Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Start From Scratch

Some days I sit here to write, and nothing seems to come to me.  But here goes anyway.

I am a little surprised at my reaction as we find ourselves in this current economic crisis.  Usually I get antsy and fret.  But at least currently I am totally at peace.  I have no idea what the future holds, but I know that the One who holds it is faithful.

I do wish that there were some way to begin a national movement to vote for anyone running against an incumbent.  I used to enjoy politics.  I even considered going into it at one point.  Now it nauseates me.  I can't remember when there has been more rhetoric and less action than by the current crop of public "servants."  (Since when did servants make the kind of money these folks do?)  I would LOVE to be able to vote them all out -- and start from scratch.  You're probably saying, "But they're not experienced."  Experienced at what?  Politics as usual?

Maybe I should have gone with my gut and just not written anything today.    

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hollywood Talk

Every believer has to go see "Fireproof"!  Beverly and I LOVED it.  The acting is not THE best, but the story is so powerful.  Beverly is thinking about getting some copies and making it required watching for some of her clients.  

And to think:  A great movie that gets down to where people REALLY live -- and not ONE cuss word or questionable scene.  Hollywood would have us believe that can't be done.

PLEASE:  Go see the movie.  

Speaking of Hollywood:  We lost one of my all-time favorite actors over the weekend.  Paul Newman died of cancer at the age of 83.

I loved movies he was in:  Hudd, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (in my top 5 movies all time), The Sting, Absence of Malice, The Color of Money.  He had a charm about him -- even when he was playing a bad guy.

But I also loved the way he didn't get caught up in Hollywood.  He and his wife of over 50 years, Joann Woodward, lived in Connecticut, far from the limelight.  And he was an extremely benevolent man.  The proceeds of his "Paul Newman Salad Dressing", Spaghetti sauce, etc all went to charity.  Over $175 million!  

Beverly and I were talking about this after his death:  Who is my favorite actor/actress.  Newman was in my top 5.  My list would be as follows:
1.  Denzel Washington
2.  Paul Newman
3.  Harrison Ford
4.  Mel Gibson
5.  Tommy Lee Jones / Sydney Poitier

Sorry, but no women make my top 5.    

Friday, September 26, 2008

Marriage, Football, the Economy, and "Fireproof"

The following is from an article by Sharon Jayson, of USA TODAY:

   Around the house, women rule. And men aren't putting up a fight about it, according to a study from the Pew Research Center that examines how gender and power play out at home and in the community.
   Of 1,260 individuals surveyed this summer— either married or living together — women wield more decision-making power at home. In 43% of couples, women made more decisions — almost twice as many as men — in the four areas Pew surveyed: planning weekend activities, household finances, major home purchases and TV watching.
   The survey also found 43% of men don't have the final say in any of those decisions; they either share decision-making or defer to their partners.

What do you think?  A partnership arrangement has worked well for Beverly and me.  Well, at least she TOLD me it did:)

What a stunner of a game last night.  Oregon State beat USC!

I find it interesting that our elected officials can't solve the Social Security problem, but seem to have no trouble coming up with $700 billion to bail out the fat cats on Wall Street. Something tells me that amount of money would make Social Security solvent for a long, long time.  But we the taxpayers are going to be burdened with this debt because of the excessive greed of a handful of powerbrokers.

It just doesn't pay to be poor (I guess that is somewhat of a paradoxical statement).  Read Amos and see what you think God might have to say to a nation with such upside down priorities when it comes to our distribution of wealth.   

There is a new movie coming out today called "Fireproof."  It is made by a group of Christians who also made "Facing the Giants."  They are hoping for people of faith to make this opening weekend a big one.  Beverly and I are going to the 4 PM matinee today.  

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What's Important to God?

Beverly and I returned yesterday afternoon from Abilene where we attended Summit (once known as Lectureship).  It was really good this year -- with the keynotes all from Romans.  Of course, Beverly his a homerun with her class, and my daughter-in-law, Kayci, taught an excellent class as well. 

I went to a class on Amos that was outstanding.  I am only now becoming convicted as to how important justice is in Scripture.  As was pointed out in the class, when Scripture speaks about justice, it is not in the sense of punishment for crime.  Rather it is about concern for the plight of our "neighbor."  It is about concern for the poor and fair treatment of the "have-nots" as well as the "haves."   

How have we missed that emphasis?  "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."  "You should tithe, but what is more important is justice, mercy and faithfulness."  "Away with your religious rituals . . . let justice roll like the rivers."    

Jeff Jones sent me the following:

1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
2. Prayer will still work.
3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed teaching
6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
8. There will still be room at the Cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Religious Beliefs

The Tigerless Ryder Cup begins today.  On paper, it doesn't look good for team USA.  But maybe Tiger's absence will inspire the others to play better.  I don't know if I can take another Sergio Garcia strut and gloat session.

Baylor University conducted a religious survey in 2007 and the results have just been published.  Among their findings:
55 percent of respondents said they have been protected from harm by a guardian angel.
16 percent said they have received a miraculous physical healing.
Over the past six decades, the percentage of atheists has stayed at about 4 percent.  Recent books by atheists became best sellers because there are more than 12 million atheists who are potential buyers of such books.
82 percent said they are "absolutely sure" or "pretty sure" that heaven exists.
Traditional Christian religion decreases belief in such things as UFOs, the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot -- while education has relatively little effect.  

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The State of Marriage

Let's see:  Crude oil has dropped from $140+ to under $100.  That's a drop of over 40%.  Prices at the pump have dropped about 30 cents.  That's about 7%.  The free-market system is alive and well.  NOT!

And what's with the stock market?  I'm thinking about moving my mutual funds to a passbook savings account.  I could be doing much better.
According to new findings of a national poll commissioned by PARADE, marriage seems to be working quite well for most.  About 88% say they are happy or reasonably content in their marriages.  Only 12% ranked their marriages at the bottom of the scale, in the range between "It's miserable" and "I wish I could get out."

Those responding also gave positive reasons for why they stayed married, with 71% choosing "deep love" and 73% citing "companionship."  

Compare this to the kind of information being imparted by Oprah: (paste in this link:  http://lifestyle.msn.com/relationships/articleoprah.aspx?cp-documentid=10274156&page=4).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Jury Duty

I have had a last minute call to jury duty this morning, so don't have much time.  

I would greatly appreciate you praying for me through this series I am preaching on prayer.  I want clarity to know what directions to go with it.  I want to challenge myself and others to take prayer to a deeper level.

Thank you so much. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Blessing of Kids

Beverly and I had a wonderful trip to Memphis last week.  We were blessed to get to see Josh and Kayci and Truitt in their house and new "environment."  The church facility where they serve is incredible!

Friday night they took us downtown, where we saw the site (made famous in pictures from 1968) where Martin Luther King, Jr was gunned down.  It was moving to me, because I believe he was one of the GREATEST Americans.  Wow!  What an orator.  What a visionary.

We ate supper downtown at a place that is known for its pork ribs.  Lots of famous people have eaten there.  Of course, Beverly and I added two more to that list:)

We feel blessed that our Memphis family has found such a great place to minister for the Lord.

The trip home was a different story.  Ike was centered over Texarkana at 5 PM on Saturday.  Guess where we were at 5 PM?  And then, we had a flat tire just east of Dallas.  So I changed a tire in the rain, and put on the donut tire.  It went flat about 2 miles from our house.

Still, we are thankful to be home safely.  We are currently enjoying having Jonathan, Jennifer, Jed and Jocelyn staying with us, along with some of their friends from Houston.  They will stay until power is restored.  We even had Jenny and Malaya with us for supper last night.  This is like Christmas!

Would it be wrong for me to pray that it takes a while for them to restore it?  I think most grandparents would understand such a prayer.  Obviously, I am really praying that things will get back to "normal" soon for those displaced by Ike.          

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering Both Cowardice and Bravery

Yesterday I mentioned that sermons from the Decatur Church of Christ are now available on line at www.decaturchurchofchrist.com.  The reason I am writing this is:  If you went online and subscribed (which is free), you need to do it again.  There was another tweak made last night that will block your ability to access the site unless you resubscribe.

It's hard to believe that 7 years have passed since one of the most cowardly acts in the history of the world.  May we never forget that there are people out there who hate us so much they will murder thousands of innocent people -- for what?  So they can hide in caves the rest of their lives?

In the midst of that most cowardly act, we saw the greatness of the American spirit.  Heroic feats of bravery were evidenced in each situation.    

Something tells me we will find Osama Ben Laden -- and fairly soon.  Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part.  What the U.S. has to consider is:  When we find him, what do we do with him?  What is the RIGHT thing to do with him -- politically and morally?   

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sermons On Line

Recently I have been asked with more frequency if my sermons are on line.  I can now say yes -- thanks to Mark Archer and Heather Baker.  If you go to our church website (www.decaturchurchofchrist.com) and click on the link on the left that says "media downloads" -- you can then either listen directly on line or you can download to Itunes.  Thanks to Mark and Heather for working to make this possible.

From the way the weather forecasters are talking, we may be in for some severe weather on Saturday as Ike makes its way through north Texas.  Beverly and I will be headed back from Memphis at that time.  Please pray for safe travel for us.

Did you hear about the lady who left her camera at a restaurant, and when she went back to get it -- it was gone?  The report was on GMA on Tuesday morning.  Someone had stolen the camera.  

Well, it just so happened that her camera had a feature where it periodically downloads to her computer any pictures that have been taken.  So a couple of days later, her pictures downloaded.  There were all her pictures of her kids, etc.  And there were pictures of the person who had stolen the camera.

She decided to take a stab at finding him.  So she called the restaurant and sent them the picture to see if anyone might recognize the person.  It was the Head Waiter at the restaurant!

She got her camera back, and decided to not press charges.  However, Mr. Head Waiter-Thief was fired.        

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Getting Nostalgic

It is a beautiful Tuesday morning!  Temperature about 70 and it is raining.  I like that!

Does anybody know a shortcut to Memphis, Tennessee?  Beverly and I are going to see our Tennessee family Thursday afternoon.  We have to come back on Saturday afternoon.  I hear it's about a 9 hour drive.  That used to not bother me at all.  When I was in school at ACU, Beverly and I would often drive to La Marque (near Galveston) on the weekend to see her parents.  But that sure seems like a long drive now.

When Beverly and I were in San Francisco, we wondered why "The Streets of San Francisco" was never shown in reruns.  I remembered it as a great detective show of the 70s.  It starred Karl Malden and Michael Douglas.  Well, when we got back -- guess what?  It is on one of the local independent stations.  So I started DVRing it, and we have watched several episodes.  The plots are pretty good, but other than Malden and Douglas, the acting seems to be poor.  

And the clothes!  Did we really used to dress like that?

It's funny watching shows from that era.  Typewriters on the desks.  Large, bulky phones.  19" TVs.  HUGE cars.  PAY PHONES!  Telex machines.

The episodes we are watching right now are from the '75 season.  That's the year Beverly and I started dating, so I'm sure we never saw them before.  

There used to be some great detective shows during that time:  "Barnaby Jones," "Kojak," "Columbo."

The genre I am waiting for a return to, however, is westerns.  It seems like 80% of the shows from the late 50s and 60s were westerns.  I still like to see them, too.  "Bonanza," "Rawhide," "The Big Valley," "The Rifleman," "High Chaparral."  And of course my favorite -- "Gunsmoke."  

Monday, September 08, 2008


I begin this week with my mind focused on prayer.  I pray regularly -- several times a day.  And yet, I feel weak in this spiritual discipline.  I desire the kind of prayer life I read about in the lives of others who have authored books, etc.  

I feel such a connectedness with Philip Yancey.  He is a man who is on the road of faith -- but doesn't claim to have arrived.  He doesn't have all the "answers" -- but he is brave enough to share his struggles, and admit that he has them.  In books like Disappointment with God and Prayer, he is very honest as he seeks answers.  His struggles are similar to the ones I have.

He shares the following story in his book on prayer.  It is the story of Ben Patterson, a preacher who had ruptured a disc and was ordered to 6 weeks of total bed rest.  Reading was virtually impossible.  While in that condition, he learned some important lessons about prayer.  

   I was helpless.
   I was also terrified.  What was this all going to mean?  How was I to take care of my family?  What about the church?  I was the only pastor it  had, and I could do nothing for it.  Out of sheer desperation I decided to pray for the church.  I opened the church directory and prayed for each member of the congregation, daily.  It took nearly two hours, but since there was nothing else I could do for the church, I figured I might as well pray for it.  It was not piety that made me do it, it was boredom and frustration.  But over the weeks the prayer times grew sweet.  One day near the end of my convalescence, I was praying and I told the Lord, "You know, it's been wonderful, these prolonged times we've spent together.  It's too bad I don't  have time to do this when I'm well."
   God's answer came swift and blunt.  He said to me, "Ben, you have just as much time when you're well as when you're sick.  It's the same twenty-four hours in either case.  The trouble with you is that when you're well, you think you're in charge.  When you're sick, you know you're not."   

Maybe our problem is that we are too WELL-off?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Taking The President-Speaking Vote

Watching John McCain deliver his speech last night, I couldn't help but think about how different his speaking style is from what we heard from Barack Obama a week earlier.  As I look back over my life, I have seen some presidents who were gifted orators (Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton) and some who were not (LBJ, Ford, Bush III).  I'll beat some of you to the punch (Jeff):  I never heard Lincoln speak, but I bet he was good.  Being a professional speaker myself, I am inspired by good orators.  However, it doesn't necessarily mean that their policies / ideas are better.

Who would you rank as the BEST speaker-President? 

I keep thinking about McCain being in a prison camp for 5-1/2 years.  I cannot get my mind around that.  That's a LONG time!  I can't imagine the post-traumatic stress he must still deal with.  And bless his heart, he can't even lift his arms above parallel to the ground.  Yet he led the fight to reestablish diplomatic relations with Viet Nam.  Go figure.  I hope that I would be that big a man. 

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My Attack on the PAC

"A government of the people, by the people and for the people."  Those are great words.  They have been quoted in great speeches by Lincoln and King.  But is it just a dream?

I was listening to a report this morning on PACs ("political action committees").  You probably already know how I feel about them.  Last week, they invaded the Democratic Convention, and now they are at the Republican Convention.  ACLU, NRA, the pharmaceutical companies, defense contractors, big oil, and I could go on and on.  They court the politicians and give their campaigns megabucks -- in effect buying their votes.  Thus, the politicians' loyalties are not to the people, but to the PACs.  It is legal bribery, and it is SO opposed to the idea of "of the people, by the people, and for the people." 

The report was telling about new rules as to the parties PACs can throw for politicians.  They are not to serve foods that require a fork and knife.  The intent is to not allow them to throw a sit-down banquet -- but only serve "finger foods."  So at the Democratic Convention, they served things that could be eaten with a spoon.  At the Republican Convention, they are serving the food in Martini glasses.  Any way to skirt the rules.

I am of the opinion that PACs are THE leading cause of corruption and partisanship in American politics.  Even if I believe in the causes of the PACs, I think they are ethically wrong.  One person, one vote -- THAT is a democracy.  

Monday, September 01, 2008

Good morning, Class

Happy Labor Day!

Observations about the upcoming Presidential election:
There will be a number of 1st for me in this election no matter who wins. For one, this is the first time that the winning ticket will have someone on it that is younger than I am. Both Obama and Palin fit that bill.

For another, this is the first time in American history that the winning ticket will have an African-American or a woman on it -- regardless of who wins.

This isn't a first in history, but it will be a first for many of you: There has not been a senator elected as president since LBJ. We tend to go for governors more than senators. Gerald Ford was a Representative and Bush, Sr. had been an ambassador and held other appointed offices. Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush, Jr. -- all Governors.

So that is your political science lesson for today. Class dismissed.