Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Freedom To Write


Today is Veteran's Day.

All across the country, in small towns and villages, at American Legion Halls and VFW's, at Arlington and a million other cemeteries all across our great land, people will honor the men and women who have served, fought, sacrificed, and paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

You woke up this morning, turned on your computer, and logged into your internet browser. You found this site through Google, Facebook, Friend-Connect, or, maybe you just stumbled across it searching the web. And you did all of that because a veteran served with you, or in your stead, to help keep these freedoms we so often take for granted. The very fact that I can write these words without fear of reprisal from a British Sovereign, or a corrupt Mexicali Government, or 1,000 year totalitarian German Regime, or a Communist Comrade is all because of the sacrifice of our Veterans. (And, parenthetically, an Islamist cleric, thanks to our present day military service members.)

So I say, on behalf of a sometimes forgetful, sometimes neglectful, yet always needful nation--Thank You members of our military, and to all of our veterans, and to their families. On this day especially, may The LORD bless you and keep you; may the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Navy Family

I wish I could find some more pictures of my family in the Navy, but here are a few of them....

 Uncle Cliff. I was closest to him, spent several summers with him and Martha in late 70's. He was in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He was on the USS Princeton (CVL 23) . She was hit by a Jap 500lb bomb on the morning of October 24, 1944. Fires spread and eventually a huge explosion rocked the ship, most likely from the bomb arsenal. This not only damaged the Princeton, but also the USS Birmingham that had come along side for Damage Control operations. Around 3:30, the order was given to abandon ship. Uncle Cliff went over the side and landed flatfooted on a gun turret. He broke both of his feet. He was in the water for almost 48 hours, and at one point was buzzed by a Jap fighter, but he didn't fire on them. Cliff told me he figured the pilot didn't have any ammo, and was probably a Kamikaze.Grandma was told he was "Missing at sea" and didn't hear that he was alive for weeks, until he was back at Pearl in a Navvy hospital. He was a great man and I reveled in his stories. He is an America hero.

USS Princeton (CVL 23) shortly after being hit by a Japanese bomb during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. 10/24/1944

 Uncle Joe. I never met Uncle Joe. Cliff told me many stories about Joe and his WWII stories, but I can only remember bits and pieces. Wish I knew more.

Uncle Al. Again, I wish I knew some stories to tell. But, brother, check out that dog dish! I've never seen one that far back on someone's head!  And the Clarke Gable mustache. What a looker! No wonder he won Aunt Marie!

and, then is my Dad. Check out the wings on his hat. You can tell he was an airman!

And lastly, me! Man, that's a good looking sailor! Squ...aa...ared Away and Outstanding!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Old Spice And Jesus


Last week I had the privilege of attending another church’s Men Conference. While there I reconnected with old friends and met some new ones. During one of the sessions, the speaker mentioned the incredible memory invoking power of the sense of smell. It was interesting to me because I agree so much with the sentiment that all of our senses have an emotional pull on us, either toward heaven or toward secular pursuits.  I believe that we should treat the Bible with care, using all five senses to meet Jesus in the Bible. John wrote about the one “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled.” (1 John 1) Hearing, sight and touch—we should see Jesus in the Bible; we should hear Jesus in the Bible, and we should touch Jesus in the Bible. We should even taste Jesus in the Bible!  The Psalmist wrote, “O taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

But what about the sense of smell? I believe that the sense of smell is uniquely strong in bringing back to our remembrance days of old. The speaker talked about a certain cologne and how the smell took him back in time. That was very moving for me, because I believe that is true and a cautionary tale. I have three “smells’ on my bathroom counter. One is Old Spice. It’s what my grandfather wore. Another is Skinbracer. That was my dad’s sent. The third is Oak. (Oak has replaced Polo, as my pastor’s salary cannot afford Polo anymore.) I wear either Old Spice or Skinbracer about every day. But I only wear Oak when I go out with Patty. That is my smell when I am with her. The genesis for that (back when I was an engineer and it was Polo) dates back to the days when I was pursuing her. When I was single I wore Polo all the time. It was very vogue back in the 80's!!!!! To me there is something associated with the hunt about Polo. But the smell of Old Spice makes me think of a grandpa and something not very alluring to women of a certain age. I’m through with the pursuing now, so if you smell me wearing Polo (Oak) Patty will not be far away. It might be silly, but my though is that any female smelling me with Skinbracer on is only going to be reminded of her grandpa, not some sexy beast. (I know. Polo or not, what woman could resist alllllllllll of this!?) But I will also say that ministers are especially susceptible to sexual sin because the Satan loves to see clergy fall that way. So it is probably more for me;  the smell of Oak and Polo now remind me that I am a one-woman-man, and she is close by my side.

What does that have to do with “smelling” Jesus in the Bible. It harkens back to my favorite post resurrection story, which is found in John’s Gospel. Jesus is on the shore, cooking breakfast for the disciples who are out fishing. When they got to shore the Bible says that, “they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread.” (John 21:9) Jesus cooked fish on a charcoal fire. He could have done what He did when He fed the 5,000 men, (not including women and children) and simply said “Fish.” No, He cooked on a charcoal fire. Why? Smell. Admit it, there is something about the smell of a charcoal fire. Remembrance associated with smell. He needed Peter to remember. The word translated here charcoal is anthrakia. It is only used two times in the Bible, here and in John 18:18 where Peter was at Jesus’ trial, warming himself by a…want to take a guess?...charcoal fire. Peter’s greatest collapse in faith, his greatest failure, his most despised memory was of denying Jesus three times. And I think when Peter got out of the boat and ran to shore, the charcoal fire was there to bring that episode flooding back to his memory, through the power of smell. Jesus needed Peter to emotionally reconnect with that moment of failure, so the stark contrast of his restoration and calling would stand out in great relief with his failure. In essence Jesus was saying to Peter, you failed; now get over it and feed my sheep.

The power of smell. Our speaker had it right, and it is a great reminder to me that I need to hear Jesus in the Bible, to see Jesus in the Bible, to touch Jesus in the Bible, to taste Jesus in the Bible…and to even smell Jesus in the Bible.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Power Rangers And Dentists

Power Rangers And Dentists


When Luke was about 3, a dentist came to his preschool to teach the kids about good dental hygiene. When I got home from the church, Patty suggested I ask Luke want he wanted to do when he grew up. I expected the standard answer I had gotten to the question for months—A Power Ranger. (and specifically, I might add, the RED Power Ranger.) Instead, Luke informed me he wanted to be a dentist. I was thrilled, but tepidly so. He was three after all. But he stuck with it all the way through middle school. And I will also admit that I was disappointed when he gave that up. Dentists are expensive, and having one in the family would be great.

I heard a conversation recently where the comment was made about that old adage, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I thought about that some, thinking back to Power Rangers and Dentists. The more I ponder that question, the more I think that we might need to rethink how we ask it. Perhaps, instead of asking what our kids want to do when they grow up, maybe we should ask them who they want to be when they grow up. 

You know, Solomon made some great applications about child rearing. One passage in particular has to do with this though of doing versus being. In Proverbs 22:6 the old sage wrote “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NASB)   Train ‘em up! 

Despite the popular opinion of today’s seeker friendly mentality, this is not a promise. It is a proverb. A general bit of wisdom that is axiomatic. “Generally speaking,” Solomon tells us, “if you raise them correctly, they will remember those lessons later in life.” Consider how the GNT paraphrases the verse: “Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life.” I like that. The word for train up or teach here is the Hebrew word Chanak and carries the implication of a predisposition or a knack. Find out your child’s predisposition, or something they have a knack for, and encourage them in that direction.  

However, I think Solomon’s advice here is not so much leaning toward what they do, again, but to who they are. Build in them a sense of accomplishment. Lift them up and encourage them. Nevertheless, we need to let them fail sometime. We need to allow them the privilege of self-accomplishment, and nurture the pride that comes from doing it themselves. So whether it’s a Power Ranger, a dentist, or benevolent dictator of the world, don’t ask them what they want to do, but who they want to be. And who knows, maybe who they want to be…will be somebody just like you.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Memorial Day Musings

I grew up listening to Waylon and Willie croon on about their heroes being old, worn-out cowboys. Heroes are those rare people that make an indelible impact on our lives, so forcefully that they cause not only our admiration, but often our emulation. Well, while I like the song, I never wanted to be a cowboy. There was, however, someone that I tried to pattern my life after: my real life hero, my dad. Yeah, I know that it sounds cliché and all, but it really is true. I love Bluegrass music, Merle Haggard, and football because he did. I joined the Navy because he had been a sailor. I worked as an engineer because he did. I tried to smoke Winston cigarettes because that was his brand, even though the “cool” people smoked Marlboro. (Luckily that was a short lived attempt at my own brand of being a maverick. Plus, I never could get used to the smell.)

His life was hard, and because of that he was a hard man. His philosophy of life was simple: work hard and take care of your little acre. In other words, take care of you and yours, leave everyone else to theirs. Not an earth shattering revelation or groundbreaking epistemology of course, but it was his. He grew up very poor in the mountains of East Kentucky and left school in the eighth grade to help support the family. At nineteen he joined the Navy and spent his time in Asia touring on the USS Oriskany CV34 (The Mighty “O”) on two WestPac’s . He got a giant cobra tattoo in Hong Kong, and his True Love knuckles in the Philippians. (Did I mention my tattoo??? When I left for Boot Camp, my dad didn’t warn me about loose women or crotchety old CC’s, but he did tell me that if I got a tattoo to make sure a short sleeved shirt covered it up. Smart man and advice I’m glad I heeded. Current occupation and all.) He worked at NASA building platforms for the Saturn program, and married my mom making a buck an hour. Four kids and a move to Georgia later, he was in management at Sheet Metal Engineers. Things were going well when he lost two children in separate car crashes about five years apart. Life was never really the same.

On August 8, 2012 he lost his final battle, a bout with Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis, of all things. PAP is a very rare  lung disorder (about 500 cases per year worldwide) that is an autoimmune disease; the body cranks up the production of the surfactant protein and fills the air sacks in the lungs with fluid. Throughout his life he taught me things, and I guess that makes him my hero still. Even though he had become dependent on me in his last years, he will always be the one man that I will think about and wonder what he would have done in a given situation.

I will miss him terribly, and can only hope that I can measure up to the high benchmark he set for me. My hero is not a cowboy. He is a sheet metal worker. Not a barroom brawler, but a hard worker. Not a whoremonger, but a devoted husband. Not a modern-day drifter, but a dedicated family man. Not a high rider, but my dad.

Monday, May 18, 2015

How To Raise Godly Children Without Them Knowing What You're Up To

How To Raise Godly Children Without Them Knowing What You're Up To:
Ten Suggestions For Biblically Based Parenting

1) Give your children a Biblical foundation and encourage their bent, and trust God when things get hairy. (Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6)

2) Always speak about spiritual things around your children, and let them see you pray. Let them see God in you. (And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

3) Remember to distinguish the urgent from the important. That phone call may be urgent, but your children are important. Let them know it! (Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Luke 18:15-16)

4) Remember that parenting is a hard job. You are to be a parent, not a bff. Discipline must be a core component of biblical parenting. “Spare the rod and spoil the child?” Yeah, it’s in there! (Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.)

5) Be positive, even in correction. Praise often, even in times of discouragement. Your children will reflect your attitude about them. (Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Colossians 3:21)

6) Never, ever, ever, think that the school or church has the responsibility of teaching your children! You make sure they have knowledge. Whether about math or about God, you are responsible. (The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Proverbs 29:15)

7) Invest in your children your most valuable commodity. Invest your time. A small amount of time now will pay off in huge dividends when they are adults. (Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

8) Be a living epistle of what a good, honest, and true marriage looks like. Let your children see how a woman is to love her husband. Let them see how a husband is to cherish his wife. (Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. Ephesians 5:22-23)

9) Instill in your children a love for and appreciation of the local fellowship of Believers. Raise your children to have a great respect for church and for God’s people. (And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42)

10) The end game of all of this would be naught, if your children do not receive the gift of salvation made possible through Jesus Christ. Insure that you have a right relationship with God. And then place the necessity of salvation before your children often. (Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Glory Days

I get this feeling every time summer appears and the night air becomes full of static and heat. The kind of air that lets you know that summer is here and is going to be intense. For a few moments, my mind drifts back to being 17 again, the t-tops off of the charcoal-grey Trans Am, sunglasses on at night, and cruising around Hwy 25 with a million other knuckle-heads who didn’t know any better either. With the radio on, Don Henley ushered us into summer time bliss...

Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air -
The summer's out of reach
Empty lake, empty streets
The sun goes down alone
I'm drivin' by your house
Though I know you're not home

But I can see you -Your brown skin shinin' in the sun
You got your hair combed backAnd your sunglasses on, baby
And I can tell youMy love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone
Ahh...glory days. I can now full appreciate the philosopher George Bernard Shaw when he said that youth is wasted on the young! Unlike many, I not only remember the good times but also the bad. Like the very, very bad decision to try snuff. A powdery form of chewing tobacco popular here in the South. (I am instantly reminded of the Psalmist who said, “I felt weak deep inside me. I moaned all day long.”) Or the time we decided it would be “fun” to tie a rope to a bicycle tethered to the back of a pick up truck, allowing ourselves to experience biking at 55 mph. The original X games. Can I just say, it’s all fun and games until somebody gets dragged a half mile on his elbows!

But mostly I remember the good times. I remember when the biggest problem was where would we scrape up another 5 bucks for gas. (Mind you, at .65¢ a gallon, that was half a tanks worth!) I remember how much better Waffle House food was at 2am, how leather pants were considered “cool”, and how we thought Queen was a bunch of straight men. (If you’re over 50, don’t laugh, you thought Elton John was!) I remember walking around the mall, and joybuzzer attacks, wondering if a certain girl liked you, and the arcade where the hippest thing was Pac-Man! Mostly though, I think about how I never thought it would end. Glory days forever!

Now, I do not consider myself old. Let’s be clear. At 45, I’m still a spring chicken! However, I did spend the day at various hospitals and nursing homes, praying with and consoling many people who are desperately ill. In an ICU room at a hospital in Columbia, I held the hand of a man who is recovering from a heart attack. As we spoke he asked me, “How is it that our bodies just up and stop working for us one day?”

There are theological answers to his question. I could have told him about original sin and the curse and Adamic nature. But I think the answer lies in hope. And so I told him about Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

And so I told him about our new bodies that will last forever and the days of no suffering, no sorrow, sickness, or death. When our bodies will be perfect and defect free. And...for a moment within myself...I didn’t look back to glory days, I looked ahead to days of Glory.