Friday, June 25, 2010

Dogs On Call

It has been months since I have done a blog entry. While my original blog has been a 'devotional' type thing, I think I am going to switch gears, although what I will write about is still devotional in nature, but more having to do with my latest interest, Easter Seals Dogs on Call, a program that uses our canine friends to assist humans in need of a friend.

Many of you know my dog Millie. She is unique by Golden Retriever standards, in that she was born with a rather calm nature. My wife thinks she is the dumbest dog we have ever owned because she took a lot longer to housebreak than all our other dogs. And you do know the smell of dog poop will linger in a woman's nostrils much longer than a man' I won't argue the point with Annie too much.

Still, Annie loves her, I can tell. She will be lounging comfortably on the couch in the evening with her cat Blu draped across her neck and Millie will do a 'paws-up' in her lap and just stare at her. As much as Annie badmouths her, (and it is all kidding) I know she is proud of our lil Golden and all that she has accomplished.

I have found myself giving a great deal of affection to our old girl Belle. She will be 14 on her next birthday, an unusually long time to have a golden. I could make her a therapy dog in a minute; I think she could pass the test without one error, but I want her to enjoy her retirement. I find myself looking in her eyes and getting a brief glimpse of that gift we all so admire in our dogs, but don't seem to quite understand. God knew what he was doing when he put dogs in our care...and visa versa.

I have a new job at the Alabama Dept of Rehabilitation Services. It is the most challenging and exciting position I have had in the 25 years I have been with the agency. (And today, I celebrate those 25 years to the day) Of course, with each promotion, jobs always become more laden with administrative duties, and the contact I have with people is almost entirely on a peer-professional level. Still deep in the heart of everyone who decided to get into the field of rehabilitation is the need, the desire, to reach out and provide help to a fellow human.

My new found friends, human and canine, in the Easter Seals Dogs on Call, have enable me to keep this flame burning. I truly believe that volunteerism will make a person a better professional; I have seen it happen in my own life. One feeds the other.

I joke that I am being selfish by participating with Dogs on Call, because it is fulfilling something in me, and I get more out of it than the people we visit. If it is a sin to practice this kind of selfishness, I won't repent. And I encourage others to join in with my selfish behavior and see if you don't get blessed too.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Real Thing

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;
to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life And who is adequate for these things?
For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
2 Cor. 2:15-17

A beautiful morning led to an inspiration…fire up the smoker! There is nothing sweeter to me than the smell of wet hickory chunks creating a wave of smoke that makes the neighbors envious. My weapon of choice on this day was lemon pepper and Cajun chicken wings, pork tenderloin and venison.

As you can see, it was downright irresistible to my dogs. Millie and Belle spent the afternoon camped out by the smoker. It reminded me of the scripture above… I will comment on that later.

Recently, I re-established contact with my first pastor and his wife (Major T and Jeanie) by email. They were the people who laid the spiritual foundation for my life. My wife Annie and I met in their small church. I actually decided on a career after spending time in their group home back in the late 70’s. They took in homeless kids in addition to their own 5 children. Many of us who had come to know the Lord in the Enterprise, Alabama area practically lived in their home. In one of my emails recently, I told them that I regretted ‘invading’ so much of their family time back then, but they never saw it that way.

Over thirty years later, they continue to serve the Lord in ways that only He knows. They established a small church on an Indian Reservation in Alaska, enduring years of primitive conditions. They didn’t have running water for a long time. Over the years, they adopted three indigenous boys from the local reservation.

Over time, I have seen much in the American church culture that doesn’t impress me. After going off to college, I became associated with a group whose founder seemed fixated on the ‘sharp people’ of this world, thinking their attractiveness would draw people to Christ. It reeked of the smell of death, if I can be so blunt.

I have concluded, that like my dogs and the sweet smell of hickory, people are drawn to the simple sincerity of the Gospel. My dear friends Major T and Jeanie were folks who were drenched with hickory, and still are. The sincerity of the Gospel is an overwhelming scent. It is what Jesus called abundant life.
The Kingdom of God runs in conflict to our human thinking many times. Jesus made this statement: "So the last shall be first, and the first last." My friends seek no recognition from man, but will be moved to the front of the line, I think. Many of the TV preachers/peddlers have had their reward in full.

One thing I noticed as I sat on the back patio taking in the hickory chips. I came in the kitchen and Annie said, “Wow, you smell good!” I was close to the smoke. The smoke permeated my clothes.

My prayer is that I smell good in the nostrils of God. But I can only get that way by getting close to Him. I am sure my dear friends in Alaska give the scent of a slow cooked lemon pepper chicken wing…

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Sound of Snow

Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow…” Is: 1:18

Our weather man here in Alabama's Capital has a nickname. We all call him Chicken Little. He gets so excited about weather events that my dad phones me to let me know that the sky is falling…again. He gets a charge out of the guy. The local news brought on the SNOW frenzy for Sunday, the first day of March. Annie and I looked at each other and nonverbally communicated: “Yea, right….” After 30 years of marriage you can communicate this way. I hope she can’t read my mind too much however.

Like a kid, I still got up with the chickens at 5 AM Sunday morning to see if the snow had started. To my surprise, the fat flakes were coming down like parachutes over Normandy. Belle has seen snow on rare occasions in her 12 years and made an obligatory snap at a few falling flakes. Millie on the other hand, tore donuts in the backyard and snapped like a cornered turtle at the flakes as they fell.
“Get up, it’s snowing!” I exclaimed to Annie and her best buddy Blue, the cat.

"Make some coffee and I might….” she replied sleepily.
I then opened Stephen’s door, kicking baseball cleats and sweats out of the way and told him if he wanted to see some snow, he'd better get up.

The dogs and I returned to the backyard to play. I threw the Flippy-Flopper a few times and noticed Annie and Stephen standing at the French doors watching us frolic, smiling. Another one of those moments to cherish.

For any of you Yankees, by this of the year, you are sick of snow. Your prayer is for God to remove this dreadful stuff from the streets and sidewalks. But for your average southerner, it is high cotton. Of course, the first thing we men-folk do is ‘start our engines’ and see if we can spin our tires. My dad, the Pittsburgh-yankee-convert-to-Alabama-redneck knows not to get on the road in Alabama during snow events. I ignored this well founded warning and threw caution to the wind. I took to the highway in my trusty steed and just enjoyed the ride.

There is one thing I have noticed about snow when it is falling. It has a sound yet you don’t ‘hear’ it. The delicate descent pierces the ear with sound of purity. Have you ever gone off by yourself and ‘listened’ to the snow? It jars you with peace, surrounds you with a deep sigh, it sounds….
beautiful… resplendent.

Many believers have heard the scripture above since childhood. “White as snow” is synonymous, now a common and colloquial saying that serves as a figurative substitute for purity. I ‘hear’ it now as much as I see it and feel it. The peaceful sound of forgiveness, of knowing that our Father sees us not with the shame of a scarlet letter, but as a happy, peaceful, early March day filled with the whispers of snow. His presence touches all of our senses...

(Tomorrow the forecast is for sunny skies and 70 degrees.)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Last Hunt

(No Deer assumed room temperature in the writing of this blog, ladies.)

After some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are."
Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also.
But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.
And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.
Acts 15:36-39

I have always been fascinated, concerned, perplexed, curious, (the list goes on and on) about missed opportunities. You know, was there something I did not do that altered my life significantly, put me out of God’s will, changed the world as we know it? (OK, a little hyperbole never hurts.) As I age, however, I don’t think about opportunities as ‘missed’, but I simply look at it as finding an alternate route in life. It is not always easy for me to think like this. I am a cause and effect person, and had years of what I call faulty theology that puts the believer at the helm; his every word, negative or positive, may change the very outcome of the universe. Sounds pretty arrogant to me now.

Jan. 31, 2009, the last day of deer season in Alabama. I didn’t hunt much this year so I figured I better log a little time in the stand so I would at least be able to tell a few lies to my macho friends. I decided to hunt in the stand just beyond the pond as it had been a fruitful location for others this season. I barely wheeled my truck through the barn gate near the gathering of cows young and old, when I spied a huge deer in the small pasture just beyond my folk’s home.

“I am just not seeing this, wow, what an opportunity," I thought. There would be no way I could slink out of my truck, load my trusty Marlin 30/30 and get off a shot. But that didn’t stop me from trying. I could not believe my luck, as I accomplished everything I needed to do, even to the point of propping my rifle on the door of my mud covered pickup.

“This is just too easy," I thought as I let out that final long breath before a trigger pull. I was right about that. The view in the crosshairs of my scope changed in the blink of an eye and I saw a white tail waving like a flag, bounding through the pasture into the hardwoods and pines.

What an opportunity alright, a missed one. I suppose it is a matter of perspective though: missed for me, great for the deer. Years ago I would have fretted over this for the rest of the day. On this day, I simply grinned, unloaded my gun, put in a few hours at the deer stand (with no luck) and began to think about the magnetic pull of our pond, as fishing has always been my passion.

It was a warm day for the end of January, and I knew the month of February brings out the big bass, gorging themselves before the spring spawn. I traded my rifle for a rod, was tempted by the hammock, but continued on my quest of conquering some form of wildlife.

What I saw next conquered me. A slight breeze hovered over the pond, rippling the water ever so slightly. The globe we inhabit rotated into a position with our friend the sun to provide a dazzling light show that no Independence Day celebration could match…as this one took place under the midday solar warmth of our mild winters in Alabama. Flickering, blazing, coins of silver skipped in synchronized beauty with the arid breeze and the olive ripples of the pond. No fish on this day... I dropped my rod, sat down on the dam and enjoyed the fireworks show. I pondered the days of my youth, days of woodsy solitude, days of simple reflection. Thankfulness to God for this present moment of peace. Opportunity found.

Is there a lesson here? I don’t know, maybe. It seems to me that Paul and Barnabas had a pure human cat fight in Acts 15. Some may say the selfishness of their own wills got involved here, causing them to miss an opportunity. Funny thing happened though. The book of Acts continues with some of the most fascinating stories of the adventures of the greatest apostle. Perhaps the lesson is that in things small and large, from a simple day in the country, to laying the groundwork for believers for centuries to come, God is always bigger than our ‘missed opportunities’. Mark, pictured with his hero, Blessings to all.
(For a companion story, read "Jeep Trails" Aug 6, 2006)

Thursday, January 08, 2009


"After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of the burning thorn bush. "When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord.
Acts 7:30-32

It was nice having a week off at Christmas. I had a few projects to do around the house, a few 'honey-do's and simply spent some time relaxing. My little puppy 'turned the corner' over the holidays and I feel rather ashamed for calling her the dumbest Golden we have ever had. In actuality, she is doing things now that none of our Goldens ever accomplished at such an early age (about 4 months).

She does have a tendency to get me up early, and I mean early. Over the holidays, the three of us, (me, Belle, and Millie) generally started our day at about 5:30 AM. The other humaniods and the feline didn't stir for several more hours. It actually was a nice time to putter around the kitchen, get the coffee going and start teaching Millie a new task that will make things a little easier for me each morning.
The command: 'gitdapaper'.
Our old girl, Belle, knows exactly what it means, although it is a task she never quite mastered. Our first Golden, Bonnie would hear the command 'gitdapaper' and immediately she was in the foyer, bounding through the first crack of daylight in the open door, running down the driveway, scooping up the paper and was back at the front door in a New York nanosecond. She knew that a Milkbone treat awaited after each successful mission.

.Belle loves going down the driveway, but just will not pick up the paper. So I give the command anyway and she and I have for years walked down the drive so I can be the retriever. I give her a treat just out of habit.

Millie, on the other hand, has the bloodlines of Bonnie. She attacks it with ferosity, even dragging the Sunday paper with all its ads back to the front door. Belle watches her too, and still expects her Milkbone. And it didn't take Millie long to put the paper-Milkbone-connection together.
I recall one morning over the holidays. We were making our trek and as Millie scooped the paper and turned back to the house, I peered through the darkness at something I see everyday. It wasn't a burning bush, or the voice of the Lord. It was home.

I don't live in a McMansion, but we have a pretty nice ranch style home. I stopped dead in my tracks and smiled. I simply thanked God for the warm abode He has provided for my family, a place of refuge, a den of safety. I guess you could say I marveled.

There are things that I encounter everyday that are marvelous. But I usually don't marvel. I wonder if I spend too much time waiting to marvel at the burning bush but forget about the burning hickory in a warm fireplace.
I sometimes think that God gets great pleasure in knowing that His children marvel at the mundane. By that I mean the things we just take for granted each day. Perhaps Paul summed up it up best when he wrote to the Thessalonians:
Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing give thanks:
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus concerning you.


Monday, December 29, 2008

The Shepherds

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;
for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
"This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."
So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.
And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

Luke 2:8-18
Growing up, I always looked forward to a certain Christmas decoration that my mom set out. By today’s standards, it would be considered a rather inexpensive manger scene (similar to the one in the picture) but my brother and I liked to play with it, rearranging the pieces much like we did with our plastic army men. I studied the characters closely. The Holy Family was handled with care. I liked the animals, I thought the kings were pretty cool, but I liked the shepherds most of all.

We treated the tiny figurienes with respect unlike the torture we raked on our diminutive plastic green warriors. A kid could buy a whole bag of these guys for less than a buck. Boredom set in after strategically placing them in battle position and then flicking them over with index finger and thumb, eliminating the battalion as a plastic fighting force. Setting them back up was tedious work.
Fire soon became the weapon of choice with our little battle ready buddies. Matches. Gasoline and matches. Firecrackers. How we didn’t set the neighborhood on fire is beyond me. We did cause a minor grass fire once lighting up a full sized, petrol soaked GI Joe in the backyard. And there was that melted candle wax that went up in flames on the kitchen stove...Gosh, all the helicopter kids of today (kids whose parents hover over them constantly) haven’t got a clue the fun they missed. Sitting on their fannies with a Wii. Please. But I digress….

Recently, my pastor, Jay Wolfe, spoke about the Nativity scene. Something he said about the shepherds struck me. “Shepherds were social and religious outcasts. They were never able to enjoy the religious festivals and weddings of the day because the flock always had to be attended. But they left the flock that night with a sense of urgency.”

I have a friend, John, who I correspond via email. On a forum that we frequent, John coincidentally penned a poingnant reference to the shepherds that caught my attention recently:

One of the curious events of the Nativity of Jesus is in the night in which He was born angels appeared not to potentates but shepherds. Not to the patriarchs, or high priests, not the most enlightened or those in a position to do something positive about His birth but to the lowest of the social strata. That the shepherds were frightened would be like saying "oil rig workers were timid" it takes something to frighten a shepherd…
…the shepherds must have had some credibility with someone literate to have made the pages of scripture. Possibly because of their lack of guile and genuine astonishment at their revelation they were believable. God it seems has a habit of concealing Himself, and of revealing Himself in obscure ways.

One of the plastic shepherds in our little Nativity was carrying a lamb like the one in this picture. But I remember one particular shepherd distinctly. He was kneeling and offering something to the infant in the manger. My young mind could never figure out what the gift was, but I remember feeling sorry for him because it was obviously not some expensive present like the Magi brought.

And from the manger to His ministry, three decades later, Jesus... sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.
A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.
Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury;
for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on."
Mark 12:41-44
I really couldn’t understand my fascination with the little plastic shepherd figures then. I understand it now, more admiration than fascination, no pity but total respect. The shepherds came out of pure sacrifice, knowing that they may lose what little they had in the world. In a way, Jesus pays tribute not just to the poor widow, but to the shepherds who came to see Him out of their own sense of poverty.

The Gift of God was (and is) for all men. Not just rich kings from some far away place I have never heard of. God’s gift of love is available for Tommy in Holtville, Jake in Wetumpka, Tamisha in Montgomery, Pablo in Union Springs….
Luke 2:17-18 indicates that the shepherds had a sense of urgency... to drop what they were doing to seek Him and tell others. At times, I don’t think I have that urgency. I don't give enough. I don't sacrifice enough.

I pray for the necessity and exigency of Him in my life.

Merry Christmas to all,

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Bonnie Slam

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy
Job 8:21

This picture is enough to restore your mouth with laughter, but there is more, believe me. Wow, eighteen years ago, baby Stephen---just a few weeks "post slap" on the fanny, Bonnie---our first Golden, and me, Mr. Chicken Legs.

Bonnie was by far our most stubborn retriever. She insisted on leading the pack on walks and would pull the leash until her tongue turned blue. Nothing would make her heel. It is funny the things you remember over the years, the inside jokes that couples share. On one walk, Bonnie spied a squirrel and took off, until she got to the end of the leash. What happened next can only be compared to the fate that awaited Barnyard Dawg in the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons when he ran out of rope. The flip in the air, with the subsequent flop on her butt was forever coined ‘the Bonnie Slam’. Any dog since who can perform this graceful move will get a rating from Annie and me, but none can top that first Bonnie Slam. It was one of those moments when you looked at your wife, you knew that she had her hand covering her nose and tears coming from her eyes in laughter.

Stephen loved this Baby Jogger. Bonnie got to the point that I simply had to tie her to it and let her pull us like a Conestoga wagon. Another sight that I am sure produced chuckles in the neighborhood, but we didn’t care. I'd like to think that this activity started Stephen’s love for athletics and exercise. Annie and I used to run road races together, trading out the pushing duties.

So now, I am teaching our new pup ‘the ropes’. She loves walking beside Belle, holding the lead in her mouth as she trots.
“You gotta go on a walk with us and see how good Millie is doing!” I pleaded with Annie. (She is usually the one pleading with me to get out and get some exercise now. Still the avid runner, she logs 5 miles a day.)
As someone who is always trying to jury-rig things, I found a large carabiner and hooked the two leashes to it. How proud I was of my invention, everything seemed to check out for a few walks and I was ready to unveil Millie’s progress on the world.

But the world is still new to Millie. I noticed a few weeks ago how cars wizzing by startled her, but within a few days, she ignored them. Oh, but a new challenge…a large Scag
mower was on the horizon…Millie immediately backed up, straight between my legs. I lost the 'graceful' quick-pace of my gait and turned into a waddling duck….Belle, unfazed by the mower, continued forward at full stride. By this time, Millie was behind me and her leash was straddling the 'stride' of my sweats. I am holding the caribiner, with leashes going in opposite directions, waddling like a duck and I hear a snort.

Now because I have lived with this woman for over thirty years now, I didn’t have to turn around to see what she was doing, but I did. Hand to the nose, tears in her eyes, laughing. We have not named this move yet, but I am sure she will come up with something as creative as the Bonnie Slam.

The thing is, I didn’t mind her laughing at me one bit. In fact, it did my heart good. Stress of work and home sometimes trumps laughter and it was nice to see her let loose a good one. I just shook my head and feigned disgust with my new pupil.

I am convinced that laughter is good medicine. I have used the proverb “A merry heart doeth good like medicine” (Prov 17:22) many times in the past on my blog and I repeat it again for good measure.

The creator of Beetle Bailey, Mort Walker, once said: “Laughter is the brush that sweeps away the cobwebs of the heart.”
I read the comic strip every day, something I have done since I was a kid. I believe the man’s quote is just another way of stating the words I have highlighted in red.
God bless, and be sure to share a laugh with family and friends over the holidays!
Prov 17:22

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

'Goodwill' Towards Men

He who profits illicitly troubles his own house…Prov.15:27

Searching the tie rack…hmm…nothing new this week. Wait…wow, a Hilfiger! OK, do I have 2 bucks in my wallet?

I have been meeting with the staff at Goodwill Industries every Wednesday for years. My agency refers people to this organization in efforts to fulfill our mission of finding employment for the disabled population of Alabama. They do a great job in this area and I am proud to be associated with them.

One of my rituals is to stop in at the Goodwill Thrift Store before or after the meeting and check the tie rack. I rarely buy a tie retail any longer; the price at Goodwill is just too tempting (2 dollars) and often I find extremely good ties with little wear. Everyone at Goodwill uses me as the male model. Right.

This article caught my eye immediately, especially after the debacle of the WalMart shopping nightmare. If you don’t want read the link, basically a Goodwill worker in Illinois,Teodora Petrova, found $7500 in a shoebox while sorting clothes. She turned it in, because it simply didn’t belong to her. Goodwill found the owner. She got a reward, and then a few days later, Goodwill gets a check from a donor who wished to remain anonymous…for $7500 to assist with their job placement efforts.

It does show that spiritual principles work. I am not talking about the "name it claim it" religion that seems so pervasive in America...'if you do this, then God must do that'....The priciples
that I speak of have more to do with someone's character. If one exhibits characteristics of honesty, he usually has characteristics of charity, stability, strong mindedness...he attracts friends like him, influences those who are not like him, has families of similar characteristics. Treating people with respect and kindness works. The Golden Rule works! The result is that this person sleeps well at night. I think Ms Petrova sleeps like a baby.

Conversely, the proverb above also rings true from a spiritual standpoint.
Dishonesty is usually just one of the MANY character flaws that these folks exhibit, thus their lives and the people they influence are in a constant state of a big hot mess. The guy in this proverb sleeps with one eye open, as he has created a plethora of problems due to his sordid behaviors.

The story about Goodwill made the news because it simply had a nice twist to it. Believers should not expect some instant, outward result because they simply did the 'right' thing. However, exhibiting Godly character will render a lifetime of rewards, true inward peace on earth and good will towards men. That is the real sowing and reaping of which Christ spoke.

Merry Christmas to my friends at Goodwill Industries of Central Alabama, a caring bunch of people with hearts of gold.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Attention Wal Mart Savages!

Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
Luke 23:20-21
It is not often that I rant on my blog. Yesterday’s incident at Wal-Mart in Long Island left me saddened and outraged as a man was trampled to death by a mob of greedy, selfish, savages who cared for nothing more than saving a few lousy bucks on a TV.

The callousness of the event astounded me; the utter disregard for this man after the event and the anger of the crowd when they were told that the store would be closing because of his death showed the depravity of man in all its glory.

The article highlights a Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV for $798 that seemed to be the big ticket item that everyone lusted after. Out of curiousity, I googled this item this morning. A few mouse clicks rendered prices at $797, $799, and $899 at different retailers. Let’s say the lower prices were sold out. Was saving a lousy Benji ($100) worth the price in exchange for this man’s life? A cop or a soldier wakes up each morning knowing it could be his last; it comes with the territory. But a part time Wal Mart employee?

We hear all the time that people are getting more hard hearted, more callous, more violent. Yet when I think about the Man whose birth we celebrate at this time of the year, I am reminded of the behavior of the mob surrounding His death. Even the ethically challenged Pilate tried to reason with the crowd, but they cried out, “Crucify Him!” As Jesus was asking His Father to “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”, the ones below the cross ignored him, casting lots for his clothes. Human depravity is not exclusive to 2008, the first Black Friday happened over two thousand years ago. Bargain shoppers at the foot of the cross.

The great debate over the nature of man has been going on for centuries. Secular Humanists tend to think that man is basically good, and people of faith believe that only God can save them from their depraved sinful state. I know some readers will disagree with me, but I line up with the latter. Horrific incidents from the crucifixion to a Wal-Mart in Long Island convince me of this.

I try to focus on inspir- ational topics, but I felt a need to vent a little. Here’s hoping that our holidays are sacred, and unlike Judas, we won’t sell Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver.