Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I was baffled.
His answer did not require a great reach backward in history - in fact, it only went as far as last year - September 29, 2008.
Now do you know?
It was the day our latest economic turmoil came to fruition - on this date the Dow Jones dropped an unprecedented 700 points.
Do you remember how that talk was, that we might not make it through the weekend if Congress didn't do something and do it fast?!!
Well, eventually they did do something and I am still peeved over that deal.
Those of you that read these postings often (that's you, Mom), know that I have some definite political leanings and every once in awhile, I cast off the restraints and write about it. But mostly, I try to curb those impulses somewhat.
Don't you think it is interesting that "We the people" and Congress have been locked into a fisticuffs of sorts throughout every Autumn in recent memory?
Last year it was the sharp economic downturn and the warped remedies that were applied. Obviously, my side lost that battle and I think we,as a nation, are still smarting - not from the problem but from the solutions that were applied. But that's just one man's opinion.
The Autumn before that, it was the Immigration reform deal.
They were telling us that there was a BIG problem that had to be fixed and RIGHT NOW, too.
We never did get that legislation passed. Gee, what do you know, we survived.
So this year, the big political circus has rolled into town in the form of "Healthcare Reform" and the parade came to a halt some time back in July. Since then, they just can't seem to get the wheels turning again.
But once again, the talk was - something HAD to be done and right away ...before the Congressional Summer recess....
I think another deadline passed this week and we are still surviving. I think the next absolute last day is maybe Thanksgiving.
At any rate it looks as if we are locked into another battle for Fall.
I hope that more and more Americans are beginning to get wise to their cries of "wolf".
I believe that more are beginning to realize that the less this Congress actually DOES - the better off we will all be.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Beginning in the forth grade, I moved around a great deal for a period of 5 to 6 years. The changing of various schools and moving 6 times during that period had an effect on me ... some good, some bad.
But the forth grade move was probably the most ominous one. I had lived in Cedartown, Georgia since I was three - that was my whole life to me. I still remember the night my Dad came home and asked what we thought about "moving west"... I think my initial impression had something to do with cowboys and Texas or maybe even California.
The destination Dad had in mind was not that far west. It was Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
My sister and I burst into tears. She had every right to be distraught since she was seriously in love with the boy down the street.
I remember the last thing I said to Dad that night was something to the effect of "Daddy, please don't make us move!"
We moved anyway.
I think I adjusted more quickly than anyone else (my brother, eleven years my senior, was already married and on his own). I began to tuck away all the negatives and find and focus on all the positive things about this move. There is probably some long and humiliating psychological term for this - but I'd rather not know about it since I think that this was the right thing for me to do.
I remember my first day in my new school - Skyline Elementary - we had to purchase our own spelling workbooks and because I started in February, mine was not the same as everyone else's. The principal explained also, that it was expected that everyone would eat the lunch provided by the school ... I had brought my own lunch for practically all my life. This was not starting well but I would focus on the positives ... there was a climbing tree in my backyard and we had an intercom in our house...
I remember hoping to establish some common ground with someone, so I talked with some of the guys about games they played. Back home we had sometimes played a game called "pitch up and smear" - it has all the benefits of football without having to fool with all the tediousness of running plays and making first downs and such. Basically, someone threw the ball into the air and it was open season on who ever caught it. To avoid being smeared one simply had to get rid of the ball. These Alabama boys were a little more advanced than me in the ways of the world - they called this game "Smear the Queer" - I knew that the word queer meant "strange or weird" so I just figured this meant that it was strange for someone to want to catch the ball.
As recess approached I started hearing about another popular game they played called "Kick-pen" it was all the rage. I had never heard of this game before.
It was "kick-pen" this and "kick-pen" that; everybody was talking about "Kick-Pen"! How did I miss out on this exciting - apparently international - sport?! It wasn't like I lived on the other side of the world or something.
How could a culture only three hours from the home I knew and loved, be so foreign?
Recess came and it turns out "Kick-pen" was just what we called in Georgia - "Kick-ball".
With the only exception being that we didn't play "kick-ball" at school so much as at home in my back yard. And there we had always only played with one base instead of three because of very small teams.
Within a few months we moved again - same area - we just moved to a house in the county and the county school was much more like what I was accustomed to ... only I did become acquainted with a lot more unsavoury words that had not previously graced my lexicon.
They played kick-pen in the county school too - played it practically every day.
By the time we moved away from there at the close of my fifth grade year, I had grown to be able to hold my own in the kick-pen arena.
We moved to Morristown, Tennessee, where they had never heard of "kick-pen".
It is easy for us to become so accustomed to what we are accustomed to - that we begin to think things are the same everywhere. I am beginning to examine this idea as it relates to ministry and the gospel - and me.
I think I have really believed that God's plan is that the whole world would look like church in America and it just ain't so.
Church in America could be very, very different from God's idea of what church should look like.
The same may be true across cultural lines here within this nation.
I could be going around talking about kick-pen and just fully expecting that everybody knows what kick-pen is - "right?" - When in actuality, people just a few hours down the road may not know anything about kick-pen nor does kick-pen matter to them.
How much of "church" or what I think of as essential to one's walk with God - is truly essential? And how much of it is just the culture that I am accustomed to?
When God calls me to affect the culture around me... does He not also have a plan for that culture to have some affect on me as well?
And what if God wants me to step out of the comfort of all with which I am familiar . . . will I cry and plead as I did with my earthly father - "please don't make me go!"
I hope not. My hope is that God is working in me to change me, so that I will want to do the thing He calls me to.
One plus to the class is that when any missionaries are home, they visit our class and talk about what is happening.
This is pretty revolutionary for me, because throughout most of my life foreign missions work has seemed -well - foreign. My first memory of exposure to missions was a missionary from the jungles of Africa who had eaten a rat.
He had slides to prove it!
Their opportunities to speak were usually on Sunday night (so the slide projections would show up better), and the meetings always involved a plea for a "faith promise".
Anyway this morning, we had a speaker that had recently returned from an 11 month mission trip around the world. Her work was with The World Race, part of Adventures in Missions out of Gainesville, Georgia.
R. and I were enthralled by her stories.
Now, here is where the convergence of her story and my recent post on Post Cereals comes in.
When our class year started earlier this month, we all introduced ourselves to one another and the facilitator asked us to tell something about ourselves. His example was that he described his favorite breakfast food. Somehow, everyone followed suit, describing their favorite early morning treat.
Today, he alluded to that type of introduction when welcoming a visitor and when the speaker came to begin her presentation, she pointed out that her favorite breakfast food was "Honey Bunches of Oats".
She went on to say that you can't find "HBO's" in very many places around the world -except in India! She pointed out that while she tarried there she consumed massive quantities of the breakfast treat.
As I think about it now, the "Honey Bunches of Oats" thing was not really all that significant, especially when compared to the stories about the life-changing adventure of a cross-cultural journey around the world armed with a backpack, the gospel and God's grace. But it did provide a good opportunity for me to tell you about it.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
The phrase came into new prominence a few years back with the movie "Blackhawk Down", but I think the idea originated in the minds of some loyal warriors in the town of Jabesh-Gilead long, long ago.
1st Samuel ends tragically and a little like "The Empire Strikes Back!" in the first Star Wars trilogy. King Saul and all his sons are killed in battle (Saul at his own hands), David has been distracted and finds himself in a battle to rescue the wives, children and belongings of he and all his men, the armies of Israel has fled before the Philistines and several cities on the West Bank are abandoned to the raiding marauders.
As the dust settles in Israel, the story circulates that the Philistines had abused the body of Saul and his noble son, Jonathan and fastened their bodies to the wall of one of their cities - as a trophy of their military prowess.
It was a gruesome time.
With this news, some talk began in the town of Jabesh-Gilead ... some talk that soon erupted into hurried plans and some rigorous action.
You see some time before this, Jabesh-Gilead had been threatened by a bordering country. They faced a certain and humiliating defeat. Saul -who had only recently been appointed king- inquired about their troubles and they told him the threat they were under.
For some reason, the plight of these citizens of Jabesh-Gilead pushed Saul's buttons. He immediately sent a compelling message throughout the nation of Israel: he was plowing a team of oxen at the time and he chopped them into pieces. Next, he sent a section to every city in Israel proclaiming that - as king - he would do the same to the oxen of anyone that didn't show up to defend Jabesh-Gilead.
Sort of - "The Godfather" meets Twitter.
When the message went out it was effective! Saul mustered an army of 330,000 including Judah's troops. It was his first official act as king.
They soundly defeated the enemy and secured the land of Jabesh-Gilead.
This town owed Saul a debt of gratitude.
Despite the awful defeat they had sufferede earlier that day, the men of Jabesh-Gilead decided they were not going to leave Saul behind.
Stealthily, a team struck at night and rescued the bodies of Jonathan and Saul. Because of their haste and the danger of their mission, they did not bury them but instead burned the bodies - but saw to it that they were disposed in a respectful manner.
I have an admiration for those men and their sense of honor.
Saul was not the great king Israel had hoped he would be. He failed in so many ways and flitted away the waning years of his reign on an endless manhunt for someone he felt "threatened" his throne.
He did not lead in a godly way. He didn't follow the God of Israel.
Despite all of these faults, these few brave men of Jabesh-Gilead remembered the good he had done.
And they did something about it.
I am wondering about my own tendency these days to "write people off". In so doing, I forget the good they may have done - the true value that still may lurk deep within them.
The warriors of Jabesh-Gilead could sleep well after that night, knowing that they had acted honorably.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Sometimes I think we settle for "average" . . . when God has plans for EXCELLENT!
David, the ultimate everyman found himself in just such a place.
As I have expressed in my belabouring manner on two previous posts, David - in the Bible story found in 1 Samuel 27 - 29 - suddenly stopped listening to God and started listening to his own fears. Thus doing, he went over to the enemy.
I think that in the land of the Philistines, he tried to be optimistic. He and his mighty men of valor were chalking up wins, piling up stock from all of their winnings and lived in the favor of the king of the Philistines.
But it wasn't home. It wasn't Israel... it wasn't Zion.
At least one scholar mentions that David may have nearly converted that Philistine king. He really took a liking to David. Why in chapter 29 the king told David that he was like "an angel of God" to him.
In chapter 28, the king promoted David to a lifetime appointment as bodyguard to the king!
That is a pretty impressive position.
And he had a job for LIFE! - that's also pretty impressive - especially in this economy.
Yeah David was living the good life - or was he.
He had pulled himself up by his own bootstraps and now he was living the high life - or was he.
I don't think David felt fulfilled.
Truly he had manipulated the situation to the point of great success -but it was all under false pretenses. He had earned the kings' admiration by lying to him about destroying Israeli cities. In fact David's lies had almost trapped him into going into battle against his own nation ... his own brothers.
That's the way it is when we "get somewhere" on our own and without God's leading or His help. . . . our wins are empty.
David realized just how empty all that success was when he returned after being excused from going into battle . When he and his warriors returned to their village they found that someone had raided the town and took all their stuff as well as their wives and children.
Needless to say, they were distraught.
And these men - these loyal men whom God through David had melded into a notable army ... these men who would follow David anywhere just because he said so .... they turned on him.
They began to huddle together in their distress and occasionally someone would cast a piercing stare at David from within the throng. They whispered. Their conversation involved "stoning David".
It's really nice of God to let us hit bottom sometimes when we have acted real goofy.
At the bottom, we tend to be free of distraction - it is much easier to focus on God.
Being at the bottom helped David get his mind right.
. . . . . but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God. 1 Samuel 30:6b KJV
Possibly that very morning, he had been a man to be honored by the king of the land, a man of great position and favor . . . yet he was empty.
Now, David had but to turn his focus back to God and you can almost feel the energy popping within him. Suddenly he is engaged, the blood is flowing again, he is thinking clearly and the men see it.
They watch David return to a familiar pattern... he prays.
And in his prayer, a familiar question, "Shall I go up and pursue this raiding party?"
And God said, "Pursue them."
The men fell in behind David... they had their commander back.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
That is the typical southern response that would been employed in such instances.
Perhaps if the teleprompter guys had really been on their toes, they could have maybe inserted that comeback into the President's text, as in:
You a-nuther'n is Southern for "You are another one" and is the adult version of "twinkle-twinkle-little-star; what-you-say is-what-you-are!" or "I'm rubber you're glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to YOU!" Under normal circumstances, Wilson would have followed up with the fallback phraseology for all verbal fisticuffs:
Or if he had wanted to escalate the matter he might have upgraded to the ever popular:
-which apparently doesn't have to bear any contextual resemblance to the actual case in point.
Under Rules for Southern Debate, the President could have then resorted to profanity or the physical hurling of some object close at hand - perhaps his bottled water or maybe even the Speaker's Gavel.
Just maybe the flying gavel would have glanced off some junior Senator and smacked Nancy Pelosi in the mouth chipping a tooth.
That would have been enough to clear both benches.
It would have taken the entire "Citizen's Militia" branch of ACORN and two or three Czars to sort out the melee.
I can see a joint press conference taking place with President Obama and Joe Wilson, sometime after midnight - both with puffy eyes and disheveled clothing, laughing and talking about "who licked whom".
I'm not sure how they work things out in Chicago, but that is one way we do it in the South.
At any rate, if that had happened you can bet the next Presidential Speech before a joint session of congress to once again re-re-re-explain the health care plan - would certainly have better ratings.
I think I would even watch.
I haven't said enough about the plight of David and King Saul in 1 Samuel 27-29. Both chose the thing that they loathed as a refuge when they became fearful and desperate.
David, for some reason strayed from his constant trust in God and took matters into his own hands. He did what we do - treated God like a "good luck charm" and somehow determined that God's grace was finite and his "luck" was about to run out.
David went over to the enemy and worked a very dangerous scheme destroying local villages and lying to the enemy king - pretending to destroy Israeli cities. The king didn't investigate closely ( in this respect he is a lot like King Saul) and David and his men left no witnesses. So the enemy king believed that David was forever breaking his bond with Israel.
Saul was in a fix. I can only imagine the great anguish he must have felt. He had always relied on Samuel to go to God for him and bail him out. Samuel was long gone. Saul apparently had no direct relationship with God.
Furthermore, his brightest and best ally - a leader of men - David, he had forced to go over to the enemy.
Now David along with the weight of the Philistine military machine stood ready to pound the nation of Israel - and Saul with it.
What a fearful position in which to find ones' self.
I see Saul's lack of leadership plainly displayed in the way that he would fully commit to one notion so quickly and without forethought - only to be turned and have his mind changed just as quickly.
Earlier in his reign, he had proclaimed a fast for his army - any one who partook of food before the stated time would be executed - even if it was his son.
His son, Jonathan - sensible yet very noble - was unaware of the decree. When he happened upon some wild honey, he ate and offered it to the men.
There came a reckoning and it was time for Saul to be true to his word - his son had disobeyed (though unknowingly) his command and his statement had been that even he would have to pay the price.
Yet the people said -"you can't do that" - so Saul quickly capitulated.
Now Saul had forced all spiritualists, soothsayers and mediums out of the land; yet in his desperation he turns to one.
Today, while at my parent's home waiting for them to return from a little excursion, I picked up a book of some of Charles H. Spurgeon's sermons. I started reading one about David and in it he mentioned this event.
Spurgeons' advice was that we should be very "afraid of being afraid", because of the way fear can turn our eyes away from Him that is able to help us.
Saul's episode would end tragically.
David however, would find that experience can be a great teacher and in this instance the Teacher was pointing out that he should not leap into situations without first consulting God.
As Spurgeon pointed out, David is somehow like the epitome of us all.... he is everyman.
Though he was a magnificent leader of men - and FOLLOWER of God, he made errors.
We saw it when he strapped on his sidearm (so to speak) and headed off to destroy Nabal and his shepherds over something he said. We saw it again here, when he conjured up images of defeat in his own mind and set out to find his own solutions.
God was faithful - His grace protecting His child - as in the instance with Nabal in which Abigail intervened so beautifully; God sent some disgruntled Philistine WarLords who saw David passing in review along with King Achisch in the pre-battle military parade.
These warriors reminded Achisch that David was a Hebrew (and like the Lone Ranger) - "once a Hebrew, ALWAYS a Hebrew". They further reminded Achisch of how David had destroyed their secret weapon (Goliath) and how his exploits were reputed to be ten times that of King Saul's.
Achisch benched David and in so doing - God prevented David from raising his hand against his brothers... but he came very close - too close.
Do you have a real relationship with God? Or are you more like Saul - placing all your identity in someone else's relationship?
When you realize that you have done "goofy" and are locked into a collision course with the natural outcomes of your decisions . . . do you think God's grace will reach you even there?
Or will you respond as Saul and never ask?
Speaking as one who has done "goofy" more times than I would like to expand on here - I can tell you that God's grace is enough.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Saturday, September 12, 2009
But it is Saturday.
And R. is working today.
And my children have developed this special sense that when I get really ready and somewhat inspired to post something (isn't happening very often these days) - they both feel the need for attention.
I can be ignored for long periods of time. . . .
. . . but then let me simply click over to the vast opportunity of Blogger's "New Post" page and here they come.
"Dad, I have a question!"
"Dad, you said we could - "
"Dad, when are you going to be finished with that?"
With every interruption I can feel the tension rising.
I don't blame them - they don't understand that the convergence of inspiration and opportunity can be a very fleeting thing - especially for an old guy like me.
On top of that, the "to do" list beckons and the guilt of the undone looms heavy.
In back of all this is the fact that I know these Saturdays with "kids" are a fleeting thing. There will likely come a day in which the house will fall silent. They will be only too happy to be busy with their own stuff.
There is an awareness in me that God has blessed R. and I with two very special "sponges" and it is our God-given quest to provide as much good stuff for these "sponges" to soak up as possible. It is our call - our challenge - to prepare them to impact the world for good.
This quest requires time. It requires attention. It requires sacrifice.
So I am choosing.
More later? - well maybe
The posting will just have to wait.
I have a job to do.
Friday, September 11, 2009
As I was finishing my drive home today, I remembered a similar drive eight years ago to the day.
It had been a dark day.
In a matter of moments that morning the whole world had changed.
I remembered today, that sense of foreboding I had experienced. . . I remembered wanting to get home and hold onto my very pregnant wife and my very special little girl.
Shortly after that time, I ran across this Norman Rockwell picture and thought it captured my sentiments.
I guess every American that was aware of what was going on, will always remember where they were when they first heard the news.
Though now, the fear of terrorist attacks at home do not seem quite so imminent, I still feel a heaviness - a concern on the Patriot Day ....
....are we any different today that we were on the day before 9-11?
Did we learn the lessons we should have learned?
God shed His grace on thee!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I have been posting some leadership principles I am seeing displayed in David. Recently though I have been reading chapter 27 and in it I find that I am a little disappointed with David.
Dake's Commentary alerted me to the fact - a week or so ago - that David began acting - or re-acting out of fear in chapter 27. Up until this time, he was constantly following what he knew to be the will of God.
In chapter 27 he says something like - "my luck is sure to run out one day... surely Saul will catch up to me and kill me".
Then he makes a goofy decision to go over to the enemy... to move in with the Philistines no less!!
When I look back over what all God had brought him through I am amazed that David could not see that God's hand was upon him and God would continue to take care of him.
Then I think about my own response to circumstances around and realize that I am no so unlike David.
In the days leading up to chapter 27 God had pulled off several white-knuckled rescues... one time, Saul and his men were just one rock away from capturing David and his men when he received a desperate message to return home, the Philistines were attacking! ... on two occasions the fickle Ziphites (people from the land of Ziph) ratted David out when he was hiding in their wilderness. . . on another occasion, David and his men had driven the enemy out of the city of Keilah only to hear that Saul was coming and the men of the city expressed their willingness to throw him under the bus if Saul arrived ... and on two separate incidents David had been close enough to easily slit Saul's throat - yet he restrained himself, and left Saul to God.
Sometimes God just rescues us in amazing ways . . . but instead of those exploits enhancing our faith in Him, for some reason it has the opposite effect. Our response is to become more cautious!
Earlier this summer, we had a close call with a venomous snake in our yard. I truly believe God had His protecting hand on my family and me. . . but rather than trusting God more because He protected us - I find that I am trying even harder to play it safe.
Now I believe that God forgives, but sometimes He allows the natural consequences of our actions to run their course. David, his family and his band of men and their families all went to live in the land of the Philistines. David had escaped there once before but when officials became wary of him (after all he was the one that destroyed their human WMD - Goliath), David feigned madness and fled.
This time David hatched a plan.
He and his men would conduct raids on cities nearby. They would destroy everyone. Total annihilation. Then he would curry favor with the Philistine king by telling him that he had destroyed an Israelite city.
David left no one alive to counter his story and the king believed that David was becoming despised by his own countrymen. But I believed all that killing - killing that wasn't for a cause - did something to David.
Perhaps that is why when God allowed a temple to be built - he would not allow David to build it . . . because he was such a man of war.
When we view God as somehow limited in His willingness to intervene... our only alternative is to react in fear.
In the chapter that follows, Saul who was already very distant from God and empty found himself fearful at the prospects of a new battle with the Philistines. He was so afraid that he trembled.
Saul also went over to the enemy. In a desperate attempt to hear from God or someone - anyone! - Saul hired a witch or a spiritualist to try and call up Samuel.
It is a weird and haunting scene.
Saul had outlawed all soothsaying or such practices, yet now in desperation, he turned to the very thing he had despised.
Fear and emptiness have a way of doing that.
I don't know about you, but I find that when I stray into areas of temptation and testing, it is often because I am afraid of something or feel hopeless.
I think God has better, He doesn't want us seeking refuge in the shelter of the enemy.
He abides faithful.
You can trust Him.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Okay this one has probably already made the rounds but I just found it today.
I also understand that it may be disrespectful to the sanctity of the Wedding Ceremony or perhaps the whole institution of marriage ... but I love it.
This is just so cool!
I think it captures the excitement and invigoration of matrimony!