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

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Afraid to fail

This Sunday provided two examples of leadership and a quality that is very rare today. Jim and John Harbaugh became the first brothers scheduled to coach against one another in the upcoming Super Bowl. Jim and the San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons, returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since Steve Young was their quarterback. John and the Baltimore Ravens beat the heavily favored New England Patriots and will be returning to the Super Bowl for their second time.

In all the hype that surrounds the "brother on brother" side of the game, both Jim and John exhibited a leadership quality that is very rare in professional sports, not to mention life in general. While the NFL does not stand for "No Failure League," both head coaches made significant and high risk decisions in the middle of this year. By nature, NFL head coaches are reluctant to take major risks, it’s better for job security to play it safe whenever possible.

Jim rolled the dice first. He made the controversial call to stick with former backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick after Alex Smith, San Francisco’s starter had recovered from a concussion. Jim figured the speedy, athletic Kaepernick was the right guy to help the 49ers take a bigger step this season. Clearly, Jim nailed that one.

John was no less on point in his assessment of what Baltimore needed. With the Ravens in a three-game slide in mid-December, he fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promoted quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell. Baltimore’s offense has surged in the postseason — and quarterback Joe Flacco has never played better.
Kaepernick and Caldwell were put into position to succeed because the Harbaughs weren't afraid to fail. They were willing to make a tough decision that, on paper looked like a high risk choice. They were willing to do the unusual and that’s uncommon in the coaching business, and in the game of life.

Sometimes we face choices just in the normal pace of life, sometimes they are thrown in our face. There is a scene in “You’ve Got Mail” where the writers and actors express it so well;

So, dearie, what have you decided to do?

Close. We're going to close.

Closing the store is the brave thing to do.

You are such a liar. But thank you.

You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life. I know it doesn't feel like that. You feel like a big failure. But you're not. You are marching into the unknown, armed with...nothing. Have a sandwich.

Yes, we all face tough choices. Some seem easy to make, others not so much. These choices face us in life, business, relationships, at home and in our decisions about faith. Jesus made this abundantly clear when he told his closest and most dedicated followers “What good can it do a man to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul?”

Jesus gives us precious little wiggle room when it comes to who he is and what changes he needs to make in our life. He clearly claims to be God the creator and sustainer of the universe who came down from heaven because we had broken our relationship with God. And since we could not fix ourselves or our brokenness, he had to come and repair us in and through himself. He offers himself as the only solution for the “hole in our soul” between us, God, others and life itself.

But Jesus comes as a gentleman; he offers himself and his solution for our brokenness. It’s right there for the taking, but we have to receive his great gift of himself. He does not ram it down our throat but offers himself as a gift. So, the high risk choice is to continue trying to fix ourselves or to turn our lives over to Jesus to repair, renovate and refurbish our life. That sounds like a no-brainer to me.  What have you got to lose?

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.

  • Super Bowl XLVII: Big gambles by both Harbaughs put their teams in the final game, by Jason Reid, January 21, 2013,
  • Mark 8:36

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is that all there is?

Depending on where you live, or where you grew up, this weekend provided an extreme set of highs and lows. We moved into the middle of the NFL playoffs and the greater portion of prime time television was jam-packed full of pregame analysis, play-by-play coverage, interviews, and post-game autopsies with the winners and losers.

For me personally, last week was quite satisfying, as the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Indianapolis (once the Baltimore) Colts. Yes, there is justice!

This weekend, the Baltimore Ravens faced the Denver Broncos and played into double overtime. While ”a pall like silence” fell on the  Denver fans, there were shouts of jubilation in Baltimore, as a rookie kicked a field goal to secure the victory.

Throughout my contacts on Facebook and e-mail, the Internet was alive and sang with great excitement over this incredible victory. There were great notes of happiness, but now everyone has settled back into Monday and every day existence, uncertain if today is worth living or not as they look towards the game against New England this weekend.

In the midst of this football frenzied weekend, an important, but little known individual committed suicide.   Aaron Swartz, 26, was found dead in his apartment after hanging himself. Aaron became an Internet folk hero at the age of 14 when he helped to create RSS (Rich Site Summary) which gives you the ability to publish and receive frequently updated information such as blogs, news headlines, audio and video in standard format. Virtually every commercial website makes this available so you can get updated information automatically. Within the Internet community, he was famous, receiving high praise and accolades for his brilliance and foresight, not to mention that financially he lacked for nothing

The topic of suicide may make you uncomfortable or you think that it doesn't touch you in your life. I understand, but suicide has deeply impacted me and my family. I have three close family members that have also come and ended their life. The statistics about suicide in America are epidemic in proportion:

  • 38,364 – US annual suicide rate
  • 959,100 nonfatal attempts at suicide
  • one suicide every 13.7 minutes across the US
  • one suicide every day for active military personnel, now eclipising deaths in combat
  • third leading cause of death among US young behind accidents and homicide

Depression and suicide do not discriminate; no matter your background or personality we are all susceptible. You could've had an economic windfall or free-for-all, depression and suicide are equal opportunity oppressors.

If we live in a world that was created by chance, then Aaron's actions make sense. No matter what our achievements, no matter our bank account, no matter our past, present or future; there truly is nothing to look forward to.

Remember Melvin Udall, as played by Jack Nicholson in "As Good As It Gets?" He asks if this is all there is to life and is this as good as it gets. While Jack received the Oscar for best actor, his portrayal and words knife us in the heart as we ask the same question about ourselves? Our life? Whether there is any meaning and purpose?

Jesus understands our needs for comfort and strength to live today, even though depression and suicide. He does not promise to eliminate it; he does not give us a winning lottery ticket to solve all our feelings of guilt, depression, inadequately or failure. What he does offer us is himself. He offers “rest for our souls” when we come to him exhausted, worn out, bent over with the weight of everything that we carry around inside.

This past week I ran into a situation where I came to that place. Working hard to achieve a goal, things just didn’t work out. Try as hard as I might, it just didn’t come to fruition. My life’s history would lead me down the well-worn path of feeling spent, discouraged, like a failure. But then a dear friend spoke words of truth and encouragement into my life. He grabbed my face, looked me straight in the eye and said “Don’t let this bother you. Jesus has great love for you.” Words cannot express what a difference that made to me.

While I’m not right there with you, let me reach out and repeat those same words to you. Jesus has open hands and arms to hold us, open ears to listen and an open heart to love. Strength, renewal and encouragement come when we bring it all to Jesus. He alone can share our burdens and walk with us. No one else in all history made such a claim, and he keeps his promises…there is more.

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.

Sources:, Internet Activist, a Creator of RSS, Is Dead at 26, Apparently a Suicide, By JOHN SCHWARTZ, January 12, 2013, Suicides Outpacing War Deaths for Troops, By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS, June 8, 2012
Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.