Monday, January 18, 2010

Too Many Candles!!!

Last week, January 12th, was my birthday. I know there were more important news - Mark McGwire admitting to taking steroids when he was hitting home runs like King Kong and Lane Kiffin leaving the University of Tennessee to get his dream job at USC as head football coach. The terrible tragedy in Haiti stands foremost in my mind and in my prayers. In fact, the economic news is still more important. But still, a birthday is a birthday.

Actually, I don't remember my birthday. I am told I cried. No doubt because it was cold in the hospital and a man in a white mask slapped my bottom. I am also told that my parents, both Polish born war camp survivors, were extremely proud that they had delivered me as a native-born American.

Being 55 doesn't qualify you for much except discounts at some restaurants. But being 55 makes you realize that there is more to reflect upon than time to anticipate in your future. I find myself realizing how little I know about life, but the things that I am sure about - I am more confident they are true! For example:

1. I know that the most important relationships are with family! Spouse, children, and grandchildren are the most important relationships you will ever have and it is worth investing in them. My youngest son is 22, my middle son is 30, and my oldest son is 34. I know I was a better parent for my youngest than I was for my oldest. I was there more for my youngest. My oldest son was getting less of me because of academic pursuits and endless attempts to be respected by strangers. I am eternally grateful that my oldest has forgiven me for the genuine lapses in my priorities.

2. I know that the least effective emotion to change others is anger. I could have said it more positively, "the most important emotion is love." But love is not really an emotion. Love is a verb - a demonstrated action designed for the sake of another. Unfortunately, anger is definitely narcissistic. Anger is used to invoke our power over another. Anger hurts deeply, creates great wounds, and eventually, the wound starts hurting others through anger. Men often are anger experts. After all, anger seems to be culturally acceptable for men. Women generally turn their anger upon themselves and suffer various degrees of depression. Both males and females use sarcasm, put-downs, rumors, gossip, and rumors to veil their anger. Sometimes they use food, drink, sex, or drugs.

3. I know that the most important book ever published is the Bible. Hands down, this book has changed more lives than any other book in the entire world. It speaks more honestly of our hopes and hurts, our story and God's story, and about our choices of life and death than any other book ever written. No other book has been prohibited as much as the Bible has in some countries, and no other book has been so highly craved. Why? It speaks of truth, peace, life, liberty, redemption, grace, and about Our Creator who loves us so deeply.

Yep, I am looking more and more like my father. It is my prayer that my Father in Heaven is seeing me look more and more like His Son!
Blessings, Tony+

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Beginnings

I look forward to January. The pages of the previous year are now done. New pages come into focus - unblemished and full of hope. Every year at this time Bobbi and I make a list of goals we would like to accomplish. We have done this for the last eleven years. We break them down into sections - spiritual formation goals, savings goal, home improvement goals, physical health goals, vacation goals, and ministry goals. It is fun to see what we have done over the years with God's grace. It is not as fun to see some of the yearly goals over and over again.

Bobbi and I know that life happens. I mean, who would have thought at the beginning of 2009 that I would accept a new calling at the Servant Leadership Institute and leave a wonderful 7 1/2 year ministry at St. Anne's? Not me, nor Bobbi. So 2010 will bring us many surprises in the midst of our planning. Are we ready to trust Our Lord when life happens? Here is what I am learning:

1. That we are able to receive God's gift when we learn to surrender to the moment. The spiritual key is to "surrender" and permit God to enter into the circumstances fully.
2. That we are able to receive God's gift when we pay attention to those folks God has put around us. Our discontent only inhibits our spiritual growth. Our gratitude only enhances our spiritual growth. Who are the people God has placed before you? It is from them you will receive God's gift.
3. That we are able to receive God's gift when we decide to take responsibility for our life. Blaming others for our attitude, problems, and circumstances only helps take your eyes off of God and His grace. Taking responsibility (it does not mean demeaning or blaming yourself) for life will allow you to live in God's reality and not your illusions.

I am looking forward to this year. My youngest son, Alex, will be getting married to a wonderful lady of faith and beauty. Bobbi and I are looking forward in seeing more of Sofia and Michael Anthony, our grandchildren. We are also looking forward in serving our LORD through the writing of books, teaching, and starting a new church ministry for His kingdom. But Lord, not my will, thine be done!

Have a happy new year. May this new decade be filled with God's grace, peace, and love. - Tony+