Saturday, December 31, 2011
I do not necessarily feel like I need to make annual changes to my personal blogging world, but it is just the way it has been...call it boredom or improvement (or both :-). I believe this is the best way for me to put out any messages concerning my selected themes. I am planning to stick primarily with spiritual themes, but will still do some sports and space messages on occasion...but not as much as on the old blog. I hope to be an encouragement and a blessing to you in the Lord. Happy reading...
Thursday, December 15, 2011
An ad for the U.S. Marines pictures a sword, and beneath it the words: “Earned, not given.” If you want to become a Marine, be prepared to earn the right to be called a “Marine” through sacrifice, hardship, and training. If you get it, you deserve it. But if you want to become a Christian, you must have the exact opposite attitude, for the message of the gospel is: “Given, not earned.” You cannot save your own soul, and God will not save anyone who tries to earn salvation, but only those who will humbly receive it as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ. If you get it, you absolutely did not deserve it (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB)…“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;’ not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Romans 5:8), “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Anonymous
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Since we have been dealing with the Medo-Persian Empire in studying Daniel and Esther recently, here is an interesting story from the time...
On the southern border of Cyrus’ empire, there lived a great chieftain named Cagular who tore to shreds and completely defeated the various detachments of Cyrus’ army sent to subdue him. Finally the emperor, amassing his whole army, marched down, surrounded Cagular, captured him, and brought him to the capital for execution. On the day of the trial, he and his family were brought to the judgment chamber - Cagular, a fine looking man of more than 6 feet, with a noble manner about him - a magnificent specimen of a man. So impressed was Cyrus with his appearance that he said to Cagular: "What would you do should I spare your life?" "Your Majesty, if you spared my life, I would return to my home and remain your obedient servant as long as I lived."
"What would you do if I spared the life of your wife?" "Your Majesty, if you spared the life of my wife, I would die for you."
So moved was the emperor that he freed them both and returned Cagular to his province to act as governor thereof. Upon arriving at home, Cagular reminisced about the trip with his wife. "Did you notice," he said to his wife, "the marble at the entrance of the palace? Did you notice the tapestry on the wall as we went down the corridor into the throne room? And did you see the chair on which the emperor sat? It must have been carved from one lump of pure gold."
His wife could appreciate his excitement and how impressed he was with it all, but she only replied: "I really didn’t notice any of that."
"Well," said Cagular in amazement, "What did you see?"
His wife looked seriously into his eyes and said, "I beheld only the face of the man who said he would die on my behalf.”
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Here is some food for thought. . .
Becky Garrison – Mystics, Satirists and the Church
We need more mystics and satirists in the church . . . as long as we understand the difference between satirizing the subject and slamming the sinner. Becky Garrison calls us to be reconcilers, here to heal the world, in her interview on ThinkFwd with host Spencer Burke. Becky is a religious satirist and author of the book, Jesus Died for This?: A Satirist’s Search for the Risen Christ.
Becky and Spencer cover the gamut of topics, starting off with a discussion about the recent push toward “anti-branding,” where people are shying away from associating with a particular movement, but gravitating to ideas they are interested in. Church movements like “emergent” or “missional.” Becky quotes Shane Claiborne saying, “When you brand a movement, you kill a movement” and Becky sees this happening in circles relating to the church.
We are coming out of the age of “experts.” The digital age has a horizontal nature. Take for example, the Internet. Everyone has access to information that used to only be available to and from experts. But now, we can all become experts without relying on a particular expert. And so what does this do? It opens new realms of questions. Church “experts” used to push their brand of Christianity, and could tell us they were the experts and we had to rely on them, conform to their expert branding. Today, Becky sees pushback on this, where change and learning are occurring through anti-branding.
People of all different faiths and those without faith seem to be on a quest for something outside of themselves. While all may not agree on faith in God, Becky sees people across all walks of life compelled by the reconciling, resurrection power of Jesus. Rather than focus on our differences, let’s find issues that we can agree on, and work together on healing the world. Becky asks, “What does it mean for us to be reconcilers? If we can redeem what Jesus redeems. . .even to the point of reaching the lowest of the low. . .then we can help make people whole, right the wrongs in our world.”
Two types of people Becky thinks the church is greatly lacking: mystics who give us hope, and satirists who keep us grounded and from going astray. Becky acknowledges she doesn’t always get things right. In her satire, she can sometimes go too far—from satirizing the subject to slamming the sinner. But her ultimate desire is to find common, to ground redeem, to reconcile, and in so doing . . . to heal our world.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
In his book Folk Psalms of Faith, Ray Stedman tells of an experience that theologian and preacher, H.A. Ironside, had in a crowded restaurant. Just as Ironside was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited his to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, "Do you have a headache?" Ironside replied, "No, I don't." The other man asked, "Well, is there something wrong with your food?" Ironside replied, "No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat."
The man said, "Oh, you're one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don't have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!"
Ironside said, "Yes, you're just like my dog. That's what he does too!"
Saturday, November 12, 2011
I love this picture of Saturn and four of its moons. Saturn's largest moon, Titan, measuring 3200 miles across (larger than our own moon, 2160 miles across) is quite imposing in the background, while Dione, measuring 700 miles across, is in front of Titan in the foreground. The small moon, Pandora, measuring 50 miles across, is just outside of the last ring. I mention "four" moons, but where is fourth? It is called, Pan, and is in the black space between rings in an area called Encke Gap. It is one of the smallest of Saturn's many moon, measuring only 22 miles across. I marvel at the shots that our telescopes and spacecraft provide.
Friday, November 4, 2011
I saw something on a friend's blog earlier this week that provoked this thought...
Paul Borthwick in "Leading the Way" says -- No one ever stubs his or her toe while standing still. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly. But above all, try something!" Failing to try because of a desire to be secure results in inaction and failure to lead.
John Henry Jowett, a great English preacher, likewise pointed out the temptation of self-preservation and its result in faithless lives: It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows through the cultivation of an insignificant life. Indeed, if a man's ambition is to avoid the troubles of life, the recipe is simple: shed your ambitions in every direction, cut the wings of every soaring purpose, and seek a life with the fewest contacts and relations. If you want to get through the world with the smallest trouble, you must reduce yourself to the smallest compass. Tiny souls can dodge through life; bigger souls are blocked on every side. As soon as a man begins to enlarge his life, his resistances are multiplied. Let a man remove his petty selfish purposes and enthrone Christ, and his sufferings will be increased on every side.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Julie Bowles shares this -- ever since I was fourteen years old, I have worn glasses for a medical condition. I go every year to have a check-up to monitor this. This year when I went, I was met with a surprise. My glasses are bifocals, and I was asked to read, with my glasses on, the chart at the end of the room. The optometrist was standing beside me as I did this, and he then asked me to read it again. After repeating this process a few times, I was getting a little concerned. How hard is it to read a bunch of letters on an eye chart? To my knowledge, I was doing this correctly. He then asked me hold my head in a certain position and do it again. As I did this, the whole chart went blurry, and I could not read it. He then said, "Read it again your way", which I did, and I was able to do it.
He then shared with me that I was using only the bifocal part of my glasses for all my reading, both up close and distant. I was not using the top portion of my glasses at all. I wondered how this could have happened without my even noticing, and he explained that over the year, there would have been a gradual deterioration in my eyes, and more and more I would have relied on the bifocal -- the stronger part of my glasses -- for both distance and up-close work. He explained that I would have been adjusting my head to use the lower part of my glasses to see. In fact, as I wait for my new glasses to come, I am now aware that I am holding my head upward to look out towards the computer screen to see.
How often we go through our day and our spiritual walk not noticing the subtle changes in our time spent with our Father! Then someone comes along and points out our practice to us. We then become aware of what we are doing, and we make the changes to re-align ourselves with the Father. Things become clearer, and we begin to walk with a new and clearer vision before us.
Prayer: Dear God, we thank You that we are always able to come back to You and have our vision re-aligned. Thank You for the people along the way who are also there to help us in our walk and to point things out for us. Thank You for sending Your Son to die for us so that one day we will stand before You and see You clearly in all Your splendour and glory. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
Friday, October 14, 2011
The following is a story concerning former NFL quarterback, Ryan Leaf, from an interview with Kathy Goertzen of KOMO News in Seattle...
Ryan Leaf has set a lot of records for Washington State University. Even though the Cougars barely lost at the '97 Rose Bowl, Leaf's success as quarterback prompted him to leave WSU and become a first-round draft pick in the NFL.
He bombed, was booed and benched.
"For that reason, I stayed away from WSU and Cougar nation for a long time -- for all the wrong reasons," he said. "What I should have done was run back to the family that always supported me. And I pushed them away, because I was embarrassed."
Leaf will be the first to tell you he did not know how to focus his intensity or handle his failure to win.
"But for sure, it was an embarrassing moment in my life at 21 years old," he said. "But I think a lot of people do embarrassing things when they're 21 years old. And if that's my truly embarrassing moment at 21, I'll take that one over some of the other stories I've heard.
"I just think everyone grows up and everybody changes in their time. Mine just happened quite publicly -- a lot of it."
His disappointing personal behavior and failure in the NFL only deepened the pain that led to an addiction to prescription pain pills.
"All my life, whenever I had surgery, they gave me prescription pain killers for the physical pain you have. So when I had this emotional pain, or this other pain I couldn't define, this was the only thing I ever knew that worked," he said.
Leaf hit rock bottom when he was convicted for stealing pain pills from injured kids he coached. He finally entered rehab. It would be the beginning of his metamorphosis.
"The self-centeredness, the dishonesty, the inability to be social and be a good person - all those things that change when you become happy - are such a bigger and better highlight," he said.
Leaf was learning a new, more positive outlook. He says that helped him deal with his next challenge.
"When he said it was a brain tumor, it never once crept in my mind that it was cancerous. I said, 'OK, who do we get to fix it and how do we do that?'" he said.
Leaf had surgery for the benign tumor. Though it's not the same tumor as mine, doctors were not able to get it all, because, like mine, it wrapped around some critical nerves. He'll know after an MRI next month if the tumor is growing and he needs radiation.
Through it all, he did not take medication for pain.
"Going through a of days of pain and discomfort in a hospital bed is well worth it, than feeling the way I did for three years previous," he said. "I remember what it was like. I was miserable, and I don't ever want to feel that way again."
At 35, Leaf says he's changed for the better and is looking forward, not back.
"My life for the next 35 years will be defined by how I become a better person and help people. I think I'll have a much more drastic effect on people's lives than I ever would have had as a football player," he said.
Leaf thinks college athletes should get paid to play. He'll tackle that issue when he comes out with the first of three books this October about the greatest four years of his life at WSU.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Phillip Yancey in "The Jesus I Never Knew” tells the story of a senior angel who showed a very young angel the splendors of the universe. They viewed whirling galaxies and blazing suns, and then moved across the infinite distances of space until at last they entered one particular galaxy of 500 billion stars. As the two of them drew near to the star which we call our sun and to its circling planets, the senior angel pointed to a small and rather insignificant sphere turning very slowly on its axis. It looked as dull as a dirty tennis ball to the angel, whose mind is filled with the size and glory of what he had seen. “I want you to watch that one particularly,” says the senior angel, pointing with his finger. “Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me,” says the little angel. “What’s special about that one?” To the little angel, earth did not seem so impressive. He listened, in stunned disbelief, as the senior angel told him that this planet, small and insignificant and not overly clean, was the renowned Visited Planet. “Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince…went down, in Person, to this fifth-rate little ball? Why should He do a thing like that?” The little angel’s face wrinkled in disgust. “Do you mean to tell me,” he says, “that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?” “I do, and I don’t think He would like you to call them ‘creeping, crawling creatures’ in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him.” The little angel's look was blank. Such a thought was almost beyond his comprehension.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Well...so much for the Tampa Bay Rays being a team of destiny. I was among those who was concerned that the Rays would carry their momentum into their ALDS series against the Texas Rangers and make life difficult, if not even upset them. Ahhh, but the Rangers were like a tiger lying in wait for its prey, or should I say, Ray. :-) The Rangers pitching was strong enough, despite a bum outing by C.J. Wilson in game one. I believe he will be better in the ALCS. As usual, it was the Rangers bats that carried them. How about that Adrian Beltre? He looks like a pretty decent off-season pick up at this point. His three home runs in the clincher against the Rays is the stuff of legend...and if he continues to hit like this, he might just have a legendary post-season. I wasn't certain going into the post-season, but I do believe the Rangers are hungry. It remains to be seen whether they will be playing the Tigers or Yankees (and this will be determined tonight in game 5 of their series), but either way, I like the way the Rangers are peaking at this time. I hope that they can fulfill heir dream and win the World Series that eluded them last year.
Speaking of series ending games, all three remaining LDS games (today and tomorrow) are going to be game 5s. This could be interesting...and hopefully exciting. I doubt that it will be as exciting as the final day of the regular season...which was only the most exciting day in MLB history, with the Cardinals and Rays getting in to the playoffs and the Red Sox and Braves completing their September collapses. Nonetheless, this post-season is just as unpredictable in so many ways. So far, the home team has won every game in the Brewers/Diamondbacks series...so, it would seem to be advantage Brewers, but anything can happen. The Cardinals have been hanging tough with the Phillies, but I have a hard time not seeing the Phillies advance at home, but once again... The big question that Rangers fans have been asking is -- who would they rather have the Rangers face in the ALCS...the Yankees or the Tigers? The opinion seems to be split. I said that I would rather see them face the Yankees early on in the playoffs, but now, I think the Tigers are less fearsome...but either opponent is going to be tough. All I can say is -- go Rangers!
Friday, September 30, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
I do not regularly offer critiques concerning spiritual points of view here, but in this case, I believe it is warranted. Pat Robertson made yet another "shocking" statement recently. I have a hard time believing that he really believes what he is saying -- that Alzheimer's disease is a morally acceptable reason to divorce...or if it is for shock value. Either way, it is troubling. Here are some thoughts concerning whether Alzheimer's is a reason to divorce via Ed Fudge's gracEmail.
Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson recently said on his television show that a man whose wife had Alzheimer's disease could morally divorce her and marry someone who was healthy. His reasoning? The wife burdened with dementia, Robertson mused, "is 'not there' anymore."
Some say the remark is an embarrassment to Christianity, others call it profoundly cruel. But Russell D. Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, says those responses are far too easy. Robertson's statement is worse than cruelty and more culpable than an embarrassment, says Moore. It is "a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ."
"Pat Robertson’s cruel marriage statement is no anomaly," Moore explains, noting that Robertson and company have for years preached a so-called prosperity gospel that resembles "an Asherah pole" more than it does a cross. Their emphasis has been on a "politicized Christianity" that sees churches as a means to "mobilize voters," rather than as communities of faith that "stand prophetically outside the power structures as a witness for the gospel." Many viewers, seeing this "parade of cartoon characters" presented as preachers of the gospel, assume that "the giggling evangelist" on their television screen really represents Jesus. Many assume, when they watch television coverage of "political rallies to 'take back America for Christ,' that they see Jesus. But," Moore warns, "Jesus isn’t there."
Instead, says Moore, "Jesus tells us He is present in the weak, the vulnerable, the useless. He is there in the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46)." Or, to be very specific, Moore explains. "Somewhere out there right now," he writes, "a man is wiping the drool from an 85-year-old woman who flinches because she think he’s a stranger. No television cameras are around. No politicians are seeking a meeting with them. But," Moore concludes, "the gospel is there. Jesus is there."
Russell D. Moore, "Christ, the Church, and Pat Robertson," Moore to the Point (September 15, 2011).
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
In his latest gracEmail, Ed Fudge has addressed some important issues...and I wanted to share.
A critic of this (Ed's) ministry says that we in the Churches of Christ have restored the New Testament church. Our mission now, he says, is to guard the truth and not to lose our identity and become simply another denomination.
* * *
We might say that we wish to be nothing more than simple Christians after the New Testament order -- with all the risks and ambiguities that aspiration will involve. We might insist that "our" congregations are free under Christ alone -- wondering whether the very pronoun "our" contradicts such a claim. We might scrupulously avoid linking local churches by any formal denominational structure -- yet honestly acknowledging the informal interlocks, networks and influences that more or less control us all. But we must realize that we are a part of history. Our movement did not fall out of the clear blue sky. It had roots, ancestors, environment, just as all earthly movements do.
We can recover the sense of being a "movement" in at least two respects. We can remember first that we belong to the church universal, and at best make a contribution within that larger picture. Second, we can remember that one never "restores" unless he keeps "moving." It is unmitigated hypocrisy for anyone to urge all his religious neighbors: "Just go by the Bible, regardless of what your parents, church, or anyone else has ever taught you to be," then respond to his own critics within by intoning "what faithful gospel preachers have always taught." Our children are neither blind nor deaf to such foolishness, and those we have taught to be honest will reject it outright. Still some will shake their heads and ask why so many are "leaving the old paths."
Our "identity" must finally be no more than that of any faithful Christian in any age of the world. Separated from trusting faith in Jesus Christ, "distinctives" are worse than worthless. Then they also instill self-righteousness and compete with the true gospel. In the day of judgment there will be no point in bringing God a package of tracts proving our "soundness," or dragging in a bundle of arguments that state our "identity" and distinguish our "distinctives." Nothing we can bring will see us through that Day. We can only point then to the sinless Son of God, slain for our sins and raised for our justification. Better to lighten our baggage now in preparation for what will then be inevitable! We can appreciate our history (everybody has one) while keeping it in perspective.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Sunday, August 7, 2011
I wanted to see Jesus today. I saw the old man instead standing by the pump at the gas station. We said hello to each other as we shared our smiles and left on our way.
I wanted to see Jesus today. I saw the most delightful little child with his mother and she was so sweet to him at the Wal-Mart. I smiled at each and the little fella reached out to touch my arm and my heart as I said, "Hello, little one." He laughingly, fled away. I stood there smiling and beaming from the purest and sweetest touch of innocence.
I wanted to see Jesus today. I saw the old lady, a bent figure with curved spine holding two very heavy shopping bags. She looked so tired. I watched as she tried to cross the street. I was afraid she wouldn't make it as I said, “Let me carry those things for you,” and she did. We made it across the street and I carried those bags up 3 full blocks right to her doorstep. She thanked me and I felt so good.
I wanted to see Jesus today. I saw the man at the train station, he asked for spare change and I looked at him. Without thought of what he would do with the change, I gave it to him. I did so with a prayer and blessing. Then I left and caught the train home.
You see I really wanted to see Jesus today and He really wanted to see me too. It was then that I realized that we had seen each other all throughout the day. He was inside a different shell each time that I saw Him but it was He. His face and expressions would be different each time but He was always the same. He wanted to see me and know what I would do each time that I met Him.
You see I really did want to see Jesus today and I did see Him clearly all the day long.
From Maria Carey
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
This is a picture of the very last shuttle reentry from orbit. The Space Shuttle Atlantis came home for the last time 10 days ago. There will be a hiatus in manned space flight from the U.S. for some time, but there will continue to be flights from Russia, as well as other robotic crafts that will be launched to explore our solar system...and beyond.
Friday, July 29, 2011
A story to connect with Saving the Lost...Keeping the Saved...
A paraphrase of a story in Heaven Bound Living as originally told by Thomas Wedel goes like this -- On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a little life-saving station. The building was primitive, and there was just one boat, but the members of the life-saving station were committed and kept a constant watch over the sea. When a ship went down, they unselfishly went out day or night to save the lost. Because so many lives were saved by that station, it became famous. Consequently, many people wanted to be associated with the station to give their time, talent, and money to support its important work. New boats were bought, new crews were recruited, and a formal training session was offered. As the membership in the life-saving station grew, some of the members became unhappy that the building was so primitive and that the equipment was so outdated. They wanted a better place to welcome the survivors pulled from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged and newly decorated building.
As the years passed, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a place to meet regularly for fellowship, for committee meetings, and for special training sessions about their mission, but few went out to the people lost at sea. The struggling people were no longer welcomed in that new life-saving station. So another life-saving station was founded further down the coast. History continued to repeat itself. If you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of adequate meeting places with ample parking and plush carpeting. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but most of the people don’t survive.
Food for thought...
Friday, July 22, 2011
Well...it has been nearly two weeks since I started a "Terrific Two Weeks", but VBS and other activities, ministry have intervened. Today, I will try to finish what I started...
We really enjoyed our vacation time with our friends, the Forrester family. I have told many folks, it may have been the best vacation we have had from the standpoint of just having some family time to play together. We had planned to get going on our way to Branson early Sunday morning, and our friends were going to be some hours ahead of us. An amazing thing happened just outside of Sherman when we connected with them on the road, much to our surprise. Whodathunk...what were the odds? Astronomical, I am certain. We were both behind schedule that day, but is worked out well, as we were able to travel together on to our destination.
We stayed in a beautiful resort in Branson called the Holiday Hills Resort. Once we figured out our way around the construction, things went pretty smoothly. There was a pool on the property that were able to enjoy...and we all took advantage of it nearly every day. We spent a day and a half at Silver Dollar City, the amusement park connected to Branson. I have never been to a large park that you cannot see until you are actually on the doorstep, but such as is it, because of the hills and the trees that surround it. We visited many shops, including the Christmas store, which seemed to be a favorite for all of us. We also had some special jerky, including "cajun gator"...not sure I would buy a bunch of it, but it was good. The roller coasters were a highlight, particularly the Wildfire, which is probably my all-time favorite with its two-three minutes of hills, drops, loops and corkscrews (think "Batman" at Six Flags, but twice as long and twice as good). The Powderkeg is hidden from view...and for good reason. Those in line said -- boring. Not a chance! I shoots you out at 70 mph up and over a hill...quite exciting. The biggest shock was actually "Thunderation" which we figured was like the Mine Train ride at Six Flags. Once again...we were wrong. It was much faster and more intense...a fun ride. The Great Amercian Country show was enjoyable, especially given the fact that the last quarter of their program was Christian contemporary/Gospel music. I am certain that it was a surprise to some, but quite pleasing for our families.
My favorite part of the trip was Wednesday when we went to the downtown mini-mall. So many great stores...a Thomas Kincaid gallery, another Christmas store, a Sports store and a savory store of wonderful treats where we tasted some good chips, dips (much like A Matter of Taste in Leavenworth, WA -- in fact, one of the reasons the Branson experience was so fun was that it is a tourist trap much like Leavenworth). The best part of the mall (and of the whole trip for me) was Mel's Hard Luck Diner where we went to eat dinner. I had the best red beans and rice soup I have ever had there...highly recommend it. But, the singing waiters and waitresses were terrific. We were serenaded by John Sager, who did a great job...and even embarrassed Emily a bit by singing to her. :-) Jason Yeager is a waiter there -- he was an Americal Idol top 24 finalist in 2007...another superb voice. The specialty store connected to the diner was also a fun place to buy some souvenirs.
We went to a show one evening call "The Cat's Pajamas," an acapella group, that was very entertaining. They really involved the audience and were personable as they sang a variety of music, but mostly from the 50s and 60s. They are going to be in the competition "Sing Off" this Fall, so look for them. I would be remiss if I did not mention that Alyssa had her little "Perry the Platypus" critter from Phineas and Ferb with us, who had his picture taken with one of the "Cats"...and he also appeared in many, many other pictures...just one more bit of entertainment of all of us. We really had fun that evening with the Forresters -- we just thoroughly enjoyed our special time to visit with our Forrester friends during the entire week...it was a wonderful time for our families. Hope you have a blessed day!
Monday, July 4, 2011
Week One -- was my first time at Lake Cisco Christian Camp, the Cisco Senior Session (after two years at Junior sessions). First, I was thankful to be at camp with my daughter, Emily, and my son, Ian...this was important and special to me. They enjoyed themselves, and so this was a blessing to me. I also had the privilege of being with the senior guys (21 of them) along with Jason H. and Chris M. Thankfully for Jason and myself, Chris was a former marine, so we knew who could be "bad cop" (getting them up in the morning, etc.)...and boy, did that work out well. ;-) Chris had them pretty well whipped into shape...until someone took his Honey Buns, then there were issues -- it was comical. We had a good week. I very much enjoyed getting to know our guys and many of the other campers throughout the course of the week.
A special opportunity presented itself when Jason's dad, John H. was able to come to camp and be with us. John and I have been friends for nearly 25 years, and I had not had the opportunity to spend any significant time with him in a long time. I was grateful to be able to spend some important time talking, sharing, praying together with John over the course of the week...it was a great blessing for our friendship.
There were other good friends at camp and new friends to be made. Saint Carl H. and I were up to our typical camp antics, dressing up Hawaiian, and in Christmas garb...as usual, it was a great time. I particularly enjoyed sitting in Carl's Bible class two times. My young friend Kyle R. had some important things to share during class, and I am so proud of how much he has grown in the Lord since his baptism last summer. It was great to meet Carl's mom, Carla, and sister, Anna, who were also at camp. Jordan T. and Lee L. did a good job directing the camp...it was a blessing to get to know them better. It was great to see and work with Blan, Sarah, Callie, Karyn, Becky, Jason Ha, LaDara, Ragan and others whom I have known for a few years now. I met so many other terrific people -- Joel, Joy, Sandy, Vale, Rob, Lacreta, Lindsay, Dale, John, Wil, Darla and many others. Each blessed my life in some special way, and I am thankful that to have gained new friends.
I was thankful to have the opportunity to speak during the Thursday evening worship time concerning, "Who is My Neighbor?" from Luke 10. It was an important message concerning how we need to be purposeful in our love for others. It led to a couple of significant highlights of the week for me. My young friend, Cody C., asked me to baptize him following the message, which was such an honor. I am very proud of Cody for his decision. Then, Friday evening a great thing happened, as a young lady, Emily A., asked me to baptize her. I did not know her, but once I had the opportunity to go visit with her and baptize her, we became fast friends...that was a special and humbling time, a tremendous blessing. It is always wonderful when people come to the Lord and give their lives to him...there is nothing more important than this!
I am thankful for special camp experiences that help us and bless us in our walk with the Lord, and I was forever changed because of my connection with the young people and adults at LCCC this summer.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Nathaniel Hawthorne tells the famous story that provides a great example concerning what it is to be Christ-like. A certain people had been so well-governed that when their king died, they determined never to have another until they could find a man that looked and acted just like the dead monarch. To keep his picture before the people, they had a great profile of the king carved on a cliff. For years, a commission of men hunted through the realm for a man that would qualify…but without success. Yet, one day they stopped at a humble cottage at the base of the great stone face to rest and secure food. To their great joy, they found a young man whose face was just the same as that of the monarch on the cliff. Day in and day out, as this simple boy had plowed his little fields and cut his wood, he had gazed up at the wonderful profile that spoke of courage, purity and determination. And day by day, shaped by the thoughts he allowed to dwell in his mind, he became just like the deceased king. We become more like our King Jesus…in our thoughts and actions…by looking to Him day by day.
Monday, June 13, 2011
I was oh so tempted to want to write about the Dallas Mavericks' run through the NBA playoffs, but just did not want to deliver any kind of kiss of death. So, now is the time to say -- congratulations to Mark Cuban and his team for dispatching the overhyped Miami Heatles. I have to say, there is a certain sweetness and justification to beating the Heat.
For any criticism that Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki has received for shrinking back over the past several years in the playoffs, he answered all of that criticism...and then some...in the 2011 playoffs. Nowitzki absolutely dominated in the playoffs through the first three rounds and finally in the NBA Championship. Of course, Nowitzki had some help...veteran Jason Kidd, dynamic Jason Terry, energetic J.J. Barea and enforcer Shawn Marion, among others, made significant contributions to bring home the hardware to Dallas.
I have to confess that I have had a hard time rooting for the Mavericks since they had not been able to put together a championship run, while in the meantime their nemesis, the Spurs, down the road in San Antonio, have won four championships over the past dozen years or so. Yet, they have earned maximum respect for their efforts in 2011. The monkey is off of their back, and they have gained a new legion of fans...myself included.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
E.J. Englin shares this -- In society we don the faces we think are most appropriate for the life we want lead. We tread lightly where people's sensibilities are concerned. We speak the language others speak. We immolate, we imitate, we contrive…subterfuge is our drink of choice and we imbibe liberally. Everyday situations arise where we want to make our thoughts, feelings, and voices be heard…situations with our family, friends, co-workers, bosses. We want to be up front, we want to be honest, but we realize that honesty isn't always the best policy. How do you tell the people around you that you want them to do something that may be against their better judgment, or against their nature? How do you promote your ideas, without stepping on the toes of someone important to you? It may sound cynical, but beneath the exterior of the person you call friend lies their own goals, their own dreams, their own wishes; wishes that may be at odds with your own.
Ulterior motive as defined by the MSN Encarta dictionary means: a second and underlying motive…often a selfish or dishonorable one. But, it's not always selfish. Your underlying motive may be to get your daughter to stop dating a man who is leading her down the wrong path. Or it may be to help your spouse make a good decision about a car you're not even sure will make it down the block. It could on the surface seem that you are doing things for your own selfish reasons. And, too often, we think we have a better answer than the person we love. It can be very dishonorable, however, when we don't speak our minds and tell the truth, but it can also be disastrous when we do.
Ulterior motives often hide behind the tragic faces we show to the world. They lurk beneath our benign masks…coloring our actions…informing our decisions. Your mom has one when she huffs and puffs about not being able to go to her church function, when you barely have enough money to buy food. After all, if you give her money, it was your idea. Your husband has one when he drops hints that the boys are having a football party the same day as your anniversary. His forlorn face makes you give in when what you really want to do is wring his neck. Your co-worker has one when they complain about staying up all night with the baby, so you offer to take care of their work, even though you're overloaded with your own.
We often believe that saying what we really want appears selfish or immoral, but to this writer it shows a marked disrespect for the person you're dealing with. Asking outright may not get you what you want, but at least you're honest. Telling the truth about what you want may not be rewarding, but it can stop a lot of heartache. Of course, that being said, civilization just could not stand if everyone was honest about their real motives. Having an ulterior motive could be a good thing or a bad thing. It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish and if what you want will benefit you and hurt someone else.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Here are some thoughts from Edward Fudge's gracEmail...
THE GREATEST HERESY -- Whatever else might be said, I honestly don't believe we'll even begin to move in the right direction until we resolve that loving one another (and everyone else) is a higher priority than proving, protecting and enforcing the rightness of our doctrines. I'm almost certain someone just now had the thought--"Here we go again, compromising correct doctrine in the name of love. More fluffy, post-modern, sentimental garbage!" Was I right?
The thing is, there's absolutely nothing fluffy, post-modern or sentimental about placing love above doctrinal correctness, for this conviction permeates the New Testament! Truth be told, we shouldn't even contrast "love" and "doctrinal correctness" in the first place. We should rather regard the command to love as the most foundational doctrine of the church and thus the most important doctrine to be correct on!
Peter says, "Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins" (and alleged "heresies"? I Pet. 4:8, cf. Col 3:14). If love is to be placed "above all," then there simply can't be any other command or doctrine or agenda that competes with it for the top position. It must stand on top alone. Paul makes the same point, but even more emphatically, when he tells us it doesn't matter how right we are, how spiritually gifted we are, how intelligent or wise we are, or even how much faith and service we display: if these aren't accompanied by love, they are a noisy gong or clanging cymbal (I Cor 13:1-3). -- Greg Boyd, Christus Victor (May 7, 2011).
Monday, May 30, 2011
In an interesting twist of fate yesterday, two J.R.s...JR Hildebrand and Dale Earnardt Jr...both lost on the last lap in the two biggest races (scope for Indy...length for Nascar) in motorsports. Both cars' main sponsor is -- the National Guard. The irony is...our National Guard is second to no one...and the same is true for the rest of our armed forces. Happy Memorial Day and God bless our military men and women.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
A good story to consider...
In the 1975 Masters Tennis Tournament in Stockholm, Sweden, tennis star, Arthur Ashe, was ahead 4-1 in the third and decisive set of his round-robin match with Romanian-born Ilie Nastase. Nastase was sometimes dubbed "Nasty" Nastase for his flamboyant on-court antics. Behind in the match, Nastase went into his act again, stalling and arguing, cursing, taunting, and acting like a madman. Finally, Arthur Ashe put down his racket and walked off the court, saying, "I've had enough. I'm at the point where I'm afraid I'll lose control." "But Arthur," cried the umpire, "You'll default the match." "I don't care," replied Ashe, "I'd rather lose that than my self-respect."
Agreeing that Nastase's unruly behavior had unfairly interrupted the match and driven Ashe to the sidelines, referee Horst Klosterkemper came up with a solution to the fiasco. He announced that Nastase was disqualified. He refused to condone Nastase's bullying tactics and he insisted that Nastase default the match for his unsportsman-like conduct. Arthur Ashe won both in the game of tennis…and in the game of life. He was a person who lived integrity…and it showed. He faced many struggles in his life, but he was respected to the day that he died…and to this day.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Following is a response to a buddy of mine from my youth concerning the validity and value of the Bible in particular, and thus Christianity in general...I am sharing it here in case it may be a blessing to another.
The Bible is a simple message about the Son of God who came in the flesh, sent by His Father (God), to redeem His people. Some of the adjoining detailed principles and concepts can be challenging -- atonement, baptism, resurrection, Spirit/water/blood, etc...all run deep. What is critical is that...if we believe in the Bible and its transmission, we know that it comes from the hand of the Holy Spirit. He used 40 men over a couple of millennia to record the messages of God. While many men had a hand in the writing...it is necessary to understand that the hand of the Spirit was over them all as they worked. (This is the simplistic view...there is much more to tell...perhaps another time). It's composition is the result of many manuscripts preserved and consistent by nature...the Dead Sea scrolls prove the amazing consistency of the message over at least a thousand years of time, and it actually is consistent (in its writing composition) over the course of thousands of years. The messages found in the Word of God may appear to be contradictory at times, but most are found to complimentary with each other. There are some questions that arise, for certain, but can be discerned with reasonable consistency. All matters pertaining to life and godliness must been considered through the eyes of faith...this is critical. If we do not live with trust in the message as coming from God, then all bets are off.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Kelly Adkins shares this story -- My brother Kevin thinks God lives under his bed. At least that's what I heard him say one night. He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped outside his closed door to listen. "Are you there, God?" he said. "Where are you? Oh, I see -- under the bed." I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room. Kevin's unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world in which Kevin lives. He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor. Apart from his size…he's 6-foot-2…there are few ways in which he is an adult. He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas, and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.
I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life? He is up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, returning to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed. The only variation in his schedule is laundry days, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child. He does not seem dissatisfied. And Saturdays--oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That's the day that my dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger. "That one's goin' to Chi-car-go!" Kevin shouts as he claps his hands. His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights.
I don't think Kevin knows anything exists outside his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips He doesn't know what it means to be discontent. His life is simple. He will never know the entanglements of wealth or power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. He recognizes no differences in people, treating each person as an equal and a friend. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be. His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it. He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax. He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure. He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue. Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God. Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God -- to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an "educated" person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion. In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity, I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith. It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions. It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap -- I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances -- they all become disabilities when I do not submit them to Christ.
Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of the Lord. And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I'll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed. Kevin won't be surprised at all....
Saturday, May 21, 2011
His name is Jose Bautista...and I don't believe we have seen such a hitter in Major League Baseball since (I hate to say it) Barry Bonds. Bautista is a big time hitter than makes pitchers tremble. He has a major league leading 18 home runs this year...to go with the 54 home runs he hit in 2010. But, he doesn't just hit home runs...he has a major league leading .370 avg to go with the home runs, so he is hitting singles and doubles as well. The significant respect from pitchers also shows in that he usually walks multiple times every game. It also doesn't hurt that I have had him on my fantasy team last year as well as this year. :-)
What makes Bautista's story even more amazing is that he is not some second year player blowing up the statistics...he is a jouneryman who has played for five teams. His career home run totals were 74 in six pro seasons until last year. What makes all of this hard to understand is that it is the post steroids era, so it would be hard to think that he could have some major advantage over other big league hitters. He only hit 13 home runs in 2009, but most of those came in the final six weeks of that season. So...what brand of spinach did he start eating in August of 2009? Who knows. He did make a change in his batting stance, and he says that this made a significant difference for him. But, to allow for such an increase in power? Nevertheless, whatever he has been doing...it is working for him. And, for his and the Blue Jays' sake (not to mention my fbb team :-), here is to hoping he keeps hitting the cover off of the ball and scaring pitchers silly.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Don Graham shares this story -- No one knows when the legend began, but generations of people called the “Sayang” have waited for its promise to be fulfilled. For more than five centuries, they eked out their existence on a remote South Pacific island -- virtually cut off from the outside world. The Sayang have survived as farmers, growing crops on rocky soil nearly too poor to farm. Rain has been the only source of fresh water. They’ve had no electricity or phone service…not even a doctor. Twice government troops have tried to force the village of 10,000 to relocate -- once at gunpoint. But the Sayang refuse to leave because they are bound by the legend’s promise -- the arrival of a foreigner bearing a precious gift. In 1967, a German tourist stumbled upon their village. He was the first foreign visitor in the history of the village of “Yang Jauh.” He left behind his signature and photograph but nothing more. Then in 1986, a Japanese scientist came. She, too, left only her signature and photograph. Nearly 20 years would pass before Yang Jauh village saw another outsider, a Christian worker “Michael Martin.”
“Agus” remembers Martin’s arrival vividly. His father had taught him the legend as a boy, and it was his father’s voice that echoed in Agus’ mind as he hurried to the house where Yang Jauh’s elders had gathered to receive their latest visitor. Martin sat waiting. He’d heard about the village by chance, through a Sayang student who attended one of the English classes Martin taught in town. As far as Martin could tell, these people weren’t on anybody’s map except God’s. As he spoke with Agus and the elders, Martin worked up the courage to ask a question that had bothered him since his arrival. Why did these people live in such an inhospitable place in the middle of nowhere? Agus gazed intently into Martin’s eyes and replied, “Our village has a story that has been passed down through generations. My father told it to me as a child and his father told him...that one day a foreigner with white skin will come to our village and reveal something precious to us.” Silence filled the air. Martin could feel goose bumps race down his back. Agus and the elders stared expectantly at him, waiting. “I was afraid something got lost in translation…this was too good to be true,” Martin remembers. “I know a lot of people probably would have jumped on that and laid out the plan of salvation. But I wanted to learn more about this story and the culture. Their worldview, their mindset, is very different from ours.” Little by little, though, Martin shared the Gospel with Agus. Then one day Martin got the news he’d been praying for -- Agus had surrendered his life to Jesus, becoming the first Christian in Yang Jauh’s history.
Since his conversion, Agus has been working to help Martin convince others that Christ is the precious gift the Sayang have been expecting. But it hasn’t been easy. Many in Yang Jauh…even Agus’ younger brother…believe the legend refers to some sort of financial gain. Others have lost faith in the story altogether. But the ministry among the Sayang is still in its infancy. So far, the language barrier has kept Martin from spreading the Gospel on a broad scale, though it hasn’t stopped Agus from sharing one-on-one. Martin believes the Sayang are open to the Gospel. He is finding ways to communicate the Lord’s message with them. “We’re on the verge of this people group being able to hear the Gospel in their heart language on a large scale for the very first time,” he says. “Each time I go out to the village someone new has had a dream and has questions about who Jesus is, why we’re coming and what this precious thing is that we have to share with them. “God’s plan for the Sayang started hundreds of years ago before I ever showed up. I’m just glad to know that I can be a small part of it.”
Friday, May 13, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
A good story from a friend...
The story is told of an old man who lived on a farm in the mountains of eastern Kentucky with his young grandson.
Each morning, Grandpa was up early sitting at the kitchen table reading from his old worn-out Bible. His grandson…who wanted to be just like him…tried to imitate him in any way that he could.
One day, the grandson asked, “Papa, I try to read the Bible just like you but I don't understand it, and what I do understand I forget as soon as I close the book.
What good does reading the Bible do?”
The Grandfather quietly turned from putting coal in the stove and said, “Take this old wicker coal basket down to the river and bring back a basket of water.”
The boy did as he was told, even though all the water leaked out before he could get back to the house.
The grandfather laughed and said, “You will have to move a little faster next time,” and sent him back to the river with the basket to try again.
This time the boy ran faster, but again the old wicker basket was empty before he returned home. Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was “impossible to carry water in a basket,” and he went to get a bucket instead.
The old man said, “I don't want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You can do this. You're just not trying hard enough,” and he went out the door to watch the boy try again.
At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got far at all. The boy scooped the water and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather the basket was again empty. Out of breath, he said, “See Papa, it's useless!”
“So you think it is useless?” the old man said. “Look at the basket.”
The boy looked at the basket and for the first time he realized that the basket looked different. Instead of a dirty old wicker coal basket, it was clean.
“Son, that's what happens when you read the Bible. You might not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, it will change you from the inside out."
Friday, May 6, 2011
People assumed that when Albert Pujols put the silent treatment on his contract situation in the Spring that it would no longer be an issue...ahh, nothing but a slow start by Albert, and then the sports talking-heads were all over the subject again -- "is this (contract situation) still a distraction?" "Is this what is causing Albert's slump?" Well those concerns have certainly been laid to rest the past couple of weeks, as Albert is back to being "the Machine"...looking more like the best player in baseball. His bat has come alive with multiple hits for his St. Louis Cardinals...and many of those have been home runs. It doesn't hurt that Matt Holiday and resurgent newcomer Lance Berkman have been hitting like Mays and Mantle so far this year. The bigger question was what would the Cards do without 20-game winner Adam Wainright? He and Chris Carpenter have been their one-two punch for several years now. With Wainright gone and Carpenter struggling, the young Cardinals rotation with Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Kyle McClellan has had to pick up the slack...they have done an excellent job ot this point. Another issue for the Cards has been the bullpen, which has blown more saves than any other in the majors this year. It seems to be getting better...and still, the Cardinals are a game-and-a-half up in the N.L. Central. I guess we have known for awhile that Tony LaRussa is one of the best managers of all-time and a sure fire hall of famer...this is further confirmation of that fact.
I am not certain how many had the surprising Florida Marlins in second behind the Phillies in the N.L. East at this point in the season...but then again, this is their m.o. isn't it? Nobody ever expects them to do well, and yet, they...like their small market brothers, the Twins, and A's...always seem to be respectable. They have been hitting well, and their pitching, while not stellar, has been very effective. I say, not stellar, but starter Josh Johnson and closer Leo Nunez are about as good as you can get.
The defending champion Giants have struggled out of the gate this year, and yet, they are playing .500 baseball. If they can really get healthy...with their pitching, they will certainly make some noise in the N.L. West as the summer comes. It is tragic to see what has happened with the beloved and respected Los Angeles Dodgers. Owner Frank McCourt's personal and financial struggles have created something of a circus for the once-proud franchise. Bud Selig has appointed M.L.B. to run the team until such a time as when McCourt can work through his struggles...or, more likely, until he sells the team. I just hope that the Dodgers can get the ship righted so that they can get back to simply focusing on baseball. At least Andre Ethier...he of the 30-game hitting streak...doesn't seem to be bothered by much right now. It would be great if Ethier can keep it up for awhile, but with each hit and each passing day past 30 games, the media and other pressure will ratchet up significantly. Go Andre...keep it up!
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Time to get back on the baseball beat. So much for starting the baseball season with a whimper...much maligned "ace" of the Twins, Francisco Liriano, pitched the first no-hitter of the 2011 baseball season yesterday for the Twins. A perennial contender for the AL Central title, the poor Twins really needed a shot in the arm, as it is the worst start to a season that they have had in a many years. They lost all-world catcher Joe Mauer about a month ago and no one really knows when he is going to get back. The other super slugger for the Twins, Justin Morneau, still seems to be shaking off the effects of a bad concussion that sidelined him for much of last season. Then there is Liriano, who was 1-4 with a bloated ERA coming into last night. While it wasn't a thing of ultimate beauty (he issued six walks), nobody is going to complain, and maybe this is the happening they need to get them on a positive roll.
The Red Sox have come back some in the past couple of weeks, but are still under the .500 mark, which has many of their fans concerned. The good news is that Josh Beckett has shown flashes of his former self, which was brilliant. Diasuke Matsuzaka, whom I believe the Sox were about ready to part ways with, has had a couple of good starts as well. Couple these things with Carl Crawford coming out of a season long slump, and he and fellow-newcomer, Adrian Gonazalez, just might lead the Sox back to the top of the AL East in short order. They will have to deal with the resurgent Rays and ever-present Yankees. Speaking of which, the Yanks just continue to work their starting pitching staff magic with smoke and mirrors. Without 19 game winner, Phil Hughes, the Yankees looked like they were going to be in trouble with only C.C. Sabathia and a bunch of other question marks for starters a couple of weeks into the season. Yet, A.J. Burnett has bounced back and is pitching much better this year after a poor 2010. Bartolo Colon has come out of nowhere and has pitched like his old Cy Young self from several years ago. So, for now, the pitching seems to be holding up and their usual vicious hitting is going to keep them in the race to the end.
The defending champion Texas Rangers have been hanging in (barely) atop the A.L. West. There is no doubt that the loss of closer Neftali Feliz for a couple of weeks has hurt them. They have given up leads and/or lost on a few occasions recently, so Feliz can't get back quick enough. This is also troubled by the fact that one of their key bullpen set-up men, Darren O'Day, was likely lost for the year. The Rangers will be getting some pitchers back from the DL in the next few days to go along with their potent hitters, so it should help everyone...now, if only Josh Hamilton would get back soon! The Angels' starting pitching...particularly Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, has brought them even with the Rangers for the division lead. And if the A's could ever get some hitting to go along with their excellent starting staff, they are going to be in the mix as well. Even the lowly Mariners have been playing much better of late...hitting and pitching like they did a decade ago. So, hang on for the ride...it is going to be exciting. We'll consider the N.L. soon.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Some funny thoughts...
If Mary, Susan, Claire and Barbara go out for lunch, they will call each other Mary, Susan, Claire and Barbara.
If John, Brad, Tony and Daniel go out, they will affectionately refer to each other as Bruno, Scrappy, Peanut-Head and Godzilla.
When the bill arrives, John, Brad, Tony and Daniel will each throw in $20, even though the total is only $34.25. None of them will have any smaller bills and none will admit they want change back.
When Mary, Susan, Claire and Barbara get their bill, out come the pocket calculators.
A man will pay $10 for a $5 item he needs.
A woman will pay $5 for a $10 item that she doesn't need, because it's on sale.
A man has five items in his bathroom: a toothbrush, razor, shaving cream, a bar of soap, and a towel from the Motel 6.
The average number of items in a woman's bathroom is 328. The average man would not be able to identify most of them.
Women always have the last word in an argument. Anything a man adds after that is the beginning of a new argument.
Women love cats.
Men may say they love cats, but when women are not looking, men will kick cats.
A woman worries about the future...until she gets a husband.
A man never worries about the future...until he gets a wife.
A successful man is one who makes more money than can be spent by his wife.
A successful woman is one who can find that a man.
A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.
A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, and she does.
A woman will dress up when she goes shopping, empties the garbage, answers the phone, waters the plants, gets the mail and reads a book.
A man will dress up for weddings and funerals.
Men wake up looking as good as when they went to bed.
Women will somehow deteriorate during the night.
A woman knows all about her children. She knows about their best friends, romances, secret hopes and dreams, favorite foods, fears and dental appointments.
A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in the house.
Thought for the Day
Married men should forget their mistakes. There is no need for two people to remember the same thing.
Monday, April 25, 2011
When Michelangelo visited several big art galleries in Europe, he was deeply impressed by the great number of paintings depicting Jesus Christ on the cross. He asked the question, “Why are these galleries filled with so many pictures of Christ on the cross…dying? Why do artists concentrate on that passing episode, as if it were the last word and final scene? Christ’s dying on the cross lasted for a few hours, but to the end of unending eternity, Christ is alive! He rules and reigns triumphant!”
Michelangelo was right. We are certainly impressed by the passion of the cross, and justifiably so, but…it would have no meaning were it not for the resurrection! People wear crosses as a symbol of their Christian faith…and for a long time, I wondered why not a grave stone(?) Why would this not be the symbol (not that we really need a symbol at all)? Yet, a few years ago, some friends purchased a clothing company – Empty Tomb Gear. I am thankful that someone is blessing people with a symbol that recognizes the full power of God at work.
Still, the true symbol of the Christian faith and life is the presence of God's Holy Spirit in the life of a believer (Romans 8:9)...that results in a changed heart, one that is dedicated to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Some might say -- why do you not say baptism? It is necessary, but many who are baptized, do not necessarily believe or give their lives to Christ, i.e...do not recognize or live according to the Word of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). We come to this time of year where the world recognizes the empty tomb…that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Our heavenly Father raised up His Son eternally so that we too might one day be raised eternally. We are to experience what Jesus experienced...death, burial and resurrection!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
This past week, April 12th, saw the 50th anniversary of the first flight by a man into space aboard the Vostok 1. Soviet Cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin's, journey is now the stuff of legend. This event, following the launch of Sputnik a few years before, was a starting point for what would become a space race between the Soviets and United States for decades. It is remarkable that now, 50 years later, we are working together in our space programs to build an international space station and cooperating in other ways...
Thursday, April 14, 2011
We think of joy as being something that takes place in pleasant times...that joy accompanies good times, not difficult times. We have a narrow view of joy. Paul introduces us to a joy in his life that is deeper than anything we have conceived with our minds. It is a joy that is independent of circumstances. Yes, it is present in the delightful and good times, but it is also present in the difficult and painful times.
Dr. Paul Tournier says -- Good and evil, in the moral sense, do not reside in things, but always in persons. Things and events, whether fortunate or unfortunate, are simply what they are, morally neutral. What matters is the way we react to them. Only rarely are we the masters of events, but (along with those who help us) we are responsible for our reactions. . Events give us pain or joy, but our growth is determined by our personal response to both [YANCEY, Searching for the Invisible p. 281]
People may disappoint us, but God never will. He proved it at Calvary and if you give Him a chance, He will prove it in your life. And if we remember this, and trust God, we will have joy…even in the difficult times. And we will find joy as we learn from circumstance and mistakes…all for God's glory.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Here is a unique view of the space shuttle Endeavour by Ben Cooper of Launch Photography as it sits on its fuel tank and rocket boosters being readied for launch . Endeavour is the youngest of the three operational shuttles (the others being Discovery and Atlantis). It will make its twenty-fifth and final voyage later this month.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
I am thankful that we are back to baseball...although I am still trying to get over the Giants beating the Rangers in the World Series last year. :-) Still, the Rangers are off to such a terrific start, they may very well end up back there again this year...which would be just fine with me. Nelson Cruz has hit four home runs in his first four games to tie a major league record. And it's not like he is the only Ranger hitting the cover off the ball...the Rangers had 9 home runs, feasting on Red Sox starters this past weekend. Meanwhile, the Red Sox started the season, 0-3, for the first time in 15 years. Their once-prized pitching staff struggled mightily last year. Aside from Jon Lester and Clay Bucholtz having good years, former World Series winners Josh Beckett and John Lackey struggled.
The Orioles finished 2010 strong under new manager Buck Showalter, which is not surprising in one sense -- Showalter has had significant success as a manager in the past. If there is something surprising about their start, it is that the Orioles have been so bad for so long...their last winning season was 1997. Yet, they have picked up some good pieces in the off season in Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero to go along with Matt Wieters, Brian Roberts, Luke Scott, and others. They also have a good young pitching staff, Matusz, Guthrie, Bergeson, Arrieta, etc., reminiscent of the Rays a few years ago. Those Rays, who have been so good in recent years...minus Matt Garza, Carl Crawford and others...are winless. It's almost as if the Rays and Orioles have swapped teams...such is life in the MLB fast lane.
In the NL, the Phillies, Braves and Reds are off to good starts, predicatably. Yet, the defending champion Giants...who are 1-4...are having a hard time finding their chemistry just yet. The Milwaukee Brewers, who many predicted would win the Central, have been bit by the injury bug and have started the season 0-4. It is still very early, so no one should be writing off teams like the Brewers, Red Sox, Rays and Giants just yet. And I will say this for Bud Black, manager of the Padres -- I don't know how he does it, but he has San Diego at the top of their division early on. They led the NL West most of the way last year, much to nearly everyone's surprise. Before this season started, though, he lost his best player, Adrain Gonzalez, to the Red Sox and his best pitcher, Mat Latos, has been on the DL. So, I don't know if it's Black magic or a bud-ding genius...whatever it is...it is working for him. Stay tuned...
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Faith…or at least what people believe…makes all the difference in the world in the way they act, in the values they hold dear, and in the standards which guide the way they live. Perhaps King Solomon said it best when he wrote these words, "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22). Our emotions have a profound effect upon the way we feel...and they really can affect us physically. Some people see things from a negative point of view...convinced that everything is going to fall apart (think, Chicken Little). However, we tend to be attracted to the person who has a smile on his face and joy in his heart.
You and I have only a limited control over the circumstances that come our way. We are not sure what the next few months or years will bring to our homes, our families, and to our lives. Those who sit around and wonder what bad things they fear are going to come to pass…often find that they do! For others, there is that trust…that sacred bond which brings strength to our life…and there is the voice of Jesus saying, "Cheer up, because a joyful heart is the very best medicine that you can take." We are going to go a lot further by offering sugar to people than vinegar. Life is all about choices. We can choose to be happy, sad, angry…and it will make all of the difference in our relationships.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Following my shared message with JJ Sunday, it got me to thinking that it was time to revisit a subject of certain importance in relationship to worship. Our point/counterpoint message was shared in order to help us to consider and realize the big picture concerning worship and not to get caught up in meaningless arguments. A short excerpt from what JJ shared -- "after the last song of (a) service -- after we clapped during it -- our preacher got up and literally yelled at us, three teenagers, and told us that it was Biblically wrong. He was red faced, eyes bulged, sweating and literally making everyone uncomfortable. But this is how I was taught I was "doing something wrong." Another not-so-fine example of a person (preacher) taking down a mosquito with a bazooka...and completely missing the point...missing the big picture.
Unfortunately, this is not a unique experience, as I have another church leader friend who shared with me awhile back concerning an experience where people walked out of a baptism because some people applauded the baptism. The irony is that those who make such a big deal about things like clapping can't figure out why so many (of their) young people, when they get to be an age of accountability, leave the fellowship for other ones...or leave Christianity all together.
There is a similar message following... A message from Edward Fudge's gracE-mail and the wise answer he shares -- A concerned sister writes: "A teenager led a song at our church recently, and the teens and a few adults clapped during the chorus. Three families walked out in disapproval. My son does not understand why people cannot express themselves this way without others being offended."
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The Bible certainly talks about clapping the hands in worship. David exhorts: "Clap your hands, all peoples; shout to God with the voice of joy" (Psalm 47:1). The New Testament church used the Psalms in worship, including this one (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Several of us North American Christians have only recently learned to clap, although many Christians around the world have always done so when appropriate. In daily life, we typically clap to express joy and celebration, or we applaud to show someone honor. It would be sad indeed to think that anyone who knows the Lord can think of nothing to celebrate, and God is certainly worthy of all our honor. There is a time for quiet meditation and a time for joyful exhuberance.
It is unfortunate that people so easily confuse their personal preferences with God's desires. The Bible calls for a great diversity of expression and bodily postures in worship. We all would do well to remember that and not to think that our own familiar forms are the only ones permitted. Genuine worship which is spontaneous and high volume reaches God's ears in heaven, as do the prayers of those who kneel to pray and sincerely read their prayers from a book. According to the New Testament, God is far more interested in the devotion of the heart that expresses worship than he is in the externals by which that worship is expressed (John 4:19-24).
I am happy that teenagers want to attend worship meetings in the first place, and that they are excited about taking part. Wise church leaders will seek to encourage appropriate forms which constructively provide for the needs of all their members. Mature members will learn to focus on God regardless of worship style, and not limit their attention to their own personal comfort and satisfaction. Worship is about God -- not about us. Unless we keep that truth in mind, our own songs and prayers just might be bouncing back off the ceiling.
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Saturday, March 19, 2011
Look...up in the sky -- it's a bird, it's a plane...it's supermoon! (Sorry, I couldn't resist). This is a funny designation, but tonight will be the closest the moon has been to earth in 18 years, so it will appear closer (super) as it rises. The supermoon, which will appear up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than a typical full moon, welcomes vernal equinox...and warmer weather, which is welcome.Blessings, Don
Friday, March 18, 2011
Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Esau was the first born of the two, yet his brother, Jacob, tricked him out of rights as first born and out of his blessing, as well. Jacob, then, had the greater share of the inheritance and the place of preeminence among his people. Esau was gullible and foolish for allowing himself to be deceived, and yet…he swore vengeance upon his brother for deceiving him. Jacob fled from the land of his family and was on his own for many years…but, God was with him. God worked on his heart and he would grow to become a leader of God’s people, as Israel.
In Genesis 33:1-17, Jacob has emerged from wrestling with God a better person with a mission from God, but to him, it may not matter as Esau and 400 men are coming to meet him. Jacob goes out first to meet him and arranges his family so that the best loved ones are in the rear for protection. Jacob, who had taken Esau’s birthright and blessing twenty years before did not know what to expect, but he prepared for the worst. Jacob approaches his brother with several tokens of submission and humility. He bows before him several times, refers to himself as Esau’s servant and to Esau as lord and master, and says that to see his face is like seeing God’s! Esau’s response is not altogether expected…like the father of the prodigal son, he “runs to meet” Jacob and “embraces him.” Esau lovingly addresses him as “my brother” and accepts his gifts only under protest. This meeting is a wonderful reconciliation.
All of the gifts and grace on Jacob’s part reveal the load that has been on Jacob’s conscience, as well as the sheer grace of Esau’s reply. For all of the difficulties and lost opportunities that Esau faced in his life, at least at this point in his life, his heart is made of gold. His love for Jacob is true evidence of God working in and through him. Esau suggests that he and his men escort Jacob and his household to Esau’s homeland of Seir. Even though he is unable to follow Esau back to his land, he is gracious in his refusal and in his need to strike out on his own. Like a bone that has been broken and then reset well, their relationship is able to be stronger than ever. Jacob is careful to cultivate the friendship so that in parting there would be no fear of mistrust. Even though Jacob struggles with his inner self, he has learned from his experience with his brother. He is father not only of his family, but over all the people of God. Esau leaves for Seir…Jacob brings his family to Succoth, to a place where he believes he needs to rest for some time, and he ends up staying there for a few years.
During the Revolutionary War, there lived in Pennsylvania a preacher named Peter Miller. Although Miller was greatly loved by everyone in the community, there was one man who lived near the church who persecuted him continually. This man was not only a hater of the church, but it also turned out that he was a traitor to his country. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. The trial was conducted in Philadelphia and no sooner did Peter Miller hear of it, then he set out on foot to visit General Washington and interceded for the man’s life. But Washington told him, “I’m sorry that I cannot grant your request for your friend.” “Friend?” said Miller “That man is the worst enemy I have.” “What?” said the General, “You have walked 60 miles to save the life of an enemy?” This puts the matter in a different light in my judgment…I will grant him a pardon for your sake.” The pardon was made out and signed by Washington and Miller proceeded at once on foot to a place 15 miles distant where the execution was scheduled to take place that afternoon. He arrived just as the man was being carried to the scaffold in order to be hanged. When he saw Peter Miller hurrying toward the place, he remarked, “There is old Peter Miller, come all the way here to have his revenge gratified.” Scarcely had he spoken the words when Miller pushed his way through to the condemned man and handed him the pardon that saved his life.
We all need reconciliation and forgiveness…with God and with one another. As the Word says, “How can a believer say he loves God and hate his brother?” It is not possible. Some people have the attitude that, “I will forgive them if they come apologize and ask for forgiveness.” This is to miss the point of forgiveness. Sometimes these elements just are not going to be there…some may not be as gracious as Jacob in seeking reconciliation, while others certainly not be as gracious as Esau in offering it! It is so often the little things -- like resentments -- that finally divide people. And the solution, of course, is to let them go. There is really nothing particularly profound about it. But for fulfilling and lasting relationships, letting them go is a must. If we refuse to carry around bitterness, we may be surprised at how much energy we have left for building bonds with those we love. If our speech and actions can approach the grace and love that Esau had to share and which Esau and Jacob shared with each other, then opportunity for restoration and growth is possible. If we humbly seek what is right in our relationships, they will be stronger and better than ever. This is love’s cover…the life of forgiveness.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
I am happy that baseball is just around the corner...hopefully it will help ease the pain of what is happening in the world of football. This message is a lament...or perhaps a rant (or both). Last Friday, the NFL Players Association decided that the NFL owners weren't doing enough to "build trust" between the groups by not opening up all of their financial books, so they chose to decertify as a union, thereby allowing the players leverage to sue the owners individually. The owners promptly "locked out" the players from being able to work as teams...no free agents can move, etc...not much can happen until all of this gets resolved. Oh...the draft will get to take place, but even this may be tarnished, as "the players" who are "no longer a union" are, nonetheless, encouraging the potential top draft picks to avoid (boycott) the draft. This all seems unseemly and spiteful...and is not going to help get the situation resolved.
I understand why "the system" is what it is, even though such labor disputes have been taking place for decades, but it could certainly use some tweaking. I don't know of many folks who are pleased that the millionaire players are feuding with billionaire owners over how to handle their business...but, as usual, it is us, "the fans," who are going to suffer. I am certain that many fans will walk away, as have those who once supported hockey and baseball. And, I am also equally certain that many of those same fans will be back when the NFL gets its business in order. We have come to expect it, I believe...and this is why people will come back and continue to pay huge sums of money to support the great American sporting pasttimes. Here is to hoping that a better way to solve and resolve such business issues can be found.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Below is a telling image of the size of the waves that were generated by the earthquake just off the northeast coast of Japan. As can be discerned by the scale in the lower right hand corner, the darker the color, the higher the waves and possibility for damage. It is amazing just how far reaching the impact is from this earthquake...it practically stretches around the world!
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I remember that when I was younger, that I enjoyed playing basketball. It is a good team sport that requires productive teamwork in order to be successful. What I did not enjoy were the tryouts, because they often involved playing "one on one." I was pretty good at being a point guard on a team of five, but put me in a “one on one” situation? The results were usually not so good. Some of the great basketball television commercials have involved “one on one,” such as Jordan and Bird’s famous McDonalds commercial.
Contrary to my basketball experiences, when it comes to life, “one on one” is a great way to play. It is practical and responsible. We need to be able to share with one another – the joys, the sorrows, the frustrations, the surprises. Jesus encourages us to deal with struggles with one another “one on one.” There is tremendous wisdom behind this encouragement. It heads off all types of relationship difficulties, and allows for reconciliation, which is such an important spiritual principle! Another great value for spending time “one on one” is discipleship. This is a grand Biblical principle where stronger, more mature Christians mentor younger Christians and help them to grow in their Christian walk. It is important to encourage people to spend time “one on one.” I have shared over and over that I have no illusion to having all the answers to the Bible. Yet, if anyone would have questions for me following a sermon or a class -- come see me “one on one.” I have always been open to discussion and I always will be so.
One of my favorite people that I have known in my life is Bud Haynes. He would occasionally come to talk with me after a class with questions in order to clarify a point that I may not have made particularly clear. This would always lead to a welcome and excellent discussion that would help both of us to be better students and people. One of my favorite Bible passages is “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). This has proven to be true on countless occasions in my life, and for this, I am very thankful. It is great to have a good discussion. The Lord understood how important it is that we humans build relationships and that it needs to happen on an elementary level first – “one on one.”
Sunday, March 6, 2011
It has been a several days since I have done a sports message...not that there hasn't been a lot going on -- the NFL is working to avoid a labor stoppage...Nascar ended week three today...the conference finals for NCAA basketball are taking place...MLB spring training is well underway right now...golf is irrelevant without Tiger Woods playing well and...the haves and the have not are becoming more distinct in the NBA. It is this last point that troubles me, especially since the NFL seems to have a more relevant parity system where any of the the 32 teams have a chance to be good (or bad) in any given year. In the NBA, the Knicks are relevant once again thanks to trades for Amar'e Stoudamire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups in the past year. The Oklahoma City Thunder also are gaining strength, but...it going to be pretty hard to get excited about basketball in Cleveland, Sacramento, Washington or Charlotte anytime in the future, if ever, which is unfortunate. The NBA has allowed itself to be a personality driven league, rather than team or competition driven. Therefore, when superstars become free agents, they can go to any team that they want and build a little super power as the Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Bulls and now the Knicks have done. I understand that some people like the "super team system," but I believe it is ultimately going to lead to the demise of some of the weaker teams. Why will fans in some of the aforementioned places and other cities continue to shell out for teams that are never going to be above .500? MLB has a similar issue, but it is not pronounced. There are fewer cities who struggles, because baseball's revenue sharing and good management helps keep teams in smaller markets like Minneapolis, Oakland and Tampa relevant. So, all this to say -- come on NFL...pull it together! I don't think that I or any other die hard football fan is going to survive the Fall if there is a work stoppage. :-)
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Mike Collins shares this -- It's true: beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and as the adage goes, "The eyes are the window to the soul." Even Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 6:22-23 (Living Bible translation): "If your eye is pure, there will be sunshine in your soul. But if your eye is clouded with evil thoughts and desires, you are in deep spiritual darkness. And oh, how deep that darkness can be!" Spiritual vision is our capacity to see clearly what God wants to do in our lives. But this spiritual insight can be easily clouded by our thoughts and desires. Self-serving desires, interests, and goals block that vision and cause us to see things in a negative light. It hinders us from looking past the handicaps in order to see the beauty.
I think author Ed Rehbein said it best: "A 'clear' eye is healthy, whole, pure and unspotted. A person with a clear eye has a wholesome outlook…he sets his focus on that which is good. Consequently, he fills himself with light. 'Light' is a figure of speech describing things that are good in life such as truth, righteousness and purity -- even God and Jesus are called light (1 John 1:5 & John 1:4). So a clear eye opens the window of your soul to the sweet Light of Life."
Saturday, February 26, 2011
This great photo captures old glory in the forefront on the final flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery, launched two days ago. Discovery is the first in the fleet to be retired this year. Endeavour and then Atlantis will close out the 30-year shuttle program by midsummer. Discovery is the oldest of the three and the most traveled, with 143 million miles logged over 39 flights and 26 years. It had a rendezvous with the International Space Station this afternoon.