Monday, December 27, 2010

Finishing in Faith

Here is a provocative admonition from Christian psychologists, Dr. Archibald Hart, for all of us with Type A temperaments.
God is a God of NOT finishing the faith--in this life. Let me explain.
We will all die with things left unfinished. God’s people had not taken Canaan when Moses died. Paul’s mission to the Gentiles had not been fulfilled when he died. Even Jesus (!), by design, left things unfinished… for his disciples to complete.
God is a God of people who do not finish the faith--in this life. Therefore, we finish our lives in faith.

The Ultimate (Birthday) Gift
My daughter, Annie, celebrated her birthday December 16. Beforehand she had a strange request for her birthday—a doorbell.
Finally, I asked her, “Annie, why do you want a doorbell?”
“To put on my bedroom door.”
“Why do you want to put a doorbell on your bedroom door?”
“Because Timothy likes doorbells. If I put a doorbell on my bedroom door, he will ring it instead of bursting in.”
Brilliant, I thought. Unfortunately, Timothy overheard our conversation and found a hole in Annie’s theory.
“I can still annoy you,” he said. “All I have to do is keep ringing the bell—ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding….”
Having heard him ring our doorbells incessantly in times past, I think he has a point.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. I mentioned this in Facebook this morning. Last night, our family passed LAND OF LIGHTS, near Athens, on hwy. 31. Our daughter, Haleigh, 17, starting crying out, “Look! Let’s stop! Let’s stop! Please, let’s stop!” We did. We waited for half an hour until it opened. It cost $20 for our car. At first, I thought we had wasted our money, but the light trail was endless. I was amazed at the amount of lights and the creativity of the displays. Our family gives LAND OF LIGHTS six thumbs up.
2. My favorite six weeks of the year are about to end. The new year cranks up fast and furious. One thing that helps me adjust: the NFL playoffs.
3. Saturday night’s loss notwithstanding, Jason Garrett has made me a believer. He is the perfect fit for the Cowboys. Jerry Jones had better sign him.
4. My most serendipitous gift was not given to me at Christmas. We stopped by a convenience store to ask for directions. The store had an Indiana Jones hat, just like we have been look for the past several months. Perfect!
5. I desire great blessings for you in 2011.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hidden Warfare

Remember the anthrax scare shortly after 9/11?

George W. Bush writes in his new book, DECISION POINTS, about an event that took place in that context a little over one month after 9/11. He and members of his team traveled to Shanghai, China for an economic summit. They spent the night at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and the next morning squeezed into a blue tent designed to protect national security briefings from electronic surveillance. Inside the tent were the President, Secretary of State Colin Powell,  National Security Advisor Condi Rice, White House Chief of Staff, Andy Card, and the CIA briefer.

They were able to participate in a video conference with Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in a special booth at an event in New York City. Cheney told the team, “Mr. President, one of the bio-detectors went off at the White House. They found traces of botulinum toxin. The chances are we've all been exposed.”

Botulinum toxin is one of the world's most poisonous substances. President Bush and his team remained silent. Finally, Powell asked, “What's the time of exposure?” He was mentally attempting to calculate if his exposure had been recent enough, and the amount of toxins sufficient enough, to kill him and everyone else who had been in the White House.

The only way to know if there would be survivors was to take the substance found and apply it to mice in an FBI lab. If the mice died within 24 hours, the humans would know their death would shortly come. If the mice remained alive, President Bush and his team would know that their exposure was minimum and they would be fine.

President Bush and members of his team went to their meetings that day, awaiting results. The next day, national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, received word that her deputy was on the phone. She and everyone else knew the call would tell her the results of the lab experiment.

Can you imagine what went through their minds as they waited for Rice to complete her call? Fortunately, the word was the mice were very much alive. Still, this was life in the new world of global terrorism and biological warfare.

When I read the president's account, I could not help but think about another global war. Like the terrorists, much of the work is done by figures that remain hidden. Paul writes Ephesians chapter six: 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. NIV

I respect the devil and his minions, as they seek to sabotage the work of God and destroy all Christians. To not do so would mean failure. 

My prayer is that we are diligent in our participation against the devil and his schemes in this all too real war.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. As you know, Don Meredith died recently. Consequently, I have read several articles about him. One was written by a fellow named Bob Greene.

He tells about watching a movie that earned only $19,348 at the box office. That movie was called THE OPEN ROAD. What captured my attention was the fact that the movie was written by Don Meredith’s son, Michael.

The movie stars some well-known actors including Academy Award winners Jeff Bridges and Mary Steenburgen. It also included Justin Timberlake, in a major role.

Greene caught my attention describing the movie. He summarized the plot as being about a charismatic, retired major league baseball player nicknamed “Lone Star” (he’s from Texas) and the distant relationship he had with his son, who was struggling on the Minor League circuit.

Timberlake plays the son; his mother is dangerously ill and facing surgery. She insists that her son find his dad, by now long divorced from his mom, before she will agree to undergo the operation.

The son must travel to Columbus, Ohio to find his father at a card show. His arrival surprises his dad, who agrees, at last, to accompany the son back to Texas and the mother’s bedside.

The problem is, is some ways, the father is the child and the child is the father. “Lone Star” is a funny, appealing man (to one adoring fan, he breezily says, "Number 11 in your program, Number One in your heart"), but he is also a self-centered individual, who long ago learned how to manipulate life to get his away. Passively and aggressively, “Lone Star” sabotages the journey to the point that his arrival is seriously in doubt.

It is at this point the movie reaches it climax. “Lone Star” creatively escapes from his son at an airport and hides away in a hotel in Memphis. The son tracks him down. A scuffle ensues. Father and son wrestle to exhaustion, both physical and emotional.

It is at this point that the son tearfully asks, “Why didn’t you ever love us?”

“Lone Star”, wiped out, moans out an answer.

When I heard it, the light bulb switched on in mind. “Lone Star’s” answer is the reason for much of the brokenness I have seen in families, marriages, and church relationships in my thirty years of ministry.

When asked by his son, “Why didn’t you ever love us?”, “Lone Star” answers, “I did. I just loved myself more.”

I found THE OPEN ROAD on instant streaming on NETFLIX. I watched this movie, which was quite good, because of my fascination with Don Meredith and the fact that he inspired the character of “Lone Star.” (The movie, however, was not biographical or autobiographical.) I was blessed with a profound insight into human behavior, which was encapsulated in a single sentence.

2. Good news. I found out the MLB NETWORK is making Game 7 of the 1960 World Series on DVD.

3. Matt Flynn, you made Tyler proud last night against New England. Well done.

4. I took the plunge and bought the computer software DELICIOUS LIBRARY to organize my books. Here’s to hoping it works.

5. I am so sorry, Lesa Landers Monday, that you have been diagnosed with cancer. My prayer is, with God’s help, you conquer it. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Power-Walking Smoking or Smokey Power-Walking

I have observed a woman in our neighborhood over the past few years. She's probably in her late 50s or early 60s. She looks like she's in pretty good shape. She has little or no body fat. She's always walking, fiercely moving in her effort to exercise. She's very forceful and intense in her pursuit. Clearly, she is very energetic.

There's only one problem. I have never seen her without a cigarette in her hand!

All these good thoughts and intentions, yet the smoking works 100% counter to her goal. I have heard doctors say it is better to NOT exercise and not smoke than to exercise and smoke.

Smoking and exercise are two mutually exclusive goals. They are at war with one another.

When Jesus said—"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:27-28).—he was not trying to rob people of a good time. He was trying to help people enjoy life.

A man who says he wants to live the good life, and then contemplates and engages in behaviors that welcome sexual images, thoughts, and fantasies about women, who are not his wife, is seeking to fulfill two mutually exclusive goals. He is like the woman in my neighborhood who exercises and smokes at the same time.

I’ve never known a person addicted to pornography to say, “Wow, I am content.”

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, is only trying to help.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. I checked out (from our public library) George Bush’s new book DECISION POINTS a couple of weeks ago. When one of the newspapers, critical to his presidential policy, came out with a review stating that Bush’s book is the best memoir written by a president since Grant, I figured I needed to take a look. (Grant’s memoirs are said to join Julius Caesar’s as history’s best from military leaders.)
            I must confess: I planned on skimming Bush’s work because I had other books I had planned on reading. However, Bush’s has been so captivating I have not been able to put it down. I am about halfway through.
            My favorite story occurred on 9/11. Bush called his parents late in the day to see how they were doing. He tracked them down in a small town in Wisconsin.             
            “What are you doing there?” he asked his parents.
            “You grounded our plane, son,” replied his witty, sharp-tongued mother.

2. Does anybody have the MLB NETWORK and a DVD recorder? If so, would you record the following for me this Wednesday, December 15?

7:00 p.m.
MLB Network Special
Bob Costas joins other panel members Bill Mazeroski,
Dick Groat and Bobby Richardson to discuss a recently
unearthed copy of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series

If you are willing, I’ll supply the DVD!

I think they are going to show the actual game, which was played a week or so after I was born. BTW, if you don’t like the time, they will repeat it at midnight. I look forward to hearing from you!

3. My doctor tells me that since I have turned 50, it is time to schedule my first colonoscopy. I wonder why they don’t call it a “roto-rooter-me”?

4. Speaking of physicals, my physician told me he would like for me to begin a low-fat diet. I asked Judy what a low-fat diet was. She jumped all over that opportunity.
            She explained what it means and informed me she was ready for me to begin one. That’s right—drink skim milk, eliminate red meat, and I think start eating paper.
            I informed her everything checked out good in my physical except for the triglycerides, which were a little high. Then Judy played her trump card—she said she needed to get on a low-fat diet also. Stay tuned.

5. I know nothing that can give a parent more joy than the baptism of a child. Coming from a faith tradition where people make their own decisions about baptism, it thrilled me to baptize second daughter, Abby, last Wednesday evening.
            She has been pondering this for quite a while. Last Tuesday night we read and discussed Romans chapters 1-6. I filmed our study with my iPhone—in case she has any questions in the future concerning how much she knew about what she was doing. (I got this from my dad, who taped our study with an audio recorder when I was ten, which reinforced my belief years later that I knew exactly what I was doing.)
            Last week was definitely a good week. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Deer Slayer Wannabe

I had a great Thanksgiving and an interesting time, and I want to tell you about that in exquisite detail. I want you to feel, emotionally, what I went through on my hunting trip.  I grew up duck hunting, squirrel hunting, and doing a little bit of dove hunting. I never did much deer hunting – only a handful of times, and only once did I see a deer, take a shot, and missed.  One day some of us were talking about our deer-hunting experiences, and I shared mine.

Mike Warner is one of our new elders, and not only that, he preached here for almost 30 years. Mike heard me say this, and he said, “We’ve got property and I’ll take you there, and you’ll get a deer.”  How could I turn down an offer like that?  Not only that, he offered to take Timothy and me.

I thought this would be great.  This will be a great father and son experience, and I appreciated Mike’s generosity. 

He had told me virtually everyone who has ever gone there, has killed a deer, with only one or two exceptions. Even his granddaughter killed one and I don’t even know if she could yet when she killed it. That’s the kind of experiences people have had. 

So, we went the Friday after Thanksgiving, and I was concerned. I wanted to make sure I knew all the rules and the laws. For example, was it ok to shoot a doe? (It was— the doe population was too large.) Mike informed about other important details and then he said, “There’s a buck that’s got 10 points, that runs around our property. Don’t shoot him; he’s kind of like a family pet.”

I asked him, “Mike, I’m not very good at counting points, you know. I’m not very experienced at this. Is there any way I can distinguish which buck this is?” 

He said, “Yeah, he’s got a collar on.” 

I said, “Ok, I can get that. I can remember that.” 

We arrived on Mike’s property near Lampasas and it feelt like one of those game preserves you take kids on in your car so they can see the animals. We were surrounded by deer.  Mike said, “Well, here you go. You want to go ahead and get you one?” 

Meanwhile, I’m starting to feel a little guilty. I can envision myself traveling home and having my three girls ask me, “Daddy, did you get a deer?” 

“Yeah, I did.” 

“Well, how’d you kill him?” 

“I just rolled down the window and a doe stuck her head inside the pick up and I ….”

No! I felt like I needed to sacrifice and toil. I needed to sit in a blind somewhere for a long time—and pay a price. 

I told Mike, “No, Mike, I don’t want to do this. It’s too easy.”  So, he took me out to a blind, in a great area. You could see far and wide.  It was Friday afternoon. Timothy and I sat in the blind for a couple of hours. Timothy is seven, but he was doing great. 

We didn’t see anything and then finally, when the sun was behind the trees and it was beginning to get dark, we saw some at a distance.  Does started coming out of a distant tree line. They came and stood in front of it.  It seemed like they were a long way away, but I got my scope out and I debated in my mind—do I take a shot? It looked like the deer were about 300 yards away. (Later on, I measured it out and it was around 220.) The distance seemed too far away. However, I could not help thinking if this is the only deer I saw, and if I did not take a shot, I would feel guilty. I decided to shoot and just do the best I could. 

Considering all of the variables involved, I was actually pretty calm as I aimed. I pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. Now, I’m not an experienced deer hunter, but I know I did not hit that deer. I’m sure if I were anywhere close, that deer would have taken off.  Not only did that doe not take off, she stood up even higher. I could have sworn she started preening. She did everything short of taking her hoof, licking it, smooth her hair, pull out a mirror, put on her makeup, and powder her nose.

I’m telling you, she psyched me out.  That doe was so confident; I just knew she knew she was too far away for me to hurt her. I decided not to take another shot. Timothy and I saw nothing else that day. 

The next morning, (Sat) morning, around 6:30 – we were out before the sun was up. It was cold—in the 20s—and I liked it. I had often hunted ducks and squirrels in that kind of weather. We sat out in the blind in the cold weather.  Timothy had a sleeping bag; he slept for a couple of hours.

We sat in the blind for 2, 2 ½, maybe 3 hours, and we did not see a thing. By then Mike was feeling awfully bad. He called me on my cell phone and told me was going to walk around the perimeter of the tree line to try to scare some deer up for us. 

Mike did everything short of getting a pot and pan and crying out, “Hey deer! Yeha! Come on!”

Lo and behold, Timothy looked and said, “Dad, look, there’s a good buck.” It was—a beautiful ten point buck.

He said, “Dad, aren’t you going to shoot it?”  I said, “Timothy, I can’t. That’s the family pet. That’s Bucky.” 

He said, “Dad, how do you know it’s the family pet?”  I said, “He’s got a collar. See that pink collar?”

Timothy asked, “Why’s he wearing a pink collar?”  I said, “I don’t know. (Mike Warner hates to see men wearing pink!) I don’t know; I’m totally confused, but we just can’t shoot him.” 

Wouldn’t you know it? Bucky took about fifteen minutes as he paraded in front of us. I think he knew I could not shoot them. Finally, Bucky paused in distance-he might have even waved at me-and then he entered inside the forest, and that was it. We did not see anymore.

Now, I’ll have to confess to you, there was a period of time, when I was in that blind, when I prayed. I said, “Lord, I would never ask for you help me kill a deer for myself, but you know, Mike Warner has gone to a lot of trouble, Lord, to try to make this happen. He invested a lot of time. Timothy’s been good; I think it would be a memorable experience for him if I killed a deer. Judy and the three girls have sacrificed – they let us go stay in the Town & Country Motorsport in Lampasas, Texas. They might even be envious of us for getting to stay in such a wonderful, luxurious motor inn.  I would love to bring them back a deer and let them see that all of their investment of time and money proved worthwhile.”

So, so I laid it before the Lord—“… ask and ye shall be given, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you…”

But guess what the Lord answered? “NO!”

Saturday afternoon, as we were getting back, I shared with Mike my “disillusionment”. (I am speaking tongue-in-cheek, of course.)  After all, the next morning, I was preaching on Matthew 7:7-12—“Ask and it shall be given to you….” But Mike said something that knocked me right out of my spiritual stupor.  I said, “Mike, the Lord says ‘ask and it shall be given to you, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you….’ Mike, I prayed about this. What shall I tell the people?”

Mike looked at me and said, “You think those deer weren’t praying too?”

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. When I was in high school, my dad took me to visit Don Meredith’s parents one wintry, Saturday afternoon. Daddy knew them because my grandparents had property that bordered Mr. and Mrs. Meredith’s property a few miles outside of Mt. Vernon (Texas.) My grandparents and Don’s parents were friends.
            Mr. Meredith had seen me play quarterback in our game against Mt. Vernon, was very complimentary, and invited my dad and me to visit him sometime. As I recall, we stayed for an hour or two. Of course, this was during Don’s heyday with Monday Night Football and television movies, so he was not there. However, Don’s parents were delightful hosts—simply kind and gracious people.
            As it neared the hour to leave, Mr. Meredith asked if I would like to see the scrapbooks Don’s mother had made for Don during his high school years. Of course, I said, yes. He brought them out and then, unbelievably, he suggested I take them home and bring them back the next time I was nearby.
            I still cannot believe the Meredith’s generosity. I am also grateful for their trust in me. I am happy to report I returned them through my dad, safe and sound.
            I also remember being fascinated by Don’s high school career. He truly was an All-American boy with a variety of interests. Not only was he a legendary athlete, he participated in a variety of activities including Vo-Ag (one team he was on won a state championship) and drama.
            I truly enjoyed going through Don’s scrapbooks. Although, I never got to meet Don, I feel like I got to know him.
            Today, I got word that Don Meredith passed away at age 72. I had suspected this day would soon come.
            Don Meredith was my first quarterback hero. My earliest football memories are of my dad and I watching him play on TV for the Dallas Cowboys. Rest in peace Don, we will miss you.

2. It's better to die living than to live afraid.

3. It’s my fault Dallas has been losing. Every time I have not watched—they’ve won.

4. Congratulations, TCU. We’re proud of you.

5. Congratulations Haleigh Edge and Brandon Mosely for being named ROTARY CLUB’s Students of the Year for ETCA.