Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Recommendation

As mentioned previously, during the last year and a half plus, I've been editing a memoir for a friend and fellow M.S. advocate. What might not have been mentioned is that we both believe that this joint venture to bring his book to fruition was not a coincidence.

I am going to recommend it to anyone who wants a good read, and especially if they want to see how God works in the lives of others. Although I had known Mark since 2000, there were so many things I didn't know, among them being that he worked on several European crusades for Billy Graham, smuggled Bibles behind the Iron Curtain, worked as a field director for Habitat for Humanity, and the list goes on.

With his permission, I am including one short snippet about Bible smuggling from his book, A Journey Worth Taking: God, M.S. and Me:

     “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” is something that you say which means you should behave and dress like the people in the country you are visiting. In my case, I shouldn’t look like an American. So I didn’t. I wore clothes from another country in Europe. To cross borders, my staff believed I could pass as a Moroccan so I had to temporarily convert to being a Muslim, including dress and learning a few Arabic phrases like “peace be unto you” or the equivalent of “hi” in English.
     Looking like a Muslim needed a complete make-over. I kept my hair very short, grew my goatee long to about two inches, and grew out my eye brows. Oh, the real make-over was my skin color which was already natural brown. God knew what He was doing by sending me to the country of former Yugoslavia which has a high population of Muslims.
     I really never had any language problems, because whenever I had to speak English, I did so with a strong accent of some type. 

Mark also has some very entertaining stories about his youth, but my favorite is when, at age 10, he made astronauts out of his pet hamsters. A close second is when he decided to test the theory that cats always land on their feet, but not to worry. Fortunately, there isn't a bad ending.

Enjoy, and please do share this with others who might want to read about faith at work. We can all use a little inspiration.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Making This World a Little Better Goal

Anyone who read my New Year's resolution last year knows that I vowed to keep a daily log of at least one thing I did to make this world a little better place. I'm happy to say that I fulfilled my goal. That is, I kept track. I can't say that I always made the world a better place, but at least I tried!

It was a very good lesson for me to realize that it takes a concerted effort to make a positive difference. It's not that it's difficult to do, but that one must really focus on it. There are so many ways to achieve what I set out to do: financial donations, volunteering of time, random acts of kindness (Look for one of my stories about how I was actually a recipient of such in the February 2017 release of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Random Acts of Kindness edition), etc.

Some days, I just made an effort to smile and maybe converse with someone I didn't know. Other days, I made financial, charitable contributions. And then on occasion, I really went out of my way to do something kind or served others in a special way.

Now, I must confess, there were 12 days where I didn't write anything in my log. One of those days, I was too sick to do anything but make it briefly out of bed. As for the other 11 days, it wasn't that I didn't do anything; I just forgot to make an entry.

The interesting thing about our positive actions is that we never know how positive they are. I'd like to think that I maybe made someone's day a little better and they were glad that I was in this world. I'd like to think that maybe my actions influenced them to do the same thing for someone else. I'd like to think that my one positive action kept multiplying with each person doing something good, and truly, together, we all made this world a little better place, if only for a couple of hours or even a day.

So my resolution for 2017? More of the same. I already have my three entries for this year. And I would like to encourage anyone reading this blog to just try doing what I'm doing. Let's take the negatives out of life and start concentrating on the good we can do, and the difference we can make.

Can you make the world a better place if you try? I'm sure of it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What's Your Christmas Wish?

I've been giving some thought to: If I could give a gift to the world or any one person, what would that be? That is a pretty big order, and one which took some soul searching. (But before I reveal my final answer, I'd like anyone reading this blog to add a comment and tell what you would wish or give).

Of course, there is always the generic answer of world peace. That's nice, but it doesn't address the total human condition. We could have world peace and there would still be want, poverty, injustice, etc. Mankind (in general, but not everyone) would still be greedy, untruthful, envious, self-centered, etc. So you get the drift.

Next, I thought of compassion. That's nice too, but compassion without action is pointless. We shake our heads at the homeless in the street and maybe even say a prayer on their behalf. We have compassion and feel very sorry for them, but then sometimes simply walk away. We also feel the pain of those dying from hunger or thrown into prison or murdered for political or religious reasons. But what do we do?

I thought about contentment. It didn't take long for me to realize that contentment isn't the answer. Do I really want people to be okay with the wrongs in this world? Do I want those in abject poverty to be contented with their lot? Do I want those who suffer daily injustices to be okay with it? Do I want people to be complacent and not try to make this world a better place for their fellowman? No. That's not the right gift either.

Then I thought, maybe I would eliminate suffering. Who could argue with that? But would we know how to behave without suffering? Would others still try to inflict it, but the recipients just wouldn't feel it?

Also, without some adversity, we would never appreciate what we have. Bad days only make us appreciate the ones that aren't. Also, without adversity and suffering, would we care and try to alleviate that for our fellowman? One of the greatest pleasures in life is to do something good for someone else. If there were nothing to do, would I be as grateful for my blessings, and would I have the enjoyment of sharing them?

And then it finally occurred to me. There is only one gift that would encompass all of my singular attempts at happiness and goodness for individuals as well as the world...LOVE. That is the only thing that can change the heart of man to strive for goodness.

Love brings peace, contentment, compassion that leads to action, and while it doesn't eliminate suffering, it makes it easier. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to "love one another." At Christmas, God truly gave the world the best gift of all. I can't think of a better wish.

So what's your idea of the perfect gift?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

An Ah-Ha Christmas Moment

I'm unsure of where it came from, but just as I was going to sleep last night, a revelation occurred - there is a difference between celebrating Christmas and celebrating Jesus' birth! Duh! That may not sound profound, but for someone who thinks in secular versus non-secular, it was surprisingly quite provocative.

Most Christians are aware of why we celebrate the season and the true meaning of Christmas, but isn't it remarkable that so many others "celebrate" it too? For one short period of time, many understand the best of what Christmas means in caring for, and having good will for those in need.

Of course family togetherness is also a part of Christmas that non-Christians define only as intimate family, while Christians see family as including the brotherhood of man. It's just unfortunate some don't recognize why all this wonderfulness of Christmas came about. Still, I'm thrilled anytime anyone acts to improve the lives of those less fortunate, even if it might only be for a short time.

Recently, I wrote a children's book called An Afternoon with the Christmas Angel. Although I intended it to be available this year, I decided to wait in order to add additional illustrations and changes. I want it to be perfect. It's seasonal, but also timeless, so one more year will not affect its marketability.

The story is about a little boy who still believes in Santa, but is in dire need of finding out what Jesus' birth has meant and still means to the world. It's awareness of the fact that much of what is right with this world is, in fact, due to the birth of Christ. After all, it was Jesus who stressed brotherly love, caring for each other, peace and justice. Too bad, even some Christians, fail to follow his teachings.

In any case, Christmas is a time for all mankind to rejoice. It's a time of giving, not taking, and for understanding the humanity that binds us all. That alone is worth celebrating, but as a Christian, I'm going to celebrate a lot more than just that, and for a lot longer than just a season.

Merry Christmas (and I'll be saying that a lot more in the ensuing 3 weeks)!

Monday, November 28, 2016

I'm Ready!

Last year, I had a little difficulty getting into the Christmas spirit. I enjoyed all the excitement of the season, but it took a while to "feel it." This year is different.

More than three weeks ago, my son and daughter-in-law (who would put up her tree on Labor Day if my son allowed it), unexpectedly dropped in saying, "We're here to help you put up your tree and decorate." Who am I to argue about putting the tree up approximately two weeks before Thanksgiving?"

As a former preschool and corporate director, I've managed to keep the "kid" within me alive. My faith plays an important part in how I celebrate the season, but there is still that child-like wonder with a touch of magic that lingers.

This year, I've been on the fringe of the Christmas spirit since late May when I purchased two special gifts for my sons at a fundraiser. This was followed by the shopping channels' Christmas in July promotions, and I've been buying ever since. That is why, when most people are just beginning to shop, I'm finished!

Last year, I finished early too, and it allowed me to focus more on what mattered. That's what ultimately got me into the Christmas spirit, and that made it easy to decide what to do this year. I'll give to charities as usual, read all the Christmas books I want, watch all the Christmas movies I want, and decide what special things I can do for others.

If I choose to shop and not just give a check to help those in need, it will be a special event for me - it will feel differently than buying for my family and friends. There is just something within our nature that makes us feel good to do acts of kindness without seeking anything in return.

Matthew 6:4 (NIV) states: " that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." While I believe that we can share ideas (not boast) for doing good things as a way to encourage others, God knows how much fun it is for us to share our blessings. I am grateful that He lets me participate in that manner, and lets me truly "feel" the Christmas spirit.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Integrity: Not Just for Individuals defines integrity as "adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty." Interestingly enough, those are some of the same characteristics commanded in the Bible, but also highly valued by most of us.

Often we think of integrity as an individual trait, but businesses can also be designated as having such -  it just depends on who's running it and who's representing it. As a former customer service manager, I believe that we should praise such individuals and companies that demonstrate integrity through customer service. A business truly shows its integrity, not just by the product it offers, but how it handles the inevitable problems that arise. Thus, my praise for a USA-based company, and please read the entire scenario.

I use a mobility scooter, and during the past 15 years or so, I've had three. The first two served me very well. My most recent one, however, turned out to be a lemon after only a year and a half, and I was most fortunate that the manufacturer was one of integrity.  

Less than six months of owning my scooter, a repair had to be made when the scooter would travel about 10 feet, beep several times, and then shut down. The handle that controls the seat position also had a portion break off. Fortunately, one of my old scooters was available to use while I awaited someone to fix the new one.

A few months later, the seat began to rip at the seams, followed by a rip in the rubber on the handle, chunks of the rubber tires fell out, and the inner tire hubcaps broke off when scraping against the vertical part of a door frame.  That was soon followed by more ripping on the seat where no stress occurs. 

There was no way that this scooter would last five years before I would be eligible for a new one. So, I handled this in the manner it should be handled - I nicely wrote to the President of Golden Technologies, a family-owned company that manufactured the scooter. 

My first letter was via postal mail, but when no response was received, I emailed the company. They had glowing reviews from others so I knew that something must be amiss. I also realized, that despite best efforts, manufacturing can still produce an infrequent sub-par product. Since this product was made in the USA by an American company, I was hopeful that was the case with my scooter.

Shortly after sending that second correspondence, I received a nice email from the executive assistant, Mary Walsh. I emailed pictures of the problems to her, and after several emails, it was arranged to have contact from one of their division heads. 

The end result was communication with the person who handles the mobility tech service, Mark Mrugal. He provided excellent customer service and kept me informed of how resolution was occurring through phone calls and email. Thanks to him, I received a completely new steering shaft with handles, three new tires, a new seat, and a new shroud kit (the color pieces on a scooter). 

So what can be learned from this? Integrity (both individual and cumulative) makes this world a better place because it's basically a true gauge of how we value one another. As a side effect, it's also a good business trait as it produces customer loyalty. Thank you, Golden Technologies, for demonstrating your integrity and making my world a little better place!

(Check out Matthew 18:15-16 to learn how the Bible says to resolve issues that arise. It works with businesses as well as other people). :-)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Are We God's Physical Presence?

Asking if we are God's physical presence is a rather big question. In a stewardship Temple Talk at my church yesterday, I stated that I believe we are.

To be perfectly clear, I am in no way suggesting that we are God or anything of that nature. But, I do think that He allows the holy spirit to dwell within us and then do His bidding. An example would be  when someone needs a reassuring hug; we can physically give it on behalf of God.

Since God's presence on earth is spiritual, I simply believe He sometimes uses our physical presence to represent Him as noted. It's the reason I think we were put on this earth - to care for one another. God equips us to do so and then uses our physical presence to make it happen.

There is another side to this. I never, ever want someone to look at my flaws and say, "That's God at work." As a Christian, I believe there was only one human ever capable of being God, and that was Jesus Christ. I, and other human beings, are pretty poor substitutes.

When I feel those little nudges to do something good, I'm certain that it's God who's telling me to do it. As a spiritual being, He isn't going to walk up to a homeless person and buy them lunch, but I can. And, I'm very glad to do it on His behalf!