"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25

"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." -Proverbs 12:25
Midnight Blue (1963): Jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell featuring Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Major Holley on double bass, Bill English on drums and Ray Barretto on conga. Midnight Blue is one of Burrell’s best-known works for Blue Note Records. In 2005, NPR included the album in its "Basic Jazz Library", describing it as "one of the great jazzy blues records".

He said, She said...

"You are not designed for everyone to like you - Wise Man Phil

FRAGILE: Sting, Yo Yo Ma, Dominic Miller & Chris Botti

Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

Celebrate: to observe (a day) or commemorate (an event) with ceremonies or festivities: to celebrate Christmas; to celebrate the success of a new play.

Let the party begin?

One of America's greatest songwriters and writer of Broadway scores is Fran Loesser. During his brilliant career he gave us the Broadway hits "Guys & Dolls" and "How To Succeed In Business Without Trying". He won Tony awards and an Oscar for best song "Baby, It's Cold Outside".

In 1947 he wrote a song that was perfected by voice in 1963 by Ohio native Nancy Wilson, the song was "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve".

Nancy Wilson

 The lyrics are simple, the message is obvious and the feelings are transferable.

Maybe it’s much too early in the game
Ah, but I thought I’d ask you just the same
What are you doing New Year’s
New Year’s Eve?

Wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight
When it’s exactly twelve o’clock that night
Welcoming in the New Year
New Year’s Eve

Maybe I’m crazy to suppose
I’d ever be the one you chose
Out of a thousand invitations
You’d receive

Ah, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance
What are you doing New Year’s
New Year’s Eve?

Wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight
When it’s exactly twelve o’clock that night
Welcoming in the New Year
New Year’s Eve

What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

The song is a pure classic.

Even this year the song was revisited by Zooey Deschanel & Joseph Gordon-Levitt , of 500 Days of Summer fame, with a huge following on youtube. Already this Holiday Season the song has been viewed over 3.5 million times and has over 45,000 likes.

And as classic as that song may be it will never be more popular or familiar as the pain many people feel during this time of year.

The Holiday's can be a lonely business for many.

Many aimlessly search for something to celebrate.

There was time that I didn't enjoy the Holidays at all.

From 1996 to 2006 the Holidays, especially Christmas, was a depressing time for me. I was divorced twice, completely broke and without any real joy in my life. I remember dropping off my children on many different Christmas Eve's contemplating that life has to have more to offer than this. I reasoned that the divorce(s) were good, and best, for the children, and everyone involved, but ultimately observed that there was a better way than this to experience a family; experience life.

At one of the lowest points in my life during a Holiday Season I found myself eating late night on Christmas Eve in a Waffle House feeling sorry for myself, and my stomach - the food was terrible - because deep down I knew I'd blown it and my life was effortlessly moving ever close to consistent moments of meaningless, and too many experiences void of any real satisfaction or joy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Home Team

Visitors: a person who visits, as for reasons of friendship, business, duty, travel, or the like.

Addison Reid Bailey (2008)

Yesterday like many of the Christmas Eve's of the past nineteen years I traveled to different communities, neighborhoods and houses to drop some of my kid(s) off at their homes. I call it home because as Sting once sang in his song "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying":

"The park is full of Sunday fathers and melted ice cream
We try to do the best within the given time
A kid should be with his mother
Everybody knows that

What can a father do but baby-sit sometimes?

Home is where a child belongs.

And though I value my role as a father, and see it as vital and significant, it is my belief that young children will always need the love and presence of their mother; a love, and presence, that can't be replicated or duplicated.

There is nothing like a mother's love; nothing like a mother's touch.

So with that being said, it was yesterday that I traveled to Addison's home after our Christmas Eve festivities that I was reminded of what a blessing it is to never be made to feel like a visitor in another persons home. In many situations the Holidays can be full of anger and anxiety; strife and stress for those that have blended families and unresolved anger and hurt from the past. I was reminded yesterday that scenario doesn't apply to me, and I'm very thankful for that.

Addison mother, stepfather and extended family have always treated me with great respect as Addison's father, and with genuine admiration and strong displays of affection.

They've never made me feel like a visitor.

I'm thankful for that and very thankful for the way Addison is loved and adored on a daily basis.

It gives me great comfort; tremendous peace.

Below is a letter I wrote Addison's mother and stepfather explaining to them how much I appreciate what they do.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Joy vs. Happiness

Keen: finely sharpened, as an edge; so shaped as to cut or pierce substances readily: a keen razor. Sharp, piercing, or biting: a keen wind; keen satire. Characterized by strength and distinctness of perception; extremely sensitive or responsive: keen eyes; keen ears.

 "I bring you good tidings of great joy."
-Luke 2:10

Contentment and joy often go hand in hand... and hand, and hand...

Many a thing does provide happiness.  

Trips to foreign destinations, material wealth and the bliss of a new romantic love all qualify for providing happiness in one's life. There are times of parental pride, positive performance reviews and financial gain that can make many people wonder aloud; "Is there anything better than this?"

I say yes there is, yes there is something, someone that is better than any temporary happiness we might enjoy on this earth.

Webster defines happiness as; "delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing."

Happiness is a good thing. 

On the other hand joy is defined as; "the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation."

I love the word keen; it's so specific and descriptive.

I mentioned earlier that "many a thing does provide happiness"; true, but I would add that the many things that can, and do, bring about happiness aren't long lasting and can't provide complete satisfaction.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Under the Sun

Chase: to pursue in order to seize, overtake, etc.: The police officer chased the thief. To follow or devote one's attention to with the hope of attracting, winning, gaining, etc.: He chased her for three years before she consented to marry him.

Under the Sun

1 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
 4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
 10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
   I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
   and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
   and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
   nothing was gained under the sun


This past Thursday I wrote a piece entitled "Reflection" where I provided commentary concerning the power of living an intentional life. I expressed my thoughts about how many of us, if not all of us at one time or another; live out our lives intentionally in areas that ultimately do us more harm than good. We seek monetary gain, material items and momentary moments of pleasure to give our lives meaning and our hearts contentment and satisfaction. And through all of our successful attempts to chase after that which we find so much value and enjoyment in we soon realize that all this effort is in vain, leaving our minds confused and discouraged; hearts saddened, our souls empty.

Chasing pleasure, chasing pride and property, chasing praise is no more meaningful or achievable than chasing after the wind. 

The wisest man that ever lived, Solomon, shares with us in Ecclesiastes 2:11 that no pleasure, no delight and no reward was meaningful apart from the presence of God in our lives.

Apart from God we are nothing; we have nothing. 

In my last piece I mentioned the words of C.S. Lewis, his words are still readily available in my mind as he spoke of the dangers of excessive delight and pleasure: "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is in our pleasure, and in our success, that we have the greatest potential to experience pain; cause others consternation.

It's hard to get ones attention when all is going well.

I went on to say that I realized once again how easy it is to say YES to pride, praise and pleasure in one or all of its worldly forms. It had become recognizable to me that the flesh is too easily influenced by pride, so easily impressed with praise, and tragically, so easily distracted by pleasure.

It is not my view or opinion that pleasure is bad, it is not. My point is that a life that is intentionally lived to provide as much pleasure as possible with as little pain is a very shallow existence. The sadness, and irony, is that kind of life has no purpose; has no point.

John Wesley was one of nineteen children and his mother, Susanna Wesley, was one of twenty-nine children - I cannot tell you how happy I am to report that someone else has more children than I - and when the young Wesley ask his mother what the definition of sin was she espoused this view and said these words: 

"Son, if anything weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things; in short, if anything increases the authority and power of the flesh over the Spirit, then that to you becomes sin, however good it is in itself."
In short, anything that gives power and increases the authority of flesh over the spirit becomes sin no matter how good that very thing is in of itself.

All of us have things we love to do that bring us great pleasure. For me it is playing the game of golf. I love to play golf, but at the end of the day there has to be a balance. The dilemma one faces when one loves to play golf is that ONE can't hold their wife and a golf club at the same time. If my pleasures routinely take me away from my family, and time spent away from them is because of an increased value and high importance placed on playing golf - or working, or spending time with friends, or writing - you fill in the appropriate pleasure for yourself - has been implemented over being with them than I've begun down a path of denying myself of my rightful, and Godly, responsibility to love, protect and cherish my family, and in short invited God's dismay and ultimately, sin into my life. 

Ravi Zacharias puts it this way; "any pleasure that jeopardizes the sacred right of another is an illicit pleasure." Our hobbies, work and or golf are not the problem; it is the excessive and inexcusable value one might, and frequently does, put on them that should be a concern.

Wordily illicit pleasures usually come at the expense of pain in our, and our loved ones, life. 

The Godfather: Marlon Brando

Don Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, in the epic silver screen gem, The Godfather, said these words: "Do you spend time with your family? Good. Because a man that doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man."

If we choose pleasure over life and family priorities we can never be the person God intended us to be.

I love pleasure, but delight must be put in the correct context; perspective must be gained in the area of delight.

Proverbs 25 states; "If you find honey, eat just enough--too much of it, and you will vomit." Too much pleasure, any pleasure, however good it may be, will distort reality and destroy our appetite if not exercised with thoughtful perspective and balance.

You must entertain the area of pleasure with proper balance. 

Even if going to church is your pleasure, if you spend all your time within God's sanctuary without spending time outside to comfort and to confess to others the good news of Jesus Christ then I believe you have lost balance and perspective in your Christian walk.

In the end, it doesn't matter as much of what we do - within the keeping of the law - or what we vainly chase as much as it is paramount that we recognize that our calling or folly, our gift or false pursuit(s) will at some point test our character, and in that test our character will eventually be revealed to all the world to see.

Chase folly; gain failure. Chase God; gain freedom.

Anything we purse, anything we chase apart from God will reveal a character that has a high potential to stumble in difficult times, and fail in times of trial and tribulation. This often occurs because of a lack of God's direction and God's standard in one's life that isn't readily available.

There have been times in my life that my pleasures landed my feet in the world and other times they have been firmly planted, albeit for a short time, in God's kingdom. At other times my pursuit of worldly pleasures have left me straddling the proverbial fence with one foot in the world and one foot in His kingdom, only to have the spiritual crowed jewels that God has blessed me with being bruised and battered, all the while, rendering me somewhat helpless, and establishing in my mind that all folly, all false and fake pursuits, left me feeling empty and realizing the meaninglessness of it all.

I've come to realize and acknowledge, like Solomon, that there is nothing that can be accomplished or gained that has true value and that can provide complete satisfaction like God's presence in one's life.

Like chasing the wind, every pursuit is in some discernible way meaningless. Without God everything is meaningless; everything under the sun.

sbb 17.12.11

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Mirror: such a surface set into a frame, attached to a handle, etc., for use in viewing oneself or as an ornament. Any reflecting surface, as the surface of calm water under certain lighting conditions.

Last week during a particular time of the week that I can't recall I woke up before most of the house, I say most of the house because I'm almost certain a one little Reese Olivia was probably awake as I strolled downstairs at 5:15am. After I started brewing my hot tea I turned on the TV and found myself watching the 1981 silver screen treasure, On Golden Pond.

Movies are a great love of mine and though most movies of today aren't worth watching there are many movies of the past, like a great book, that can be taken up at the beginning, in the middle or at the very end. The Godfather I & II, Forrest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption are the types of movies and The Color of Water is such a book that can be viewed or read with the starting point being anywhere, somewhere between the beginning and the end.

On Golden Pond has that same pull.

I once held the belief that the movie was too boring and slow to really enjoy, but as I've grown older I now see, and appreciate, the message more than ever.

The movie has many different themes, but reflecting on the past seems to be the narrative that catches my eye the most. 

I found it ironic that I stumbled upon this 1981 gem because over the last month I've spent a considerable amount of time reflecting. I've purposely took some time away from writing because I wanted to reflect upon why I write and who I write for. Over the past year I've felt high levels of anxiety and unrest when I didn't write. I had made myself believe that I had to write something every day. This is not what I set out to do when I began writing in March of 2010. I somewhat felt that I had no control over the writing process, in some negative way it was in control of me.

Also, As my site started to grow with an increased readership I found myself being as excited about the "positive reviews", the emails full of praise, the thought of writing a book and the facebook messages sent by friends sharing with me their approval that I easily fell prey to pride and the trap of writing pieces with part of the reason, excitement and anticipation being about me and the praise I would gain from my typed words. At some point along the journey I was sharing my thoughts with the anxious anticipation of some praise worthy comment afterwards.

I had lost my compass. 

It's easy to lose our way if we have no direction or particular destination in mind.

After much reflection I realized that this is not why I started writing in the first place.

At the end of the day the reason I write should not be for my praise but for God's glory. God is the one that has provided me with the thoughts, words and writing style. 

Not me. 

I realized once again that it's extremely too easy to say YES to pride, praise and pleasure in one or all of its worldly forms. The flesh is so easily influenced by pride, so easily impressed with praise, and tragically, so easily distracted by pleasure.

Pride, praise and pleasure come in many forms, but when one's name is attached to any or all of the three it can have an affect on the mind and spirit in the same way three shots of whiskey drank back to back... to back can have. 

Sometimes it's easy to become drunk with praise when we start to drink it glass after glass.

Speaking of drinking, I Corinthians 10:31 states; "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

So with this renewed view and refocused purpose my desire each time I write is to become more intentional with the goal being twofold: to encourage others and to do it for God's glory, not mine. 

Earlier this month I was reminded of this principle of intentionality as our pastor at Cypress Wesleyan began a sermon series entitled "iChristmas". Once again I was amazed at the timing of the message as to how it related to my life at that very moment. 

With the story of the three "Wise Men" as the backdrop all in attendance discovered the power of being intentional as Pastor Ken shared with us his sermon.

Senior Pastor, Ken Murphy

And as we learned how little we really knew about the Magi what we did discover through God's scripture and Ken's words concerning these men that had traveled thousands of miles to see Jesus was the power of intentionality and the positive effect it can have on our lives. Ultimately, what we gleaned from these men's lives was that they said Yes to God before they said Yes to themselves; they were intentional in their commitment to God to the point of following a star to their final destination.
As you read in Matthew 2 the story of the three Wise Man from the Far East you soon realize that they were instructed to follow a star in search of the newborn King, the King of the Jews. Eventually the Magi ended up in the capital city of Jerusalem and had an audience with King Herod, the appointed king of the Jews by the Roman Senate.

As you can imagine King Herod was none too happy, or impressed, with the announcement that the three men were there in search of the one that had been born King of the Jews. Herod, a shrewd, ruthless ruler who killed his own wife and three sons for fear of being overthrown, says, "Go make a careful search and I will come worship as well."

Yea, right.

Even as you read that statement now some 2000 years later you can hear and feel the disingenuous nature of his words.

King Herod worshiped no one but himself.

We find out later in the Matthew 2 that the men traveled another five miles to finally arrive in Bethlehem where they bowed in worship and then presented their gifts. Finally, in a dream the men were instructed not to return home the same route they came in an attempt to avoid King Herod. 

As I mentioned earlier these Wise Men display the power of intentionality. 

Specifically, I want to note three aspects of intentionality that the Magi embodied that can shape our future efforts and aid us in living more purposeful lives.

The Intentionality of Pursuit

To fully pursue something you have to be fully invested. Every fiber of your being has to be on-board when pursuing anything that is meaningful and life transforming. Anything that is grand and meaningful comes with a price tag, that price is commitment. It is said that if you aim at nothing that you're sure to hit something; aim at something and life immediately has direction, meaning and purpose. Many of us are aiming at something. We aim at material items, experiences and elevated finances, some of us pursue people that can help us, events that will provide a high and stimulate us and items that will provide an escape. In the end we are all chasing something, and while we run after empty vessels we realize that nothing under the sun can satisfy us or fill our empty void. The chase can be after peace and perfection, status and style or dreams and destruction. In the end we are all defined by what we say Yes to; what we pursue. The Magi said Yes to the pursuit of Christ. What are you pursing? The Magi's intentional pursuit led to their focused investment of time, money, effort and resources. As a result they experienced the Christ child. What would our life look like if we went all in for Christ and pursued Him with our complete heart?

Reflection #1: Is there an area of life where you sense God is asking you to increase your investment in your pursuit of Him? Possibly an area in which you used to be strong, but over the course of time you have slowed down. What better time than Christmas to get back on track?

The Intentionality of Desire 

The Magi modeled an intentionality that was not easily discouraged by detours. Many of us have read account after account of people who are highly successful never gave up or stopped pursuing their dream when obstacles appeared. It is said that Thomas Edison failed a 1000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb. One of my favorite quotes from Edison reads; "I make more mistakes than anyone else I know, and sooner or later, I patent most of them."

Thomas Edison was born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio.

The key principle here is to never allow anything stand between you and your dreams. Think for a moment how the Magi must have felt after their first meeting with Herod. Imagine how history would've drastically been altered if one, just one, of the men would've went home after meeting Herod. Many reasons and excuses would've been readily available to them; "I don't have any more money... I don't have the will to travel anymore... I'm tired of the unfamiliar territory and terrain." All of us have chosen to give up on certain things, we have all decided to quit when things got tough. We have left marriages, children and jobs because the detours, obstacles and challenges were too large in our mind to overcome. The one thought we must always remember and principle we all must entertain is that detours don't have to derail us from the destination; they just require more time, more patience.

Reflection #2: Peace, Joy, Hope. There will be a lot of detours to rob us of these things this month. What can we intentionally do, to stay on track? Daily devotions? Reading God's word? Intentionally plan out time to create memories? Embrace quiet time?

 Intentionality Free of Fear

Another quality the Magi modeled was an intentionality that was not defeated by fear or danger. Their strength and confidence solely rested in listening and obeying God's revelation. And it was because they listened and obeyed they avoided the danger that King Herod presented. One can't help to think how differently life would be for many of us if we would be more intentional in our daily lives when it comes to listening and obeying God's voice and word. How many challenges could've been avoided? In the midst of a challenge I wonder how differently life would have played out for me if I had intentionally listened and obeyed? Isaiah 41:10 states; "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Always remember God upheld the three Wise Men and countless others with His righteous and mighty right hand, He will do the same for you and I.

Reflection #3: Is there anything that you falsely fear? Is there anything you are aware of you should avoid, or be avoiding? If so ask for help and remember in the midst of challenge listen and obey. God has a plan for all of us, a plan that is specific to you and I that is free of worry, anxiety and ultimately fear.

 Vincent Van Gogh's reflections in Starry Night Over the Rhone.

In conclusion, as I reflect I think many of us would agree that we have said Yes too many things that have hindered our growth and our ultimate joy and peace. More than a few people have said Yes to excessive pleasure only to find the joy that is derived from that act is short lived, leaving us feeling empty. The funny thing about unbridled pleasure is that it often has a greater chance to kill us than pain does. C.S Lewis stated in his book "The Problem of Pain" that, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Success has never got mans attention like pain, but it is success that has a way of walking in the shadows unnoticed until at the last moment it presents itself to us as it trips us up with a grin on its face. 

So many times we invest our spirit, emotions and thoughts into pride, promotion and pleasure without counting the cost of such behavior. There are times that our behaviors are so deeply rooted in a faulty human mechanism that wrongly desires things that have no value and lusts after items we do not need. We often discount, deny and are void of any consideration concerning the outcome of our intentional poor behavior, and though many of these acts will not always destroy us they at the very least will always stain us for a lifetime. We will never be able to rid ourselves of negative acts and poor behaviors that we intentionally, without abandon, become committed to. Think of the wrongly spoken words to co worker, child or spouse, remember the emptiness and pain of a one night stand and remind yourself of the wasteful money that was spent chasing material gods while at the same time distressing our finances and damaging our credit. All of those things most likely will not kill us, but they will leave footprint, a stain that will be present for a lifetime. It's funny, and sad, what we decide to be intentional about.

Why not change what we become intentional about today?

The time is now to become intentional about things that will have lasting value in our lives and provides a peace that is indescribable, and a joy that can't be fully verbalized.

Decide today to become authentically and sincerely intentional for the rest of your life. 

More often than not a many of folk have been intentional about living with one foot in the kingdom and one in the world. During this time many will intentionally decide to follow their heart and not follow God. The irony is that the freedom that is being pursued often leaves us to our own vices and leads us to becoming a prisoner of pain and unhappiness.

It is only when we decide to eliminate the proverbial fence in our lives that we become free. When we make the decision to be firmly planted on God's side of the fence will be able to grow into what God has planned for us to become.

The choice is ours.

Intentionally seek God's face and watch how your life will be changed forever and how the inner workings of your heart and mind will become transformed in a way that all will sit up and take notice.

Reflect and say Yes to Him today.

He's waiting.

sbb  15.12.11