Friday, December 28, 2012

There is nothing religious about Christmas


Every year I try and remember when I have my first Christmas moment of the season. While there are many meanings, my personal Christmas moment definition is hearing the first Christmas song of the season. I was able to check this off my annual “Bucket List” on Saturday, September 15th at 2:11PM in the local Wal-Mart. While it wasn’t a Thomas Kinkade, Norman Rockwell or Currier & Ives moment, hearing “Silver Bells” as I passed by the shaving cream while carrying some fertilizer from the garden section seemed fitting. This was quickly followed by a deflated snowman that looked more like a pile of dirty clothes on your teenager’s bedroom floor than Christmas. Ah yes, Christmas was in the air.

Unless you were living under a rock, been in a comma or on another planet for the past couple of months, you’ve heard hour upon hour of Christmas music. Whether you went to church or not this season, I know that you heard hundreds of hours of Christmas music in stores, shopping centers, even while pumping gas. Everything from Santa, reindeers, Frosty, sleigh bells, chestnuts, you name it, Christmas music has been in the air. And while the music style is labeled “Christmas,” there is precious little of what’s played in public forums that directly or indirectly points to Christ.

Now some decry this with great gusto and emotion as not “Keeping the Reason for the Season” and “Taking Christ out of Christmas.” Others will say that America is losing its religious roots and foundation. I can understand all this to a point.

But the birth of Jesus, the reason for Christmas, was anything but a “religious” event. Think about it;
  • Mary and Joseph were forced to travel because of someone greedy decision
  • We know of no relatives or friends who were there to greet or help them
  • They were virtually homeless
  • After giving birth to Jesus, Mary put him in a feeding-box
  • They were so destitute that they could only afford the smallest sacrifice payment


When we think about the birth of a baby, there are a whole truckload of things we assume that just were not part of the first Christmas;
  • No doctors, nurses and technicians in clean surgical gowns, face masks and gloves; scrubbing and using antibiotics every time they enter the room
  • No pain or anti-infection fighting medicines
  • No medical technology to speed along a safe delivery
  • No doting grandparents or family
  • No baby showers or friends to support, celebrate and send over meals
  • No immediate posting of pictures on Twitter or Facebook of mother and child
  • No sanitary nursery with plastic cribs behind glass
  • No priest or any religious/spiritual leader


Yes, the birth of Jesus was not religious in any sense of the word. There was no ceremony, no list of the right things to do or say. There were no candles, no alter, no sacred building. It was like so many births in a third-world country; lonely, poor and without outside help.

Yet we remember the birth of this one child from all the rest in history because of who he is – God from eternity past, Jesus is “God with us.” He had to come and rescue us from the deep trouble that we got ourselves into, and could not get ourselves out of. God had to act to restore and renew us and our relationship with God and one another.

There is nothing that we can do to fix ourselves. No self-imposed set of ridged religious to-do’s or soft spiritual sentiments can set things back to the way God made them. We broke ourselves and God so dearly wanted us back that he sent his son.

That’s why there is nothing religious about Christmas. Religion is when we try and fix ourselves. Christmas is all about God paying the price to fix us, making restoration back to being his sons and daughters possible through Jesus.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

F-O-C-U-S


Pick up any article on life, sports, business or relationships; listen to talking heads you will inevitably read or hear about the topic of focus. Focus…focus…focus. It’s brought up over and over again. It’s rolling through the media; business and self-help articles are all proclaiming the virtues of focus.

From technology, to self-help, to entertainment, focus is a cornerstone of life that everyone accepts as being critical. Check out these video clips[1] on YouTube that talk about focus. While not agreeing with or necessarily enjoying their language, these clips provide an important sampling of how focus is woven into our culture;



To summarize, focus requires thinking; focus is using our brains.

And when it comes to using our brains in connection with faith, there is a huge disconnect that’s the size of the Grand Canyon. Our culture, friends and the media all define faith as this blind leap into nothingness. Sometimes you might think that having faith is unplugging your brain and leaping over an intellectual cliff. You may have heard this; you may even have said it.

But nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Jesus. You may be surprised to find out that Jesus and the Bible encourages our focus and thoughtful reflection; he commands us to focus, think and reflect a great deal.

The Bible defines faith[2] with words like;
  • Confidence – like a legal document proving that you own your car or house
  • Assurance – proof based on testing, having seen the results
  • Understand – see with reflection and intelligence

In talking about worry, Jesus directs us to think, focus and use our brains. In contrast to the problems with worry, Jesus says “Consider how the wild flowers grow.[3]” Jesus tells us to look at, think about, chew over, reflect and talk through. And he wants us to do this again and again, spending time as we work it through. He does not tell us to jump off a bridge without a net; he tells us something to think about.

Faith in Jesus, following him and becoming like him requires deep, prolonged and consistent reflection and thinking. After Paul met Jesus in a personal and meaningful way, he went into the Arabian Desert for three years where Jesus personally taught and instructed him. This was no Mr. Spock induced Vulcan Mind Meld or “uploading” programs through The Matrix neck plugs, Neo and Morpheus. No, it is a process that takes time, thinking, rethinking.

I have friends that meet with me for coffee and we talk about life, faith and our questions. They have come to describe this thinking process as a journey, and I can’t think of a better word to describe it. Faith in Jesus is both a one-time event and an ongoing process. We come to Jesus by faith[4] and we walk with Jesus through faith[5].

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”…Won’t you start your journey with Jesus?


Blessings – Chet 

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.



[1] These clips contain swearing and may not be appropriate for everyone
[2] Hebrews 11:1-3
[3] Matthew 6:28
[4] Ephesians 2:8
[5] Colossians 2:6

Monday, December 3, 2012

“SMART” Gospel – Part 2 of 2




Summary – With the +1 billion proliferation of smartphones and tablets worldwide, the digital gospel horizon is a new and expanding landscape to reach, influence and transform lives through Jesus. While the message of Jesus is the same, smart mobile methodology is transformational, needing a new paradigm on connecting, communicating, disciple making.

As promised in last week’s blog, here are three application themes to pray, chew-on and move forward with.

What I am advocating with every fiber of my being is for individual Christians, churches and organizations to leverage this technology and connect with as many people as possible to spread the good news of Jesus as God, our savior and our only hope. Here are three themes to pray, chew-on and move forward with;

Prayer – This might have caught you a bit off-guard as being the first opportunity, but I really think prayer can be at the core of using smart mobile technology. I’m not just talking about the ubiquitous “Praying” post on Facebook. Writing and sharing individual prayers for people and events can be used by God in profound ways. You would not believe the heartfelt reactions when someone receives a specific prayer, for a specific need at a specific point in time. Whether it’s for physical healing, emotional hurt or other human needs, immediately delivering a specific prayer to those in pain through mobile smart devices can be used of God to touch hearts and meet their deepest needs.

Here’s how it can work: while I was writing this article, a dear friend posted a prayer request on Facebook. A relative was facing life threatening physical problems and asked for prayer. Taking just a few minutes, I wrote out a short five-sentence prayer specifically for him. While I don’t think it was a historic prayer, it meant the world to those in the throes of tragedy.

There is nothing quite as humbling as knowing that someone has gone before the throne of grace on our behalf and delivering that prayer right to that person in the midst of their need. It does not matter if they are a believer or not, in the crucible of pain just about everyone will appreciate your kindness and prayer. And because you took the time to write it out, they can come back to it later on for additional encouragement and strength. Follow-up and relationship building are also natural byproducts of sending a prayer along to someone in need.

Engage – This is getting our proverbial digital hands dirty and hearts involved with our culture through smart mobile technology. This is not in your face political or sports related rhetoric, nor is it forwarding hundreds of polarizing pictures and emails. It is thoughtful and sensitive commenting on articles and opinions published in local and national media. It is to be measured less by volume and more by depth. This can be a great way to influence many on overarching issues facing our culture and lives, talking about faith and Jesus being the most complete solution to our personal brokenness and mankind’s problems.

Since anyone can comment, your influence can be considerable. You would be amazed at who’s reading and its possible impact. Someone I know who regularly and thoughtfully comments on articles was recently contacted by a digital publisher because of their comments. After a few conversations they agreed to be a regular contributor based mainly on their consistent and high quality posts. All media outlets are in desperate need of quality content in this 24-by-7-by-365 demand cycle. If I can have letters to the editor published in USA Today, so can you.

And engagement is not a one-way street, it’s an ongoing conversation that you need to start and nurture. The onus is on us to go[1] not for them to come, so we have to initiate and cultivate the conversations. We cannot think that having a web site is enough. Just like a church building is not enough, we need to reach out digitally and engage those around us. Smart mobile technology gives us a new instrument to meet and converse.

Disciple – Remember the statistics about the growing mobile workforce? Fewer people are going to offices and the trend is rapidly accelerating. Studies are showing that remote employees with higher engagement levels than their in-office counterparts[2]. With the press of demands for our time and attention, we need creative ways to carve out time, energy and opportunities to meet with people that are searching and want to grow spiritually.

While I frequently meet people for breakfast, ice tea/coffee and lunch, making time to personally engage with people is becoming more and more of a logistical and scheduling nightmare. Being able to virtually meet via a webcam never takes the place of face-to-face communication, but it can be a most valuable additional tool.

I’ve looked at many different tools all across the web, and have personally used several that are free or come with a monthly charge. While new tools are constantly being introduced, my favorite is from Zoom Video Communications[3]. It provides a free cloud-based HD video meeting service that allows you to meet with up to 15 people at the same time. Zoom.us was created from the ground-up on a video meeting cloud that provides high grade video, audio and screen sharing. It supports iPad, iPhone, Windows and Mac devices.

Here’s one way that it can work. I use Zoom.us to conduct weekly internet based live Bible studies and it can be very effective. I put together some simple slides to help guide the teaching and conversation. People from all over connect by simply clicking on a “link” posted on Facebook and participate without having to travel. Through a combination of video and screen sharing, the Bible is taught, applied to our lives followed by prayer requests.

I can hear it loud and clear. Before you start backpedaling by saying that you are not a geek and not tech-savvy enough, this Bible study is not attended by a single computer nerd. All are non-technical people, most are home-bound and suffering from a variety of physical issues.

Another way to disciple is through recorded video venues. There are lots of good content already available and we thank God for that. But I would challenge you to sit in front of your webcam and tell your story. No one has walked your road, experienced God’s grace in the same way, have your birth record, your living hope[4].

Remember those internet Bible Studies? I go back and record the video, weave in slides and post them on YouTube, making them available through smart phones, tables and TV’s around the world[5]. This gives participants and others the chance to replay the Bible study at their convenience. People also forward video links to their family and friends, sharing God’s word, becoming “digital tracts.”

Mobile smart devices are expanding at an epidemic pace. That is the potential extent of your voice for Jesus. You don’t need a street corner, microphone or large auditorium. You need to be called and energized by his Holy Spirit to bravely reach out and connect with a culture that increasingly does not know that there is a great and loving God that cares so much for them as his children. He sent Jesus to intervene where we cannot, paying what is totally beyond us, reuniting us with God and renovating our life now and into all eternity.

Johannes Guttenberg, a German blacksmith created leading-edge movable type technology, for the first time allowing mass production of Bibles and information. It was also the genesis of our 21st century knowledge-based economies. He saw a need and was willing to do the unexpected, unusual and risked everything. So, pick up your smart mobile device and go “all in” to reach a lost and dying world.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.




[1]  Matthew 28:19
[2] www.AGBeat.com, Business News, Remote workers more productive than office staff, By Destiny Bennett, September 13, 2012
[4] 1 Peter 1:3-12


Friday, November 23, 2012

“SMART” Gospel - Part 1 of 2


Summary – With the +1 billion proliferation of smartphones and tablets worldwide, the digital gospel horizon is a new and expanding landscape to reach, influence and transform lives through Jesus. While the message of Jesus is the same, smart mobile methodology is transformational, needing a new paradigm on connecting, communicating, disciple making.

Perhaps you’ve been sort of suspicious of it till now. Maybe you have closed your eyes to it, hoping that it will pass like a fast moving thunderstorm; somehow passing by without disrupting or destroying your home, car, property, life. I’m certain that you’ve encountered interruption to Sunday morning worship, sermons and prayers from them. No matter your thoughts, perspective or concerns, smart mobile devices are coming like a freight train and there is no ducking the issue.

Here are some critical findings presented at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2012 in Barcelona, Spain[1];
  • Worldwide sales of smartphones and tablets will soar past the 1 billion-unit threshold in 2013
  • Global sales of tablets and smartphones will total 821 million units this year, then jump nearly 50%, to 1.2 billion, in 2013
  • Smart devices will account for 70% of all mobile device sales next year
  • By 2016, 40% of the workforce will be mobile
  • Tablet sales to businesses more than tripling from 13 million this year to 53 million in 2016


We cannot ignore this tsunami of technology as it sweeps over our culture. For Jesus followers and leaders within his church, we cannot hide or ignore this systemic change that is upon us and the entire world. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we must embrace it in a profound way that alters the way we live, share Christ, preach, disciple and influence our culture. There is a potential to multiply our reach and reinvent the way that we connect with our culture and church, but it will require a transformation that will be uncomfortable and even painful.

Yes, we need to tell the “old, old story”[2] but we need to get out in front of our family, neighbors, friends and culture with a “story” in words, deeds, ideas and through a medium that is understandable and accessible. Just as print, the Industrial Revolution and PC’s had a profound impact, the swarm of mobile smart devices promises to transform our culture in new and sometimes disrupting ways.

Please understand that I am violently supportive of the body of Christ and its local expressions as outlined in Scripture[3]. One of my favorite, practical outlines of what the church looks like is found in Mark Driscoll’s “8 Biblical Marks of a True Church[4].

I am not advocating;
  • abandoning people for a podcast
  • leaving the local church for a live webcast
  • evangelism and discipleship strictly from the confines of your keyboard
  • individuals baptizing themselves alone in a hot tub at home while broadcasting to the church from their webcam


What I am advocating with every fiber of my being is for individual Christians, churches and organizations to leverage this technology and connect with as many people as possible to spread the good news of Jesus as God, our savior and our only hope.

Next week – three application themes to pray, chew-on and move forward with.
Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.





[1] http://www.journalofaccountancy.comGartner: Android, Apple to spark surge in smart device sales, By Jeff Drew, November 6, 2012


[2] Tell Me The Old, Old Story, Words: A. Katherine Hankey 1866, Music: W. Howard Doane 1867
[3] Matthew 16:18, John 3:16; Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 1:22-23, 3:10-11, 5:23-30, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 1:1-2, Colossians 1:18-24, 1 Timothy 3:15, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, James 1:5

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Total Visibility


One of my early business mentors taught me many important lessons about life, business, career and becoming who I was made to be. One day we’re sitting in his office discussing a recent blunder due to one of my many management and personality shortcomings that led me to broadcast how great I was to the entire world.

He turned to me and said, “Chet, visibility is a two-edged sword.”

At the time, I just brushed it off as one of his mindless saying. After all I was a superstar, winning annual awards and bonuses for exceptional performance. I was assigned high risk projects and represented the company at industry events. I chaired a very influential industry-wide committee that was working towards changing the technology landscape for everyone associated with insurance. It was no secret to the company or management team that I was self-centered, arrogant and lacked any humility. Ultimately, I’m certain this contributed to my senior role being eliminated in a downsizing exercise.

Time and pain have changed me – I now see that he was absolutely right. Gently, he was trying to get my attention off myself and my over-sized ego. I am forever indebted to his patience, wisdom and character that allowed him to tell me some very tough and painful truths about myself. He said it in a way that caused me to listen, not crush me as a person. He is an important person that helped change and mold me in some very significant ways.

Through visibility into their technology, there has been a continual waterfall of fallen leaders and those we admire. Their once brilliant reputations have been dragged through cyberspace mud as emails and other texts reveal deep personal and moral choices. Some notable examples;
  • Gen. David Petraeus – resigned from his CIA leadership position as top-secret emails and information was compromised through his ongoing extra-material affairs with Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelly
  • Gen. John Allen also has come under increasing scrutiny for his potential role in Petraeus’ affairs and “inappropriate Emails”
  • Lance Armstrong resigned from Livestrong (his cancer-fighting charity) and Nike terminated their contract after he was stripped of all Tour de France victories for use of performance enhancing drugs


It’s very easy to point the finger at these and other public figures as their moral and judgment failures come to light. It seems like people have this belief that whatever is keyed in private remains that way. Since no one is looking over their shoulder as they type, they think it is safe to hit the send button.

As someone who works in the computer/information industry, let me tell you that “flying under the radar” continually gets harder and more difficult with technology. Not only are there detailed and an un-erasable breadcrumbs left behind through posts, emails, text messages and credit card transactions, your location and movements are being tracked through social media sites, mobile devices (phones/tablets), store membership programs and as you drive (yes, cameras and software are tracking license plates as you travel.)

While some people find this monitoring of our activities highly intrusive, others want to be connected 24/7. For example, it doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but how did you feel when there was no signal for your cell phone? Were you happy that no one was listening or did your blood pressure spike to new heights and your face turn red while the hair on the back of your neck stood up in anger?

It is becoming increasingly harder to “fly under the radar” due to technology but this is not really a new idea at all. I don’t think Jesus was thinking about technology when he said “Everything that is secret will be brought out into the open. Everything that is hidden will be uncovered. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight. What you have whispered to someone behind closed doors will be shouted from the rooftops.” [1]

Jesus was explaining that our creator and father God is not Big Brother [2], but like any parent is deeply interested in his children. He was so interested that he personally invested his time and energy to watch over everyone and everything. Unlike us who can only be in one place, focusing on one thing at a time, he is able to see and interact with everyone and everything at the same time.

I hope you are more than comfortable with the truth that God sees, hears and knows all our words, thoughts, actions and attitudes. We can’t “fly under the radar” and achieve invisibility with God. And yet in spite of this “total visibility” his acceptance and love are great, deep, wide and certain. We can know this because he says it’s true. [3]

So, there is no need to hide with God. He knows us and everything about us. We are visible to him, and that is really good news.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

[2] Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the dictator of a totalitarian state where the government wields total power. Everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities and people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase "Big Brother is watching you", which is the core "truth" of the book.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Always making with the negative waves

One of my favorite movie characters is Oddball as portrayed by Donald Sutherland. He plays an eccentric, early beatnik-like tank commander in Clint Eastwood’s “Kelly’s Heroes.” In addition to trying to steal $16 million in gold behind enemy lines, Oddball continually condemns people that are “making with the negative waves.” Use this YouTube link to get a flavoring of these great lines – http://youtu.be/KuStsFW4EmQ.

While I am considered “odd” by some, many people are just like Oddball. Whenever we hear a barrage of negative statements we react; the hair on the back of our neck stands up, our blood pressure rises, we clench our fists.

I remember watching a Baltimore Orioles game on TV with my dad when I was very young. Yes, the TV was black and white, the picture was not perfectly square, there was no instant replay, there was an actual “dial” on the TV with only 12 possible channels and you had to physically get up and “turn the dial” with your hand. That day, Brooks Robinson was at bat against the most hated and evil New York Yankees. Brooks drove the ball deep to left; I jumped up and down screaming to help the ball go over the fence for a homerun. My dad sat quietly, never flinching and said “It’s just a fly ball.”

Well, in this case my dad was right; the ball fell short of the fence and safely into the leftfielder’s glove, ending the inning and my hopes for yet another magical Orioles rally. Downtrodden and depressed, I fell to the floor in a lump of discouragement, falling like wet laundry out of the washing machine. My dad, ever the stoic, didn’t move or show any emotion except to take another drink from his longneck.

I looked at him in complete and utter amazement; didn’t he understand the universal truth of baseball and life? If you yelled long and loud enough for something to happen, somehow your yell and energy made your wish come true. It applied to all areas of life and certainly there was nothing more important than the Orioles trouncing the hated Yankees. I asked him, “Dad, why didn’t you yell and cheer for the ball to go over the fence for a homerun?” His words were etched into my mind, memory and psyche as he said, “I’m always negative because I don’t want to be disappointed.”

Oddball would not have liked my Dad, which is probably good because my Dad would feel the same.

As Oddball reacted to “negative waves,” have we become a negative people as a whole, not responding as sharply to negative words or commentary? Have you noticed this in your conversations, that people are generally negative? I think this drift is driving some Pew Foundation findings regarding the election;

Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have received more negative news coverage than positive in the general election (source: http://www.pewforum.org/)

  • The public's one-word descriptions for Obama reflect the mixed views of his presidency, the most frequently used negative descriptions are failure and incompetent
  • One-word impressions of Joe Biden, more people use negative than positive words to describe the Vice President
  • With more than half having a negative reaction, two-thirds of voters (67%) correctly identify Mitt Romney as the candidate who said 47% of the public is dependent on government
  • Both Republican Paul Ryan and Democrat Joe Biden get negative marks as vice presidential candidates
  • Press Coverage of the Character of the Candidates Is Highly Negative, and Neither Obama Nor Romney Has An Edge
  • The tone of Political Conversation on Social Media is Mostly Negative

I’m certain that you have read and heard numerous negative comments about the election. But there is also a rising tide of disgust and exhaustion from the constant bombardment of negative ads and comments. People are just weary of “all the negative waves”.

In contrast, Jesus has lots of forgiveness and receives people with “negative waves” and pasts. While others would turn away, he never turns people away who are looking for answers, restoration, to be made whole again. Jesus;

  • Sits down with those that the self-righteous and proud turn away from – Matthew 9:10-13
  • Openly talks with people who are full of doubt – John 20:24-29
  • Helps people struggling with faith – Mark 9:24
  • Restores people that have failed big time – John 21:15-17

Yes, it may seem like the world is overflowing with negative people, making negative comments about everything and dragging you down. But Jesus is ready and willing to listen and help you sail over all the “negative waves” to a new harbor full of hope.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Nametag


It seems to be built into the DNA of our lives; everything has to have a nametag. Think about it, when you go someplace where there are a lot of people, they give you a nametag. I recently attended several conferences and part of each online registration was to enter my nametag name. When I arrived at the conference, I was given a personalized nametag along with a lanyard (where do they come up with these names.) I’m greeted at business meetings with a handshake, a cup of coffee and a nametag.

We teach this to our children, both at home and in school; everything has to have their name on it. We put nametags on everything; our luggage, backpacks, laptops, iPads, golf bags, you name it. When entering our church, everyone writes their name on a nametag and slaps it on. Not only is it the law to have a nametag on our dog, she also has a computer chip under the skin in her left shoulder that has my name on it for the next time she runs away (which, unfortunately, she is prone to do).

Every time I’m in Seattle, I buy a fresh Salmon filet and surrounded it with gel packs to keep it fresh. Even though I carry it home on the plane, I always put a nametag on it just in case someone gets the idea to try and heist my prized salmon. Don’t laugh, one flight attendant tried to walk-off with my salmon under the guise that they were going to put it in the refrigerator for my benefit. Yea right, do I look like I was born yesterday?

On one memorable occasion, I was not permitted to carry the fish on-board  being left with no other option, I checked it as luggage. You guessed it; the airline lost my luggage and my salmon. Almost 36 hours after getting home, I got a call at 2:30 in the morning from an unbelievably happy airline employee, announcing that my luggage was ready. You can appreciate my lack than enthusiastic response. I tried to remain awake and civil as I informed them that I’d come to the airport sometime after sunrise. With almost giddy energy they said that due to my superior status with the airline, they personally rushed my delayed luggage to me in a taxi, and that it was in front of my house that very minute. All I had to do was open the door and sign for it.

Now I don’t know about you, but the prospects of getting dressed in the middle of the night to receive a stinking piece of fish that cost me about $20 a pound was not very motivating. By this time I had made enough noise to wake Mary Ann so I reluctantly agreed. Throwing something on and stumbling downstairs, I opened the door only to be greeted by the taxi driver who looked like he had not changed, shaved or showered in three days, was smoking a rather large cigar and had my salmon tightly wedged high under his noxious left armpit. Holding my breath I thanked him, signed for the salmon and closed the door.

As I stood there for a moment, I wondered what I was going to do with this incredibly expensive piece of plant fertilizer. I know that the Pilgrims were taught by Indians to place some fish in the ground as they planted corn, but I don't think the Wampanoag Indians taught William Bradford nor Myles Standish to use $20-a-pound pacific salmon as fertilizer. Un-wrapping my precious cargo; it felt cool to the touch. Could it be? Could there been a miracle (even with the involvement of an airline) and the salmon was still edible? Mary Ann just looked at me, shook her head in disbelief and returned to the sanity of sleep. But not me, I had to find out and right then and there. Taking the salmon to our kitchen, I sliced off a piece and put it directly under my nose; it didn't stink. Heating a small pan I sautéed it in butter until just done. Screwing up my courage I put a small piece in my mouth and slowly began to chew. It tasted great. Just to be sure I took another bite, and another, and another.  As I savored the salmon I was thankful that it had a nametag on it, allowing even an airline to return it to its rightful owner (albeit aged).

I recently experienced another nametag moment, but this one was more serious and moving. A young man was checking out at the grocery store, but he carefully went through the items in his cart, putting the more important items out first. After so many items were rung up, he bowed his head and explained to the cashier that he only had so much money so he needed to know how much he had spent. The cashier was very kind and quietly worked with the young man as he put up a few more items until all his money was spent. As the cashier began to total his purchases, a number of items were left in his cart that he could not afford. Seeing the event and dialogue unfold, a stranger next in line offered to pay for the remaining items. Both the young man and cashier were really moved and thanked them for their generosity and this “random act of kindness”. Receiving their thanks, the stranger put a nametag on his generosity by quietly saying, “Jesus has been so kind to me that I just have to share his love with everyone, starting right here and now with you.” The young man was very thankful; the cashier broke down, cried and exclaimed that this was the best thing she ever experienced at work.

Now I’m not against “random acts of kindness” but there is a big difference when you put a nametag on what you do, giving a reason and motivation. Jesus put a big nametag on his words, actions and miracles by saying that he was doing the same things that God the Father was doing [1]. There was no missing the point, Jesus claimed to be equal with God and those listening to him got the message loud and clear [2].

What nametag are we putting on our lives? What nametag will people be reading through our words, thoughts, actions and attitudes? Who will people think about when they are near us? Jesus gave himself for us, challenging us to live daily for him, putting his nametag on our lives.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book

[1] John 5:19
[2] John 5:16-18

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The ATM leap


Remember the first time your kids came with you to an ATM? Can you see their eyes get wide as saucers as you slid the card in; hit a few buttons and wonders of wonders, money came out! It was magic. All you had to do was go to the right place, do the right things and the windows of heaven opened with manna from above. Ok, so it wasn’t the windows of heaven, it was the little ATM door and it wasn’t manna either but bills that seemed to fly out. I remember our son saying, “Gee Dad, all we have to do is go to the ATM and we’ll be rich. Money just comes out of nowhere. Let’s go get a basket full.”

This very same idea floods many conversations and the media. I hear it all the time, many people talk about an invisible force that will guide and empower their lives for their good, success and pleasure. They believe that this force can be encouraged and manipulated if we just have good, positive thoughts. Let me tell you about three recent conversations;

First; I was at a company-wide meeting and the president got up to speak. The president reviewed our long slump in new sales, but there was genuine optimism that we were turning the corner. Our new products were coming on-line and several companies demonstrated serious interest. Everyone was hopeful that we would land at least one of them. Towards the end of his speech, the president thanked everyone for their efforts in support of the new sales. His closing line was that these new sales would happen if they were meant to be.

Second; the other week I stopped in our local farmers market. Mixed in with the tomatoes, lettuce, fruits and vegetables was a small stall selling crystals. Curiosity got the best of me so I stopped in and had a great conversation with Bobbi. She explained how the crystals let her connect with the source, who would give her energy to live a better life. (I’m sure the full conversation will be covered in an upcoming blog.)

Third; this week I spoke with a business colleague and the topic of October being breast cancer awareness month came up. I shared how Mary Ann had been treated for breast cancer about 10 years ago and was still doing really well. Out of nowhere, this business colleague shared her encounter with breast cancer about 4 years ago; going through lumpectomy surgery, chemo and radiation therapy. Just this week she got the very unsettling news that the cancer was back in a more aggressive form. She’s just returned from seeing a number of specialist who all concur that a radical mastectomy is necessary this time followed by more chemo, radiation and hormone therapy. After healing from this most recent procedure she will also undergo breast reconstruction surgery.

It’s at times like this that I have learned from painful experience that there is really nothing that I can say. I want to be an encouragement and supportive, but it’s wrong to try and be too chipper. I try to show my respect by being quiet and humble, only asking questions.

She seemed to want to talk more about her immediate future, with surgery scheduled within two weeks. All of a sudden she moved the conversation from the details and schedule and crossed over into a spiritual context. She expressed hope in both the surgery and her positive thoughts would heal her cancer. When I asked permission to pray for her, she was genuinely thankful, saying that she believed in prayer, positive thoughts and things like that.

All three true encounters have a strong common theme; that there is an impersonal, random power available to help us with life. This faceless force is not a person but a power that we can manipulate, and the way we tap into this power is through positive thoughts. It sort of reminds me of fishing; you put the right bait on the hook and the fish come. If you put out the right positive thoughts, this power will come and make everything all right.

Let me take you to another conversation I had this week. Visiting with a friend here in central Florida, his reoccurring cancer diagnosis is that it will probably kill him; two years without treatment, five with. Like my businesses colleague, we talked about surgeries, treatments, chemo, and radiation therapies. Yes there was uncertainty and some fear, but the entire conversation was very different. Instead of looking towards an empty eternity, we spoke about our heavenly Father who loves, cares and heals. In place of an anonymous and uncontrollable power we talked about how Jesus came as a real person, experiencing trial, pain and temptation just like we have [1].

As we held hands and prayed, we committed ourselves to God our Father through Jesus. We prayed to God who hears, loves, answers and saves. There was great hope in knowing and talking with God personally. As our prayer ended, we realized that while our time in this life is limited, there is a great eternity ahead with God, worshiping and enjoying him forever.

As I think back on these two very different views; one is impersonal while the other is deeply personal. One is a power, the other is a person. One is a faceless source while the other is a faithful savior.

Jesus was neither unfeeling nor impersonal. He felt deeply for the poor, injured, outcast and sick. He made friends and sat down with people whose reputations were tarnished. He went where no self-respecting, self-righteous church member of his day would go; eating with people thought to contaminate.

Everyone will put their trust in something or someone. We are all people of faith; the only question is where we put it. Jesus claims to be our creator, the ultimate truth and ultimate God. He is either what and who he said, or not – it’s that clear a choice. His desire is for us to follow him. No matter where you are along life’s journey, now is the time to start following Jesus.

He waits with open arms, not a faceless force. Where would you rather run to? Which way would you rather take a leap of faith?

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The magnifying glass of youth


Everything seemed more intense when we were young. The joys and highs were so much more extreme and great, the pain and lows seemed like a bottomless pit from which we would never recover.

The excitement of accomplishment; hitting a grand slam, dunking a basketball, catching a big fish or crab. Relationships lifted us to new heights; holding hands and kissing a girl for the first time, writing her name all over my notebook. There was genuine wonder in our life when we looked at the stars, got close to a wild animal or peered over a cliff.

Life was carefree and we felt like everything was going to turn out great. Yes we made mistakes, but we could recover – or so I thought.

I was playing “astronaut” in the backyard with my friend Dante. I had a toy Mercury space capsule that came inside a box of Matey (a kid’s bubble bath that claimed to “soak children clean automatically” through a lethal combination of bubbles and chemicals – which is the subject of an entirely separate blog.)

Anyway, my mom had left the house to pick up some groceries while we were shooting this thing high up into orbit. Flinging it as high as our pre-pubescent bodies would allow, we then employed our highly advanced math calculating abilities to guess where we could catch it for a mid-air recovery before crashing to the ground. We were having a lot of fun with this three-cent toy when the wind carried it onto the roof and it got stuck in the gutter.

Not wanting to stop having so much fun; I was determined to solve this problem. My dad’s ladder was too heavy to move even with Dante’s help, so I came up with a very creative solution. Running into the house and racing upstairs to my room, I slid a chair over to the window and opened it. Carefully unlocking the screen, I slid it up and crawled onto the roof. Moving slowly to the toy capsule, I reached into the gutter and threw it down to Dante. We both breathed a sigh of relief that the toy was recovered safe and sound.

The simple solution would be to crawl back to the window and let myself back in. I knew how to get out so getting back in should be simple. But in a moment of what seemed like clarity at the time, the window option seemed like a lot of trouble while the ground below didn't look all that far away. I mean after all, how much trouble could I get into if I just gradually let myself off the roof and gently landed on the ground?

Dante offered his heartfelt encouragement in this “direct approach” saying that it wasn't all that high to begin with. So, armed with this new found insight I began the process of slipping over the edge of the roof. I put one leg over, then the other while hanging onto the gutter. I was now fully outstretched, dangling in the wind by both hands. Thinking to myself, “See, this wasn't so bad” I let go and dropped ever so gently to the ground. By ever so gently I mean that I fell like a sack of potatoes, a boat anchor, a cinder-block.

My head was spinning and it took a little while for me to come to my senses after impact. I came to realize two very important things while lying on the ground;

First – Looking up, I could see that all the blood had drained out of Dante’s face as he screamed, “What in the world were you thinking?” His face was only a momentary image followed by watching his back as he ran home, thinking that my insanity that drove me to jump off the roof was somehow contagious.

Second – there was a new, searing pain in my right hip that wasn't there a moment ago. I wondered where that had come from as I got up and hobbled into the house. Collapsing into my dad’s TV chair, I stretched out and fell asleep.

I've come to realize that while this was the genesis of my hip problems, it taught me an important life lesson. Yes, this “giant leap for mankind” eventually led to my hip replacement surgery years later. But it was more than that; it was my personal wake-up call that life for people, even for kids like me, included pain.

While I never jumped off a roof again, more pain came flooding into my life. As it came, I went looking for comfort and relief. Finding none, I retreated into myself and built an impenetrable wall. No one was going to hurt me, I wouldn't let them.

Looking back at my childhood pain, I now see that I needed to connect with my creator and God. This is why Jesus said “"Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children" [1].

Jesus reaches out to children even today, wanting them to come. His arms are open wide to comfort, protect and bless. We may think that this is OK for children to reach out to Jesus, but it’s not for us adults. After all, we’re self-sufficient; we can take care of ourselves.

Oh really? Just look at the people all around us, the broken landscape of humanity that cries out in pain from brokenness, fear and loneliness. Perhaps you see this every day in the mirror?

As Jesus calls for little children, he calls for you and me. While a little bit older, we are his children none-the-less. He is the only one that can comfort our hurts and brokenness.

He’s right there beside you. Now is the time to reach out and ask him. We don’t need to jump off a roof to find Jesus.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

[1] Matthew 19:14