Archive for October 2013

A Day of Thanks and Praise

October 18, 2013

By Steven J. Callis

I recently saw a cartoon that portrayed a turkey grinning at the pumpkin which had been carved into a jack-o-lantern.  With a somewhat painful look on his face, the pumpkin declared to the turkey, “Laugh all you want, but you’re next!”

Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, but many people are already making plans for this national holiday, working out the details of what has become a tradition of family, friends, turkey dinner, parades, and football.  Family gatherings require advanced planning as some family members will travel for a few hours or more to be in attendance.  The menu must be determined, and the preparation of its entrée’s must be delegated to the various attending guests.

Some families change the gathering location from year to year, while others may have one home that most easily accommodates the crowd, or a home that is more geographically centered than the others.  There seems to be some kind of unspoken rule that the host has the privilege of preparing the turkey (and keeping the leftovers!).

Another fun part of Thanksgiving for some people is the close examination of store ads in the newspaper,  anticipating “black Friday.”  Some of the excitement about black Friday is getting up before the chickens in order to be at the store when they open their doors.  Many stores have robbed people of that excitement by opening Thursday at midnight or soon after.

Well, who should we “thank” for all of this tradition and celebration?  President Abraham Lincoln is credited with declaring the last Thursday of November as a national holiday.  History records that Secretary of State William Seward wrote the actual proclamation document.

It is further noted that magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale wrote a letter to the president requesting such a proclamation, stating that she had been advocating for 15 years for all of the States to recognize a common national thanksgiving date. Then, of course, there are the first settlers, the Pilgrims, who celebrated with a thanksgiving feast after their first harvest in 1621.  Many people had a hand in this holiday tradition!

Thanksgiving is not an official Christian holiday, but as you make your plans for this Thanksgiving, consider the words of President Lincoln, proclaiming “a national day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  Let us give thanks with a grateful heart to the One from whom our blessings flow.

Spinning Out of Control

October 3, 2013

Spinning Out of Control

by Steven J. Callis


Do you remember Eric Brenn, the spinning plate guy?  He appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show way back when, and recently I came across a video clip of his act on the internet.

On the stage was a long table covered with cloth, and there were 5 rods of some type, each one approximately 4 feet in length, positioned vertically on the table.  Beside each rod were a bowl and 2 dinner plates.  Beginning with one bowl, Brenn began spinning a bowl, and then balanced it on the first rod.  He followed that by spinning one of the plates on the table top, and then the second, then another bowl, and another plate.

He continued this process, periodically returning to items already in motion to restore their momentum, until all 5 bowls and 8 plates were spinning simultaneously without crashing from the table top or rod. As if that was not enough, he had also been giving some attention to a tray of 8 drinking glasses, spoons, and eggs.

I watched him dart back and forth between these projects that he had started, spinning one object while keeping his eyes on the others that were in motion.  I thought about how our lives sometimes feel as though they are spinning almost out of control.  Voices from every direction beckon for our attention, demanding our time and energy.  It becomes nearly impossible to give our full attention and focus to any single facet because there are so many other things spinning around us.

Our society has conditioned us to stay busy.  Technology demands that we be connected 24/7/365.  If we cannot be immediately accessed by phone, email, IM, text message, twitter, Skype, or Friendster, we are made to feel guilty for not being available.  We find ways to save time so we can further clutter an already overloaded schedule.  Eric Brenn provided an appropriate demonstration of what we look like in our daily living.

There was one thing I noticed about Eric Brenn, however, that is not necessarily true in our society.  He seemed calm and in control.  He did not panic when one of the bowls almost fell off the rod.  He did not give up when a bowl fell back into his hands as he tried to place it on a rod.  He never seemed to be out of sorts during his routine.

The secret is that he knew some things about physics and gravity and balance and bowl spinning that I do not know.  He possessed some knowledge of truth that enabled him to see beyond what appeared to be sheer pandemonium that would send most of us into panic mode.

In the Bible, Matthew’s Gospel records these words of Jesus, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  We must accept responsibility for our own physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  We are stewards of our time, energy, and resources.  There are times that we must stop, wait, be still, and rest.

There are also times that the demands of life build up on us and push us beyond our natural limits.  Similar to Eric Brenn, however, I have a knowledge of truth that enables me to see beyond what appears to be a life spinning out of control; there is Someone who knows so much more about the things of life than I could ever hope to learn.   So, I rest in Him as He assures me, “Don’t panic.  Don’t worry.  I care for the lilies of the fields and the birds of the air.  How much more have I got your back.”