The Glorious Mystery of Christmas

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. -John 1:14 MSG

There is a divine mystery that has surrounded humanity since the very first Christmas. Doubtful that anyone in that stable where baby Jesus was born really understood the significance of what had just happened. Who could have grasped that God Almighty had taken on human flesh? Who could have understood that this was not an earthly king come to sit on an earthly throne? Who looking at this helpless babe could have ever imagined that he was the the One to save them from their sins?

Yet John says here that he was one of the ones who saw the glory. He knew the Messiah and he embraced the nature of his divine mission. As John writes you get the impression that he was looking back and realizing that he walked with God and saw his glory for many years. John witnessed the miracles, remembered the teachings, agonized over the cross and saw the resurrected Messiah. These verses bind together the miracles of Christmas and Easter. They reveal to us the mystery and glory of Christmas.

spiritual possibilities

Where there is freedom there is the possibility of love.
Where there is love there is the possibility of pain.
Where there is pain there is the possibility of a savior.
Where there is a savior there is the possibility of redemption.
Where there is redemption there is the possibility of a restoration.

-Ravi Zacharias

how to be happy

Dear Stranger,

You don’t know me but I hear you are going through a tough time, and I would like to help you. I want to be open and honest with you, and let you know that happiness isn’t something just afforded to a special few. It can be yours, if you take the time to let it grow.

It’s OK to be stressed, scared and sad, I certainly have been throughout my 66 years. I’ve confronted my biggest fears time and time again. I’ve cheated death on many adventures, seen loved ones pass away, failed in business, minced my words in front of tough audiences, and had my heart broken.

I know I’m fortunate to live an extraordinary life, and that most people would assume my business success, and the wealth that comes with it, have brought me happiness. But they haven’t; in fact it’s the reverse. I am successful, wealthy and connected because I am happy.

So many people get caught up in doing what they think will make them happy but, in my opinion, this is where they fail. Happiness is not about doing, it’s about being. In order to be happy, you need to think consciously about it. Don’t forget the to-do list, but remember to write a to-be list too.

Kids are often asked: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ The world expects grandiose aspirations: ‘I want to be a writer, a doctor, the prime minister.’ They’re told: go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, and then you’ll be happy. But that’s all about doing, not being – and while doing will bring you moments of joy, it won’t necessarily reward you with lasting happiness.

Stop and breathe. Be healthy. Be around your friends and family. Be there for someone, and let someone be there for you. Be bold. Just be for a minute.

If you allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment, happiness will follow. I speak from experience. We’ve built a business empire, joined conversations about the future of our planet, attended many memorable parties and met many unforgettable people. And while these things have brought me great joy, it’s the moments that I stopped just to be, rather than do, that have given me true happiness. Why? Because allowing yourself just to be, puts things into perspective. Try it. Be still. Be present.

For me, it’s watching the flamingos fly across Necker Island at dusk. It’s holding my new grandchild's tiny hands. It’s looking up at the stars and dreaming of seeing them up close one day. It’s listening to my family’s dinner-time debates. It’s the smile on a stranger’s face, the smell of rain, the ripple of a wave, the wind across the sand. It’s the first snow fall of winter, and the last storm of summer. It’s sunrise and sunset.

There’s a reason we’re called human beings and not human doings. As human beings we have the ability to think, move and communicate in a heightened way. We can cooperate, understand, reconcile and love, that’s what sets us apart from most other species.

Don’t waste your human talents by stressing about nominal things, or that which you cannot change. If you take the time simply to be and appreciate the fruits of life, your stresses will begin to dissolve, and you will be happier.

But don’t just seek happiness when you’re down. Happiness shouldn’t be a goal, it should be a habit. Take the focus off doing, and start being every day. Be loving, be grateful, be helpful, and be a spectator to your own thoughts.

Allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment. Take the focus off everything you think you need to do, and start being – I promise you, happiness will follow.

Happy regards,

Richard Branson

hope on a very dark day

I guess this image is the one that I will always remember when I think of the events of this day thirteen years ago. In the midst of hate and devastation these pieces of steel seemed to rise from the rubble and remind us of a hope that transcends pain, devastation and death.

I am also reminded of how the brave men and women of the New York City police and fire departments responded to the actions of a handful of terrorist cowards and worked tirelessly to search for survivors in the rubble of the Trade Center. Their selfless bravery points back to another who hung on a wooden cross so many years ago and has given hope to millions since.

May God continue to bless the families of all those involved in the tragedies of September 11, 2001. And may He bless the United States of America and bring us together as a country.

... first posted in 2014

university of bacon

Interesting that some do not really know how to fry bacon.

Pork should be cooked slowly and on lower heat.

Cooking it too fast can burn it.

Under-cooking it makes it rubbery.

Nothing is like it when it is cooked correctly.

much easier to show compassion to animals

Compassion does not just happen. Pity does, but compassion is not pity. It's not a feeling. Compassion is a viewpoint, a way of life, a perspective, a habit that becomes a discipline - and more than anything else, compassion is a choice we make that love is more important than comfort or convenience. -Glennon Doyle Melton

The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others. -Albert Schweitzer

Compassion is the basis of morality. -Arthur Schopenhauer

God's dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion. -Desmond Tutu

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. -Nelson Mandela

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life's search for love and wisdom. -Rumi

It is much easier to show compassion to animals. They are never wicked. -Haile Selassie

mid-year one-line movie reviews

A few thoughts about some of the movies I have been watching this year ...

A Monster Calls | ★★★★★★★★☆☆.
    •   beautiful story of a boy coping with his mother's terminal illness

American Made | ★★★★★★★★☆☆.
    •   a very good story about a pilot caught up in the Iran Contra scandal

Amistad | ★★★★★★★★★★.
    •   an amazing movie that contrasts the cruelty and the compassion of human beings

Atomic Blonde | ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆.
    •   way overrated and pretty forgetable

Baby Driver | ★★★★★★★★☆☆.
    •   a surprisingly good action flick with a soul

Battle of the Sexes | ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆.
    •   more about Billie Jean's lesbian awakening than tennis

Band Aid | ★★★★★★★★☆☆.
    •   I liked the way that the characters found a way to heal their marriage

Dunkirk | ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆.
    •   an interesting story that moved way to slow for me

Farenheit 451 | ★★★★★★★★☆☆.
    •   surprisingly good futuristic tale about public ignorance and government control

Ghost in the Shell | ★★★★★★★☆☆☆.
    •   okay sci-fi flick

The Girl on a Train | ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆.
    •   I really expected more but liked it okay.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | ★★★★★★★☆☆☆.
    •   enjoyable super hero flick if you enjoy such things

Ibiza | ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆.
    •   I am being generous in giving this Netflix movie one star

Justice League | ★★★★★★★☆☆☆.
    •   enjoyable super hero movie

Kingsman: The Golden Circle | ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆.
    •   bad sequel to the original which was pretty good

Logan | ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆.
    •   pitiful ending the the x-men series

Salt | ★★★★★★★★☆☆.
    •   great action flick with good twists and turns

Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi | ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆.
    •   disappointing but not as bad as many reviewers thought it to be

Wanted | ★★★★★★★★☆☆.
    •   great action flick with good twists and turns

War for the Planet of the Apes | ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆.
    •   disappointing third installment of the apes franchise

Feel free to weigh in on these reviews and let me know what you think..

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

the t/log driverless logging truck

A Swedish startup has unveiled an all-electric, driverless logging truck.
The t-log has a range of about 120 miles on a charge
and can travel about 50 mph fully loaded.

nationalism vs patriotism

Sometimes people thank me for my military service. That last word. Service. Is what I think patriotism is all about.

There are many ways to serve our country. The military is one way. Voting is certainly another way. Helping a homeless shelter or a food pantry is another way to serve our community.

From the very beginning patriots have been serving our country by putting the welfare of others before their own. This past week we celebrated independence and honored the sacrifices of patriots who served in the fight for freedom.

So be a patriot today. Find a way to serve your community. In doing so you will serve your country and show your patriotism. And remember that there is a difference between nationalism and patriotism. One is about cheering and the waving of flags. The other is about serving and helping our neighbors.

Rabbi Kushner on Life

I used a quote from Rabbi Harold Kusher's excellent book today in my devotion titled 'the power of pain'. Though you might enjoy reading some other quotes from books by the rabbi.

“One of the basic needs of every human being is the need to be loved, to have our wishes and feelings taken seriously, to be validated as people who matter.”

“I'm not perfect, ... But i'm enough”

“When facing a dilemma, choose the more morally demanding alternative.”

“Forgiveness is a favor we do for ourselves, not a favor we do to the other party.”

“Pain is the price we pay for being alive. Dead cells—our hair, our fingernails—can’t feel pain; they cannot feel anything.”

“The purpose in life is not to win. The purpose in life is to grow and to share.”

“Good people will do good things, lots of them, because they are good people.
They will do bad things because they are human.”

“One man alone can't defeat the forces of evil, but many good people coming together can.”

“God is like a mirror. The mirror never changes, but everybody who looks at it sees something different.”

“If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul”

“God is the light shining in the midst of darkness, not to deny that there is darkness in the world but to reassure us that we do not have to be afraid of the darkness because darkness will always yield to light.”

faith in timing

The sentiment in this image challenges me at a deep level. I think that we all feel that we are captains of our destiny and in control of our lives. Yet life often does not happen according to our plans and timing. Hear what I think about some of the things that folks have said about this idea of timing ...

“Life is all about timing... the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable become available, the unattainable... attainable. Have the patience, wait it out It's all about timing.” (Stacey Charter)

I struggle with the idea that things will happen if we just have patience because sometimes patience has nothing to do with the things we want. Sometimes we wait to simply discern God's will. Sometimes waiting is about inner change.

“Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over.” (Gloria Naylor)

I love this perspective on timing. With children especially it is so hard to consider God's timing in the development of their character. Trusting God in this area can be so difficult. We all want to save our kids and our friends from pain.

“You cannot afford to wait for perfect conditions. Goal setting is often a matter of balancing timing against available resources. Opportunities are easily lost while waiting for perfect conditions.” (Gary Ryan Blair)

It is funny how we can use the idea of timing to advance the cause of procrastination.

“Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.” (Warren Spahn)

This reminds me that great timing for one can be bad timing for another. Sensing the speed and arc of the proverbial pitch is what life is sometimes all about. And we cannot hit the homer if we do not take a swing.

“The timing of death, like the ending of a story, gives a changed meaning to what preceded it.”
(Mary Catherine Bateson)

My 43 year old niece died in October 2011. It reminded me that my wife Ellen also died when she was 43. Sometimes the timing of death makes absolutely no sense. Faith in God's timing is tested most in these times.

... I first published this in April 2012.

Desmond Tutu on what it means to be Human

Desmond Mpilo Tutu is a South African religious leader, theologian and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Here are a few things he has said about being human.

All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.

If you want peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.

Without forgiveness, there's no future.

Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.

We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity.

A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.

We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low.

Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.

a spring meme

My obligatory seasonal meme with a tip-o-the-hat to my friend Ollie.

  • Favorite smell - bacon, of course
  • First job - YMCA camp counselor
  • Current job - VP of Human Resources, Retirement KC
  • Dream job - I no longer dream about employment.
  • Astrological - Taurus, you now I am bullish. ツ
  • Favorite Pizza- Chicago Deep Dish … joking … NYC pizza of course!
  • Favorite foot attire- Crocs that I use for slippers.
  • Roller Coasters - Yuk!
  • Favorite candy - Chunky with M&M Peanuts a close second.
  • Favorite ice cream - Pistachio
  • Pet Peeve - Folks who say "the bible says" based on their interpretation.
  • What are you listening to right now - the sound of silence
  • Color of your vehicle -tan
  • Color of eyes - blue
  • Favorite holiday - every day is a holiday when you are retired
  • Night owl, morning or day person - morning
  • Favorite day of week - Monday
  • Tattoos - No but if I did it would be Lady Liberty
  • Like to cook? As long as a frying pan or grill is involved.
  • Beer or wine or neither? Depends on the meal.
  • Can you drive a manual transmission? Sure but ramped vans are all automatic.
  • Favorite color? Blue
  • Do you like vegetables? Depends
  • Do you wear glasses? Sometimes
  • Favorite season - Spring

Share how you would answer in the comments or on your blog.

It's fun to learn odd little things about people.

please do not #prayerbomb my friends

I loved reading this message from my friend Letiah on Facebook. She is a member of the clergy with the Church of the Nazarene. Letiah uses crutches to get around.
Letiah @ Young Clergy Network
My first time here. I was prayer-bombed today because I'm crippled. I did not fight it. I chose to endure the spiritual abuse because I knew it would make him leave faster. I was right. Prayer & go. Didn't even take the time to get to know me at all.

I'm surrounded by Christians who see me as a project right now. I just came to visit the new local coffee shop in my neighborhood. Perhaps if I was viewed as a human the quickie prayer might have focused on something else. I am not angry. This has happened too often in my life for anger to take up space about this. I am just naming the ignorance and ableism that is obviously present in our world and its systems.

Sadly, this is continued evidence that this narrative is widely lived into in the church. Why do people with disabilities widely refuse to attend church? Why do we have issues with our bodies and being? I would suggest because we don't like feeling like projects.

I would also suggest that many of us have accepted and even like the way our disabled bodies bear the image of God in our world. We are NOT here on earth to provide a source of inspiration or to be fixed. Our humanity has been blessed since the very beginning.

We are very good....crutches... and all.

Rant over.

BTW. The iced chocolate Chai is delicious and I'm still crippled. Just in case you were wondering.
Being in a wheelchair and disabled, my wife Ann has had similar experiences of being prayer-bombed because of her disability. I think that the problem with #prayerbombing is a confluence of bad theology and bad manners. I have often said that folks wanting to #prayerbomb Ann should be asking her to pray for them.

Like Letiah, Ann responds with beautiful grace to #prayerbombers. Hats off to Letiah and Ann for the grace and strength they display to us every single day.

So please try not to #prayerbomb my friends. Instead, ask them to pray for you.

Weightless Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking passed away today at the age of 76. I share this 2007 post to remember him.

I'm taking a few moments this morning, the day after Stephen's weightless ride, to share a few of his quotes:
It was amazing, I could have gone on and on. (about his weightless experience)

God not only plays dice, He also sometimes throws the dice where they cannot be seen.

I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.

The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.

To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit.

When one's expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have.

It matters if you just don't give up.
Stephen has suffered for many many years from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). This flight was the first time in 40 years that Stephen moved freely beyond his wheelchair.


Thought I would challenge my self a bit in February by posting 26 devotions in 28 days on words in the bible. The first word of the day is zeal. Click here for more.

Tripadvisor Readers likes Me

  Readership Badge
   60,000+ Readers

Just got another email note from Tripadvisor that said:
Congratulations, Bob! You're in the top 2%. With 53,461 readers, you're one of the most popular reviewers in Kansas City. As a leading contributor, your advice has really made its mark in our travel community. You've also earned a TripCollective Readership badge.
I do not review as many restaurants as I used to but feel free to check my reviews out here.

concept-i car

Toyota's Concept-i Car on display at the Detroit Auto Show [more]