Saying Goodbye

I travel by train a lot.

One of the things that gives me a great warm fuzzy to see (even when traveling by air) are the goodbyes at the point of departure.

They vary from tearful waves to passionate kisses and even funny faces pressed against the window. So many ways to express the thought that one has enjoyed the company of the departing. Sometimes the look expresses the thought that “I’m glad you’re leaving and I’m only here to make sure you get on that train.”

Either way it speaks to the connection and impact our physical presence has on those in our lives.

This season, many will send cards and gifts to loved ones. Regardless of how pleased they’ll be with the gifts, I can almost guarantee, they’d wish you were there in person.

Reminds me of the greatest gift the world ever received…the reason for the season: God sending his only begotten Son to be with us in person (Emmanuel: God with us).

No matter what your belief, we wouldn’t be doing any of this if God hadn’t seen fit to visit the world He created and save it from itself. I thank God for this season. We may not all have tons of gifts under the tree…but boy am I glad to have the greatest gift of all: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE!!

Merry Christmas!!

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What is a Miracle?

mir·a·cle
ˈmirək(ə)l/
noun

1. A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

2. A highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.

3. An amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something.

Regardless of your dogma, I’m sure you can probably point to an event in your life that fits one, or all, of the 3 definitions above. My family experienced all three recently. Our personal dogma allows us to give credit to the One to whom ALL credit is due.

This week, over Thanksgiving, we’ll get together to celebrate the miracles of healing, achievement, and undeserved favor. God has been extremely gracious in spite of our weaknesses.

Why do we consider these miracles? Mainly because we can’t take credit nor explain their occurrence.

TGBTG: To God Be The Glory!!

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Things That Make You Go Hmmm

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

— Albert Einstein

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Stereotypes

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Homecoming

I love people watching. One activity I enjoy in particular is, at airports and train stations, watching the welcoming of those who’ve been away.

There are welcome home signs, flowers, screams filled with glee, leaps in the air into a loved one’s arms, children sprinting into a parent’s arms and then there’s the standard hug ‘n long kiss of two lovers who’ve missed each other.

I also recall the warm hugs of the old ladies at Atlanta’s Hartfield Airport welcoming troops from deployments; fulfilling a long held promise never to mistreat returning troops the way it occurred following the Vietnam war.

It’s a great feeling to be welcomed and to see loved ones after an extended absence.

I’ve also seen some not so good homecomings. Recently I witnessed a homecoming at an airport in W/Africa. Family members rushed to greet a young man who’d just gone through customs only to be greeted with his cold shoulder. He even refused to let them carry his suitcase. I wondered what would prompt such a cold response? Was he ashamed of them? Was it a feeling of disappointment that he’d failed in his mission? Did he want to temper their expectations that he had nothing to offer in his one suitcase? It was awkward to say the least.

We want to be wanted. We want to be missed. It speaks to our sense of belonging. It affirms our sense of being.

It reminds me of the story Christ tells of the prodigal son. A father throws a party to celebrate the homecoming of a wayward son. The party speaks to the father’s unconditional love and acceptance of His son. Not everyone is in a celebratory mood but it is the Father’s opinion of His son that counts.

When it seems like your homecoming will be met with anything but joy and celebration; know that there’s a Father who’s been waiting with open arms to reconnect with you.

Come home.

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13: A Coming of Age

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Today my oldest son turns 13!

Some of you have raised teens and understand fully what a challenge that can be. All the changes that attaining that age implies. Even scarier, is what it means today. Someone even coined the term “triskaidekaphobia”: the fear parents face with a child turning 13. Yes, there’s a word for that too. Smh. Not sure I would call what I’m feeling “fear.”

It wasn’t an age I looked forward to growing up. I’d already been an independent youth attending military school for 2 years.

There was no online bullying…it was all in your face. My life was structured by a regimented discipline controlled by “seniors”.

There was no “interweb” to flood my sense and sensibilities with images that numbed my emotions.

It’s a new environment and a different culture all together. He’s already been exposed to much more. It can be scary for parents today.  And for some, maybe it’s triskaidekaphobia scary.

There are so many conversations he and I need to have. Some reiterations of previous talks. Some new ones. I’m hopeful though because of the foundation his mum and I have set. And the reinforcement we get from the extended family: grandparents, uncles, family friends…pretty much the whole “village.”

He will learn some lessons the hard way like we all do (as much as we hate to admit it). He will discover new things and learn some harsh realities. He will learn hurt, shame, ridicule, acceptance, rejection and more importantly, I hope he learns more about the love his family has for him and the unconditional love of God.

I pray he learns that when those he desperately seeks acceptance from reject him one way or another, that there’s a  God who sees and accepts him just as he is.

Son: you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Everything about you has been designed by the Master for His glory. You are named after a King and the plans God has for you are beyond our wildest imagination. I pray this milestone is just another marker in your journey to fulfill that divine design.

3-2-1 Go!

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Heard Today…

Heard an amazing quote today; had to share it:

“The tongue is the ambassador of the heart.”

Enough said…let that sink in.

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The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying

The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying

Scott Dannemiller Headshot

I was on the phone with a good friend the other day. After covering important topics, like disparaging each other’s mothers and retelling semi-factual tales from our college days, our conversation turned to the mundane.

“So, how’s work going?” he asked.

For those of you who don’t know, I make money by teaching leadership skills and helping people learn to get along in corporate America. My wife says it’s all a clever disguise so I can get up in front of large groups and tell stories.

I plead the fifth.

I answered my buddy’s question with,

“Definitely feeling blessed. Last year was the best year yet for my business. And it looks like this year will be just as busy.”

The words rolled off my tongue without a second thought. Like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or placing my usual lunch order at McDonald’s.

But it was a lie.

Now, before you start taking up a collection for the “Feed the Dannemillers” fund, allow me to explain. Based on last year’s quest to go twelve months without buying anything, you may have the impression that our family is subsisting on Ramen noodles and free chips and salsa at the local Mexican restaurant. Not to worry, we are not in dire straits.

Last year was the best year yet for my business.

Things are looking busy in 2014.

But that is not a blessing.

I’ve noticed a trend among Christians, myself included, and it troubles me. Our rote response to material windfalls is to call ourselves blessed. Like the “amen” at the end of a prayer.

“This new car is such a blessing.”

“Finally closed on the house. Feeling blessed.”

“Just got back from a mission trip. Realizing how blessed we are here in this country.”

On the surface, the phrase seems harmless. Faithful even. Why wouldn’t I want to give God the glory for everything I have? Isn’t that the right thing to do?

No.

As I reflected on my “feeling blessed” comment, two thoughts came to mind. I realize I’m splitting hairs here, creating an argument over semantics. But bear with me, because I believe it is critically important. It’s one of those things we can’t see because it’s so culturally engrained that it has become normal.

But it has to stop. And here’s why.

First, when I say that my material fortune is the result of God’s blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers. I can’t help but draw parallels to how I handed out M&M’s to my own kids when they followed my directions and chose to poop in the toilet rather than in their pants. Sure, God wants us to continually seek His will, and it’s for our own good. But positive reinforcement?

God is not a behavioral psychologist.

Second, and more importantly, calling myself blessed because of material good fortune is just plain wrong. For starters, it can be offensive to the hundreds of millions of Christians in the world who live on less than $10 per day. You read that right. Hundreds of millions who receive a single-digit dollar “blessing” per day.

During our year in Guatemala, Gabby and I witnessed first-hand the damage done by the theology of prosperity, where faithful people scraping by to feed their families were simply told they must not be faithful enough. If they were, God would pull them out of their nightmare. Just try harder, and God will show favor.

The problem? Nowhere in scripture are we promised worldly ease in return for our pledge of faith. In fact, the most devout saints from the Bible usually died penniless, receiving a one-way ticket to prison or death by torture.

I’ll take door number three, please.

If we’re looking for the definition of blessing, Jesus spells it out clearly (Matthew 5: 1-12).

1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him,

 

2 And He began to teach them, saying:

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

I have a sneaking suspicion verses 12a 12b and 12c were omitted from the text. That’s where the disciples responded by saying:

12a Waitest thou for one second, Lord. What about “blessed art thou comfortable,” or 12b “blessed art thou which havest good jobs, a modest house in the suburbs, and a yearly vacation to the Florida Gulf Coast?”

12c And Jesus said unto them, “Apologies, my brothers, but those did not maketh the cut.”

So there it is. Written in red. Plain as day. Even still, we ignore it all when we hijack the word “blessed” to make it fit neatly into our modern American ideals, creating a cosmic lottery where every sincere prayer buys us another scratch-off ticket. In the process, we stand the risk of alienating those we are hoping to bring to the faith.

And we have to stop playing that game.

The truth is, I have no idea why I was born where I was or why I have the opportunity I have. It’s beyond comprehension. But I certainly don’t believe God has chosen me above others because of the veracity of my prayers or the depth of my faith. Still, if I take advantage of the opportunities set before me, a comfortable life may come my way. It’s not guaranteed. But if it does happen, I don’t believe Jesus will call me blessed.

He will call me “burdened.”

He will ask,

“What will you do with it?”

“Will you use it for yourself?”

“Will you use it to help?”

“Will you hold it close for comfort?”

“Will you share it?”

So many hard choices. So few easy answers.

So my prayer today is that I understand my true blessing. It’s not my house. Or my job. Or my standard of living.

No.

My blessing is this. I know a God who gives hope to the hopeless. I know a God who loves the unlovable. I know a God who comforts the sorrowful. And I know a God who has planted this same power within me. Within all of us.

And for this blessing, may our response always be,

“Use me.”

Since I had this conversation, my new response is simply, “I’m grateful.” Would love to hear your thoughts.

__________

Scott Dannemiller is a writer, blogger, worship leader and former missionary with the Presbyterian Church. He writes the blog The Accidental Missionary, where this post first appeared.

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Honoring an Icon

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us. What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” — Albert Pine

Icon: A person or thing regarded as a symbol of a belief, nation, community, or cultural movement. (Collins English Dictionary)

I’ve written a bit on this blog about my parents. After a 5-year absence, I recently returned home and on Tuesday dad presented his autobiography and formally unveiled his foundation. The non-profit, non-governmental organization is dedicated to uplifting and empowering marginalized rural dwellers through education, capacity dwelling and entrepreneurship development. I sat in amazement and with deep pride as I watched close friends and prominent members of society, many who’ve known dad for up to 50 years, honor him as an icon.

Wow! It’s hard to see your dad as an “icon” when all you know him as is just dad. He’s always been my mentor and still is. I could sit and listen to him for hours. Many others have and still do.

They spoke of his deep friendship, his loyalty, his humility, calm demeanor, and incredible memory. They heaped praises on mum for being the “awe” behind his “awesome” for over 4 decades. I watched them on stage and I could see a disguised discomfort, but deep humility.

He laughed at the jokes about his detailed record keeping. He closed his eyes as a citation was read. He was probably recalling his time at Marshall, Texas while a student in the early 60s as some of the first sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement were occurring.

He probably recalled the old lady who gave him room and board in Eugene, Oregon as he worked odd jobs to pay his way through undergraduate and graduate schools.

He smiled as he recalled meeting mum in Lincoln, Nebraska; their courtship and eventual wedding after both families had consented. The narrator highlighted his sojourns through Anchorage, Alaska and California and his eventual return to his homeland.

Again, I noted his humility as many spoke of his contributions locally, nationally, regionally, and globally. They spoke of his quiet philanthropy now made public. Many in the room were also beneficiaries of dad’s goodwill. He’d never talk about it or toot his own horn. So why write an autobiography?

The culture of my ancestors has depended completely on oral tradition to tell its story. Dad’s generation, and those who went before him, lacked the western education to record events. Years ago, I encouraged dad to tell his own story. To leave a legacy behind for his grandchildren, for those whose lives he’d touched, and for his people.

I am blessed to be part of that legacy. I am blessed to have been there for the event. It meant a lot to mum and dad and I’m better for it.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (‭Exodus‬ ‭20‬:‭12‬ NIV)

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Thanksgiving & Community

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