I guess I shot myself…right?

Last week, my wife’s sister, her husband, and their two kids came to town to celebrate Christmas with us. We had a terrific time laughing and enjoying each other. My brother-in-law recently got a new handgun and wanted he and I to go the local shooting range. I had been there only once before and loved it, so I was totally into going again.

Upon arrival, I rented a Beretta 9mm–a beautifully crafted handgun that was such a fun gun to shoot. I enjoyed tearing up the paper target with this fine weapon. As I squeezed round after round (with a big smile on the inside), I was unaware that one of the range’s instructors was passing behind me. He stopped because he noticed I had just made an error in the way I was holding the gun. For the majority of the time, I had correctly held both thumbs along the left side of the gun (like the example picture to the left), but for some reason on my last shot had crossed my left thumb over my right. Big mistake. I welcomed the correction as he explained to me that because of the way the gun fires, having my left thumb across my right and therefore behind the hammer of the gun, could result in a sheering off of a chunk of my thumb. Good tip. I thanked him for the instruction and he kept going. Careful not to “cross the thumbs”, I finished off the rest of my box of ammo.

As you might guess, the story doesn’t end there.

Included in the $10 rental fee at the shooting range, I was allowed to swap out weapons and try a second gun. My brother-in-law Chris suggested a Glock 26 9mm. It was a bit more of a compact, boxier design. Honestly, it was like gripping a brick. I immediately didn’t feel comfortable with the way it felt in my hands, but having just purchased a box of ammo for this chunky firearm, I loaded it up and raised it at the target.

I’ll have to plead temporary insanity. Or maybe it was in my fervor to get used to this new feel of the Glock; I don’t know what it was. All I know is that after squeezing off that first round, I noticed a distinct pain in my left thumb. You guessed it: I crossed my thumbs. I immediately recalled just moments before how the instructor had told me not to do what I had just done.

The good news was, my thumb wasn’t that high behind the mechanism which slides backwards when the bullet goes forward (but for practical purposes, it travels at much the same speed). So, while technically speaking I didn’t shoot myself with a bullet, I did shoot myself with part of the gun traveling at the speed of the bullet. So, I shot myself WITH a gun, right? It’s a debate for the ages, I suppose.

I finished the rest of the rounds in the clip (9 more bullets) and headed out to the men’s room to wash my wound and shake my head at myself in the mirror. I wrapped my thumb in a paper towel and made my way back to the counter where that same instructor was standing. I showed him my bleeding thumb, and said, “You give good advice.”

I actually took a picture of my injured thumb, but for now I’ve decided not to post it. I’ll just say it’s healing nicely.

Reverse Psychology?

What do you see here?

(Nope, this is not a trick question.)

Just answer.

It’s an envelope on my desk.

See? I told you it wasn’t a trick question.

But it’s not just an envelope. This is one of the very same envelopes that were included in all the worship folders given to all adults who attended our church services this past weekend. And this envelope was for church attenders to put in a monetary Christmas gift for the church staff.
Nice, huh?

Now, take another look at the same envelope at a different angle:

To me, that’s just hilarious.

How We Win…

I love Fridays. It’s my day off.
Why do I love Fridays (besides the obvious aforementioned fact)?
Because Fridays mean I spend the day with my wife. All 4 kids are in school, and it’s just me and the Hotness. You’d love Fridays, too.

And each Friday we typically venture out on some near-flung excursion. This week we drove up to Short Pump Town Center and the surrounding area. As we were up there (only 20-25 minutes from our home), we decided to pay a visit to Tom Leonard’s Farm Market. And we did that because when we lived in Nyack, NY we were close to Stew Leonard’s (Tom’s Dad) Farm Market and always loved meandering through this unique grocery shopping experience. Never been there? Click this and take a peek at some photos. So, going to Tom Leonard’s at Short Pump is very similar (though slightly smaller) as going to Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers, New York.

And while we were strolling through the single-aisle, labryrinth-style layout of this unique store, something unexpected happened.

Tom Leonard’s employees are really friendly, so it was no surprise that as we went through, we got smiles and greetings and friendly offers for help. But I was caught off guard when one man dressed in the Tom Leonard red polo shirt approached us and said, “Hi Folks, how are you doing today? I’m Tom Leonard.”

Now, outwardly I played it cool. I think I said something like, “Hi, we’re great. How are you?” But inwardly (after my nanosecond of shock) I thought, “TOM LEONARD?!? WHAT ARE YOU DOING STOCKING SHELVES ALONGSIDE YOUR EMPLOYEES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING TALKING TO ME? YOUR NAME IS THE HUGE SIGN OUTSIDE!!!” He went on to ask us where we’re from, what I do for a living, and other various pleasantries before getting back to his work.

And after I left and processed through that brief exchange, I had an “aha” moment. Two things came to mind:
1. Jesus washed feet. Sweaty, dusty, stanky, manure-encrusted feet.
2. Jesus’ followers find success in their mission on earth when we live the truth we speak.

Tom Leonard had every right in many ways to say (and live) “My name’s on the sign. I’m not going to stoop down and stock shelves. I own this place.”

Jesus Christ had every right to say (and live) “My name is Jesus Christ. I’m the Son of God. I ain’t washing NOBODY’S stanky feet. They should be washing MY feet. I own this place.”

But the “magic” happened there in that grocery store aisle when that man named Tom Leonard actually opened his mouth and let me know, in one fell-swoop, what his life’s career mission is. But would it have been the same had I seen him, but never heard him? Obviously not.

Revelation 12:11 tells us how we as followers of Christ “win” or “overcome”.
“And they overcame…because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

Our “success” as followers of Jesus is two-pronged. First, we must never forget that our salvation is based squarely in the center of the cross. It is His shed blood that makes our forgiveness possible. We must NEVER lose sight of the fact this it is NONE of us, and ALL of Him that substantiates the transaction of our reconciliation. But this is only the first half of Revelation 12:11.

The second part, which is evidence of a friendship with God is “the word of our testimony.” It is at some critical point that there MUST be a verbal conversation between myself and someone who doesn’t know the new life that Christ offers. Not preaching, not judging or condemning, not fear-mongering. Just loving people enough to open the door to an eternity with God. And some point we simply say it.

Thanks, Tom Leonard, for knowing your mission and for saying it.

Beggars Make Us Choosers

In the city of Richmond this past week, an ordinance was defeated. That ordinance would have made it illegal for “panhandlers” to solicit money or help from passersby, either in cars or on foot. Essentially, the city of Richmond (for the time being) has said that those in such dire straits can continue to ask for help on the street, at the intersections, on the sidewalks, etc.

If you’ve been in a car at a red light, you’ve likely experienced it. Just feet, sometimes inches away from you is a fellow human being, often times with a cardboard sign that explains their situation in a sentence or even a few words.

“Lost Job. 4 kids.”
“Out of luck.”
“Need food. War Vet.”
“Please help.”
“It’s cold out here. Need whiskey.” (One of my personal favorites.)
“Laid off. Need money for food.”

And there I sit at that red light, with the sudden urge to change the cd, make a call, or notice something in the opposite direction. Because, well…beggars make us choosers.

I know that beggars isn’t the “p.c.” term for these humans who have found themselves at a place where they must appeal to strangers for a handout, but I can’t think of a better term. And when we try and make everything politically correct, it’s usually in an effort to take the discomfort out of it. But no matter which way you slice it, homelessness is uncomfortable for everyone.

Just last Sunday afternoon, I took my family to Monroe Park in Richmond. We went with 2 crockpots in hand, and a bag full of new knit hats, gloves, and socks to give to those who needed them. I was astonished to see the number of people there in the park; not just the “homeless” but those who had also come to share a hot bowl of soup or chili, a coat, and a smile.

While we were there, I took my oldest daughter and we strolled around through the activity of the park while I spoke with her as to why her Mom and Dad would bring her to such a place on purpose. As we walked and talked, I felt that she was absorbing all the sights, and all the discomfort that those whom we came to help were in on an ongoing basis. We certainly couldn’t solve all the problems, but as one “homeless” woman said through tears, “I’m so glad that you have come. Thank you so much for coming out here for us.”

And I couldn’t help but think about the passage in Acts 3, when Peter and John went to the temple to pray. There was a “homeless” man there, a “beggar” who was brought there each day to beg for money from those going in to the temple (he himself was not allowed in). And while he was begging, Peter and John came along and were about to enter the gate when they stopped.

We’re told that the lame man was begging of those going in when Peter “fixed his gave on him” and said to him, “Look at us.” Now, while we don’t know if that “look at us” was meaning “let me have your attention” or “look at the kind of men we are”, that is not as important as the plain fact that Peter initiated the conversation. And that’s why I am glad that Richmond still allows the homeless and helpless to stand and sit in public, asking for help. I believe that more people need to “fix their gaze” on those in need.

We all have the choice to walk by–Peter and John most certainly had that choice. But instead, they stopped and got the man’s attention because they did in fact have something to give him.

But Peter and John didn’t have any money to give. Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give it to you.” Nope, my family didn’t have the solution to the homeless problem in Richmond last Sunday. But we did have 2 crockpots of chili and some things to help people stay warm. So, the answer to the common question, “What can I do?” is answered by the question “What do you have?”

And as it turned out, the silver and gold would have been a disappointment considering what Peter and John ended up giving this man: “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” Giving the man two legs to stand on for the first time in his life was the greatest thing that could have been done for him. Now he could work, now he could provide, now he could enter the temple, now he could help others.

So, the choice is constantly mine. And yours. Because its true that beggars really do make us choosers.

Christmas and The Truth

Years ago, our former Vice President and Presidential wannabe, Al Gore wrote a book about the perils of the “climate crisis” (aka “global warming”). The book was entitled “An Inconvenient Truth”. And while I don’t ascribe to Gore’s views or opinions regarding the “crisis”, I do appreciate the concept of truth being inconvenient, for that it is.

Just last night, as I was leading a small group Bible study of high school students, I opened the discussion about Christmas with a direct connection to the concept of truth. One of the first things I asked was something to the effect of, “Is there a difference between ‘my truth’ and ‘the truth’?” In our post-modern (and I’ve even heard it called “post-Christian”) culture, we have slipped so far from absolute truth. That concept is dismissed as antiquated at best and diabolical at worst. So, what can we say about “my truth” and “the truth”?

The high school students I was meeting with quickly came to the conclusion that “my truth” is “the truth”. Otherwise, they reasoned, why would I call it “truth” at all? The place we quickly ended up at was essentially “my truth is the truth because its my truth”. Yikes. But before we landed there, one of the guys in the group was visibly frustrated at the seemingly cyclical conversation we were having and blurted out, “This is stupid! Just tell us the answer, Jerry!”

And in that statement, I saw the thickness of the fog many teens (and other humans) live in today. In affect, he was making a statement not merely for himself, but for the others in the group, and perhaps even thousands more that share the sentiment.

Where is truth found? Who decides what is true? How is truth recognized? And most importantly, how is truth lived? These are the questions laid on the table.

But my simply “telling the answer” isn’t going to really help them…or you…or me. Because the truth is, they’ve been told “the answer” for most of their lives. And while that’s all well and good, each human must seek out, listen for, listen to Truth.

And the connection to Christmas is, to me, obvious. It is in this season that we recognize and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who called Himself “the Truth”. Now, anybody can call themselves “the Truth” or “the Messiah” and many have through the ages, but none but Christ has so completely substantiated the claims of divinity. No other life but his has fulfilled 300+ prophecies, spoken centuries before his birth. No other person in history has exhibited the power of miracles, witnessed by thousands, and recorded so harmoniously.

So, it goes beyond the often heard “Jesus is the reason for the season”. It speaks to the fact that Jesus is the central person in human history. Don’t think so? Look at the calendar. What year is it? 2008. Why is it 2008? What happened 2008 years ago?

And the issue of Truth can only be settled when one settles the issue of who Jesus is. To search for Truth without answering the question “Who is Jesus” is a futile pursuit to say the least. As unpopular as the notion is, you simply cannot find Truth while leaving Jesus out of the picture.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and feedback…