Monday, March 31, 2008

Sitting Before God WIthout Getting Lazy

On 5th Sundays, our church has a potluck lunch, a short devotional led by our young men, and then we are done for the day. Beverly and I always try to make that Sunday a "date time."

Yesterday we went to the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. It is probably about a week or two early, as many of the flowers are just getting ready to blossom. But we enjoyed it. Our intention had been to enjoy a leisurely stroll through the park, but there were so many people that it was difficult. So, we found a secluded bench and sat together for over an hour. We talked and watched the squirrels and talked and watched the butterflies and talked and watched the humanoids. I commented to her how sad it is that we humans too rarely do that any more. Just sit and take in all God has given us to watch.

Then we left there and went to Joe T. Garcia's for supper. It was a good day.

I was convicted by Tozer's prayer for preachers this morning:

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
--2 Timothy 2:3-4

Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember
that I am a prophet--not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ....

And now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to Thee; let them be many or few, as Thou wilt. Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven.
God Tells the Man Who Cares, 105-106.

Don't be alarmed at him referring to preachers as prophets. The primary idea of a prophet is not to foretell the future, but to speak for God.

Happy Birthday yesterday to my little brother John. He ministers to a church just outside of Tampa, Florida. I am SO proud of him and his family. I hope you had a wonderful BD.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Lifestyle Changes

Today marks a week since I began some life changes. We went to dinner with my daughter and her husband last Friday night, and something came up about my blood pressure being elevated. They gave me a lecture (a kind one, but a direct one) about how I needed to change my exercise and diet. jenny talked to me about foods I could eat and David convinced me I could get running shoes that would take the stress off my knees (that is why I had quit running 15 years ago).

That night, Beverly and I took a long walk -- and I ran about a half a mile. Saturday, I went to the shoe store and got fitted with some running shoes. Since then (except for Easter lunch), I have eaten only salad, fruit, granola, grilled fish or chlcken, sweet potatoes and steamed vegetables. I have worked out 5 days. I ran 2.6 miles yesterday, and walked an additional 2.2.

I have to be honest: I never expected the food to be so good! I actually look forward to it! We have had talapia, salmon, chicken fajitas and grilled chicken breasts. And the steamed veggies are delicious. I am able to eat to my fill, and yet consume about 500-600 calories per meal.

Result: This morning, I weigh 7 pounds less than I did last Friday. And my bloodpressure? It is already coming back into line.

I don't even desire fried foods right now. Beverly got a new cookbook that we are looking forward to trying. It's really fun. I can see this being a totally new lifestyle for us.

On a different note about lifestyles: GMA reported this morning on the desire to find a "gay" gene. There is an element in our culture that is determined to find it. The end of the story might be similar to the Emperor's New Clothes. They will just tell everyone there is one -- and people will quote the "experts." Kind of like the revelation this week about the study that found that lung cancer isn't so bad because it is treatable. The study was funded by a tobacco company.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Defrauded By

I have never used this space for anything like this before. Yesterday I was making some travel arrangement for our trip to Alaska in July-August. We are going on a cruise with Calvin and Virginia Buchanan. We are arriving in Vancouver, BC a day early and staying a day afterward, so we needed a hotel.

I bid on a hotel and got one at the airport, which is actually in Richmond, BC (catch that because it is important to the development of this story). There was a link on the page for rent cars, so I clicked on it -- since we would need one before and after the cruise. It showed me what was available at Richmond Airport. I bid on a car and got it.

After I printed my reservation, I noticed that the cars would be available in Richmond, VA. I had never entered that at all. This was something that the website prompted. So I called Hertz and they told me they could do nothing about it. They said to call Priceline. I called Priceline and was treated with the most condescending of attitudes by the "customer service" agent. I asked to speak to a supervisor, and received more of the same.

I know what their policies are -- which they robotically reminded me of about a dozen times. But this was THEIR error. I was not asking for any money back. All I wanted them to do was transfer my cars from Richmond, VA (their creation) to Richmond, BC. I found them to be totally unreasonable. They told me that I could cancel my TWO reservations for $50 each. By the way, that was my bid for the cars. They were totally unwilling to do anything else.

So, I have paid $100 for nothing. I am not saying that I held no responsibility here, but I feel like this was totally unreasonable. I will NEVER use Priceline again, and I encourage you to do the same. If you do use them, be very careful. I think this practice is extremely deceptive. They could have their computers change something like the states letters, and even though you review your order -- this is something that can easily be missed. Result? They get your money without offering any service. And probably have many people who just turn around and bid again. Quite a gimmick.

I will be trying another website in the future -- perhaps hotwire,com. But there is one I will never use again -- They and their atheist pitchman WIlliam Shatner have lost my business for good.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Sorry Sabbath

I know that we are now on this side of the good news of Resurrection Sunday. But for some reason, over the last few days I have thought a lot about what Saturday must have been like. You have the crucifixion -- which must have sent Jesus' disciples into a state of utter confusion. And you have Resurrection Sunday -- which must have been thousands of times more exhilarating than we feel when we watch our favorite team come back from a 20 point deficit to win in the last seconds.

But what must Saturday have been like? I don't mean to be depressing because we know the end of the story. But can you even imagine what Jesus' followers must have felt like that day? As the reality of previous days kicked in. I'm sure they were scared out of their wits. I imagine they had begun taking inventory of their own lives. 3 years wasted? My bet is they were probably angry too. Angry at the Jews. Angry at the Romans. Angry at themselves. But maybe most angry at Jesus. Had they been so easily duped?

Don't you know that Jesus must have wanted to come back earlier to comfort them? My guess is His heart was breaking as He watched their pain. What a sorry Sabbath day it must have been.

But that made Sunday all the better. And 2,000 years later -- it ought to continue to make "the Lord's Day" (the apostle John's words) extra special.

Which makes me think (this could be dangerous): When we partake of the Lord's Supper each Lord's Day -- we have traditionally said it is to remember His death. I certainly agree that is part of its purpose. But if we are only to commemorate His death, why not take the Supper on Friday or Saturday. No, we take it on Sunday! Resurrection Day! Victory day!

He is risen! Praise the Lord -- He is risen!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Today the Transaction was Made

So how is the Jason Kidd trade looking now? Again, I LOVE Jason Kidd -- from 5 to 10 years ago. Why don't the Mavs see if John Stockton wants to come play? They could probably give away several #1s for him.

It's looking like the Mavs need to move into rebuilding mode.

Well, one Texas team is out (Baylor) and one continues (A&M). Texas should be joining A&M in the winners' bracket today.

Today is Good Friday. I know, we traditionally haven't observed such days. We like being out of school on it, though. But unlike Christmas (we really don't know when Jesus was born), we do know that Jesus was crucified the day before Passover -- which is tomorrow. So roughly 1,978 years ago today, the most unfair -- but greatest -- transaction in history took place. Jesus died on the cross to take away the sins of the world. The wrath of God was poured out on Him -- so that I never have to incur it myself.

That makes THIS Friday pretty good, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Confessing Sin

This morning on the news I heard a report about on-line confessionals. Interesting. Go on line and post your sin.

You know, due to the Roman Catholic teaching that one must confess one's sins to a priest, we have tended to knee-jerk (as is too often our response to issues). We proclaim that you can confess your sins directly to the Lord. And that is, at least on the surface, true. Yet Scripture tells us to confess our sins to one another (James 5: 16) and then to pray for one another. For the last 150 years, that has pretty much been done by walking down the aisle during the "invitation," and filling out a card that says, "I have sinned. Please forgive me." Then an elder or a minister reads the person's "confession" -- followed by something like, "Well, brother, we all sin."

I think that James is calling us to something more. He is calling us to accountability and community. Yes, I can receive forgiveness of my sin as I confess it to the Father. But when I share my sin (and my struggle) with others, there is an accountability that comes with that. And if those to whom I confess really care about me, they are going to journey with me through it.

This is why the most successful treatment of alcohol / drug abuse / sexual addiction is not found in prescription drugs or even treatment centers. It is found in AA and programs like that. ACCOUNTABILITY. We need it in our lives. And I like what I see happening in churches. When a person comes forward with a sin struggle, it's not as likely that he or she will simply say, "I have sinned," followed by a prayer -- and then off to Luby's. And then that person is fodder for the gossip mill for a while.

Rather, people are coming looking for help. And more and more I see fellow strugglers pulling up beside them to be with them through it. Here in Decatur, I see the majority of the church embracing that person (and I don't mean just after the service -- I'm talking about where he lives) instead of shunning him or her. it is a beautiful thing. It is a Christlike thing. It is church.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Practicing the Word

This morning as I met with a group of guys the discussion turned to how we, as churches, lay out the truths of the Word -- but seem to have a difficulty in making those truths practical. It does seem to me that the expectations of the American church have been far too low. Leadership in many churches is satisfied if a large percentage of their flock "attend services." Yet even as they attend services, thoughts can be far away on those things that are carnal or worldly.

How do we translate the Word into our lives? I think it helps for it to be modeled. We who have been following Jesus for a while need to be mentors. Instead of talking politics, sports and TV -- we need to talk more about struggles, cross-living and the pursuit of God.

Any ideas as to how to make the Word "flesh"? I would be interested in feedback.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Watching the Diet

I stayed home yesterday and tried to just relax. My blood pressure has been escalated for a few days, and I thought it might help to have a "chill" day. I have tried to get in to see my doctor, but they are moving offices and their phone is out of service.

While I was home, I finished reading a novel by Francene Rivers. I finished the 2nd in a 3-book trilogy. It is the story of the movement of faith in the generation after the resurrection of Jesus. She really pulls you into the lives of a handful of characters, and the 2nd book's ending had me crying (I don't cry easily).

Tiger did it again! I never would have thought I would see a golfer better than Jack Nicklaus come along. But we are watching one right now. He comes to the 72nd hole needing two putts to force a playoff. So what's he do? Drains a 25 footer to win! And the scary part is -- everyone expected him to do it!

We are getting some much-needed rain today. Already had over an inch and a half, and it's still pouring. It has been wonderful!

I am really trying to watch what I eat more closely (no smart comments here, please). Realizing I need more fiber, I have been eating homemade granola over some low-fat vanilla yogurt for breakfast each morning. It is really good. We got the recipe when we were at a bed-n-breakfast in Kennebunk, Maine year before last.

I'm also TRYING to eat more grilled stuff instead of fried. I'm actually finding that I like it. In fact, one of THE best out-to-eat meals I have had in a long time was last week at Cheddar's. I got their grilled talapia topped with grilled shrimp. It was absolutely delicious. If it wasn't 30 minutes away, I would have gone back for more!

Any suggestions for tasty food that's heart-healthy?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Calling Oprah's Hand

Today I am taking the risk of ruffling a few feathers. I want to like Oprah Winfrey. She seems to be a kind woman who does many good things through charities she supports, etc. Yet some of the things she says and promotes would cause people to rise up against her -- if she were not Oprah Winfrey. It's like she is untouchable. Millions of people bow down to her every whim. Actually, it is pretty scary.

Let me begin by saying I get real tired of receiving emails that run down celebrities and politicians -- making all kinds of slanderous accusations about them. For Christians to take part in the spreading of gossip and untruths intended to destroy a person's character is sinful. But I have found the following information on Oprah's own web site. I have read a transcript of a discussion she had on her show in which she doggedly asked a Christian man how he could say there is only one way to heaven. And she claims to be a Christian! Listen, my brothers and sisters: If any other celebrity had done that, the Christian people of America would be boycotting him or her. Imagine if Tom Cruise said that. Or John McCain. Or Hillary Clinton.

But of greater concern perhaps is her promoting of "A Course on MIracles" -- a daily feature on her XM radio program. This is new age to the core. I have gone to the web site and read up on it. It promotes all religions as paths to God. It claims that we are our own god. It says (these are quotes): A "slain Christ has no meaning." It says, "The journey to the cross should be the last useless journey." Here is a great quote; try it at your church this weekend: "Do not make the pathetic error of clinging to the old rugged cross." Or this one: "The name of Jesus Christ as such is but a symbol . . . It is a symbol that is safely used as a replacement for the many names of all the gods to which you pray." And finally, "The Atonement is the final lesson he (man) need learn, for it teaches him that, never having sinned, he has no need of salvation."

This attacks the Christian faith at its very core. Again, I want to like Oprah. I do not thing she intends to be a conduit for evil. But I DO believe that she is vulnerable to the tug of new age religion. And her endorsement of anything has tremendous power. Remember what Paul warned (2 Corinthians 11: 14) "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light."

Friday, March 07, 2008

Birthday Shoutout

Nine inches of snow! Who would have believed it? It is SO beautiful. Yesterday morning about 11, I had to run to Fort Worth to pick up some books for Beverly. I thought I would beat the storm home, since the weathermen had said it would hit late afternoon. Well, I ended up coming home in the worst of it. By the time I got home, we already had 5 inches on the ground. Incredible!

__ years ago today, a little girl was born into this world in Pasadena, Texas. Who could have warned the world of what it was in store for? She was born with a heart for people -- a compassion that is extremely rare. And she was born with an energy level that would allow her to pour herself into the lives of people -- and rarely become tired. She bore three incredible children -- and instilled in them a love for the Lord and the things of the Lord that causes me to stand back in amazement. She has loved her man like no one ever could for 31 years. She has been at the top of her profession as a homemaker (14 years), a teacher (12 years) and a marriage and family therapist (6 years). She has mentored women into intimate relationships with the Lord. She is equally gifted in teaching a large group or investing herself one-on-one. And as a Grandmother (Grammy), she has no rival. Her love for the Lord is absolutely contagious. I know, because I caught it from her.

All this to say: Beverly, you are my hero. I am SO blessed of the Lord. So, I hope that today is an incredibly rewarding day for you. Happy Birthday, my precious bride.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

More Quarterbacking

Yesterday's (Wednesday) Star-Telegram headline on the front page of the Fort Worth section said it would be a while before we saw any snow again. Yep. 48 whole hours. In Jack Bauer's hours, that is a long time. The weather service is predicting that we will get 3 inches tonight and into tomorrow morning.

I mentioned the top quarterbacks in the game yesterday, and realized as I wrote it that the question I asked was a no-brainer. The talk on ESPN sports yesterday was this: Who are the top 5 quarterbacks in history? THAT is a tough question -- with lots of opinion involved. So, take part in my poll. Who would you say are the top 5 EVER? It's hard because some quarterbacks might not have been so good had they not been surrounded by a good team (Terry Bradshaw comes to mind). Others might have been great, but were stuck with mediocre teams (Dan Marino, for instance). One important characteristic to me is how the individual elevated his team to a new level.

Here is my list (I admit a bias):
1. Joe Montana (GREAT leader)
2. Johnny Unitas (Elevated the position of quarterback to what it is today)
3. Troy Aikman (probably should be lower, but I just love the guy. May be the most pinoint-accurate passer ever. Great leader)
4. Bret Favre (gotta love him!)
5. Peyton Manning

I know, there are many I left off. This is really hard! I grew up idolizing Roger Staubach, and now he doesn't even make my list. But his career was not all that long. He was a great champion, though. And Elway, Bradshaw (5 Super Bowl rings), Brady (needs more time), Moon. Wow.

So take the challenge. And John: Tell Eric not to EVEN bring up Mark Brunell.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


I'm going to miss Bret Favre. Professional sports needs more athletes like him. He was easy for everyone to relate to. He never lost his childlike passion for the game. He seems to be an incredible family man. He has known the struggle of battling through addictions -- and winning.

And the records! He leaves the game as #1 in yards, attempts, completions, TD passes, wins and, yes, interceptions. That is pretty much every quarterback record. Amazing!

I wonder if Tony Romo is sorry he didn't wait and test the free agent market. Certainly after watching Ben Roethlisberger sign for more than double his contract, he might be having second thoughts. Jerry Jones is probably feeling pretty smug. I would hardly rank Ben in the top 5 quarterbacks in the game.

Who would be your top two quarterbacks in the game right now? Mine would be Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Is that too no-brainer a question?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What Would You Do?

I love snow! There is something so peaceful about watching it fall. It's almost gone already, but the 2 inches or whatever we got last night was nice. I was resigned to the fact that we weren't going to see any snow this year. So I thanked the Father this morning for its beauty.

Beverly and I watched a new show last night called "What Would You Do?" It was interesting, as it sets people up to deal with ethical and moral questions -- as well as some that are just funny. The funny ones are like if a person has a piece of spinach stuck in his/her teeth, would you tell them?

One of the situations was of some teenage girls who were unmercifully tearing down another girl in a park. They were calling her a loser, telling her she was ugly, pushing her and doing things with her hair (all the girls were actors). But hidden cameras were filming bypassers' reactions. What would you do? Some women stopped to intervene. One man told them to stop or he would call the police. The commentator mentioned that more women intervened than men. I'm not sure that particular setting was a fair assessment of what men or women would do. For a man to intervene in a park with teenage girls is a setup for a sexual harassment charge.

What would you do?

In another scene, a woman came into a donut shop outside of Waco dressed in Islamic wear (an actor). The clerk (an actor) told her that he didn't serve her kind. He told her to get on her camel and go back to her homeland. He claimed he was a true American. Amazingly, some people cheered him on. One man even chimed in with him against the woman. Fortunately, most of the people turned on the man. Several said they would never be back to that establishment.

What would you do?

Interesting. As we consider what we would do, we need to ask ourselves, "What would jesus do?"

Monday, March 03, 2008

Hillary's Ad Campaign

The Mavs are now 4-3 with Jason Kidd. They have not beaten a team with a winning record. They played competitive games against San Antonio and LA, but I don't think competitive games is what they were hoping for.

I don't ever want to use the pulpit for political purposes. And I really don't want this blog to become that either. Even as I express views from time to time, I hope that the reader does not know who I am actually voting for.

However (you knew that was coming, didn't you?) I will make it obvious today who I am NOT voting for. I don't get Hillary's new ad campaign. It is a scare tactic that was used by Barry Goldwater back in the 60s. The basic premise is: Who do you want answering the phone if a crisis call is made to the White House?

1. I voted for George Bush in the last campaign. I must admit, I have been disappointed in him. But while the popular thing to do these days is to bash him over everything he does -- let's give him credit: There has not been another attack on America.

2. Out of the remaining three legitimate contenders for president (Clinton, Obama and McCain), Hillary is the last one of those I would want answering that phone. I just don't see her shrill voice steering us through a crisis.

It just seems like this ad campaign will work against her. Does she think that since Obama did not vote to go to war in Iraq -- that would mean that he could not lead us through a crisis. That is the obvious implication. But it just seems to me that given the choice between those two -- America would not choose her.

This is not intended to be a political statement. Simply an observation of character and leadership skills. Agree or disagree?