Word is transformative?

Where is our passion for the Word of God? We desperately need to regain Biblical literacy; part of this recovery must be modeling the Bible in our leadership, our teaching, our preaching, our gatherings, and our conversation. Our generation, our society, needs the transcendent Word of God. The argument that, “I don’t use the Bible when I’m talking to unbelievers because it doesn’t mean anything to them”, is not a Biblical argument – how will others believe the Gospel if they don’t hear the Gospel, and how will they hear the Gospel if it isn’t the Biblical Gospel, and how will they hear the Biblical Gospel if it isn’t from the Bible?

Of course we can use contemporary words and images and concepts in our communication, but they must be clothed with Scripture, built on Scripture, and submitted to Scripture. Everything we do in terms of contemporary concepts and images and words must be so that we can share and proclaim and communicate the Bible, the Word of God.

If we aren’t communicating the Bible when we gather as believers, it isn’t likely we are going to communicate the Bible when we are scattered in the world at work, at play, or in our communities.

Have we forgotten that this is a matter of life and death? This isn’t about marketing, it isn’t about being “relevant” in an earthly sense – it is about eternity. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

It Didn’t Feel Right

I recently attended a “Celebration of Life” service. While I appreciated many of the thoughts that were shared by those who knew and loved the deceased, when the pastor spoke something seemed amiss. I could tell that he had prepared for his part, and I always appreciate that, but there was something that I couldn’t put my finger on. Yes, I did think he was too folksy and informal, at a time when I think we really do need to speak as we are speaking the utterances of God (1 Peter 4:11). Yes, I was dismayed when he told those in the audience that receiving forgiveness of sins and salvation was simply a matter of saying a few words (I’ve been guilty of that myself) without further explanation, without a call to repentance and discipleship. However, there was something else bothering me that I couldn’t identity.

Then, later in the day as I was sharing my experience with Vickie it hit me – there had been no Scripture reading. The pastor may have quoted a verse or two, and others who spoke previous to the pastor quoted and read a few verses, but the pastor’s message did not have Bible reading and it was not grounded in a Biblical passage.

Knowing the reputation of the church where this took place, I know that the pastor believes the Bible, I know from his comments that he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Of all the times when people gather together to hear the words of a pastor, the time of death and grief is the time when there needs to be a clear reading of Scripture about the matter of life and death and eternity and resurrection. People need to hear what God says about life and death, they need to hear 1 Corinthians 15:3ff or its equivalents, they need to hear God’s words of comfort and truth – while we may mingle our words of comfort as well, our words are never a substitute for God’s Word.

My words are not transcendent, and as sacramental and incarnational as my thinking is, I know that unless my words and actions are wrapped in Scripture that they never get off the ground – I want to be reminded that my calling is to deliver the Word of God to others and that it is His Word which will not return void (Isaiah 55).

Sadly, it seems that more and more churches which profess to believe the Bible give little actual time to the Bible in public worship. Funerals are a time when we have a mixed audience; those who know Christ, those who think they know Christ, and those who for a few minutes are in a place where perhaps they will hear the Word of God read and come to meet Christ - where perhaps a seed will be planted, where perhaps they will come to know Jesus Christ. The Word of God must increase, but I must decrease.  

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Chicago Cubs and Prophecy

I hear there is a book coming out linking the World Series win of the Chicago Cubs to Biblical prophecy. It seems that the author was given a “word” from the Lord years ago that a sign of the end times would be when the Cubs won the World Series. The Championship Pennant is supposedly an ensign that will draw the world to the Kingdom of God – after all, when this “word” was given some decades ago the thought of the Cubs winning the pennant was in the same class as the earth reversing its rotation.

Who knows, maybe there is something to this. At least it is a refreshing change from the steady stream of End-Times books I’ve seen since the 1960s that are forever claiming divine-Biblical insight into world events, playing off fears and our appetite for speculation.

Maybe more of us will go out to the ballpark next baseball season to discern the signs of the times in each game. Maybe prophetic prognosticators will search the standings for insight into unfolding world events. Come to think of it, I might investigate this more closely – it just may be a good thing

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Zombies In The Building

I walked down the hall of our office building and passed them; I walked back down the hall and I passed more of them. Everyone I passed was the same – they all were fixated on tablets or smart phones – zombies in the building, zombies living isolated lives, zombies devoid of recognition of their fellow man.

I wanted to stop and shout, “Is anyone home?! Does anyone see anyone else?!”

Maybe next time.