Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Grove - Series Update

We are now halfway through "The Grove" where we are exploring some practical and fascinating spiritual truths that come to us through the life and times of an orange grove

Click here see all the installments from "The Grove" and other Bible studies.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Worst Kept Secret - Week 3

The "worst kept secret" is trying to hide our anger. Moses, while a giant of a man both historically and spiritually, struggled mightily with anger. While his win-loss record with anger was nothing to brag about, there are great lessons and changes that God wants to make in our lives.

Click hear to watch, listen and change our hot anger patterns.

Here is a complete list of all the video's to date on the Worst Kept Secret

Week 1, Worst Kept Secret, Moses, Murder & Mayhem

Week 2, Worst Kept Secret, A Deadly 1-2 Combination

Week 3, Worst Kept Secret, Angry at Your Boss

Friday, May 10, 2013

Press Release -

For Immediate Release and GLAD Associates
 are pleased to announce a new online radio program:
Weekly Grace

A new program, Weekly Grace has been added to’s broadcast schedule at 3PM every Monday and Friday. Starting May 13, Weekly Grace will be a 15-minute practical Bible study lead by Chet Gladkowski of Lake Wales, FL.

“We are very happy to bring Weekly Grace to our listeners” says Lionel Green, President of “Chet clearly communicates the good news of Jesus through a very unique and personable style. You can hear it in Chet’s voice; his easy-to-listen-to approach for a hurting and broken world comes from personal experience and pain. He has the scars to prove it too! I know he will be a great blessing to our radio family.”

While Chet has been teaching the Bible since 1971 in various traditional settings, for the past year he’s been leading a live internet broadcast for Dr. Diane Dike and her ministry, Second Chance with Saving Grace. A natural byproduct has been to post these Bible studies on YouTube so people could re-watch and share them. These Bible studies will form the heart of Weekly Grace.

“Chet has been a great addition to our ministry for broken and hurting people” says Dr. Diane Dike, President of Second Chance with Saving Grace. “Every week he brings an inspired message from the Bible that energizes and encourages people around the world. God has used these internet and YouTube Bible studies to speak His truth, love and compassion into the lives of people that have believed the lie that there is no hope. They come away with God’s promise of strength and the Good News of God's transforming grace! His message and interesting presentation always hits the spot.”

“God has been faithfully guiding towards this day and opportunity with” says Chet Gladkowski, President of GLAD Associates. “I am truly humbled and honored for the privilege of joining the WBGRonline family. Together with Lionel, we look forward to God speaking to and healing many broken hearts and lives.”


WBGRonline.comLaunched in May 2012, offers 21 national and local religious programs around the clock. For more information, contact:

Lionel Green, President
6004 Princess Garden Parkway
Lanham, MD 20706
(301) 459-2558

Second Chance with Saving Grace – an international nonprofit organization founded by Dr. Diane Dike and her husband Paul. Its mission is to transform lives by sharing Diane's message of hope and encouragement, based on her personal journey from pain and darkness to joy. For more information, contact;

Dr. Diane Dike, President
Second Chance with Saving Grace
P. O. 673
Eagle, CO 81631
(303) 225-2717

GLAD Associates – Using a very unique and practical communication style, Chet Gladkowski approaches the issues and heartache that people face with the solution focused solely on a relationship with Jesus Christ as the answers to our greatest need. GLAD Associates is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. For more information, contact,

Chet Gladkowski, President
GLAD Associates
1101 Cephia St.
Lake Wales, FL 33853 - blog
GladAssociates - YouTube

Friday, May 3, 2013

Did you see that?

The past weeks have been filled with history bending events that have been greatly influenced by being able to see something right away.

Whether you are a golfer or not, I’m certain that you heard about the incident at The Masters where Tiger Woods was penalized for not dropping his ball in the correct place. While I play golf, and I use that term very loosely, I don’t pretend to understand the rules that govern golf. I mean, if my ball lands against a tree, in the sand or water, shouldn't I be able to move the ball to a place where I can hit it? So when I saw Tiger drop his ball after his shot ricocheted on the 15th into the water at Augusta, I thought nothing of it. But Champions Tour golfer David Eger saw exactly the same thing and thought differently. He got right on the phone and called a PGA official, and that probably saved Tiger from being disqualified.

Fast forward to the incredible and horrifying bombing incident at the Boston Marathon. Not only did we see the actual explosions, but we also see volunteers rush to provide immediate and lifesaving first aid and comfort in the moments immediately following this senseless act. Not only have we watched the explosion countless times, but video cameras were vital in identifying those responsible. The trail of text and pictures were also employed in the subsequent arrest of three students who destroyed evidence and lied to authorities.

Banks have been using video cameras for years. As the price came down, video cameras were installed in convenience stores, malls and gas stations. Cameras take pictures of cars running red lights while software reads the license plate and automatically sends out a speeding ticket along with the fine. Video camera’s monitor highways and let us know if traffic is clear or snarled, alerting us to alternative routes. Police cars, school buses and classrooms are videotaped, showing exactly what is going on, providing proof positive whenever an incident occurs. Farmers are using unmanned drones with video cameras to watch over and monitor their crops.

And it’s going to only increase. Google's self-driving car gathers 750 megabytes of sensor data per SECOND! That is just mind-boggling to me. Here is a picture of what the car "sees" while it is driving and about to make a left turn. It is capturing every single thing that it sees moving - cars, trucks, birds, rolling balls, dropped cigarette butts, and fusing all that together to make its decisions while driving. If it sees a cigarette butt, it knows a person might be creeping out from between cars. If it sees a rolling ball it knows a child might run out from a driveway. Follow this link if you want to see the car in action.

No matter whether you think this is a good or bad thing, cameras are watching us all the time, gathering up information about us at an accelerating pace. You might think it’s for your protection or an intrusion into your privacy. While it may be a bit of a stretch, it would be hard to deny that someone or something is just about always watching.

If someone’s always watching and monitoring us, then why do we react and rebel against the idea that God is watching? If we’ve achieved almost universal coverage for cell phones and camera’s on highways, why is it so difficult to imagine and trust God to be watching over us?

As I think about a video camera recording my every action, I have absolutely no doubt that they are not necessarily looking out for me and my best interests. I'm just another set of digital dots, no different than the image of a car or tree.

But the idea of God watching over me can be either cause for concern or comfort. And that depends on who God is and what you think about him.

Some people think of God as some really angry guy with a scow on his face and an attitude in his heart, just waiting to pounce. The idea of him watching will put us on the defensive, throwing us into a guilt-infested forest of weeds and vines that are all designed to trip us up. And then we fail, we cringe and hide, thinking that we’re about to get hit upside of the head with a two-by-four.

But God as described in the Bible is one who is deeply concerned with us, wanting to protect and provide. He made us to engage in a deep and completely transparent loving relationship with him.

So why would we run for cover and hide from him? For the same reason that Adam and Eve did that very thing; shame and guilt for turning away from him, making ourselves out to be God. But he did not run away from us, he ran towards us. He sent Jesus to pay the price necessary to reunite us with him, again completely free from all that guilt and shame, reestablishing that completely transparent relationship with him.

I want to encourage you not to run and hide from God, but to come to him. We come just as we are, no need to clean ourselves up or get our stuff together. That’s his job. Our job is to come, his is to receive, forgive and start the process of healing our wounded souls, hearts, minds and emotions.

He loves to see us coming to him. He’s looking for you right now.

Y’all come.

Blessings - Chet

Through GladAssociates, Chet writes and speaks about topics that touch culture, life and faith. This is from a chapter in his upcoming book.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tax Day - My Mount Rushmore of favorite days

If you've been reading this blog for any time at all or have known me for more than 5 minutes, it will come as no epiphany that I have a "different" view of life. Some people call me a contrarian, others just a plain old nut job.

And when he comes to my favorite days, April 15 or "tax day" is definitely on my personal Mount Rushmore of favorite days. It sits atop the entire calendar year along with Thanksgiving, Fourth of July and November 29th (our anniversary).

I was speaking to someone just recently and I mentioned that April 15th is one of my favorite days and they just about flipped out. This is definitely a common sentiment. Just look at all of the blogs, news, Facebook posts, tweets and daily conversations about this day and what it means. The general sentiment is that taxes are a bad thing and were having too much of a bad thing. It doesn't matter whether you're Republican, Democrat or independent; the general reaction to April 15 is one of despair and a date to be despised.

In listening to my friend I got both barrels of exactly how he felt. "What's the matter with you Chet? Are you out of your ever loving mind? We pay so much in taxes and get so little. Doesn't that make your blood boil?” I got him to take a deep breath and bought him a decaf to help calm his nerves.

You have to understand, I do not like working with numbers! I have neither skill nor understanding of anything having to do with mathematics. My dear brother has all of the mathematical DNA material in our family and he's great with numbers. It is virtually impossible for me to do any form of computation in my head. Excel is only one click away and I will create a little spreadsheet for everything, even the most mundane and simple calculation. I'm so insecure about my capabilities with numbers that I will even build a second spreadsheet to double check what was in the first spreadsheet.

So you can see that my enjoyment of April 15th becomes even more of a mystery. Actually, my enjoyment of tax day starts months earlier (now I really have you totally confused, questioning my sanity and general well-being.)

It all starts as I get information together to prepare my taxes. You know the drill: pull out all of your receipts in addition to credit card and checking account  statements. I then start the puzzling process of matching that to my accounting software. While it automatically interfaces to all of my credit cards and bank statements, there are invariably problems and discrepancies. I then leap immediately into panic mode wondering how in the world I'm ever going to get this together.

I calm down as I work through the details and start sorting through all the information. I create numerous “piles” of paper information scattered on the floor. An important note is that you don't turn on the fan or have the windows open – a brisk breeze can ruin hours of work. Time does not permit me to adequately explain the anguish our dog Jitterbug created as she ran through my office, sliding and scattering papers everywhere.

Once I get all the information and paperwork organized, I start to go through it in detail. It's at this point that I transition from panic to pause. I pause to think through the past calendar year to see how I invested my money, and consequently my time and energies.

There is nothing so sobering as examining your expenses to see what you think is important. You may say something is vitally important, but then you evaluate those verbal statements with your bank and credit card statements. You are smacked in the face with the reality of your true choices. Our true faith and beliefs are confirmed by where we spend our money.

I am struck by two truths.

First, I see God providing so much that I am completely blown away. He has done so much for me; I see and experience his kindness in ways that I do not deserve. This past year I dramatically changed direction in my life. Instead of getting a paycheck by working for a company, I struck out on my own through consulting and also started a non-profit ministry organization. After doing all the research in preparation for April 15th, I came to the unbelievable realization that while I took a significant risk and dramatic income reduction, God has been so kind and faithful. I know this because we actually have more money in the bank now than when we started. I can only attribute this to God’s kindness and provision.

Second, Jesus clearly believed in looking at “tax day.” When he said “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” [1] he confirmed the truth about us. We spend on what we “believe” in, what we hold dear.

So as the sun sets on Tax Day 2013, what did you spend your money on? What did you invest in? If you brought your receipts to Jesus, what would he see and what would he say?

Please believe me that I am not trying to play the “guilt card” but for us to clearly look at where and in who we put our faith. Faith is not jumping off a bridge but making daily decisions that line up to what we really think is true. I urge you to change and start following Jesus, realigning your life spending with him so that Tax Day 2014 will be on your Mount Rushmore of favorite days as well.

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 6:21

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Life didn't turn out the way I thought it would

While part of what I do to make a living involves planning, I plan for everything. Planning is in my DNA, here are but a few examples;

  • Driving Directions – While I have an iPad, multiple smart phones and a GPS, I never just leave the house and trust them. Before leaving I always look at a map, figure out the best path (including multiple alternate routes in case of traffic) and print out my route. Yes, I print it – you never know when all the cell towers might all of a sudden go off-line and the GPS satellite could fall out of orbit. I also plan for plenty of travel time plus extra time to spare. I’m not certain how God feels about it, but being late is a great big sin in my book.
  • Projects – Whether it’s raking leaves or tearing out and completely renovating the kitchen, it’s a project and needs planning. No matter the size of the project, I break it down into several smaller tasks, I put the tasks in order and figure out the total time and cost. When we traveled to Italy, there was a detailed spreadsheet with the dates, places and things we were going to visit and do.
  • Painting – First of all, I carefully estimate the amount of paint that I’ll need and then about double it just to eliminate any possible need to make a second trip to the store. After removing all furniture and things from the walls, I put down a drop cloth and “edge” around the ceiling, corners and baseboards (twice.) Then I roll the walls in 4’ by 4’ sections; starting on the top half of the wall I roll in a “W” shape followed by an “M” shape and then rolling over any uncovered space. I then roll horizontally over the area followed by a final “vertical” roll. I repeat this process around the room, section by section.

By now I’m sure you really doubt my sanity! Yes, I pretty much plan just about everything I do. I even plan all the meals and cooking. I shop once a day and pick up all the fresh ingredients I need for the day’s meals, looking at plans for dinner to ensure that I have all the ingredients. This week I made Asian Noodles in a peanut and tahini (sesame seed) sauce so I needed lots of spices and ingredients. Taking my recipe to the kitchen, I carefully inspected what I had and made a list for shopping at the store. I am happy to report that the Asian Pasta dish came out exceptionally well.

The same cannot be said about my braised pork dinner though. I “thought” I had plenty of chicken stock but forgot that I had just given it to a worthy cause - chicken noodle soup lunch at Mary Ann’s school. Not wanting to go out just for chicken stock, I made a last minute substitution of seafood stock for chicken stock (which is nothing near a fair trade or replacement.) It turned out “OK” but I’m certain that it would have been better with chicken stock. While meals do hang in the balance, no one in our house goes crazy if you make a last minute substitution and produce a clunker once in a while. 

The same cannot be said about life though. This week I had multiple conversations where people said “Life didn’t turn out like I planned.” As I listened, they each had made careful plans, setting the course of their lives, doing all the right things yet they seemed to be missing something. While they had enough things, there seemed to be a hollow pause in their voice as they described life like empty rooms. Rooms that were made to be filled with people, laughter and joy yet their lives seemed to reflect the emptiness of their soul.

All of this came to mind like a flood this morning as I read a piece in (of all places) the Wall Street Journal. Towards the end of this article the author wrote, “Maybe it comes down to this: We want God.”[1]

In those few insightful words, the author captured the essence of what my friends were looking for. They had tried to fill up the rooms of their heart with everyone and everything except the one who could give them comfort, purpose and meaning in life. Without a guide to point the way, we all will drift or run in a direction that ends in loneliness, self-doubt and a sense that life didn’t turn out all that well.

One evening, Jesus was having dinner with the socially undesirable of his day. I’m sure that they asked the same question about life not turning out the way they planned. After all, who starts out in life planning to be a traitor to his people and homeland? Who truly plans to become a prostitute? They were outcasts and looked down on by society as a whole, but especially by self-righteous religious leaders. When Jesus hears the arrogant grumble against his desire to be with these outcasts, he blasts these conceited, self-righteous bigots. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what God means when he says: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [2]

Jesus continues reaching out to us. He knows that “life didn’t turn out the way we had hoped.” Sometimes it’s because of our decisions, actions or words. Sometimes it was because what someone else did or said. No matter the cause or reason, Jesus is ready and willing to help and heal our brokenness of soul and fill the empty meaningless of life. He knows our weakness and failures, yet he loves us and wants to live life with us.

Now is the time to stop self-medicating to heal our broken hearts. No amount of self-will or planning can fill us with meaning, purpose and restoration. Only by turning to Jesus can life turn into something good, pure and full.

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] 'Go and Repair My House,' Heard the Saint of Assisi, By Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, March 16th, 2013
[2] Matthew 9:12,13

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Where did it go?

Now I’m a pretty organized person. I know where just about everything is because I put it where it belongs. I had this drilled into me from a very early age. Everything has a place and everything in its place.

My mom’s kitchen was well organized. Things got put away after each and every use. Utensils went in one of those organizers in the top drawer, big sharp knives in the 3rd drawer, paper and plastic bags in the bottom drawer. Even dirty dishes had their place: they did not stay on the table but were picked up immediately and whisked away to the sink where they were rinsed with scalding hot water before they were neatly stacked in the sink in a specific order (large plates on the bottom, other flat plates next, bowls next, pots were not kept in the sink but put on the left side for scrubbing with Comet and a Brillo pad.

My dad’s work room downstairs was equally well organized; tools were kept in their toolbox or tool belt. Each electric tool (drill, saber saw, circular saw) had individual boxes and slots in his workbench. We were welcome to use his tools, but we better put them back right afterwards. I was convinced that it was a very serious sin to leave a tool outside overnight, right below wasting food in the hierarchy of trespasses that were sure to send me to an eternity of stale food and dirty tools while being chased by frothy Brillo pads.

Now you would think that my bedroom growing up would have followed in the same mold as my parents’ kitchen and workroom. You could think that but you’d be dead wrong. While I was required to “dust” my room, I just pushed the dust bunnies that were the size of large rats under my bed. Once a year I had to clean out my closet so my dad could get to the Bat cave (that’s what I called the attic where the Christmas lights were stored.) I use the term “clean out” rather loosely as I picked up all manner of stuff off the floor; toys, clothing, goulashes, pieces of my Erector set, loose B-B’s and dropped it all unceremoniously in paper bags, setting them aside waiting for the end of Yuletide. Once the Christmas decorations were returned to the Bat cave, I emptied the bags back onto the floor until next year... same Bat-time; same Bat-channel.

Now that I’m a law-abiding, responsible and productive member of society, I keep my life well planned and organized. There is an “in-box” on the right-hand corner of my desk where I faithfully deposit the contents of all my pockets whenever I return home. This ritual includes keys, wallet, cell phone, golf tees, you name it. Receipts and other trash immediately go in the can while loose change goes into a clean red Chinese takeout box.

For the most part, my physical and computer “desktops” are also well organized, clean and free of miscellaneous junk. The only exception is when I’m working on a big project (putting together all my records and receipts for taxes.) I have well organized physical and virtual “folders” that are in alphabetical order with sub-folders when needed. I have been blessed with a good memory so I can quickly and easily find most anything whether it’s in my work area, kitchen, filing cabinet, computers, iPod, smart phone, internet.

There is a method to my madness; there is a very important reason why I do all this. I don’t follow this detailed plan because I enjoy doing it, just the opposite is true. I do all this and more because I hate not being able to find things. Did you hear what I said; I used the “H” word, HATE.  I hate not being able to immediately get something, knowing where things are. The panic I feel when I lose something is really deep. When I can’t find my keys, or misplace my cellphone, there is a real feeling of being out of control. I start checking and rechecking all my normal spots, looking over and over for it.

Can I tell you a secret? As I write these words I feel like I’m on Oprah or Piers Morgan when they lean in and say in that low and friendly voice, “Come on, you can tell me, just between the two of us.” I really admire people that can relax when they can’t find something and put it out of their mind. Not me. If I can’t find something, I start slowly and methodically looking for it, as I feel the anxiety rise within me. If after five minutes I still can’t find it, panic starts to grow and grow. It would have made a great episode on any sit-com to watch me search for any lost item, with the emphasis on ANY.

Now you might feel that my fear is a bit over the edge, some will think that I need professional help and others are firmly convinced that I should be institutionalized. But if we are honest with one another, we all have some area of sensitivity and feelings about being out of control. For me, it’s not being able to find things. For some, it’s having a clean home, a nice looking home, an orderly appearance for everyone to see. For many people they are deathly afraid about some part of their past coming out.

This is exactly what happened when a woman was thrown in front of Jesus. The “spiritual leaders” of that community found her in bed with someone other than her husband and they challenged Jesus to be judge, jury and executioner. Rather than argue law, morality or how they found her “in the very act,” Jesus ignores their words and goes to the center of their heart when he told them "All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!" One by one they skulked away, embarrassed no doubt by their personal moral failure memories. While Jesus briefly talks about her past, he is definitely more interested in her future. Jesus concludes his conversation with this poor, unfortunate woman by assuring her that he does not condemn her, sends her on her way with a warning to stop. [1]

I really believe that Jesus wants us to Look back, Learn but not Linger about our past. Jesus does not want our past to “define” us but he wants to use his forgiveness in our lives to instruct, motivate and change us.

Recently I listened as someone wanted help in asking forgiveness. I could have probed; bringing up dirty details, holding their feet to the fire and “stoning” them for every little thing they said or did. But I thought about Jesus and how he freely gave forgiveness to this woman, but more importantly his free and total forgiveness to me. As I listened, I heard how God had been moving in their life and their humble and broken heart that yearned to restore broken relationships.

Jesus words to you and me are as powerful and applicable as they were when he first uttered them more than 2,000 years ago to that broken, condemned and scared woman.  The words and heart of “Neither do I condemn you” should be on the bumper sticker of our heart since each of us has missed the mark so many times. He neither condones nor condemns, he gives. If Jesus, who is both God and a perfect man can forgive, so should we. If God is willing to pay the price and forgive me, I cannot think of a single reason not to forgive others or myself, other than my pride and self-centeredness.

Please understand, some who are reading these words have been deeply hurt by the acts and sins of others. I’m not dismissing their wrong in the least. But our ability to heal, grow and move on with our lives is deeply tied to our willingness and aptitude to forgive.

Our need and ability to move beyond who we were to who God wants us to become is a powerful and demanding question. Go and sin no more give all of us the freedom to lose our guilt and shame before God, others and ourselves. I can rest my life and conscience in Jesus. As I lose my guilt and shame, that’s something worth not finding again.

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] John 8:1-11

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Broken brotherhood

When I’m not on the road, I have lunch with a group of longtime friends on Wednesday afternoons. Some of these men grew up here in central Florida, others of us are transplants. We are as different in background, upbringing, education, financial status and careers as you could possibly imagine.

We’ve met in at least 8 different restaurants over the 14+ years we’ve been together. None of our meeting places were what you would call “haute cuisine” by any stretch of the imagination. We started in the upstairs room of Jeanette’s (a local lunch spot long since gone) followed by The China Pearl that proudly served the best (and only) Chinese buffet, Mongolian Barbeque and cat in town. There were several other short stops along the way but our longest by far was Wilbur’s. They served the best southern/soul food in central Florida; fried chicken, fried gizzards, fried livers, fried fish, fried shrimp, fried okra, fried hamburger, fried onion rings (by now you get the idea that they fried just about everything.) Red velvet cake was their signature desert, sending anyone into a diabetic coma. There was a certain ambiance to Wilbur’s that started with the fact that the floor was so sticky that you could literally come out of your shoes as they remained fixed to the grease infused carpet while you kept walking. We’d probably still be there if the health department hadn’t shut them down, or if they had paid the rent.

These days we meet at La Botana, serving the best Mexican food around. It’s located in the back of a convenience store with about 6 tables and a small kitchen, but the food is really phenomenal and at modest prices. The burritos are huge, homemade salsa (pico de gallo, salsa verde) and hot sauce that burns the top two layers of flesh from your month, tongue and throat. I know of nowhere else in central Florida where I can get pork cheek tostadas. Yes, that’s correct, they take the cheek from a pig’s head, cook it and serve it on a fried tortilla with lettuce, tomato, onions, salsa, sour cream, etc. While the floor is not nearly as memorable as Wilbur’s, you really need to bring an English-to-Spanish app on your smart phone if you’re not totally fluent in Spanish.

As a group we’ve been through thick and thick together, good times and bad. We’ve lived and walked together through births, deaths, cancer, graduations, comas, successes, failures, weddings, moral failures, loud laughter and uncontrollable weeping. I count it an incredible honor to call these men my friends.

Recently a son and wife of one guy both experienced broken bones in relatively short succession right after one another; one ankle and one collarbone, one hairline and one requiring surgery. As he took us through what he and his family were experiencing, I could hear their personal pain of the breaks, changes in lifestyles; the long and painful recovery process. It was helpful for them to know there were others that went through similar experiences. They were surprised to receive an email with an attached x-ray showing a wildly shattered fibula where Humpty Dumpty was put back together again with 7 screws and a metal bar. And unless you’ve had the most unfortunate opportunity to see me in shorts without shoes or sox, and then looked closely at my ankle for scars, you would never know that it was my x-ray.

I think it’s safe to say that we all have scars of some kind; some are more visible than others. Some are physical, some are emotional. Some live with open wounds that are really sensitive to the touch. They will do anything to protect that hurt from being bumped up against, or even noticed.

And scars do not travel alone; they come with their close cousin, pain. I know that some of you feel totally alone right now in your pain and your suffering. You have a sense of living on a small, pain infested island with no bridge, no lifeline, no ferryboat, no rescue.

It may come as something of a surprise to hear that God personally did this too. He didn’t sit up in heaven and just look down at us. No, he personally “experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing” that you and I go through. Without any anesthesia, he felt the complete and total force of the pains we endure, but not just to collect information or experiences. In Jesus, God came and went through the same things we do so he “would be able to help where help was needed.” [1]

Hope and comfort start by knowing that we are not alone. But we need someone to walk with us daily as we feel the searing intensity of pain. And because God experienced all sides of pain just like we do, he is able to help you and me in our deepest pit.

While living in another part of the country, I stopped by to visit a mother a few days after her son was discovered in his apartment by friends. He had struggled for most of his adult life with drug addiction, having been in and out of several rehab facilities. Speaking about his apparent overdose while standing in her front yard, I heard a broken woman and mother talk about the red-hot dagger in her heart. I watched tears of anguish and heartbreak roll off her cheeks and onto the ground. Feeling totally inadequate, I listened and put my arm around her. Through the tears and pain she slowly but surely moved from talking about her deep sorrow and transitioned to how God was with her and her family. She explained how comforting it was to know that Jesus had gone through every temptation that we had, and was there to help us. I marveled at how she left the pain to lean on his love. As she began to wrap up her story, she told me that Jesus was there to help her and was truly comforted by the old hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour.” I looked into her tearful, red eyes and with a great sense of unworthiness finally said something. “Yes, every hour, and sometimes every minute, every second.”

That’s the kind of God Jesus is. He went through pain, grief, disappointment, experiencing separation and loneliness more than we’ll ever know. And he did this all for us, to bring us back into a right relationship with him. And once reunited with God, we can move forward reuniting with one another…a band of brothers.

Bring your pain, scars and problems to Jesus today. He’s the only solution, the only savior, the only source for healing.

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] Hebrews 2:18

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dancing with God

Coming into this life, I was placed in a multi-ethnic family environment. As you can guess from my last name, my father’s heritage is Polish. What is hidden from view is that my mother’s family is from Italy. This very interesting combination not only afforded me many different forms of food and music, I also was a very convenient verbal piƱata for all sorts of ethnic jokes and slurs. I’ll let your imaginations do the work there.

One thing that both Polish and Italian cultures embrace is dancing, and my parents were great at it. When they first met after World War II, they would go out dancing with their friends all around Baltimore. And since my grandmothers bore a total of 28 aunts and uncles, there were plenty of weddings for my almost innumerable cousins affording countless opportunities for dancing.

Whenever my parents got up to dance, they were the center of attention. Their faces lit up with excitement and enjoyment as they moved across the floor with such great grace and energy. People would move off the dance floor just to watch them, clapping with the music and finishing the number with applause for the music, the entertainment and my parents.

It was a source of pride to be their son. Family members, friends and even strangers would come up to them; shake their hand, patting them on the back. Everyone was astounded and amazed at their dancing skill.

At one point in my life I was absolutely convinced that dancing was a learned talent and not genetic. I came to this scientific and statistical conclusion because I have enough trouble just walking, no less dancing. You would be amazed, or perhaps you wouldn’t, to know how many times I trip over myself, a leaf on the sidewalk, crack in the street or curb. My knees, elbows, hands and head all bear the scars of countless close encounters of the third kind with the floor, street, sidewalk, pieces of furniture.

But dancing appears to be one of those DNA things that skip a generation. Our daughter Jenny is a phenomenal swing dancer. Watching her live and through video clips, my jaw still drops as she effortlessly moves across the floor, synchronized with her dancing partner; arm in arm, spinning, moving across the floor while they talk. With great big smiles on their faces and laughter in their hearts, they move within a crowd of other dancers like a great school of fish who are all connected by some mysterious, invisible string. When the dance is over, they clap and laugh while I trip and almost fall trying to get a bottle of water.

While some of us can dance better than others, we all desire this kind of close friendship and contact with people. Even though I trip over myself as I just walk across a dance floor, there is still that hidden part of me that wants to dance. And somewhere deep down we also want this with God. We want a close, transparent and open relationship with God but we somehow feel dirty, unworthy and guilty about approaching him.

The great news is that God wants to dance with us. More than just a close, step by step and completely open and ongoing connection, God wants to be part of our lives. To prove it, he came in Jesus Christ, fully God and completely human all at the same time. The Bible uses some very interesting and relational language to describe Jesus as someone who is “alongside” and “near” us. He is also “holding with” us in this life and forward into all eternity. [1]

When we read those words, doesn’t it sound just like dancing? God wants to be alongside us, moving step by step with us, holding onto us. Yes, God wants to dance with you and me. But as with dancing, it can’t be forced. He offers to dance with us, but we have to reach out our hand and welcome him alongside. He will not force us to dance with him. But we know that he greatly wants to dance with us. Our part is to open ourselves up to his invitation to dance.

Now I can hear some of you saying, “But Chet, you don’t know how I’ve stumbled and fallen in the past. My hands, mind and life are dirty from all my dancing disasters.” While that is true for all of us, God also knows all about us yet he openly and freely wants to dance with us, face to face.

I would really encourage you to reach out your hand and life to Jesus, inviting him to dance with you today. He’s life’s great dancing partner, knowing us, looking into our hearts with love and acceptance. As we live and dance with him, gliding side-by-side, arm-in-arm,  hand-in-hand with us across the dance floor of life.

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] Hebrews 2:14

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thank you for the pain

Now the topic and conclusion may be up for debate, but when I picture myself I sort of think that I’m a semi-intelligent human being… Now that the immediate laughter has died down a bit, I really do think of myself as somewhere right in the middle when it comes to smarts. With my educational experience to the contrary, some people have even thrown out the idea that I’m even a bit smart. But all that went down the drain when I spoke with a clerk the other day at the county courthouse.

My passport is coming up for renewal, so I went online to find out what form needed to be filled out. I was a bit stunned to easily find the form because governmental web sites are notoriously overly complex and difficult to navigate. Not only did I easily find the form, there was even a $4 off coupon for the required passport photo. Quickly printing and filling out the prerequisite form with information that took neither time nor talent, I clipped it together with the coupon and old passport.

Laying out my plan and route carefully, I retrieved the prepared items and began what I thought was going to be a “walk in the park.” Everything necessary to complete the renewal application and process, including the coupon, was in my folder as I left the house for what turned out to be another Gilligan’s “three hour tour.” First stop the pharmacy for the obligatory passport photo with $4 off coupon in hand. The photo process took no more than 5 minutes and I walked out a very happy customer with my newly minted (and $4 discounted) photo’s in hand.

Jumping over to the courthouse, I went through security and joked with the officers about my hip replacement that was sure to set off their metal detector. Walking briskly down the hall, I stood in line with all the joy and confidence of an Olympian competing against third-graders. What could possibly go wrong?

When the next window opened, I almost floated over and said “Hi” to Nancy, the clerk from a place a little bit lower than heaven. I handed her my completed form and was about to surrender my passport when it all started; a 17 minute detailed doctoral dissertation diatribe about the correct way (and there is truly only one proper way) to fill out the all-important document needed to renew my passport. Some of my passport faux pas included;

Using a pen with blue ink and not black – What was I thinking, using blue ink and not black! Why didn’t my Federal government guardian angel scream from the heavens to prevent me from committing this most heinous and offensive of paperwork sins?

Photos not properly stapled – Not having an engineering degree, I did not realize the importance of stapling the pictures exactly square on the form. Now that I think back on it, I must have set off the small earthquake in the south pacific on the day that I stapled my picture on the form; unbalancing the tectonic plates on which we live.

Not having my date of birth on the memo line of my check – this one really caught me by surprise. When I originally looked over the form, nowhere did I see this. But at this point in the process I was exhausted and not in the mood to argue, I just made a mental note and hoped that my stay in paperwork hell was just about over. But because of who I am, I had to find out. So, I read and re-read the form over and over, and by golly there it was; buried in a word map that would have challenged Indiana Jones! Yes, I had to admit, the form did actually tell me that this was an actual governmental requirement for the form.

There were numerous other details that Nancy covered, all being vitally important or the planets would stop spinning around the sun. Her final advice was that I needed a “big paperclip” to properly hold all my paperwork together. I smiled, thanking her for her concern but assured her that I had large paperclips at home. Her entire facial structure seemed to fall, her forehead came over her eyes while her mouth gaped oven as if to say, “You poor unfortunate thing, you have no idea how you have just stepped into it, offending the paperclip gods.” She repeated my desperate need for a large paperclip over and over, each time the tone of her voice dropped lower and lower, as if to add importance with her anxious call for my paperwork redemption.

Leaving with my tattered clerical tail between my legs, I tried to stay in the shadows so as not to draw any attention to my setback and shame. I hung my head as I slowly made my way through the courthouse, wanting to remain anonymous in humiliating defeat.

Looking back on my encounter with Nancy, I took a few minutes to think about what some people will stand up and fight for. In my unfortunate case, she was the expert and I was just a poor, unfortunate and uneducated person from the wrong side of the forms. While this will not permanently damage my psyche, we’ve all witnessed and even participated in endless wrangling about seemingly meaningless details. I once witnessed a heated, long and loud debate over who was poorer as a kid.

We do the same thing with God; we bring mountains of anger and details to God, demanding definite rulings about our “rights.” We look down out nose at others, pumping ourselves up while putting them down in their place.

Jesus tells a story about two people just like us praying to God [1]; the first is right, self-important and arrogant. With his head held high he thanks God that he is not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers. At the end of his prayer, he informs God how lucky he is to have him on his team, not like that “sinner” in the back row. The second guy in the back row is so sorry and embarrassed that he refuses to look up to heaven. Instead, he looks down and humbles himself before God. No attempt to justify his failures, his only prayer and hope before God is to ask for mercy and forgiveness. Jesus concludes that the second guy was forgiven, restored and made clean before God.

Our hope for a relationship with God is not to try and impress him with our accomplishments, knowledge, power, rightness – they are like the dirtiest rags imaginable. The only way to be truly made right with God is to admit that we cannot fix ourselves and throw ourselves on his mercy. That’s why Jesus came, lived, died and rose from the dead; to make a way back to God for us and all who are willing to abandon their self-righteousness.

Instead of bending God’s ear with how great we are, we need to bow down and loose our arrogance and receive his mercy. Now that’s an argument well worth losing.

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] Luke 18:9-14

Thursday, January 31, 2013

1 + 1 = 1

It just doesn't always work out well. You take one thing you like and add it to another thing you like; the results can be a whole lot less than satisfying.

For example; I really like fried onions on hamburgers, cheese steaks or with a nice piece of meat. I like my onions sauteed in butter till just golden brown. They add flavor and make the whole experience seem upscale as opposed to just plain, every day and garden variety. I also like cooked peaches. They are great in hot peach pie or cobbler. Cooked in butter, they are so tender and sweet, melting in your mouth with just a hint of sugar and cinnamon added to spice things up. Here 1 + 1 = 2.

Well by now you’re guessing that I did the unimaginable. Yes it’s true; I did make a dish combining both onions and peaches, cooking them together in a frying pan with butter. To say that the culinary results were less than satisfying would be an understatement of epic proportions. To say that it made me gag is historically accurate as I quickly took the limp mass of onions and peaches to the trash. There was no standing on ceremony or playing of “Taps” as they slid out of the pan and into the bottom of the plastic trash bag. There was momentary panic as I realized that the still hot peaches and onions might melt the plastic bag thereby enshrining the epicurean glob on the trash can itself. Thankfully, the NASA designed plastic trash bag maintained it structural integrity as it only melted a bit. In this case, 1 + 1 = -1.

This idea of adding two good things together with less than spectacular results is true in more than just cooking. Take war for example, it just doesn’t always work when you take one thing and add something else to it; the results can be dumb beyond belief. During World War II, the Nazi’s found this out when they created the Mistel, also known as Vati und Sohn (Daddy and Son) by stacking two planes together to create a single “super bomb.” They took a fighter and mounted it on top of a bomber loaded with explosives. Linking the two planes and their controls together, they created a single composite aircraft that was piloted from the fighter. Taking off as a single linked aircraft, the pilot guided the craft towards it target, releasing the bomber to self-detonate on impact. This little known technology was employed in the defense of Normandy on D-Day and some other operations in the European theater.

The idea sounded reasonably good, and there were early indications that this would work.  However,  there was one huge problem that no one foresaw. The combined aircraft was incredibly slow and awkward, making it an easy target for Allied fighters to hunt down and shoot out of the sky. After very limited use towards the end of the war, they were abandoned as a weapon. None of the combined aircraft survived the war; one fighter with its explosive bolts still intact is on display at the Imperial War Museum in London. Here 1 + 1 ≠ 2.

While cooking and war planes give us bad examples of trying to mix things together, so do our lives. We try to continually mix things together that will only wind up causing grief, pain and trouble. It’s like “The Deal” episode from Seinfeld;

Jerry: Because this... [friendship gesturing between them] is very good.

Elaine: [gesturing to the bedroom] And that would be good.

Jerry: That [repeating bedroom gesture] would be good too.

Jerry: See the idea's to combine this [friendship gesturing] and that [gesturing to the bedroom]. But this [friendship gesturing] cannot be disturbed.

Elaine: Yeah, we just want to take this [friendship gesturing] and... add that [gesturing to the bedroom].

Jerry: There you go.

Not only do we muddy the waters of life by mixing things together, we infect our relationship with God in the same way. We take a little bit of this, a little bit of that and mix it with a smidgen of something else only to create a Faith Frankenstein of who God is. We manufacture God with our personal likes, desires and imagination, winding up with a god idol of our own making. We choose who God is, who we are and how to reconnect with him. I have a friend in the Midwest that was raised in a Christian church setting who is mixing all sorts of ideas from around the religious universe. His picture of God is now an old man, benign, powerless, and not at all interested in our lives. Being left to fend spiritually for himself, he seeks out control and knowledge through crystals and personal empowerment through an impersonal power. My friend’s journey and conclusions are not at all unusual. I hear the same voyage of spiritual loneliness, emptiness and abandonment in many.

The really good news is that the complete opposite is true; God wants a deep, face-to-face, transparent personal relationship with us. He is not a far away, unknowable, impersonal power. We see his clear desire and message about this when the Bible describes Jesus as God who personally came here for us [1]. God is not trying to hide out; he’s reaching out to and for us. He’s so desires this kind of relationship that Jesus did whatever was necessary to reunite us, suffering and dying to restore us to God, our meaning and purpose in life and for all eternity

God offers us himself, and that’s where 1 + 1 really does equal 1.

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]        John 1:1-4 We are writing to you about something which has always existed yet which we ourselves actually saw and heard: something which we had an opportunity to observe closely and even to hold in our hands, and yet, as we know now, was something of the very Word of life himself! For it was life which appeared before us: we saw it, we are eye-witnesses of it, and are now writing to you about it. It was the very life of all ages, the life that has always existed with the Father, which actually became visible in person to us mortal men. We repeat, we really saw and heard what we are now writing to you about. We want you to be with us in this—in this fellowship with the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son. We must write and tell you about it, because the more that fellowship extends the greater the joy it brings to us who are already in it. (JBP)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Put it out of its missery

Once again we are in that empty void of time and space between the end of the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Rather than do nothing, the NFL is dragging out the Pro Bowl in order to solve insomnia for millions. To say that it is a boondoggle for players, league officials, the media and their families is to give it more credit than it deserves. While the game was originally designed to generate finds for player retirement, that need has long gone the way of the dodo bird with the advent of multi-million dollar contracts and a $9-billion television agreement. Now players stand around and dance with one another when the ball is hiked until someone falls or goes out of bounds.

But the Pro Bowl is worthy of our time and attention as it brings up the question of what to do with things that just aren’t worth anything anymore. There are literally thousands of things that we once thought indispensable that just need to be thrown away. Here are a few;

  • I had an 8-track player and I loved blaring out rock and roll in my in my 1968 Plymouth Valiant (not exactly a muscle car that was going to impress anyone). There is someone in our local farmers market who is still selling them – I have no idea who or why anyone would buy them other than they need something to collect dust.
  • We put carbon paper in between pages to make copies of notes and letters. It was a terrible mess and (heaven forbid) when you made a mistake, you had to erase all the copies behind the original. Yet for all its trouble, it was a life saver in the pre-Xerox days. I was really surprised to find that Staples and other office supply stores still sell it.
  • Whenever I had a bad cold, my mom would rub Vicks VaproRub on my chest to stop my coughing and relieve congestion. If I was really sick she would push some of it up my nose. It smelled really weird but doing it was not up for debate and I didn’t have a vote either. Mary Ann’s grand dad was really bullish about VapoRub and its benefits. Not only did he eat it, he would smear it in his eyes.

I’m sure you could easily add to this list. There are so many things that we once thought important but have slipped into triviality and worthlessness.

Some people feel that way about themselves. Once they felt important, had things to do, places to go, people to meet. Now they feel like their lives are filled with hollow hours of depression, loneliness and emptiness. It doesn’t matter that their schedules may be filled; there is still this ache in their heart that something is missing.

  • Lives that were once filled with activity and energy are silenced by injury or illness
  • Entering retirement with expectations of freedom and an “active adult lifestyle” you wake up every morning wondering who you are, feeling empty
  • A home that you hoped would be filled with the laughter of children or grandchildren is a silent, lonely cave because pregnancy will not come
  • With the death of a loved one, there is a deep hole in your soul that will not be closed or healed
  • The kids have grown up and moved on leaving you with only hollow memories and pictures gathering dust

There was a man named Zach that felt this way about himself and his life; hated and all alone. No one liked him, his job made him despised by everyone. Working for the army of an occupation army, he was a traitor and was regularly stealing from his neighbors. Zach heard that Jesus was coming so he climbed up a tree to get a good look because he was short (I wonder if people made fun of him because he was short too.) Anyway, when Jesus sees him up in that tree, he calls to Zach by name and invites himself over for dinner. Zach was really excited that someone as popular and important as Jesus wanted to be with him, in his house. There was a lot of mumbling in the crowd because everyone knew that Zach was a traitor and a thief. Looking at Jesus, Zach immediately gave half of everything he owned and promised to pay back everyone four-times what he stole. Jesus then announced to the crowd that Zach was one of them, a brother, neighbor and fellow countrymen.

Jesus then concludes with the radical words that he had come looking for the lonely and lost so he could restore them. [1]

No matter what the problem, Jesus never turned away from a person or a problem. People came to him with all sorts of pain, suffering, death and questions. He never sent people away, he never told them to fix themselves, he always reached out and received them.

No matter what our circumstances, God’s feeling and choice for us is one of love, reception and redemption. You are not a mistake, you are not worthless and neither is your life.

When you think that you are alone in your pain and suffering, remember that it’s not because God does not care. It is not that he hates us; nothing could be further from the truth. He cares greatly. His love is so deep that he was willing to send Jesus for us.

So if you feel all along and you're stuck up a tree, reach out to Jesus. Hanging onto him can and will make all the difference in your 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.

Source: [1] Luke 19:1-9