Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Staying on Track - Life on Life's Terms

I live near the "T," Boston's subway and commuter rail. At some point in my day, I cross the tracks two or more times. Today, I started to think about my train rides -- the rhythmic clickty-clack of steel wheels, the gentle side-to-side sway going around corners and the flash of lights along the tunnel walls -- people with headphones and newspapers -- spinning red marquees with destinations and advertising -- it's all part of getting to the station.

Life seems a little bit like a railroad track. It has two parallel paths, one positive, and the other negative. One rail shapes us, and the other rail blesses us, but both are leading in the same direction. There is something unique about the "T," it has a "third rail" electrified with thousands of volts. It's the one with the power. Without out, millions of commuters would be at a stand still. Like the experiences that shape us, and the ones that bless us, it too is going in the same direction providing power for the journey.

That is how life has been for us these past few weeks. From our 6th wedding anniversary to a wake for a friend of the family, we've needed all the rails beneath us. It seems one track always seems to bear the weight, but all are necessary to keep the train on course. And so the Johndrow' have managed celebration and death, the passage of unemployment to employment, the separation of our foster child, the joy of watching our 21-year-old go to Europe and return safely and a couple of graduations. I am not sure which experiences shaped us, but I do know that my wife and children have been a blessing.

As I am thinking about the third rail, I began to remember the distinctive smell of carbon-- the electricity powers the engines by carbon contacts that contact the rail. It is a very distinct odor that is slightly metalic, yet somewhat sweet in it's own way. There was one other thing that happened these past few weeks -- it was a third rail experience. I had a chance to meet with a friend of my brother's for lunch. He is a writer and passionate worship leader. I didn't really know why were getting together-- but I just felt like I should. It turned out to be a very enjoyable time in the Lord. Just sweet in it's own way.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Til Death Do Us Part - Learning from Your Spouse

Today Mary Anne and I celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. And tomorrow will mark the passage of eight years since we sat across from each other at the Way-Ho, peering into each others eyes over a flaming Pu Pu Platter-- her in a floral blouse and blue skirt-- me probably in jeans.

On our weekend retreat, we laughed about her shaking hands at the altar, and my miraculous inability to say "I do" with not so much as enough volume to be heard by even her. We talked about the ceremony starting late because the hairdressers were one short that morning. Last year we laughed about the candle ceremony, in which all the guests held a lit candle, which the pastor was certain would start a fire. However; he forgot to ask for everyone to extinguish them. To the relief of all our friends and family, I stepped in and suggested to him that it was probably a good idea to do that before moving on.

I can still hear the music -- With You I'm Born Again -- as she and her dad walked the aisle. And the sound of the Vineyard song Jesus as we took communion, and I Could Sing of Your Love Forever as we walked out of the church as husband and wife. The best man's toast, seeing friends that we have not seen in ages -- wishes for a wonderful life together. It was a beautiful day ending with a seafood dinner in Rock Harbor watching the sunset. Well that's the PG version.

Just the beginning... whatever I thought about marriage, communication, Jesus and life, has all changed. In fact she is the best thing that ever happened to me.

So what have a I learned from Mary Anne over the last eight years? A lot! Hopefully you too, can appreciate her wisdom.

- Big dogs weigh over 100 lbs!
- Most cars do not have heat - dress warmly.
- Air Conditioning should be for single men.
- Vacation is for going to the beach, not sitting around watching TV.
- Real listening means no talking- but requires head nods and eye contact.
- Notes in your spouses lunch and cards on their car help achieve the goal of a happy spouse.
- Never mindlessly pick up the receipts at the grocery store hoping for a great coupon, you might get someone else's that says. "Love Card, Chocolates, and Floral Bouquet" (which will be read -- causing false anticipation followed by severe disappointment that you didn't actually buy those things at all - the wise man before you did.)
- Black, white and gray are not colors - especially for clothes and cars.
- Breakfast can only be had in bed on Mother's Day, or out. Pick one.
- Good love making starts in the kitchen, but does not take place there.
- It is best to say very little-- that way it is easier to avoid getting caught making mistakes.
- Faith is about what you believe, not how you act on Sunday morning.
- Actions speak louder than words - so much so that it would be better for you to just shut up and get to work acting like you mean it.
- It is not a gift if it is purchased the same day it is to be given.
- Real moms spend as much time as possible with their kids.
- Blue cars are much better than red cars.
- Men should never ask their wives to leave the seat up when they are done with the bathroom.
- "I like _____ ." is better stated, "please do ______ ."
- Listening to insincere people is like fingernails on a chalkboard.
- Funny things are supposed to make you laugh.
- Sushi is raw fish.
- There are two kinds of music, what you like, and country, which everyone else likes.
- There is no right answer to "Do I look good in this?"
- I said "yes," signaling the fact that there should NOT be any more questions. Just no more questions!
- All relationship is for a lifetime.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Violets are Blue - The End of Season

Ecclesiastes 3:1 "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

Today is a somewhat emotional and eventful day. It has been five long weeks since I was gainfully employed; I start a new job on Monday! The good news is that during this time, I have graduated my high-schooler and my preschooler, I had date nights with Mary Anne, I celebrated Father's Day, my child support ended, I learned the country code for France so I could speak to my oldest daughter in Paris, wrote blogs, played guitar, consolidated boxes of "stuff" from my 50-year history here on earth, and took our little JA to daycare and back almost everyday. JA's been with us three months, and she is going to live with another family tomorrow at 10 am.

This morning she came in my office to say "I love you Daddy J."

Last night we took the little ones to the carnival. (If you are on Facebook, you can see the photos there.) They road the dragon coaster, fished for sharks, won teddy bears, ate a hamburger, sped down the giant slide, drove the cars and tooted their horns, and rounded the corner on the Merry-Go-Round-- one waving feverishly and the other holding on for dear life -- they had fun.

I can't imagine what it's like for a foster child to be torn from what they know; regardless of the neglect and abuse some of them suffer, and dumped off with folks like us. Who knows what will happen next for this little one. Will she get to pray each day at the dinner table or go to church-- we can only hope so. Will we ever see her again? We have no idea.

Between this paragraph and the last, she's been in the office to sit in my lap, give me kisses, tell me about her new flip-flops and ask me if I am sad.

I was feeling grateful when I started writing, but now, I am feeling sad. Even though Summer has started, it is feeling a bit like Winter today.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Operation Bass Pro Shops - Make a Splash

http://www.basspro.comHave you been to church just knowing it's going to be the same old thing? What if you went this Sunday with the idea that church should not be business as usual? What if you went believing that we could cause a stir for God-- shake things up or be a little bold? What if you decided that church was not just for singing a few songs, listening to a message and having a little coffee afterward? Here is a video of a couple of kids that decided that Bass Pro Shops wasn't just for fish and fisherman. I think it's a sign!



LINK TO VIDEO

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When Prophetic People Do Stupid Things

How come church people are so ridiculously stupid sometimes? I have to wonder if they were born that way, or take stupid pills for it. Really!

I spent most of the day with three different friends that I have met at church. One, a pastor, and occasional mentor. He and I took a walk and discussed the church, politics, and where do I think I will be in five years (more on this some other time). The other was a guy that I have kept up with from men's group and spent some time with at a retreat. We grabbed a coffee and took a ride in my Mustang. The third is a friend of mine that I played on the worship team with at my old church. He and his wife have been to the house a couple of times. I also played guitar at his son's memorial service back in March.

So why am I upset about stupid church people? In talking with a grief stricken father, a gentle soul, and loving dad, I found out that more than one-- count 'em 5 -- well meaning Christians told him that his son would live and not die. It wasn't true. Kenneth sadly, and painfully, died of mesothelioma on March 1st of this year.

But David, don't you profess the use of the prophetic in church? I do profess that the prophetic is a needed gift in the church. I have written about it a number of times before. But I also profess personal responsibility, training and humility to go along with it!

The purpose of this blog today is to see if we can learn anything from this painful situation. I don't know about you, but I am tired of sloppy agape! So let's take a look at what might have helped this situation to have turned out better.

-1 We NEED prophetic training for people that want to prophesy as well those that want to RECEIVE prophecy. This should be all of those in any given church that professes the use of the gifts. It is absolutely not enough to mess around with it at small groups. The church needs to be taught the giving and receiving of prophecy, or forget about using the gift.

-2 What possible encouragement could this have brought? If the giver of the prophecy was right maybe it would have given some hope to the distraught parents, but in this case being wrong only made the sadness worse -- and destroys faith in God. The purpose of prophecy is to edify, encourage, and create a destiny "that which is not, as though it is." Getting it wrong is NOT edifying.

-3 Just because you hear from God, it is not a license to take on major events in people's lives. IE: Jobs, births, deaths, marriages and divorces. These types of things should be left to the seasoned prophetic voices. We don't give race cars to kids, do we? Can these things be successfully prophesied? Yes. Do they need to be? That is the question.

-4 Testing? The realm of the spirit can be exciting, but regardless of how you feel (it's not about you), prophecies and prophets need to be tested. If you fancy yourself as someone that hears from God, then prove yourself. Because prophetic words create destiny, they can do that without the person ever hearing it! I suggest that you get a confidant, and start sharing with them today. When you have done this for some goodly period of time, then share it with others. Until then, shut up!

-5 Accountability? Why is that we want to be all about ourselves when we get it right, but when we get it wrong, we don't want to mention it again? In this case, a number of people were WRONG! How about a little humble pie and phone call to say, "I AM SORRY, I MISSED IT?" No wonder people hate the prophetic and think that it's the devil. If you are going to enjoy your success, you also need to be accountable for your failures.

- 6 Forming the prophetic voice - And let me say that we have problems like this because we do not get involved in people's lives in such a way that it affects their use of the gifts. Actually, in many cases, the use of gifting does not happen at all. Pastors and home-group leaders should be keeping a file of "words" you give and their coming to pass. It is a good way to see if you really are a hot shot or not. You need a track record, not a microphone.

Honestly, think about it, how would you feel if your loved one was very ill, and someone gave you false hope?

So, how do I know all this? Experience. And yes, I have missed it.

The truth is that I have also gotten it right, and the pastor thought I missed. So, he had me go to the person receiving the prophecy and tell them that I was sorry for the false hope. The fact of the matter is that the word created a real destiny and came to pass anyway. That is what the word of God does. Once it is spoken, it is done.

Now, the good news is that it doesn't have to be in the presence of the person that it is for in order for it to come to pass. Yeah, that's right. Therefore; when it comes to important words, like life and death, jobs, kids and churches closing, all of these are things that I have been given knowledge of, I find it is better to run it by someone else. I have a group of guys and we decide whether to share it, or keep it as prayer fodder. Many were never told to the person until after it happened... and some never revealed at all and they came to pass.

In the end, I still think that the prophetic is a wonderful and awesome gift when used properly by trained and accountable people. Conversely it is a clanging gong when used irresponsibly by folks that are untrained and insensitive to the plight of others.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Stand Up - Laughing a Little

I like to laugh-- it's one of the things I enjoy about my wife, Mary Anne-- she makes me laugh. Laughter is the music of the soul -- even if mine is heavy metal sometimes.

I just received the details of a class reunion that I am looking forward to attending in July. A gal that I used to yak with in homeroom is going to be doing stand-up at one of the events. I'm looking forward to a few laughs and some "clean comedy." I was reading her bio - sounds like a fun job. She converted to Judaism and was formerly a protestant -- one who puts tarter sauce on gefilte fish. Me, I'd like to become a stand-up comic, all I need now some material.

I don't know about you, but what I find funny is a unique perspective on the ordinary. I love things that little kids say-- it's insight into their world. Here's a favorite "Dear God, Please send me a pony. I never asked for anything before, You can look it up." My own daughters offer a wealth of insight-- My now 21-year-old had this thought some years ago. "It should be error and trial, Dad. I didn't know that I was going have to do it again, until I made a mistake."

I used to think that education was important, and I am sure of it now. In 2002 my daughter was scheduled to go to the Mall of America in Minnesota for February vacation. I asked if she was looking forward to going. She looked at me almost in tears. "It's not near Iraq is it?"

And the 5-year-old has wisdom beyond her years. During one of our more cuddly moments she said, "I know a pony is too big for the kitchen, so a little puppy would be OK."

I know it's not politically correct, but stereotypes crack me up! The differences between men and women -- fodder for some funny stuff. I know, there are those of you that hate to be put in a "box. " Well, tell me how many woman that you know who shop for cars in terms of horsepower and not color? How many women do you know that buy electronic gadgets and save the boxes AND the styrofoam?

Laughing is not always easy-- there is so much pain in life. And just because Nancy Grace thinks the chicken crossed the road because HE WAS GUILTY, doesn't make your life free of pain. In some sad way, we can be overrun with fear, guilt, grief and other emotions that cause us to be depressed. I still chuckle when I think of Ron White talking about an engine going out on a small twin-engine passenger plane. The man next to him screams, and he glibly says, "he must have had something to live for."

Maybe there is a way to bring the laughter back-- here a few of my favorites:

- You might be a preacher if you find yourself counting heads at a sporting event.

- A sign at church: For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

- Don't let worry kill you - let the church help.

- I hope the presence I am sensing is demonic because if it’s you, you’re in serious trouble.

- Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

And for an in depth understanding of how God works at lightening the load, and encouraging us click HERE

Friday, June 19, 2009

Facebook 10 Commandments - Do's and Dont's for 40 and 50 Somethings

I got a chuckle out of some of the comments from my previous blog, The Miracle of Facebook. I also noticed a few online faux pauxs from some of my more intelligent readers. :o] So, for those that want to be on Facebook, here are the 10 Commandments and 10 Suggestions for the survival of the over 40 crowd on Facebook.

1. You shall have no other gods before me. - This includes Twitter, MySpace and Plaxo and Classmates.

2. You shall not make for yourself any carved image; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. - Buy a flat screen monitor and dump the CRT! And don't give it to your parents!

3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. - Even if your stupid !*#%$ Internet connection is down, and tech support doesn't answer. Yes, and try checking the power-strip under the desk.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. - Reboot your PC at least once a week to clear the cache.

5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. - Look, they are too old for Facebook, give 'em a call for crying out loud. And stop dumping the grand kids with them unannounced.

6. You shall not murder. - Slamming the mouse does nothing to get your PC unfrozen. But go ahead, knock yourself out. And remember, don't throw it unless it's a wireless mouse - remember paddle ball? I thought you would.

7. You shall not commit adultery. - :o)

8. You shall not steal. - This pertains to your friend's very funny status. It's just not cool. Google some Seinfeld quotes or something.

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. - Don't post lies about your friends-- they could become friends with your friend-- or your spouse. And because you are new to this, an possibly such an inept neophyte, you probably don't know how to delete posts. Ask your teenager for ass-istance.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s. - Don't be reposting your friend's pictures, alright? That is what the SHARE link is for- DUH. Please!

And some additional tips:

1. Never accept a friend request from someone that you haven't seen in 20 or 30 years-- at least until you've looked at their profile picture! This will save you the utter embarrassment of posting to their "wall" FOR ALL TO SEE: "OMG - you've gained so much weight!" or "What happened to your hair!" It is much better to think it out loud, regain your composure, and come up with a more compelling post. This will make things much less awkward at your next reunion.

2. Profile pictures: They need to be recent; within the last 10 years! Group and travel photos are not cool because-- well, no one will know if it's you or a gazelle in the back row. And remember to change the orientation of your photos so it looks like you are standing up, not laying in the gutter eating pizza. Stay away from amusement park photos of you throwing up on the Cyclone or pulling up your shirt at Splash Mountain. The ones taken while drunk at Universal Studios-- no one is going to believe that you can still drink like you used to. And don't put up a picture of your dog or favorite cartoon character, you're an adult now.

3. What's On You Mind? - I realize this is scary. And for most of us, because Big Brother is recording everything on Facebook, lie. We don't care if you lost your car keys (try the front door). Skip the fantasies, song lyrics and don't be firing off stuff to make people mad that are not my friends too. IE: I am mad at Bob, he such is such a jerk and deserves to die. Try Compose New Message from the Inbox menu!

4. Relationship Status: Call the other party and let them know that you are dumping them, OK? I mean, nothing like Bob changing his relationship status to "Single," and then posting your friends asking for dates. Not cool.

5. Teenagers: If your kids are your friends, don't type them messages in all lower case to be cool. There are two shift keys, and the odds are you are using at least two fingers to type these days; that should free up at least one of them. Don't friend their friends (friend in this case is a verb and a plural noun). WTF - Doesn't mean "who's the friend?" Just don't use it.

6. Fanning: Barry Manilow was not that cool in 1976, and he still isn't. Don't become his fan, it shows your age, and your on Facebook trying to hide it right? Remember, this is your last chance to be cool before you die, don't blow it. Even if you are a fan of Morning Sex, don't go there. Your kids are watching and this is a picture they don't want to have-- and have been trying to avoid since they were about 14.

7. Commenting: This is different from What's On You Mind? It's a comment about a post. You didn't know that because you were too busy watching your fingers while typing. BTW - These too are public!

8. Notes: This is where you put all that junk that you would normally send in email as a forward. And STOP sending me emails, I don't want the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe, and I don't play in the balls at the McDonalds playground. Oh, one more thing, I am not going to read your notes either!

9. Birthday: Skip displaying the year. There are 3 reasons: 1) We graduated together in 1970 something -- in 30 years, nothing has changed-- including the year you were born. OK, well maybe our pants sizes. 2) It makes me feel old. 3) Identity thieves can use it to get your credit records.

10. Can you please use a name I recognize? I shouldn't have to buy a vowel just figure out who you are. There is a space for maiden name - you can even use that if you are divorced. It bugs my wife when she sees that I have been befriended by a woman that has a porn star name like Katy Kitten. When I knew you, your name was Kathryn Thomas Bukowski. And if you are CutePuppies@aol.com too, stop forwarding me emails.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Miracle of Facebook - Relationship Reunion

I don't know about you, but I have been online since AOL was text based chat and Microsoft had a six page web site with a black & white photo of Bill Gates. I was there in the early days of AIM, Yahoo mail, Amazon, eBay, MySpace-- I probably have some AOL floppy discs some where. And, I even owned my own Internet Service Provider and hosting company (see my promo pic 1997)... but I was not prepared for Facebook.

What makes Facebook so different? I actually know some of these people-- and for a long time! Like how about 1964! Sure there are issues with social networking sites-- social "not working" sites if you use them on the job. Too bad for those that abuse them and do stupid things.

I guess that after all these years; all within the last few months, faces and profiles of my now, over 50, childhood friends are appearing at the rate of about one per day. I scoured Google, Yahoo and MySpace for years trying to look up some of these kids- now turned AARP members! Sure, a lot of them were on Classmates.com, but the Internet is supposed to be free, right? It's like the scoundrels on my Blackberry trying to get me to pay $6.95 per month to use an "app" for the Bible. Why would I do that when I can go to BibleGateway.org and get it for free?

Having used social networking sites to meet my wife, I am well aware of how easily emotions can get ahead of a real relationship. Without eye contact and nonverbal communication, you'd be amazed at what is missing from relationships. Even after chatting for a few months online-- and starting to feel like I knew her, when we met, it was almost like starting over. In fact, that is almost what we did. Even after dinner and a long walk along the Cape Cod Canal, it was still hard to manage the known, and balance it against these new emotions-- and awkwardness (on my part) that was present. The good news is that we chatted online that night, and were able to more easily express some things that we were feeling... our next date was much more exciting!

Herein lies the miracle of Facebook. Some of these folks I have known since I was four or five. We spent years together in a fairly small town with a graduating class of 224. I saw them at sporting events, school plays, sat next to them in class, saw them smoking cigarettes in the Boy's room, and bumped into them at Cub Scouts, grocery shopping, Little League and the movies. We have history-- even with a 30 year gap.

It seems awkward to send Facebook messages and emails, when I can even remember some of their phone numbers! I attended my 25th high school reunion and enjoyed myself. And I have stayed a little bit connected. On Facebook, I stay a lot more connected. Not only have we caught up, but some of us have rekindled old friendships with a deeper more mature tone.

Time really changes folks, some don't have hair, and others have gained some significant weight. Beyond all that, some of us have matured, and others have been beaten up by life. A few of my old neighbors are on my Facebook prayer list. Other kids I didn't really take time to know then, have shown a real interest in what I am doing now.

For me, it's been a good experience. Of course the guys I was closest to in 1976, have not yet showed up. Conversely, all the kids from my neighborhood that used to hang out with, riding stingray bikes, walking to the drug store, playing pond hockey and football, they are online. It's pretty amazing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why I'm Not for Federal Health-Care - Memoirs of a Sissy

This morning I got up to do a few medical errands. I was scheduled for standard blood tests to go along with my yearly physical. Because I am starting a new job, I decided to put all this on my old insurance and just get it done. I also scheduled a check up with my dermatologist, two dental appointments and some other stuff-- OK, a colonoscopy-- there I said it. My doctor has considered me number one for 10 years. I guess after all this time we are now so close he needs a picture.

Blood tests require fasting. I am pretty good in the morning and can usually put off eating. I was, however; thinking about getting blood tests on other occasions... like when you get married. On one of those outings, a woman went in for her blood test, and fainted; crashing to the floor from the little chair. Of course I could only see this in silhouette through the "sheet." It was a bit like a scene from Hitchcock's psycho. The phlebotomist got her off the floor and she promptly got sick. They finally got the wobbly, and soon to be bride, to the bathroom. Shortly there was a small flood of water coming from under the sheet. She had apparently clogged the toilet with paper-towels.

I think it was a sign.

Back to this morning. I put my paperwork in the basket on the receptionists desk at the lab-- the empty basket. I am thinking the wait won't be too long. I am diddling with my new Blackberry, harassing my friends on Facebook, when my name is called.

The nurse introduces herself, while handing me the sacrificial urine cup. I freeze, the last time I was in this place, it was so busy that I thought I was at a Snapple convention. People walking here and there with samples in hand. "Mr. Johndrow, when you are done, there is a toolbox locker in the Men's room for that." she said waving the plastic Bio-Hazard bag. That news alone saved me from becoming catatonic-- really.

I'll save you the details, but when I was done, I was led to the "chair." Apparently, they have learned something about taking blood since that episode some years earlier. This chair, you can't fall out of! I think it is the same one they used to film the Green Mile.

"Just a pinch, sir," said the woman in charge of sticking me with a needle. "You look a little faint too sir."

"No, I am just hungry. I haven't eaten anything." I said. "well, 3 cups of coffee, but that is not eating.

"Sir, this is supposed to be a complete fast." she said.

"Don't worry, I drink 3 cups of coffee everytime I do this-- it's my baseline." I assured her.

"We have snack bags, I'll get you one." She said as she labeled my vials. They have an apple, crackers and a bottle of water."

"As long as it's not Snapple, that's fine." I replied.

She gave me an odd look, and handed me the bag.

I went and sat in the chapel, prayed for my family and friends and ate my apple. I was a nice feeling sitting there looking out at the trees. They had a Bible the size of Rhode Island, and it was opened to Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

After my little snack, I headed to the 5th floor to my dermatologist. I usually go twice a year to keep an eye on some of the things that grow on my aging skin. I was a bad boy and I skipped my appointment six months ago. I got the standard all-over examination which abruptly ended with "get dressed, we need to get you to the surgery room."

Hmmm... what's this all about? I thought to my self. I slipped on my shirt, tied my shoes and then headed across the hall where I undressed again. Half naked, I could see the valet parking attendants in the cul de sac below. I stepped back from the blinds. It's that same feeling I get looking out the window of a jet at 35.000 feet.

The doctor started to say something that kind of sounded like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons. I confess, once she hit me with the Novocaine needled I was concentrating on the pinch and burn sensations in nine locations on my body. The sound of the cauterizing thingy is a little scary. The smell of alcohol was overcome by the sizzle of burning flesh. Nice. The must be what it smells like in heaven, that burning flesh smell.

The nurse finished me off, dressing my wounds. There was talk of biopsies and melanoma. I wasn't listening, they can't tell me anything today.

It does make me ponder my faith. There must be a better way then having all this health-care.

Luke 4:40 When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, He healed them.

And that's why I don't want a Federal Health-Care system.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Father 411 - I Mean 911

Have you ever noticed that folks with kids are easy to spot-- even when the kids are not in tow? You can hear them whistling the theme songs to Winne the Pooh and Scooby Doo on the elevator and in the break-room at work. Of course they'll deny it, and try to come up with a classic rock tune just to prove you wrong. Really? Middle aged men and woman humming the opening riff to Ozzy Osborn's Crazy Train, yeah right, I am not convinced. Non-parents will not have a clue about this - and label it and you "old," with no further ado.

Parents, they are usually not the best dressed in line at the grocery store either. I have studied this phenomenon on the Discovery Channel. The real clue is the amount of them that end up with Stacy and Clinton on What Not to Wear.

The evolution of the species parenta nurotica is very closely related to daddytodamntired. There are some other mutations within the species including joggasaurus which developed as a defense mechanism against slow metabolism and vantaxi which is evolved, now a lackoftime.

Kids are classified by stages-- but nothing like the labels on the diaper packaging. The newborn is better known as the "Projectile Vomit Gun." These precious little ones are as harmless as a Nerf Ball, but emitting an aroma that only the non-parents can smell. Oh, and far better then a "cries all night/sleeps all day" model. Amazingly if you have more than one child, you usually end up with at least one of each.

The crawler is better described as the human puppy dog, eating left-overs from the floor and finding everything you dropped while the wife, was in her last few weeks of pregnancy-- and said, "I don't really need that now, I'll get that later." Crawler-Baby says, "later is here."

Toddlers have the "terribles," some times at 2, and sometimes at 3. And in the case of a rare, but special few, both! Although as unsteady as a drunk driver, they carelessly navigate the living room-- I mean "central playroom" obstacle course. It is a home version of Wipeout. Ah yes, these are the ones that give definition to the word "cute." Have you seen them on AFV covered with diaper ointment, chocolate and other smearable substances? Covering everything from carpets to siblings-- and mom, you were just trying use the bathroom alone!

TIP: Never feed your toddler a 1/2 pound of grapes for both breakfast and dinner. It's just not wise.

Preschooler is not a very good term. And thank God they are out of bionic diapers! There is nothing "school" about bringing home two one-hundred foot trees worth of paper notices each day. The backpack is a disguise for a Xerox machine-- well except for the jelly sandwich from last Friday. And finger-painting was not learning when in was in school. Lastly, never ask a your 4-year-old who they are voting for, it is sure to upset at least one of the grandparents.

Kindergarten is like real school. There is homework, classwork, silver stars and Spanish. That's right, in my town, kids learn Spanish. I thought we just getting past having to watch Diego, the kid with the loudest inside voice on TV, anymore. The bright side, there are Spanish as a Second Language classes offered four nights a week. Bueno, just bueno.

Your child will find it ever so loving when you give them nicknames. Because the quiver is rather full in my house, I use the prefix "cheese" for all my kids (and pets) terms of endearment. We have a Cheese Whiz, a Cheese Girl, a Cheesecake, occasionally a Cheese Dip or Doodle, and Cheese Dog. I am confused as to why they don't use them on Facebook?

Elementary school brings the ever intimidating "first" school bus ride. As a proud parent you wait for your little prince, or princess to get on the bus and wave goodbye to you -- consoling your feelings of guilt for not home-schooling them until college graduation. But the truth is, they already heard about this day from Eddie Wilson, and have plotted against you to NOT look as they high -five their buddies while the bus driver pulls away-- all before your child has even taken a seat. It's just not fair, now is it? Wait until you find that Spiderman lunchbox you thought they would just love, underneath the bush next to the front door as you return in tears.

Let's just say that our expectations from here on in, well, they nothing that we talked about when we decided to get married. Some things have changed. First your definition of gross is not your boyfriend/girlfriend picking their nose when he/she thinks you are not looking. Nope, what kids do, eat, and emit, changes all that. Look under the car seat sometime. Romance is supposed to be the spontaneous eruption of love, only to be quenched by "Daddy, I can't slee-ee-eep, can I sle-eee-eep with you and mommy-- in the middle like before, OK?"

Depending on how many kids you have, you try to fall into a routine, keep your 10-year-old car running, and make it to karate and/or ballet on time. It's a good thing someone at church told you about date nights. You know, you get a babysitter at 6, and show up at home around 9, hoping she's done her job and got them to bed without any negotiations that include: "Wait until your parents get home."

Middle school is a bit of a blur, but it gets very focused when your daughter is found to be talking to boys. At my church, they told me that it was a joy to tell your kids about sex. They were obviously a cult.

I have friends from high school that complain about how much work it is to parent teenagers. I simply suggest that they become licensed for large capacity firearms as I have done. Every few weeks you bring home some targets with your best work, and leave it on the dining room table. Word gets out.

Honestly, the real trick is to be involved. In my case that meant music. At first we'd go to some Christian rock bands that I actually liked. Sanctus Real, OC Supertones, Audio A, Reliant K and stuff like that. It was OK and besides, I was the biggest kid in the Mosh pit. I do, however; have a bone to pick with Pillar. You guys are awesome, I'd simply like my hearing back. I think I left it at your last show in Worcester.

Then there's the dating, the driving, and the friends. To average IQ of all my kids friends combined is 11. And when they are in a group, it's 6. I just can't believe some of them passed potty training, let alone got licenses to operate and automobile.

Driving? Just two tips. They have schools, and stock up on Ford Escort taillight lenses, they are cheaper by the dozen. They are the most popular car in America, the odds are pretty good.

My girls were pretty cool about dating. They would tell me that the really liked so and so, and ride around with so and so's best friend. That is how they ended updating so and so's best friend-- if you follow me. One daughter really likes to have me meet them, the other is afraid I will tell him about that time she so readily embarrassed herself. I promised I wouldn't-- I lied. Forgive me Jesus. The middle one, she gets them squirming and sitting across from me at the food court in the mall. "Show 'em your license to carry daddy!" I slide it across the table and wait for the response.

"Mr. J. is it OK if hug your daughter good night?"

"Sure, if you want to die right here in the mall." I said smirking. Where the heck is Paul Blart when you need him?

You, know I am thinking how glad I am that I dragged them to church.

And finally college, a time when they freak out about not being able to see their friends in like forever. Of course if you are doing field study in Antarctica that might be a problem, but what about Facebook, MySpace, IM, texting, old fashioned e-mail and antiquated phone calls? But then their gone, and only bills come home. But Charlotte's only five, I think I have one more left in me.

I do find kids rather amusing. I've lived is a sea of estrogen for 21 years, and with a little one, that is not ending anytime soon. Oh, I like boys too, it just been many years since one lived under my roof.

A piece of wisdom from David Walter' of Kids in Combat. "Kids are dumb, sticky and loud, but they don't have a junior Holy Spirit.

One last thought. Experienced parents are less and less protective with each growing addition to the family. My thirty something and my 5-year-old are pretty much allowed to do the same things now.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Sound of Rain - Revelation And You

This morning I was awake around 3 am. I just wasn't feeling that well -- having a coughing fit, which finally subsided. I had left the bedroom window open even though it was cold and rainy. And outside in the darkness, I could hear the rain falling on the saturated ground. If you listen carefully, rain makes a different sound when it falls on dry ground, then it does on a rain soaked lawn. There is something captivating about the sound of rain -- even the words in Portuguese "som da chuva" and "faz chover" (make it rain) have a meaning beyond the words, don't you think?

Our beloved Holy Spirit is often symbolized by water-- falling water, the rain, the river-- a cool refreshing drink -- the ocean; deep calling deep -- our spirit longs for His.

Please forgive my out-there-ed-ness as I ponder my early morning moment, which now seems like a dream. As I listened to the rain fall, I thought of Noah as the flood came and rain fell forty days. What was it like to wait for the promise that was to come? The rain kept falling and the ark was set adrift. What was it like as the ark's tremendous weight first shifted, separating her from dry land? The rain kept falling. How deep was the water beneath her hull? How deep was deep? The rain kept falling and Noah kept drifting.

I fell of to sleep.

This morning I was meditating on what it must have been like to be adrift for forty days - Noah had heard the voice of the Lord and responded by building an ark. Wow! But now he and his family, along with all the animals, were afloat in a storm-- with only the promise of it ending. Even after the storm, they were still adrift until the rainbow was set in the sky, and finally they set foot on Mt Ararat. The rain had stopped.

There are a few folks in the Bible that spent 40 days doing something: As previously stated, Noah endured 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:4-17; 8:6). After the sealing of the covenant at Mt. Sinai, Moses is with God on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:18). When the prophet Elijah is being pursued by Queen Jezebel, he flees for his life and travels 40 days and nights until he comes to the mountain of God at Horeb (Sinai) (1 Kings 19:8). The number also appears in the New Testament, as Jesus is tempted in the desert for 40 days and nights; his ascension to heaven occurs 40 days after the Resurrection (Acts 1:3).

There are many more HERE.

After many years as a Christian, I have had the opportunity to wait for the Lord on many occasions, and for many things. Honestly, waiting without a promise is discouraging. And even then, I still don't like waiting! How about you?

The significance of 40 can symbolically mean many things -- but it is usually a test, a struggle, or a preparation-- all things that we usually would prefer to be shorter.

One of the things that I have found comforting is the prophetic word. For many years, I lived by faith alone; hearing God's voice for myself. In the 90's the prophetic reformation was building up steam, and I started to receive revelation from others. Wow! I am not talking about good ideas or suggestions, but real revelation, the kind that comes from Heaven; producing a destiny, touching your heart, and changing your life. Like the sound of rain on dry ground, a word from the Lord; igniting passion, edifying-- totally refreshing.

Ahhh...

For years I read National Geographic a looked at the travel pictures. I even cut some of them out and put them on my wall. Later in life, I joined the Army in hopes of being stationed in Europe. I went to the local travel agency and took brochures on Spain, France, Germany the UK and Scandinavia. It was a personal passion of mine to travel. In 1985 I bopped around the Caribbean for thirteen weeks, diving, sailing and bumming around in cut-offs, flip flops and a t-shirt. In the late 80's I drove cross-country for a little over three months, to photograph the wonders of 42 states and 32 national parks.

When I was in 7th grade, I took French. I wasn't very good at it, but as I sat in language lab listening to Cece Bon on the headset, I daydreamed about living in a foreign country (one with and easier language!) where my friends and family would come to visit, and they would marvel at my new language skills.

Why does all that matter? Because that is who I have been since I can remember. I longed to see the Rockies, the Eiffel Tower, the Serengeti, the Great Barrier Reef and hundreds of other well known landmarks. So, when God began to use others to speak to me, I would know that He knew me. The Bible says that He has counted every hair on head, but more personally, He knows what turns me on.

So, here is an excerpt what the man of God said:
I will give you a heart for nations as well, says the Lord. And you will travel from coast to coast. And you will learn what I am doing upon the earth. You’ll pick up this truth and that truth. I see you going to several major conferences. I see several air tickets being purchased. I see you getting on a plane-- flying here, flying there, flying here, flying there.

And another man of God in another location:
Missions, 3rd World anointing, evangelism, apostolic teams going to nations.

Those are just a few of things that God said to me. Not because I am so cool, or more special than another, but because He has known me since the foundations of the world. His words were meant to give me direction, hope, encouragement, and a destiny.

For those of you who don't know me, not long after that word was spoken over me, I went on short term missions to Brazil three times in three years. You can read more about that HERE. On my second trip, I was caught without an interpreter. I spent 10 days learning Portuguese just so I could preach one ten minute sermon. That story is HERE. On my third trip, I helped my team interpret at the hotel and the airport. I was so comfortable that I went with the worship team; in which no one spoke English, to Habib's (a middle eastern fast food joint) and just hung out.

In between mission trips I helped encourage churches in Ohio and Florida, and attended a number of major conferences. In fact I was flying so often, that one day I stood at the ticket counter in Cincinnati Airport, and when the agent asked me where I was flying to, I couldn't remember. "You do have an ID, sir? she asked.

"I do." I said, as I slid it across that counter.

Many times we are desperate to hear from God, needing to hear from God, and we show up at church and we get a few tunes, a sermon we've heard before, and a few handshakes on our way out.

I don't remember where I am going.

Maybe we just need to wait -- 40 days -- longer.

We need rain. Faz chover.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Case Against Fundamentalism - The Case for God

I have an old friend named Percy that I have known since I was in first grade. This is him (2nd from left) in 1967, posing with me (1st on left), and some others, at my brother's birthday party. We grew up in a small Connecticut town, spent years in the same schools, knew each other’s family, and did stuff together as kids. We haven't seen each other since high school graduation about 30 years ago, but we have reconnected on Facebook.

Percy is, in my estimation, a genius; holding at least one software patent. Our discussion threads have been about politics, religion, the origin of life, intelligent life, evolution, global warming, creation, and a host of other subjects with which normally identify folks as liberals or conservatives. I really hate labels and stereotypes, preferring to simply think for myself. The two of us could easily be labeled any number of ways. But that is not what Jesus would do; therefore, I am not going to either. What I do know about my friend is this: He is a thoughtful and open-minded person. That's a good sign in my book.

All that said, I am going to take him up on his request to discuss the "Case Against Fundamentalism." His quote to me is as follows: "The Case Against Fundamentalism. Which I call, "YHWH is bigger than you think." The brief summary is that the Creator of everything is much larger than can be understood in detail by humans. Even though created in YHWH’s image, even with some aspects of divinity, the Bible is pretty clear that people don't measure up to even angels. So, how can we insist that we have absolute knowledge of YHWH through a set of edited third-generation writings set down by a nomadic people?"

(YHWH, of course, is the Hebrew word for Lord--sometimes translated Yahweh, as vowels were later added.)

I am going to try to take each point my friend has made, and explain it in terms of what we now call Biblical Christianity. I believe his point is that God is God is God, and man cannot experience Him in such detail that one could claim Him as their own and know Him personally, and that man has gotten in the way of the process through translation and the recording of events.

I think I've got that right, but I am sure that my friend will correct me if I don't. I have taken care to use Old Testament verses because our common ground for debate is YHWH.

YHWH is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All three Biblical characters were part of the progressive blessing and revelation known as salvation, which was to come through Israel for all mankind. I don't see any reason to explain the history of Israel, because the use of the term YHWH is an admission that the rabbinical traditions and the Torah are acceptable proof of the Lord’s (Creator’s) existence, and has been for nearly 6,000 years.

Why did God choose Israel? I don't know exactly, He is sovereign, and He knows why He does what He does. I do know, that as a people, they are on average, the most intelligent, the richest--making more money then the average "anyone else"--race on earth. According to the Torah, Israel was blessed to be a blessing. Don't you find it the least bit amazing how many countries have tried to wipe them out--from Babylonia to Nazi Germany, and from Egypt to Hezbollah--and yet a remnant still remains? Don't you find it interesting that, as prophesied in the Old Testament, they regained their homeland after nearly 2,000 years of exile? Don't you also find it interesting that a country so small in land mass and population hangs on in the worst of political conditions?

I am not going to take time to do a study on comparative religion, as this just muddies the water and aspires to intellectual assent without tangible evidence. I will say that there are some stories from other religious writings that are similar to the flood of Noah's time and other Biblical accounts in the Old Testament. But this, in itself, is not proof that mankind is looking for gods to explain natural but mysterious happenings. All religions have a philosophy, a way of "doing business." What makes Christianity different is the resurrected Jesus. Without that, the whole religion is little more than a good idea and a well-meaning man.

First, I would like to describe fundamentalism in a Biblical sense. It is the notion that the Bible is the only authoritative text referring to God the Creator, and Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It comes from John 14:6 in the New Testament: Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, the Light, no one comes to the Father (YHWH), but by me." Let's not forget, the Old Testament, and the scholarship surrounding it, are not in question. It represents more than two-thirds of the "Christian" Bible. But it is this particular New Testament verse that makes Jesus out to be either an arrogant, on-an-ego-trip yet talented and peace-loving man gone crazy--or God.

Unless Jesus is, in fact, God, there is no other sane reason for Him to say such a thing.

Even the Old Testament (Daniel 9:25) says the Jews were expecting a messiah to bring permanent salvation (Exodus 15:2) to them and the world. Jesus said that He was it, but not everyone believed Him. Why? Because they were looking for someone or something different, or they simply couldn't accept that He was God. Which was most likely the fault of an empty religious upbringing.

There are many religious philosophies, and for many, Christianity is just another one. For the more serious seeker, however, the Bible can explain many differences between cultures, and serve as a treatise on proving God's existence. I am going to take a few paragraphs to connect YHWH of the Old Testament to Jesus in the New Testament.

The Muslim, Christian, and Jewish populations are significant because they are the players, according to the Bible, at the close of the age. Abraham had two sons--Ishmael by Hagar, the concubine (his wife Sarah's servant); and Isaac, the son of Sarah. Ishmael is the father of the Muslim lineage, and Isaac is the offspring that became the Israelites. One look at the Middle East of the past 50 years, and we can easily see the tension between the two. To date, the Old Testament books are considered more historically accurate than the Qu'ran, or other ancient writings.

Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah promised to Israel in the Old Testament, and the historical Jesus was the fulfillment of those prophecies. There are many references; here is a pretty good LINK.

To more closely examine how we might understand an infinite God with a finite mind is a little tougher. These are question that have been pondered for centuries by the greatest theological minds. But I am going to take a stab at it.

In order to understand God, we have to know Him relationally. Many of us know about the President, but we don't know him. The same is true of God. The Christian “philosophy” relies completely on the belief that God is: A) alive; B) can speak to us; and C) can save us from our sin. Any other belief is not truly Christian, but a philosophy based on some portion of Christian writings.

The following is a very brief list of the Old Testament statements made by the Lord God, and restated in the first person by Jesus. This is important because Jesus claims to be God (YHWH) Who had come in the flesh (John 1:1 and 1:13).
  1. The Lord God declared: "Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure." (Isaiah 46:10)
  2. Jesus, said" "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13)
  1. "And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ (Exodus 3:14)
  2. Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.. (John 8:58)
  1. The Lord (YWHW) said, 'For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.' (Ezekiel 34:11)
  2. Jesus stated the following in John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
These Old and New Testament statements are critical in understanding that God and Jesus are one in the same. Please note, the Jesus of Islam is simply a prophet who died and was buried. The Christian’s Jesus, however, defeated death by being resurrected. Every event of His life was recorded by two or more witnesses, as prescribed in the--you guessed it--Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 19:15). HERE is a blog I wrote with all those references.

My friend apparently has a problem with what are assumed to be to be 3rd Century manuscripts, written hundreds of years after Christ. But the truth is that some were written only about 50 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and they still match the manuscripts that were first used to translate the Bible.

There are tens of thousands of manuscripts from the New Testament, in part or in whole, dating from the 2nd Century A.D. to the late 15th Century, when the printing press was invented. These manuscripts have been found in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Italy, making collusion unlikely. The oldest (John Rylands manuscript) has been dated to 125 A.D. and was found in Egypt, some distance from where the New Testament was originally composed in Asia Minor. Many early Christian papyri, discovered in 1935, have been dated to 150 A.D., and include the four gospels. For the complete details, and other important issues associated with biblical manuscript discoveries, click HERE. Taken from GodAndScience.org

And finally regarding angels: They are part of the total creation and they exist in the spiritual realm, or plane. The Bible clearly talks of an earthly realm (the world, the earth) and a spirit realm (Heaven and Hell, as well as a dimension seen from earth (Matthew 3:16). Here, angels, and fallen angels (demons) interact with creation in the same way God interacts with us. The spiritual realm cannot be easily seen without faith. In the same way that Elisha saw the chariots in the spiritual realm, and Paul was taken to the third heaven, man can see in this realm.

Man is positioned in creation by God to be as "a little lower than the angels," (Psalm 8) and yet, God has chosen one man, to have all under his feet. This is Jesus.

At this point, we can be very intellectual about our faith; knowing about God, but that is not knowing God. The God of the Bible, the Creator, YHWH is also known by many names--all of which are in the Bible. HERE is a list. When you read the list, you will see that God is many things--I found more than 600 names (that have meaning) and attributes.

Even if we were to memorize everything that is written about God in the Bible, we will only know about Him, not know Him relationally. God is not known in the mind or even in the emotion and yet by His spirit, both areas are impacted. He is the one whose Spirit commingles with ours. He is the author of relationship and, in fact, He is love. Agape love, sacrificial love, Kingdom love, power love... not some sappy Hollywood, emotional love.

Since the day Adam was created, this relationship with a supernatural God has never really been expressable in human terms. One will never comprehend it with only the human mind or emotion; it is only our spirit that is able to capture the essence of what it is to know God. It is with this abandonment to Him, in which God Himself, by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, is allowed to dwell in our hearts (The heart being the most human understanding of the location of the spirit in our body). It is only by His Holy Spirit; the spiritually manifest Jesus on earth, that we will ever begin to understand the vastness of the Creator, YHWH--what “groaning without words" (Psalm 42:7) and “deep calling unto deep” (Psalm 42:7) even come close to meaning.

In the final analysis, we can debate the existence of God, but only those who have become abandoned to the thought of a supernatural Creator by faith--One who communes in relationship with His creation--will ever have the opportunity to know Him.

Even though the Bible makes claims about itself, which are true, that in itself is not a convincing argument. I believe the following passage is the greatest Biblical truth that I know. Why? Because it squarely puts the responsibility of knowing God on the one reading the verses within it. One cannot blame the church, organized religion, intellectuals, or create hypothetical cases for which God does not have the responsibility to respond to a humble, treasure-seeking individual.

Proverbs 2

1 My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,

2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;

3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,

4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;

5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God.

Many thanks to Steve Smith, author of the blog, Out On Limb, for his expertise in editing (unhacking English) and proof reading.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Graduation - We May Never Pass this Way Again

This year two of my girls graduated, one from High School and the other from Preschool. Sure, I am proud dad. My kids worked hard in many way to get to the podium. They are special, but average kids-- average like their dad. We are not the best, or most talented at anything. But to God, the three of us are extraordinary kids.

As I sat in the chairs here are some of the things that struck me. First, I am amazed at how many people can stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, and not hold their right hand over their heart. I guess now that we have tossed Bible reading and prayer out of school, now we can toss patriotism too. After all, that word "God" could offend someone.

At the Barnstable High ceremony I cried during the Star Spangle Banner as the competition winning band played. I also welled up for the pledge of Allegiance as it was said by two dozen 4 and 5-year-olds at Little Folk Farm. There is something about childlike faith that cuts through the bologna (thanks Oscar Meyer) adults somehow need to hear. But what really got to me was the flag. At first I noticed it was handmade by the kids. Then I saw it was made of hands-- cut-outs of all the students hands. Wow, that is powerful.

As I listened to speakers from students to school board members and administrators, I hear hope, hope for the future, hope for families, hope for education and jobs. The superintendent of schools read off the answers to questions like. If you really knew me, you would really know_____? After graduation I hope to be______. And, this is what I remember about high school _______. They were funny, ambitious, hopeful and even determined.

At the Pre-K ceremony, they made some predictions about the kids based on their likes and dislikes, as well as the personal aspirations of a 5-year-old.

At both commencements, I was caught up in the emotion of the moment. I thought about what I wanted to do when I graduated high school - travel party, and college. I am actually friends on Facebook with three kids that were in my Kindergarten class, one sat next to me in 1964. I don't remember if we had a commencement, but I don't think so. I was sad about all the time that has passed, and began to think about what I could have done, that I didn't. I was sad that my mother an father, both passed away, couldn't enjoy the smiles of my kids as they hugged teachers and friends.

Life is a vapor, no matter how hard I try to live each day to its fullest, time races on.

As my oldest graduate received her diploma, it was emotional. After all she is the child of divorce, and has had some bumps in the road. Her friend too, she lost her dad to an overdose just a few months ago. Quitting school would have been easier.

I used to be a photographer, and there in the bleachers were hundreds of kids I tried to get to smile so many years ago. A teacher that did the yearbook was honored, and I took a minute to congratulate him. It was also a chance to say thanks.

For each of the little ones, the teachers wrote a little bit about them. Charlotte, she is the Energizer Bunny. She likes to talk and talk and talk, like her dad. My wife was in tears! They talked about her friends, her art, her favorite sea animals (she calls them ami-alls). They talked about her smile, and her favorite thing to do: direct creative play times. She's a great kid. Next year she will be attending a Spanish immersion elementary school. Maybe she'll be a missionary, like her dad.

When I think about the energy that was put into my kids education -- the time spent with them, it's amazing. Even my now kindergarten aged daughter spent three years with the same folks. Those millions of drawings, capital letters, paintings, hand prints and uniquely crafted report card comments alluding to their strong wills, but never saying it. Wow!

I am so thankful for the care that these kids have been given. It is a wonderful milestone in life, a place to stop and reflect-- a place of hope. I thought about my senior prom theme, We May Never Pass this Way Again. Hmmm.....

I was also sad about what I didn't hear. No one mentioned love, or forgiveness, only hopes of making this a good life. Is that possible without God? There was no opening prayer, no benediction, only the Pledge of Allegiance. By the time my little one gets to high school, I doubt that the phrase "one nation under God," will be in it.

We may never pass this way again.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Would You?

I was listening to the pastor this morning. He asked us at what point we think Peter got saved? When he met Jesus and followed him? When his nets overflowed and he wept bitterly about his sinfulness? When he said Jesus was the Messiah? When Jesus said "Satan get thee behind me?" while Peter blabbered on about his faithfulness to his friend? When he denied Jesus 3 times? When he said "Lord, you know I love you?" It is a good exercise.

My wife and I had a frank discussion about where we are with church today. We indulged in expressing some dissatisfaction over a list of things that have happened to us at church these last eight years. We actually think we're justified in becoming atheists, but we'd like your opinion before pulling the plug on Christianity all together. So here's the drill, at what point should we have left Christianity, and called it quits?

- The time the home-group leader said he would like to invite us for dinner and never made plans.
- The time one of the woman at church asked how we were doing, the cut us off to tell us about her dream?
- The time that the pastor decided that my actions were not in accordance with his rules, and met with others before talking to me?
- After we were asked what we need, and we said friendship? Which was followed up by weeks total silence.
- The time the pastor didn't like a prophecy about one of his flock, so he he shut down the prophetic for everyone. All while the prophecy in question came to pass.
- The home group agrees to a picnic, and then doesn't show up.
- You say that you need help moving, and only the pastor from the church where you don't go shows up?
- You are told to plan a mission trip for the pastor, and he cancels it leaving everyone wondering just what happened?
- You asked if someone could get involved with your kids that were having a tough time, and the pastor said, we don't do that, this is a church, not a counseling service.

You know, I'd be really interested in what you think about these types of thing.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Do Not Be Squeezed - 9 Commandment Christians

This week has been intense... job hunting, kids, cars, graduations... I have also had some back-and-forth about "the church" with some of my blog readers. We've discussed the fact that many folks are disenfranchised regarding church, and leadership simply blames it on the world's influence. They say, "We are a fast food society and we want church the same way." "We are too busy." "I can't fit in anything else."

I just want to know why? It is not biblical to be too busy for God, or His people.

Romans 12:2 "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold." Phillips

For those of us living in first world countries, we are all working hard; usually both parents in a family, just to have a house, a couple of cars, and a few creature comforts. Some are working seven days a week and not taking a Sabbath. Now I am not saying that the Sabbath is a particular day, but it is a day of rest; a day OFF! It is one of the 10 commandments, right up there with adultery, murder, and not honoring God. Are you a 9 commandment Christian?

Honestly; most of us church folk spend so much time making ends meet, that we don't even know where the ends are anymore. The evidence of this is the amount of medicated depression in the church. Sure, there are some that are truly mentally ill, but there many more that do not want to stop and rest, and let God minister to them.

I want to know why? Isn't church supposed to be a healing place? A place of peace?

So many times we have a goal, an image, or dream that we pursue. I know I have. I wanted to have a whiz-bang car, a college degree, or a home in a certain place. For us first-world-ers, these are pretty normal aspirations. In many parts of Africa, South America, and even remote areas of China, they are not. (By the way, the church in those areas is seeing some amazing miracles, healings, and it is growing in size and number every day.)

For some, they are not really concerned if the church is doing anything outside of their world. It is enough to make it through the day. Worldviews can be very insulating. For instance, where I live, there are software engineers living in $400,000 homes, that are on food stamps due to unemployment. I hear that it is worse in California.

The downturn in the economy has brought many Christians to a tough place. There are lots of Bible verses about how God will take care of us, read Matthew chapter 6. But be honest with yourself, is your current need an opportunity for God to show you a blessing, or get you to see His plan for your life? Do you really need a miracle, or do you need to change what you are doing?

A few years ago, I lived in a beautiful coastal area of the US. After 21 years there, I was out of work and so was my wife. I wanted to stay, apparently squeezed into a lifestyle, that at times challenging, seemed to melt away as I walked the pristine North Atlantic beaches and rollerblade-ed along the canal. As I considered a real job in the big city of Boston, I was torn. After all, I had been working or looking for work for three years. God was after a change, and this was an opportunity to take the test again-- in hopes that I would do better.

Life in the city has been more stressful, from traffic to expectations at work, to finding something in the aisles of a gigantic grocery store -- crazy. However; in some areas I have made progress. It is tough to stop and make time for God, His people, my family, and manage all the regular stuff. The pressure to be molded is significant. Sometimes I fail.

As we look at the lack of meaningful Christian relationships, the steady decline in church attendance, and the exodus of young people; those that have grown up in the church, deciding to change religions, there is a problem that Houston can't help with.

I have looked at the handful of "hot spots" in the US where the church is growing, and it comes down to a few basic Biblical principals.

- Apostolic leadership with vision for the whole church to become involved; every member made to feel significant, gifted and free to be themselves. (Ephesian 4)
- Service to the community - the poor, those in prison, the sick, the widows, the disabled, and outreaches to those caught up in the American Dream, turned Nightmare.
- The gifts being taught, trained and mentored.
- And finally, a strong emphasis on relationship.

Yes, we need prayer, teaching, and church attendance, but without the above, we are just going through the motions.

I want to know why?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hmmmm - Early Morning Musings

Yesterday my blog had record high readership! I guess you folks would rather laugh a little at satire and sarcasm, than read my religious rants and political diatribes. ;o] That sure says something about my marketing image!

It's been a strange few weeks, looking for work, interviewing, and now entertaining an offer -- seeing old friends at the church anniversary, buying a car with my eldest daughter, the warm weather, a date night with Mary Anne, good night kisses from the little ones -- lots of things to be grateful for. Thanks, God, you're awesome!

Most people would say, "you're good!" and I am-- but not because of all that I have. Emotionally that is all very gratifying, and things have been a lot worse for darn sure! As I was meditating this morning, I started to think about the following verse. It all started when an old classmate (Don't you love Facebook!) shared how difficult things were for her, her health, her relationship and her job.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt. 6:19-21

As I sit here thinking, meditating, brooding, praying-- I think about all that God has done, not just in terms of what I have-- I mean Donald trump has more stuff than I do-- but in terms of miracles, healing and lives changed. I have to say, that is where I live. I think about the mission trips I have been on, the awesome power of God at work, the people that I have met, the opportunities to be Jesus for someone in need-- going to work doesn't do it for me.

Don't get me wrong, my times with Mary Anne are a daily joy that I wouldn't trade for anything else on earth. For sure, when I stomp the accelerator of my Mustang GT, while yelling "global warming is a farce" as Tim Hughes knocks out "Happy Day, All My Sins Are Washed Away" -- the adrenaline, the endorphins and caffeine race through my veins-- I am close to God!

I admit it, I'm truly a piece of work. I have a "Gun Owner - Voter" bumper sticker and just purchased one that says, "[GM] Government Motors". I wear a "What WOULDN'T Jesus Do?" t- shirt to church, with a graphic of Jesus hang gliding. Worship music has to have an electric guitar-- better if I am playing it.

I think about how I have to get along in this life until I get to the next. Some days it is hard, life is hard, stuff is hard; overwhelming and too much.

I had a friend die of cancer who was just a few years older than me. I was at the service thinking, Bill, you son-of-a-gun, you left without me. You have it easy now and I am stuck here. Life can be that tough. There is, however; a way to overcome things in this life.

Revelation 12:11 - "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death."

Until I depart this life, I need to see God at work. At the church anniversary, there was a cardboard testimony. "DIAGNOSED WITH BRAIN CANCER - 3 MONTHS TO LIVE" And when the cardboard was flipped over, it said, "THAT WAS 9 YEARS AGO"

This morning, I am thinking about what God wants to do with me. Sitting in front of a PC, although I enjoy it, it isn't where my treasures are. But I know that the Kingdom of God is at hand-- for me, some days it's tough to put my finger on it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Water Buffalo - Epilogue

Skirmish after skirmish, battle after battle, finally we have taken down the stalwart and sturdy steel water buffalo! This war of wills, brawn and finance -- I mean liars, cheats and thieves -- wasn't pretty. And we are out of coffee.

The "deal," an intriguing and illusive creature itself, finally lead us to our pray; the 3,200 pound Yaris (Japanese for water buffalo I think...). The two have a symbiotic relationship. Our hunt has become a war. The water buffalo, now being fiercely protected by a rogue group of pirates patrolling the Auto-Mile. The Toyota Yaris, its actual species name, is easy pray once you get her out in the open. They can easily be downed with correct caliber financial instrument. The problem is the network of small but dangerous obstacles, terrain and somewhat spooky creatures we encountered on our 5 day safari. Like true survivors, we dealt with each one as we encountered them, some with stealth and others with a barrage of small arms fire (code for angry phone calls and sarcastic messages). You see the water buffalo is a highly protected beast in these parts, one whose hide brings tens of thousands of dollars. Especially now that similar species such GM and Chrysler are virtually extinct and being run by a totalitarian government.

It was an emotional hunt, filled with tears and excitement-- and some -- well slang and a few hand gestures. Oh, and a dirty job (see the above pic - this was Dealer Lot). But we were looking for the trophy kill. Our team of three worked with military precision - the likes of the Navy Seals, the Green Barret and other special forces. I had the privilege of serving as general under my daughter, the not even close to first woman, Commander and Chief, along with our military analyst named Bill (not his real name, because he is well, under cover), code named banker. My job was intelligence (he he), Bill's job: reconnaissance and financial supply line. The commander,well she stepped right into the trenches with us taking a few, but no fatal hits, from a pesky finance manger.

From the very beginning we had our sights on the target and keep the salesman and his manger at bay with some very ego inflating phone calls. From a distance we could see the "big one;" horns glistening in the midday sun. Almost like a mirage, it seems to have the circular diopters of a scope -- certainly this was a sign from the heavenlies, wasn't it?

We were prepared having camped out the weekend and looking at other trophies in the same price range -- dealing - waiting -- and causing our opponent to scramble -- each unanswered phone call a better deal, a lower interest rate. We had the pirates of Metro West on the run. (Did you ever wonder why pirates would operate in dry land? Me too!) It was like we had cut off the blood supply. But our pray is a patient beast, rarely showing its hand. That is why we hired Bill-- what an expert in this particular barbarian behavior. Always knowing what is a good deal, what can be negotiated - but because he was undercover, we sometimes wondered if he was secretly working for the enemy.

Back-to-back, the commander and I sat in the foxhole all weekend. The cell radio crackled with "BS," a language that I am somewhat familiar with. Together, we were wondering when to take, what was going to be our only shot at the Yaris on this trip. It was going to take real skill to knock out the pirates. After all we had escaped them jumping into the Mustang just last Thursday, only getting close to the beast for a short test drive.

The pirates called with a 12 o'clock deadline on their 0% deal... water buffalo are cunning, they never call you, they have someone else do the dirty work - but quickly adding the numbers we found this just to be more smoke. No, Banker said to move at 3. Passing the check point, and navigating the Sally Port, we approached Banker's command center. With armed guards and computers screens everywhere- an HD TV playing propaganda from CNN, we sign secret documents. The scene was something out of Robo Cop.

We made our move at 15 hundred hours.

Here is a picture just moments before the take down. We were close, close enough to smell victory.

And finally they surrendered and we took the shot. Victory was ours. I felt like tearing my shirt or head butting the salesman! The commander was so excited she forgot to the sign the bank check. But it didn't matter, shortly we were going to be posing for pictures. The wait was over, the casualties on their side many, the war debt on our side substantial.

Whew!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah He Reigns

I don't know about you, but some days I go through the motions of Christianity... too many days in fact. I can be blatantly religious about my faith and worse, my experiences. But on occasion, God shows up in spite of my stupidity.

If you have a minute, you might want to listen to this tune before you read on. It's really central to today's blather.

He Reigns - Newsboys

Last night I took the older girls to the 10th Anniversary Celebration of a church that I once attended. I actually had two tenures with them. I first met Pastor Mike when my own church's worship team helped them kick off their regular meetings at the local Baptist Church as they transitioned from a home-fellowship. I sat in on electric guitar that Saturday night in early 2000. I liked them and decided to stay on the worship team for about a year. When they moved from regular Saturday night services to Sunday morning services, I sadly had to step down. But I had built relationships that were meaningful and we kept in touch. We even attended there for a few years before my move to greater Boston.

At the same time (2000), I was doing some young adult meetings which I wrote about last year. You can read the full blog HERE. The following is an excerpt.

... I just asked the kids to be nice to each other, spend a few minutes in prayer before starting, listen to a few worship tunes and a short (5-8 minute) teaching, then we'd have pizza and listen to Christian rock and talk. The kids started to bring their friends to experience the power of God. Most of the new kids had never been to church in their lives. It was really different for them. We went from a weekly meeting to five or six a week! I was amazed at how excited they were about Jesus. Some of their parents came to the meetings and God healed a few of them too. One woman had migraines so bad that she was bedridden a few times a week, and in the ER nearly once a month. This went on for many years she told me. God healed her. The last I heard, she went nearly a year without a single headache.

I'd just like to update you. I saw her at church last night, and she said, "do you remember me? I am the one that got healed of headaches. I still don't have them!"

I choose this tune, He Reigns - Newsboys, because the worship team played it last night. I have played, and listened to it many times in the past few years, but last night it rocked my world. This morning at 2:25 AM it was playing in my head and again at 5:30.

He really does reign! Glory!
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