I Love Rangoons!

HERE’S WHAT WE DID

Sunday after church, we went to our son Derek’s apartment for lunch. He wanted to cook for us and he makes a killer stir fry, Mongolian BBQ style.

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Our family enjoys long meals with long conversations over good food eaten slowly. But that takes some time to put together.

WHILE WE WAITED

While he was getting lunch ready, he prepared some rangoons to snack on. We were in the living room when he brought them in on a plate.

HERE’S WHAT I DID

I had been fooling around with my phone but when I finally put it down, I looked up, saw a plate of rangoons and was happy to have something to eat.

rangoons on a plate

I was enjoying them when my wife said, “You are eating all the rangoons, that’s the serving plate, put that down, get one of the snack plates, and leave some for Derek.”

Oops. I hadn’t noticed that he also brought some snack plates.

Yep, the serving plate was just sitting there, so I just assumed it was for me. I chose badly. Okay, it wasn’t a world-ending thing on my part, but still. 

WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

Since my rangoon faux pas I have, for some reason, been thinking about Jesus. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about Jesus and food.

Consider what he did for others:

  • He once filled two boats full of fish.
  • After his resurrection, he again filled a boat with fish.
  • He multiplied some loaves of bread and a few fish to feed thousands.
  • Then he again fed the multitudes with a few loaves and some fish.
  • After his resurrection, he cooked breakfast for his disciples.

Consider what he did for himself:

  • When he was hungry he ate some kernels of wheat in a wheat field.
  • After fasting 40 days he turned down an opportunity to have bread.

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JESUS OUR MESSIAH

The Messiah was anointed to preach and to provide. He came not to be served, but to devote his life to serving. He focused on what he could give, as opposed to what he could be given.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

The bigger Messianic picture is that he gave his life for others: to forgive sins, to redeem mankind, and to build the bridge bringing us back to the Father.

But he also chose kernels of wheat instead of a sumptuous meal.

Greatness is obvious when it’s seen in the arena of vast human need. But true greatness, or shall I say true humility, is in the tiny little everyday things that are less transparent to the watching world.

NOBODY REALLY CARED

Nobody was upset that I ate most of the rangoons, it wasn’t important.

But when it is, when it matters, will I be more like Jesus, or more like, well, you know.

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Shalom

Stay Home and Enjoy It

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY

Is that the right way to say it? Is Memorial Day a happy day?

CELEBRATION AND HONOR

We celebrate freedom by honoring those who have bled and fallen in the defense of this great nation. Wherever they have gone, wherever they have stood, they placed their lives between us and danger, threat, or tyranny. Today, we honor the fallen.

Not every war has been thought of as honorable. Not every war escaped being politicized. Not every returning soldier has been treated like a hero.

Soldiers go to war because they have to. Popular or unpopular, just or unjust, Americans have fought and died because we asked them to go, we sent them. Many brave young men and women volunteered, but they went because they were needed.

DO YOU KNOW THIS LYRIC?

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He is trampling out the vintage where  the grapes of wrath are stored, He has loosed the fateful lightening of His terrible swift sword. His truth is marching one.”

Consider some of the words:

  • Trampling
  • Wrath
  • Lightening
  • Terrible sword
  • Marching

Are those words the words of war? Of soldiers marching to battle? Of death and judgment? Do they refer to the forces of Heaven defeating the forces of hell?

The song suggests that the Lord our God wages warfare by pitting the forces of light against the forces of darkness, and he does so with wrath and a terrible sword.

MY OWN EXPERIENCE

I didn’t serve in the military so I can’t speak from experience. I don’t know what it is to fight in a war, or to shed blood in battle. I haven’t been required to take up a weapon in service to our country, to protect our nation, to guard our liberty.

But my family has.

My father was career Air Force and fought in Korea and Viet Nam and he did so with pride and with accomplishment. My brother fought in Viet Nam and served two combat tours, receiving a number of decorations, including three Bronze Stars. My other brother served in the Navy and did so with distinction and recognition.

I’m proud of them and honor them; and I thank God they came home.

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY

Using the word happy may or may not fit your experience. Do as you like and say as you please. Fly your flag, or don’t. Pause to give thanks for those who have served, or don’t. Be grateful for those who gave the last full measure of sacrifice, or don’t. It’s up to you.

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Its up to you because you live in a country that is free.

Its up to you because others fought to secure your freedom.

Today, you get to stay home and enjoy it!

Happy Memorial Day

When Camp Was Camping

GREAT MEMORIES OF CAMP

My memories of summer camp are fond, happy, and plentiful.

My first camp was up in the mountains. I loved getting up high where the air was cool and the pine forests were green and aromatic. I still love going up into the mountains. Summer camp was amazing!  

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At least that’s how I remember it.

I also remember sleeping on cots, in big green tents, with ten campers per tent, and no indoor plumbing, not anywhere. But I don’t think any of that bothered me much, it was camp. Actually, it was church camp.

Military camp
Not Actual Camp Tents, But Close, Really Very Close

There were boy and girl campers. I struggled to understand why girls were allowed at camp, but over the years I warmed to it.

BIG TIME FUN

Camp is camp I suppose. It was get up early and go to breakfast. Then back to our tent to make things orderly for daily inspection.The mornings were filled with classes and then we ate lunch.

But after lunch! O man, after lunch was when the fun stuff started.

This was in the early 60’s and I’m not sure we knew how to have fun, or knew what fun was, but whatever it was, it’s what we did.

OUR TOP FIVE BIG TIME CAMP ACTIVITIES

  1. Crafts using popsicle sticks and glue paste, limit 3 sticks.
  2. Fill a brown paper bag with as many pinecones as possible.
  3. Sit quietly on a rock and look for birds and small mammals.
  4. Stand still, raise our arms, spread our fingers, and be a tree.
  5. Craft bonus day: make a thing using popsicle sticks and pinecones.

There were awards at the end of camp. I won third place for best conifer. The highlight was when my cousin Eugene caught a squirrel with his bare hands. It bit him and the camp people sent him home. 

THESE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGING

Our Church’s Children’s Ministry has a camp on Memorial weekend. There are 138 children and counselors at Camp Breakaway.

Here is a partial list of supplies gathered for their activities:

  • 700 water balloons
  • 50 cans of shaving cream
  • 30 pounds of colored powder
  • Four supersize buckets of cheeseballs
  • Three 25′ slip and slides
  • Two human bowling sets
  • One giant twister board

For three days.

THEY HAVE OTHER STUFF TOO

It’s not all they do. There are groups and classes with spiritual content and singing and worship and praise. But if you compare what they have to what we had, I’ll take Camp Breakaway every time.

camp-fire-singing

FABULOUS LEADERS

Someone has to plan, develop, recruit, sign up, organize, administrate, collate, originate, create, imagine, envision, and mobilize the entire event. For us, that someone is our Children’s Minister Janel Hopper and her excellent right hand, Melissa McAdams.

They are remarkable and are just the best!

Thank you friends.

AND TODAY?

Today we gather to lift up the name of Jesus and to praise him in glory. We will miss our 138 campers and counselors, but they will be singing and praising too; and will be home soon enough.

Father, keep them safe, please.

Thank you Lord for our freedom, our prosperity, and for our children.

It’s Not About the Cows

A COW STORY

During my Junior year of HS, while living in northeastern Kansas, I had an unusual Saturday morning job.

I had a milk route.

milk cows

Actually, I assisted an older gentleman who handled the route on weekends. His route wasn’t to the stores and homes, but to the dairy farms, to collect their raw milk. He drove a truck with a big stainless steel tank. We collected the milk from the farmer’s holding tank, drove to the next farm, and so on. When our tank was full, we offloaded at the Dairy.

milk truck      milk tank.jpg

THE MILK COWS

When we arrived at each farm, the first order of business was to check a sample of the milk. Occasionally, disease or sickness would break out and affect the cows. Diseased cows produced contaminated milk which had to be discarded. Serious illness among dairy cows is more common than you might think.

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It was vital that each test was carefully done. If contaminated milk got into our tank, then it contaminated all of it.

If it got into the Dairy, then all kinds of trouble ensued.

The milk had to be perfect.

A SPIRITUAL APPLICAITON

The Law of Moses required the priests to maintain a supply of cleansing water for purification of certain sins and defilements. The water was made with the ashes of a red heifer, a cow that hadn’t given birth.

The animal was taken outside of Jerusalem and burned to ashes. The ashes were collected, placed in stone jars, and then mixed with the water. It was holy cleansing water.

HOLY PERFECTION

A perfect, flawless red heifer was rare. Just the birth of a red cow was uncommon.

It would be inspected closely and if even one black hair was found, or some other aberration, the animal was rejected. The red heifer had to be flawless.

redheifer

That flawlessness was a symbol of God’s righteousness, of his holy perfection. The water mixed with the ashes cleansed people from defilement, such as having touched a dead body.

THE RED HEIFER/THE RED ROBE

The red heifer and cleansing water was a picture of the coming Messiah who would offer himself in perfect righteousness to cleanse those who were neither perfect nor righteous.

Jesus was taken outside the city, was given a scarlet robe to wear, and was sacrificed.

TOMORROW MORNING

The cleansing water was stored in stone jars, not clay, but stone. Jesus once used six stone jars in a powerful illustration of who he was and why he came.

Tomorrow at the Southeast Church of Christ, I will be speaking at 8:30 and 10:45 on the topic of, “Six Stone Jars.”

So come and be lifted up by the cleansing power of amazing grace!

I’ll look for you.

Shalom

Face Chat Kitty Cat

THERE’S BEEN A CHANGE

There’s been a  change in our house, a significant change. For reasons not germane to this piece, our beloved, but much maligned cat Merlin, has moved out. (see picture)

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Merlin the Cat

WHERE DID HE GO?

He didn’t wander off or run away to join the circus. We just needed him to live somewhere else for a while so he’s moved in with our son. I miss him. Oh well.

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Our Son And His House Guest

MERLIN AND DANIELLE

You may recall from previous blogs that Merlin and I don’t really get along. You could say that ours is more of an uneasy peace, a kind of mutual loathing. We don’t fight, argue or mistreat each other, all that much. I mean, who has the time?

Merlin is my wife’s cat. She is an animal lover and if I shared her affection for all things hairy and four legged then life with Merlin would be different. But I don’t and it’s not.

But she misses him and my son tells me that the cat misses her. I’m not at all sure how someone determines a cat is missing someone, but okay.

So our son, who is a bright and caring person, arranged a Face Time between his Mother and Merlin. If you’re unfamiliar, Face Time is a video call using a pair of iPhones.

IT WAS PRECIOUS

It was so precious. 

THE CALL

Our son kept repositioning his phone to keep it in front of the cat. My wife, who is very affectionate with Merlin, was excited to Face Time with her sweet baby boy (not our son) and spoke in her cutest, cooing voice.

It was epic. Mostly, he just sat on a table and watched the birds through a window. Merlin appeared to notice her voice, but seemed confused. Perhaps he was struggling to comprehend the functionality of an iPhone 6.

(The result of too much inbreeding?)

SO LET’S SEE

What wisdom or insights can I share?

1.

2.

3.

AND FINALLY

As I finish, I pause to evaluate the experience:

  • The cost of a ten minute Face Time call: basically free
  • Monthly expense for cell phone service: $50
  • Retail price for an iPhone: $549.99 
  • Average price for a thoroughbred Persian: $650
  • Watching my wife and son attempt to Face Time a cat: Priceless

Yep, life in the fast lane.

Scraping the Blackboard

BASIC IDEA

I like people. I do. And in general, I believe people like me too.

THE THING

Here’s the thing, I like all people. Almost all people. Perhaps it’s more honest to say that I like most of the people almost all of the time.

But some people irritate and annoy me. Some people rub me the wrong way, get on my last nerve, and are fingernails on the blackboard of my life.

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This Blackboard is Me; Are You the Nails?

ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIORS

Sometimes, it’s their attitude that is excruciating, like a sharp thorn in my foot. At other times, it’s their behavior that irritates me most. Its like a mosquito bite I can’t scratch, or someone loudly slurping their soup, or putting on their socks and then their shoes.

REALLY?

Some Thorn, Mosquito & Slurping Examples:

  • Those who run red lights, or stop signs, and wave as they speed by.
  • People who make appointments, arrive late or not at all, and don’t call.
  • Drivers who rush up and force their way into a slow moving lane.
  • People who are unaware, who think everything is about them, and make no apology for insisting, pushing, and demanding they get their way.
  • People late for church then complain about the parking and seating.
  • Mostly, it’s the people who are critical, they are so irritating.

Well, the list could go on and on and on.

FORTUNATELY FOR ME

Fortunately for me, I don’t have any irritating attitudes or behaviors. Just ask my family and closest friends, they’ll tell you.

(Oddly, I don’t have a lot of close friends)

Here is a list of irritating attitudes and behaviors I don’t have:

  • I’m never impatient
  • I’m not given to judgmental attitudes
  • I rarely take notice of those who fail to notice me
  • Negativity, complaining, and fault finding just aren’t in my DNA
  • I wouldn’t dream of dishing dirt on discourteous people

PLEASE JOIN ME

So please join me in making America a better, gentler, and kinder place.

NOTE: I’m specifically targeting those of you who are irritating and annoying. Hey, don’t stop reading and don’t think I’m referring to someone else. You know who you are. And if you insist on scraping the blackboard of my life, please trim your nails once in a while.

Some people are just the worst.

Thank you and have a blessed and joyous day!

A Temple Visit

A DIFFERENT BLOG

Today’s blog will be different. So, for your consideration, here is something different.

A HINDU TEMPLE

Recently, while enjoying dinner with friends in their home, our hosts asked if we had seen the Hindu temple. We hadn’t.

So after dinner we made the very short drive to see what’s in the picture below. It was impressive. The grounds were beautiful, the temple was of gleaming marble, and it was all just pretty amazing.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

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THE TOUR

We had intended to just look from the car as we slowly drove by, but a sign at the entrance indicated the temple was open for visitors, so we pulled in.

Their tradition:

  • We had to remove our shoes. 
  • Their were two rooms for removing shoes: men’s and women’s. 
  • Entering the temple, I was asked to wear a cover for my legs, as I was in shorts. In their custom, feet and arms can be exposed, even the bare midriff of women in traditional Indian clothing. But not knees and shins.

We were greeted by a man who gently insisted that he provide us a tour. We said sure, maybe 5 or 10 minutes. It was 45 minutes.  

He was informative, friendly, and interesting. His beaming pride in their temple ran deep. We learned that only five of these major Hindu centers exist within the United States: Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Trenton, and Houston. 

FEELING AWKWARD

I felt a bit awkward. I was essentially wearing a skirt and was the only man doing so. But mostly, I was just out of my element. 

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THEIR BELIEF SYSTEM

Hinduism isn’t easily explained. It’s a faith of consciousness, mediation and prayer. References to God are common, but their belief system allows for many manifestations of him. Formally, Hinduism worships 33 Gods. I couldn’t help thinking about the Apostle Paul in Athens. Remember his reference to the temple of the unknown god, a god for everything and everyone?

 Many of their ancient texts have no recognized authors. There is no identified founder. They firmly believe in reincarnation, in strong family values, and each devotee is free to practice the faith with a wide range of expression.

SOME OBSERVATIONS

  • The people we encountered were sincere, devout, and friendly.
  • They are serious about their beliefs and diligent about their faith.
  • They are proud to have such a magnificent building for worship.

DONT SHOOT ME

Please don’t shoot the messenger, but I saw some similarities.

Like them we are:

  • Sincere, devout and friendly
  • Serious about practicing our faith
  • Proud of our facilities

Although shorts aren’t permitted, they can go barefoot. I’m not sure how I feel about people coming to church bare foot. I probably wouldn’t care. People can wear shorts though.

SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS


As we drove back, my friend, who is our Associate Minister, said to me,

    “We are completely unprepared to talk about Jesus to the people around us.” 

I couldn’t agree more.

What makes us different? I don’t mean doctrine and theology, that’s obvious. How are we  different from any other devout and sincere person of belief?

I’m asking this question:

“If we are worshipers of the one true God and exist as the light of the world, then why aren’t we better at sharing our faith?” 

I’m not even talking about actually converting people, but suggesting that most of us would have no clue how to share Jesus with many of the people of our world.

If someone from one of the world’s religions toured your church building, could you be a friendly, informative, and interesting host? Would you be an effective ambassador for the Christian faith?  

Just a thought. 

Complaining: A Perspective

AN OBERVATION

In the Arizona desert, they call it a dry heat. Amid the salt marshes of Houston, in the summer, it’s more of a wet heat, and insufferable. And it’s summer 8 months a year.

IT’S NOT LIKE I’M STUCK

I’m not stuck here, my feet aren’t planted in concrete or chained to an immovable object. I could relocate. It wouldn’t be easy, but I could do it if I really wanted to.

A CONFESSION

Here’s my confession. I have some health issues, not major ones, but chronic, requiring treatment and not likely to go away. My Doctors advise me that my condition would improve greatly if I lived in a climate with moderately low temperatures with even lower humidity.

But strangely, I’ve ignored their medical advice, have lived in Houston for 20 years, and in central Florida for 10 years before that.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, I worked for 5.5 years for a non-profit ministry serving the people of Haiti. I didn’t live there, but made several mission trips each year. If I thought Houston was hot, wow, Haiti taught me a whole new level of hot.

Not too smart am I?

COMPLAINING

So why do I complain about the heat? For crying out loud, I chose to live here. It’s not like I was tricked or something. I didn’t visit Houston on a cool, dry day in February and had someone tell me, “Oh, sure, its like this all year long.”

No, I knew it was a suffocating and debilitating wet heat.

ON SATURDAY

On Saturday afternoon, I was phoning with a friend and we quickly drifted to whining and complaining about the heat and the brutal humidity. I did so from my air conditioned house while my friend spoke from the side lines of the game their kids were playing in.

sports day
Later that afternoon, I got a message from my friend telling me about a woman they had met and got acquainted with, she was also at the game to watch her son. As they talked back and forth, the woman shared that they had experienced fertility issues and didn’t  have their son until she was forty.

Then, she went on to share the her husband had just been diagnosed with end-stage liver disease, and that it was really bad. He only had three months to live.

Three months to live.

Somehow I get the sense that she wasn’t obsessed about the heat.

I guess some people just don’t know how to complain.

Shalom

A Coat of Paint?

OPENING THOUGHTS

The power of paint is found in its ability to make things look new. It’s what paint does.

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Not Me Painting, Thankfully

I’ve been painting walls, ceilings, and porch railings for the last few weeks. It’s marvelous how rolling on a coat of paint instantly hides all the imperfections.

SOME PERSPECTIVE

It’s interesting though, that the paint doesn’t really change anything. What’s underneath remains the same, stained and dirty. Even if the new paint is the same color, it’s only hiding the old paint that’s become marred or faded.

That’s what paint does. It makes imperfections imperceptible.

Thinking about the way paint covers a flawed surface makes me appreciate God and what he does for us.

CONSIDER THE TRANSFORMATIONAL POWER OF GOD

God created the world submerged in water. The water wasn’t created later as were the universe, the animals, and humanity.

No, water came into existence with the earth itself. Everything began with water. 

Think about the vitality of water within scripture. The priests washed the animals, and themselves, for the sacrifices. Ceremonial cleansing was required before entering the temple. It was also necessary before joining with others in table fellowship. Hands, arms, and feet were always washed with water before sharing a meal. It removed the dirt and symbolically, the sin and impurity. The idea: not taking sin into another person’s home.

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Immersion in water, to cleanse the soul, is rooted in scripture. New life comes from water and the Spirit. Naaman got cleansed in the river. The blind mind  washed in the Pool of Siloam, and on and on.

God isn’t offering a thin coat of paint, a quick splash of color to freshen our lives. He offers renewal, a new life in Jesus our Messiah, a soul cleansing transformation.  

Paint doesn’t change what it touches. Whatever gets painted remains exactly as it was before it was painted. But the New Birth is a complete and total regeneration of the soul. Change takes place at the deepest level, the New Birth transforms us.  

baptism in ocean

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I make mistakes when I paint. I drip on the floor and on myself, and spill and make messes. But I can put some paint thinner on a rag and clean it right up. Paint isn’t permanent, its temporary. Its temporary  because its paper thin and man made.

baptism in lake

It isn’t so with our Messiah and his Father. When he redeems he reaches deep, all the way down. He washes everything away, transforming  us, completely and forever.

The transforming power of God to create new life; it’s no paint job.

It’s a glorious thing.