Thursday, November 23, 2006


We celebrated Thanksgiving as a church family on Sunday. No turkey, but we had a couple of flocks of chickens, fried up to perfection. Then there was the rest of the feast, assembled on a few tables. Crock pot after crock pot. Cheese tray after cheese tray. And need I mention, pie after pie. Yes, it was delicious. All left for home without hunger pangs, or for that matter, without need for any other meal that day.

After the majority of people had left, a group of us stayed around to clean up. One of the weiredest times at the church is after a big potluck or church meal. What food is left is generally divided up between the bunch of us who stay. That usually feeds our families that day or the next. But I'm always amazed at how much is left. On Sunday, I brought home what amounted to about a bucket and a half of chicken and nearly two dozen dinner rolls. We finally finished off the leftovers on Tuesday.

I'm reminded of twelve men with baskets, picking up leftovers from a crowd of 5000 men, plus their wives and kids after Jesus said a prayer over a few dinner rolls and a couple of little fish. "Where did all this come from?" had to be repeating through their heads. Jesus had provided a live example of the generosity of God, right in their midst.

He gives us the same reminder today, and every day. Enjoy the turkey and all the trimmings. And when you make that last turkey sandwich or suck the last of the cranberry sauce from the spoon, I hope the same "Where did all this come from?" question keeps running through your mind. And I hope you realize the live example of God's generosity in your midst.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Vet

He wasn't much different than any other young man. Drafted at the tender age of nineteen, he was taught how to fix and maintain airplanes. Then he and nine companions were shipped to England and were formed into a crew of a B-17 bomber. The missions they were given were incredibly risky, but thirty times they set out and thirty times they returned. Then came mission number 31.

Dale remembers most of what happened on that August afternoon, and considering it happened 62 years ago, that's quite a memory. But it's not a happy memory. These men he called his brothers were with him over Nazi Germany as they made one more bombing run. Catching enemy anti-aircraft fire was nothing new for them. Dale told me that the plane once returned with 256 holes in it, but not one scratch was found on any of the crew. On mission number 31, they weren't so lucky.

Something struck the plane's gas tank at 30,000 feet. Although there was extra protection around the tank, somehow a shell made it through. A wing was blown off the plane, and the crew began to bail out. Two men didn't make it out in time.

Dale and the navigator ended up coming down near one another, and as Dale looked down he could see that his close friend was being attacked by German civilians. When he landed, he tried to run, but Dale was beaten also. The navigator was killed before Nazi soldiers broke up the melee. Dale lay unconscious with a broken skull.

Dale spent almost a year in Nazi POW camps. He saw horrible things, but worse yet, Dale also lived through some horrible things. Sixty men were loaded on a small boxcar to be shipped from one POW camp to another, but Allied shelling forced the train to stop. The Nazis ran for cover, but the POWs were left, locked in the boxcar, hoping that a bomb wouldn't fall on them. They survived the shelling, but remained locked in the dark car for fourteen days with one one bucket of dehydrated cabbage soup to eat, and another bucket to use as a toilet. Two of the sixty didn't make it out of the boxcar alive.

On another transfer from camp to camp, the Nazis forced the prisoners to march for twelve days through woods, again with almost nothing to eat. Guard dogs nipped at the heels of those who couldn't go fast enough. Dale slipped away on one occasion, only to be tracked down by German police dogs the next morning, while hiding in a haystack. One other time, Dale took two others along also, but the dogs tracked them down again.

Since the Germans had little food for themselves near the end of the war, that meant there was next to nothing to give the prisoners to eat. More dehydrated cabbage soup. Dale was down to 100 pounds by the time General Patton came riding into camp, liberating the prisoners. Just down the road was Dachau, the concentration camp, where Dale saw just how brutal the Nazi regime really was.

Dale kept track of the six other crew members who made it through the war. One man died only a year after the German surrender, likely from complications of disease contracted in a POW camp. The rest died one at a time, the final two within the past year. That leaves Dale as the last member of the crew.

For more than sixty years, Dale was been affected by post-traumatic stress syndrome. Only lately has he had the opportunity for counseling which has helped him greatly. "Now the tears roll, but I don't mind talking about it," he said.

At age 83, Dale is one of a number of young men and women who suffered greatly in service to their country. When I talked to Dale today, tears were plentiful. I didn't want him to cry, but that was the only way he could talk. It was as if pure emotion kept leaping from his body, even when the words were quiet and few.

I have to admit that I admire Dale for the courage he showed back in 1944 and the courage he shows in 2006. He knows his time remaining is short, but he's coming to terms with it all.

Although he was drafted, Dale was proud to serve his country. For all his efforts, he has twelve medals, including a couple of purple hearts. He doesn't wear them, or even get them out to look at them. He told me, "If I'd put 'em all on, I'd look like Eisenhower!"

I don't have the courage to stand up for my country like Dale did. Luckily at my age I really don't have to. Mostly it's because I wonder if democracy is worth dying for, especially when I have spent the last month or two watching how incredibly ugly the American political system can get.

I have no real desire to give my life for Lord either, but if asked to do so, I surely would. I'm not going to go out and volunteer for the Martyr Squad, but being a pastor, if God becomes forbidden, I know I'll have a bullseye on my forehead. That's OK.

To all those who have served your country, I offer congratulations. For all those who have served my country, I offer my thanks.

Happy Veterans Day.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Christian Carnival CXLVII - The Election Hangover Edition

Hello, my fellow citizens!

This edition of the Christian Carnival is being published right after Election Day here in the United States. For many of you, that wouldn't make a whole lot of difference, but for your humble host it means that I'm mighty tired. I was at the local Board of Elections last night and was doing all manner of other things political all day long. That is part of the reason this post is going up a bit late.

But that's also the reason why this Christian Carnival has been dubbed "The Election Hangover Edition." So don't go looking for snappy banter or wise observations in this post -- go visit the contributor's blogs, as most of them got more sleep than I did last night!

Since there is a campaign-ish theme this week, I've divided up the posts into three categories.

First up are the campaign signs. Too small to be billboards, too large to wear on your lapel, these signs are typically driven into the ground to give the candidate a cheap form of advertising and the landowner a chance to display his or her opinions and affiliations. But the problem with campaign signs is that you don't get much in-depth information -- just a pithy message to remember. Here are a few pithy posts with a messages worth remembering.

Penitens from A Penitent Blogger kicks things off this week, and despite the title it's not as political as you would think. Instead we have a reflection on our need to get out of our "ruts" to bring people to Christ in Beat the Bushes.

At Everyday Liturgy, Dan provides a discussion of Scott McKnight's book Jesus Creed and the daily liturgical implications of the book in the post, Jesus Creed.

GodBlogCon finished up this weekend with bloggers from coast to coast gathering for a good time and, perhaps, some learning. Andrew McKnight from Mere Orthodoxy has this observation, Somehow politics don’t depress Mr. Hewitt. Jack Yoest presents Montaigne's Advice from Hugh Hewitt via Mere Orthodoxy posted at Reasoned Audacity.

Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership is the entry from Richard at dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos theophilos where he discusses the present need for persistent prayer.

Stephen Blankenship presents The Struggle of Love posted at S.R. Blankenship.

Cell Phone Devotionals! Mick from the Romans 15:4 Project tells us all about them.

A few thoughts about Job and his sacrifices at veracity-theway.

Next we find the campaign commercial. Dreaded by many as one-sided, shallow and simply annoying, the political ad is often overlooked because of its misuse by mud-slinging office-seekers. But 30 seconds worth of audio and video, properly used, can give a fuller and better explanation of an position or an opinion. These posts are more than simply devotionals and are well worth your thoughtful consideration.

In Baseball Rules and Bible Study, Henry Neufeld Uses baseball rules and their application as a metaphor for Bible study at the Participatory Bible Study Blog.

Meanwhile at Light Along the Journey, John notes that we all face choices, in all kinds of circumstances. In The Choice in Suffering, he explores one of the most important choices we all face.

Diane at Crossroads asks, Is Christianity like the rest of American society going over to right-brained theology and leaving the left-brained behind? Her post is entitled, Left-brained, Right-brained or Hare-brained?

servant presents How To Double Your Christian Business Or Ministry With One Hour Of Work posted at The Christian Billboard.

Dr. Platypus shares a Litany of the Saints.

Barbara from Tidbits and Treasures says that to those of us who live in the West, we consider the cross on a chain a piece of jewelry. But, to those Christians in the Muslim countries, it symbolizes the persecution and martyrdom they have had to endure for centuries. Read Non-Western Christians and the Cross.

What I Learned Teaching Sunday School is one of the better blog names I've heard for a while. Nancy shares with us this week about Christian Love -- A Choice, not a Feeling.

NCN presents Kids and Money: Chores and Allowance posted at No Credit Needed.

More on Ted Haggard from David Ker, who presents If anyone is caught in sin posted at Lingamish.

Dave from Every Thought Captive says that many bloggers are sure they know what the fallout from the Ted Haggard story will be. How do they know already? Read The Haggard Fallout.

Martin from Sun and Shield writes, "My entry for this week is "Why I Plan to Vote," in which I respond to a post in the previous Christian Carnival. I attempt to argue, from scripture and Christian principles, that Christians generally have a duty to vote responsibly. I don't deal with any particular issues, parties, or candidates."

In the same vein, Chris of Welcome to the Fallout presents A disappointed conservative-libertarian muses about pulling the lever in Four More Years?

Finally we come to the campaign literature. Think of them as the political equivalent of detailed tracts, passed out to try to convert people to the candidate's way of thinking. A more detailed explanation is available through this medium, and it is best when addressing a series of issues or one very complicated matter. These posts deal with more than one topic or are a bit more complex, but worth the effort.

Let's begin with a complicated matter indeed -- courtship. As many Christian families pursue a courtship model for their young adults, are we trying to make something messy and wonderful, namely love and marriage, into a set of legalistic and authoritarian rules that we can follow to ensure that our children achieve the "right outcome," namely a good and God-honoring marriage? Sherry at Intellectuelle take that one on in What Is Courtship and Does Anyone Know How To Do It Right?

And while we're on the subject of relationships, William Meisheid presents True Relationships (aka Friendships) posted at Beyond The Rim... .

Vynette Holliday sets out to disprove not only the divinity of Christ, but the doctine of the Trinity. Personally, I think her argument is dead wrong. See what you think about The Messiah of the Prophets : Part 1 posted at The Race is Run.

Mark Olson shares his notes on the first session of a Genesis Bible Study in Reflections on Genesis: Chapter 1 posted at Pseudo-Polymath.

JCHFleetguy of Brain Cramps for God has three angles to the Ted Haggard situation in Overview: Three Posts Coming.

Michael from Chasing the Wind has some thoughts on five exhortations from the book of Hebrews on living the Christian life in Exercise Confidence.

Allow me to toss in two late posts. (Think of them as absentee ballots, OK?) The first one I had read earlier at Parableman, and I'm glad Jeremy wanted to submit it. What doubles the effect of this post is the discussion in the comment section of Christians Reaching Out to Neo-Pagans.

And finally, The Idolatry of Political Christianity is submitted by Jordan at the Acton Institute Powerblog. The post takes on the urge to tie Christianity to a political ideology and is worth your time to check out.

And that will do it for #147. Thank you to all your submitters (and you know who you are). It's rather a shame no one wanted to submit a post on election this week. Oh, well.

I wish you all an additional term in office.

Christian Carnival - Election Hangover Edition - Coming Soon!

I love hosting the Christian Carnival. It gives me a chance to be creative and have some fun. However, I didn't think too much when I agreed on the date I would host. It was election day, and I spent much of the day working at the local election board. And I've had it.

As a result, the Carnival won't be posted until Wednesday sometime (think P.M., not A.M.). I've got to get some sleep and try to digest the lousy food I snacked on all night.

My apologies to those who just can't wait to see this week's edition. Just think of it as being like waiting for the late election returns to come in from the remote sections of the country.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Slumber Party Affair

It was going to be a big night on so many levels. It was my daughter's fifth birthday party, complete with six friends, a dozen or so relatives, a few zillion presents and a cake in the shape of a princess' castle. (That's the cake above.) And the girl was so excited, she was literally bouncing. Every two minutes she asked when the party was going to start. And every two minutes either Mama or Dad would grab a hold of her, stop her from bouncing, and tell her, "In a little while, dear."

But it wasn't simply the cake and the presents and the houseful of people that had my darling daughter doing her impression of an NBA basketball. It was the fact that her best friend, Katie, was going to sleep over after the party.

Up until now, my little girl has had "sleepovers" but only with older kids -- her brothers or family friends. This was going to be the real thing. A fellow five-year-old would sleep over. And the prospect of the whole affair kept my daughter in vertical motion all day long.

After all the friends and relatives had been herded back to their respective vehicles, my daughter and Katie settled into the evening routine. First there was playing to do, then a change in pajamas, then settling into sleeping bags to watch a movie.

But around the halfway mark of the movie, Katie started getting that teary look in her eyes. Of course she had never spent the night away from home before, and now it looked like she wasn't going to break her record. Soon we had to call Katie's mom to come pick her up.

My daughter was crushed. While Katie was sitting on the floor waiting for her ride, my little girl was clinging to my wife, tears rolling down her cheeks. When Katie's mom arrived, the tears were coming in loud sobs. She cried so hard that her nose started to bleed a little and her stomach was approaching full evacuation mode. It took another hour until she was calm enough to fall asleep.

We explained to our little girl that Katie wasn't going home to be mean, but because she was scared without her mommy around. But my daughter's feelings had been hurt. She was disappointed in her friend, and felt rejected. She woke up the next day feeling fine, but she still feels badly about the whole slumber party affair.

My girl is going to have to learn that people are going disappoint her. I know I've been let down by a whole host of folks. For that matter, I've been the one disappointing others on far too many occasions. We sinful people tend to let people down.

I remember the disappointment in the Christian community when Amy Grant divorced her husband to marry Vince Gill. I know all about similar disappointments in several others from Jim Bakker to Sandi Patty. And I hear that same feeling of being let down every time a pastor has to leave a church because he can't fulfill the whole monogamy thing.

I hate it when I let people down. Too often I don't follow through on my promises. I become a lousy witness because of my own thoughtlessness. And I don't even want to get into all the times I disappoint my wife or my kids.

I wonder what it was like for Simon Peter when he saw Jesus roasting a little fish on the shore. He jumped off the boat, he was so excited to see the risen Savior. But still there was that whole business of denial. He had let his Master down after he had sworn up and down that it would never happen.

How often I too let my Savior down. I wonder if the tears roll down his cheek after I rebel against Him and try to satisfy my own selfish desires. Well, maybe there are no tears, but I've let Him down anyway.

Thankfully, my Savior never lets me down. Even when He crosses me up and delivers something I don't expect, my disappointment is rooted in my own selfishness. I have no business being disappointed in Him, for He knows what He is doing. It's just that sometimes I don't. And I sit there, bawling my eyes out, thinking He has let me down, not realizing that my lack of faith has let Him down.

Oh, to be able to praise Him in times of despair and uncertainty, like Paul and Silas singing praise choruses in the Philippi Detention Center... to be able to work past my tears and appreciate all that I have been given.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Jennifer had this on her blog, and since I haven't stolen anything from her in quite some time, I thought this would be a good opportunity.

Which of these 100 things have you done? I've marked the ones I've done in RED.
01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone (At least I think there were candles.)
08. Said “I love you’ and meant it!
09. Hugged a tree (But I didn't mean it!)
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights (At my house!)
15. Gone to a huge sports game (Regular season, but it was the Super Bowl Champs!)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa (How about leaned after climbing stairs?)
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper (Oh, yeah. More than I care to remember.)
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
(It wasn't a long trip, but it was about 7 miles.)
22. Watched a meteor shower (And was a little disappointed in it.)
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity (No, I can always afford to give more.)
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
(While working as a radio announcer giving the agricultural weather report. My boss wasn't happy.)
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger (I went on a date with a stranger. Doesn't that count?)
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster

35. Hit a home run (But it's been an awfully long time ago!)
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment

39. Visited all 50 states
40. Taken care of someone who was drunk
41. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
42. Watched wild whales
43. Stolen a sign (I actually didn't steal it, but I had it in my possession for about a year.)
44. Backpacked in Europe
45. Taken a road-trip
46. Gone rock climbing
47. Lost over 20 pounds (Shoot, I've lost 20 pounds most every year of my life. Gained even more!)
48. Midnight walk on the beach
49. Gone sky diving (We chickened out back in college.)
50. Taken a train through Europe
51. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
52. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table, and had a meal with them
53. Milked a cow
54. Alphabetized your CDs (That's the way they are supposed to be!)
55. Sung karaoke
56. Lounged around in bed all day
57. Gone scuba diving
58. Kissed in the rain (Not as romantic as it looks in the movies.)
59. Gone to a drive-in theatre
60. Started a business
61. Taken a martial arts class
62. Been in a movie (Just a couple of "student" productions.)
63. Crashed a party
64. Gone without food for 5 days (ARE YOU KIDDING ME??)
65. Gotten a tattoo
66. Got flowers for no reason (Gave flowers for no reason. All the time.)
67. Performed on stage (That's been a few years ago too.)
68. Been to Las Vegas
69. Recorded music
70. Eaten shark
71. Buried one/both of your parents (both)
72. Been on a cruise ship
73. Spoken more than one language fluently
74. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over (Of course losing my job had something to do with it!)
75. Been to the Statue of Liberty
76. Had plastic surgery
77. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
78. Wrote articles for a large publication (Not a really large one, but lots of small ones!)
79. Piloted an airplane
80. Petted a stingray
81. Broken someone’s heart (Not to my knowledge.)
82. Broken a bone
83. Eaten sushi
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (Yes, but not as often as my kids.)
85. Parasailed
86. Skipped all your school reunions
87. Shaved your head (Not yet, but as soon as my wife's back is turned it'll happen.)
88. Caused a car accident
89. Pretended to be "sick" (Pretended to be sicker than I actually was.)
90. Surfed in the ocean
91. Saved someone's life
92. Fainted (No, but I've been knocked out.)
93. Been in the room while someone is giving birth (Four times)
94. Hitchhiked (Not exactly, but I've been given rides by strangers on the highway.)
95. Adopted a child (Been adopted.)
96. Been caught daydreaming (Huh?)
97. Been to the Grand Canyon
98. Called off a wedding engagement
99. Donated your blood (I did last month for the first time in about 15 years.)
100. Become a follower of Jesus Christ (Best decision I ever made.)

Throughout this exercise, I was reminded of just how precious life is, and of how many incredible experiences we have along the way. I can kind of understand why some get so wrapped up in the earthly life that they put the thoughts of an afterlife in the back of their minds. God has given us so much on this ol' sin-soaked earth. Just imagine what we'll be able to compare notes about in heaven!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Drug Test

In what could be one of my foolish decisions, I've taken on yet another part time job. This one is supposed to demand my attention only a couple of times a month, so I'm taking the chance that I'll be able to fit everything into one lifetime.

My new job requires that I undergo a drug screen. So last week, I studied and studied and went to take my drug test. What struck me was the procedures that had to be followed for it to be officially done right.

After I did the initial paperwork, on which every medical facility is fueled, I was led back to the testing area by a medical professional. In the room was a woman who was having some hair snipped from the back of her head. It could have been some kind of medical test, or maybe she just needed a trim, I don't know. I was pretty sure that I didn't have enough hair on my own head for any testing, so I was going to have to do it the old fashioned way.

My coat was taken and laid back in a corner. I was asked to empty my pockets and place the contents into a small lockable cabinet. Feeling lighter, stepped back to the nurse who then instructed me to rinse my hands without using soap. Then she gave me the choice of which cup I would like to use. Seeing no difference in the two, I closed my eyes and picked the one that my hand hit first. The nurse unwrapped it and showed me that there were no cracks in it. From her mannerisms, I was half expecting some sleight of hand. Maybe pull a dove out of the specimin cup. But no. She handed my the cup and began the test.

No number 2 pencils needed for this one.

Emerging from the restroom, I presented the now-full cup to the nurse and prepared to get my things out of the locker. But no. I had to stand there and watch her "grade my test", so to speak. She explained how it worked, as if I was going to test the next guy who walked in, carefully showing me every last detail.

Finally, the little boxes turned blue. Knowing that it wasn't a pregnancy test, I was now assured that I was drug-free. (Three hours of my time and about $20 worth of gas spent to find that one out.)

As I strapped into the pickup for the drive home, I considered all the extraneous activity surrounding the test. I knew full well that the reason why the procedure had to be followed was because there have been so many people who have tried to cheat. Although I hate to think about it, some folks have apparently tried to sneak in a "clean" sample while giving the impression it was their own. The thought makes me want to wash out my pockets.

Why do people cheat? Because they know that a test will show the truth about what they've been putting into their bodies. They fully understand that when the light of truth is shown on their lives (or specimins, as the case may be), the nasty stuff will show up as bright as day.

I think most people understand that any real examination of their lives will show some problems. Sure, there are some who try to redefine certain actions as good and right, and a few of those have fooled themselves into believing it. But most everyone understands the lack of perfection in their lives. If there would be a test to show the presence of sin, they know the squares won't show up the right color.

The solution isn't to try to cover up the impurities or to justify the presence of nasty stuff by pointing to everyone else. The solution is to use someone else's sample.

"Thank you, Lord Jesus, for allowing me to use your perfect record instead of my own tainted life."