The Supermodel’s Secret of Serenity

[S]upermodels are women we love to love and love to hate.

Some people love them for their beauty, elegance and glamorous appeal.  Many dislike them for the same reasons.  They somehow seem to perfect, to lofty, to unattainable.  So we tend to either love them or dismiss them.

I can’t say I’ve met many supermodels.  Only one really.  And even then for just a minute.  But the encounter surprised me.

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

The supermodel moment occurred at a book publishing convention in Los Angles.  Many famous authors attended the event to sign copies of their latest best seller.  I met Melissa the supermodel (not her real name) on the second day of the conference.  She had come to promote an inspirational book about her spiritual journey with Jesus Christ.  This intrigued me.  Melissa is famous around the world as a model for fashion and fitness products.  She is also an accomplished businesswoman and charity spokesperson.  Though I had seen her picture on many magazine covers in grocery store checkout lanes, I didn’t know she was a writer or a believer in God.

Smile Awhile

[Q]uestion: What should you do when a complete stranger gives you a big grin?

Answer:  Grin back.  It may be a psychology student studying you.

What causes some people to smile more than others?  Researches aren’t entirely sure.  But a group of psychology students in England are on the case.  The students recently conducted a nationwide smile study targeting fourteen cities in the United Kingdom.*

Photo Copyright Todd Chobotar

Photo Copyright Todd Chobotar

Here’s how they did it.  The students grinned from ear-to-ear at 100 randomly chosen strangers on the street in each city.  They then watched to see how many grinned back.  Here are the results for five of the fourteen cities they studied:

Bristol   70% of the people smiled back
Glasgow   68%
Exeter   54%
London   18%
Edinburgh   4%

The students made an interesting observation.  The smaller the city, the more smiles they received.  As a small town boy raised in the American Midwest, I can identify with these results.  In my experience, small towns are often friendly places. But it’s not just the size of towns that seems to affect people. Age may play into it as well. A while back I recall reading of a study that claimed a child smiles, on average, about 400 times a day, while an adult averages about 15 smiles a day.

Lost and Found

[D]uring an early morning jog a sign caught my attention.  Printed on computer paper and slipped into a plastic sleeve, someone had nailed the sign to a tree near my home.  Curious, I went over for a closer look. The title caught my attention:

My Dearly Loved Kitty

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Beneath the heading appeared a color photograph of a silver-gray kitten.  On either side of the picture a single word in bold letters stood out: “Reward!”   Underneath the photo it read, “Please help me find Fluffy and bring her back home.  Reward offered.”  The bottom of the poster listed the owners name and contact number.  Taking mental note to keep watch for the lost cat I continued my jog.

The Music of Your Life

[M]y father has conducted some of the most famous orchestra’s in the world. The London Symphony Orchestra. The Berlin Philharmonic. The Academy of St. Martins in the Field. The Boston Symphony Orchestra. And the Vienna Mozart Ensemble.

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

You might find this astonishing. Especially when I tell you his primary profession for his entire career has been as a research biologist and university professor. But that hasn’t hindered him from conducting some of the most famous works of classical music ever composed. Masterpieces such as Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony”, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, Mozart’s “Magic Flute”, Pachelbel’s “Canon”, Handel’s “Messiah”, and Bach’s “Brandenburg Concertos.”

Goin’ on a Guilt Trip!

[A]ccording to my wife I have a Master’s Degree in giving guilt trips.  Most of the time I do it for fun–just to see what reaction I’ll get.  But on occasion, I admit, I’ve used it to try and get my own way.


Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

What is a guilt trip?  It’s simply making someone feel guilty to get them to do what you want. Sound like fun?  It’s really quite easy once you get the hang of it.  Here’s how it works.

Disco Church on Deck 11

[I]t may be the most unusual spot I’ve ever worship God in.  It was certainly the one with the most bar stools.

For years my wife Jeannine and I had wanted to go on a cruise.  So when we were invited to go on a family reunion cruise with about twenty members of the Ottati clan, we enthusiastically accepted.  The voyage was a 5-day/4-night western Caribbean adventure.  We disembarked from south Florida aboard the ocean liner Monarch of the Seas.  Our merry group included two pastors and one seminary student in training for the ministry.  Since we would all be away from our home churches over the weekend we decided it would be fun to hold a worship service on-board the ship.

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Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

We asked the activities desk if there was a room available that could accommodate twenty people or so where we could hold a mid-morning service.  The only space available was the Disco Lounge on deck 11.  All the other public areas were in use.  So we gathered in the Disco Lounge at the back of the ship to worship.

Gimme That Old Time Idolatry!

[D]o you ever get tired of trying to live a good and moral life?  Are you a Christian who’s burned out from all your charity work?  Weary of always helping your neighbor?  Fed up with constantly turning the other cheek?  Well you’re not alone.  Thousands of believers, haggard from long years of visiting the sick, giving to mission projects and watching over widows and orphans are taking a more sensible approach to religion.  And you can too!

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

There is a tried and true method for getting what you really deserve out of life without all the bother of “loving your neighbor.”  This system has been around for centuries and has maintained strong interest worldwide.  It’s called idolatry and it may be just what you’re looking for. The key to your gratification!

Surviving the Trash Heaps of Life

[A] dump.  That’s what it felt like my life had become.  A dumping ground for problems and troubles.  I had questions without answers.  Riddles without solutions.  A future without direction.  All heaped together in one bewildering pile of doubt and uncertainty.

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

I needed to get away.  To find a quiet place to ponder my problems, pray, and find peace.  So I booked a weekend stay at a spiritual retreat center.  It felt a bit like a campground with cabins for sleeping and acres and acres of wooded trails ideal for walking, thinking, and praying.

Two days passed at the retreat center, but my fervent prayers seemed to bring no response from God.  On the final morning of my stay, I rose early for a walk before sunrise.  A magnificent sliver crescent moon adorned the sky.  I walked along the edge of a grassy field bordered by trees.  Coming to a break in the woods I followed a moonlit path through the forest vaguely hoping to find a serene spot for quiet meditation.  The path led to a small clearing whose centerpiece was a large trash heap.

Life Lessons Learned in a Traffic Jam

[E]ver experience a day that feels like one big test?  Mine was a recent Friday and it began with running late.  I was late to nearly everything.  A 7am prayer breakfast.  An 8am meeting.  A 9am appointment.  A 10am phone call.  There were people requesting feedback.  E-mails to reply to.  Problems to solve.  Stress upon stress.  Test upon test.

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Then there was the noon luncheon I was responsible for.  I rushed to the meeting room only to discover it completely unprepared for our important guests (including the company president!).  The luncheon ran late, so I was late meeting my wife afterwards.  We jumped in the car to race 7 hours from Orlando to Atlanta to spend the weekend with family.  But of course, traffic was bad.  Entire fleets of enormous 18-wheelers surrounded us. Driving a small Honda Accord next to these mammoths makes my wife nervous–which makes me nervous.

The Trouble Tree and Calvary

[B]ad days happen to everyone.  Inevitable?  Unavoidable?  Yes.  Question is: do bad days have to get the best of you?  Before you answer, consider the story of the trouble tree.

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Following a destructive summer storm a farmer hired a local carpenter to make repairs on his property.  Many things needed fixing including the barn, fences, and farmhouse.  But the first day on the job went badly for the carpenter.  The trouble began on the drive to work.  An overheated engine delayed him on the side of the road making him an hour late.  Shortly after arriving the carpenter discovered several key tools missing from his tool box forcing him to put off some work he came prepared to do.  Later in the morning his power saw broke down and became unusable.  At the end of the day a final frustration occurred.  His ancient pickup truck refused to start.

The day had gone from bad to worse.  Feeling sorry for the carpenter, the farmer offered him a ride home.  The carpenter accepted but remained stony and silent during the drive, frustrated by the difficulties of the day.