Saturday, December 27, 2008


Historic Pianist in Historic Town

My wife and I were to meet our son and his family in Southwest Missouri to spend Christmas week with them. We chose a location about half way for both because he lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since we were arriving early to our resort lodging I told my wife of a popular spot in the historic town of Hollister, Missouri which would allow time for coffee and one of the favorite carrot cake dishes made at this beautiful stop. She affirmed that would be great.
I had heard it was owned by the famous concert pianist Dino Kartsonakis who has been my favorite pianist for nearly 40 years. Knowing it was Monday before Christmas I had no idea that he would happen in with an entourage of visiting family.
However, he was gracious to allow me some time and a photo shot. We discussed many of his early albums which I remembered out of his 50 albums to date and then I bought two which he autographed.
Dino was born in New York City to Greek parents and he began at age three to play his grandmother’s piano. At five he began taking piano lessons. He later received his professional training at The King’s College (who’s second President was my friend Dr. Robert Cook) and the Juilliard School of Music.
He is truly an American Piano Showman, a title given to him by over 80 million people who view his performances in some venue every year.
Dino and his wife Cheryl can be seen weekly on The Trinity Broadcasting Network or his show in Branson, Missouri where he performs annually. Kartsonakis also performed at the famed Carnegie Hall on December 15, 2005.
He plays a number of different types of music, all done professionally perfect, but I love his ability to combine the sacred and classical in such a way that the listener can worship and enjoy the old classics at the same time.
Often, I go to his website at lie near my computer and listen to his music or view some of the Great Hymns of the Faith put together by my dear friend Robert J. Morgan of Nashville for Thomas Nelson Publishers and listen as Dino plays the many selections.
I am not surprised that this artist and entertainer would also have a successful business after the liking of his chef father since he was raised around great baking. If you like Greek food you can also find a section of his mother’s recipes at .
His schedule was full and our time gone, but the stop was refreshing and the CD of one of his latest was played for nearly four hours returning home.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” --Colossians 3:16

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Luxembourg: A Sidewalk Café Delight

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a paradise for those that like to walk, sightsee, shop, and sit ever so often for coffee and a pastry.

While my wife visited the shops, I found myself across the main street that overlooked the most beautiful view of the area near downtown.

Fascinating walks through the city and countryside was an excellent way of discovering its flora and fauna and cultural heritage.

While the Luxembourg fortress was a true example of European military architecture, it has changed hands many times over its existence. Since 1994, the fortifications and the old city have been classed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

But the main attraction is an extraordinary network of underground galleries, the famous casemates, which were carved from the city’s rocks. These went on for about 23km.

The Grand-Duke’s residence, the Grand-Ducal palace, has an exceptionally beautiful facade in Flemish Renaissance style and a majestic interior and ceremonial rooms open to the public during the summer only.

The name of Luxembourg made its first appearance in history around the year 963 when Count Siegfried exchanged land for a small abandoned castle, known as "Lucilinburhuc", located on a precipice on the site of the present-day capital.

Between 963 and 1443, Luxembourg was an independent county, then a Duchy within the Germanic Empire. Luxembourg was so highly-prized during these years was due to the strategic position on the European chess-board, and due to its formidable fortress became known as the "Gibraltar of the North".

During our short time there we walked most of the main streets, all of which had flowers and plants beautifying the area. The shops had clothes and cultural goods of all types since the Duchy has a strong multi-cultural population of about a half million people.

The people were very friendly and many spoke English, especially in the main stores.

Like most of the European countries, most of the government building had their ceremonial dressed soldiers that guarded its entrance. I was not sure if he could talk to me, but I did get an occasional “Yes or no” to my questions.

Many of the smaller European countries had their independence challenged during the First and Second World Wars. The painful experiences of these two wars strengthened the solidarity between the Luxembourg citizens, and consolidated their national feeling.

Travel has made me appreciate our country and the democracy we have. I may get angry at us sometimes, but have seen how others have had stresses we have never had.

“Blessed be the LORD: for he hath showed me his marvelous kindness in a strong city.”-- Psalm 31:21

Monday, December 15, 2008


This trip was planned with you in mind.

A lot of times, our gift giving is the result of strolling down the aisles of a gift store, and looking for that "right gift." We don’t quite know what the gift should be… but we’re sure we’ll recognize it when we see it. Have you ever done that? Of course you have.
But, God’s gift wasn’t like that… His gift was planned out from the beginning of Creation. This gift had been planned from the beginning of time. This gift had been announced again and again throughout the Old Testament prophecies because this gift was lovingly prepared and willingly given.

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. One day the son died and the father was so grieved that in just a few months’ time… he also passed on. There was to be a great auction of his paintings and a great many influential people gathered, hoping for an opportunity to purchase one of the great masters for their collections.

The auction opened with a painting of the rich man’s son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the man’s son. Who will bid for this picture?" There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one." But the auctioneer persisted. "Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200? The son! The son! Who’ll take the "SON?"
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I’ll give $10 for the painting."
"We have $10, who will bid $20?"
The crowd was becoming angry. They didn’t want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.

The auctioneer pounded the gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10
A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let’s get on with the collection!"
The auctioneer laid down his gavel. "I’m sorry, the auction is over. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned.
Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"

At the very first Christmas, many people missed it because they were too busy looking for other things. The politicians missed the first Christmas. The business community missed the first Christmas. The innkeeper missed the first Christmas. In fact, even the religious establishment missed the first Christmas! That day is best expressed in the most popular verse in the Bible.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." --John 3:16

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so he sent us a Savior.

You know our problem? We're always trying to save ourselves. We think we can work our way into heaven. We say, "Oh God, my good works are this high, and my bad works are this low. Look at the balance here." The only problem is that God doesn't grade on a curve. But God doesn't judge you against anybody else. So you need a Savior. And that is provided. It's a free gift; just accept it.

The Bible says Jesus came to seek and to save. While you've been seeking, he's been seeking you. You see, the miracle of Christmas is not on 34th Street; it's in Bethlehem. He says, "I offer you forgiveness for your past, peace of mind in the present and a solid future in eternity." Those are the gifts. You say, "How do I find those gifts?" They're all wrapped up in Christ.
He showed that achievement was not in success. He didn't climb up; he stepped down. He wasn't after the chair at the head of the table; he took the lowest place. By being born as a helpless baby and placed in a manger, Jesus Christ demonstrated the most potent lesson of all time: the way up is the way down. If we are to help others best when we should first be willing to serve.
More and more I am becoming troubled with the way we celebrate Christmas, because it -seems like a glorified excuse for indulgence rather than a HOLY-day.
I like what pastor John Beehler said, “We participate in the holiday hustle and bustle of shopping, parties, etc. while raging against the system. Our priorities are all tangled up just like our tree lights when we get them out each year, no matter how hard we try to keep them neat and orderly. So we close our eyes and try to focus on the reason for the season, but when we open them the world keeps getting in our face.”

I was reading the other day about a little boy who was more honest than we are. He had received a Christmas present; he was writing back to his grandmother. He said, "Dear Grandmother, Thank you so much for the wonderful Christmas present. It was almost as good as the one I really wanted."

C. S. Lewis hit the nail on the head when he said, "We really celebrate two holidays on December 25th. One we call ’Xmas’ & the other we call ’Christmas.’"

Perhaps we should separate them and see the real difference, because most people today celebrate Xmas while few truly celebrate Christmas.
1. XMAS offers frivolous gifts – CHRISTMAS offers forgiveness.
2. XMAS can get you stressed – CHRISTMAS can give you peace.
3. XMAS is celebrated annually – CHRISTMAS is for eternity.
There are two facts of life which we all need to remember. First, we're all going to die someday, and second, you're going to spend more of your life on that side of death than you will on this side. This is why God allows you to board with His son for the trip that is out of this world.
Can you imagine being given a gift at Christmas and never unwrapping it? It would be silly. I mean, if you gave me a gift at Christmas and a year later you came over and I still hadn't un-wrapped it, you'd think I was a little nutty. "Why haven't you un-wrapped it?" "Oh, I love the wrapping paper. I'm sure I'm going to love it." "Well, I'm going to get to it one of these days." And yet, many continue this Christmas after Christmas after Christmas after Christmas. You've celebrated every Christmas for as many years as you are old; you know the songs and the stories, and you know what it's all about, but you've never unwrapped the gift. Now what gives? What's the logic behind that?

Do you have somebody that you have to buy a gift for, and you haven't bought the gift yet because they have everything? There's somebody like that in every family. Whatever it is you can think of, they already have it.

We sometimes think that about God. What does he want of us? What gift could you possibly give God at Christmas? God has everything as we try to excuse ourselves. God doesn't need anything; God is all and in all.

God doesn't NEED anything, but God WANTS something.

There's something you can give God that He wants and doesn't have: your whole heart, your whole being.

"You will find me when you seek me with all your heart." --Jeremiah 29:13

Sunday, December 7, 2008

His Angels Watch Over Us.

God’s Angel in Scrubs

Three days after the removal of my right kidney my fever elevated to an extremely dangerous level around 2:30 a.m., causing the nurses at Barnes-Jewish hospital to call an on duty trauma surgeon.

After a period of examination and consultation, the surgeon advised they head for the operating room for it appeared something had gone awry during the operation.

Having slipped into a coma an unusual thing happened to me. For a brief moment I was fully aware of being transported on a gurney. I knew there were three men in white hospital attire in the front with two nurses pulling and two more nurses on each side in the back.

I could feel the fast pace of the gurney and hear the chatter of the attendants. It was also during this brief period of consciousness that I looked up at this extremely attractive dark lady whose nurse’s shirt and cap were blue with floral items, and she had a facial mask around her neck. Her eyes and face showed a compassion accented by the warmth of her smile.

As we sped down the long corridor, I reached over to her and said, “Do you pray for people headed for surgery?” With her hand holding mine, she began to pray a powerful prayer until I fell back into an unconscious state.

Months later I asked the surgeon if he had a dark nurse on his surgical team. His reply was a surprising, “No.”

I do not know if possibly that nurse and her powerful prayer was a fixation of my mind or the fever causing a hallucination. I am more inclined to believe that she was an angel from God to comfort me in this test on my life.

During my emergency operation it was discovered that my duodenum had been punctured causing a fast spreading infection that filled my entire stomach area. This required my stomach to be left open so it could heal from the inside out. Many did not believe I would live as for weeks I knew little and was dependent on support systems. Seventeen months after that operation my stomach was closed by the same surgeon and all the large scar tissue was removed.

Five days after my return home another infection occurred, and I had to be opened again. Now 14 months later the wound is still closing, but God has restored my body and mind and I am rejoicing today for His mercy.

In a recent trip to my rehab hospital, where I previously stayed 58 days, I went to the familiar third floor and immediately found myself surrounded by three nurses who had cared for me when I could not walk and when my first wound was still extremely large and open. One said, “I never thought I would ever see you again alive.”

After 145 days of healing in two St. Louis hospitals and one in my hometown, I am grateful that many angels from the medical profession have ministered to me during this long period of time.

So was the dark lady an angel from God? You will have a hard time disproving it to me today.

“The angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear him, and delivers them.”--
Psalm 34:7.

”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”-- John 3:16.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Who says, There are no angels.

I met an Angel unaware at Dallas
After a few unexpected days of delay in Colorado Springs, my plane had left in a clear sky, but after two hours in the air the slow storm moving east had picked-up more moisture from the gulf making the clouds dark and heavy.
The pilot warned that our descend into the Dallas-Fort Worth airport would be rough, so I fastened my seatbelt for it. He was right, and I rejoiced when we made the landing safely.
After deplaning, I headed to my next gate to change planes to Nashville. I observed that a plane, which normally would have already been in, was not there.
A young lady from Oklahoma City had also just landed made her way to the same departure gate, recognized me and came over to sit near me since I had recently spoken in her college chapel.
The time for the scheduled departure came and still no plane. The rain was coming down in torrants and the wind was fierce causing no planes to land or take off.
Such a storm I had not seen in a long time, which continued until about 1 a.m. when the gate attendant announced, “This flight has been cancelled.”
In anger a host of unhappy travelers converged on the counter.
Being an experienced traveler I caught the eye of the young lady who had told me she was not only scared, but not feeling very well, jesturing for her to follow me. We hastened to a service desk a short distance away where the attendant was obviously closing when we walked up. She smiled through what appeared to be a tired and weary face as I said, “Our flight was just cancelled and I wonder if you would be so kind as to help us get on a plane to Nashville. If we cannot go together, put this young lady on the first available flight because she is sick.”
“I see one seat on the 6 a.m. flight which I will put her on, but nothing is available until 8 p.m. for you. That is the best I can do.” I nodded to the affirmative.
By then others had come and gathered behind us when she said, “Can you wait over here while I take care of these others?” She picked up the phone and evidently asked for help because in a very short time a couple more attendants came permitting her to leave.
“Please get on the cart over there she kindly requested. You were so kind to let the young lady go first. You were so different than all those that came behind you. My minister talks about kindness to others and patience all the time- which I try to practice.”
Little did I know she had also reserved two places for us in the Ambassador Club (for the Airline customer elite) where she was taking us. As she got permission to go in, she introduced us to the desk clerk who said, “I am sorry I only have two chairs that make into a bed position, but this will be much better than the hard seats outside.”
She smiled again as she departed with, “You both just seemed special!”
What an awesome God who gave me patience in Colorado Springs and again in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport sending an earthly angel to care for our needs.
Again my belief in a keeping and protecting God brought the rewards even in the midst of inconvience.
On June 28, 1787, at the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin raised a timely question: ”I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this Truth, that God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His Aid?“ Mr. Franklin understood the power of prayer, and so should we.Often I have thought of that angel that night and what how God will bless her. “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, I tell you, he shall not lose his reward." --Matthew 10:42. And His promise to we who follow Him, “Trouble chases sinners, while blessings reward the righteous.” --Proverbs 13:21 (NLT).