Sunday, August 31, 2008


It may qualify as a "mid-life crisis" but since R. and I both seem to be going through it at the same time, maybe that's not an accurate term for our present collective mental-emotional states. Besides, I am probably past "mid-life" although I have always been a late-bloomer.

We seem to be going through a restless time.

Our children have definitely launched into a new era ... they've gone into what someone in my family referred to as "that silly stage". I was, unfortunately, the one going through said stage at the time that term was bandied about; and there are still questions remaining as to whether I have completely put the "silly stage" behind me.

Our kids have become ...well- like other people's kids ... just -uh - silly.

R. and I have had quite a bit of concern about our parents over the past year, with health problems and such.

And all that just contributes to a general feeling of restlessness. My Dad typified my general feelings the other night while he was waiting to get admitted to a hospital room (an episode with his heart). He had become agitated and was still experiencing some pain and said he was "just miserable!" ... he felt the need to go. Do anything just to see some progress or change!

I think restlessness is necessary for people like me that- given the option- will always choose to just stay put thank you very much! Some of us just need some extra motivation to move.

I'm pretty sure God will, at times, allow circumstances to become a little less bearable and the smooth waters to become choppy - if it means getting us from our "Point A" to His "Point B".

The neat thing is that I feel very open to change... I am ready, I think, to step away from some things and into some new paths - so long as it is God's choice and not just mine.

That's one good thing about a marriage that strives to follow God's model of being "one-flesh", it requires that the two come into agreement with God and between themselves. That provides some additional accountability and is a cushion against a foolish leap into the dark. Hopefully, R. and I will remain true to that model.

"Wild Goose Chase", the Mark Batterson book I recently read (and reviewed on this site) is about that mystery and adventure of following the Holy Spirit's lead.

We want to follow. And restlessness signals that the time to move may be close.

The anticipation of what might be ahead can be exciting; the uneasiness of waiting around when you finally get ready to move can be difficult to handle.

In the book of Genesis, you can read about another man that was restless and God spoke to him in a time of misery ...

"I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family."Genesis 31:13 NKJV

Prior to this moment, Jacob had completed 20 years of service to his father-in-law; fourteen of those years was work he yielded as payment for the right to marry his two daughters.

His hard work was not appreciated, his wages were changed ten times (and that doesn't mean he had ten cost-of-living increases). Any time there was a loss, it came from Jacob's stock- he had to make it good.
To top it off, things were a little stressful at home what with a whole passel of children and the constant back-and-forth bickering between his wives (Jacob is the poster child for monogamy).

Yeah - I'd say Jacob was more than a little restless!

Now maybe God just chose that time to speak to him, or MAYBE God had been saying "arise, get out of this land..." for awhile, but Jacob just wasn't listening until his circumstances got so bad.

Are you restless about anything right now?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Right On!

In the past, I have made it no secret that John McCain is not my choice for president, but I have to admit that he made a good move today.

From what little I know about Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska - I am really impressed!
- Pro-life
- NRA member
- Reformer
- Mother of five
- Mother of military son

I just like her already. I heard her name tied with Ronald Reagan a couple times today - that's good company in my book! My impression is that she is unapologetically Conservative.

I'm not sure if John McCain reads my blog, but -

okay I'm reasonably sure John McCain doesn't read my blog

-but if he did, I'd say "Stellar choice, my good man!"

I thought it was interesting that the democrat party (I think I read the other day that it is insulting to refer to them as "the democrat party") - has resurrected the old One-Heart-Beat-Away-From-The-Presidency mantra from the Dan Quayle days.

Their audacity is laughable - to raise Palin's "inexperience" as an issue?

That's the best they can do?

I have been watching this election from afar... but I must say, that now it is becoming interesting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's All Relative

Here's a picture and a story from a nearby newspaper about a "gas-war" (remember those?).

I was struck by the irony of all these people piling into a little gas station - frantically hoping to buy gas for $2.99 a gallon.

Think how quickly we become conditioned.

Five years ago, our proverbial jaws would have dropped to the proverbial ground if someone had told us we would be paying $2.99 for a gallon of gas - and happy to get it at that price!

Don't mind me, I'm probably just jealous because I wasn't there to fill up my tank.

That same morning I had hurriedly stopped to get enough gas to get me to work without a lot of anxiety over how many miles my little truck would still go after that EMPTY light comes on. I put in $5 worth in record time. Then after work, when I stopped at Walmart (my 'regular' gassing up place)- there was a little back-up because the cost was around $3.38/gal. The guy in front of me couldn't get his credit card to work so after struggling with the automated reader awhile, he went to the window to pay. Apparently they couldn't get it to work either because when I finally decided to give up my spot and try another aisle, I saw a line at the pay window all behind my friend. So without the low prices - buying gas that day was rather frustrating for me.

If I wanted to spiritualize this I would point out how easily we can become conditioned to things that once shocked us ... the decline of morals, the loss of individual freedoms, the rise of evil in the world. Like the frog in the pot of gradually boiling water, we just get all cozy with things as they are. Until it's too late.
But I don't think gas prices are all that apocalyptic. Especially when we consider that oil is one of those natural resources with which God has richly blessed our country.
What's that you say?
The "leadership" in our government won't allow the tapping of these natural resources with which God has richly blessed our country?
You say, they think we should all feel guilty for being Americans and just check our tire pressure, buy squiggly-shaped light-bulbs, and keep re-using the same filthy canvas bags to hold our groceries?
Oh, now that's scary!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Feet: Life at the Bottom

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion,
“ Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7 NKJV

Granny did not have pretty or dainty feet. I never saw her in a sleek pair of heels. She was never adorned with polished toenails. Most often I saw her in the pair of plain white sneakers that she wore to work every day at one of the Dundee cotton mills in Griffin, Georgia.

Her feet had knots - I guess you might call them 'bunions' -that protruded to the point of wearing away the canvas of her tennis shoes. Sometimes they pained her.

But like the feet in the passage above, they were beautiful feet.

They were the feet that trudged back and forth between the looms in that cotton mill, on hard floors - day after day. They were the feet that carried her home, where they quickly transported her about the house in preparation of supper ('dinner' was the noon meal, of course).

They were the means of moving her about after supper as she flitted about washing, cleaning, putting away and constantly wiping counters with a dishcloth.

They would finally take her to a softer seat where she might rest a few moments; but then she would be up on them again to prepare sleeping arrangements for her children and grandchildren that had come to visit.

In the night, one would not have to strain the ears very much to hear those feet softly pattering about the kitchen or sneaking into the bedroom to be sure all the children were under their covers.

They were beautiful feet because of the love that they walked out every day.

Imagine a small patrol in a military situation, pinned down for days by the enemy's watchful eye. Food rations are gone, water is scarce, hope ebbs away. Then running footsteps are heard! Is it friend or foe? It is a friend! And he brings with him bread and water and the good news that help is on the way.

As this band savors the cool water, they peer down at his feet. They are bleeding and bruised and filthy - wounds his treacherous journey had inflicted. Yet they are beautiful for they have brought good news!

Feet probably get the least respect of any other parts of our body. We put them to work immediately when we wake up and they are the last thing we take off before going to sleep (take our feet off the floor). They plod through their entire existence at the bottom - far removed from all the excitement and activities of the brain. Yet they are highly valued in the kingdom of God.

As I give you a few examples, put yourself into the shoes of the feet that are mentioned (forgive me - I couldn't help myself) ... especially if you feel that your stock is low.

Wet Feet - This story got this whole idea rolling for me. Over the past year or so, I have read it several times and it has appeared in several devotions (some of my own). It's the story of the crossing of the Jordan River, by the Israelites as they moved into the Promised Land Proper . . .

and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water . . . that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap .... Joshua 3:15a & 16a NKJV.

Those priestly leaders were the only Israelites to get their feet wet that day. Everyone else crossed on dry land. Wet feet reveal a brand of leadership that is willing to step in ahead of the crowd and before the miracle.

On the stormy sea of Galilee as Peter stepped out of the boat - it is likely his feet got wet (especially when he sank in the water at one point), yet he was the only man in the boat - besides Jesus - that walked on water.

Muddy Feet - These are feet that have been there. . . .

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. Psalm 40:2 NKJV

I don't think I truly understood "miry clay" until this summer when the kids and I got into a clay pit at Williamsburg, Virginia. That's where you step in barefooted and walk around in a clay and water mixture. The softened clay is then used to make bricks.

It was really difficult to move around shin-deep in heavy suctioning clay. AA tried his "hand" at mixing with his hands, when he lost his balance a couple times and landed on all fours. And it was a mess. We spent about as much time -or more - trying to clean the clay off our feet as we spent in the clay pit.

Sin does that to people - pulls them down, messes them up and holds them with a tight grip. Sometimes when they leave the pit, it can take a long time to wash away the residue and its lingering effects.

But no one quite understands muddy feet, like someone who has been in the pit.

Remembering our muddy feet can help us be more compassionate to those not yet on the Rock.

(God)who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NIV

Bare Feet -

Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5 NKJV

In 1995 at an early Promisekeepers Event, I sat in the Georgia Dome with tens of thousands of other men as Pastor Jack Hayford led us in removing our shoes - literally. As we did (and as far as I know, everyone participated) he taught us that it was likely that Moses had made those sandals himself. When God told him to take them off, He was saying "do away with all of your own efforts because they will come between you and Me".

In the 70's when people were getting "free" a lot of folks went barefooted. You remember one of the Beatles appeared barefooted on the Abbey Road album. Well, being just a kid, I spent a great deal of my summers barefooted.

In the summer of 1972, we were moving to Morristown, Tennessee and spent a week or so in a motel while were looking for a house. One of the first evenings that we went out with a real estate agent to look at houses - I decided to go barefooted. I guess I was just being a free spirit.

What a goofy thing to do. I soon realized the goofiness of my fashion choice and was embarrassed the entire time. It is likely that no one noticed the eleven year old kid all cleaned up and and shoeless, but I sure thought they did. Being barefooted in that setting was humiliating.

But feet that are bare before Christ are different. They are feet with nothing to hide - feet without pretense. And only bare feet can experience the "Holy".

The "feet" theme could go on and on down many trails ...

Jesus used dirty feet, a basin and a towel to demonstrate a true servant-spirit...

Some of the most picturesque models of unrelenting worship took place at Jesus' feet ...

And stories - oh so many stories - could be found at Jesus' feet... Mary choosing right, the man formerly known as 'Legion' sitting there in his right mind, and children playing.

Feet, like people, may not always get the respect they deserve, but God had a grand purpose in mind when he created feet.

How much more the purpose and plans He has in mind for you.

In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 1 Corinthians 12:22 NLT

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Book Review: Wild Goose Chase - by Mark Batterson

Recently I told you about this new book. Now that I have read it, I am really excited and convicted by it. I love stories and this book is full of them. Over the past several months, I have found myself beginning a number of books, but never completing any them. Wild Goose Chase broke that dry spell.

If you missed the earlier post and links, find it here. Here's the review:

Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit -An Geadh-Glas or 'the Wild Goose' .

With that intriguing introduction, Mark Batterson dangles the theme of his new book, Wild Goose Chase underneath our noses until we pick up the scent; and the chase is on. Then like a hound unleashed, the reader pursues the idea of pursuing the Holy Spirit.

If the book were a movie, it would be an action flick with ever-changing scenery and fresh adventures at every turn. Some have commented that the book could be read in one sitting because of its conversational style. However, I read in "dog-years" (if you will forgive the continued "hound" metaphor) so it took me about a week.

Chasing the Wild Goose is never safe and it isn't tame. In fact, if we cling to the comfortable we will never join the chase. Our areas of safety will actually become our cages.

Batterson uses interesting biblical characters like Nehemiah, Moses, Jonathan and Paul along with the stories of current and historical figures to draw us out of the cages of monotony and into the quest God has planned for us.

Batterson details a number of the 'cages' that can hold us back from chasing the Wild Goose, among them are: irresponsible responsibility, guilt, assumptions and fear that backs us into a defensive- rather than offensive -mode.

The book is not only an interesting read, but an excellent resource. I was challenged.

In C.S. Lewis's Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of the knights is a passionate and noble mouse named Reepicheep. He's one of my favorite characters in the Narnia series. When faced with a frightful and daunting prospect he plunges in with the following quote:

"...this is a very great adventure, and no danger seems to me so great as that of knowing when I get back to Narnia that I left a mystery behind me through fear."

Reepicheep represents the valiant spirit encouraged by this book; the adventure of pursuing the Holy Spirit's lead.

Connecting Call

One of the good things about moving around a bit in my younger life is that I have quite a few connection points with people.

I don't know if it is my unquenchable thirst for attention or what - but I find myself wanting to re-acquaint myself with old friends or establish connection with people whose path I may have crossed at some earlier time. So if I go to some town where I once lived, my radar becomes fully operational and my eyes widen as I search for some semblance of familiarity with the people all around.

Probably about 12-15 years ago I was in a mall in Gadsden, Alabama, that's where I graduated high school. I picked out a guy across the way that had been in my graduating class. He was pushing a stroller and - I think - had another toddler in tow ... he looked tired.

I didn't re-connect with him. I have re-connected with some people and been able to re-establish our acquaintance and more times than not, I will walk across a room and start a conversation with someone if I think we have some past connection.

Last night, I got a telephone call from Leonard and Travis - a couple of friends of mine during my formative years in Gadsden. These two brothers were church acquaintances and both were older than me. I was always real impressed that Leonard (the oldest) even let me "hang out" with him, since I was barely in my teens and really not someone an older teen would want to be seen with. He was always one of those people that encouraged. After some time spent with Leonard and Travis, I usually left feeling better.

Last night, the call did not bring good news - their mother had passed away. Leonard thought my family would want to know so he found me on the Internet.

Now our families have stayed in some contact through the years but I have seen these two brothers only a very few times since I moved away in 1980. They came to my wedding almost twenty years ago and I went to their dad's funeral maybe ten years ago, but we talked very little.

What was so neat about the call was that I felt as if we re-connected almost immediately. Though I had sad news to share regarding Dad's heart attack, and they had sad news to share regarding their mother's death, our conversation was comfortable.


That's probably not a real masculine word, but I find it coming to mind a great deal lately.

- In attending my Dad's family reunion last month ...
- In dealing with my kids and their teachers as school recently began ...
- In dealing with my Mom and Dad and brother and sister with Dad's recent ordeal ...
- And now in these few moments of conversation with some buddies from my high school days ...

It says something about fellowship and community. I watched a sermon on-line a few moments ago from National Community Church - the speaker referenced Francis Schaeffer, as she echoed the thought that community was the "final apologetic" - the final proof to the world of Christ and the changes He establishes.
The way we treat one another in a Christian community speaks volumes about whether Christ can really make a difference.

I tell you, Christ has been the common factor of all those sweet experiences I have had lately.

When two or three are gathered - He's there - and if we pay attention He will connect with us. And in a real way - connect us to one another.

It's amazing that even in small gatherings He shows up....

What a fellowship,
What a joy divine . . .

Thursday, August 21, 2008

End of Life Issues

I get nervous around end of life issues. You know, when people start talking about "quality of life" and how far we should go to preserve or prolong a life. It makes me nervous because it can take us down a slippery slope toward devaluing life if we are not careful. To me, there is not a great distance between allowing someone to die with dignity and taking steps to "help" someone die.
It is just an issue for which I have few answers - so it makes me nervous.

Last night, my Dad had a heart attack. His second within the year. And after a day of poking, prodding, testing and probing he had had enough. So he decided to leave the hospital.

It was apparent to the healthcare professionals concerned with his case - that he may need some drastic measures and serious attention.

Dad, who hadn't eaten since the day before and who had spent a less than peaceful night in the hospital, didn't like the idea of being told that he had to participate in those drastice measures. He didn't like the prospects of the major surgery that was being proposed; and he certainly was not interested in more tests.

So he acted up. He declared he was leaving, and quickly began to make himself ready to do just that.

I might have reacted similarly - after all, this is a man who has often been in charge. He was always the head of our household and he gravitated to management roles in business and leadership in other areas. Yet today, the entire hospital experience was one that was out of his control. In the past couple of years, his role has been diminished. As his mind has faltered and his strength has decreased ... fewer people ask him for help.

As a Dad myself - I know - it's important to be needed. My kids are beginning to outgrow their questioning ages, so now when they come to me with a question, I am all ears!

My Dad went home -against medical advice - but at least one physician seemed to think it might be for the best for Dad to get back in his element around the trappings of the home he loves.

So Dad went home and somewhere inside me, there was at least an acknowledgement that he may be going home to die.

We will all get to that point. Some of us seemingly much too early. Some of us unexpectedly. But the same fate awaits us all in some form.

I found myself praying that my Dad wouldn't be afraid.

I believe my Dad has a strong relationship with Christ. I believe that his decision to follow Christ and to lead his family and others to do the same, will be richly rewarded. But I hope that he, himself will have that assurance - that somehow the confusion will clear, and the clouds will lift.

We took Dad home and he was still a little irritated with the day and Mom was, no doubt, concerned about the prospects; but we spent a sweet time together. Our conversations were funny and serious, tear-filled and argumentative but always loving.

When I got home tonight, I wanted to hug my wife and hold my children and look into their eyes, and listen to them. I wanted to once again drink in the grand experience of being a Dad to a couple of young adventurers.

Perhaps my own Dad still likes those moments - even though the eyes of his children have lost the gleam of youth - perhaps it still fills his heart to see his child and to drink in their experiences.

I think our heavenly Father is that way, though He is not old and His capacities are not diminished, but I somehow think He never tires of the attention of one of His children.

When you pray, mention my Mom and Dad.
Thank you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wild Goose Chase

Thanks to my good friend and weblog inspirer at The Great Life ..., I have received an advance copy and the opportunity to review a new book by Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington, D.C.

The book is "Wild Goose Chase", it goes on sale today. Here's the summary - I think it will grab your attention like it did mine!

Most of us have no idea where we’re going most of the time. Perfect.

“Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit–An Geadh-Glas, or ‘the Wild Goose.’ The name hints at mystery. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger, an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to follow the Spirit through life. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something….

Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: Adventure.” --from the introduction.

You can purchase the book at and .

Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of Washington, DC’s National Community Church, widely recognized as one of America’s most innovative churches. NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the city, as well as in a church-owned coffee house near Union Station. More than seventy percent of NCC’ers are single twentysomethings who live or work on Capitol Hill. Mark is the author of the best-selling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and a widely read blogger ( He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

You can learn more at .

Stay tuned, I plan to post the review in a few days.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Just Beneath the Surface

Jesus said, "the kingdom of heaven is near..."

And people listened.
Because the Jews had been beaten down by nation after nation and at the time Jesus spoke those words, they were chafing under the sword of the Roman empire. They were so ready for a deliverer - someone, anyone - to come in and wreak havoc on their persecutors.

Jesus just might be that someone, they thought.

In just a short time, He was talking about the kingdom of heaven again, so they listened intently.

That's when Jesus spelled out what we know as the Beatitudes: a list of attitudes that would typify His kingdom. You will find them spelled out in Matthew 5.

But as they listened, they must have looked at one another in puzzlement and checked their ears to be certain they were hearing correctly.

Jesus said some odd things.

Empires in that day were not much different than those of our day...wealth and power were the keys to one's escalation in the kingdom; but not so this kingdom Jesus was talking about.

He spoke of traits of the kingdom like being poor, mourning, meekness and being hungry and thirsty. I ask you: where's the fun in that?
If some of the folks standing around that day missed what He was saying - perhaps I should not be too quick to judge. You see, I have always looked at the Beatitudes as qualifiers; things you must do if you want to be in the kingdom, but I'm starting to see it differently now.

The Beatitudes cast the vision for God's kingdom. They reveal how different His kingdom is from that of the world. They turn our thinking top-side down.

There are a great number of things that we are encouraged to put on in the Bible. Put on Christ, put on the armour of light, put on the new man, put on the whole armour. In church we sing about putting on the garment of praise...

There are, in turn, some things we cannot put on they must emerge from within. The Fruit of the Spirit is one: love, joy peace, patience - these cannot be put on they must grow from within. In simple terms, attaching apples to a lemon tree will not effectively change what the lemon tree produces.

These Beatitudes are attitudes that aren't intended to be put on, but rather they emerge from inside us as a result of our relationship with Christ.

In Luke 17, Jesus said the kingdom of God is within you!

Looking back at those first four Beatitudes: poverty, mourning, meekness and hunger/thirst. All of these represent either a loss or a lack of something. Poverty is a lack of riches; we mourn our losses; meekness is perceived as a lack of fortitude and we hunger when we are empty.

In those first four Beatitudes, Jesus points our that these reducing factors reveal the kingdom that lurks beneath the surface.

What lurks beneath your surface? When there is loss or things are lacking somewhere, what rises to the surface.

Yesterday, our Sunday School class looked at this. I used the illustration of a grapefruit.

The real value of the fruit is not in the peel but its found inside the peel.

If we add to the peel - put things on the outside, it will not add value to the fruit. It will just make what's inside harder to get to.

My Mom likes to bore a hole in an orange or grapefruit with a knife to form a sort of natural juice-box. This allows the valuable juice inside to flow out.

When we are injured or wounded... it is an opportunity for the kingdom of God inside us to flow out.

Another way of really getting to all that valuable goodness beneath the surface of the grapefruit is to just slice it in two and open it up.

Some Christians do that - they just open themselves up to God and to others. Some open up their hearts, their homes, their wallets, all their resources to God and as His compassion leads - they open them to people.

Such is the kingdom of heaven.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Troubling Times

Maybe it's because it is also the name of my home state - but I am disturbed by the headlines these days about tanks moving into Georgia. It immediately grabs my attention and I cannot seem to ignore the issue in the way that I might ignore the headlines of another Britney Spears or J-Lo story.

It could be because I seem to remember the Republic of Georgia being adopted as a sister state by the U.S. Georgia back when we were still celebrating the new found freedom of these republics.
Now I am saddened and disturbed by news that Russia is flexing her muscles at the expense of this little sovereign country.
It doesn't help that I read a story from Fox-News reporting Russian-backed troops near the Inguri River, were joking that retreating Georgian troops' had received "American training in running away."
{As I complete this post on Saturday, it seems another cease-fire is being signed.}

I wish I had said it first - but there is something very "1939 -ish" about these times. New alliances are emerging around the world, a great deal of "saber-rattling" is going on, and people seem to be buying into propaganda - it's just an ominous feeling.

I am not sure what should be done. I do know that I feel more comfortable with George W. Bush at the helm, than I would with any of his would-be-replacements. One thing about President Bush - he is a man of commitment and has proven that he will stick to a job until it is finished. He doesn't wait for focus group reports before he makes decisions. His low standing in the polls right now is testimony to the fact that he does not choose the route of political expediency. It is a quality of leadership that will be sorely missed when he leaves office.

I know something else: evil is relentless.

That's a lesson we should hold in front of our eyes continually.

The evil pursuits of what Reagan called the "evil empire" appeared to be forever put away. Now we see in this recent act of aggression, that evil was not destroyed - it had only suffered a major defeat. So it seemed to go away, licking it's wounds.

In just a short twenty years, we see it emerging from the shadows like some intergalactic deathstar. Flaunting all the diplomatic "talk", it begins to move about leaving destruction in it's wake, gobbling up anything that bears the trappings of independence.

Freedom is a precious commodity: whether it is being defended here in our nation against the constant malignancy of incremental-ism, or whether it is being threatened around the world. It must be constantly guarded.

This lesson is important to our spiritual health too. Christians face a constant onslaught of evil aimed at destroying the freedom we have in Christ. It's relentless and we must remain diligent in defending ourselves and our families.

It's comforting to me to remember that God is my defender; it is not my own strength that will defeat evil - but rather His. I have but to run to Him.

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble; May the name of the God of Jacob defend you; Psalm 20:1 NKJV

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Tradition Continues - Waffle House

Well, we did it once again. This time, Mom even joined us.

We took our annual trek to one of the nearby Waffle Houses for a "Last Day of Summer Break" breakfast. I don't know how long the kids and I have kept this tradition but I know it has been at least three years - I think longer.

I double-checked that T-Bone Steak sales statistic I shared in an earlier post and according to one of the placards on the wall, they are still the number one seller of T-Bone steaks... also the world leader in waffles served.

And I am pretty sure I heard Dave Ramsey say once that they are a debt-free organization - that is amazing!

I just love to be greeted with the smell of waffles and a rousing "Good Morning!" when we walk in the door.

Being a weekday and after the early breakfast rush, we were able to take our choice of seats... naturally we chose the counter. I like for the kids (and me) to be able to see all the action taking place: employees bantering back and forth, spats (that's short for spatula) clinking against the griddle, and the ever present sizzle of delightful, tasty stuff!

My first two jobs were in food service. I don't think the first one really counted - I only stayed two weeks. But the next summer, I went to work at Sambo's -a now bankrupt organization(I tell people that I possibly played a role in their demise). They were sort of a "B" grade knock off of Denny's.

I was a cook with the stove-pipe hat and everything! I never really liked that job but, I do still enjoy that atmosphere. I get my "short-order" fix every so often by sitting at the counter at Waffle House.

You know, it doesn't hurt that the wait-persons (I really dislike that term) call me "Hon" and "Sugar"... I can't for the life of me, understand why some folks are offended with that.

You know, spent a little time looking over the Waffle House Website awhile back and went back to get pictures for this post. The organization began when two neighbors, Joe Rogers and Tom Forkner got together to open the first restaurant in Atlanta. One worked for a restaurant that provided no opportunities for ownership - the "Toddle House", and the other was in real estate.

They now have over 1500 stores.

There was something special about the restaurant business in the 1950's and 1960's - a lot of hardworking entrepreneurs were getting their start.... Dave Thomas of Wendy's fame, and Colonel Sanders. Ray Kroc was eyeing the McDonald brother's successful little hamburger stand as he sold them his Multimixer- milkshake machine, and Truett Cathy was convincing people to "Eat mor chikin". . . I really like the stories these organizations have to tell.

Like them, Rogers and Forkner found themselves without a lot of opportunities to grow... so they created opportunity.

That's what we do in America.

Our free market, capitalist system was inspired!

That's one thing I hope my children will glean from our Waffle House visits and similar events. And if one day, they have the opportunity to influence others in this nation (as I am sure they will) perhaps they will remember the right lessons.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mission to Mars: Synergy on a Summer Afternoon


I like that word. It means the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. That's rich!
I tried to explain that to Ab today as I attempted to talk her into including her brother in her latest project. There were territorial issues - her project required his skateboard; however, to utilize his skateboard, she would also have to take him on as a partner ... and share.
Those same obstacles pop up in groups, businesses, churches, even marriages every day. Somebody clings to something and cries mine! All the other parties (or party) then circle the wagons and begin defending their territory. The result is that little or no real progress is achieved.

Anyway, they decided to work together. The energy that their cooperation released was obvious.
They took a pile of boxes - nothing of any size much - and began to develop a spacecraft for a slated "Mission to Mars". By the time I stopped my work and stepped over to learn more about their progress, they were on their way! AA was to be the "Operator" at Mission Control and Ab was to actually pilot the craft.
Okay, they may have been influenced by some stories I have told them about the summer Apollo 11 landed on the moon. My best friend Steve and I were caught up in all the excitement about the lunar mission. I had (and still have) a map of the moon, one of the banks was giving away. For a long time I had a presentation on a 45 rpm record that the A & P grocer was giving away, it included excerpts from Kennedy's speeches challenging the nation to take the moon! My Dad even bought a new RCA color television (our first color TV) so we could watch the historic moments in living color!
But the best thing about that summer was that when Armstrong and Aldrin landed the LM (lunar module) near the "Sea of Tranquility" on the moon - we were right there with them.

Each day we would get an early start, reassembling our own Lunar Module. We built the first models out of lawn chairs stacked on top of one another. For a time, we took the mission inside and set up in my closet. For light, I had a glow-in-the-dark, top-like toy called a Whizzzzzzer. The closet was especially useful when we traveled around the dark side of the moon and endured the strain of communication blackout.
Steve got to be Commander Neil Armstrong - I had to be Buzz Aldrin. So he got to do the "One small step for man..." routine. But we worked together and came up with new ideas each day that we would implement into our mission. Synergy.
I felt some of that same enthusiasm as my kids involved themselves into a strictly imagination-driven project! It was fun to hear ideas popping out and the "oh yeah - great idea!" that illustrated the joy of people working together on something bigger.

Here is Ab during the early phase of the "ship's" construction.

AA demonstrates the radio communications made entirely from cardboard boxes, tape and a twist of carpet yarn for the mic cord.

The Team transports the project to the "surface of Mars" (otherwise known as the play area).

Notice that the skateboard is now in use.

Ab is in the craft.

That's AA on the radio in the new Mission Control.
Through the hatch, we see Commander Ab piloting the craft.

Mission Control Close-up.

The One certain ingredient you will find in any project that involves Ab: Tape.

If we see everything through the prism of God's Purpose, then we must know that this corporate energy is His gift. You'll see it demonstrated throughout the Bible:
  • The Israelites in the wilderness, giving over-much to provide for the construction of the Tabernacle and also jumping into the process - learning crafts like weaving, metal craft, engraving, all so they could join in on the project;
  • When Nehemiah led the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem, when everyone worked on the portion of the wall near their household. When the enemy threatened, some stood guard protecting others that were working on the wall;
  • After Pentecost in Acts - with synergy that was compounded by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit- the infant church pooled their resources, funded mission projects, and cared for others in economic struggles.
  • Even in a negative way, we can see the power of synergy at work when folks decided to try and build a tower to heaven (Babel).

Simple things we hopefully learned at an early age... things like sharing with others and cooperating - letting others take their turn first ... when employed in our relationships can release God's gift and give those who do not know Him, a small glimpse.

So don't sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it! Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you'll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God's generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Hebrews 12:12-15 The Message

Monday, August 11, 2008

Daddy Day

I like family traditions and there are a number that R and I have started and tried to keep over the years. One is Back-to-School Breakfast. On or near the last day of summer break, the kids and I will go for one of our traditional excursions into true culture - Breakfast at Waffle House.

Being a huge fan of the purveyor of "scattered and smothered" stuff - and at one time the number one seller of T-bone steaks, the event is a semi-annual, self-centered, self-indulgent act on my part - thinly disguised under the veil of "spending time with the kids". Once we have recuperated -gastronomically speaking - we usually go back the day after Thanksgiving. Our day is set for tomorrow. Wednesday it all starts over again - gloriously and thankfully! School and hopefully order will return to our lives.

So I am taking a couple days off this week.

These days off used to be called "Daddy-Days" when the kids were younger. That meant that Mom was working and Dad would be home. It also usually meant that Dad would be doing more playing than anything else. As the kids have gotten older - and as I have gotten older - and my "to-do" list longer, Daddy-Days are not always met with the same excitement as they once were. (It could be because lately I spend some of my time doing what I am doing right now while the kids are chattering outside).

I thought for this post, I would do something similar to the Mom's whose blogs I often read: I will talk about my day with the kids - occasionally dropping in some helpful hints here and there for you stay-at-home Moms (and stay-at-home Dads).

Hint: Always invent catchy names for the food you cook. This makes meal time an event. The exotic titles on your menu can often take their mind off the fact that lunch is two hours later than usual or that things look or taste funny.

We began this morning with "Chicken in a basket" (okay, I borrowed this from "Cracker Barrel"); for lunch (which is incidentally about an hour and one-half late even as we speak) we may have "Dad's World Famous Secret School Lunchroom Style Peanut Butter-and-Jelly Sandwiches". Don't ask me to reveal the secret ingredient, honey.

Hint: Always include them in the work you're attempting to complete. Okay this one is a little selfish also - but it is important that we instill a good work ethic in our children. So I try to include them or sometimes they get to do the chore completely without my assistance (alright already! I know it sounds as if I am pushing the work off onto my innocent and vulnerable children. Absolutely!).

AA and Ab are really pretty good helpers. AA has a little trouble staying focused and needs to be given one duty at a time:

"please pick up both of your flip-flops out of the kitchen floor -very good." ...

"now, please turn around and face in the direction of your bedroom... your bedroom!... YOUR bedroom! ... the place where you sleep!".

"Yes, now -NO, PICK UP YOUR Flip-Flops again - both of them!"

"Yes and take them.... take them to -DO NOT PUT THAT FLIP-FLOP IN YOUR MOUTH!"

...and so it goes.

Ab, on the other hand, if she gets on your team - you can accomplish anything! She is nine and dealing with the urges of independence so sometimes it is not easy to get her to go along.

We put up an above-ground pool every year... it's large enough to accommodate the kids (and Mom & Dad on occasions) but not so large as to attract numerous friends or require a lot of maintenance. Today's project has involved dismantling said pool.
There are some annual events that always seem to demand pictures... putting up the Christmas tree is one for us, as well as putting up the swimming pool. We hardly ever record the taking down of those items... I guess it's kind of a downer. But I decided to include some pics today.
Hint: Always encourage working together and using the imagination.
Well, I'm serious on this one. In the South, where the waning days of summer are sweltering and fatigue-inducing, it is easier to spend the last few days of summer in front of the television, computer or other electronic entertainment device. Over the past couple of days, we have been blessed with unusually low humidity which means it doesn't feel as hot as usual, so I have encouraged getting outside. And if it is absolutely necessary to be inside - I at least hope to help them avoid getting sucked into spending vapid hours watching something.

This morning Ab discovered that the lid to the juice bottle was not unlike an air hockey puck. Soon we had moved the game into the dining room, improvised some hockey sticks, and goals (using some of Ab's ever present Scotch Tape) and had countless minutes of enjoyment before the game devolved into bickering.

I'll add another post on Mission to Mars which was the other imagination project they took on.
Final Hint: Always keep an 'Ace in the hole" - something you can use as leverage. It's a good idea to have some sort of "end of the rainbow" promise out there to act as the carrot on a stick, luring your children through the required chores. Or you can hold the threat of removing the "promise" over their heads in order to keep them in line.

"Suzy, remember if you hit your brother again we may not get to go to the STORE later - you want to go to the STORE don't you?" (If you keep their expectations low - going to the Circle K can be a big deal)

"Billy if you'll wash, dry and put away all these dishes, fold and put away the laundry and wash Daddy's car - I might be able to round up a shiny new QUARTER! .... and maybe the next time Daddy has a day off, we can go to the STORE!"

As you can see, I am - by no means - an expert.
I do love my kids and their Mom as well. In fact, there are no other people on this earth I had rather spend a day off with!

Friday, August 8, 2008

At Arm's Length (You Can't Touch This - Part II)

But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. Joshua 6:18 NIV

In my last post, we looked at the above verse from the angle that God withholds things from us at times - not just to be nasty - but because it is simply not the best time.

Today I want to present another perspective on the same verse. In the NIV above, the accoutrement's of the city of Jericho are called devoted things instead of accursed things as in the version used for the last post.

Devoted things sounds a lot better. Accursed things conjures up images of Greg Brady and that Tiki idol the Brady Bunch discovered on their Hawaii vacation....

Actually the word devoted here refers to things being set apart - in this case set apart to be destroyed. So really, in the same way that the Tiki idol in the Brady's Hawaii adventure was thought to bring bad luck to those who touched it - these devoted or accursed things had an effect on those that attempted to possess them.

It seems that is why God instructed those fledgling conquerors of Israel to completely avoid touching the possessions of the inhabitants of Jericho. Initially, they would grasp and hold the cursed things, but in holding them would become like them. Eventually, the bearer would become, himself, a cursed thing. The malignancy would spread from there and destroy the nation.

The Israelites didn't have to wait long to test the validity of God's claim: in the next chapter trouble began in the camp. Achan took some things he shouldn't have, and the result was trouble for Israel. They took heavy losses in their next battle with a po-dunk little town called Ai... that's it, Ai. Tiny town-tiny name . . .couldn't even afford a consonant. But they routed the mighty Hebrew army and 36 Jews died. Achan's curse was troubling the nation.

In an ominous showdown Achan's sin was revealed and he and all his family were taken down to the Valley of Achor - which incidentally means the Valley of Trouble - and there they were all destroyed. I think I would call this account in Joshua 7, "Achan's Aching Acre of Achor" - catchy, huh?

So rewind back to Jericho - God told the Hebrews not to touch the devoted things. But did He really say don't TOUCH them? Did He really MEAN don't touch them?

Well look at the verse following our opener:

All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury. Joshua 6:19 NIV

So how did the Hebrews gather all the silver, gold, bronze and iron to be put into God's treasury if they didn't TOUCH them?!

The answer is they DID touch them - but they didn't hold them they didn't clutch them to their bosom.
I think they held them at arm's length.

In the book of James, we see that when evil desires are "conceived" they bring about sin, and sin always brings about destruction. Hidden among the definitions of the word "conceived" in this verse is the term to clasp. It is sort of the best way of describing what happens when an egg is fertilized, it takes in or clasps.

In our hearts, sin owes it's life to those evil desires that we take hold of... the ones we clutch to our chests.

The lesson from Jericho is that we should take those evil desires - and hold them at arm's length - and offer them up to God. . . He knows what to do with them.

Sometimes we don't clasp things because we desire them... but we tuck them away in hopes of hiding them. We don't acknowledge them, ignoring them and hoping that God won't notice the elephants in our room.

This equates to taking those things into our lives and once they take residence - they take over. Soon we become like the cursed thing that occupies us.

Do you remember Gollum in "The Lord of The Rings"? How he grasped the evil ring of power and soon become evil himself. And then how the ring became his taskmaster driving him to spare no limits in getting it back. Remember how he brooded over that ring ...

my prec -ious-s-s-s-s"

That's what it looks like when a man takes a cursed thing into his possession. Soon the possession becomes the possessor.

These items that we tuck away may be evil desires or lusts but they can be other things too:

  • A disappointment or some unforgiven misdeed that someone did to you . . .
  • A fear of being inadequate in some area... that can drive a person to deceit, violence, all kinds of destruction...
  • A pattern of thinking that becomes a place of escape and that is harmful to your relationships with others . . .
  • Bitterness
  • Jealousy
  • A deep down seething anger...

These are scary things. So scary that our first impulse may be to ignore them and go whistling in the dark. Or perhaps we will want to hide them from ourselves... to hide them from God... to hide them from everyone.

When we hide them, we take them in... and soon they rule over us.

God spoke to a troubled young man one day,whose temper was seething. . . he was upset because he felt rejected, he saw his brother as the reason for his rejection and God stopped him and spoke to him.

It's in Genesis 4, God said "sin is crouching at your door... it desires to have you, but you must master it". Cain didn't listen; sin became his master and drove him almost immediately to commit the first murder. It seemed unavoidable.

Evil desires, fears, disappointment, envy... so many cursed things, things that are beyond my control.

The good news is that God doesn't ask us to control them... He asks us to hold them at arm's length, to acknowledge them...

. . . "that's lust and I shouldn't be dwelling on that" or

. . . "I'm telling a lie because I am afraid that I will lose face before others - that's fear" or

. . . "I can't look at that person in the eyes - I am still hurt because of what they did to me..."

And then just like those accursed things in Jericho... we hand them over to Him.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

You Can't Touch This!

And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. Joshua 6:18 NKJV

There are countless ways to look at this verse and the events that surrounded it; In the next few days, I want to explore two of them.

The verse contains a small directive that came in the midst of a lot of big events. The Hebrews were taking the first city in the renowned Promised Land and God was directing the battle in a nifty way!

Someone said - in war, you kill people and break things.

They were going to do just that. God told them to completely destroy the city and it's inhabitants (with the exception of one family that you should really read about!)and all their stuff. But why?

I think it was because He knew that if they adopted the lifestyles of those Jerichoans (?) it would be detrimental to the Hebrews.
I further think that God - Who never wastes words or events - had some lessons for those of us that would read these stories centuries later. Lessons about how to deal with things in our own lives and things in the world that are ultimately harmful to us and to our relationship with Him and with those around us.

In this perspective I'll call these harmful things - accursed things.

Accursed things referred to the "stuff" - the paraphernalia from that pagan town. In fact, if you read Joshua 7, you will read about a guy named Achan that didn't obey. He took accursed things: some gold, some silver -and a nice sport coat. And it wrought havoc in the nation.

So the accursed things could have been ordinary trinkets; but God said leave them alone this time.

God did prescribe a use for some of the accursed thing, some of the silver, some of the gold; it was to go into the treasury of the tabernacle (the "church" of that day).

A cynical person might say that God was just keeping these riches from the people and enriching Himself . That is, until that cynical person realized that God really doesn't need riches since He made them all and can make more if He wanted.

That same cynical person might also remember that these Israelites were former slaves and had had no riches of their own. Yet back during their wilderness travels they gave so much gold, silver and precious jewels into the treasury of the tabernacle, that at one point Moses had to raise his hands and say "No MAS!" - enough already!

How did they come to have such vast amounts of loot? God had supplied it to them when He gave them favor in the sight of the Egyptians. It seems as if the Egyptian people just couldn't pile enough jewelry and wealth on those former slaves as they were walking out of the gates of the city.

So the treasures were of no consequence to God. Then why would He withhold them from these people? At other times, in different battles, God would allow the warriors to enrich themselves with the spoils of war. But not this time.

I think God was saying to them - just as He says to us sometimes - not "No, not ever" - just "No, not now".

God says:

  • Not now
  • Not here
  • Not at this level of maturity

When I was in the sixth grade at Westview Middle School in Morristown, TN, there was a kid in the eighth grade who had an artificial leg. His leg had been amputated from the knee down. The legend was that his grandfather had let him plow with a motorized tiller when he was too young and he somehow got his leg caught in it.

Not now; not at this level of maturity.

I read a news story from the ABC News affiliate in Memphis, TN over the weekend: a 13 year old boy had apparently cased out two automobile dealerships and when he was asked to leave the premises of one, he left in one of their 2008 Dodge Magnums. A chased ensued and ended when he struck a police officer and crashed into another vehicle.

Not here; not at this level of maturity.

Driving a car is fine when you are mature enough to handle it - say 35. Plowing is a great idea when your body and mind are at the point of being able to handle the tiller.

What does God seem to be withholding from you right now?

You know, that was the line of argument the serpent presented to Adam and Eve when he tempted them in the garden of Eden... remember he said: "God's holding out on you... if you eat this fruit - He knows you will be as smart as He is."

Are others passing you by and do you wonder why God doesn't accelerate your growth or fulfill your dreams the way He seems to be doing for others?

Perhaps God is just saying: "not now, not here, not at this level of maturity" .

So the first thing I hope to learn here is that God is not trying to keep something back from me, but rather is just saving it until I am ready - mature enough - to handle them.

The proverb says, He makes all things beautiful in His time.

Stay tuned for a different angle on Joshua 6:18.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Healer

If you tuned in to read this post on Tuesday - it may have been a little confusing - I apologize, I had difficulties with the video.

I saw this video about a week ago after being linked from Without Wax. It moved me.

Today, it means a little more after someone very dear to us has been hit with one of those "roller-coaster" messages - and called in for more tests on some ongoing cancer treatment.

I am coming to learn that God heals - sometimes immediately -miraculously - and at other times His healing is very different from what we would like to see. Over it all - He is Sovereign.

I now realize that some people that are in perfect health are in need of healing in even deeper ways...

...from old emotional wounds,
...from fears unchecked,
...from lifestyles, habits, thought-patterns that are unhealthy and linger on unendlessly,
...from bitterness left untended. . .

. . . for these Jesus Christ also stands to offer healing.

When He doesn't "fix it all right now" - He will walk with us through our SoJourn.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The "Pay-Off" and Tax-Free Weekend

Tax-Free weekend.

I think the practice has been in effect in Georgia for about six years now. It is an incentive for people to spend a lot of money just before school starts, because they can avoid paying sales tax for the "holiday" weekend. It has been a boon to retailers and a testament to the fact that lower (or zero taxes) are GOOD for the economy.

While I am a huge advocate for lower taxes, I don't think we have ever purposefully taken advantage of the "tax free weekend". Mainly because R and I do not like crowded stores and the frenzied atmosphere these events can produce.

But this year is different. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, Ab has been saving for a laptop. She mounted the quest in earnest about a year and one-half ago and amassed a little over $700. Now some of this came in larger chunks: birthday gifts, cash Christmas gifts and occasional Grandparent endowments; but a lot of it has been earned from entrepreneurial pursuits like home-made book marks and other items. She has also undertaken a number of odd jobs. In fact, it has become fairly common for her to come around and ask if I have any jobs for her. Since we believe that there are some things you do around the house simply because you are a part of the family (pro-bono), she has learned to amend her requisition by asking if there are any jobs that pay money.

At any rate, we thought that the tax free weekend would be a good opportunity to make the laptop purchase since the savings would be noticeable.

I did have to correct a misconception in hopes of teaching some foundational lessons to the kids: we were explaining why this weekend would be a good one to make our purchase and how the Governor had proclaimed the Tax-Free Holiday, Ab remarked how that was nice of him to do that for us. My response was lightning fast (I nearly pulled something) as I explained to her that while I liked Governor Sonny Purdue - he was not giving us anything; that money we pay on sales tax is our money. The Tax-Free Holiday, only means that they are not taking quite as much from us as they usually do. I do not want to rear cynical children but I do want them to have the correct perspective on free enterprise - and a healthy caution about government.

We headed out Saturday, first for a haircut for me . While there AA explained that we were going to get Ab's laptop and he was "getting a big, fat zero!". Then, armed with a visit to some websites and advice from our Computer Guru, "Mr. Dunt", we hit the stores.

And we prayed. It's something R and I usually try to do before making a major purchase: we ask for favor, for wisdom and that we'll end up with what God wants us to have.

We made the purchase after about three stops (at each location AA attempted to gain sympathy - and some sort of prize). We felt that we got a fairly good deal and "Mr. Dunt" confirmed it.

Most of the remainder of the day was spent loading stuff and setting up. AA warmed to the idea of his sister's new laptop.

I am proud of my little girl and at day's end I told her so. I also caught AA as he was zoning into sleep mode, and told him that I was proud that he had worked at maintaining his self-control and tried to be proud for his sister.