Sunday, November 30, 2008

Today's Prayer

Dear God, please forgive me. I sometimes look at those I see and get frustrated by the way they are. Some are angry and act ugly and even curse. Others have no desire to do what is right. Some just want to "party" and live like the world all the time. Some are lazy. Some are hurting and holding on to bitterness. I don't always understand why they are that way. Then I, in my frustration, become angry and grumble.

Forgive me for my ungodly attitudes and complaining. I am sorry. Help me to see the potential in others and to pray for them more and criticize them less. I pray that through my prayers to you and through my Christian testimony and example and through my words and deeds, these people would come to know you or come back and lay their issues on the altar. I pray that we all will lift our burdens to you and drop them at your feet, so that you can take them away and guide us in the way everlasting. Please relieve our griefs and burdens and replace them with your peace. Please bless us as we serve you. Please help us and pick us help when we stumble.

Thank you for your mercies. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Paid in Full

After living what I felt was a decent life, my time on earth came to the end. The first thing I remember is sitting on a bench in the waiting room of what I thought to be a court house.

The doors opened and I was instructed to come in and have a seat by the defense table. As I looked around I saw the prosecutor. He was a villainous looking gent who snarled as he stared at me. He definitely was the most evil person I have ever seen.

I sat down and looked to my left and there sat my attorney, kind and gentle looking man whose appearance seemed so familiar to me, I felt I knew Him. The corner door flew open and there appeared the Judge in full flowing robes. He commanded an awesome presence as He moved across the room I couldn't take my eyes off of Him. As He took His seat behind the bench, He said, "Let us begin."

The prosecutor rose and said, "My name is Satan and I am here to show you why this woman belongs in hell." He proceeded to tell of lies that I told, things that I stole, and in the past when I cheated others. Satan told of other horrible perversions that were once in my life and the more he spoke, the further down in my seat I sank. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't look at anyone, even my own attorney, as the Devil told of sins that even I had completely forgotten about.

As upset as I was at Satan for telling all these things about me, I was equally upset at My Attorney who sat there silently not offering any form of defense at all. I know I had been guilty of those things, but I had done some good in my life - couldn't that at least equal out part of the harm I'd done? Satan finished with a fury and said, "This woman belongs in hell, she is guilty of all that I have charged and there is not a person who can prove otherwise."

When it was His turn, My Attorney first asked if He might approach the bench. The Judge allowed this over the strong objection of Satan, and beckoned Him to come forward. As He got up and started walking, I was able to see Him in His full splendor and majesty. I realized why He seemed so familiar; this was Jesus representing me, my Lord and my Savior.

He stopped at the bench and softly said to the Judge, "Hi, Dad," and then He turned to address the court. "Satan was correct in saying that this woman had sinned, I won't deny any of these allegations. And, yes, the wage of sin is death, and this woman deserves to be punished." Jesus took a deep breath and turned to His Father with outstretched arms and proclaimed, "However, I died on the cross so that this person might have eternal life and she has accepted Me as herSavior, so she is Mine." My Lord continued with, "Her name is written in the Book of Life, and no one can snatch her from Me. Satan still does not understand yet. This woman is not to be given justice, but rather mercy."

As Jesus sat down, He quietly paused, looked at His Father and said, "There is nothing else that needs to be done. I've done it all." The Judge lifted His mighty hand and slammed the gavel down. The following words bellowed from His lips ...

"This woman is free. The penalty for her has already been paid in full. Case dismissed."

As my Lord led me away, I could hear Satan ranting and raving, "I won't give up, I will win the next one." I asked Jesus as He gave me my instructions where to go next, "Have you ever lost a case?" Christ lovingly smiled and said, "Everyone that has come to Me and asked Me to represent them has received the same verdict as you,

~ Paid In Full ~

Churches Burned - Over 300 Killed in Nigeria

More than 300 people have died in Muslim-Christian clashes in the worst sectarian violence in Nigeria since 2004, when some 700 people were killed.

Angry mobs burned homes, churches and mosques on Saturday in the central state of Plateau in the second day of riots, according to The Associated Press. Though initially a clash between supporters of the region’s two main political parties following the election, the violence was soon divided along ethnic and religious lines.

Tension began when electoral workers did not post the results in ballot centers, causing many locals to assume the election was going to be another fraudulent political event.

After riots broke out, a curfew was declared and the governor of Plateau state ordered troops to shoot on sight to enforce the curfew in neighborhoods affected by the violence, according to Reuters.

About 7,000 people in conflict areas have left their homes and are seeking refuge in government buildings and religious centers, the Red Cross reported.

Sectarian violence is not new in Plateau state, with more than 1,000 people killed in Jos – the state’s capital – in September 2001 due to Christian-Muslim hostility.

This weekend’s sectarian violence was the worst clash in the West African nation since 2004, when as many as 700 died in Plateau and over 100 churches were destroyed. The 2004 violence was said to be sparked by land disputes between members of the predominantly Christian Tarok tribe and Muslim Hausa-Fulani farmer.

Nigeria is split nearly evenly between a predominantly Muslim north and a Christian south. According to Compass Direct, religious conflicts between Muslims and Christians have claimed more than 10,000 lives since 1999.

[from The Christian Post RSS Feed by Ethan Cole]

Church Security Guard Shoots Man in Birmingham

A church security guard shot a man he believed was breaking into Holy Trinity-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Cathedral this morning, according to Birmingham, Alabama police.

A South Precinct sergeant said the man who was shot is in critical condition at UAB Hospital while the guard suffered bruises to his head and face during a struggle.

The guard came upon the man as he patrolled the church at 307 19th St. South sometime before 7:30 a.m., the sergeant said.

Police have been called to the church on several occasions this week, but the sergaent said he did not know the nature of those calls.

[Posted by Jeremy Gray -- The Birmingham News]

U.S. College Football Ranking

BCS Standings:
1. Alabama 12-0
2. Oklahoma 11-1
3. Texas 11-1
4. Florida 11-1
5. USC 10-1
6. Utah 12-0
7. Texas Tech 11-1
8. Penn State 11-1
9. Boise State 12-0
10. Ohio State 10-2
11. TCU 10-2
12. Ball State 12-0
13. Cincinnati 10-2
14. Oklahoma State 9-3
15. Georgia Tech 8-3
16. Georgia 9-3
17. Boston College 9-3
18. BYU 10-2
19. Oregon 9-3
20. Missouri 9-3
21. Michigan State 9-3
22. Northwestern 9-3
23. Pitt 8-3
24. Florida State 8-4
25. Virginia Tech 8-4

Associated Press poll:
1. Alabama (62) 12-0 1,620
2. Florida (3) 11-1 1,516
3. Texas 11-1 1,488
4. Oklahoma 11-1 1,480
5. USC 10-1 1,355
6. Penn State 11-1 1,257
7. Utah 12-0 1,216
8. Texas Tech 11-1 1,197
9. Boise State 12-0 1,103
10. Ohio State 10-2 1,069
11. TCU 10-2 885
12. Ball State 12-0 834
13. Cincinnati 10-2 824
14. Oklahoma State 9-3 798
15. Georgia Tech 8-3 708
16. Oregon 9-3 630
17. Georgia 9-3 495
18. Boston College 9-3 482
19. Missouri 9-3 479
20. Brigham Young 10-2 385
21. Michigan State 9-3 312
22. Mississippi 8-4 280
23. Pittsburgh 8-3 241
24. Northwestern 9-3 190
25. Oregon State 8-4 122

USA Today coaches poll:
1. Alabama (58) 12-0 1,521
2. Oklahoma (2) 11-1 1,397
3. Texas 11-1 1,396
4. Florida (1) 11-1 1,385
5. USC 10-1 1,298
6. Penn State 11-1 1,176
7. Utah 12-0 1,153
8. Texas Tech 11-1 1,116
9. Boise State 12-0 1,044
10. Ohio State 10-2 999
11. TCU 10-2 836
12. Cincinnati 10-2 770
13. Ball State 12-0 765
14. Oregon 9-3 658
15. Oklahoma State 9-3 613
16. Georgia Tech 8-3 590
17. Missouri 9-3 470
18. Brigham Young 10-2 461
19. Georgia 9-3 440
20. Boston College 9-3 435
21. Michigan State 9-3 414
22. Northwestern 9-3 333
23. Pittsburgh 8-3 154
24. Oregon State 8-4 127
25. Mississippi 8-4 126

You Can't Please Everyone. That's OK.

I once heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. Well I’d like to add a second definition: trying to please everyone. Trying to make everyone happy ranges from difficult to impossible and the only guarantee you have is that you’ll wish you never tried. We face this problem with leaders, clergy, business owners, managers and even with our friends and family.

The bottom line is that we’re all unique – for better or for worse – and therefore the one-size-fits-all mentality rarely applies to real life situations. To further complicate things, just as there are some folks that are easy going and easy to please, there are others that are downright grumpy and find fault with everything. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle where we have reasonable expectations and as long as an effort has been made to meet those expectations, we’re satisfied.

So what is one to do? Give up? Live in a cave? Of course not. You simply need to set the expectation that not everyone will go along with what you plan/say/attempt/etc. If everyone does go along with it and they’re happy, then great. If they don’t, you’re not surprises, or worse, disappointed.

Politicians deal with this each day. Sometimes they start with 40-50% of their electorate in opposition to them. Additionally, they have factions within their own party that voted for them not because they were the best choice, but because they were a better choice than the person from the other party. This is true for anyone in any position of leadership or authority and the higher you rise on the ladder of success, the more people will oppose your ideas, actions and decisions. Even if you have two or three folks working with you, you’ll have times where you make a decision that one or more of them may disagree with.

The trick for handling this is doing what’s best for the group or the organization that you’re responsible for pleasing. That’s a bit of a loaded sentence so I’ll give some examples. If you’re the leader of a church or ministry, you need to do what’s best for your church as a whole so that it can survive and thrive. Sometimes it’ll upset the majority, but keep in mind that the number one goal of a church is to succeed.

With family and friends, things are a bit tricky because pleasing the majority can mean that someone with different tastes and interests might feel a bit left out. Again, you need to do what’s best for the group so things like selecting a date or set of dates for an activity have to be based on the majority the first time and then cater to the minority that couldn’t make it, yet is still interested, the next time.

Anything that costs money needs to consider the majority as well and what affects both ends of the spectrum. If someone in the group has expensive tastes that the majority of the group can’t afford, then it makes sense to pick a more moderately priced activity or accommodation. On the flip side, if you’re planning a trip to a particular destination such as a foreign country and one member of the group can only afford to travel to the nearest major city, then he or she might need to wait until the next trip.

Family and friends are more difficult to deal with because the good of the group often translates to something for everyone. As a picky eater, I’m often the most difficult to please when selecting a restaurant but I often put the responsibility on myself to eat beforehand or find something I can customize on the menu to meet my tastes. With that being said, if I were on vacation with friends or family and had to do that at every meal, I’d be a bit annoyed. But it wouldn’t be fair for me to expect everyone to forgo their favorite meals to meet my needs by eating only at places I liked, so everyone needs to understand that everyone has to give and take.

Trying to make everyone in a group happy can be challenging and not an absolute necessity. It’s up to you to judge your own situation and determine what the best course of action is. Just keep in mind that there are people that have become extremely successful by only pleasing a slim majority of their intended audience.

[from Overnight Sensation by James]

Tis a very, Merry Christmas!

Three years ago, a little boy and his grandmother came to see Santa at the Mayfair Mall in Wisconsin . The child climbed up on his lap, holding a picture of a little girl.

"Who is this?" asked Santa, smiling. "Your friend? Your sister?"

"Yes, Santa," he replied. "My sister, Sarah, who is very sick," he said sadly. Santa glanced over at the grandmother who was waiting nearby, and saw her dabbing her eyes with a tissue. "She wanted to come with me to see you, oh, so very much, Santa!" the child exclaimed. "She misses you," he added softly.

Santa tried to be cheerful and encouraged a smile to the boy's face, asking him what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas. When they finished their visit, the Grandmother came over to help the child off his lap, and started to say something to Santa, but halted. "What is it?" Santa asked warmly. "Well, I know it's really too much to ask you, Santa, but ." the old woman began, shooing her grandson over to one of Santa's elves to collect the little gift which Santa gave all his young visitors.

"The girl in the photograph ... my granddaughter well, you see ... she has leukemia and isn't expected to make it even through the holidays," she said through tear-filled eyes. "Is there any way, Santa any possible way that you could come see Sarah? That's all she's asked for, for Christmas, is to see Santa."

Santa blinked and swallowed hard and told the woman to leave information with his elves as to where Sarah was, and he would see what he could do. Santa thought of little else the rest of that afternoon. He knew what he had to do.

"What if it were MY child lying in that hospital bed, dying," he thought with a sinking heart, "This is the least I can do."

When Santa finished visiting with all the boys and girls that evening, he retrieved from his helper the name of the hospital where Sarah was staying. He asked the assistant location manager how to get to Children's Hospital.

"Why?" Rick asked, with a puzzled look on his face. Santa relayed to him the conversation with Sarah's grandmother earlier that day. "C'mon ... I'll take you there" Rick said softly.

Rick drove them to the hospital and came inside with Santa. They found out which room Sarah was in. A pale Rick said he would wait out in the hall. Santa quietly peeked into the room through the half-closed door and saw little Sarah on the bed. The room was full of what appeared to be her family; there was the Grandmother and the girl's brother he had met earlier that day.

A woman whom he guessed was Sarah's mother stood by the bed, gently pushing Sarah's thin hair off her forehead. And another woman who he discovered later was Sarah's aunt, sat in a chair near the bed with a weary, sad look on her face. They were talking quietly, and Santa could sense the warmth and closeness of the family, and their love and concern for Sarah.

Taking a deep breath, and forcing a smile on his face, Santa entered the room, bellowing a hearty, "Ho, ho, ho!" "Santa!" shrieked little Sarah weakly, as she tried to escape her bed to run to him, IV tubes intact. Santa rushed to her side and gave her a warm hug.

A child the tender age of his own son -- 9 years old -- gazed up at him with wonder and excitement. Her skin was pale and her short tresses bore telltale bald patches from the effects of chemotherapy. But all he saw when he looked at her was a pair of huge, blue eyes. His heart melted, and he had to forcehimself to choke back tears.

Though his eyes were riveted upon Sarah's face, he could hear thegasps and quiet sobbing of the women in the room.As he and Sarah began talking, the family crept quietly to the bedside one by one, squeezing Santa's shoulder or his hand gratefully,whispering "Thank you" as they gazed sincerely at him with shining eyes. Santa and Sarah talked and talked, and she told him excitedly all the toys she wanted for Christmas, assuring him she'd been a very good girl that year.

As their time together dwindled, Santa felt led in his spirit to pray for Sarah, and asked for permission from the girl's mother. She nodded in agreement and the entire family circled around Sarah's bed, holding hands. Santa looked intensely at Sarah and asked her if she believed in angels. "Oh, yes, Santa ... I do!" she exclaimed.

"Well, I'm going to ask that angels watch over you." he said. Laying one hand on the child's head, Santa closed his eyes and prayed. He asked that God touch little Sarah, and heal her body from this disease. He asked that angels minister to her, watch and keep her. And when he finished praying, still with eyes closed, he started singing, softly,"Silent Night, Holy Night ... all is calm, all is bright ..."

"The family joined in, still holding hands, smiling at Sarah, and crying tears of hope, tears of joy for this moment, as Sarah beamed at them all. When the song ended, Santa sat on the side of the bed again and held Sarah's frail, small hands in his own. "Now, Sarah," he said authoritatively, "you have a job to do, and that is to concentrate on getting well. Iwant you to have fun playing with your friends this summer, and I expect to see you at my house at Mayfair Mall this time next year!"

He knew it was risky proclaiming that to this little girl who had terminal cancer, but he "had" to. He had to give her the greatest gift he could -- not dolls or games or toys -- but the gift of HOPE.

"Yes, Santa!" Sarah exclaimed, her eyes bright. He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead and left the room.

Out in the hall, the minute Santa's eyes met Rick's, a look passed between them and they wept unashamed. Sarah's mother and grandmother slipped out of the room quickly and rushed to Santa's side to thank him. "My only child is the same age as Sarah," he explained quietly." This is the least I could do." They nodded with understanding and hugged him.

One year later, Santa Mark was again back on the set in Milwaukee for his six-week, seasonal job which he so loves to do. Several weeks went by and then one day a child came up to sit on his lap.

"Hi, Santa! Remember me?!" "Of course, I do," Santa proclaimed (as he always does), smiling down at her. After all, the secret to being a "good" Santa is to always make each child feel as if they are the "only" child in the world at that moment. "You came to see me in the hospital last year!" Santa's jaw dropped. Tears immediately sprang in his eyes, and he grabbed this little miracle and held her to his chest. "Sarah!" he exclaimed. He scarcely recognized her, for her hair was long and silky and her cheeks were rosy -- much different from the little girl he had visited just a year before. He looked over and saw Sarah's mother and grandmother in the sidelines smiling and waving and wiping their eyes.

That was the best Christmas ever for Santa Claus. He had witnessed -- and been blessed to be instrumental in bringing about -- this miracle of hope. This precious little child was healed. Cancer-free. Alive and well. He silently looked up to Heaven and humbly whispered, "Thank you, Father. Tis a very, Merry Christmas!"

Death Notice - Rev. George M. Docherty

The Rev. George M. Docherty, credited with helping to push Congress to insert the phrase "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, has died at 97.

Docherty died on Thanksgiving at his home in central Pennsylvania, according to his wife, Sue Docherty. She said her husband of 36 years had been in failing health for about three years. "George said he was going to live to be a hundred and he was determined," she said in a telephone interview Saturday. "It's amazing that he was with us this long."

Docherty, then pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, just blocks from the White House, gave a sermon in 1952 saying the pledge should acknowledge God.

He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and was unfamiliar with the pledge until he heard it recited by his 7-year-old son, Garth. "I didn't know that the Pledge of Allegiance was, and he recited it, 'one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,'" he recalled in an interview with The Associated Press in 2004. "I came from Scotland, where we said 'God save our gracious queen,' 'God save our gracious king.' Here was the Pledge of Allegiance, and God wasn't in it at all."

There was little effect from that initial sermon, but he delivered it again on Feb. 7, 1954, after learning that President Dwight Eisenhower would be at the church. The next day, Rep. Charles G. Oakman, R-Mich., introduced a bill to add the phrase "under God" to the pledge, and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate. Eisenhower signed the law on Flag Day that year.