Wednesday, October 31, 2012


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

Saturday, October 6, 2012

One billion strong, and growing

This Monday, October 1st, Facebook announced that they had eclipsed one-billion users! This is an astonishing achievement and they are to be commended for their stunning growth. The chart on the right shows their growth over their very young career. And watch for their continued growth as they get their smartphone and mobile device strategy in place.

Think about the last time you were with some people – how many pulled out their smartphone to check Facebook? It’s almost epidemic how everyone (and I mean everyone) continually checks Facebook. It’s no longer relegated to pre-teens and college kids. Here in Florida the number of retirees is huge and they are on Facebook all the time, looking at pictures and texting while they sit and kibitz in Wal-Mart, McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts. It’s especially interesting (and dangerous) when they Facebook while walking or outside enjoying their favorite beverage.

Let me offer another note of congratulation to Facebook; unless you have a technical IT background you have absolutely no idea how difficult it is to support and serve this growth. Think about this as an example: I like to cook and made General Tso’s spicy/sweet vegetables with fried catfish last night for Mary Ann and myself. This Wednesday I’m making Greek lasagna for 40 people. Ramping up from 2 to 40 is a job in itself. Now imagine making dinner for 500… for 5,000. Building and maintaining a computer environment for this many users are unbelievably complex and costly. When was the last time that some piece of your personal technology locked up and crashed? The last time Facebook crashed was Friday, September 24, 2010.

In celebration of their one billion users, Facebook produced a video for the first time in their short but meteoric history. I would really encourage you to watch it, carefully reflecting on its message.
Listen for these key phrases;[1]

·         Open up and connect with people

·         A place to get together and share

·         Where they belong

·         Makes us wonder if we are alone

Either accidently or purposefully, Facebook has taped into something deep within all of us. There is a universal need for meaning, purpose, acceptance, communication and community. It’s built into our DNA, part of who we are and the way that God made us.

Here are three quotes to consider[2]:

·         Lee Iacocca, the legendary carmaker, wrote in his autobiography: "Here I am in the twilight years of my life, still wondering what it's all about…I can tell you this, fame and fortune is for the birds."

·         Bertrand Russell, the famous mathematician, wrote to Ottoline Morell, one of his mistresses, and confessed: "I have a very internal & terrible spiritual loneliness."

·         Dallas Willard said, "Meaning is not a luxury for us. It is a kind of spiritual oxygen, we might say, that enables our souls to live."

In the rat race called life in the 21st century, we all hunger for it; to be loved, to be accepted, to be known. And Facebook has provided a simple yet powerful way that tries to address this deep, personal need that we all have. Isn’t it a good feeling when someone sends you an “Add Friend” message?

But we’re all able to hide behind Facebook; only posting what we want others to see. How many of us read about how great everything is, yet knowing the truth behind the mask is completely different. I was connected with a family through Facebook that continually boasted about how much they were in love, how wonderful their kids were, how great their lives were. Yet knowing them behind Facebook revealed a marriage and family in trouble, a husband that thought his wife intellectually and emotionally inferior, kids getting kicked out of school, getting fired for non-performance. I eventually had to “unfriend” them; it was just too painful.

And for all the good that Facebook can do, it still comes up woefully short in meeting our deepest, most personal need to be loved and accepted just as we are. No matter what we’ve done, no matter what’s been done to us, we all ache to be known at the deepest levels, to be loved and cared for.

Jesus once met a woman at a well and had an amazing encounter and conversation with her[3]. Not only did he treat her with respect, he saw through her mask and the mess she thought was life. While her life and choices were destructive, they were completely open to him and his response was one of deep love, caring and restoration, bringing her back to her creator and God.

Jesus offered this woman exactly what we want and urgently need; an open and completely transparent relationship. Not just with a friend, but with our creator and God. Face it, we are all in need of friendship, forgiveness and restoration. Jesus is the only one in all of history that claims to be able to give us what we so desperately alludes us.

If we’re willing to hit “Add Friend” on Facebook, why do we hesitate to “Add Friend” for Jesus?

Blessings - Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith. This article is taken from a message entitled “Facebook Community Church” which is also a chapter in his upcoming book.

[1] Facebook video can be found on YouTube at

[3] John 4:1-42