Monday, December 25, 2017

¡Feliz Cumpleaños Jesús!

Enjoy what Christmas means to me via a simple "click" on the orange links to songs/videos, quotes, & SCRIPTURES!

Happy Birthday JESUS!

You are in for a treat if you have never heard this version of "Silent Night" as the voices of Leigh Nash & Dan Haseltine sound amazing together!

"This is how the birth of JESUS CHRIST came about: HIS mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the HOLY SPIRIT." — MATTHEW 1:18

"Christmas is built upon a beautiful & intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home." — G.K. Chesterton

"How many observe CHRIST's birthday! How few, HIS precepts!" — Benjamin Franklin

Do you think that Mary knew the awesomeness of what her son JESUS would do not only for her, but for all of us?

When I enjoy "Mary Did You Know?" tears begin to well up in me for who JESUS is & what HE did for you & for me.

"Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'." ― Bing Crosby

"My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?" ― Bob Hope

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." ― HEBREWS 13:2

The "Preacher’s Wife" is a modern take on "The Bishop’s Wife" & the song "I Love the LORD!" is sung by Whitney Houston.

Even if you don't like church or haven't been to church, this amazing rendition will either disgust you or the joy of the presence of the LORD may get you on your feet to dance as David danced!

"If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." — MATTHEW 10:42

"Joy to the World" is a classic song that seems to always sound the same.

Until now!

Enjoy Dominic Balli's acoustic version with some additional lyrics after the familiar lines we have heard so often.

May we always be filled with Faith, Hope, Joy, Love, & Peace!

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name JESUS, because HE will save HIS people from their sins." ― MATTHEW 1:21

"If you confess with your mouth, “JESUS is LORD,” & believe in your heart that GOD raised HIM from the dead, you will be saved." ― ROMANS 10:9

"Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel & reindeers, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas." ― Ronald Reagan

"Great is our LORD & mighty in power; HIS understanding has no limit." ― PSALM 147:5

"As I read the birth stories about JESUS I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich & powerful, GOD is tilted toward the underdog." ― Philip Yancey

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree." ― Roy L. Smith

Have you ever wanted to have a little talk with JESUS?

Did you know that Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, & Johnny Cash really did have a talk with JESUS & all of us should spend a least a minute or two each day of our lives just to have a little talk with JESUS!

"Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't going away." — Elvis Presley

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them." — Galileo

No snow to enjoy having lived in Alajuela, Costa Rica or Christiana, Jamaica or Homestead, Florida or Key West, Florida or Medellín, Colombia or Miami, Florida or Oro Valley, Arizona or Stock Island, Florida or Tucson, Arizona means I'm jealous? 

I was born in Minnesota, so yes.

However, the majestic beauty of Clydesdales gracefully trotting through the snow, melt away any hint of jealousy I may have. 

In Key West, B.O.'s Fish Wagon help as well with their famous Grouper Sandwich on fresh Cuban bread with all the fixings topped off with Key Lime Mayo & a refreshing Key Limeade.

I really miss Garbo's Grill which makes amazingly delicious food & the Cayo Yellowtail Snapper Tacos, Korean BBQ Beef Shortrib Tacos & the []_[]Mami Burger which is 1/2 pound angus, topped with a heirloom tomato, applewood bacon, chipotle gouda on a brioche bun are all absolutely awesome but if you desire pure gluttony, you will drool over the Lando Calrissian which is the []_[]Mami Burger topped with Korean BBQ Beef Shortrib!

My fellow Minnesotan Jordis Unga that I first encountered on RockStar INXS several years ago blessed me in December 2013 with an awesome rendition of "Silent Night" that is stunningly beautiful & takes me back to my roots in Minnesota which meant caroling in the snow & cold but the closest thing to a White Christmas in the desert that is southern Arizona or the Florida Keys or other tropical locations would be the foam of the ocean meeting the sand so instead of snowmen there are sandmen!

Last year in Arizona I was blessed that Christmas Eve brought snow to the Santa Catalina Mountains & Mount Lemmon.

¡No voy a olvidar a mis amigo latinos porque me hace faltan todos de ellos!

Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.

Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.

But especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It's HIS birthday we're celebrating. Don't let us ever forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what HE would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shinning gifts that make peace on earth.

"After JESUS was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem." — MATTHEW 2:1

"Truly I telly you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of GOD like a little child will never enter it." — MARK 10:15

¡Feliz Cumpleaños Jesús!

I never really liked the song "Happy Birthday" & it's not because last year 

on Thanksgiving I passed the half century mark which ended 20+ months as a house parent with GAP Ministries in Oro Valley, Arizona which meant I was not only unemployed but also homeless so of course my wife Martha Luz & I did what any normal couple would do, we took an almost 2 week vacation to Miami & then all the way through the beautiful Florida Keys to Key West!

So...I want to share my favorite song about the birthday of JESUS & since my voice is a bit scratchy today, I will not make you endure hearing me sing which is a good thing as my trying to hit some of the high notes might destroy any crystal glasses in your home.

It was amazing that every time I hear this majestic song, my eyes are filled with tear like that of a crystal clear mountain stream because the LORD has blessed me so richly to know I shall always have a home filled with joy, love, & peace if I worship JESUS as my LORD & SAVIOR!

"As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for YOU, GOD." — PSALM 42:1

I hope that you enjoy "O Holy Night" by Celine Dion

The words are so powerful & are much better than anything that I can come up with so, click on the link & allow yourself a few minutes to truly feel through music what CHRISTmas is all about.

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining

It is the night of our dear SAVIOR's birth
Long lay the world in sin & error pining
Til HE appeared & the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new & glorious morn

Fall on your knees
O hear the angel voices
O night divine
O night when CHRIST was born
O night divine
O night, O night divine

Truly HE taught us to love one another
HIS law is love & HIS gospel is peace
Chains HE shall break, for the slave is our brother
And in HIS name, all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy, in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise HIS holy name
Their name forever praise we

Noel, Noel
O night, O night Divine
Noel, Noel
O night, O night Divine
Noel, Noel

If you don't want to take the time to click on all those links, I've made it easy to watch each & every video by simply clicking the link below!

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Adoption Is Another Word For Love!

I was born in Saint Cloud, Minnesota on Thanksgiving Day in 1966 but I  was adopted on Pearl Harbor Day in 1967!

"Love By You" by Joan Armatrading wrapped up an episode of Miami Vice as a Colombian woman whose baby son was kidnapped & sold via a fake adoption was going to pick him up several years later as the police had discovered where he was living.

After seeing his tears in not wanting to leave the only parents he ever knew, she let him stay with those whom he loved.

It struck intense feelings & emotions deep inside of me as I love the only Mom & Dad I have ever known in spite of recently discovering my biological family to all 8 great grandparents & beyond!

"Adoption is a beautiful picture of GOD's sovereign grace. The child did not choose the parents. The parents chose the child. That's how GOD has placed us into a relationship with HIMSELF. We did not choose HIM. HE chose us. When GOD adopts us, HIS act of adoption is a supernatural act. We take on the nature of JESUS. We become like HIM. We become what HE is." ~ Arielle Wallace

"HE chose us in HIM before the creation of the world to be holy & blameless in HIS sight. In love HE predestined us to be adopted as HIS sons through JESUS CHRIST, in accordance with HIS pleasure & will — to the praise of HIS glorious grace, which HE has freely given us in the ONE HE loves." ~ EPHESIANS 1:4-6

"The adopted child is treated by law as if he or she had been born to the adopting parents upon the entry of the final adoption decree." ~ Intestate Inheritance Rights for Adopted Persons

Here is the definition of adoption from Wikipedia: Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting for another who is not kin and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities from the original parent or parents. Unlike guardianship or other systems designed for the care of the young, adoption is intended to effect a permanent change in status and as such requires societal recognition, either through legal or religious sanction.

My being adopted did not change the world, but my world was forever changed 50 years ago today through being accepted & loved unconditionally by my family!

Has being adopted really changed what I might have been?

How could it not?

I've been blessed to experience so much throughout my life & I tried to make sure that children & youth experienced a "HOME" in their lifetime even though I only made that happen for 10 children at a time.

My hope & prayer is that they all discovered joy, love, & peace through my wife & I being house parents if only for a short moment in time of their precious lives.

Was the choice my wife & I made to give three years of our lives an answer to prayer?

"Every child of GOD is not called by the LORD to establish schools & orphan houses & to trust in the LORD for means for them. Yet, there is no reason why you may not experience, far more abundantly than we we do now, HIS willingness to answer the prayers of HIS children." ~ George Müller

Is there anyone in your journey of life who you could richly bless by simply making them feel welcome in your home?

"Tenderness & kindness are not signs of weakness & despair, but manifestations of strength & resolution." ~ Kahlil Gibran

It's amazing what simple kindness can do to make a lifetime of heartache be soothed & begin the healing process.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Like a Father Should Be

On this Father's Day 2017, I would like to dedicate a wonderful song to all the fathers out there but especially to my 5 fathers!

Most of all I thank my Sweet Heavenly FATHER for creating me!

Secondly, in spite of my biological father not even admitting that I'm his son, I'm thankful that he gave me life!

Thirdly, I'm forever grateful for my Dad who adopted me with Mom & raised me to honor GOD & be respectful of others!

Fourthly, my father-in-law not only raised my wife to live her life in service to GOD & to others but he has a ministry that brings light to the darkness that made Medellin, Colombia the most dangerous city in the world for many years!

Finally, I'd like to thank many people who have been my spiritual fathers!

"Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating & too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living they forget to make a life." ~ John Wooden

If I was to list all their names I'd be writing until the Fourth of July but I shall share this blog with them personally & if they don't mind, I will add their names as I get permission from them or their loved ones as they deserve more than I could ever give them because they actually took the time to get through my tough exterior & see the tenderness within me.

"A father teaches his children that the battle is not determined by the enemy that stands around them, but by the GOD who stands within them. And that lesson can only be driven home as they watch their father stand around them, while GOD stands within their father." ~ Craig D. Lounsbrough

My spiritual fathers began at Kirk of the Hills church with the Associate Pastor who actually introduced me to the best Youth Pastor ever because while still being fun, he was charismatic & with his wife & soon to exist children, their openness to allow the HOLY SPIRIT to do whatever HE chose to do saw our youth ministry grow from single digits to over 100 teenagers at a Wednesday night Bible study even during the school year!

"Go For It!" could not have become what it became without the support & investment of time of several couples who I would love to name but shall wait for permission to do so.

I was thrilled to wake up this morning & get the go ahead to write about one particular couple that went above & beyond being at our float trips or Six Flags outings or STL Cardinals Baseball Games or Weekend Retreats at the Lazy W Ranch!

John & Barbara had a daughter a grade below me & a son a few grades below me but that didn't stop them from treating me like one of their own. If there was no baseball or hockey game to go to & I didn't want to see a movie at the cinema, I would stop by their house unannounced & they would drop whatever they were doing & at least make some popcorn & chat & watch a movie together which most of the time included some pizza & soda.

That may not seem like a whole lot to some people, but to me it meant the world. When I was in missionary training in Prospect Heights, Illinois with International Teams, John unexpectedly went to be with the LORD. I cried for hours when I heard the news & I made the long drive back to St. Louis. I was shocked when Barbara invited me back to their house after the funeral to be with her & the kids & the rest of John's family.

As I sat outside in my car wondering how I could ever express how much John meant to me, the HOLY SPIRIT prompted me to this SCRIPTURE:

"Thanks be to GOD, who always leads us as captives in CHRIST's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of HIM everywhere. For we are to GOD the pleasing aroma of CHRIST among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?" ~ 2 CORINTHIANS 2:14-16

I was able to sit with Barbara & her daughter & son & tell them individually that John was a living example of this verse because their was a sweet spirit within him that was evident whether he was in the church sanctuary or in a local supermarket. John's pleasant demeanor was much more than simply being kind & courteous. Everywhere he went there was the unmistakable presence of JESUS Himself living in John. Even a cashier or a server at a restaurant would be blessed & their life would be different because of an encounter with John.

I hope to add much more about my spiritual fathers along my journey & amazingly, several were actually my boss & I still appreciate them greatly to this day.

But for now, let's move on to a couple of photos before I finally share a link to a song along with its beautiful lyrics.

My Dad with my wife the week before she was my wife! FYI, that is a pineapple full of ice cream!

This is my Dad with Martha Luz a week before she was officially my wife & FYI, that is a pineapple full of my Dad's favorite food in the world . . . ice cream!

My soon to be father-in-law with his daughter who was just moments away from becoming my wife!

This was my soon to be father-in-law with his daughter just moments before she became my wife!

Before we get to the song you've been waiting for patiently, I recently asked Kenny Marks what inspired him to write this song & he told me this.

"I wrote 'Like a Father Should Be' with Phil Madeira & recorded it with Kim Hill as a tribute to my immigrant father, Michael Marks (Mrakovich) who was from Yugoslavia. His kindness, patience, faithfulness, sense of humor, generosity & love helped me become grounded as a kid & a young man. Just "Like a Father Should Be' & my own children have been blessed by my father's life." ~ KM

Your quiet laughter
The smile on your face
The way you held mama
In a loving embrace

You show the kind of love
I needed to see
Dad, I know you've been
Just like a father should be

Your gentle strength, your loving touch
Your faith in JESUS taught me so much
You had the patience to put up with me
Dad, I know you've been
Just like a father should be

You gave me everything
You could give
And you were the one
Who taught me how to live

I pray that, one day
My son says to me
"Dad, I know you've been
Just like a father should be."

You gave me everything
You could give
And you are the one
Who taught me how to live

I pray that, one day
My son says to me
"Dad, I know you've been
Just like a father should be."

I pray that, one day
My son says to me
"Dad, I know you've been
Just like a father should be."

I love that you're my father!

The last line of that song & the title of a Facebook Note that I published for my Dad on Father's Day 2010 & is now a blog is exactly the same: 

Here is a link to "Like a Father Should Be" on iTunes via the album "Absolutely Positively!"

Or you may use this link to "Like a Father Should Be" on iTunes via the album "Fire of Forgiveness!"

Kenny & I reminisced about my high school years a couple of days ago which included me running the sound system for a concert of his at high school in Saint Louis, Missouri that kicked off a lock-in for our youth group "Go For It!" at the Kirk of the Hills!

"Follow Him" is my favorite Kenny Marks song & you will find it with "Like a Father Should Be" on iTunes via the "Absolutely Positive!" Album!

"Follow Him" is my favorite Kenny Marks song!

I hope you enjoyed "Like a Father Should Be" & if you were blessed to have a father like that, make sure you let him know how grateful you are!

Kenny Marks is on Facebook & if you enjoyed his music, I'm sure he'd enjoy hearing from you but more than that, simply sharing it with someone you love & care for would make Kenny's day!

"I'm crazy in love ... with my National Resophonic Tricone guitar ... a great source of creative resurgence in my songwriting." ~ KM

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Memorial Day took on an extra-special meaning for me ever since I was blessed to call Key West, Florida home as "Cayo Hueso" was originally naval housing & I daily enjoyed the stream of planes overhead from Naval Air Station Key West which is a state of the art training facility for air-to-air combat fighter aircraft of all military services.

"It is the Soldier" by Dennis Edward O'Brien 

It is the Soldier,
not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of press.

It is the Soldier,
not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier,
not the campus organizer,
who gives us freedom to demonstrate.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
who serves beneath the flag,
and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
who allows the protester to burn the flag. 


Thank you Dennis Edward O'Brien!

After that, all I can say is that if a picture is worth a thousand words, then enjoy my Fifty Thousand word photo essay!

FYI: As you scroll through my 50,000 word photo essay which = a grand total of 50 photos, click on this link for "Brothers In Arms" by Dire Straits & enjoy their original video or better yet come back to this page while listening to the song to see the 50 photos I have chosen for my special salute to all soldiers past, present, & those who will serve in the future!

May our solemn heartfelt thanks for the service of men & women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice inspire us to also make this world a better place!

Day is gone
Gone the sun
From the lakes
From the hills
From the sky
All is well
Safely rest
GOD is nigh
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