Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

Tonight is Halloween. I think of all the holidays on our calendar, this one could probably be most easily removed. However, I know how much joy it brought to me as a child -- and continues to bring to kids today.

Sometimes I wonder what the proper response to issues like Halloween should be. I know of churches and preachers who every year remind us of the evil roots from which Halloween began. Yet it seems to me that such a reaction only builds walls between us and our communities.

When I was studying Greek in college, my professors often referred to "root fallacy." This is the mistake of going back to the root meaning of a word in order to determine its usage in a passage. As my professors would say, "MEANING IS DETERMINED BY CONTEXT!"

Isn't that somewhat true of Halloween? To trace it back to its roots may make us look smart. But I don't know anyone (especially the kids dressed up like "High School Musical" characters or Batman) who attach any meaning to calling up spirits or having seances or worshipping Satan.

I know I sound somewhat inconsistent, since I am on such a crusade about us being countercultural people. But I think we need to be wise about picking our battles. And bashing a night when kids dress up and go around to ask for candy is not a hill I want to shed blood on. I think it makes us look like radical extremists -- with no connection made to Christlikeness.

I am not saying that to discourage Trick or Treating is wrong, either. This is very much a Romans 14 kind of issue.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Brett Favre and My Dad

Today would have been my dad's 78th birthday. He was born THE day after the great Stock Market crash -- known as Black Tuesday. It seems ironic, because his life was covered by a dark cloud. I hurt for him as I think of how much emotional pain he must have carried through his life.

He's been gone now for 11-1/2 years. And he went out well -- making me proud.
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What an ending to Monday Night Football last night! Brett Favre, the "old man" (he's ony 38! How did Testiverde get a pass here?), threw an 82-yard touchdown pass on the 1st play of overtime to beat Denver.

How can you not like this guy. Unlike others who have gone through drug addictions and made excuses, etc. -- he got help and has turned his life around. We've watched him go through so much: the death of his father, his wife's cancer, his nephew's (If I remembered right) tragic death. He is definitely a survivor.
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I read a piece in the paper yesterday about the Packers. There is a waiting list for people to get season tickets. You have to wait until someone dies or gives them up. The wait is something like 400 years! Incredible! And Green Bay is not even a large city.

The writer of the piece said at least there is hope. Those who wait 400 years might get to see Favre before he retires. I say when you can throw the ball the way he was last night, why is retirement even being discussed?

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Golden Compass

When Beverly and I were in San Antonio, we went to a movie. One of the previews was for a movie entitled "The Golden Compass." As it was showing, I leaned over to her and said, "It reminds me of "The Lion, The WItch and the Wardrobe."

Well, a friend sent me an email this morning about "The Golden Compass." I went to Snopes, and the following is a quote from its website:

Origins: The Golden Compass, a fantasy film starring Nicole Kidman that is scheduled to be released into theaters on 7 December 2007, has been drawing fire from concerned Christians. The film is based on Northern Lights (released in the U.S. as The Golden Compass), the first offering in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy of children's books, a series that follows the adventures of a streetwise girl who travels through multiple worlds populated by witches, armor-plated bears, and sinister ecclesiastical assassins to defeat the oppressive forces of a senile God.

Books of the trilogy have sold more than 15 million copies around the world, with Northern Lights winning the Carnegie Medal for Children's Literature in 1995 and in 2007 being awarded the 'Carnegie of Carnegies' for the best children's book of the past 70 years. The Amber Spyglass, the final book of the series, won The Whitbread Prize in 2001, making it the first children's book to do so.

The series' author, Philip Pullman, is an avowed atheist who has averred that "I don't profess any religion; I don't think it's possible that there is a God; I have the greatest difficulty in understanding what is meant by the words 'spiritual' or 'spirituality.'" Critics of Pullman's books point to the strong anti-religion and anti-God themes they incorporate, and although literary works are subject to a variety of interpretations, Pullman left little doubt about his intentions when he said in a 2003 interview that "My books are about killing God." (Conservative British columnist Peter Hitchens labeled Pullman "The Most Dangerous Author in Britain" and described him as the writer "the atheists would have been praying for, if atheists prayed.")

Bill Donohue, president of The Catholic League, has condemned The Golden Compass as a "pernicious" effort to indoctrinate children into anti-Christian beliefs and has produced a 23-page pamphlet titled The Golden Compass: Unmasked in which he maintains that Pullman "sells atheism for kids." Donohoe told interviewer John Gibson on 9 October 2007 why he believes Christians should stay away from the film:
Look, the movie is based on the least offensive of the three books. And they have dumbed down the worst elements in the movie because they don't want to make Christians angry and they want to make money. Our concern is this, unsuspecting Christian parents may want to take their kid to the movie, it opens up December 7th and say, this wasn't troubling, then we'll buy the books. So the movie is the bait for the books which are profoundly anti-Catholic and at the same time selling atheism.
Other critics, however, have described Pullman's works as being more generally anti-religion rather than specifically anti-Christian or anti-Catholic:
In "His Dark Materials," Pullman's criticisms of organized religion come across as anti-authoritarian and anti-ascetic rather than anti-doctrinal. (Jesus isn't mentioned in any of the books, although Pullman has hinted that He might figure in a forthcoming sequel, "The Book of Dust.") His fundamental objection is to ideological tyranny and the rejection of this world in favor of an idealized afterlife, regardless of creed. As one of the novel's pagan characters puts it, "Every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling."
Last updated: 23 October 2007
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What should our response be? I would encourage us not to be angry Christians. All that would do is make this atheist author feel smug in his assessment of us. Remember: In American, he has freedom of speech, too. But what we CAN do is to make sure this movie is a financial bust. THAT sends the only message that Hollywood cares about. Do not take your kids to see it. And make sure to tell others the same. That is OUR freedom of speech.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Numbers Game

I'm visiting with people, and they find out I'm a preacher. I guarantee one of the 1st questions they will ask is, "How big is your church?"

Beverly and I do a marraige retreat for another church. As people find out what we have been doing, they ask, "How many people were there?"

I know it's human nature. Especially in America, we attach success to numbers. Human nature. But how spiritual is it?

A. W. Tozer wrote a piece 40+ years ago. Yet it rings with such truth to us today. Hear what he says.

Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. --1 Corinthians 3:12-13

The emphasis today in Christian circles appears to be on quantity, with a corresponding lack of emphasis on quality. Numbers, size and amount seem to be very nearly all that matters even among evangelicals. The size of the crowd, the number of converts, the size of the budget, the amount of the weekly collections: if these look good the church is prospering and the pastor is thought to be a success. The church that can show an impressive quantitative growth is frankly envied and imitated by other ambitious churches.

This is the age of the Laodiceans. The great goddess Numbers is worshiped with fervent devotion and all things religious are brought before her for examination. Her Old Testament is the financial report and her New Testament is the membership roll. To these she appeals as arbiters of all questions, the test of spiritual growth and the proof of success or failure in every Christian endeavor.

A little acquaintance with the Bible should show this up for the heresy it is. To judge anything spiritual by statistics is to judge by another than scriptural judgment. It is to admit the validity of externalism and to deny the value our Lord places upon the soul as over against the body. It is to mistake the old creation for the new and to confuse things eternal with things temporal. Yet it is being done every day by ministers, church boards and denominational leaders. And hardly anyone notices the deep and dangerous error. The Set of the Sail, 153.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Make Each Moment Count

Beverly had me DVR "Oprah" for her the other day, and we watched it last night. Now don't any of you think I have become a big Oprah fan, because you would be wrong. But this show was about people who know that they are dying, and how they are coping with it. It was really fascinating to listen to people who a few months ago were living the rat-race -- and how clearly (and quickly) their lives have become prioritized.

As I watched, I once again was made aware of the fact that we all need to live that way. Who knows when what we say may be the last words our children or spouse ever hear from us?

Every time I hear Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying", it is a wake-up call for me. I want to stop taking days -- or even moments -- for granted. I want my time on earth to be spent in ways that will make a difference.

So that is my goal today: Make each moment count.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Finding Intimacy with God

Last night I was reading Dr. Myra Perrine's book, What's Your God Language? I want to share a piece from that this morning.

"Thomas Merton said that only the one who truly seeks God with real desire finds Him, not those who remain at a distance and confine life to a 'few routine exercises or external acts of worship and service.'

She then shares a quote from M. Basil Pennington that so practically applies this principle. He said:

I have run into a situation in marriage counseling a number of times. The couple is unhappy. The wife is dissatisfied and the husband cannot see why. He goes into a long recital of all he is doing for her. He is holding down two or three jobs, building a new house, buying her everything. But to all this, the wife quietly replies: "If only he would stop for a few minutes and give me himself!" I sometimes think that God, as He sees us rushing about in all our doing of good, says to Himself: If only they would stop for a few minutes and give me themselves!
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I'm looking forward to the World Series tomorrow night. I enjoyed watching the last two games of the Boston-Cleveland series. I like Boston's closer -- he is a hoot! But I can't decide who to root for. I want Boston to win because it makes the Yankees look bad. But I always like to see a new face in the crowd too. So I might pull for the Rockies.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm Back!

It's been a while since I posted a blog. I have been on vacation. It was an interesting one, to say the least.

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, a friend of mine and I went golfing. We played 18 holes on Tuesday and 36 on Wednesday. Allergies hit me Tuesday -- and then really set in on Wednesday. It has to be ragweed. I have never felt as dragged down by allergies as I have from this.

Anyway, Thursday through Saturday, Beverly and I went to San Antonio. It was almost comical thinking back to it. I was feeling wrung out, and then she got sick, too. So we certainly weren't just balls of energy. It pretty much put a damper on things. I usually really enjoy the Mexican food, but my tastebuds were shot.

Oh well, things could have been a whole lot worse! And we have been so spoiled with good health that we have never experienced anything like this before (sick on vacation).
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The weather is great! I am hopeful that this cold front will get rid of the ragweed. High today in the 50s!

Friday, October 12, 2007

"Doable"

This time next week, Lord willing, Beverly and I will be in San Antonio. I am really looking forward to spending some time with my woman -- alone. We are going to take the scenic drive there (US 281). We're going to eat lots of Mexican food and do lots of walking.

In fact, I will be on vacation Monday through Saturday. So, obviously, this blog site will also be on vacation.
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My friend Ron Carlson wrote an excellent article I want to share with you. I already sent it to some of you in an email. It is fairly lengthy -- but you will find it worth the reading:

“Doable”

It costs a lot more money these days to keep Madison Square Garden up and running. It’s not heating oil, extra handicap parking spaces, or a deteriorating infrastructure that have sent costs spiraling upward. Rather, a steady flow of sexual harassment lawsuits are eating away at the bottom line.
Recently, an 11.6 million dollar judgment was levied against CEO James Dolan and the Garden. Knick’s coach Isaiah Thomas was fingered as the primary culprit, accused of crossing the line in “discussions” with female employee, Anucha Browne Sanders.
The Knicks could sign another washed-up veteran five years this side of prime for that kind of money.
Following the verdict, Browne Sanders encouraged other women in the organization and beyond to come forward and speak out against sexual harassment in the work place. At least one of the New York Rangers’ cheerleaders has responded in the affirmative regarding the negative instructions of her male bosses who demanded her fellow dancers should look more “doable.”
Can you imagine a respectable man in the corporate world making such a crass statement?
My guess is that such language and influences are part of the daily dialogue. Sports franchises represent only a small fraction of businesses that hire attractive, well-structured women to expose their bottom lines. Remember, this is sex-saturated America where sex sells and sexual magnetism easily translates into money and power.
Everybody, regardless of gender, is in some degree guilty. Professional cheerleaders are not ignorant of their job description. They understand they are eye candy, paid to jiggle and wiggle. Don’t be so na├»ve to believe any of the rhetoric appealing to artistic expression and athletic prowess.
Since respectable men don’t like to be seen at strip clubs, they can get the same sights and sounds for free at a Cowboy or Maverick game. It’s the same fantasy, the same buzz, and the same ancient exploitation.
Anybody really think that a turned-on Herod would have offered half his kingdom to a young dancer ill-equipped to stimulate lust? John the Baptist lost his head because the king was more interested in sex with a “doable” teenager than justice for a prophet.
Women know what works. They can titillate a man with little clothing, properly dispensed, as well as with no clothing. Who buys a thong for comfort? I can’t imagine that a haywire push-up bra is all that comfortable. A size twelve body stuffed into size eight jeans balancing on four-inch heels is simply not assembled for ease of movement.
The enormous pressure our culture exerts on women to look and act sexy is destructive and insane. They ought to sue us all for defamation of character. Instead, the majority plays along.
If Dancing with the Stars is really about dancing, then why are the female contestants required to possess augmented breasts and wear costumes with more slits than garment? Why do the male dancers thrust their hips that way?
The answer is no mystery. The sponsors demand high ratings, and those ratings are achieved by attracting a voyeuristic audience that loves raw sexual energy and hopes it’s contagious. This formula requires dancers who look “doable.”
The comical exploits of the East Texas television station that hired a young and unproven journalistic talent with massive implants to anchor the evening news has drawn some surprising criticism. The station’s basic response has been, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.”
This popular motto, incidentally, does not come from scripture.
Folks with “it” (we rise up and call them blessed), often get paraded around like the dog-eared boy at a carnival.
A number of years ago, I made the mistake of taking my teenaged sons to a giant car show. It turned out the cars were accessories for the “car-babes,” who my boys found far sleeker and more attractive than the lines of a new Buick.
“It’s time to ‘flee youthful lusts,’ ” I told them as I dragged them back to our old sedan. I was talking more to myself.
Want to know how far we have plummeted in our disrespect for simple modesty and sexual sensibilities? Far enough that porn stars are pop culture’s new media darlings. Jenna Jameson, Queen of Hollywood porn, is regarded as a national treasure in the way our grandparents revered the wit and wisdom of Will Rogers. She is a multi-millionaire, partly because she markets a line of anatomically precise silicone body parts designed to pleasure a man. And proud of it!
Respectable men, I mentioned earlier, hate to be seen at strip clubs. That doesn’t mean strip clubs have not become respectable. I read an article recently explaining that entertaining clients at a “Gentleman’s Club” is now a legitimate business expense. Corporation accountants still prefer clients pay for their own lap dances.
Most tragically, we are raising a generation of young women who believe it’s a good thing to look “doable.” High School girls walking to school often look like hookers lined up on Harry Hines trolling for johns.
We have an entertainment industry full of super models, super sluts, and super stars, many who possess no legitimacy outside their “hot and sexy” appeal as “doable.” I saw an advertisement claiming that Britney Spears’ and Paris Hilton’s secret sex DVD’s are a primary staple of any good video library. These girls not only look “doable”; they are!
I could go on and on, but you already know the score. We are still in the middle of a sexual revolution where the insurgents are inflicting heavy damage. We resemble the culture of Jeremiah’s day where folks “have the brazen look of a prostitute who refuses to blush with shame” (Jer. 3:2-4; 6:15; 8:12).
This is front-line, in-the-trenches spiritual warfare for Christians. Over and over again the New Testament writers admonish us to “flee immorality” and leave our old pagan lusts behind. The Holy Spirit demands we practice our sexuality in ways that are healthy, holistic, and holy. Keep in mind that God wants us to establish and maintain sexual purity because our bodies “are a temple of the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 6).
Don’t expect culture to stop the sexual harassment any time soon. Expect Las Vegas to come to a community near you soon. Anticipate pornography to become mainstream entertainment. Don’t be surprised when folks close to you cross over to the “doable” side.
We’re under attack. It’s time to take up the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10f) and do battle. The bodies and souls of our children are at stake. Victory in the Holy Spirit is doable.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dear Abby Has Spoken

The article in the paper made it seem as if the final authority had spoken. Yes, Dear Abby (actually Abigail Van Buren's daughter, who took over for her when she developed Alzheimer's) issued a statement in support of homosexual marriage. (I have trouble being PC on this and using the term "gay." That used to be a good word that meant happy).

We live in interesting times. Anything Oprah or some Hollywood star or "Dear Abby" says, people take as if it is authoritative. What qualifies these opinion leaders to speak about morals, ethics, etc? Dear Abby? She's a lady who came up with a gimmic of getting people to write letters, and she gives advice. She has NO schooling or training in the fields of medicine or psychology.

Oh, I realize that we live in a nation of free speech where anyone can say whatever they like. But one's freedom to speak doesn't obligate us to believe or accept it.

Recently Oprah had a show endorsing open marriage and encouraging promiscuous sex as being healthy for a relationship. I was told that this week's episode of Boston Legal basically cast teaching abstinance among teens as criminal -- perhaps even making a school that teaches such an accessory to murder if someone dies of AIDS. This show proclaimed that the condom is the greatest invention of the last century. Really? Greater than the automobile, electric light, airplane, air conditioning? Greater than heart transplants? How ridiculous is that? Yet, millions of people will say, "Yeah, he's right. Because he's on TV."

I'm so glad that I belong to another kingdom. Because even if this nation slips into the depths of total decay -- my kingdom will live on.

OK, my rant is over. I know I'm supposed to feel better, but I'm still kind of sad.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Not Much on the Plate Today

Some days I feel very challenged just to come up with a blog idea. Today is one of those days.

Finally there is a feeling of Fall in the air again. After several weeks of record heat, it was nice to mow the yard yesterday afternoon with the temperature in the upper 70s. And then this morning, it felt so good! My thermometer said 64.
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I'm not a "Dancing with the Stars" fan, but Beverly has gotten into it this year. So I read Golf Digest last night while she watched a TiVo version of DWTS. I will say this: Wayne Newton must have gone to the same plastic surgeon as Jerry Jones. Their faces look as taut as a drum head. To lift a face that much, it must have pulled their chins up under their noses. It doesn't look very natural, that's for sure.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

No Fair Report

Well, we didn't make it to the Fair yesterday. We hit traffic about ten miles before we got there. Thinking it was a wreck, we sat in the traffic for about an hour. David, my son-in-law, called to tell us he had heard that the traffic to the Fair was tied up for miles. A record-breaking day. Some Disney group was there, plus it was Columbus Day.

So my daughter pulled into the West End. Beverly took me to Landry's for lunch (birthday eve). Then we went to the Dallas Aquarium. It was really great. On the way home, we stopped at Uncle Julio's for another birthday meal.

So actually, I enjoyed the day more than if we have gone to the Fair. I think Beverly is going to take Malaya another day before the Fair shuts down.
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What a game last night! It's the 1st Cowboy game I have watched in over a year. Dallas gave Buffalo every break a team could want (21 points not scored by their offense, along with 6 turnovers). Dallas still won, although it took a few lucky breaks down the stretch. Give their kicker a game ball!

OK, here I go -- into territory I NEVER dreamed I would. Let me begin by saying T.O. dropped a couple of crucial passes again last night. The guy has GOT to put Stickem on his hands before the next game. But (and here's where I never thought I would go), the call the ref made on him for "delay of game" was ridiculous. There is a new rule in the NFL that spiking the ball after a catch is considered a delay of the game. If what T.O. did was a spike, it was a really poor attempt. He basically let the ball spin out of his hand. It went maybe 5 yards away. Pretty petty call.

Monday, October 08, 2007

State Fair Day

Beverly and I had a great trip to Houston. I really enjoyed seeing Jonathan coach both the JV and Varsity squads. And hanging out with my grandson Jed was SO cool.

Today I get to hang out with my granddaughter Malaya. Beverly and I are taking her and her mom to the State Fair. It's a "5-pound day." Because even though we take in some of the exhibits, we basically go to the Fair to eat. In fact, 5 pounds may be an underestimate.

From what the weather report is showing, we may get rained out.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

On the Road Again

Today Beverly and I are traveling to Houston. She is doing a retreat for the Bammal Road Church of Christ tomorrow and Saturday. I'm just tagging along.

We are leaving today so that we can watch our son, Jonathan, as he coaches the private school's junior varsity football team tonight -- and then the varsity tomorrow. He is the receivers and defensive backs coach. I bet he is really good at it, too.

So I'm going to try to catch up on some reading over the next couple of days -- in between playing with my grandson. Can't wait to see him!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

It's Just Extra Protein

Last night Beverly went to supper with some friends from when she worked in Dallas. They met in Grapevine and I'm sure had a wonderful time. So I was left to myself.

I have enjoyed getting chicken fried rice from a local restaurant, so I called and ordered some. I went home and dug in. As I got toward the end, I noticed that something appeared to have fallen out of the styrofoam container. On closer observation, it was A ROACH! A nice, big, juicy one.

Ever since then, my stomach has been unsettled. I just keep seeing that ugly bug. This might help me to be able to lose some weight, because my appetite is low right now. Also, my list of restaurants in Decatur is getting shorter and shorter. I hate that, because I really want to patronize the local businesses. But, really now!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I Think I Smell Mi Tierra

In a couple of weeks, Beverly and I are going to go to San Antonio for a couple of days to belatedly celebrate our anniversary. San Antonio is one of our very favorite places to visit. I actually lived there from the start of my freshman year in high school until I left for college -- and I liked it. But through the years, we have vacationed there a number of times and taken at least one trip a year for a couple of days. We love the river walk and the market square. We eat at least once a day at Mi Tierra. I think our love for it has rubbed off on our kids. Jenny and David honeymooned there. And our other kids have made short trips there as well.

We also love to drive through the hill country. We are going to take a different route there this time. Instead of I-35, we are going to go Hwy. 281. We have heard it is very scenic.

I'm not saying it's my favorite place I've ever been. On a previous blog, we discussed that. New York. Boston. Cabo San Lucas. Australia. Grand Canyon. Yellowstone. Wow, I've been blessed to see some wonderful places. But for a two-day getaway, give me San Antonio.

Do you have any place like that? Someplace you try to get away to occasionally?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sports Monday

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Presidents' Cup this weekend (thanks to one of the greatest inventions ever -- DVR). It was played in Canada, and was absolutely beautiful. I wish I could have been there. Even being color blind, I could see the brilliant color contrasts as the leaves were changing.

But the golf -- on both teams -- was really incredible.
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We had a fun day out at Runaway Bay on Saturday for our third annual church golf tournament. My team just couldn't get many approach shots near the hole. Congratulations to Mark Duncum and sons. It was a great day for golf.
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OK, I'm a believer now. He still looks goofy to me when he passes the ball. But you can't argue with his results. Tony Romo appears to be the real deal. And the Cowboys are looking pretty good, too. I know, the Rams are a shell of a team. But in the past, those have been the teams that have risen up and beaten the Boys.

Confession: The "new" T. O. is even becoming fairly likeable. Coach Phillips just needs to make sure to keep him happy.
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Baseball playoffs are about to begin. ZZZZZZZZ. I used to LOVE watching baseball. When my boys were little, we would even VCR games to watch together. I can't remember the last baseball game I watched.

I do feel sorry for Mets fans. What a collapse! Why couldn't that have been the Yankees?