You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2009.

Michael Oher was an undereducated underprivileged youngster with very few advantages to make something of his life. But, he was blessed with a family who “adopted” him out of the goodness of their heart and Christian faith. The wonder of the privileged meeting the underprivileged is the story.

The Touhy family bless Michael with a home, clothes to wear, truck to drive and tutor to advance his academic pursuits but there is more. The upper class family learns to value what they were taking for granted as a family. It is as if the essential joys of being a family are resurrected as the Touhy’s share their lives with the good heart of Michael.

The racial tensions, class-stratification stresses, tender treatment of Michael’s mother are all thoughtful moments in this poignant narrative. Sandra Bullock who plays Leigh Anne Touhy is magnificent. She is loving, forthright, insightful, sensitive, domineering, generous, and humorous throughout the film.

Adding to the quality cast are Tim McGraw as Sean Touhy and Jae Head as SJ are terrific. The lead role of Michael Oher played by Quinton Aaron is ideal.  Lily Collins plays the support role of Collins with a memorable performance.

There are plenty of moments to laugh during this film. Even more importantly there are times of thoughtful reflection in this story. Family dynamics and values are highlighted.

I loved Bullock’s portrayal of a caring selfless generous maternal character. There were no racial or social moments relegated as gratuitous interjections. The real story was the relationship of family regardless of how intrusive the outside world became.

This was an important idea that threads its way throughout the movie. When someone helps someone in need, why are there outsiders who feel that they have a right to judge the motives, dangers, and perceptions of those who are doing  good?  Nasty thoughts, gossip, slander and filthy attitudes emerge as if their brazen self-righteous spirit is self-authenticating.

However, the hurt that the Touhys suffer does not stop Leigh Ann.  In spite of the careless opinion her prejudiced mouthy “friends” she keeps doing good.  This dynamic is subtly portrayed. Without giving any undeserved notoriety to those who are judgmental the movie reminds us of how those who do good often are blindsided by the ugly side of life.  But, good triumphs over evil.

The love of family and the good that is done for Michael launches him into success. Watch it.  It’s well worth it.

photo credit: Google image

Thanksgiving was almost going to be lonely. Four of our children have moved to the Left Coast. Job transfers took them away from the Midwest and relocated them on the Left Coast.

Back here in Michigan, we still have our youngest son with us. It is a lot of fun hanging out with him, but the full family feeling would not be with us during this holiday season. I wasn’t sure what to do about this reality a few weeks ago.

But a great friend invited the three of us to join him for Thanksgiving. He assured us that he and his family would be thrilled to have us over. He knows how to make me feel wanted.

Over the years he has defined true friendship for me. He has plenty of friends. But, he has given me a special portion of his life and I in turn have given him the same.

Our families have really hit it off as well. As couples we enjoy each others’ company. Our children have a strong affinity toward each other as well.

On Thanksgiving Day we walked into their warm home breathed in the fragrances that make your mouth water. Their family had all arrived before us and the greetings were filled with cheer and smiles. A lingering warm embrace was natural and welcomed by all of us who have shared years together.

This was not just a courtesy visit. Our lives have been intertwined with prayers, heartaches, joys, hopes, dreams, disappointments and tears. Together we have also deepened our faith, cheered on our families and wondered deeply about our jobs.

Throughout all of life’s episodes there has been a depth of loyalty in our friendship that defines what friendship is. Love has been at the heart of our trust in each other. No, it is not the expectation of perfection but acceptance that God’s grace is how we live, why we live, and how we will persevere in living.

Time just passed. Food was consumed. Laughing was huge among us. We caught up on family news.

A lot of trivia with sports, politics, and current events filled in any gaps. The dogs made us chuckle. They added a lot of color to our perfect evening.

At the end of the evening we said our “Good-byes.” We even expressed our love for each other. They are true friends after all, and we do love them.

photo credit: Google image

Fog is always creepy.  It is no wonder that science fiction writers and horror movie producers input this meteorological phenomenon as a backdrop for screams and terror.  But take away the boogeyman element and fog is still weird.

I live on the fourth floor with a balcony overlooking our little downtown skyline.  The fog from this elevation is intriguing.  The multilevel plaza in the distance loses its height in the fog bank.

When I am safe inside our cozy apartment I gaze at the street lights that cast a distinctive hue into the night.  City lights are restricted, narrowed down by the fog that swallows up light rays.  It’s a tug-o-war between light and fog, each wanting to claim more ground.

Across the street the restaurant business sign is blurred by the heavy mist.  Buildings that are normally a part of my morning gaze can’t even be seen.  My morning scan is dramatically reduced.

This past Sunday was no different. God added the wrinkle of weather to my day.  A thick fog shrouded SE Michigan.

I got a firsthand look at the weather from our living room. The ground hugging clouds were so thick that the lights of our little downtown could barely be seen.  There would be long commute to church through the dense air pregnant with moisture.

Once we were on the road my eyes were vainly straining to fight through the shroud. Our speed would have to match safety limits. Even signal lights did not appear until the last-minute.

The freeway entrance was a familiar turn-off. But, I had to guess where the lines were on the ramp. Once on the freeway I ignored the speed limit sign. There was no way that this kind of impaired visibility would allow such speeds.

I have too many memories of multiple car accident pile-ups due to foggy conditions that I was going to be careless. I stayed in the far right lane. Cars roared past as speeds that would not allow them to stop for any surprises on the road.

I was tense. My concentration was high. Slow and easy was the only way to make it to our destination.

Church is always a delight in my life. But, this morning, when the church building appeared out of the fog, I was more thrilled and relieved to see it than ever.  A safe arrival was a great blessing for the day.

photo credit: Google image

Football “spectating” is an interest. Here in Michigan I watch three teams and cheer them on in turn. Two college teams and one professional team makes it fun.

When both college teams win and our professional team adds a “W” it is a great weekend. But, lately, that kind of three-sweep is rare. In fact as the end of the season draws closer, the “L’s” have stacked up rather high.

Saturday began the weekend of hopeful optimism. It was the last game of the year for the University of Michigan Wolverines. This Big Ten Conference game is supposed to be a huge rivalry with Ohio State University Buckeyes.

The game was at home. Over a hundred thousand spectators filled the Big House. But, the game was disappointing and the final score matched that disappointment.

Then, I turned my attention later in the day to Michigan State Spartans. They were playing Penn State Lions. Initially, the game was competitive. But, then the power of Paterno’s team emerged and his gridiron gladiators won the game running away.

Saturday logged two disappointing losses for our College teams. What hope was there for Sunday? Could our 1-8 Lions pull off a victory, only their second for the year?

The game was not sold out so there was a black out in our area for TV. Radio was our only access. The Lions were behind when I ran out of radio range.

I turned on my computer and had the http://www.detroitlions.com website keeping me up to date in real time. But, the only data stream told me the actual score, game clock and who had possession. As the last seconds ticked away, the Lions were behind. The Browns were leading 37 to 31.

According to the website, time expired and the score favored the Browns. I assumed that they had lost and went out on errands. That’s when my telephone buzzed with an email sports news alert.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The notice declared that the Lions had won the game 38-37. An interference call by the Browns gave the Lions one more play with no time on the clock.

In this improbable game scenario the Lions scored a touchdown with a successful point-after. The Honolulu blue won their second game of the season. I was delighted beyond words!

photo credit: Google image

The woods that were the arena for long walks were disappearing in my rearview mirror.  With a cabin full of good friends we had deepened our friendships and forged new ones.  Dreams of the future were still a bright spot for all. 

Heartaches in our past still found relief, sympathetic ears to let anxiety dissipate.  True friends listen but don’t judge.  Understanding, encouragement and even silence are the tools of the faithful.

It was odd that none of us saw much wildlife during our strolls through hundreds of acres of land.  Usually, herds of bovine entertain us with their graceful sprinting through the fields.  The young ones prance about in play, learning how strong their legs are and how fast they can run.

In years past the numbers of deer were counted by herds of 10 or 20.  They were prolific in this area of Michigan.  But, this year the numbers are not just down, they are noticeably low.

They are around but just not in this county. Locals are puzzled.  No one knows where they went.

It was time for the fellowship to end.  My gear was easy to pack and load.  Farewells were short, the way of men.

Dusk had settled in this part of our world.  Shadows were gone and night was pushing out the day.  That’s when the show began.

Two deer ran across the road.  I saw them almost like shadows appearing out of nowhere.  They raced right in front of me.  I had to brake hard and steady to avoid hitting them. 

Once they were safely on the other side of the road, they meandered around often looking back at me.  I breathed a sigh of relief and went on my way.  A few hundred yards away, another pair of were standing by the road in a field of cut corn.

Slowly I pulled over to the side of that rural road, lowered the window on the passenger side of my truck, and smiled at the closest doe.

She stood broadside with her whitetail down, big brown eyes staring, and her posture perfectly still.  That’s when I winked at her.   She flinched.  Then, I gave her a zerburt, loud and forceful.

Startled she snorted and stomped her front hoof.  Her whitetail went up.  Like a flash, she leaped into the air, turned and hit the ground on a dead run. She had the last word in this conversation.

photo credit: brucefong photography

This is the time of year when I make my annual trek into the woods. It’s rendezvous time with good friends who all share a love for the out-of-doors. Long hikes, quiet solitude and deep meditation all make for hungry appetites in the evening.

We feasted on oysters, salmon, chicken breasts, pineapple casserole, fresh bread, cheese, avocado dip, and beverages of the widest varieties. We were stuffed. So we naturally gravitated next to the warm and crackling fire.

There we told stories until our sides ached from too much laughter. The smiles of retold adventures was hysterical. Our friendship deepened with the passing of time.

While our conversation was carrying on and on, my hand dropped to the side of the sofa. There was good reason for me to do that. One of the labrador retrievers had come to sit next to me.

He looked up at me with his adorable face and sad eyes. With his mouth partly open and tongue peaking out, he couldn’t have communicated more clearly than if he could actually do human talk.. He wanted to be petted.

It was easy to comply. Once I dropped my hand to his head and did the common petting, he cooed quietly. His satisfaction was audibly expressed.

But, I have experience with dogs. I wouldn’t stop with just a petting. Soon I turned my fingers loose. They massaged his head, neck, shoulders and hips.

Now, he was a bowl of jelly and slumping over with a big yawn. Add to that his licking of his chops and it was very gratifying to be able to bring such soothing comfort to this beast of burden and loyalty.

This Golden lab has sister. She was watching from across the room. Enough was enough.
She jumped to her feet. There was no coy behavior on her part. Instead, she wormed her way between her brother and me.

She pushed and shoved until her muzzle reached my hand. That’s when she flipped up her nose and launched me hand into the air. With one final push she shoved her brother out-of-the-way and my hand came down on her head.

My scratching, massaging and petting just continued. She was now wooing and cooing. He was vanquished and never challenged his sister once. Labrador Retrievers must have a matriarchal society. The pecking order was clearly established and never challenged. I just laughed.

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On my one trip to Greece we were overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, and smells of this amazing country.  After all, not only is the natural history of this pleasant country very scintillating, also the Biblical history is captivating as well.  The people and their friendly cheer add to the unforgettable experience.

While we raced from site to site, we wearily tried to keep up with our wonderful tour guide.  She kept us entertainedy.  Her love for her country and its history made the tour very special.

During a long van ride to the south we were dozing to the hum drum of tires on asphalt.  Our guide asked us if anyone was awake.  We all laughed.

Then she pointed to the right side of the freeway.  There stood a statue of an ancient Spartan soldier.  She told us that this was the site of the famous 300 who stood in the pass of Thermopolis and kept the mighty Persian army at bay until the Greeks could mobilize a defense.

Legend tells the story of bravery, skill, teamwork and most of all loyalty.  When a soldier was wounded his fellows would close ranks and care for their comrade’s safety until the battle was over.  This devotion was especially true when the General fell. 

All of the soldiers gathered around him.  They carried him to safety.  At great risk for their own lives they moved as one to stay with their commander.

The church is also directed to display this same kind of care.  Too often the church is known for just the opposite.  We are teased for shooting our wounded. 

Like a lamb led to the slaughter Christians too often destroy what can be restored, abandon what can be nurtured or execute who can be revitalized.  Often it’s the process that confuses people.  Fear of “not” dealing with something or the delusion of “defending” what is perceived to be care cloud the attitude that accompanies the action.

James tells us a critical truth at the end of his epistle.  Everyone is susceptible to wandering from the truth.  His instruction is not to punish someone.  Rather, his commendation if for the one who brings that person back. 

There is a practical result from preserving.  Further sins that come from bitterness, revenge, hatred and the like are avoided.  Always look at the long term results of actions that address conflict.  Then follow the course of righteousness.

James 5.19,20

photo credit: Google image

This drive is an annual event. Good friends own a beautiful ranch that is a short hour and a half away. It is a gathering that many of look forward to every year.

 

Each year the scenery is breath-taking. Autumn is just about done. A few lingering trees hold on to their last color foliage.

 

Overhead geese are forming their flight-before-winter-sets-in famous V’s for long distant traveling to warmer climates. Their smaller cousin ducks are piddling around in small ponds bracing for winter. Tiny hummingbirds have long since flown south on their migration away from the frigid temperatures.

I was surprised by a special treat in the Creator’s woodlands. Crunchy leaves made my every step loud and nearly annoying. But, not far into my journey the noise from other leaves crunching, branches snapping and hollow sounds clanking made me sound like I was in stealth mode.

The racket made me stop and freeze in my tracks. A pulsating crashing and commotion was very curious. Then, an unusual sound caught my attention.

It was the periodic sound of antlers colliding. Then, it all made sense as deep in the thicket, flashes of brown appeared in holes around the bushes. Two buck deer were having a fight.

From where I was standing I could see very little. I followed the back and forth sounds of two mighty bovine vying for dominance in the region. There was only room for one king in these woods.

Whoever became the victor of this battle would have all the doe that he wanted for himself. The loser would have to settle for any maiden doe that would settle for his advances. The gene pool would entertain only the strongest, fiercest and most determined.

Abruptly, the battle ceased. I never saw the vanquished. But, the victor leaped out of the woods on to a trail near where I stood. In a split second, he shook off the battle fatigue and raced down the trail disappearing into the woods, melting into as if someone with the perfect camouflage turned on a switch and this 2.5 year old buck disappeared from sight.

My camera is fast but not that fast. There was no chance to snap a shot. But, I had missed the entire battle. That would have been a photo album of excellence. Two rising stars of the woods trying to impress the ladies. Only one would leave the woods with its head held high, its nose one up on the defeated, at least for this year.

The flight to Salt Lake City was a four-hour journey. On top of that my flight included a two-hour layover in Utah.  In addition to that schedule was another hour-plus flight to my final destination.

That’s the quiet cost of ministry across the country. I’m sure that it pales in comparison to my buddies who are constantly overseas. But, for me this is the common routine of the extra that I do just because…

National ministry does not allow for any slow down of the other stuff on my calendar. Even when I am booking a flight I am thinking about my regular duties that must be maintained. But, the ease of selecting my own travel schedule on-line is convenient and simple.

When I arrived at the airport, I was notified that my flight was delayed. Instantly, I did an assessment of my available time. That’s when I pulled out my computer.  Opening my backpack, my portable office popped out.  I started blogging, emailing, researching, studying and planning. But, time was not my friend.

Suddenly we are all notified that our once-delayed-flight was now being moved up. Hundreds of us quickly shut down our portable offices, repacked our gear and rose to board the plane. My eyes glance at my wristwatch, confirm the time with the terminal clock and puzzle over my schedule for the day.

There is no juice on the plane. That absence makes me antsy. I resign myself to reading, praying, thinking, and resting my eyes for a few moments.

Detroit International Airport didn’t have any juice or internet access. That made my attempt at being productive subject to substantial limitations. The crowded boarding area had precious few outlets. Each one was already claimed.

But, once I landed in Salt Lake City, the airport welcomed busy working people. Throughout the waiting area, laptops were buzzing away. some were on computer telephone connections, others playing games, and a few composing a myriad of writing assignments.

My optimism rose. Could they have free wi-fi? Yes, my computer blinked and purred into action. The icon for a strong connection lit up and I was in business.

After an hour my work ceased abruptly. My computer just shut down. The entire screen went blank. Rats! Now I needed juice.

It was hunt. Every outlet for electrical power was being used. I wandered in wider and wider circles sniffing out a source for power, a chair to sit in and a final chance to post my daily blog. There away from the crowd, I found all that I was needing. The gate agent smiled seeing the relief on my face that I could get juiced up and on my way to connecting with you.

photo credit: Google image

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