Monthly Archives: March 2015

Lunch With Jesus

The other day I had lunch with Jesus. That may or may not sound strange depending on who you are and what you believe. I have believed in God (the one and only God) for several years although I used to inaccurately envision Him as a detached supreme being, watching over His creation from afar, instead of as the encompassing, loving entity that He truly is. In actuality, He is much closer to us than we probably can even imagine. I wonder how I overlooked, for so many years, the fact that the name Immanuel (Jesus) actually means “God with us.” Duh! I no longer see God as being way out there in the universe somewhere because at times He’s in my own backyard. Literally!

I invited Jesus to have lunch with me this past week, and not surprisingly He accepted my invitation. I wish I could take credit for such a novel idea, but having lunch with Jesus was suggested by my pastor. He made the proposal to his congregation but only after experiencing the unconventional activity himself. Quietly praying to my Lord and Savior is an amazing thing, but speaking out loud to Him as a friend adds a whole other dimension to the relationship. At least that is what I have found to be true these past few years, so I was more than willing to partake in the soul training exercise as recommended.

I made myself a Reuben sandwich, but I did not make one for Jesus. I’m not crazy! However, I did pull out a chair for Him to sit on after bringing my Reuben, a handful of Cheetos, and a Snapple iced tea to the table outside underneath the covered patio. I began the luncheon by thanking Jesus for always being there with me even when I wasn’t truly aware of it in the past. I immediately thought about the beloved “Footprints in the Sand” poem as I visualized myself being carried by God. I was then compelled to thank Him for those trying times throughout my life when He absolutely “carried me.” I continued thanking Jesus, in between bites of my delicious sandwich and Cheetos, for my family and for all he has blessed me with.

I poured my heart out to my Savior with unconstrained emotion. I told Him what was on my mind, and I shared all of my recent concerns with Him. The time went by quickly, and I found I had much more to say to Jesus than I had anticipated. My sandwich had cooled off (as much as it could in the Arizona heat) before I was even halfway finished, but I continued conversing with my Lord until my plate was spotless. I admitted to Jesus I knew I had been hogging the conversation. I guess there was so much I needed to say and so much gratitude I wanted to express. I then informed Him I was going to shut up and just listen for a while because I longed to hear His voice in that special moment.

I also told Jesus how hearing a small voice would be fine, but a thunderous voice from Him would be a whole lot better because sometimes I’m not too bright, so subtleties are usually wasted on me. I closed my eyes and sat in silence. I listened intently but I didn’t hear a thing. I eventually opened my eyes and began surveying everything in the backyard before finally staring up at the sky in hopes of receiving some sort of a sign. Again, nothing. This new venture was foreign to me, so I wasn’t sure if I was executing the task in the proper manner or not. I decided to close my eyes and sit in silence some more. I heard myself softly repeating, “Please speak to me, I want to hear your voice.”

The popular biblical phrase, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” was the first thing that entered my mind for some reason. I promptly dismissed that notion because I figured maybe my ego was attempting to get in the way. Next, a pesky fly landed on my arm. It appeared to be the only one in my backyard, but obviously its mission was to bug me (pun intended) since it had been buzzing around the table the entire time I was having lunch with Jesus. Instantly, but only for a second or two, I thought, “Uh-huh, there’s a lesson to be learned here.” Maybe I had become easily annoyed lately, and Jesus was imploring me to “chill out.” Maybe.

Suddenly, I was no longer blanketed in peaceful silence. My neighbor to the east wandered out into his backyard, and soon I realized he was in no hurry to go back indoors. There was an incessant clanging, for the next several minutes, in which I perceived as having something to do with the transportation of ceramic flowerpots. Then a dog somewhere in the distance began barking and would not quit. A neighbor nearby, to the west of me, started-up some type of power saw that continued to run non-stop. Then I noticed an array of birds unified in one spirited song as though they were from the same choir. Another neighbor, on the other side of my southern cement wall, added to all of the other distractions by tossing his recyclables, one at a time of course, into an echoing receptacle.

Maybe I was being reminded of what my pastor has repeatedly proclaimed from the pulpit on Sunday mornings: We do not work where we work, play where we play, or live where we live by chance. I was placed in my neighborhood for a reason. As a follower of Christ I am called to be a good neighbor, and at times I am to be the light in someone’s darkness. Maybe I was suppose to be better aware of people’s needs especially of those who live around me. Probably. It was difficult for me to know for sure with the lack of silence now being so magnified. I told Jesus, “Apparently, our quiet lunch together is over, and maybe you didn’t have any earth-shattering thing to say to me at this time.”

As soon as the last word of that sentence left my mouth something happened. The once calm air transformed into a gusty wind upsetting the previously motionless wind chimes hanging above my head. The swaying chimes emitted a ding…ding…ding sound resembling what is commonly heard on television game shows when a correct answer is given by the contestant. It appeared as though Jesus was in agreement that our lunch date was indeed over. I began pondering what had transpired over the last hour, and I could not help but recall the “good and faithful” thought I initially had when I first sat there in silence. Maybe on this special occasion God simply was pleased I had taken the time to have lunch with Jesus.


Buy Dolce & Gabbana (Or Not)

In today’s society we’re seemingly entitled to our own opinion, on any given subject, as long as everyone else concurs with what is being said. Unfortunately, if someone does not agree with your position then you must brace yourself for a backlash of criticism and possibly a boycott of your product if you happen to own a business. Fashion designers, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, recently raised some eyebrows with a few of their comments made during an interview with Panorama magazine. The gay duo (and ex-couple) said, “We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one.” Mr. Dolce added, “You are born to a mother and a father – or at least that’s how it should be.” Then Dolce went on to say, “I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.”

I suppose this is where I’m forced to mention Elton John since apparently he was the first one who called for a boycott of Dolce & Gabbana products. The gay musician most-likely fueled the public firestorm because he was offended by the terminology used by Mr. Dolce. The “rocket man” and his husband are fathers to a pair of “synthetic children.” The very next day, after suggesting the boycott, Elton John was seen toting around a Dolce & Gabbana bag, and now both Dolce and Gabbana have somewhat backtracked on their previously made comments. I must admit I’m disappointed in the latter because I had mentioned to my lovely wife that I thought we should buy some Dolce & Gabbana clothes in support of the fashion designers’ words of wisdom. My wife said we couldn’t afford them. I think neither of us are even aware of what their products looks like.

Boycotting, on the surface, may seem to be a fairly plausible way of making a public statement against a business’ position on a specific issue; however, the end result of a boycott usually amounts to a bunch of smoke being blown and not much else. Do you remember when Chick-fil-A was boycotted due to their publicly held stance against homosexuality? Those who agreed with Chick-fil-A’s sentiments flocked to the chain restaurant in an attempt to counteract those who were boycotting the establishment. What about the boycott of the entire state of Arizona? A nationwide call was launched urging people to refrain from visiting the Grand Canyon State because of their government’s anti-illegal immigration policies. Letters came pouring in from other states offering their support and pledging to visit Arizona in the near future. Boycotts are basically nonsense: similar to that of protesting in the streets.

We all have our own, and sometimes unique, perspective on what we think is the acceptable, justifiable, and morally correct position on any given controversial topic imaginable. There is a tendency, at least for me, to create a boundary in my mind of what is acceptable and at what point the line gets crossed and then becomes unacceptable. Some people have no tolerance for homosexuality whatsoever. Some contend they are willing to concede civil unions to homosexuals, but they cringe at the thought of allowing them to marry. The consensus appears to be, amongst those opposed to gay-marriage, that the sanctity of marriage is destroyed when same-sex couples are given the right to partake in nuptials. Then there’s me. I have found that gay-marriage has not diminished the covenant between my wife and I one iota.

I certainly am not in favor of gay-marriage, yet it’s hard for me to be appalled by two consenting homosexual adults desiring to legally commit to one another. Surprisingly, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are supportive of gay couples, but they are firmly against gay-marriage. Additionally, they do not approve of homosexuals raising children; hence, their recent controversial statements regarding the use of in vitro fertilization amongst gay couples. Likewise, that’s where I “draw the line.” I completely agree with Mr. Dolce’s assessment that being born of both a mother and a father is the natural order of how things were intended. I’m positive that’s what our Creator had in mind when He made us.

I do think the luxury fashion designer could’ve chosen his words a bit more carefully when referring to children conceived through IVF. Technically the word “synthetic” is an accurate description of the process, but it sounds a little harsh nonetheless. I also disagree that everyone born through in vitro fertilization is a “synthetic child.” To me, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a married, heterosexual couple using their own egg and sperm, via the IVF method, to procreate if that’s their only viable option. I have no problem with a “rented uterus” as long as both the egg and the sperm is provided by the married couple.

It’s impossible for a homosexual to have his partners egg placed inside of him because there are no eggs. In the same manner, it’s impossible for a lesbian to have her partners sperm injected inside of her because there are no sperm. In both of the aforementioned examples an outside source would be mandatory, for enabling a pregnancy, which I think is extremely unnatural. Obviously, there’s a huge difference between homosexual couples wanting children and heterosexual couples desiring to start a family. My point is it’s natural for married, heterosexual couples to have and to raise children, but it’s unnatural for homosexual couples to do the same.

I’m not too enthused, for those of you now wondering, about single people using the IVF process to bear children as well. I simply don’t believe a single parent home is the very best option for any child. Of course, I’m aware that single-parent households do exist, resulting from either a divorce or the unfortunate death of a spouse, and I surely sympathize with those scenarios, but clearly that’s not what I’ve been talking about. The important thing to remember is to hold true to your beliefs but to also respect the fact that your fellow man may (and often does) think differently than you. So, buy Dolce & Gabbana, or don’t buy Dolce & Gabbana. I really don’t care one way or the other.

Undeniably Irish

I am undeniably Irish. With a last name like McCleary I wouldn’t be fooling anyone if I claimed otherwise. Not that I would ever want to denounce my Irish heritage, but I belong to many other nationalities as well. I know I’m also part German and part Welsh, and I’m always proud to give a shout out to my Cherokee brothers. I suppose I am what you would call a mutt if I were a dog. I definitely have some work to do if I ever want to seriously be considered as a legit Irishman. If truth be told, I didn’t even realize the significant difference between Ireland’s treasured shamrock and a four-leaf clover, until very recently, for Pete’s sake.

However, I do tend to be a smidgeon more Irish than usual every year around March 17th. Traditionally, I prepare a corned beef and cabbage meal for my family sometime during the week. The feast is not complete without my (what has become known as) “world-famous” Guinness cake. The cake is delicious, if I do say so myself, but plain Guinness beer not so much. I’ve tried to like Guinness beer (I really have) because I feel it’s my duty as an Irishman to think well of the customary drink of my ancestors…but I don’t. I’m more of an India Pale Ale guy when it comes to satisfying my taste buds.

That’s not to say I’m not fond of some other types of beers. I fancy some red ales, some brown ales, and even a few of the darker brews. However, I do think Guinness must be an acquired taste; therefore, drinking the stout only on an annual basis does not fit the bill. I have been told the pints of Guinness served in Ireland’s pubs aren’t comparable to what we have in the United States. Supposedly, it is so much better over there. That actually makes perfect sense to me. Maybe someday I can visit my homeland and find out for myself.

Sometimes I honor St. Patrick’s Day by visiting an Irish pub or at least going somewhere that’s serving green beer. Once I went to a bar around 8:00am, after getting off work, for a festive Irish breakfast (green pints included). Once. Drinking beer in the morning was a weird experience. I guess St. Patrick’s Day is as good of an excuse as any to partake of alcohol shortly after sunrise, but it is not a practice I cared to continue. I know there are those who say, “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” but hopefully they’re referring to the evening hour when considering an alcoholic drink.

In recent years it’s more-likely you’d find my lovely wife and I celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at our local Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery than any other place. That’s probably because the Rock Bottom gang really knows how to take good care of us. I’m not too difficult to spot either since I’m the one wearing a “Who’s Your Paddy?” t-shirt and a green colored derby hat. I’m also one of the very few patrons holding a green beer in my hand. Unfortunately, the restaurant does not offer any artificially colored ales on St. Patrick’s Day, so I’m forced to make my own. I bring my own food coloring, and just two drops of the stuff transforms my mug of IPA into a green spectacle.

I assume the brew master is concerned that if he adds green dye to his carefully crafted concoctions then it may somehow hamper the integrity of his creations. I completely understand, but I still think an exception could be made one day out of the year. The problem with me taking matters into my own hands is that the people around us usually then start asking the servers how they can get ahold of some green beer. It gets pretty confusing when customers are told by the staff that the colorful drink in my hand is not available. I do offer up my green food coloring, to those interested, if and when I become aware of such a situation. Kudos to Rock Bottom for not kicking me out of their fine establishment.

Years ago my aunt invited her family over for a St. Patrick’s Day party, but there was a catch. She requested each of us show up to the celebration with a story or a poem about green. Just like E.F. Hutton – when my aunt talks, people listen! Besides, the assignment seemed harmless, and it surely peaked our interest, because most of us entered her house that day prepared to share our masterpieces with one another. The following is the poem I crafted for admittance into my aunt’s wonderful St. Patrick’s Day party in 1990-something. Please bear in mind this piece was written before I emerged into the Pulitzer Prize type of writer you’ve come to depend on, and I certainly have never professed to be a poet. I hope you enjoy “Green Is” nonetheless.

Green Is

Green is a color, one of many in a rainbow
Green is the grass, in which we must mow
Green is a fee, golfers hate to pay
Green is a frog, hopping around in May
Green is a turtle, Ninja, snapping, or a pet
Green is money, lost at the casino if you bet
Green is spearmint, a very tasty flavor
Green is key-lime pie, in which I like to savor
Green is my father’s birthstone, his favorite color, too
Green is part of a beach ball, along with red, yellow, and blue
Green is also a pool ball, the solid 6 to be exact
Green is the team color of the A’s, Eagles and Jets, in fact
Green is a Leprechaun, his clothes and sometimes his hair
Green is a Martian, visiting us from way out there
Green is the Grinch, who tried to steal Christmas
Green is vegetables, namely celery and lettuce (I know that one’s a stretch)
Green is a wheelbarrow, and a garden hose
Green is the substance, coming from your nose
Green is a Christmas tree, Pine and Blue Spruce
Green is a grasshopper, spitting disgusting juice
Green is a pickle, both dill and sweet
Green is a thumb, you just can’t beat
Green is jealousy and envy, we try so hard to deny
Green is the AstroTurf, found on the football field at UNI
Green(e) is Lorne, known as Mr. Cartwright on Bonanza
Green is the “Keep On Truckin'” tattoo, on the arm of Tony Danza
Green is lime Jell-O, oh my what a treat
Green is gross broccoli, your parents make you eat
Green is springtime, in the form of leaves and grass
Green is a crocodile, and an alligator’s ass
Green is the theme, of this poem that I wrote
Green poems in the future, should be banned, that’s my vote!