Seven Billion Miracles

Every human being who is now, will be or ever has been is a miracle.  The co-workers, family members and friends with whom you trafficked today are, every one of them, wonders beyond belief.  We are all—regardless of color, creed or cult—made in the image of God.  There is no such thing as an ordinary person.

C.S. Lewis, writing in his essay “The Weight of Glory” says this, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

Our society, especially here in the West, is enamored of celebrity.  I don’t quite know how to account for it.  Perhaps it is, in some weird way, a seeking after God, power embodied in fame.  The Kardashian sisters are lovely women but they are no more a miracle than your boss, the clerk at the store down the street or your friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart greeter.

Ask yourself this one question:  “How do I treat those who have absolutely nothing by which I can, knowingly, be benefited?”

Tomorrow, when you stop by the gas station on the way to work, remember you are looking into the eyes of creatures made a little lower than the angels, indeed a little lower than God (Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7).

Lessons From Rudolph

Tonight is sacred at our house.  At 8:00, time officially stands still.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer makes his annual appearance.  Perhaps what you’re doing can wait while you enjoy this Christmas classic.  There’s always tomorrow….

We’re all kids at heart even if we’re forty-eight.  Or eighty-eight.  The program’s graphic technology—claymation—will never stand up to today’s incredible CGI.  But it’s not supposed to.  Made in 1964 and untweaked, it retains its charm.  Back to a simpler time.

Here’s what Rudolph teaches us:

  • Unique gifts have a purpose.  Rudolph’s shiny nose makes for embarrassment for his career-minded father as well as the butt of jokes from his peers.  But in the end, Rudolph’s gift saves Christmas.
  • Boys love to show off for girls.  “Cuuuuutttttteeeee! She said I’m cute.!”  Our women bring out the best in us and, like Rudolph, help us to fly.
  • Bumbles bounce.  Yukon Cornelius tames the Abominable with the help of Hermie the erstwhile dentist.  Defanged, this bully is reformed and becomes a help to the North Pole community rather than a menace.  There is hope for bullies.  Just ask the Bumble.
  • You can’t run away from your problems.  Rudolph leaves home, fleeing his family, difficulty and his destiny.  After a long journey in far away places, he heads back home to embrace his life, rescuing his family in the process.  Problems are better faced than fled from.
  • There’s a place for us misfits and ragamuffins.  After Rudolph leaves home, he and his friends journey to the Island of Misfit Toys.  A sad place for toys that “don’t quite measure up.”  But when Rudolph saves Christmas by leading Santa’s team, his first stop is to pick up the misfits and find homes for them.  There’s a place for us with all our brokenness, foibles and idiosyncrasies.

Well, enough for now.  I’ve gotta get ready for the show!

Marry Well

The title for this post is not original.  It’s from Bill Hybel’s outstanding book Making Life Work.  Were someone to ask of me advice about what it takes to have a happy life, one of the first things I’d tell them is this: Marry well.  You’ve no idea the wonder and joy that follows on such a decision.  Nor the incredible sorrow that follows when you marry poorly.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in life.  Most of the unhappiness I’ve ever experienced was a product of my own skill at doing stupid things.  But one thing I did, with God’s help and goodness, was marry well.

When writing about home and marriage years ago, Michael Card penned the memorable line “that half of your heart that somebody else treasures, the one who’s your forever friend.”  The song aptly titled “Home.”

Boy, that sums it up nicely.

When choosing someone to spend your life with, there are few things more comforting than knowing the one who cares about you at your best  and worst.  Who picks you up and puts you back together again when life crushes you.  Who is there in the dark with words of encouragement and sunshine.  And forgiveness.

In today’s sexually-charged culture, it seems that the friendship factor in choosing one’s spouse is given short shrift.  Those who’ve been married for years will tell you that feelings and romance can ebb and flow.  Eros is capricious if nothing else.  But being married to your soul mate, your best friend can carry you through things nothing else can.

Here’s to the one I love and will grow old with.  The one I dream and pal around with.  The one I’d rather be with more than any other person on Earth.


The Law of the Yukon

I was introduced to the magnificent, rugged poetry of Robert Service years ago reading the life of Jim Elliot.  Service, a Scotsman who came to America in the 19th century, wrote hearty and distinctly masculine verse about the West, the Gold Rush and the high North.  Another time.  And a tough breed of men.  Leaders.

His poems have inspired and thrilled many.  Among them “The Call of the Wild”, “The Men That Don’t Fit In” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”  Here’s “The Law of the Yukon.”  Enjoy!

This is the law of the Yukon, and ever she makes it plain:
“Send not your foolish and feeble; send me your strong and your sane —
Strong for the red rage of battle; sane for I harry them sore;
Send me men girt for the combat, men who are grit to the core;
Swift as the panther in triumph, fierce as the bear in defeat,
Sired of a bulldog parent, steeled in the furnace heat.
Send me the best of your breeding, lend me your chosen ones;
Them will I take to my bosom, them will I call my sons;
Them will I gild with my treasure, them will I glut with my meat;
But the others — the misfits, the failures — I trample under my feet.
Dissolute, damned and despairful, crippled and palsied and slain,
Ye would send me the spawn of your gutters — Go! take back your spawn again.

“Wild and wide are my borders, stern as death is my sway;
From my ruthless throne I have ruled alone for a million years and a day;
Hugging my mighty treasure, waiting for man to come,
Till he swept like a turbid torrent, and after him swept — the scum.
The pallid pimp of the dead-line, the enervate of the pen,
One by one I weeded them out, for all that I sought was — Men.
One by one I dismayed them, frighting them sore with my glooms;
One by one I betrayed them unto my manifold dooms.
Drowned them like rats in my rivers, starved them like curs on my plains,
Rotted the flesh that was left them, poisoned the blood in their veins;
Burst with my winter upon them, searing forever their sight,
Lashed them with fungus-white faces, whimpering wild in the night;

“Staggering blind through the storm-whirl, stumbling mad through the snow,
Frozen stiff in the ice-pack, brittle and bent like a bow;
Featureless, formless, forsaken, scented by wolves in their flight,
Left for the wind to make music through ribs that are glittering white;
Gnawing the black crust of failure, searching the pit of despair,
Crooking the toe in the trigger, trying to patter a prayer;
Going outside with an escort, raving with lips all afoam,
Writing a cheque for a million, driveling feebly of home;
Lost like a louse in the burning . . . or else in the tented town
Seeking a drunkard’s solace, sinking and sinking down;
Steeped in the slime at the bottom, dead to a decent world,
Lost ‘mid the human flotsam, far on the frontier hurled;
In the camp at the bend of the river, with its dozen saloons aglare,
Its gambling dens ariot, its gramophones all ablare;
Crimped with the crimes of a city, sin-ridden and bridled with lies,
In the hush of my mountained vastness, in the flush of my midnight skies.
Plague-spots, yet tools of my purpose, so natheless I suffer them thrive,
Crushing my Weak in their clutches, that only my Strong may survive.

“But the others, the men of my mettle, the men who would ‘stablish my fame
Unto its ultimate issue, winning me honor, not shame;
Searching my uttermost valleys, fighting each step as they go,
Shooting the wrath of my rapids, scaling my ramparts of snow;
Ripping the guts of my mountains, looting the beds of my creeks,
Them will I take to my bosom, and speak as a mother speaks.
I am the land that listens, I am the land that broods;
Steeped in eternal beauty, crystalline waters and woods.
Long have I waited lonely, shunned as a thing accurst,
Monstrous, moody, pathetic, the last of the lands and the first;
Visioning camp-fires at twilight, sad with a longing forlorn,
Feeling my womb o’er-pregnant with the seed of cities unborn.
Wild and wide are my borders, stern as death is my sway,
And I wait for the men who will win me — and I will not be won in a day;
And I will not be won by weaklings, subtle, suave and mild,
But by men with the hearts of vikings, and the simple faith of a child;
Desperate, strong and resistless, unthrottled by fear or defeat,
Them will I gild with my treasure, them will I glut with my meat.

“Lofty I stand from each sister land, patient and wearily wise,
With the weight of a world of sadness in my quiet, passionless eyes;
Dreaming alone of a people, dreaming alone of a day,
When men shall not rape my riches, and curse me and go away;
Making a bawd of my bounty, fouling the hand that gave —
Till I rise in my wrath and I sweep on their path and I stamp them into a grave.
Dreaming of men who will bless me, of women esteeming me good,
Of children born in my borders of radiant motherhood,
Of cities leaping to stature, of fame like a flag unfurled,
As I pour the tide of my riches in the eager lap of the world.”

This is the Law of the Yukon, that only the Strong shall thrive;
That surely the Weak shall perish, and only the Fit survive.
Dissolute, damned and despairful, crippled and palsied and slain,
This is the Will of the Yukon, — Lo, how she makes it plain!


As a kid, growing up in the ’70’s, I looked forward each week to ABC’s Wide World of Sports.  In those days, you really could not get a good idea of what was to be featured in each week’s broadcast of a certain program.  Every Saturday, I waited breathlessly hoping that Evel Knievel, the motorcycle jumping daredevil, would be on the show, jumping again.

I was young, impressionable and dumb.  And Evel took hold of me.  I’d watch his jumps–successful and wrecks–and then go out and try to imitate on my bike with banana seat and long handlebars.  Some of you are smiling because you remember.  And did the same.

Evel Knievel was a hero to me because he took great risks.  His magnum opus was attempting to jump over the Snake River Canyon in Idaho (he failed).  My bedroom sported an Evel Knievel poster.  And I was thrilled when the movie came out about him, George Hamilton in the title role.

You will not get far in life without taking risk.  Evel Knievel’s risks were extreme, even foolhardy, to be sure.  But his was not a dull life.  Nor a dull career to follow.  And he always got back up after a wreck until it was time to call it a career and turn the reins over to his son, Captain Robbie Knievel.

Jesus once told a story about three men who were given talents (a large sum of money in those days).  Two of the men took risks and were able to generate an increase on the investment.  One man, however, hedged his bets and played it safe.  No risk.  He put his master’s money in the ground.  To “keep it safe.”

When the master returned, he rewarded the two who took risk and generated a return.  But he punished the man who played it safe.  Hedging his bets cost him dearly.

You will not get far in life unless you are willing to take risk.  Live adventurously.  Are you willing?

“Remember Who You Are….”

This world has always needed leaders.  Men and women aware of both the time and need into which they were born and live.  The grace to lead well is given to some more than others.  Today, in some ways like no other time that has preceded it, the world is looking for leaders.  Individuals who will show the way.  Who will stand up, even while feeling afraid, and give direction, security, competence and solace.

As I have grown older, I find that I am given strength and grace to lead.  I don’t, however,  have grace to cower, shrink away, idle away the hours and live for me.  My agenda.  My plans for a content life without taking those who know me into account.  “My World and Welcome to It” is a fine motto for a ‘60’s TV sitcom.  But it ill becomes a leader, who is supposed to embody–to one degree or another–selflessness.  Sacrifice.  It’s not about me.  Nor about you.

I’ve been struck over and over again by the children’s movie The Lion King.  One scene in particular.  Simba, heir to Mufasa and kingship of the Pride Lands, has run away from his home and sphere after the death of his father.  Afraid.  He takes up a worry-less, footloose-and-fancy-free existence.  Hakuna Matata.  No worries.

But the call of leadership niggles at him.  His father appears to him in a dream and says, “Simba, remember who you are!”  Simba is afraid.  His dad is dead.  His uncle Scar, who killed Mufasa and is now ruling the deteriorating Pride Lands, intimidates him.

With the help of Rafiki, the sage mandrill, Simba gets his mojo back.  He is a leader and has royal blood in him.  He cannot escape the role of destiny except at the peril of those counting on him.

So he returns to the Pride Lands.  There he overthrows the illegitimate ruler, corrupt Uncle Scar.  And assumes his rightful throne upon Pride Rock.

People are counting on you.  And you have what it takes to bring order, peace, direction and security to those who are watching you.  And looking to you.  Remember who you are….

Directors, Dossiers and the Use of Power

My wife and I love motion pictures. It has become a tradition for us to go to the movies on Thanksgiving.  This year was a quiet holiday, with our children away at school.  So the tradition continues.

J. Edgar is a bio pic about FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover.  Directed by Clint Eastwood with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, the film brings into clear relief this complex man, full of contradictions.

Hoover is seen as a man with a clear, and at times conspiratorial, sense of mission—namely, protecting America from the threat of Communism within and without.  It effectively paints the portrait of a man ruthless in his use of power and information.  Wiretaps and intimidation were tools in his arsenal.

It is interesting how Hoover was seen to be at odds with people who were cut from the same cloth as he, individuals holding high office during the same period that he directed the FBI.  Competent on one hand, but paranoid and opportunistic on the other.  A good deal of the power Hoover held over people came with information he’d secretly, and at times illegally, acquired.  Files.  Dossiers.

Hoover had secrets of his own.  Most of us do.  It’s been said that hypocrisy is the tribute virtue pays to vice.  And this is brought out in the film as well, though understated.

Power is an interesting thing.  When an individual is given power, it usually brings out one of two things in the person.  It either brings to surface the most noble hues of character, intent on serving.  Or it brings out rottenness in the heart.  Power must be handled with great care because it so greatly affects human beings. And it must be gained appropriately, by sheer weight of character, influence and proven ability. Not through intimidation and secrecy.  Thus Lord Acton’s famous dictum: “Power tends to corrupt; and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The film is effective in its portrayal of the use and abuse of power.  I won’t be surprised to see it win Oscars for Best Actor, Director and Picture.


It’s been our tradition for many years to journey from northern New York where we live to southeastern Lower Michigan to spend the Thanksgiving holidays with my family.  I was raised in Michigan and it has continued to be home for most of my family.  It is always a special time.

This year is a bit different.  Our children are off in different parts of the globe, learning, traveling and growing.  And retail being what it is, we are unable to make the seasonal trek of nearly 500 miles as work requires us to be here in New York for the madness of Black Friday.

One prominent feature of these trips to Michigan has been the soundtrack.  Or tracks.  Our route takes us across Ontario, Canada via the 401, through Toronto and over into Michigan’s thumb.  It is dark, sometimes snowy, filled with beautiful lake shore scenery, bright city lights and Tim Horton’s donut shops.  When our girls were young, we listened to lots of stories on radio or tape.  Cassette tape.  We’ve been at this  a long time.

And there has always been music. Especially Christmas music.  Thanksgiving for us is the vestibule of the Christmas holidays.  Denuded trees.  Snow.  Chill.  Detroit Lions.  Canterbury Village.  Tinsel.  Winter solstice a month away.

One particular favorite is pianist George Winston’s album December.  It creates a warm and winsome ambience, almost mystical.  Ideal for the shorter days, longer nights, chilly air and the quiet of the season.  The opening piece, “Thanksgiving,” is meditative, with darker hues, in a minor key.  This track embodies the sense of twilight, chill and the onset of Winter.

The album has other treasures.  Winston gives beautiful readings of Johann Pachelbel’s  signature “Canon in D” and Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”  As well the hypnotic “Carol of the Bells” and my favorite “Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head.”  And more.

Buy this album.  It will embellish your holidays in ways you can’t imagine.

Going Forward

I work in Information Technology.  As many of you know, IT is a rapidly advancing and highly competitive field that has the additional quality of regular innovation and improvement.  If, for example, you have iTunes, you know that this application is regularly updated.  You have to be on top of your game to keep pace with technology.

One of the things I learned early in my career in IT is the phrase “going forward.”  I’d see its use in memos and emails a lot.  It’s an intensely positive concept.  It is usually used in lieu of things like “from now on; starting now; in the future…” etc.

Life moves forward.  We’ve all sang some version of “If I Could Turn Back Time” at different removes in our lives.  If only I had done this or not done that.  Met this person.  Taken this job.  Moved to where I live.  Ad nauseum.

But I did.  Or I didn’t.  And you can’t turn back the clock.  And if you or I swim in regret, we will drown.  Water under the bridge.  It’s past.

Jesus once said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  You know that driving your car looking backward will get you into a wreck eventually.  A team of horses or a tractor moves slower than a car, but if you’re plowing a field, you rows will be crooked and you’ll eventually end up in a ditch.

You can only look forward.  And go forward.

My wife and I remind ourselves of this with the phrase “upward and outward” with respect to our thinking and attitude.  Inward and backward looking—except for times of self-evaluation—is ultimately counterproductive.  You can’t go forward looking backward.

Life is what we make it.  We can go nowhere looking back.  We can only look ahead.  And move ahead.

Because the best days are right ahead of you!

After Me!

Yonatan Netanyahu

The world was stunned on July 4, 1976 at the news of the incredible rescue of over one hundred Israeli hostages by members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at Entebbe, Uganda.

The hostages, mostly Israelis, and therefore Jewish, had been traveling from Tel Aviv to Athens aboard an Air France jetliner when their plane was hijacked by terrorists.  The flight was then diverted to Uganda where the terrorists were given haven by dictator Idi Amin.

A plan was put into action immediately in Israel to bring the hostages home safely.  At the head of the team to lead this effort was a 30-year-old soldier, Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu.  “Yoni” to family and friends.

A mockup of the Entebbe airport was assembled in the desert based on Mossad intelligence.  The raid—dubbed Operation Thunderbolt—was practiced over and over and over.  The clock was ticking.  And time was not on the side of the hostages.

In the IDF, the motto for military leaders is “after me!”  Leaders are the first to lead the way into danger and put themselves in harm’s way.  It was no different for the raid at Entebbe.

The operation was a resounding military success.  The terrorists holding the Israelis were killed and all but four of the 102 hostages survived.

But there was one other casualty.  Col. Netanyahu died leading the raid.  He took fire during the rescue.  This was not wholly unexpected.  He had at other times put himself in the jaws of death to care for his men and his people.  Netanyahu’s story is eloquently recounted in the book Self-Portrait of A Hero.

It is the nature of a leader that at times he (or she) will face danger.  Will stand alone.  Will lose approval or popularity.  But a leader does this because human beings matter and the stakes are very high, even eternal.  A leader doesn’t wait to have someone point the way.  He is the beacon.  True north.  The bedrock that people can stand on.

Stand up and lead.  More people are counting on you than you can possibly imagine.