Friday, December 25, 2009

Year’s end a good time to bring closure to unresolved conflict

Most of us struggle with unresolved conflict with other persons. Truth be told, some of our disagreements are unsolvable. There are some problems we simply cannot fix. However it is possible to bring closure, at least in our own minds, to some of the conflicts that create inner turmoil. The ending of the year is a good time to mull this over.
Take anger for example. Sometimes we “permit” minor things to push our anger button. A driver cuts in front of us. A friend’s subtle criticism hurts our feelings. Some idiot makes us wait forever in line at the super market. Anger is kindled within us. How do we put out this fire that rages within?
The solution involves using your brain. Back away and think about what is happening. Then admit three things to yourself. First, anger hurts you, not the person who is the object of your rage. Second, no one can make you angry unless you give that person permission to do so. Third, you can choose to give up your anger and let it go. You can spit it out like a plum seed.
It is clinically true that anger disrupts the normal functions of the human body’s organs. That being true, why allow your own attitude to injure your liver or your kidneys? Common sense tells me it is stupid to hurt myself with my own thoughts.
As this calendar year ends, we have a choice. We can choose to dispose of any lingering anger within us just as we do the garbage – throw it out! That is what anger is anyway – garbage. And the longer we let it hang around, the worse it stinks.
Bitterness and resentment are kissing cousins of anger. They are like demons lurking in the darkness, waiting to hurt us. If we allow them lodging in our hearts, they can rob us of our joy and eventually destroy us. No one is immune to these villains. Like the flu, they can attack us and wound us.
So we need to guard carefully the door of our hearts. If a friend gets a promotion we thought we deserved, we must deal sternly with the resentment that pops up. We can tell ourselves that our turn will come later – or we can embrace the face that it may never come. But we can overcome our resentment by choosing to congratulate our friend for the promotion. It is living out that “Do unto others” thing that Jesus talked about.
Tension with others sometimes develops when we insist that people live by the standards we have chosen. But our society is highly diverse, and more so every day. So it is necessary to allow others freedom to make a myriad of personal choices, many of which may be different from our own.
None of us can make choices for others. We must make our own and learn to be comfortable with the “strange” decisions some people make in a free society. It helps to remember that we are not all alike.
Some people like chicken; others like fish. Some folks like country music; others like opera. We can make ourselves miserable if we constantly insist that everybody eat chicken and like country music.
People are different. The art is to learn to enjoy our own personal uniqueness rather than focus on the weirdness of others. When we do, we find our stomachs will digest either chicken or fish without the need for Tums or Alka- Seltzer.
Hairstyles pose a dilemma for some people. Parents can become embroiled with their teen-agers about the length of hair. Some young people challenge the authority of their parents by demanding the freedom to make their own decisions about issues like music and hair style. To survive, parents have to learn to give and take rather than trying to exercise total control of a teenager’s behavior.
This brings up an important principle for life. There are some ditches not worth dying in. Both sanity and peace are soon lost if we choose to fight about every issue that comes up. We must, then, learn to choose wisely those ditches we are willing to die in. Obviously the length of a person’s hair is not worth a fight. We can save our energy for moral issues that demand a fight to the finish.
An automobile runs better if the radiator is flushed now and then. The human mind can benefit from a good flushing too. There are attitudes, ideas, and dispositions that, like rust, can be detrimental to our mental health. So flush them out.
If we are willing we can bring closure to some of the conflicts that keep our stomachs tied in knots. How? Well, stop insisting on having your way about everything. Embrace the fact that you are not always right. Stop trying to change other people. Forgive people you are holding a grudge against. Give people the freedom to disagree with your opinions. Choose to enjoy yourself – and be thankful for the people who genuinely like you. Such choices can give you a jump-start on making 2010 a happy New Year!@

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Growth through Study

Recently a dear friend and brother in Christ asked me for suggestions for a talk he had been asked to give on "Growth through Study." These are the rambling ideas that came to mind and which I shared with my friend. I thought these ideas might also stimulate the thinking of others so I am sharing them for the larger audience. I shall be blessed again if you dear reader should find any of these ideas helpful in your own Christian walk:

1. Take a look at the life of Harry Denman. Harold Rogers wrote a good book about him. He never married and was Mr. Evangelism of the Methodist Church for many years. He was a remarkable witness for Jesus. His style was simple, direct, transparent, and compassionate. He was a friend of mine, a mentor actually, being much older. He took an interest in me. He died at 83 in the Methodist Retirement Home in Birmingham. I went to see him there when he was about 80. I asked him to suggest how I might become a better preacher and witness for Jesus. He told me to pray more, and to write out in long hand the scriptures. He told me he was writing out the New Testament daily even then, and was at the time writing out the New Testament for the sixth time. He said writing it out by hand helps you get the Word into your whole being. I have done some myself but nothing quite like he did. What a tremendous "study habit"! He talked to ordinary people about "my friend Jesus" with the same ease that most of us talk about the weather or football. His witness was contagious and challenging.I admired him and learned from him. When it comes to study, I think it helps us grow to "study" the style and holy habits of Christians we admire.
2. As you prepare your talk, let the Spirit guide you to be transparent about your own life -- especially your weaknesses and mistakes. People can identify with these because we are all so much alike. But go on to share how grace has changed you, and how you have learned to let the Lord use and develop further your strengths. Be unafraid to share your uniqueness, especially the road you traveled that led you one day to embrace the living Christ, and how you came to surrender your whole life to him. Many people are surrendered to Jesus, but only partially and with great reservations. Fullness of joy only comes when we begin to serve Jesus with no reservations, holding nothing back. Surrender is the great key to becoming a child of God with a childlike spirit. Tell about your reservations, fears, and your stumbling, but also how like C. S. Lewis you have been constantly "surprised by joy."
3. When I read Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ, one of the all-time great classics, I discovered that it was almost impossible to tell when the author was writing his own words or quoting scripture. It dawned on me that Thomas had so absorbed the scriptures, "inwardly digesting them," (a phrase from one the great prayers from The Book of Common Prayer), that the holy scriptures were immersed in his own vocabulary. This book touched me deeply because it revealed how one's life and thoughts can be marvelously influenced by not merely reading but absorbing the Bible. Harry Denman was a 20th Century example of how loving Jesus and absorbing the scriptures can cause a man to become beautifully Christlike.
4. Dr. Tom Carruth taught prayer for many years at Asbury Theological Seminary. He was a dear friend. One day I heard him say that he had read the letters of John more than 3,000 times -- and he learned something new every time he read them! Interestingly, Tom was one of the most loving, Christlike men I ever met.
5. And what did dear brother John Wesley say: "I am a man of one Book - the Bible!" Too many Christians are running from John Grisham's novels to the latest popular Christian book (example: The Shack) and missing the life-changing power that comes from "absorbing" the holy scriptures.
6. The above reminds me of Eugene Peterson and The Message, and how the Book of Psalms are more "prayers to be prayed" than scripture to be read. It was Peterson who put me on to the grand idea of "praying the Psalms."

As you can tell, I have been rambling but praying that some of these ideas might stimulate the juices of your own thinking -- and at least prod you in some helpful direction. I know the Lord will prepare you with a message that will inspire those who will hear you gladly. -- Walter, sjc

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why Christmas is such a special time of the year

Ponder with me why Christmas is so special. The very word “Christmas” makes my heart sing. Since I was a small boy writing letters to Santa Claus I have loved this wonderful time of the year. But what makes it special?
Is it not the thrill of anticipation -- expecting something wonderful to happen? Anticipation adds zest to life. As we celebrate Thanksgiving we begin to anticipate Christmas. Most of us do so with wonder and joy. We have learned from past experience that good things happen at Christmas. As the 25th day of December nears, most of us are like children -- eager for the day to come! Life without the thrill of anticipation would be misery compounded.
The music of Christmas makes it special. We never sing "Silent Night" or "Joy to the World" in April or May; but who would want to live through December without the warm glow that comes from singing these songs with others who love them! And no December is complete without listening again to the majestic sound of Handel’s Messiah. Few things can set my heart on fire quite like The Hallelujah Chorus.
Of course the secular songs of Christmas are also delightful. Only Ebenezer Scrooge and his kin do not enjoy singing "Jingle Bells" or "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "Frosty the Snowman." An old favorite of mine is “I saw Mama kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night.” But perhaps the most delightful of all is “Winter Wonderland.” The music and the lyrics make me want to go on a sleigh ride with my sweetie. Ah, Christmas music! It puts a spring in my step and a smile on my lips.
Colorful decorations make Christmas special. Most of us delight in decorating not only our homes but our stores, streets and public places. At no other time of the year do we hang lights and wreaths everywhere, or go to such an extent to add bright colors to the bleakness of life. Beautiful red and green ribbons, and clothes, cheer us up in the home, the school, and the work place. .
Then there is the food of Christmas! Our kitchens come alive with the sweet aroma of foods that make us merry – and overweight. Mama bakes delicious cakes and pies, and even old Bubba will toast some pecans and try his hand at baking a turkey. While the food of Christmastime is delicious to the palate, there is also the thrill of sitting down at a large table to eat with family members we may not have seen for many months.
Snow makes Christmas special too. I prefer the kind that comes out of a can, or the snow we see on television when we watch children laughing and playing on three feet of snow in upper New York State. When sometimes it snows in Alabama we chuckle to see how one inch of snow can paralyze the traffic in our area. If it snows this year, you can be sure we will all rush out to take pictures of the children throwing snowballs or building snowmen.
Trees loaded with tinsel, lights, and angels make Christmas fun for us. Chop down a tree and drag it into the house in July and your family would sign you up for the funny farm. But in December you are a killjoy if you balk at putting up a tree. Admittedly the tree, if a live one, may run up the water bill. But Christmas morning would not be the same without a tree, with gift surprises underneath it, and little children eager to find out what Santa brought them.
For some of us Christmas is special because it is a spiritual experience, a kind of journey to Bethlehem to celebrate once again the birth of the Savior named Jesus. Amidst all the wrapping paper, the tinsel, the music, the smell of food, and the tension of this busy season, we are wise to remember that it is more important for Jesus to come into our hearts than it is for Santa to come down the chimney. @

Saturday, December 5, 2009

More thoughts to ponder about the Manhattan Declaration

When you sign on, you will receive this encouraging response!

To all signers of the Manhattan Declaration:

Thank you for signing. We are now over 200,000 strong-and counting, for which we give thanks to God.

We have received thousands of e-mails asking what's next - a good question. The goal of those of us who drafted and signed the document is not just to get a lot of names on a manifesto, gratifying though that is. We are seeking to build a movement - hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Catholic, Evangelical, and Eastern Orthodox Christians who will stand together alongside other men and women of goodwill in defense of foundational principles of justice and the common good. These are people who could expose the lie which so many in our culture have embraced about self being the center of life; and then winsomely present, in the words of St. Paul, "a more excellent way."

We are looking for people who will work in every possible arena to advance the sanctity of life, rebuild and revitalize the marriage culture, and protect religious liberty.

So what's next for you? Let us offer some specific suggestions. More will undoubtedly follow in the weeks ahead.

Pray. We can do nothing apart from God. So lay this before the Lord every chance you have, and ask your friends and prayer chains to do the same thing.

Study and learn about these issues. We see the Manhattan Declaration as a great teaching and reference source. Share it with others. Only after you have tried to teach it to someone else will you have really learned it. And go deeper in your own study. There are many organizations that offer excellent resources in support of these foundational truths. If you can't find resources, the Worldview Resource Directory we've assembled might be helpful.

Come back to if you want help in answering questions others pose to you. We've posted a FAQ (frequently asked questions) tab on the home page, but most people signed the statement before this was added. So revisit - and watch for other resources we will be posting.

Invite all of the friends on your e-mail lists to go to, read the Declaration (that's most important) and sign it.

Talk to your pastor or small group leader in church. We have heard from a number of pastors who are already referring to this document in their sermons and using it in their teaching. We've also heard from bishops and other church leaders who are planning ecumenical gatherings in their areas of responsibility. Some are talking about campaigns to equip the faithful. Other pastors are asking their congregations to sign the document, and become informed. Go to your pastor; urge him to do this. You can really help in this area. Suggest it, and then volunteer to be a part of it. Step forward as a leader.

If you belong to a civic group like Kiwanis or Rotary, and you have regular meetings, that's a great forum in which to share information about the Manhattan Declaration. Explain to people what you've signed and why you've signed it. A lot of people are asking about this statement, its meaning and purpose. Educate them.

Letters to the Editor can be a very effective way to spread information about important issues. According to some sources, more people read the Letters to the Editor columns than the editorials.

Watch the issues being debated in the public arena, particularly as the health reform bill is moving through Congress. As a citizen you have a duty to let your representatives know what you think about the issues, particularly on profoundly important moral questions like those being raised now.

Get on Facebook or any other chat rooms or blogs that you have access to. Social networking, as we are learning, can have a powerful impact.

Finally, talk to your neighbors. Robert Naisbitt wrote that fads begin from the top down, movements from the bottom up. We are convinced that societies are changed over the backyard fence, standing around the barbeque grill, and sitting in the barber shop or hair salon. Learn to be an advocate in any environment.
In conclusion, in asking you to sign we were not just asking you to raise your hand, but to raise your voice. Great changes in society have often come about when Christian people unite in this way - think of the Wesley awakening, the Celtic revival, or movements for social justice and civil rights in our own country. We believe God is looking for good men and women who will pledge (as you have done in signing the Manhattan Declaration), never to compromise the gospel, and to become well-informed, effective advocates true and godly principles.

This is a message of hope for every area of human life and endeavor, and a call to discipleship for every believer.

God bless you.

Dr. Robert George
Dr. Timothy George
Chuck Colson
I agree with the Manhattan Declaration

Even though the media has not given much attention to it, I believe the Manhattan Declaration can make a difference. As of this day, December 5, 2009, more than 250,000 people have endorsed it and signed on. I added my name to the list two weeks ago. I encourage other Christians to endorse it, but even more to PRACTICE this declaration in daily life. Together we can make a difference. In case you have not seen it, I am printing it below. You can go to and sign on as a sponsor. I hope you will.

The Manhattan Declaration
A Call of Christian Conscience

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

1.the sanctity of human life
2.the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
3.the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

.255498 signatures in support
...and growing!

Sign the Declaration »