Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Love the Mountains

The flight to Vancouver was nice. I enjoyed watching out the window once we got over the Cascade mountains -- in my opinion, the most gorgeous mountains in the Northern Hemisphere. Many are still snowcapped. I'm pretty sure I saw Mount Saint Helens.

Last night we ate at a restaurant that sits out over the water. It was cool, but not uncomfortably so. As the sun was setting, off in the distance we could see Mount Ranier. Wow! It stands so much higher than the others. The food was delicious.

This morning we are off for Victoria Island. It is drizzling rain this morning, so I don't know how much that will affect our day.

I love the Canadian idiosyncricies. I love to hear them say "about." It comes out more like "aboat." Interesting: I've been to Australia and Canada, and talking to them you would think you were in America -- except for every once in a while just a particular word reminds you. For instance, in Australia, instead of saying "You're welcome," they say "No worries." I guess I am digressing here.

"So, "Go-day, mate!"

Monday, July 28, 2008

Alaska and Tony Snow

I have been looking forward to today for a long time. This afternoon we will fly to Vancouver, British Columbia -- arriving (if on time) about 6:50 PM their time. Tomorrow we will rent a car and drive over (actually it involves an hour and a half ferry ride) to Victoria Island. We will have "high tea" at the Princess Hotel and then tour Berchard (sp?) Gardens. Then we leave on our cruise of Alaska on Wednesday.

I will try to blog while I am away, but I don't know exactly what the internet access will be like on the ship.

I praise God that Beverly and I are able to take a trip like this!

I received an email with a speech given by Tony Snow, President Bush's ex-press secretary who died recently from cancer. It is fairly lengthy, but quite inspiring;

Commentator and broadcaster Tony Snow announced that he had colon cancer in 2005. Following surgery and chemo-therapy, Snow joined the Bush Administration in April, 2006, as press secretary. Unfortunately, on March 23, 2007, Snow, 51, a husband and father of three, announced that the cancer had recurred, with tumors found in his abdomen, leading to surgery in April, followed by more chemotherapy. Snow went back to work in the White House Briefing Room on May 3, but has resigned since, 'for economic reasons,' and to pursue 'other interests.' It needs little intro . . . it speaks for itself.

'Blessings arrive in unexpected packages, - in my case, cancer. Those of us with potentially fatal diseases - and there are millions in America today - find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence 'What It All Means,' Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the 'why' questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer. I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is, a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths began to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out. But, despite this, - or because of it, - God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face. Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims.You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere. To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life - and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many non-believing hearts - an institution that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live fully, richly, exuberantly - no matter how their days may be numbered. Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease,- smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see, - but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension - and yet don't. By His love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise. 'You Have Been Called'. Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet, a loved one holds your hand at the side. 'It's cancer,' the healer announces. The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. 'Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler.' But another voice whispers: 'You have been called.' Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter, - and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our 'normal time.' There's another kind of response, although usually short-lived, an inexplicable shudder of excitement as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tiny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions. The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing through the known world and comtemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment. There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue, - for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do. Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of cruicifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the Holy City. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf. We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us, that we acquired purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God's love for others. Sickness gets us part way there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two peoples' worries and fears. 'Learning How to Live'. Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms, not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of live. I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was an humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He restrained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. 'I'm going to try to beat [this cancer],' he told me several months before he died. 'But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side.' His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity - filled with life and love we cannot comprehend, - and that one can, in the throes of sickness, point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms. Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do? When our faith flags, He throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it. It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up, - to speak of us! This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminious and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God. What is man that Thou are mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us who believe each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place, in the hollow of God's hand.' Tony Snow

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gives a Whole New Meaning to "Courting"

I saw an interesting story this morning on GMA.  Seems a woman was jilted at the altar by her live-in boyfriend.  He fled to Europe and had his best man break the news to her.  Well, she decided to sue him for breach of contract.  After all, she had left her job (with benefits, medical, etc) and home in the mid-west and moved to live with him.  And now, she was left with nothing.

The jury agreed with her and awarded her around $150,000 in damages.  At 1st, I thought that seemed reasonable.  After all, he jilted her.  Then I got to thinking:  How wise was it for HER to leave her job and move in with him before they were married -- with no commitment yet made?  When is a contract made?  When they are married, right?  And how will this affect other engagements?  Will it mean that once a couple is engaged, if one gets cold feet he or she is subject to being sued?

It's sadly like someone said in the interview:  He would have been better off to marry her, and then divorce her after a couple of months.

What do you think?   

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer Camp Begins

I told you that my daughter-in-law, Kayci, would get my blog page back up.  Thank you, Kayci.

Why even play this year's NFL season?  It sounds like everybody is basically saying the Cowboys should win the Super Bowl.  Interesting, since they haven't even won a playoff game in 12 years and have a coach who has had equal success.  

I hope they do win it.  But the preseason predictions and the weekly power-rating stuff is really just fodder for radio sports talk shows.  They still have to go execute on the field.  And that is something I have not seen this Cowboy team do -- yet.  I know, I know.  Wade keeps bragging about how they went 13-3 last year.  SO WHAT?  What did that accomplish for them -- except to lower them in the draft?  It's all about winning playoff games.

Jerry Jones gives his annual "State of the Cowboys" address today.  Wow.  Let me guess what he will say.      


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Angels Wish

As I was jogging this morning, I was listening to Steven Curtis Chapman on my iPod.  The song, "Angels Wish" came on.  I  had heard the song a number of times before, but when I'm running I'm able to concentrate on the words more.  They really touched me this morning.  They come from the verse in 1 Peter 1:12 that says, "Even angels long to look into these things."  

Was God smiling when He spoke the words that made the world?
And did He cry about the Flood?
And what does God's voice sound like when He sings, when He's angry?
These are just a few things that the angels have on me.

Well, I can't fly, at least not yet.
I've got no halo on my head.
And I can't even start to picture Heaven's beauty.
But I've been shown the Savior's love. 
The grace of God has raised me up to show me things the angels long to look into.
And I know things the angels only wish they knew.

I have seen the dark and desperate place where sin will take you.
I've felt loneliness and shame.
And I have watched the blinding light of grace come breaking through with a sweetness
only tasted by the forgiven and redeemed.

Well, I can't fly, at least not yet.
I've got no halo on my head.
And I can't even start to picture Heaven's beauty.
But I've been shown the Savior's love.
The grace of God has raised me up to show me things the angels long to look into.
And I know things the angels only wish they knew.

And someday I'll sit down with my angel friends up in Heaven.
They'll tell me about creation and I'll tell them a story of grace.

Well, I can't fly, at least not yet.
I've got no halo on my head.
And I can't even start to picture Heaven's beauty.
But I've been shown the Savior's love.T
The grace of God has raised me up to show me things the angels long to look into.
And I know things the angels only wish they knew.

I was especially captured by the bridge (I have highlighted it).  Surely that IS what Peter was referring to when he said "even angels long to look into these things."  Won't that be exciting? 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hot, hot hot

Today is going to be a scorcher.  I really do wonder how people survived in Texas summers prior to air conditioning.  Actually, I do adapt well to hot days.  I play golf and do yard work in the middle of the summer afternoons.  But when I get really uncomfortable is if it's hot when I am trying to sleep.  I cannot sleep hot.

Vancouver, BC:  high today is 68.  Juneau, Alaska:  high today is 58.  Lord willing, that's where we will be in a week. 

We are having a new roof put on in the next few days thanks to the hail storm back in early April.  The roofer called me this morning and said they are running behind because due to the heat they can only work a few hours a day.  I can only imagine what it feels like on a roof when it's 103.

Be cool.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The ESPY's. the Old Man and the Old Country

I have never watched the ESPY's before, but last night I turned it on while I read the paper.  I have to admit:  I like Justin Timberlake.  He was hilarious.  So was Will Ferrell.  It was by far the best awards show I have seen. 
When I was a kid, I watched the Oscars and the Emmys.  They don't even get a look from me anymore.  They are full of Hollywood types who think that because they can act that it makes them experts in politics, world issues and the environment ("You little people must cut back on your usage so that we can continue to keep up our mansions.")
But the ESPY's were funny, light-hearted and inspiring.  The recipients of the awards were not irreverent.  They were gracious, and often gave glory to God for where they are.  I found it quite refreshing.      
Greg Norman couldn't finish the job Sunday -- starting with three straight bogies.  But for a 53 year old to finish 3rd at the British Open -- under the most grueling of conditions -- was pretty impressive.
Beverly and I are going to Israel, Lord willing, on November 3-13.  There are still about 10 places open on the trip, and the airline will only hold the seats until the middle of August.  If any of you readers would be interested in joining us on a trip of a lifetime, let me know and I will get you the information.  But you need to let me know before the end of the week.  Because one week from today, we are headed to ALASKA!!!!!  I cannot wait!    

Friday, July 18, 2008

Free-for-all Friday

Boy, the British Open is looking pretty nasty.  Phil Mickelson, V. J. Singh and Ernie Els pretty much shot their way out of it in the 1st round.  As I am writing my blog this morning, Greg Norman is leading and Tom Watson is not far behind.  GO 50+!
Oil has dropped about $12 over the last three days.  At the pump?  No change.  I understand that -- if it also worked the other way.  When it goes UP, by late afternoon of the same day the pump prices go up.  Oh, well.  I'm beating my head against a dead horse (that's a mixed metaphor that Jody Adams said he heard a speaker use one time).
So Nancy Pelosi has come out charging that President Bush has been a "total failure" as president.  I admit that I have been disappointed in what he has failed to accomplish.  But I believe if I was the leader of Congress that now sits at an historic low approval rating of 14% (that's right -- 14%), I would keep my mouth shut.  It appears she has no room to talk. 
Have a great weekend!     

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Countdown to Sunday

I am currently reading a book by Chris Erdman entitled Countdown to Sunday.  It is a book about preaching -- for preachers.  I just finished a chapter entitled "Preaching and War."  It has challenged me in the middle of a reassessment of my preaching. 
First, let me say that I am a proud American.  But I am 1st and foremost a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  And these two kingdoms are more mutually exclusive than they are overlapping.  This is where the problem has often come for preachers.
Here are some quotes from Erdman:
"It's hard to keep the Word and its people free from entrapment to powers that aim to enlist God and everything else in service to their agendas.  It's hard but it is necessary.
It's an astonishing thing in my mind that in 1944 a Nazi soldier could attend worship on Sunday, then bludgeon a prisoner to death come Monday, or that in 2003 someone in the Pentagon could name a bomb the Mother of All Bombs and threaten to drop it on Iraqi women and children . . . and there was nary a peep from American pulpits. 
Holding fast to this story that has captivated us, we will be unable to shake ourselves free of the gospel that declares that the world is saved -- that we are made safe and receive the peace of a just world -- through the ministry of the One who disarmed the violent without violence, who died before he would kill, who loved and refused to give in to hate.  And we will arm ourselves only with this word of truth, so apparently fragile up against war and all its machinery.  But we, who are conformed to the One in who name we preach, realize that preaching, rightly done, does violence to violence itself."


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Anyone For a Vespa?

This morning "Good Morning, America" had a segment on "Ride to Work Day."  They were reporting on the huge increase in the sale of Vespa's (up 127%!).  

For those who may not know, a Vespa is a motor scooter.  Any time you see pictures of downtown scenes in Asia, you will see hundreds of them.  They get tremendous gas mileage.

So I asked Beverly, "Would you like for me to get you a Vespa?"  She said, "Sure, do you want one, too?"  I said, "No, I'll just use yours.  Because unless the temperature is between 68 and 70, you won't use it anyway."

I have a counseling session this morning:)

But really, it is going to be interesting to watch as the landscape of America changes.  GM is retooling as quickly as possible away from larger vehicles to smaller, more gas efficient cars.  My guess is that mass transit and rapid rail will be on the increase.  We may even see the return of the passenger train.  I can remember as a child traveling by train.  It would be nice to do again.

It may take a few years, but America has always been a nation of ingenuity.  I have no doubt we will figure this energy situation out.  I will be interested to see how T. Boone Pickens' proposal to increase wind energy is received by our politicians.   

I've said it before, but even as tight as I am, I would be willing to pay $5 a gallon for gas if we could tell the Middle East that they can have their oil.  I am sick and tired of us indirectly funding the very terrorists who threaten our nation because of our importing of 70% of our nation's oil.

I better stop.  I'm starting to rant. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Two Different Directions

I do not intend to pass judgments in this blog today -- only making observations.  Celebrities are like politicians in that their public opinion polls can change due to circumstances or things they say or do.  I cite two today.

1.  Josh Hamilton, outfielder for the Texas Rangers.  Given up on by two previous Major League teams because of his addiction to crack cocaine.  Playing like a superstar in his 1st full season with the Rangers.  VOTED as an all-star.  A guy who credits the Lord for turning his life around.  A young man who has placed accountability figures into his life to assure that he does not return to his addictive ways.

And he is playing lights out!  He left people awed at last night's home run contest.

Props to Josh Hamilton!

2.  Brett Favre, retired -- wait, not retired quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.  I have loved Brett.  Gutsy.  Overachiever.  But his recent actions leave me wondering if he should be sports "average Joe."  He is behaving like what we have come to expect from a professional sports megamaniacal superstar.  Whining about how Green Bay doesn't want him.  Brett, you retired, remember?  No one forced you out.  You have hero status in Green Bay.  You went out on your terms.  But now, you want to change the terms.  And you are sounding like a crybaby.

Fact of the matter is:  This is actually not the 1st time.  A couple of years ago at the end of the season, Brett gave a tearful farewell speech.  In that speech, he threw his receivers under the bus.   

I really feel sorry for Favre's replacement, Aaron Rogers.  Made to think that he would be the starter this year.  Now wondering where he stands in Green Bay.

Just wondering:  How would the public be reacting to this if it were T. O. instead of Brett Favre?

Brett, go back to Mississippi and enjoy your family.  Leave a good legacy.  The last month is already tarnishing it a bit.      


Monday, July 14, 2008

Congratulations, Kenny Perry

My guess is that the golf coach at David Lipscomb University in Nashville is one of the happiest people on the planet these days.  Here's why:  KENNY PERRY!

First of all, congratulations for another win, Kenny.  This year, Perry has won around $4.5 million dollars in the PGA tour.  He has won three times, had a fluky finish in another tournament that he should have won, and been in contention in the Tournament Players' Championship until collapsing in the final round.

Perry is a member of the Church of Christ in Franklin, Kentucky.  When he ventured out onto the tour years ago, it was with the financial assistance of an elder in his local church.  As it came time to pay the elder back, Perry was told that was not necessary.  Instead, the elder recommended that he donate 5% of all his earnings to Lipscomb's golf program.  That means that this year alone, they have received over $200,000 from Perry.  For his career, I would guess that figure would be around $1.5 million.       

How about this one from Tozer:  

We in the churches seem unable to rise above the fiscal philosophy which rules the business world; so we introduce into our church finances the psychology of the great secular institutions so familiar to us all and judge a church by its financial report much as we judge a bank or a department store.

A look into history will quickly convince any interested person that the true church has almost always suffered more from prosperity than from poverty. Her times of greatest spiritual power have usually coincided with her periods of indigence and rejection; with wealth came weakness and backsliding. If this cannot be explained, neither apparently can it be escaped. . . .

The point I am trying to make here is that while money has a proper place in the total life of the church militant, the tendency is to attach to it an importance that is far greater than is biblically sound or morally right. The average church has so established itself organizationally and financially that God is simply not necessary to it. So entrenched is its authority and so stable are the religious habits of its members that God could withdraw Himself completely from it and it could run on for years on its own momentum. The Warfare of the Spirit, 9-11.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Home Sweet Home

We made it back.  After multiple delays, my plane landed at DFW at 2:45 this morning.  I got home about 4.  ZZZZZZZZ.

The trip was incredible!  I don't know what my favorite part was.  Standing at the 18th hole at Pebble Beach.  Sitting on Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey watching the sea lions play in the water.  Alcatraz.  Great memories.

But it's good to be back home, too.  Nothing like 100 degree weather.  I mean really:  Wouldn't YOU get bored with weather that is always mild?  (I'm kidding)

We stopped for breakfast on Wednesday morning on our way to Monterery.  It was a quaint little town called Half Moon Bay.  As we sat outside eating, an older man (obviously a regular patron of the restaurant) came in and I could hear him talking to the owner.  He said, "This is supposed to be the hottest day of the year.  It's supposed to hit 76 today."  76!  Our LOW this time of year doesn't get to 76!

I would love to post pictures, but something has happened to my blogsite.  I am going to have to get my trusty daughter-in-law Kayci to work it out.   

Friday, July 04, 2008

Yesterday's Blessings

Last night I went with Beverly to a dinner at which Bill Doherty spoke. He is one of my favorites at this conference -- just sharing such practical advice. Last night he spoke about things to teach your kids about marriage.

I began reading The Shack yesterday afternoon. I am sure I will finish it today. I couldn't put it down once I started. The issue around which the plot builds deals with my greatest fear when my kids were home: The abduction and murder of a six year old girl.

I also finished Yancey's Disappointment with God yesterday. For me, it was one of the best read's ever. As I have said before, I think he and I share such a common journey. I wore out a highlighter on this one.

Here are some snippets from the last chapter:

We are given few details about the future world, only a promise that God will prove himself trustworthy . . . J. R.Tolkien invented a new word for this good news: it will be a "euchatastrophe"

Few people who are trapped in pain, or in a broken home, or in economic misery, or in fear -- for all those people, for all of us, heaven promises a time, far longer and more substantial than the time we spent on earth, of health and wholeness and pleasure and peace. If we do not believe that, then, as Paul plainly stated, there's little reason to believe at all. Without that hope, there is no hope.

The Bible never belittles human disappointment . . . but it does add one key word: temporary. What we feel now, we will not always feel. Our disappointment is itself a sign, an aching, a hunger for something better. And faith is, in the end, a kind of homesickness -- for a home we have never visited but have never once stopped longing for.

I wish I had come across the above before I did my series on Heaven. Finally Yancey quotes T. S. Eliot,

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

We're Here!

We have begun our week in San Francisco. We actually won't even leave the hotel much until Monday. I was struck by the difference in temperature. We left Dallas yesterday around noon, with temperatures in the low 90s. Got here at 2:30 and it was about 60. It was really pleasant as we walked to Union Square to eat. In fact, I had on a pullover windbreaker and Beverly had a bluejean jacket.

I look forward to some quiet time over the next few days. But I really look forward to doing some sightseeing starting Monday.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Are You Going to San Francisco?

Tomorrow morning Beverly and I leave for San Francisco.  She will be attending the "Smart Marriages" conference, and I will take a sabbatical.  I plan to do a lot of reading and reflecting.

I have never been to San Fran, so I am excited.  I have heard it is a fascinating city.  We do plan to take a couple of days after the conference to sightsee.  We will take a tour of Alcatraz, see the Golden Gate Bridge, drive down Highway 1 to the Monterey Peninsula and go to a redwood forest.  I've been told we must go to Lumbar Street and Fisherman's Wharf -- to eat at Bubba Gump's.  Does anyone who has been to San Francisco have any other "musts" for us?

I don't know how regular my blogging will be over the next 8 days, but I will try to update.

On a light note, the other day Jacob (my ministry partner) and I were talking about our upcoming trip.  I started singing, "Are You Going to San Francisco?" and he looked at me like I had gone crazy (No, Jonathan.  It was not because I sang it so badly -- although I probably did).  Who would have thought that a guy in his late 20s would have never heard one of the flower child songs of the 60s?  (By the way, I hated that song).