Friday, November 28, 2008

"Thank you, Bob!"

I had a bit of a shocker Thanksgiving this year. Actually, the shock came the day before Thanksgiving, but the event returned me to my spiritual roots and really caused me to stop and ponder my life. But let me start at the beginning...

For those of you who don't know me that well, my journey of discovering God began in high school. My best friend, Rob, had the guts and where-with-all to invite me to the Youth Group he had started attending a few weeks earlier. I quickly made some excellent friends (people who are friends of mine to this day; friends I would do anything for), as well as finding a friend and mentor in Bob Lester, my Youth Pastor. Bob and I hit it off and quickly became aware that parts of us were cut from the same fabric; we were both pranksters and we both loved a good water-balloon fight. On a Summer night in 1978, after dinner at his house, I recall sitting around his dining room table with Rob and another mutual friend, John Fielder, and praying. The race-gun fired and I began chasing God.

I could say that in an evening my life changed. But in reality and hindsight, that was actually only the start of my life changing. And Bob had almost everything to do with it. I looked up to him and respected him. He was genuine and sincere in everything. He knew the equal value of having a serious discussion and having a good laugh. He was the kind of man I wanted to be. Apart from my Dad, Bob probably had the greatest influence on my life and an equal responsibility for who I am today.

After high school, I left the San Diego area (where I was living) to go to college. For the most part, I lost touch with Bob. My life was taking off, I was leaving the nest, and I was drawn by the future.

A few years ago, out of the blue, I was spending quite a bit of time remembering Bob and the impact he had on my life. I saw where I was in my life, what I had done with the blank canvas given to me, and was so grateful to Bob for the time he had invested in me as a teenager. I couldn't begin to imagine where I would have been if my life hadn't crossed paths with Bob. I reached out to a friend who was still in touch with Bob and his family to see if I could get his address. I wanted to drop him a note of "thanks" and tell him how much he influenced my life and was responsible for where and who I was. I got his email address and sent him a long letter. He replied shortly, and told me how thankful he was for the note, how proud he was of me, and how my gratitude had touched him. That was the last time I heard from him.

On Wednesday this week, I learned that Bob Lester passed away in his sleep. If that wasn't shock enough, I was also told by a family friend that Bob's will had me listed as someone to officiate his funeral if his pastor couldn't do it. I was both humbled and moved. I realized that, over the years, the respect I had for Bob became mutual. I only realized that this week.

"Bob, you will be missed, but not forgotten. Rest assured, your gift lives on in me and many others who were the recipients of your genuine love, playful spirit, and love of God. We are poorer from your passing, but heaven is richer. Thank you, Bob!"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What the Heck?

No Joke! I heard a word three times yesterday, all in different settings and at different times, that I have never heard before in my life.

I was beginning to question the value of my "so-called" higher education, or was it merely a by-product of living so close to Kentucky.


If you are saying to yourself, right now, "Oh yeah, I know what that is", you are far more worldly than I, and no longer need to continue reading this post (except to mock and ridicule my ignorance).

If, on the other hand, you are as befuddled as I was yesterday, keep reading.

Turducken (noun); A dish consisting of a deboned turkey stuffed with a deboned duck that has been stuffed with a small deboned chicken, and also containing stuffing; (pl. turduckens); a Louisiana specialty.

You read right. Some Cajun-inspired, Iron Chef wanna-be, with way too much time on their hands, created a meat potpourri that apparently has quite a bit of popularity with folks around this time of year. I did some research on turducken and found it quite interesting. I would actually like to try one sometime, but maybe on someone else's tab. A 15-25 lb. turducken will run you about $90 - $125. Apparently, most of that cost is labor, as we all know turkey, duck , and chicken are not that expensive. Someones making a killing!

So, how did I (and maybe you) go so long and not hear about turducken before?

That's a question for my chefrieneighbor!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jumpin' the Gun

We all know Thanksgiving is next week, and the blogosphere will be filled with posts about being thankful, personal lists of what people are thankful for, Thanksgiving memories, and even a few Thanksgiving dinner favorite recipes. But a series of events that I have been reading, hearing, and experiencing is causing me to get my 'thankful' thoughts down early. So I'm jumpin' the gun.

Actually, the word "thankful" this time of year is way overused. It has become a cliche for most. It's use doesn't even cause most of us to stop and ponder the real meaning. It's like saying you feel 'fine' when someone asks how you're doing. You reply with the pat answer without even a second thought.

So I'm taking 'thankful' to the next level - Gratitude.

(the symbol for gratitude)

Gratitude can be defined several ways, but I especially like this one:

"Kindness awakened by a favor received"

I like this definition because gratitude calls for action. Thankfulness tends to be static, whereas gratitude tends to be dynamic. It assumes that there is more to come...that this is not the end.

Gratitude is the attitude of thankfulness. It's not just being thankful, but all the motivation behind it as well. Gratitude is the emotional connection to being thankful. And don't forget perspective. A couple weeks ago, I had a friend go into surgery to have a brain tumor removed...for the second time. About a week before he entered the hospital, he was explaining to me that since most brain tumors are malignant, the neurologists offices are located in the cancer ward of the hospital. His tumor is benign, and despite the risks of surgery and the fear and uncertainty of the outcome, he had such an attitude of thankfulness that he was far better off than most in the waiting room. That's gratitude!

I recently heard someone define gratitude as being thankful for those wonderful things in our lives that we didn't ask the smell and sound of the ocean, the kindness of a stranger, that last breath you took.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mistaken Identity

A friend of mine works at the United Nations in NYC at the Christian Embassy. I've known him since my college days. Mike's a great guy.

He recently sent me a letter to update me on his life and family. He and his wife are going to be moving to London next summer. But I digress...

The point of this post is to share with you a story he shared with me in his letter, that deserves repeating.

Mike was recently on the subway (in NYC) heading to Grand Central Station. In the car, he noticed a dark-skinned man in a suit with a foreign flag pin on his lapel. Mike had to introduce himself and find out where he was from. His name was James and was a diplomat from Ethiopia, visiting the UN for two weeks. Mike and James talked for awhile and then arrived at Grand Central Station. It had started raining fairly hard, so Mike, being the great, generous guy he is, gave James his UN umbrella. They parted ways.

A couple days later, Mike ran into James at the UN. James had a big smile on his face. James explained to Mike that the afternoon he met Mike on the subway, he told everyone he ran into, "I met Jesus on the train and he gave me his umbrella".

How many times have we been mistaken for Jesus? Far too few, if ever, if we're honest. Can you think of any better challenge for the week?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Myopic America

Let's be honest with ourselves. We are pretty self-centered as a country.

I was reminded of this on a plane ride home from New Orleans yesterday. I was sitting in a area that was surrounded by a group of French physicians and/or nurses (I know this because they were carrying the same totes from the conference I was attending) that were heading back to France. And at least two of them (sitting across from me) had two different French magazines...with Barack Obama on the cover.

This caught my attention for several reasons. It must be very difficult to find French magazines in the States, so they must have brought them with them from home. But here was the President Elect on the cover. When do you recall ever seeing the French President Elect on the cover of any US magazine? I don't. Can you even name the French President? Don't go look it up and post the answer in a comment - I mean recall the name from memory...right now.

Forget France. How about our friends in the UK. Do you know the name of the UK Prime Minister? How about naming two other countries that border Iraq? Do you know what country the city of Monte Carlo is in? Do I need to go on? Have I made my point?

Do you ever notice how US-centric our news is in the States? Apart from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, we rarely ever hear about anything else happening in the rest of the world. Turn on the news tonight and count how many news stories come from around the world, with the exception of these three places.

When was the last time you heard about the genocide still occurring in Darfur? How about any news from Africa for that matter?

In 2002, here were some (embarrassing) findings from geography scores of young Americans:

Among 18- to 24-year-old Americans given maps:
  • 87 percent cannot find Iraq
  • 83 percent cannot find Afghanistan
  • 76 percent cannot find Saudi Arabia
  • 70 percent cannot find New Jersey
  • 49 percent cannot find New York
  • 11 percent cannot find the United States

Learn something about the world this week you didn't know before. I dare you!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I just got back tonight from a business trip to New Orleans. I had been to New Orleans once before...before Katrina...and sorry to say, it is the least favorite city I have ever visited (and I have driven through Kentucky and McDonough, NY).

I wasn't looking forward to going back, especially post-Katrina.

To tell you the truth, it looks no different. I must not have seen the Katrina-hit areas.

I took a few pictures to remember this trip since I don't think I will be going back (unless for business reasons, again). Enjoy!

(I love the name of this bar!)

(The Mississippi River)

(The Saint Louis Cathedral)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Deep Thoughts

Life is deep...and so are these thoguhts.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


It's that time of year. I know the holidays are just around the corner, and I am already carrying about 15 extra pounds that crept up on me like a bad pair of underwear.

This is a horrible time of year to try to loose weight, too. Halloween just ended and the house is full of candy and sweets. I am already thinking about the Thanksgiving day menu. And then Christmas is next with it's array of candy, cakes, desserts, etc.

So, enjoy my new holiday theme song:

Weird Al Yankovich - Fat
Uploaded by baajos

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Look Back

I have been voluntarily reserved in speaking about the presidential campaign over the past few months. At times it has been difficult. I have had friends try to convince me of "their right" answer(s). I have had others partake in the sad, self-righteous, cowardly attempt to "make their point" at the cost of propagating lies and rumors that were so blatantly comical that it made them look desperate. And through it all, I have tried to be quiet...and listen...and take it in. All of it.

Because I think there is more to learn, than teach (or convince).

I was sad last night during John McCain's concession speech. Sad, because last night I saw the John McCain that I knew and respected from a year (and more) ago. Sad, because I think if he had carried himself with the respect and dignity that he showed last night, he may have won. Sad at the reaction of his staunchest followers (and sad yet again that they were fellow conservatives), that they felt compelled to vehemently "boo" the mere mention of Obama's name. Shame on them.

But the night wasn't all sad. It was also hopeful. Hopeful of a new start. Hopeful that one quality of Obama's campaign, respect, becomes infectious across this country and brings people together. Hopeful that a majority in this country might truly believe that change, although difficult, can be positive.

Last night was historic for this country. I am still in awe at the enormous chasm we spanned in a day. I cannot recall being more proud to be American.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Feeling Small

I was reminded today of the words of one of my favorite people - Steve Martin.

"I'm feeling...small."

I have been reminded of these profound words several times over the past week. Here are just a few:

  • A co-worker of mine just passed away unexpectedly this last week. Death always makes me feel small.

  • I watched "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" with my boys this week. Whether you believe in life on other planets (which, by the way, I don't), the idea of the vastness of space always makes me feel small.

  • Any glance up into the sky at night will make you feel small. I was reminded of that on Halloween night and the sliver of moon I saw in the sky this evening.

  • I attended church this weekend. If you are feeling 'big', just attend church. And I'm not talking about the number of people attending. If God doesn't make you feel small, nothing will.

I think it's good to be reminded (often) of how small we are. We have a natural human tendency to think more highly of ourselves than those around us. And I'd rather be part of a big thing, than be big all by myself.

I'm feeling small...and enjoying it!