Thursday, December 22, 2011

the top ten

When was the last time you thought about the ten commandments? I mean really thought about them?

Personally, I am not sure if I ever really invested a lot of time thinking about it. After all, it was not like I was out killing anyone. When you think about it though, this is our Lord's top ten list. Written in stone. He never issued any ammendments. This is it.

Over each of the past ten weeks, I have spent some time meditating and praying over the ten commandments... how each commandment applies to me, where I have fallen short, where I need God at work in my life.

If you have some time, you may want to take a similar journey. Until then, here's where I ended up...

1. You’re the one.
2. Don’t make ‘em jealous.
3. I swear…
4. Take five. That’s an order.
5. Luv your mum and pa.
6. Ahh, yer killin’ me!
7. Shhhh…. we’re talking adultery.
8. Don’t touch my stuff!
9. Liar, liar pants on fire.
10. That covet thing.

Peace to you, EG

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

animal farm circa 2011

My daughter was writing an essay on Animal Farm, George Orwell’s 1945 classic.

While I have probably not read this book in over 30 years, I did recall the last line, which probably ranks among the top-ending lines of all time: "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

While this allegory applied to Russia and Marxism, I could not help but think how this scenario is playing out in America in 2011.

Last year, we saw a grassroots movement rise from the right—the Tea Party—against an overreaching, bloated federal government. This year, a similar grassroots movement rose from the left—Occupy Wall Street—protesting the greed and selfish principles of big-money corporations.

Yet in an era where Congressional seats are almost always won by the person who has the most money, there is a fine line between Washington bureaucrats and corporate CEOs. An average senate campaigns costs $4.3 million – with some costing ten times as much or more – and the vast majority of these funds are sourced in response to business agenda. Citizen’s United gives companies the right to make strategic business investments in the votes of congressmen. And lest we forget that many if not most of those we send to Congress are one-percenters themselves.

Perhaps if Orwell wrote his book today, the ending would read: “The Tea Partiers and Occupiers looked from government to corporation, and from corporation to government, and from government to corporation again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

kingdom seeking

restore to community.
do you have love in your heart?
rise to love. rise to live.

you can go beyond the possible.
instead of waiting for miracles,
simply see. say. feel. do.

not on your time, on his
those streams of living water within you...
let them flow. let them flow.

when you hear the truth, tell the world.
free yourself. free the world.
do you hear? can you hear?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

can you see the kingdom?

the kingdom of god is unrecognized… unaccepted.
yet it recognizes and accepts you.

it is visible only to those who trust in the lord. so…
the responsibility to share this view is bestowed unto thee.

john saw the truth and told andrew, who then found his brother.
it was the very first thing that he did.

some will follow. others will question.
our job is to be fearless about spreading the love.

for the vision of the kingdom is the range of god’s effective will.
life now and forever in the palm of his hands.

we are born of the light that has entered the world.
and we must become less to amplify that blaze.

worship in the spirit of truth.
eternal and all knowing.

you have the power of the world.
to heal and revive.

can you see the kingdom?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

my banker hugged me

day before thanksgiving, bank was busy-busy-busy. stopped in to sign some papers for work. long lines. phones ringing. cranky customers. busy-busy-busy.

error on the paperwork… need to wait some more. long lines. phone ringing. busy-busy-busy.

bank manager turns to the loan rep: did you ever notice that mr. gillespie never seems frazzled, always calm, always smiling.

turning to me she asks, how do you manage that?

i looked up and told the truth: i just trust in the lord.

in an instant, the phones stopped. the lines melted away. the busy-busy simply vanished. and she threw her arms around me and whispered: me too.

and today i wonder… how many others are out there… busy-busy-busy… just waiting for someone to come in and mention his name… to say it is okay to express your faith… to declare your love… to live out the peace… even in the midst of the busy-busy-busy.


Monday, November 21, 2011

the change list

Today’s exercise: reflect on the things you would like to see changed about yourself. (To which Chief Brody replied, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”) Anyways….

I get defensive when someone questions or critiques me. Jesus, on the other hand, sought out questioning. He approached those he knew would critique and went to places where he knew his authority would be questioned. Why do I get so defensive?

In doing so, I miss out on opportunities to gain new understanding, to improve myself, and to enlighten others on new possibilities. I close the door on conversations and the chance to build relationships.

Lord, make it clear in my heart that it’s not about me. Free me from my need to control outcomes and have the last say. Open my heart to criticism. Let me seek joy only in your pleasure.

I can easily get caught up in whatever I am doing at the time, and fail to see and hear the cries for help around me. Jesus was observant and always in touch with his surroundings. Why is it that I can so easily shut off the world?

Instead of lifting others up, I pull them down by my appearance of disinterest. And then wonder when they are not there to listen for me.

O God, help me surrender to others. Open my eyes, me ears and my heart to the needs of others. Teach me to prioritize others before myself.

I often do not think about God and the Kingdom when making decisions. For Jesus, every decision was an opportunity to glorify God. Why do I leave God out of the picture so often?

When I eventually come to my Lord, the truth stings—and whatever I gained by going my way, it cost more to return to the path that was intended for me.

At the crossroads of life, there is only one direction I need, Lord, and that is your will. I want you to be at the center of my life—for every moment of every day.

I like to be entertained. TV. Movies. Books. I look for ways to escape. Jesus was comfortable with silence and solitude. He created time to be alone. For meditation. For prayer. Why do I need to constantly want to fill the vacuum with noise?

Entertainment cannot love, and so I go unloved. Entertainment cannot fulfill, and so I go unfulfilled. Alone when the TV goes on, alone when it goes off.

Jesus, teach me to live in the present, prioritize people, and rejoice in your peace. Help me become more disciplined—where I come before you in prayer, meditation and silence for the pure joy of basking in your presence.

I am not always the same person in public as I am when I am alone. I have secrets. I live two lives. The life of the nice guy. The life of the self-gratifying jerk. Jesus was authentic. He was Jesus. Why can’t I be the me I want to be?

Shame. Disgrace. Anger. Fear. These are not how I would feel if I was being the true me.

Let the one true authentic me be the one and only me. Help me live in the light. Crush and destroy the sin and disobedience in my life.

Change me Lord. Change me from the inside out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

day gives way to night

Sunsets are calm. Relaxing. The sun slowly, slowly, slowly sets. Falling below the horizon. Surrendering peacefully. Without a struggle.

Daybreak, however, is a battle. The night clings on, struggling to remain relevant. The first battles take place long before the sun actually rises. Some stars fall early, others hold on. The night does not want to leave. It fights.

But light is inevitable. The sun always triumphs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

remembering nonie: five years later

Still working on that book TK gave me.

Today’s exercise: Think about someone you have known who exemplifies genuine purity and humility, selflessness, freedom from rage and depression.

Honestly, there could not have been a better description of my grandmother, Nonie. It’s hard to believe that she’s been gone from us for five years.

Even as children, my cousins and I recognized that Nonie was not like other people. She didn’t yell. She did not boast. She never judged. While she was a Christian, she never felt it was her calling to preach religion – instead she lived the Gospel. She glorified God by loving. Loving. And loving.

Usually such folks have none of the Christian “celebrity” trappings about them. They are often overlooked.

Five years ago this week, I made my last visit to Nonie’s one-bedroom apartment in Yonkers. We were going through her stuff, the treasures accumulated over 96 years. There was no will. No savings account. No degrees hanging on the wall. There was no gold or silver, not even a rare coin. No car parked outside.

Her apartment smelled of memories. Photos. $5 keepsakes (or nooks, as we call them). Letters from friends and family members who lived an ocean away. Notes of appreciation. Certificates of recognition from the local soup kitchen, the senior center and other charitable organizations where she volunteered selflessly long into her life.

Looking back, I think it’s amazing that she left her family when she was 16, travelled alone to a distant land, and didn’t make it “home” until 40 years later; and yet – as I had the joy of visiting Ireland once with her – she was as close to her sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews as someone who lived down the block her entire life. For when she could not visit, she called. When she could not call, she wrote. And when she could not write, she prayed. Community. Relationships. People. Family. Friends. God. These are the investments my grandmother treasured.

They are not living on the same terms as the general culture, and so others might find this confusing.

Living for nearly century, Nonie witnessed the birth of flight, cars that rolled off assembly lines, innovations in radio, television and yes, even the iMac and the Internet. (Television, by the way, was the invention she felt most changed the world in her lifetime).

She also witnessed war on a world-wide scale (more than once) and watched as they buried her parents, her brother and sisters, her life-long love Joseph and her children Robert, Mary and Jimmy.

She laughed. She cried. She took joy in winning at cards (and losing, too). She woke up one day and decided to stop smoking—and never had another cigarette. She was a woman of incredible strength. And character. And consistency. In some ways, Nonie was predictable because she was Nonie all the time.

Growing up, I can’t say that I modeled my life after Nonie. There were degrees to get. Jobs to succeed in. Stuff to accumulate. Why would I want to love others when I could live for myself?

But it’s not too late. There is someone I can call today. I can stop to help a stranger. Right a wrong. Hold my judgment. Smile. And smile again. For what better day to honor my grandmother than to imitate her – the one who exemplifies genuine purity and humility, selflessness, freedom from rage and depression.

Five years later Nonie, and you are still changing the world. God bless.

Monday, September 26, 2011

note to whole self

why do you worry, o my soul?
the master will do his work.

already, he is moving in you
driving that first step forward.

why are you anxious, o my heart?
the lord is shaping you, even at night.

already, you are becoming
the same person all of the time.

why do you despair, my flesh and bones?
when you fall, simply get up.

rejoice, for your trainor is the
cleansor, the provider of freedom.

he will make you invincible.

Cross posted at Daily Prayer.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

the jesus kinda love

My little daughter is dying. Please come put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live. MK5:23

It was the end of a long day. Jesus had crossed the lake twice, driven out demons, amazed the people. Now a crowd pushed against him. And a man breaks through to plead “My little daughter is dying.”

What crossed His mind first? Perhaps he saw an opportunity to raise his own status with Jairus, a synagogue leader. Unlikely. Perhaps he saw the humility, courage and faith Jairus exhibited by falling at his feet. Possible. Maybe he just closed his eyes and saw the girl… a 12-year old shivering on a small bed… helpless… afraid… dying.,, alone… and knew that worldly love alone would not be enough to save her.

So he went.

There were no ambulances. There was no mad-dash-out-of-my-way scramble. Even in this life-or-death time of urgency, the Lord never lost awareness of those in his view. He could take on a mission to save a dying girl and still find time to love along the way.

A woman had been bleeding for twelve years—the lifespan of the girl who lay dying—so surely she could wait an hour… a day… a week… This little girl grasping onto the thread of life must take priority. But no. The Lord stops. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Be free from you suffering. Jesus looked into her heart and could see it was not selfishness that drove her to his feet, but rather hope and faith. Her shackles—which some would say paled in comparison to the ordeal faced by the young girl—created the same sense of helplessness. Loneliness. Fear. And Jesus loved. He stopped in the middle of loving, to love.

Arriving “too late” at the home of Jairus, he went to where the child was, took her hand and said, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” And she did. Then Jesus turned to her parents, and told them to give her something to eat.

Yes, I think earlier back on the road, tired, crowded and overwhelmed, Jesus’ first thought was about the girl. And who else he could love on the way. It certainly wasn’t about himself.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

there's no i in god

You wake up one day and the idea that you are overweight, out of shape and off-track gnaws at you so much you need to act. So I tell my friend TK that I need his help. Can’t do this alone.

So TK gives me a book. Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice, by Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson. Typical TK – he knows me well enough to know that the only way to change my outer physical shape is to start within… by changing my heart.

Each chapter is only two-three pages, but it takes me a few days to let a chapter sink in. So I think about what it means to linger on the beauty of God and God’s Kingdom. Asking God to show me the small steps in my life that will quietly and certainly lead to inner transformation. And whether I can rely on the love and divine grace of Jesus Christ to transform me into the man I was mean to be.

Here’s the big take away from week one: in the past, whenever I would spend time thinking about my relationship with Christ, I spend most of the time thinking about me.

What prayers can I put before God?
How did I fall short of His will?
Where did I need God’s help?
When was I obedient, when was I not?
What does God have to say to me? Can I hear Him today?

So this week I am trying to shift the focus, not worry about me, and simply enjoy the awesomeness of God. Or what Willard and Johnson call “dwelling on the beauty of God and the Kingdom life.”

Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11 thanksgiving

crossposted at Daily Prayer
It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. Rev 21: 6-7

On September 11, 2011 more than 47,000 people were safely evacuated from two burning towers. It probably ranks as one of the greatest rescue operations in the history of the world.

Yet salvation comes at a cost. On that day, 403 firefighters, police officers and paramedics sacrificed their lives.

A few millennia earlier, one man gave his life to save a people. And when he breathed his last, he looked to heaven and declared, “It is finished.”

Tonight’s prayer is one of thanks, for the victories of 9/11. And the life everlasting these heroes now enjoy.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

the good samaritan

I spent a few hours down at the rail trail this afternoon, handing out water and lemonade to the joggers, walkers and bike riders.

So I am talking to one guy in a red t-shirt, and he says "you're a good Samaritan."

And as he left, I wondered. This man was comfortable making a NT reference, but to him, seeing a simple act of kindness brought to mind a Samaritan and not a follower of Jesus. Could you imagine a person in a similar situation saying "you're a good Christian"?

About five minutes later, another man makes the same comment, "You're a good Samaritan."

So when I get home tonight I do a little reading. I was surprised to find out that Samaritans believed in God and the Torah. They considered themselves Jews, though they were detested by the "mainstream" Jews. (One writer compares this to the rift between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.) In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus tells the tale of one man who rises above this bigotry to help a man in need -- exemplifying God's call to love your neighbor as yourself.

Today, the term "good Samaritan" is used as a common metaphor and applies to any charitable person, especially one who, like the man in the parable, rescues or helps out a needy stranger. My guess is that it represents a term acceptable in a secular society, where as any reference to God or Christ may be off-putting.

So while these guys weren't giving Christ any credit for me being out on the rail trail today, the fact that my presence led a few people to reflect on Jesus' words made me feel good.

But when a third guy came by and asked "Who can I thank?" I decided to clarify the situation.

"God," I replied. "You can thank God."


Saturday, August 27, 2011


After a highly-scheduled week, which included after work plans every evening, I plopped down in front of the wide-screen last night to see what HBO had to offer and was pleased to see Unstoppable coming on.

It's funny that I've never considered Denzel Washington to be a great actor--I find a lot of his characters are too similar--but I almost always love his movies. So I hit the play button and sat back for a welcome night in.

Good flick for cable or even a rental, not much character development but a dramatic story line. Rosario Dawson excellent in a supporting role.

Anyway, about half way through the film, my two oldest children come home along with a few carloads of friends and ask if they can take over the family room.

I declined to move. Partly because I was quite comfortable. Partly because this was the first time I had sat down this week. Partly because my kids and their friends have taken over my TV at least a few nights every week this summer. So yes, I declined to move.

In hindsight, there was nothing wrong with this decision. My kids accepted my decision without a second thought. And I enjoyed the second half of the movie in hi-def (and in peace).

When I woke up this morning, however, the first thought that popped into my head was that I wish I had said yes. Instead of being the guy who did was what was reasonable and expected, I could have said yes to love.

Love should be unstoppable.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Luke 19 redux

Reading the same passage of scripture several times over the course of a few days or weeks is a new discipline for me, but one I recommend--for you never know how that second or third reading will differ from the first.

Take Luke 19: 11-26, the “Parable of the Ten Minas.” First time through, came away with the message that was taught to me when I was young: God has given you talents and if you use them for God’s purpose, you will receive even more gifts or abilities.

But is that what this parable is really about? Here are a few excerpts that stood out on a subsequent reading:

12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.

14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

And later on…

22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?

26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

Am I truly to believe that the Master in this parable is God the Father, or Jesus himself?

Reading through a third time, I am drawn to the first line of this parable:

11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable...

And what were they listening to exactly? Jesus was explaining his mission on earth.

10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

And who is lost in the parable of the ten minas? Perhaps the delegation that protests the appointment of a selfish, ruthless man as king—only to find themselves put to death. Perhaps the servant, who is so fearful of this powerful man, that he is afraid to act on the minas entrusted to him?

Perhaps I need to read this one again…

Monday, August 22, 2011

don't look at me...

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

If I did not have the responsibility of being a father or a husband, I could easily sell my possessions and give it all to the poor—storing up treasures in heaven instead.

Yes, that thought popped into my head yesterday.

(And not for the first time.)

In this warped sense of reality that is my brain, you see, I can convince myself that my need to live in a nice neighborhood, save for retirement, go on vacation, etc. is driven solely by my love of family. If it wasn’t for them, I could rid myself of worldly possessions and live the simple life God intended.

But you know better, Lord, don’t you.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

the river

People I know often refer to life as a journey. Some days the road is paved, other times you must navigate through pot holes, or debris left by others before you.

You can go weeks or months travelling a path that is clear and well defined, only to wake up one day finding yourself off the beaten path, unsure in which direction you were headed. We come to forks in the road, or even dead ends. We walk in pairs, groups, crowds… but often alone. Sometimes we stop moving all together.

Recently, my path came to a river.

Looking up, I could see that the path continued on the other side. While we were not talking about a Mississippi-sized waterway, it was daunting none the less. The current moved rapidly downstream toward a place beyond my vision.

Turning back was an option, though in the moment I could not recall exactly how I had gotten to this place. The path that lay across the bank was the natural progression—but only if I could transverse the raging river that flowed with such force and purpose.

How many times in life do we face such decisions? When our purpose collides with fear and uncertainty.

My decision made, I stepped into the water. My sneakers and sock quickly becoming weighted with the cool water. By the time I was waist-deep, the force of the current had already announced its desire to take me downstream… away from that safe haven of beachhead that sat there so inviting.

Another moment of indecisiveness was squashed as I dove in, swimming toward the distant bank… that path… my destiny.

A direct route was not an option, for the current matched me stroke for stroke.

When I fought to swim upstream, a vision from my childhood came to mind—of a young boy struggling with the undertow at the Jersey Shore, fighting the strength of the ocean to stay in front of the life guard chair and away from the life-threatening jetty.

Here, the path on the opposit bank represented my lifeguard. And while it took a while, I soon found that I could tack like a sailboat—swimming upstream then cross-stream—bringing me closer to my destination. Yet I needed to swim harder. Swim faster. Swim with even more determination. For the current never took a break. Never took a breath. The river was relentless in its purpose.

Even as the path grew closer, its firm-footing seemed further from my grasp. My arms grew weary. My legs were losing their strength. And in that moment of sheer fear and desperation, I did what I should have done long before stepping into the water. I cried out to God.

“Father,” I prayed. “Give me the strength. Give me the power. Give me the courage and determination I need to swim harder. The power to swim faster. Please God. Please. Answer my prayers.”

And to my surprise, the voice of my creator responded. The God of the universe spoke in the quiet of my heart.

“My son,” God called. “I am the river."


Thursday, March 10, 2011

my two hands

A man invited me to stick my hands into the pile of ashes before me. Run my fingers through the dust and charred remnants. Rub my hands together, feeling the grit and grime.

And then I sat to ponder the connection between the ashes that covered my two hands and the sins that covered my life. This is what I looked like through the lens of holiness. Through the eyes of a perfect guide. Dirty. Discolored. Disfigured.

Here’s what came to mind as I contemplated the condition of my hands. One: this was not the way my hands were supposed to look. Underneath these ashes and burnt scraps was the real me. Hidden from the light, from the truth. Second: I did not want to come into contact with anything white or pure or clean, because any contact would instantly blemish its beauty. Third: wanting the ashes to go away—no matter how much effort or pressure I applied—was not enough. No matter how much I rubbed my hands and fingers together, I could not clean myself. Could not.

And then I confessed my sins. Sins of gluttony, pride and neglect.

And I was cleaned. Purified. Refreshed.

Just as I was in the beginning.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

will I persevere?

You pray, pray, pray, pray… and nothing happens. Sound familiar?

So what happens? The despair, pressures and uncertainty of life remain. And then this sinking feeling sets in when you realize that the lack of response from God the Father only brings more despair, increased pressure and greater uncertainty.

A friend of mine has been dealing with life’s circumstances for some time now. And despite prayer, he seems to grow more weary every week. (You can pray for him here.)

So this morning I was wondering… is this what perseverance looks like? If so, am I personally ready for such a test?

At a men’s group on Monday, Kris shared a passage from 2 Peter:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.

We talked about the process of becoming more Christ-like, and the steps and work involved getting there. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know that I’ve been dealing with issues of self-control for some time on a number of fronts—and have increasingly become more confident in the power I have with Christ in this regard.

So this morning I shuddered a bit. Because the next item on the list is perseverance.

And as I think about the friend mentioned above… the one who seemingly deals with despair, pressures and uncertainty without God jumping in to change life’s circumstances … I see him not only as a friend in need of prayer… I see him as a role model for the path I have yet to reach.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

#6 - return of the king

#6 on my list of all-time favorite movies is Return of the King, the closing chapter of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

This morning I was thinking of the scene where Pippin (one of the Hobbits) pledges an oath to Denethor, the man who is ruling over the city Minas Tirith in the absence of a true king. Here's the exchange:

DENETHOR: Perhaps you have come to tell me why my son is dead.

PIPPIN: Boromir died to save us my kinsman and me. He fell defending us from many foes. I offer you my service, such as it is in payment of this debt.

Later on, Pippin takes a more formal oath of service:

PIPPIN: Here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor, and to the Lord and Steward of the realm, to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my lord release me, or death take me, or the world end. So say I, Peregrin son of Paladin of the Shire of the Halflings.

So I was thinking… people take oaths to “stewards” all of the time… we take oaths to our jobs, our banks, our dreams of worldly possessions… we take oaths to stewards who are merely trying to take the place of a true king.

So this morning, I knelt in prayer, and took an oath to the one true is king.

God. Your son Jesus died to save us, my kinsmen and me. I offer you my service in payment of this debt.

I swear fealty and service to the Lord my God, the creator of the Universe, the Father, Son and Spirit, to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until the Lord release me. So say I, Ed Gillespie, son of Raymond of New York.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

50 favorite movies

Yes, it's Oscar Week... so I took a few moments to list my 50 favorite movies of all time. Maybe it was the story, the acting, the cinematography or simply who I was with when I first saw it... but these are the 50 I could watch again and again.

1. Casablanca
2. Godfather II
3. Matrix
4. Godfather
5. Empire Strikes Back
6. LOTR: Return of the King
7. Shawshank Redemption
8. Silence of the Lambs
9. West Side Story
10. Amadeus

11. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
12. Goodfellas
13. Notorious
14. Gladiator
15. Schindler’s List
16. To Kill a Mockingbird
17. Fargo
18. Passion of the Christ
19. Philadelphia
20. Wizard of Oz

21. Ghostbusters
22. The Sting
23. Heathers
24. It’s a Wonderful Life
25. Nothing in Common
26. Purple Rain
27. Rocky Horror Picture Show
28. Saturday Night Fever
29. Animal House
30. The Graduate

31. American Graffiti
32. Fight Club
33. Beauty and the Beast
34. Clockwork Orange
35. Frankenstein
36. Trading Places
37. Jaws
38. Kelly’s Heroes
39. Usual Suspects

40. Saving Private Ryan
41. Patton
42. Apocalypse Now
43. Breakfast Club
44. Bull Durham
45. Dead Poet’s Society
46. Moulin Rouge
47. Mystic River
48. Slumdog Millionaire
49. Tootsie
50. The Game

Sunday, February 20, 2011

the town event

I was asked to cover a town event for the local paper last week.

The event was slated to begin at 6:30, so I got there around 6 to get the lay of the land. Some local politicos would be talking about the town—our history, where we’ve been, where we’re going.

I stopped to chat with the event organizer. About 100 people were expected in total. A pretty low-key affair. Given the state of the town’s budget, the menu was economical – hot dogs for everyone!

A woman stopped me before I could enter the hall. “Doors don’t open until 6:30,” she said without looking up.

“I’m with the press,” I replied, holding up my pass and camera. “Just wanted to get a few shots before the crowd arrived.”

It was your typical set up. Speaker’s podium up front, American flag in the corner. Folding tables with white paper tablecloths. Along the back of the room, the “banquet” was set up. A few coolers of lemonade, utensils and a spread of hot dogs and buns.

To my left, a side-door opened and a gentleman in a sports jacket ambled in, being careful to close the door behind him without making any noise. He looked at his watch, then across the hall towards me—before setting his eyes on the buffet table.

He glanced back over his shoulder as he stood in front of the hot dogs. He then opened up his back pack and began filling it with hot dogs. By my count, he must have stuffed 30 franks into his bag before turning and taking a seat. This seemed interesting. Odd, but interesting. So I walked over and sat next to him.

“Hi, my name’s Ed,” I remarked, introducing myself with an open hand. “I’m with the local paper.”

He shook my hand warmly and responded with a smile. “Roger. Nice to meet you.”

Now he knows I saw him stuff 30 or so hot dogs into the back pack that now sat between his legs, but he was cool as a cucumber. So, I had to ask. “Excuse me, but it seemed as if you took a lot of those hot dogs for yourself.”

“Oh yes,” he replied. “It pays to get to these events early. They probably won’t open the doors for another ten minutes or so… place will be crawling with people by then.”

Had to admire his ambition. Heh, I am a reporter, not a judge. But a curious reporter none-the-less. “Can I ask what you will do with all of those franks?”

“Eat ‘em, I guess,” he replied haphazardly. “Some today. Some tomorrow. To be honest, haven’t really thought about it much.”

Just then, our little one-one-one conversation was interrupted as a group of four people—two men and two women—entered through the main door. They looked familiar. The woman in red, she was the wife of the town’s finance chairman. The tall gentleman was a golf pro at the town’s municipal course—he was a good guy. The guy in jeans, he was a town legend—took the football team to the state championship ten years ago. I didn’t recognize the older woman (but later learned she was the mother of the town’s first selectman.)

They too made a bee-line to the buffet table—and seemed aghast when they saw that one whole tray had already been emptied.

The football star turned toward me, then trained his glare on Roger. “Excuse me,” he said with authority. “Did you see where this other tray of dogs went?”

Roger replied without remorse. “Sure, I have them. Guess you should have gotten here first if you were so hungry.”

From a distance, I could see granny mouth “what a p-i-g pig” before she and her three cohorts turned their attention to the remaining dogs. Now none of them had back backs, but they did pull out paper bags from their pockets (except granny – she used her pocketbook) and they proceeded to grab a handful of dogs – about 8 each.

“Sorry to interrupt you,” I said with respect, “but do plan on eating all of those hot dogs?”

“Heavens no,” replied the golf pro. “I’m just taking some home for my wife and kids—they couldn’t be here tonight.”

There was a loud commotion as the main door opened again. It was almost 6:30 and there was a line at the door, but only five people squeezed through before the entrance was closed again. I recognized the bank manager. And my doctor (I am so overdue for a physical.) The other three were strangers to me, but judging from their attire, I just assumed they too were local business people.

As they darted toward the hotdog tray, I guess I was just relieved that no one pulled out a bag, paper or otherwise. Instead, they reached for the paper plates… like civilized folk. And yet, as they loaded these plates with about four dogs each, I wondered whether I was the only one who could sense the commotion that was about to follow.

Sure enough, at 6:30 sharp the doors opened and the remaining 90 guests filed in—and they too made way for the hot dogs. Most of them just stared… because by this time there could not have been more than 30 dogs left in total. 30 dogs for 90 people.

Some pushed ahead to grab their wiener. Others, perhaps those good at math, took a knife to cut some dogs in half. A few stepped back, content to go hungry for at least one evening. But many. Most, perhaps. Just stood and looked at those empty platters. And wondered.

“Do we not all live in the same town?” one young lady would later ask me. “These people have kids who go to school with my kids. We live in the same neighborhood. We go to the same church.”

I looked up as the woman in red left her close-knit group of four and approached and elderly man who sat alone in front of an empty plate. She reached into her brown paper bag and pulled out a hot dog, placed it on his plate and left without even waiting for the “thank you” that surely followed.

Once back in her comfort zone, the golf pro patted her on the back, and the football star gave her a hug.

Around 7pm, right on schedule, the town’s First Selectman stepped up to the podium, thanked those in attendance, and talked about our town—our history, where we’ve been, where we’re going.

I wrote down every word and recounted it in an article I wrote. After all, I am not a judge. Just a reporter.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

sunday triumph

Candice greeted me when I reached her.

“Do you want a blessing or a prayer” she inquired.

“A prayer,” I replied. “I have two good friends who are fathers. One is a Christian, the other is not. They are each facing challenges with their sons. They are worried about the well being of their sons – and whether they as fathers are doing everything they can.”

So Candy prayed. She prayed for wisdom and strength and peace and blessings.

And then I returned to my seat. And a short while later I closed my eyes. I saw Jesus. And he was holding the hands of my two friends, these two fathers. And then he lifted their arms high into the air… the same way a referee lifts the hands of a boxer who has just won a fight. He rose their hands in triumph, in victory.

And then these to fathers were joined by their sons. And they lifted their hands in victory. In triumph. Everyone was smiling. Fathers, sons and Jesus.

And I wept with joy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

january treasures

french toast the morning after… black swan… b&e with brian… hamptons cards… nestles kick off… hunan pan… yellow punch buggy… chicken, waffles and beverly hills with the boys…

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

learning to hate

Other men, other Christian men, have shared with me that they have been tempted by pornography or sexual fantasies.

About three years ago, I shared one of my more personal diaries, reflecting on my willingness to fall into this temptation myself… and God’s amazing ability to pull me out.

And yet, even after that miraculous God event, I continued to disobey. Vows to repent, feelings of guilt and heartfelt prayers would be followed by moments of weakness… and at some point… when I was no longer afraid to ask for forgiveness… an abundance of God’s grace. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.

That changed about a month ago.

My Saturday bible study group was looking at Psalm 139. And with snow delays and other schedule conflicts, we ended up going three weeks without a meeting. Three weeks with Psalm 139.

I have since come to learn that this Psalm holds a special place in the hearts of many people I know… men and women who have taken the time to memorize the words. If you take the time to read this lyrical prayer, you will quickly understand why.

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.

It opens with a poetic statement of intimacy… describing an active, personal relationship between a single person and the creator of the universe… a God who has taken the time to listen to you… to know you by name.

Where can I flee from your presence?

Through the highs and the lows, the darkness and the light, our God is with us in every way possible… always at our side.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

God not only loves all people… he loves me… me… for the precise person I am... the soul, the personality, the being that is uniquely me.

And then… in the midst of this psalm of intimacy and closeness, David takes an abrupt turn in verse 19.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

Where did this come from? God and I were having this nice chat, and then all of a sudden we are talking about slaying, hatred and enemies. What’s up with that?

Now I have no enemies… and certainly not any enemies that I was looking to whack. Did not Jesus tell us to love our enemies? And who are ‘those who hate God’… atheists? Muslims? Were they not God’s children as well? These words did not resonate in any way. And what happened to that God of love and intimacy from verses 1 through 18?

To be honest, I kind of glazed over these verses the first week. Then when I hit week two of re-reading Psalm 139, I think I may have intentionally skipped these lines. By the third week, however, God was speaking to me through these verses in a new way. In a way that has changed my life.

You see… I had previously spoken about the inclination to let my mind wander toward sexual fantasy as a weakness. I was being tempted. Being lured into a place I had no desire to go. Yes, I was the victim. Helpless.

But that’s not really the case.

Because I had the power to hate. To hate the sin that drove me from God. To hate and despise the mere thought of this act. And on that day, this temptation no longer stood as a weakness, a flaw. It stood as an enemy. One that needed to be hated… one to be slayed.

That was a month ago. Any this hatred still burns today. And my enemy has not dared to show his face for all this time. And I am glad. And strong. And free.

For my Lord has searched me. And knows me. He leads me in the way everlasting. And I would hate for it to be any other way.

Monday, January 24, 2011

owning my soul

Interesting discussion at church yesterday, delving into the difference between your “spirit” and your “soul”.

Rich explained it like this: the spirit is the life force/God force within you – and if you could see inside a person, everyone’s spirit would look the same. The soul, however, is the uniqueness of you.

Got me thinking… on the cross, at the time of his death, all four gospels relay the same account: And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

He gave up his spirit. But he kept his soul.

Of all the gifts the Father has showered upon me, only one is unique to me: my soul. I can give the Lord my strength, my heart and my mind. But to love the Lord with all my soul does not mean giving my soul to God – he does not want this gift back – I think he just wants us to honor him by owning our soul.

We must fight to own our soul.

We must be true to who we are… never afraid to “be ourselves”… never ashamed of whom we are… never trying to be someone else… or change who we are to fit in to someone else’s picture of us.

We must also defend our soul against the one being who is willing, and anxious, to buy it.

We must fight to own our soul.

Will you join me in prayer today?

Lord, I want to honor you with my soul. I want to own my soul, defend my soul and love my soul, because you created it… and my soul is perfectly and fearfully made. I thank you for my soul. And I thank you for all of the souls that are owned by the ones for whom they were created… my brothers… my sisters. I want to love you God. I want to love you with all my soul. Which means I can’t give any of it away.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

on fatherhood

i may be dense.

ok, i am dense.

but often i need to experience something before i can internalize, see and understand. here are two examples from my experience of being a father.

first... the limitless nature of love. you grow up learning to love one mother. one father. one spouse. but it was not until after the birth of my third that i understood that the addition of each new child only increased the love i had for the ones that came before. cool, huh?

second... when i was 17, god and i had a little falling out. because i believed that if i truly loved god with all my heart, soul, mind and strength i would drop everything and become a missionary or priest. because i wanted no part of that, i assumed it meant i simply did not love god.

as a father, however, i do not want my three children spending their lives attending to my needs. i do not want them to pursue careers that interest me. i do not want them spending every waking hour thinking about me. i want them to live, love, explore and find out who they are as individuals... and then to follow the path before them with passion and joy. you see, what delights me most is when brian, meaghan and erin are the best brian, meaghan and erin they can be.

yes, that is what delights me most.

so today... love the lord by being what delights him most... you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

december treasures

… beauty & essex… audrey’s pecans… cozy caroling to guitar strums... ringing the bell with jim lang… pick-up lunch with brian… singing four calling birds with my father-in-law… finding the perfect shower radio… erin’s reaction to the scooter… the blizzard… backgammon with eileen…