Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Tough Questions

 The Tough Questions

A 4-part seminar addressing our most difficult issues

Our desire for truth and contentment sometimes hits the wall;

  • Have you ever thought about investigating the claims of Jesus but just could not overcome some serious question or problem?
  • You sense a “hole in your soul” but think Christianity simply has too many issues, requiring you to check your brain at the door?
  • Do you have friends/neighbors that you’d like to help with their questions?

Come and explore four tough questions and their answers when it comes to who we are, who God is, and faith in Jesus Christ. Each session is held at Christ Community Church on Tuesday evenings, starting promptly at 6:30 PM.

Sep 25th
Exclusive – How can there be one truth?
Oct 2nd
Suffering – If God is good, why is there so much pain and evil in the world?
Oct 9th
Bible – Isn’t the Bible historically inaccurate, unreliable and regressive?
Oct 16th
Hell – Isn’t the God of Christianity an angry judge?
Child care is available – Space is limited – Reserve your spot by emailing

Bring your questions, your brain, your doubts and your friends.

Chet Gladkowski will be leading “Tough Questions”.

Through GLAD Associates he writes and speaks on contemporary topics that touch our culture, life and faith. 










Saturday, August 25, 2012

Head Trash

A few months ago we signed up for Netflix and have been enjoying it immensely. For only $7.99 a month we have unlimited access to all their on-line titles through the Internet. Through their simple “point and click” approach, we can watch thousands of movies and TV shows with ease. It’s great to get on the Internet, request a show and boom, you’re watching it. There more than enough for us to choose from; we especially like the TV classics (Monk, Magnum PI, Star Trek) British TV (Downton Abbey, Doc Martin) and movies (Shakespeare in Love, An American President) just to name a few.

In order to use Netflix you need a device to receive and share the show with your TV. I had an old, out of date laptop in my office that seemed perfect for the task. It was a good idea that I had written down the ID’s and passwords when I put the laptop on the shelf because I can’t remember the last time that I used it. So I got the laptop out, literally dusted it off and started on a journey towards easy, unlimited video entertainment all for $7.99 a month (or so I thought).

Do you remember how slow PC’s used to be; well this one was from the pre-Mesozoic ice age. It took more than 27 minutes to initially turn it on, download, install and reboot to apply a ton of software updates. After rebooting yet again, the desktop eventually appeared so I could launch a browser. The Netflix web site appeared, the laptop was excruciatingly slow, taking another 4 minutes just to load the landing page. Not exactly warp speed.

In case you didn’t know, my education and employment have always involved computer technology. I really enjoy having the latest “bleeding edge” technology, warts and all, cracks and all, lock-ups and all. I’ve always been an early adopter; I was one of the first people in the insurance industry to use e-mail, networks and traveled with a “portable” PC – it didn’t have a disk drive and weighed in at 30 pounds (no wonder my right arm is 3½ inches longer than my left).

My life and office are filled with technology;
  • a world-class desktop computer with 2 extremely large monitors, high quality mic/stereo speakers and video conferencing
  • state-of-the-art laptop with 3 oversized monitors, video conferencing, high quality mic/stereo speakers including high-end audio and video studio software
  • Latest iPad with apps galore, both cell and wireless networking
  • Latest Android smartphone with every conceivable option and app

So, as you can imagine from this list of tech tools, this Neanderthal laptop with Cro-Magnon performance was really bugging me. The other night, I just could not take it any longer so I broke down and gave it a tune-up. Just like you put a car up on a lift for a tune-up, I put the laptop on my lap and went to work.

For this tune-up I deleted all unused and unnecessary software, which required 7 system reboots and took about two hours. I then cleaned the startup folder, all pointless data and temporary files; another hour. The final 3 hours were spent defragged the disk. After one final reboot, I was ready to restart the laptop and take it around the block for a spin, seeing what kind of performance we would get.

While the machine is not on par with my new laptop, speed and overall performance was much, much better. It’s now about 2 minutes from the time I press the power-on button to Netflix launching, and this includes the disk security and encryption program. Not bad.

But unlike the car tune-up that requires parts and dirty hands, this tune-up only required software utilities, time and clean hands (which is good for me because I’m a bit of a clean freak. Mary Ann once asked me to go for a walk in the woods but I hesitated because it would get the bottoms of my shoes dirty).

It’s amazing when you get rid of all the unnecessary “stuff” on your computer how much better it runs. And the same can be said about our lives. We all have “head trash” filled with bad memories, questions, insecurity, guilt and shame. We were not built to carry the weight of this internal trouble; it slows us down, weighs us down and shuts us down.

It doesn’t take a deep look inside to see and feel the “head trash” and pain that most people experience in this life. I was talking with a friend the other day and he told me about a painful and broken relationship that was fueled by broken promises. He tried to keep his promise to love and provide, but he continually gets kicked in the teeth emotionally. And the awful tragedy is that he feels guilty not for what he does but for what is being done to him.

Growing up, I first thought that the only way to resolve this “head trash” was to be smart and perfect. So I made it my business to know everything, telling everyone in the process how smart and right I was (a.k.a. how stupid and wrong they were). Needless to say I had loads of friends…NOT! I then started to drift into self-medicating myself to ease the pain. These worked for a while, but not long enough. Coming to the end of my rope I found that there was only one conclusion – I could not fix myself. I needed someone to take me in, clean me up and start emptying my “head trash.” And that person is Jesus Christ.

I see Jesus leaving the comfort and safety of smug religious leaders and hanging out with people who, like me, were on the outside. They needed relief and Jesus came to help, heal and save. When asked why he hung out with those rejected by society, Jesus said “I desire mercy, not sacrifice, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners[1].”

When Jesus says “righteous” he’s referring to all who arrogantly think they are self-sufficient, able to fix themselves, keeping themselves clean, doing the right things, checking off all the right boxes. Maybe this definition really resonates, a stark reminder of our pride and who we are in ourselves.

So, when our “head trash” starts to overtake us, we need to take it to Jesus. He doesn’t just “empty” us; he cleans and fills us with new thinking and power to live for him. Now that’s real trash removal and salvation.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski writes and speaks on practical topics that touch culture, life and faith.

[1] Matthew 9:13 - email, Facebook & Twitter - blog
GladAssociates - YouTube

Saturday, August 18, 2012


About five years ago we were visiting our son Dan and he had a new dog named “Wolf” (as you can tell, Dan gets his creativity from his father). Wolf is a Shibna Inu, commonly referred to as a Japanese bulldog. In addition to his quiet personality, he really looks like a fox. Boots, our Shih Tzu poodle of seven-plus years had recently passed, and Mary Ann was looking for a different kind of dog as a replacement. Wolf seemed like the ideal house pet, so we searched for one in our area. Quickly exhausting local options, we turned to the Internet, expanding our exploration across the county, state and country for Shibna Inu breeders. Finding one in Kansas, we arranged for Jitterbug’s flight to Orlando and she’s been with us ever since.

Well, saying that she’s been with us ever since is a bit of an exaggeration. You see, there have been several escapes where Jitterbug bolted and ran away. I distinctly remember the first escape where she squeezed through a momentary crack in the front doorway. She seemed to almost smile as she pranced in front of us, just out of reach, jumping and yipping with sheer delight as she was just too quick for us. From the front yard, she ran in ever-increasing circles that led her across the street and towards the lake. She drifted so far that I went back to the house and got the car so I could track her. Like early settlers in a new land, she felt compelled to “mark” each and every house within a half-mile radius. Eventually, she tired and returned through the opened gate to the backyard. Needless to say, after cutting off her escape route by closing the gate, we had a little “talk” about her responsibilities to the family and that running away was not in her immediate or long term best interests. Coming back into the house, she collapsed into a heap in the middle of the floor and slept for four hours. Since that initial escape, there have been several other successful breakouts with innumerable failed attempts.

In 2011. Mary Ann was visiting our family in Baltimore while Jitterbug and I were holding down the fort here in central Florida. While our backyard is completely fenced in, there is park right behind our house that fills up each and every Independence Day with families, cookouts, games and fireworks. I put Jitterbug outside to “do her duty” and about fifteen minutes later there was a knock at the door.  It was our neighbor who asked if I was aware that Jitterbug was last seen racing up the hill for parts unknown. I quickly ran outside only to see Jitterbug disappear behind some trees at the top of the hill. Moving as fast as possible, I tried to follow her but she was just too quick and rebellious to catch. I left the gate to the backyard open, hoping that she would find her way home as she normally did. But this day was different. Perhaps it was the distraction of food or fear from loud firework booms. In any event, Jitterbug did not return home. While I was somewhat saddened by the event, I was more concerned about Mary Ann and her strong feelings for Jitterbug. Calling her right away, I explained what happened and she was very certain that Jitterbug would come home on her own. The following morning I carefully looked in the backyard, no Jitterbug. I called all the veterinarian clinics in town and explained what had happened. They were very nice and told me about a web site where Animal Services posted pictures of stray animals. Every day I followed that web site till I saw this picture on Saturday morning. Driving an hour and paying nearly $200 in fees, fines and other costs I returned home with Jitterbug in tow. Again, we had a carefully worded conversation about the “badness” of running away and the “goodness” of staying in the fenced in backyard.

One would think that after such an emotional and traumatic escapade like this that Jitterbug would tap her ruby-red paws together three time and bark, “There’s no place like home! There’s no place like home!”, but not our Jitterbug.  This morning she once again squirted out a crack in the front door and ran away, circled the house and pranced towards the alluring woods at the top of the hill. You might think that I was getting a bit tired of these momentary escapes, and you’d be right.

As we quietly, yet quickly moved to cut off her escape route, I wondered what went through her small, pea-sized brain. Did she think about running away? Was it just instinctive? Did she do it just to spite me? And then I wondered about my own “escapes” where I repeated prior mistakes in action and judgment. Why did I do what was wrong, even though I knew what was right? I seemed destined to repeat myself, even after being “found” and restored. I know the good that I should do, but I keep choosing and doing the wrong [1].

I don’t think I’m any different than anyone else. We all want to do what’s right but we lack the power and desire to fulfill that promise. We choose against what we know to be right, hurting ourselves and others in the process. I’ve tried lots of different things to get more power in order to choose right. I’ve also looked for ways to deaden the pain and hurt of guilt and shame. Whenever it was dependent on me, I failed. It’s like jumping off the roof (which I’ve done), there is 100% chance that the sudden stop is going to hurt.

The only possible solution is one that does not depend on me. That’s why Jesus Christ came, to take our place, pain and punishment for all our offenses towards God [2]. There is no one else in all of history that claimed to be God, creator, savior, way, truth, life and way to God the Father.

When we run away from God, the only one that can give us true meaning, purpose, addressing any question about life we might have, not only does he provide a way for us, he runs after us and reunites us back with himself [3]. When we try and escape, he faithfully looks after us, taking care of us and even pays our debt, setting us free to love and worship him.

Now that’s a God worth loving and serving…no escaping that.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski writes on topics that touch life, culture and faith.

[1] Romans 7:19 – For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
[2] Romans 7:24,25 – What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
[3] Luke 15:20 – But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


This weekend, the Olympic marathon events were run in London. Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia won the woman’s gold, setting a new Olympic record. And in an upset victory, Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda  took the men’s gold.

In case you didn’t know, a marathon is more than 26 miles in length. To put some perspective on the marathon, that’s;

  • Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge 15½ times
  • 6½ times across the Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay
  • Going from Lake Wales to Lakeland

You may be surprised to find out that I personally participated in a marathon. Yes, it is true; while it was not a world class field of contestants, I had all the skill and stamina necessary to take part in a marathon. During our time living outside Wilmington, I participated in the Delaware Marathon [1] by passing out water and energy drinks to runners as they passed by. While not needing medical attention, it took me three days to recover. My right shoulder has not been the same since.

I think twice before driving that far, I can’t imagine walking that distance. Even when I was playing basketball competitively and it seemed like I could play ball all day, I could not conceive of running that distance without stopping.

All marathon runners and coaches talk about hitting “the wall.” This is where the body just runs out of energy. Our bodies have the capacity to store and convert carbohydrates for enough energy to run about 18-20 miles. As energy from carbohydrates lessens, our bodies have to get energy from somewhere else so they turn to burning stored fat, which does not convert as easily. When this happens, runners experience dramatic fatigue, hitting “the wall.”

This past week I had the rare privilege of meeting some great marathoners;
  • The father of two, he has competed in most of the major marathons within the US.
  • Mother of four sons, her husband lost his battle with brain cancer late in 2009. Her marathon is recovering daily from crushing grief and loneliness as she cares for her youngest, a 9 year old son.
  • Leaving the day-to-day business affairs to his partners only to discover that they have run the businesses into the ground and swindled him. His marathon is dealing with disappointment and betrayal of those he trusted, not to mention the loss of his retirement savings.
  • Her cancer was surgically removed about two years ago, but this week she suddenly experienced great pain in the same area. Her marathon is waiting 5 days till the scheduled MRI and the unknown next steps.

Running a marathon is a choice, living a marathon is thrown at us. Running a marathon physically is unspeakably hard and reserved for a few hearty athletes. Living a marathon with an unknown length of time may actually be more demanding.

The question is not whether or not we will encounter a life marathon, but when. No matter our place in life, I think we are all in one of three places when it comes to living a marathon;
  • We are about to start living a marathon
  • We are in the middle of living a marathon
  • We are ending our time living a marathon

So, the question becomes what are we going to do, where are we going to turn while living a marathon? There are really only two possible choices. First is to try and work it out on our own, pulling ourselves up by our own boot-straps, looking within for the answers and power. The other is to look to someone else for help.

Jesus said that he was gentle and humble in heart and that we could find rest for our souls in him [2]. Rest for our souls, doesn’t that sound great! His resources and refreshment for the marathons of life are available, but they come at a price. And that price is giving ourselves and our marathons to him. It’s not us accomplishing some great thing, emptying our minds in meditation or any other action on our part, except surrendering to and receiving him.

As we give ourselves to Jesus, he walks with us into and through the marathons of life, all the way into an eternity with him.

Blessings - Chet

Chet Gladkowski writes on contemporary topics that impact our lives, culture and faith. - email, Facebook & Twitter - blog
GladAssociates - YouTube

[2] Matthew 11:29

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Empty chairs

I recently took a trip to Colorado to speak at a leadership meeting and retreat. After flying into Denver, I drove two hours into the ski areas west of the city where the meetings were being held. The drive was really beautiful; the sky was clear, bright and warm with temperatures in the low 70’s. But the real attraction to me was the mountains; they were magnificent.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like living in Lake Wales, FL and being near Iron Mountain, standing as one of the highest points in FL at 295 feet[1]. But this drive was through the teeth of the Rocky Mountains.   At one point I approached 10,000 feet above sea level on the drive as I passed the Continental Divide. You could smell the trees and clearly see the tree line on the mountains. There were also “chain-up areas” – added lanes on the highway to pull off during a snowstorm to put chains on your tires.

That first evening we had a fun outdoor event at a ski resort. We were in a small valley surrounded by “purple mountain majesty.” The sky was ablaze with crimson sunset watercolors that only God can paint. While there was no snow, the grounds were filled with children riding ponies (with their ever present biodegradable exhaust), putt-putt golf, rock climbing, fly fishing, eating popcorn and all sorts of great activities. It was so good to see families of all shapes and sizes walking, talking, and laughing together.

As I looked up at the mountains I could not help noticing all the ski lifts. They ran up the mountains in every direction. There was even a ski lift right next to a golf course. I’m sure that they took thousands up those mountains last season, giving delight and fun as skiers glided down the white powder with their family and friends.

Historical note – I have gone skiing once and only once in my life. I was able to walk away from it safely without the aid of crutches, ambulance or surgery. My most memorable event from that skiing trip was that I was careening down the mountain, moving faster than the law of physics or safety allowed. I saw a crowd of people in front of me that I was certain to shish kabob. Thinking with lightning speed, I turned right and, with deadly aim, plowed into a fluffy pine tree to break my fall, but not my face. As I collided with the tree, I grabbed it with all my might, sending down a giant shower of snow. My friends were so impressed with this display of skill that they all fell down off their skis laughing.

As I looked at the ski lifts I noticed that they were all stopped, and this made sense. It was in the middle of summer, it was warm, and there was no snow. Without snow there was no skiing, so running the ski lifts would have been a waste. I’m certain that they will transport thousands up the mountains this coming season.

But that’s not what ski lifts were made for. They were not made to sit still, they were made to move. They were not made to be empty; they were made to be full. They were not made to be alone; they were made to take people up the mountain. During the winter, they fulfilled their purpose and destiny. But during the summer, all they can do is sit around and wait.

I’ve recently been talking with people that resemble those ski lifts in summer. They sense that they have a purpose; they hope life has meaning, but right now things are at a standstill. Nothing seems to be moving; they feel like they are stuck and waiting for something or someone to get things moving forward again. I was listening to someone describe it as a “hole in their soul” where there was such an ache and emptiness.

If that’s how you feel, you are not alone. Not only are there people that feel the same way, but God understands your feelings too. When Jesus came to earth from the throne of heaven as our creator and savior, he left behind his rights as God and came as a person just like you and me[2]. He experienced all the same anguish and pain associated with this life[3]. And during his time on the cross, he also experienced separation from God as he paid the awful penalty for our rebellion and arrogance[4].

If you’re feeling like those ski lifts in summer, like you’re not fulfilling your purpose, remember that God loves you and deeply desires to have you run to him for comfort and assurance. As sure as winter is coming, and snow will cover the Rockies, he will come to you too and lift your spirits.

Blessings - Chet 

Chet Gladkowski writes and speaks on contemporary topics relating to life, culture and faith. - email, Facebook & Twitter - blog
GladAssociates - YouTube

[2] Philippians 2:5-8
[3] Hebrews 4:14-16
[4] Mark 15:34