Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Plastic Fish, Jolly Jumpers And Smelly Feet

My wife has a bigger heart than mine. That is why she encouraged me to take part in our church Harvest Festival. We spent a long three hours manning the Jolly Jumper. Truth be told last time I did a Harvest Festival Clinton was in office. The last time I manned, solo, a game in which you had to catch plastic fish, or ducks, or something with a fishing rod. I lost my voice that night.

There are no Harvest Festival games for mimes. That’s right. Every booth requires screaming and corralling children. Okay, the children were fun. One little boy stood in line every ten minutes and told us each time, “I am five.” We had the out-of-control little kids and the cute-as-punch little boys and girls. We did a fine job manning the booth as a team but still it entailed much yelling. I think I lost my voice again.

What I didn’t lose was my sense of smell. If you’ve never been in a Jolly Jumper note that you have to remove your shoes to get in. We had children from age (wait for it) five to sixteen. The young ones jumped, sweat, and some looked like they were taking a leak as well. The older ones, “I’m in puberty,” jumped and sweated and went crazy. All that jumping and sweating made Jolly Jump smell like a Middle School locker room.

I’m willing to do it again next year. Can somebody just remind me to bring lozenges and Lysol?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Working On Attitude

The scientific name for it is ‘learned helplessness.” In 1965, psychologists Mark Seligman and Steve Maier conducted an experiment in which three groups of dogs were placed in harnesses. In the third group dogs received shocks which the dogs could not turn off by pressing a lever (as could the control group). Shocks came randomly and seemed inevitable, which caused “learned helplessness,” the dogs assuming that nothing could be done about the shocks. The dogs in group three ended up displaying symptoms of clinical depression. Clinically this happens when you can not control your environment.

At work my struggle is between my expectations and my attitude. There are many things I can not control such as my employees, support from bosses and hours to run my department. I am impacted by each of these. I wish I could lower my expectations but that is not possible nor is it proper. Therefore I need to work on my attitude which plummets as I wrestle with how little control I have. Attempting to arrive at a solution today I came up with a framework.

I often ask Christ how He managed to deal with us. Since He left Heaven to live among us, deal with us and put up with us I am using His example as a starting point. I arrived at three main points.

1. Be humble. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

2. Submit. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…

3. Allow the sting of the situation to fall upon the back of Christ.

That’s the framework I’m trying to live in. I can’t control my bosses, my employees or my customers. I can control my attitude and prayers.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Coming Home To My Wife And My Mistress

Here’s a partial list of things that sucked today: my lack of sleep, my crummy mood, the rude customer, and the SUV with the driver who used it as an urban assault vehicle to force himself into my lane, the drivers that think riding on my tail will get them home faster, and the tomato soup I nearly burned while typing. Days like this infuse the words ‘coming home’ with meaning.

I have the joy of coming home to a loving wife that I laugh with. Some days I come home to a daughter that makes me proud, makes me smile and punches me in the shoulders. Days like today I walk in and crank the stereo—loud. If I’m not listening to Pandora then I’ve got my Third Day, Jars of Clay and Pink Martinis. Once I’ve turned the music up loud and changed into jeans and tee-shirt I set myself down in my beat up blue office chair.

Once I sit down in the big-blue-beat-up-chair it can only mean one thing. I am turning on the computer. In my house she’s nicknamed ‘The Mistress.’ I don’t know why she’s called that. I gave my wife a kiss when I walked in the door, right? I have to know what’s happening in the world. Hey these blog posts don’t magically appear from thin air, okay?

On these days I am thankful for the home I have. It’ll take me a couple hours but the crummy mood will disappear, the rude guy will be forgotten, desired vengeance on my fellow drivers will (almost) abate and sleep will come. It is good to be home.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Nobody gets excited about openly sharing their failures. I for one like my world to, at least, appear to be neat, orderly and running well. I rebel against sharing my failures and mistakes. As an example it is great to have a personal trainer to improve on habits you are working on. The Trainer may have a different reaction if you purposely slacked off the training while at the same time engaging in self-destructive behaviours. Accountability should holistically react well to both instances both correcting and encouraging as you walk with another.

Being accountable is being willing to risk self. ‘Iron sharpens iron’ so being accountable to another person means both people encourage in areas they are sharp and sharpen areas of dullness. Spiritual accountability holds iron to the fire. If we are serious we will bare and share areas we have rebelled or are struggling. Our brokenness before each other encourages simply because “no sin has overtaken us but such as are common to man.”

In this life we wrestle with flesh and blood. To stay on the straight and narrow is difficult more so because our old flesh is bent toward all kinds of depravity. We are not to fight alone. One reason we are a body in Christ is that we may encourage one another as the day draws near. True accountability in loving fellowship equips us for the fight so that we can press on and celebrate that great day when we arrive.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

On Finishing Well

Early in his cycling career my friend Dee would go full speed out of the gates then crash and burn at the end of each long ride. Most of us look great coming out of the gate. Like Dee we look strong, fast and invincible. It’s not how we do in the first stretch that matters. What matters is how we finish.

I haven’t listened to my Jennifer Knapp CD for some time. It’s not that I don’t still enjoy her music. It’s difficult to listen to her lyrics knowing that she professes Christianity while at the same professing to be in a lesbian relationship. Though her previous music has great guitar riffs and god focused lyrics it is obvious that she currently puts little stock in a Bible centered lifestyle. Like my friend Dee she looked strong at the outset but may not finish well.

Looking at my life as a snapshot there would be many pictures where I would appear to be a pagan because my outward fruit did not match up with my heart. As Paul said in Romans 7, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body…” The measure of my life and each of our lives will not be how we performed at the start or middle of the race. The final determination will be based on our finishing well.

Friday, October 26, 2012

It Feels Like Helms Deep

It feels like Helms Deep. We look for good but see only Nazgul. In a different image I see a movie scene; dark black roiling clouds moving swiftly toward the city. They cast a shadow on the ground as they grow bigger and move to cover everything. If you understand purity and good, if you eschew evil then you sense it too. I think about the coming election and the current state of the Union. No matter the winner we are a country divided. As a nation we turn to relativism and we worship gods we have created in our image. My heart breaks.

This week the high school my daughter attends had a motivational speaker at the required assembly. At the end of his presentation he said, “To me Jesus isn’t a cussword He’s my Saviour.” A number of people got up in arms and today there were news crews at the school. I received a note from a friend telling me to show up at noon. I can’t comprehend the purpose.

I wonder if we will serve them water. Seriously it seems a better thing to show up and serve the news crews and anti-Christian protesters water and punch than to protest and stand up for our side. What does that gain us? A church pastor in Charlotte, North Carolina invited LGBT protesters into his house for dinner and discussion.
On Sunday morning, Aug. 26th, about 10 protesters showed up (we were disappointed there were so few) and some of our FIRE leaders met with them, offering them water and snacks, sharing God’s love and truth with them, and then inviting them to join us in the service. After a few minutes they left, explaining that we were too nice and loving to deserve a protest! Bear in mind that these protesters know the stands we have taken for biblical values and some of them have listened to my radio broadcasts or read my writings, so they recognize how strongly we differ with them on many key issues. Yet they also recognized our genuine love for them and saw that we were not full of hate. The love of Jesus, flowing out of Spirit-filled, godly hearts, makes an impact that cannot be denied.
The darkness encroaches. As it did for believers suffering under Nero and the Diaspora so the call is the same for us. Let us ‘prove to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.’

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lost Enough

I can't see how You're leading me
You've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so You've been here all along I guess
It's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get---Rich Mullens, Hard To Get

The great thing about trials is that they remind me I’m not in charge. When life is going well (some of us are still waiting) I’m feeling like I’ve got it all wired the right way. Then I’ll break my glasses or dent my car and realize I don’t have the universe under control. It may be a speed bump or it may be a major collision but those trials turn my focus from self to God.

God works that way. He brings tests into our life that we may lean on Him. Cruise control doesn’t work so well on wet windy roads. God seems hidden which causes his children to seek with greater intensity.

That must be, in part, why we are to rejoice in our trials. Its in that darkness that we recognize our need for guidance. Lost enough we let ourselves be led.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Botulism, Canned Food and Hoarding

Collection of scrap aluminium in Welshpool by the Women's Voluntary Service
The good news is that she wasn’t a hoarder. The bad news was that when mom died some years ago we still had to sort through the house. This meant boxes with important papers were in the same box with L.L.Bean Christmas catalogs and voter information pamphlets. The freezer was full as was the pantry.

My friend Glenn recently had a similar experience with his mom’s pantry which he cleaned out while she was recuperating in the hospital. As he describes it,
“I threw out half of the canned food in her pantry (an entire garbage can full of canned food) because what hadn’t already exploded (can you say “botulism,” kids? I know, it’s a fun word, isn’t it?!) (had) glued itself to the shelves (which I had to remove—the shelves, that is, because the cans wouldn’t come off by hand—those I had to scrape off with a putty knife)…”
I don’t know if it’s just my parents generation or families of eastern European decent who are born pre-depression that keep so much. My father had a garage full of plumbing supplies, tools, sprinklers (you never know when you will need a pop-up 180 degree brass sprinkler head) paints, waxes and chemical lubes for every purpose. I am certain that it is all worth some money save the chemicals. Those should be taken out by a Haz-Mat team and moved to a landfill on another planet.

At times I worry that I will get Alzheimer’s like my father. Truth is I show more tendencies to storing things that ‘will be worth something some day.’ Fortunately I am not a hoarder. The other good news is that I have a small house with little room for storage. That is unfortunate because I have this nice collection of pill bottles…

Photo courtesy of Flickr commons   By LlGC ~ NLW

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Investing Your Talents

I heard a teacher say that you should use your art like the talents in Matthew chapter 25 (The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’) Write or teach or draw,  whether you teach or write or draw for one person or a hundred. The thing is being faithful with your gift.

God surprises us in His faithful use of our gifts. We don’t know how more talents will be gained but God gives interest on our investment. He is glorified by our use of the talents He gives us. The joy is in seeing the unique by product our investment brings.

Tonight while leading the discussion at Bible study God allowed me to use my time in Leviticus to illustrate His holiness. A couple of guys saw God’s holiness clearer as I shared God’s heart in Leviticus. Our responsibility is to apply diligence in sharing our gift. God will supply the increase.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Poison Of Legalism

I was shocked that someone that used to think so much the same now thought so differently. During my college years I had a close knit group that did life and bible studies together. Two of my friends, we’ll call them Dave and Daisy, ended up getting married. They were a happy upbeat couple. They enjoyed studying the Bible, asking deep questions and wrestling with the text. We drifted apart for a while and some years later life brought us into collision again.

Dave and I sat down to catch up on life then things got weird. Dave talked about the King James Bible being the only version one can use in teaching. Daisy shared that as a woman she wore only dresses. When discussing music Dave advised me that Rich Mullins wasn’t a Christian because he had, “Catholic leanings.” Somehow these intelligent people had lost sight of the simplicity of the Gospel. To quote Paul, “…just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, (their) minds were somehow led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

The saddest aspect of Dave and Daisy being led away from the simplicity of the Gospel was they’d lost their joy. Daisy especially was once an energetic, happy, joy-filled woman. She’d lost her freedom and was living trapped in a box. Living in that box robbed her of zeal and joy. Beyond that both Dave and Daisy seemed more nit-picky and angry then loving and Christ adoring. In pursuing legalism they’d lost their hearts.

The danger of an unbalanced view of the Bible is a turning away from a loving Christ-centered gospel to the traditions of men and principles of the world. In relationship to Christ there is freedom and simplicity. There is escape from guilt and guarantee that there will be no condemnation. Life in this world weighs us down enough. Our relationship with Christ shouldn’t be the same, “…For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Time Tunnel Travel

“Two American scientists are lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages, during the first experiments on America's greatest and most secret project, the Time Tunnel. Tony Newman and Doug Phillips now tumble helplessly toward a new fantastic adventure, somewhere along the infinite corridors of time."   So began the Time Tunnel series in 1966. According to Wikipedia, the Time Tunnel itself is like a long corridor that stretches through the time continuum with portals that allow access to any moment in history past, present, or future. When I read the Bible I feel connected to those that have gone before me. I feel I am standing on the shoulders of patriarchs and saints of yesteryear.

Though I haven’t found any secret portals the Bible writers allude to the fact that we are connected to those that have gone before us. Ephesians tells us we are fellow citizens with the saints, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. The writer of Hebrews cheers us on in noting that we have a “great cloud of witnesses surrounding us,” by which the writer refers to the ancient ones that gained approval through their faith.

In my head I know that the Bible is just ink and paper. Since getting my first one as a teenager though I see myself as a runner in a relay. The baton handed down to me on ink and paper as I am to hand the message off to the next generation. Perhaps it’s my Jewish roots or my love of history that has me thinking this way.

“By luck (or lack thereof) the travelers, Doug and Tony, frequently found themselves thrown onto the precipice of major historical events: They would try to warn people about the event or try to prevent it from happening…while the Time Tunnel crew, who once gaining a "fix" can view through the Tunnel the action taking place in the different time, would try to rescue the travelers before the historical calamity befell them too.”  We too find ourselves on the precipice of major events.  As it was for Tony Newman and Doug Phillips a portal is open for us through which enlightened voices speak to us words of direction and wisdom.  May we be that voice in our own time.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shoot Only The Good Stuff

When you take pictures on vacation you shoot only the good stuff. You don’t generally photograph the dirt in the hotel room or get a picture of the guy at check-in goofing off when he should be serving you. For documentation purposes photos of these things make sense but it’s the good stuff you want to remember so that’s what you shoot. Today had its high and low marks but I’m focusing on the interesting stuff.

Joan the homeless lady was one of my first customers this morning. Joan stands near five feet tall and like many homeless is thin as a rail. She is usually dressed nicely and seems all there. Her hands cupped together she came up to the register pinching a plastic container in the pinkies of her hands so as not to separate them.  She asks if I have a way to punch holes into the top of the container. “This little guy ran into a window,” she says. She opens her hands a bit to show a baby bird which immediately sees light and boogies for the window. Joan managed to retrieve the bird and brought it outside. She later informed me that it flew well but didn’t know how to brake and land.

Speaking of not landing well…An elderly lady approached the register. We spent a minute, as we always do with the unitiated, discussing types of coffee drinks. She ordered from me (a white guy) and turned toward Luis (who is brown in color) and began speaking to him in Spanish. Funny thing is Luis speaks no Spanish.

Speaking of horses of a different color…It was motorcycle weekend in Palm Springs. Anecdotal reports indicate there were 15,000 riders downtown. Though most wore leathers customers report that women were riding bare-back. That happened in the afternoon. I hate to think what the town will be like after sunset.

Speaking of ‘partying’ there was the customer that was in a hurry to get back to the motel with his purchase of Advil and Iced Vanilla Latte with Soy. Makes sense going with soy, because after all you’d hate to put anything unhealthy into your body, right?

Saturdays in tourist season make for interesting photos. Granted I had interactions that were like the hair behind the hotel room bathroom door or the lipstick stain on the coffee cup. The beauty of shooting digital is we can delete what we don’t want. Then we can focus on the good stuff.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Prone To Wander

Prone to wander Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above

Prone to wander is quite the understatement. Prone to rebellion works, prone to self, prone to divination all fit. Looking back on these days I think my life like the Judges doing right in my own eyes one moment then calling out to God for help the next breath. I find however that in the midst of all my ups and downs God has given grace. I count three specific tools that God encourages me to make use of while His hand draws me back.

First I count on the Bible to renew my embers. I have favorite authors whose lives rooted in scripture never cease to inspire. I turn to Spurgeon, to Piper, to Lewis to remind me of the deep things of God, the beauty of His Son and the effect of clean, cold water to a thirsty soul. It seems the Spirit nudges me toward these along with time in the Bible and my heart aligns with true North again.

Fellowship is amazing. How God set kindred souls in place to correct and console boggles my little mind. We have acquaintances that get their Sunday worship from the television set. That is a sad state of affairs. The television doesn’t laugh with you or make physical contact. My tv doesn’t give hugs or pats on the back. The thing about friends is they provoke you to push your own envelope (‘Provoke one another to love and good deeds’). Electronic devices are content to leave you as you are or worse, encourage you in your downward spiral.

Music points to beauty that is higher than us. When sung in praise it puts mood to the grandeur of the God we worship. That is the key. Music changes my focus from me to God, from lowly to high and lifted up.

These are the graces that God has seen fit to use in my life to draw me back to him. These are the anchors that lead to hold fast and lead into the Holy of Holies.

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary—Heb 6:19.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Piper and Passion How Christian Hedonism Rocked My World

"...all men seek happiness.  This is without exception.  Whatever different means they emply, they all tend to this end...The will never takes the least step but to this object.  This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves."---Blaise Pascal

"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."---John Piper

Hedonism is in my mind the only logical world view apart from following Christ; “Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” My father was never serious about his Judaism. Still he antagonized me for my decision to follow Christ. During one early conversation he asked me if it was just a phase. “Will you give it up once it wears off,” he asked. I assured him that if I ever gave up Christianity I would become a hedonist.

John Piper’s assertion that he was a Christian Hedonist got my attention. Convinced as I was that hedonism was the logical world view apart from Christ then what was a Christian Hedonist? Piper puts it this way, “Let us be crystal clear. We are always talking about joy in God, because the ultimate good that we always aim at is displaying the glory of God and expanding our own joy in God to others…..In God alone is fullness of joy and joy forever.” It’s a radical concept.

If I’m seeking joy then I must be selfish, right? Unless of course we are wired to seek joy. In which case it is the same old story. We seek joy in everything else but God. Yet if joy is found as we go deeper with God; deeper God and deeper joy, then it is a good thing. Understanding this changed my relationship with Christ.

That is the way I am wired. It is a heart versus flesh thing. My flesh wants joy in everything but God. My heart wants joy in God. That focus is incredible. The thought that joy can be experienced in God drives me toward Him. Sin looks bleak when deep joy is possible. I will do what I believe will bring me joy.

The Westminster Catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The two are inextricably intermeshed. Seeking God’s glory brings joy. It’s a win-win.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Failure Is Allowed

“And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon they face?”

I met with a group that struggled with brokenness of all kinds. Meeting together we shared struggles, successes and failures. There were always failures. All of us would fight and win, fight and win, then crash. Those were the times we wanted to just give up just lay down, walk away and quit. One leader had this mantra, “It’s okay to fail. The thing is to keep getting back up.”

We all have times like that. “Will this season ever pass? Can we stop this ride? Will we see the sun at last? Or could this be our lot in life?” Mercy Me asks the question and answers it, “Hold fast.” The writer of wisdom tells us that, “a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again…”

This fear and failure seem a constant in our striving to improve. That must be why God tells his people over and over, “Do not fear; for I am with you, Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.” It’s the message He gave to Joshua after his tragic defeat at Ai. It is the word He has for us in our daily struggles and failures. “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this?” It is no great disaster to fail. The tragedy is to not get up again.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Serendipity And Gods Care

If you chart these events statistically I believe that they would prove to be significant and not serendipitous. It is a circumstance that may be specific to my experience. In my thirty plus years of following Christ God has made Himself known in this circumstance. When I am down or doubting I ‘just happen to’ run into a fellow friend and/or believer.

I’d spent the morning ruminating on a sermon from Matt Chandler. I was talking to God about His getting the glory for stuff. I was telling God that I know I should be content in my circumstances since He has ordained them. In the midst of my reverie I heard someone call out my name.

At the counter stood a friend that I had met in a mutual ministry some years ago. We had kept in touch via mutual interest in ministries thus meeting at a common potluck or seasonal party. We talked about a friend that had just been married and was now expecting. We talked about spouses and children. The conversation moved on to talk about sickness, cancer and medical struggles. She asked for prayer for a specific medical issue and I assured her I would remember it.

It is encouraging to know that the same God that has determined ‘our appointed times and boundaries of habitation’ is concerned with my heart condition. He encourages through the fellowship of another. How amazing that the God of the universe also moves friends into my orbit.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cancer And Hope

My sister in law has cancer. Note I did not say she is dying of cancer though that is the usual outcome. This is the tension we live in. As family most of us are followers of Christ. As Christ followers we believe in the efficacy of prayer and the healing power of God who counts the stars by number and knows each one by name. Still cancer is a strong enemy which is why we celebrate survivors. For though we know God can heal we assume that the cancer will end life. This last is what frustrates me.

I do not believe in a positive outcome because I have no experience. My dear cousin Jeff died in his twenties of Leukemia as did my uncle. I’ve lost an aunt and my mother to cancer. I had two college friends, both named Eric, that succumbed to cancer of the brain. I have been down this road before.

Everyone I’ve talked to expects near and certain death. I understand the tension and the reality. I think what frustrates me is that we don’t fight for the possibility that God will heal. I want to be sensitive to the day to day reality that is cancer and to the statistics. In some way we strain between the realities that God is able and that the statistics are negative.

I keep coming back to Matt Chandler. He is a husband and father and pastor to over 10,000 in the Dallas area. In 2010 he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He just finished a book and today has a thriving ministry. God can heal.

We need not be Pollyanna Christians wearing fake smiles and claiming everything will be all right. In the midst of the reality we mustn’t give up in our hope or our belief. God is not bound by statistics. As E.V. Hill said, “Doctors are only practicing medicine.” So we live out our faith day by day in the context of Hebrews 11; “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” and, “All of these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Radio Addiction

My car is the ideal vehicle to encourage this addiction. It’s a borderline addiction. I don’t do it all the time but enough so that my wife and child have suffered it especially on long trips and coming up to every November. Confession is good for the soul and I’ve gone too long without admitting this. I am a talk radio junkie.

I drive a lot. I am in the car two hours a day on work days. There are always trips to Orange County or the San Fernando Valley. There are some key guys I listen to; Bill Carroll on KFI, Hugh Hewitt, and Michael Medved, and because I can’t get much else in the desert, Laura Ingraham. I listen for political news. If I’m in the car Thursday nights though I have to play along with, “What the Hell did Jesse Jackson Say?”

This remains a painful result of moving to the desert. There is little radio reception. When I lived in Ventura county I could listen to every talk radio show. I could even drive to their publicity events (I could have been a roadie!). In the desert there are horses with no name but there is little radio reception. In my car if I’m charging my cell phone A.M. radio makes a huge screeching noise. I’ve learned to compromise minor screeching for listening to the few shows I’m able to access. I need the fix clean signal or not.

For those that know me and are always wondering why I know so much trivia, like who Octomom is, talk radio is why. How do I know about Arnold Schwarzeneggers’ kid? Talk radio. How’d I get interested in blogging? Talk radio. How do I form my political opinions? In part due to talk radio.

It may be time to get a Droid or Iphone. There is a talk radio app. No more night sweats seeking George Noory. Truth is I can stop any time. As long as I can access a computer and stream it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Oktoberfest, Friends and a Short Post

I think it was an old Lowenbrau commercial; "Old friends are kinda special, the beer we pour, must say something more somehow..."  We went out to Oktoberfest tonight with some old friends of the wife and new friends of mine.  Good friends and a glass of beer make for great evenings out.  They also however make for late night arrivals at home and early alarms on the following work day.  That being the case you'll have to excuse this short post tonight.  I'm turning down the Polka music and turning off the lights.  Catch you tomorrow.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Vice President Biden, Abortion And The Religion Of Hypocrisy

Yesterday’s post is still percolating in my brain. In relation to that I keep thinking about Vice President Biden’s comments during yesterday’s debate. Biden said, in essence, 'I accept the church's teaching that abortion is murder" but people should be able to do it.’ If he is only ascribing to a list of rules or suggestions then this makes sense. If the Pope speaks for God it seems odd that God would want Catholics to behave one way and the rest of the world a different way.

Charles Curran writing in the National Catholic Reporter says this about abortion:

The Catholic moral position has consistently and for a very long time taught that direct abortion is morally wrong. The teaching recognized a very few conflict situations in which indirect abortion could be acceptable for a proportionate reason, but these situations were very narrow and did not even include abortion to save the life of the mother.”
According to widely respected Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Denver:
"In the United States in 2008, abortion is an acceptable form of homicide... If you vote this way [for a candidate who supports or promotes abortion], are you cooperating in evil? And if you know you are cooperating in evil, should you go to confession? The answer is yes."

"So I think that people who claim that the abortion struggle is 'lost' as a matter of law, or that supporting an outspoken defender of legal abortion is somehow 'pro-life,' are not just wrong; they're betraying the witness of every person who continues the work of defending the unborn child. And I hope they know how to explain that, because someday they'll be required to."
For Vice President Biden to say that he accepts a position but won’t enforce it is ludicrous hypocrisy.  Vice President Biden is certainly religious in the same way as golden calf worshipers of old.  Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day he white washes the sepulcher though inside there are bones of the dead.  This is what religion looks like when you worship the God of convenience.  

Religion Vs. Relationship To Christ

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.---Romans 8:1 and following

It all comes down to this. When I was young I thought all religions the same. As a teen I learned that’s not so. I became a Christian. With all the baggage I still carried I thought Christianity was a bunch of rules to be followed. I think that’s why I struggled so much in my early walk. I was trying to follow a bunch of rules. When I didn’t know the rules I made them up. In some ways early on my Christianity was another religion.

Somewhere along the line I started having a relationship with Christ. I started talking to Him. The parts of the Bible I had memorized leapt out at me at opportune, and inopportune, times. In the midst of all that I came also to understand that we are to enjoy God. Enjoying a bunch of rules is tough. Enjoying relationship with a person is much easier.

Strict adherence to the rules didn’t make life easier. Having someone walk alongside me does. It helps to talk---and listen. Knowing that the person walking alongside is also in control helps. Yes Christ is king of all. Still He has shed His blood to make relationship possible.

Being real in relationship with God eases the struggle. I want to do the right thing because I don’t want a disconnect in the relationship. I can persevere because in relationship those that love us are for us. I can fail because Christ paid for my failure already. When I break the rules I talk it out. When I keep breaking the rules He calls me out. It is the freedom of relationship in Christ that sets me free.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Smart Phones, Daughters and Communication

I don’t own a Smart Phone. I own a dumb phone. It only makes phone calls, texts and has a small screen where you can barely see pictures. About once a week I think I’d like a phone that has storage capacity for more than one picture. I’d love to have Apps that are practical. I would like to Yelp restaurant information on the spot when I want it. Then I go to dinner with my daughter, who, by the way owns a Smart Phone.

My daughter’s pre-calc teacher was with eating dinner at the same fast-food place we ordered burgers at. He was there with his son. “Wow, that’s nice,” I thought. Another dad beside me actually goes out with their kid and has quality time. Curious I observed their interaction. The dad spent the entire meal looking at his phone (or I-thing). I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s a busy teacher. He’s probably working and returning parent comments. “No,” my heart said. His kid may have just eaten dinner alone.

I was encouraged that there were some teens having face to face interaction at the restaurant. There was a girl eating alone and interacting with her phone. So communication isn’t dead yet but it’s certainly taking on a flesh wound.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Vietnam, the Cold War and Raising My Daughter

I work with a Vietnam veteran. Though the war was thirty-five years ago he still talks about it and hints about his experience there. The war in Vietnam is for me ancient history. Except for my co-worker I’ve no memory of it. My images of it are more from movies and John McCain then from the reality of it. When that war ended I was the same age that my daughter is now. Still I feel no connection to it.

My daughters’ generation understands little of history. This is a scary precedent. This generation has no larger framework to work through. If the Vietnam war seems irrelevant to me then what about WWII and the Cold War.

I stood in the freezer at work talking with a co-worker. Our parents and grandparents escaped Nazi Germany to come to America. Those roots and the lessons passed on to us from our parents colour our world view. What am I passing along to my daughter? A world view that promotes affluence and living without sacrifice? That was not our parents world but that became the experience for my generation.

I write in remiss. In a couple years I will have few opportunities to teach my daughter. I sense failure in providing scaffolding for this framework. It is in the context of history that we see the danger of world views such as Socialism and Marxism. In that same milieu freedom of religion and freedom from taxes and tyranny are evident.

Prior to dinner in our house we learn about a country and pray for it. Many of these countries are mired in government philosophies different than ours. The people are slaves to false religions and hollow philosophies. I sense I should explore these thoughts with my progeny while there is time. And I will spend some personal time learning recent history. If we understand our past we will know what we are up against in our future.

Monday, October 08, 2012

How Deep Does The Lion Roar?

Half a century of Octobers I’ve felt this way. This month provokes or exacerbates the warrior in me. I’m tempted to think something primal happened one October in my past. It could be the change in weather. In expectation I wait for rain and snow. I know October will bring howling wind instead. The rain and snow, the cold and crisp meet and ignite the warrior.

If spring is a season of renewal perhaps fall is one of meditation. It’s sit on the porch with cup of coffee and calculate the slant of the rain weather. Its time to grab a thermos, hat and backpack and head out to Joshua Tree. In an odd juxtaposition for my heart and soul the spirit thinks deeper when the legs are working harder. Perhaps it is this contrast between cold and comfort which calls into contrast normal life and desire.

Seems God set October up as an in-between month. Summer is over. The soul quiets for a season of meditation. The meditation leads right up to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving leads us into Christmas.

Christmas is juxtaposition also; crying baby and suffering servant, shepherds and sheep, roaring Lion, Lamb of God. In the cold and crisp I consider these realities. In the words of Kim Hill, “Inside of you, how deep does the Lion roar?”

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Small Group Bible Study

We do church wrong. When we meet together for church there is only the pastors’ voice. There is little or no opportunity to speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. If one is fortunate and aggressively pursues it they can find those missing aspects of community in ‘small group’ meetings. We are fortunate to be a part of one of these.

It is a mystery of the Spirit how a diverse group of people can come together and mesh. Our group is a mix of backgrounds and personalities; Dr., nurse, truck-driver, medical personnel, teachers and barista to name a few. Today we discussed prayer. It was encouraging to see the conversation ebb and flow from energetic glass half-full views to struggling, from faith-filled to frustrated flounderings. As the group discussed approaching God we operated in concert and less as selfish individuals.

When the writer of Hebrews instructs the believers not to “neglect assembling together” he is talking about much more than Sunday morning church. The symphonic rising up of hearts and voices in a small group study allows for encouragement in the context of real joys and serious struggles. All are encouraged in the process.

It is in the speaking to one another that we, symbolically, sing psalms and hymns in chorus. It is that symphony that encourages the saints. That is why we are to keep meeting together as the Day draws nearer. In the world cauchophony; saints assembling together a soul stirring chorus.

Saturday, October 06, 2012


Today my daughter is 16 years old. Coincidentally it is also the school’s Homecoming dance. Common wisdom says that time with children goes by fast. Reality is I can’t remember a time when Hannah wasn’t around. Looking forward is the difficult part. It’s been eternity until now but eighteen is in two years.

I’ve been fortunate. I only had to deal with the usual things; throwing up food, learning to do homework, growing up and working through friendship issues. We’re definitely not done with that last one. We didn’t have the terrible twos and haven’t yet experienced the rebellion of the teen years. That one makes me hold my breath. I’ve been expecting it for sixteen years and still no rebellion (he wrote as minor chords swelled in the background). Oddly enough no matter what piece of growing up comes I’m excited about it. It’s an opportunity to stretch and grow.

Life throws a lot of curves at us. You can’t plan you just react. The initial planning for a child meant that sex was scheduled. The rest was difficult to imagine. I couldn’t fathom the love felt nor love received. From the first night up with my sick daughter to teaching her to drive it’s all been a blast. It’s been one curve that we hit out of the park.

Friday, October 05, 2012


We cross them all the time,
We say
They intrude on our freedom.
They keep us hemmed in,
Not realizing that’s a good thing.

Give us an inch we’ll take a mile,
We rail against the boundaries,
All the while
Hearts cry for safety.

We build our own fences,
We drive in our own stakes,
On the crumbling edge
Of precipice.

We have hewn cisterns,*
Yet you hem us in-behind and before**,
Hinds feet
Upon high places.

*Jer. 2:13
**Ps. 18

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Expecting Change

It’s been a full day. The wife worked. For me it was a day off. I went bike riding. We got news of a friend having surgery and a friend that was laid off. Dropped the kid off at school and picked the girl up after school. Ran errands, ate dinner, and dropped the daughter off at her mom’s house. I feel like I should have been in bed two hours ago. Its feeling late for nine o’clock. Fall has arrived.

There is expectancy in the air. The days are still hot but the nights are trying to cool down. We had the swamp cooler on tonight to cool down. Then we felt cold and unfolded the quilt. It’s that indeterminate period, that purgatory between Fall and Summer. The day can’t make up its mind to be hot or cool so it leans on the wind hoping she will make a determination. The sun is up late but down late enough to still feel the linger of summer evenings.

Going to wrap up blogging for the day and crawl into bed. We’ll run the fan to cool down and, guaranteed, it’ll be to darn cold in the morning. Sunrise was pretty this morning but it was another fake-out. It looked like a fall morning but there was no crispness in the air. So we wait. We wait for the weather to change and hope for enough rain to bring wildflowers in Spring. We wait for life to change and bones to heal and job situations to improve. Fall ushers in the end of a long summer. Our senses tingle and our spirit hopes for cool change.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Encouragement For The Type A Person

Some of us have to be doing something. A friend of mine broke his leg this week. He is one of those people that are always doing something; he leads a Bible study, he does security at the church, he attends the soccer games of his grandchildren. The broken leg thing is going to hit him hard.

I can relate. I feel guilty when I’m not doing something. I’m not as hard-wired as some though and I take the time for naps and lazy brain dead days. Still I have those tapes in my head. I suspect they come from the work ethic my parents set. Part of that also is that when you make a commitment you keep it. That is a good thing. The bad thing is feeling guilty when you make a commitment but for a reason out of your control, like a broken leg, you can’t keep it.

I was reading Leviticus today trying to catch up since I set a goal of reading through the Bible in a year. In chapter ten Moses is angry because Aaron and his sons burned up the goat for the sin offering when they should have eaten it. The reason Aaron gives is although outwardly he could have eaten it, his heart would not have been in the right place. He was still mourning the loss of his two sons, Nadab and Abihu. Moses ends up content with the explanation Aaron gives. Here is what Matthew Henry says, “

Our unfitness for duty, when it is natural and not sinful, will have great allowances made for it; and God will have mercy and not sacrifice. At least he thought it did very much extenuate the fault; the spirit indeed was willing, but the flesh was weak. God by Moses showed that he considered his frame. It appeared that Aaron sincerely aimed at God’s acceptance; and those that do so with an upright heart shall find he is not extreme to mark what they do amiss.
That should give us A Types great comfort. God considers our frame and our situation. It is our heart that He looks at. If our heart is in the right place than God is pleased. Even if we are down for a season due to circumstances we can’t control.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Why We Would Lose The Amazing Race

We can’t be on The Amazing Race primarily because I’m always right. If we had a disagreement on a taxi or which challenge to take my decision would be the right one. Even if my decision was the wrong one I would insist that it is the right one. I would eat crow if necessary and confess my error but en route I would be an annoying teammate.

My wife is not good with directions. She reads a map well but has difficulty orienting the map. If for example the map was upside down she would be able to tell me what the map said but it would not be correct. This has been a source of drama on all of our trips. On our honeymoon there were about two hours of silence after a heated discussion trying to find a park.

My wife is indecisive and won’t commit on many issues. I suspect she does this to keep the peace. If at home I ask where she would like to go for dinner she has no preference. This applies to a number of different issues but not to fashion. If I prepare to leave the house in black socks and sandals she has a strong opinion on that. If my shirt is not fashionable she will let me know. So if the days’ contest involves good and/or bad fashion then we will be strong.

Last but not least I blame my wife for gray areas. If I am under duress, for instance little sleep and strong competition I will get cranky. If a ticket get lost or we miss the obvious clue of the man wearing blue juggling African Swallows I will blame my wife. This isn’t a good strategy under normal circumstances and would not play out well on film in the company of others.

Despite our fantasies of being on The Amazing Race it would be horrible. I haven’t even mentioned my hatred of big bugs, gross food and my fear of heights. We would be the couple you hate, especially the controlling husband. On the first leg it is not ‘well done’ that we would hear but rather, “You are couple number twelve. You are the last to arrive. You have been eliminated.”

What Would You Be Willing To Sacrafice?

Fitting video for this blog as it is about 'doing what you love.'

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Long View Of Life

Those with short-sighted perspective miss the depth and adventure of life truly lived. I listen to a lot of talk radio while driving. The talk was about raising your children. As I listened I thought to myself that the remedy to key struggles was recognizing that death is coming. A symbolic death and a real death. At eighteen my daughter will be on her own. At some point, hopefully later than that, I will no longer be around. That perspective helps to raise my daughter to grow into an adult that will have to make decisions about her own life. Contrast that to raising her as if I will be here tomorrow. The short-sighted perspective or the long view.

The perspective we face life with will color all our decisions. Knowing that death looms you will take those vacations with your family. Knowing that death looms you will give all you have to give at work. Going deep in relationships is urgent. Leaving a legacy is important with death on the horizon. Thinking you are Methuselah gives you excuse to put off things til tomorrow.

The lens we use to view the world matters in both micro and macro management. Netanyahu is forced to make decisions regarding his neighbors when they threaten the longevity of the nation. Thinking that time is on your side (a la Methuselah) you can tarry in your decision. Knowing that come summer you will be forcefully blasted to smithereens incites action.

Death on the doorstep means your Judge waits at the door. As Bilbo and Frodo both learned an unexpected journey makes for quick and serious preparation. Thinking Mount Doom is forever far away opens you up to plunder.

The short-sighted man risks a useless and wasted life. Life with a long view results in action and life that “yields its fruit in its season.”

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…”---2 Peter Chapter 1