Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Are you Leaking?

You have to watch the video before reading the blog. 

Someone aptly penned this most famous line, "It is far better to be silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and erase any doubt."  I don't know about you but I have had more than one experience with opening my mouth and saying something without thinking and then wondering, "Where did that come from?"

     Like for instance while I was taking a class while in seminary a group of students decided to go to a Mexican restaurant for lunch one day.  Now, I have been to dozens and dozens of Mexican restaurants in my life and what I did on this particular day had never happened before.

     But first some background.  I grew up in Tampa Florida and I went to school in Ybor City (pronounces EE BORE), the Latin section of Tampa famous for these kinds of restaurants.  My elementary school was about 50% white kids and 50% Hispanic kids, many of whom spoke Spanish as their primary language at home.  So I quickly acquired the ability to speak with an authentic-sounding Spanish accent.

     Now back to my story.  So we are seated in this Mexican restaurant in the heart of Kansas City MO.  The waiter, who is clearly Hispanic hands us our menus and then asked (in an accent that very closely resembled my authentic-sounding accent) "What would you like to eat?"  I happened to be the first person he asked so I said in my very authentic-sounding Spanish accent, "I would like to have the burrito supreme."  Now everyone at the table had been engaging in small talk, but when I blurted that out in my very authentic-sounding accent, the entire table grew deathly silent.

     It was only then that I realized what I had done.  And I also realized that I had one of two choices to make:  (a) I could, from that point forward, speak with my normal accent, at which time he would know that I was mocking him, or (b) Continue to speak in that really authentic-sounding accent every time he approached the table.  I stuck with plan "b" which caused the rest of the meal to consist of my talking in my really authentic-sounding accent and the entire table bursting out in laughter.

     You would think I had learned my lesson but NO!  Fast-forward to 2009.  My wife and I are sitting in the waiting room of a financial adviser's office on a very hot day. The gentleman we were waiting to see comes out of his office in a very white, very starched dress shirt.  As we shook hands, I noticed that there is a wet spot on his shirt near his left breast.  Once again, without thinking I said, "Are you leaking?"

     My wife later told me that she wanted to find a way, at that very moment, to crawl under the wall-to-wall carpet in the lobby of that place.  There was a pregnant pause.  A very uncomfortable pregnant pause while this man tries to put together some words to explain the fact that he was a little warm and that he had a tendency to sweat heavily.  He even went so far as to explain that he always wore tee-shirts to help alleviate this problem but that it didn't always work.


     These were the very first words my wife said to me after we exited the office and got into the car.

I admitted that I had no idea where that came from and apologized profusely.  She said she forgave me but later took great pride in relating the story to my grown children at first opportunity.

     There are more, but I will save them for another day and another blog.  The point is that we all, at one time or another say something that we later regret.  We would be wise to heed the words of James, where he says (James 1:19) " My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry"

     Someone paraphrased this verse nicely when they said, "Engage brain before engaging mouth."

     We all could do with a little more listening and a little less talking.  It will ultimately save us all from a lot of embarrassment.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Why I Do Not Celebrate Halloween

This post will probably be a little controversial.  I acknowledge that fact from the beginning because I may not hold a popular view.  Last night, I had a discussion with my youngest daughter who is 17 years old.  She has never been "Trick or Treating" because my wife and I made a conscious decision to stop celebrating this holiday back in the 1980s. I explained to her, once again, why we do not celebrate Halloween.
      Now, before you feel sorry for my children, you need to know that they were not deprived of the fruits of trick or treating-- candy.  Ultimately, that is the bottom line for children anyway.  They get a whole sack of candy and can eat it virtually unfettered that night and then on a limited basis for the next few days and weeks.  So, we can all agree that the candy is what it is all about for the children.  Some may say, "no it is all about dressing up in costumes.  That is what is most important."  If you believe that line, then try this tonight.  Instead of giving out candy, just have your Polaroid camera ready and when you open the door snap their picture and then offer the picture to them in lieu of the candy by telling them how cute they are in their costumes.  If their response is anything short of disappointment, then I will be happy to stand corrected.

No, for kids. the bottom line is the candy.  

That is the point for the children, the costumes are just the means to an end.  We always gave our children a sack of candy on or around the Halloween date and they never, ever complained about not getting the chance to dress up.  But then we substituted a family tradition to the dressing up.

We would get dressed up (wait a minute, you just said you didn't dress up).  Quit interrupting me and let me finish.  I accept you apology.  We would dress up in "church clothes" (i.e. coat and tie, nice dresses, etc) and go to a fancy restaurant for dinner during the time when trick or treating was taking place.  It is a great time to go out to dinner because NO ONE is in the restaurants at that time of night on Halloween.  So we got VERY SPECIAL treatment.  Our kids loved that, and they got to go home and eat candy afterwards.

But let me tell you why we chose to avoid Halloween over 25 years ago.  Halloween has its roots in pagan holidays.  According to Wikipedia, "Some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)", derived from the Old Irish Samuin meaning "summer's end".[1] Samhain was the first and by far the most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Irish calendar[2][3] and, falling on the last day of Autumn, it was a time for stock-taking and preparation for the cold winter months ahead.[1] There was also a sense that this was the time of year when the physical and supernatural worlds were closest and magical things could happen.[2][3] To ward off these spirits, the Irish built huge, symbolically regenerative bonfires and invoked the help of the gods through animal and perhaps even human sacrifice.[1]"

      We were in seminary in New Orleans when we made the decision to stop celebrating.  We heard news reports about the carcasses of animals that had been disemboweled and left in fields surrounding the city.  We hear about the increase in missing children around the end of October and we realized that some people were using the holiday to offer animal and children sacrifices to strange gods.
The decorations that are sold this time of year are of the macabre, the undead, and lots of other things with dark themes.
     Listen, before you write me off as some fundamental Christian kook, I want to examine what happens when we begin to compromise with our "enemy." You see, our enemy, Satan, wants Christians to go to one of two extremes:  (1) He wins when Christians see a demon behind every door.  This happens when we attribute everything negative in our lives to a demonic force.  This gives the enemy too much power over our lives. or (2) We trivialize his power and influence in our lives.  This may be more dangerous because we see Satan as an old man in a read suit with a pointed tail and a pitchfork that is so often seen in cartoons.  Either of these reactions causes the world to see the idea of a personal Devil as either insane or silly.

   Our enemy is real.  For Christians to engage in any behavior that either promotes or trivializes him, does harm to the kingdom of God.  For this reason, I refuse to participate.  I do observe what is happening and what I have seen is that Halloween has become even darker and more elaborate with each passing year.  The amount of money that is spent on costumes, decorations, candy, etc is ever increasing. ($6.2 BILLION in 2010 with the estimates for this year exceeding $7 Billion)  When I was a kid, there was NEVER a giant inflatable pumpkin building set up in front of the mall exclusively to sell these items.

     I wonder what would happen if Christians would take the money they normally spend on this frivolous and potentially dangerous holiday, combine that money and then use it for increasing the kingdom of God.  So much good could be accomplished with that money.

I think it is time for Christians to re-evaluate their participation in this holiday.  We did that many years ago and we do choose not celebrate Halloween.    I would challenge you to do the same.  Give the money you would spend instead to a local church, missions program, or benevolence program.

I would love to hear your responses to this post. 
  1. ^ a b c Rogers, Nicholas (2002). "Samhain and the Celtic Origins of Halloween". Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, pp. 11–21. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 0-19-516896-8.
  2. ^ a b A Pocket Guide To Superstitions Of The British Isles (Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; Reprint edition (4 Nov 2004) ISBN-10: 0140515496
  3. ^ a b All Hallows' Eve BBC. Retrieved 2011-10-31.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Whose Side Are You On?

     When I was a brand new chaplain in the Army, my first assignment was with an Infantry unit.  Now, you need to understand something about the nature of that particular branch of the Army and that is this:  They do NOT like aviators much.  
     Their reason is valid and I discovered how true their sentiment was first-hand when I joined an Infantry squad on a little ruck march right after my arrival to the unit.  The 101st Infantry Division is an Air Assault division.  That means that they get to and from the battle by helicopter.  We had been dropped off in an LZ (Landing Zone) that was supposed to be about 800 meters from their objective.  In fact, the pilots got it wrong (and they told me it happened often).  In fact, we exited the aircraft about 2,800 meters from the objective.  For a pilot that is no problem.  At the rate they fly, 2,000 meters takes about 3 seconds to cover.  For the Infantryman, it takes about one to one and a half hours to go 1,000 meters depending on the terrain.  So that 2,000 meter mistake cost us about 3 extra hours of walking through the woods with an 80 pound rucksack on your back.  
    So I really understood how they felt.  There was just one problem that I had to overcome.  Before I became a chaplain, I was a helicopter pilot and had the senior aviator wings on my uniform to prove it.  If you ever saw that Far Side cartoon of the two deer in the woods, one with a huge bulls-eye on his stomach, and the caption was , "Bummer of a birthmark Hal!"  Well, that is kind of how I felt.  I was the chaplain for this infantry unit and I had a huge bulls-eye on my uniform in the shape of those confounded aviator wings.
     Needless to say, I had to go an extra distance to prove to these guys that I was credible.  So you can understand how bad it was when it was announced that we were going to have a pickup basketball game that afternoon.  It was the battalion staff against the company commanders and first sergeants.  So my boss was on my team along with all the guys I had to work with every day.  
     Now, for those who know me, this goes without saying. But if you do not know me well, then you may not know that this event was significant for me because I am not, and never was, an athlete.  In high school I was the smallest guy in my Senior Class.  I take that back, I was the smallest PERSON in my graduating class.  Seriously.  
     To look at me now you would never believe that.  But when I started my senior year in high school, I was five foot three and I weighed about 98 pounds.  Really.  Needless to say, I was never asked to be on any sports team.  My thing in high school was music (think Glee).  Seriously.  I was the last guy (after all the girls) when people were picking people for their team.  Music was a much better fit because I was very unlikely to get hurt doing that.  
     So when I heard about this basketball game I became a little nervous, no I take that back.  I was VERY nervous because I was already on shaky ground with this unit because of my bulls-eye.  Now I was going to be exposed for the wimp I was by this basketball game.  
     Well, the time came and I showed up at the gym in the appropriate garb and the game began.  Because I had no idea what I was doing, I found myself just running back and forth on the court watching everyone else pass the ball back and forth and running to and from their respective goals.  I figured that I would just try to stay out of the way and maybe I would avoid embarrassment.  Then it happened.  
     One of the guys went up for a layup (I learned that term for that move later) and missed.  The ball bounced off of the backboard and landed in my hands.  Excited and nervous, I jumped and shot the ball at the goal and it dropped straight in -- nothing but net!  
     What happened next was kind of like those old E.F. Hutton commercials.  You know, "When E.F Hutton speaks,... everybody would stop what they were doing and listened.  Well after I made the shot the entire game came to a screeching halt.  I looked around and noticed the look that said, "I can't believe you just did that."  This look was on the faces of both of the teams on the court.  Then one of the guys on my team said, "Chaplain, our goal is at the other end of the court."
     I had successfully made the shot to the opposing teams goal.   If I could have found a way to slide under the boards of that basketball court I would have done it at that moment.  Needless to say I was never invited to play basketball again.  Ever.
     Now what is the point of this story?  I am glad you asked.  I am reminded of an Old Testament passage of Joshua just before the fall of Jericho.  Joshua 5:13-14, reads, "Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
      A lot of times we get a great idea and then we want God to bless our efforts.  That is what Joshua thought.  That is why he asked the question, "Whose side are you on?  By the context it appears to be a rhetorical question.   I mean after all, he was the leader of God's chosen people.  But this guy, probably an angel, kind of set the record straight. God does not choose sides.  Here is the point, we need to choose God's side.  That means that we need to see what God is doing and join HIM in his efforts.  He is the team captain, we have simply been invited to join HIS team.  When we get that straight then we will find ourselves in the listening mode. 

Joshua got it.  Look at what he said at the end of that passage.  He fell face down to the ground in reverence -- right attitude; then he asked, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?"  Wait for God to speak and then follow the orders of the commander.  Then we can see walls come tumbling down.  So, whose side are you on?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Making the General Wait


What is the most embarrassing moment in your life?  While I have had several, the most embarrassing moment for me was when I made a Four-Star General wait on me.  Even though this event happened many years ago, I was reminded of it recently when I ran into that General, now retired at a school event recently.

The year (as I remember) was 1995.  I was stationed in Korea and was serving as the Brigade Chaplain for the 8th Military Police Brigade.  Our Brigade was tasked with all Military Police and Security Police activities for the entire Korean peninsula.  Headquartered in Seoul at the US Military compound in Yongsan, we were "very close to the flagpole" meaning that our proximity to the US Forces, Korea, the 8th Army, and the Combined Forces Command consolidated headquarters were all located close by.  The General, who wore the Commander's hat for all of those commands was General Gary Luck.  My Brigade Commander, Colonel Robert Neubert and his wife were good friends and golfing buddies with General and Mrs. Luck.  As such our unit enjoyed a good relationship with that higher headquarters.

Because of that relationship, when it came time for our annual Dining Out event, a very formal affair, the General was invited to attend.  This was protocol for most events like this.  He was, of course, joined by his wife and also by his Command Sergeant Major.  In addition, it was attended by many senior and junior officers and non-comissioned officers from the Yongsan area.

Because I was on the staff, I never got a formal invitation. I was expected to be there because I was going to deliver the invocation for the event. As such my wife and I would sit at the head table with all the other dignitaries.

On the afternoon of the event I was still not sure of the start time so I asked the S-3 Operations officer, a major, what time it started. Now you have to understand that all of these events begin with a social period that lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.  So when he told me that it started at 7:00 pm I knew that I could arrive around 7:15 to 7:20 and still be early enough to make the dinner.  I made plans to arrive "fashionably late."

My wife was stunning and I was quite good looking in my Dress Blues formal uniform.  The event was held at the Dragon Hill Lodge, an Morale, Welfare, and Recreation hotel right there on the base.  Arriving at 7:15, we took the elevator up to the 2nd floor area where the dinner was being held and stepped off the elevator.  When we did, we came face to face with a very agitated Brigade Commander.  He snapped at me, "Where have you been?"


"Where have you been? The dinner was supposed to start at 7:00 pm.  It is now 7:20 and the head table has been waiting on you to arrive!"  Standing there with him was his wife, the Deputy Brigade Commander and his wife, the Command Sergeant Major, and the FOUR-STAR GENERAL and his wife.

I blurted out that I thought the SOCIAL HOUR started at 7:00 but no one heard me.  General Luck walked over to me, took his fist and hit me hard in the chest and said, "Son, don't you EVER make me wait like again!" Then he said something about a "dollar waiting on a dime"  but then he hugged me.

Now the fist to the chest I expected.  I deserved that. But the hug?

Later I was told that the musical ensemble had begun the music and everyone had risen to their feet 20 minutes before I arrived.  I didn't just make the General wait, I made everyone wait.  When the head table (including me) walked into the room, I saw that it was filled with several hundred people all standing at attention.  Needless to say, I did not enjoy the rest of the evening. 

But he hugged me.  Now why would he do that?  Well I can tell you why.  Because that was the kind of person he was.  He was not one of these Generals who is so high and mighty that he has lost touch with the average soldier.  No, he was a soldiers General.  I heard story after story of this man refusing to let anyone open the car door for him or carry his bags.  I remember a soldier telling me that General Luck stopped his armor-plated staff car to offer the young GI a ride on a hot day.

I keep going back to that hug.  So undeserved, yet so welcomed, especially under the circumstances.  That is how I feel about God's love for me.  It is so undeserved, yet so welcomed.

The Bible says in Romans 5:6-8 "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 

So the next time you get something good that you didn't expect or deserve, just remember that your relationship with God came just the same way.

As I prepared to leave Korea for reassignment back in the United States, it was General Luck, the soldier's General who awarded me the Meritorious Service Medal.

And it was General Luck, now retired, whom I found myself sitting next to at a school event for my daughter.  He really hadn't changed that much -- still the ruddy complexion and short gray hair.  And the same smile that I remembered that day when he punched me and then hugged me.  I am not even sure he would remember this event if I shared it with him.  It probably stands as a vivid memory in my mind alone; one that I will never forget.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When His Work Was Done, He Rested

bible college
  Yesterday I had the great joy of keeping my 3 year old "great" grandson (no I am not that old-- he is my grandson and he is a great kid) while my daughter ran some errands. The deal was that she would put him down for a nap while she was out and I would be close by to keep an eye on him.

     Well I know better than to go back downstairs while he is "sleeping".  Even though my office is only a few steps from his bedroom, he has become quite adept at being an escape artist.  For that reason, the door that leads from my workstation to his room is not only locked, but barricaded with a child's fence and a very large recliner.  For that reason I cannot simply just open the door and check on him.  I would have to go out through the garage and then in the front door and go down the inside stairs to check on him.

     So option B was to simply stay upstairs in the house while the little angel was sleeping...except he WASN'T SLEEPING!  Now normally, he is like a speech and sound generator.  He know virtually every line to all the Toy Story movies as well as Cars 1 (and he is working on Cars 2).  So he never shuts up when he is awake.  Now this is not a complaint -- just an observation.  There is one time, though, when he manages to be completely silent -- when he is in what I call "Stealth Mode."

     When he is in stealth mode, he is completely silent.  For example, besides the constant noise he generates, when he runs up and down the stairs and through the house it sounds like a herd of elephants.  If I am working downstairs I can tell if he is upstairs because I can hear him through the floor running around. 

     But not when he is in stealth mode.  He has mastered the art of silent running when he is in stealth mode.  Which is why I did not hear him come up the stairs and go into his mother's locked bedroom.  Yes, I said, "Locked Bedroom."  But this miniature cat burglar can unlock locked doors. Seriously.  So he stealthily came up the stairs, and did his voodoo magic on the door lock and then silently shut the door behind him.  Then he tossed the room.  When I used that term to describe his actions, my daughter, who is a college graduate, did not know what I meant, so let me explain:

     When I worked at the United States Disciplinary Barracks (U.S.D.B) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, I would often walk past a cell that was being "tossed" by the prison guards.  Simply put, they would go into the cell and pick up, and turn over, everything, tossing the items usually on the bed, but occasionally on the floor.  When they finished, the inmate would have to put his or her room back in order.

     My "great" grandson tossed his mother's room.  And when his work was done, he climbed into her bed and pulled the covers up to his chin.  She had left the television on so he laid there enjoying yet another episode of Yo Gabba Gabba.  At least until I went to check on him and found him there.  Then his joy ended.

     I would like to say that was the end of the story, except he is very much like his "great" grandfather in that he very seldom learns his lesson the first time.  Instead he must exercise his right to a redo.  About 45 minutes later I found him once more in the bed with Yo Gabba Gabba on the television.  I was not happy but then, neither was he.  I sent him back to his room about the time that my daughter returned and I quickly return the parental reigns back into her hands.  I cannot tell you what happened next but there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from somewhere downstairs.

     I do feel somewhat responsible for my grandson's actions.  I say that because, after all, my genetic structure is, to some degree, floating around (does genetic structure float?) inside of him.  I would like to tell you that I was a "great" child, but I had my own stealth mode when I was his age and apples don't fall too far from the tree that bore the fruit that became the tree that dropped this little one to the ground.  (It's a little complicated but if you will get with me later, I can draw you a picture.)

    So, Pastor Dave, what is the lesson in all of this?  

I am glad you asked.  

Based on the title, you might suspect that I would pull the verse describing God's actions on the 7th day, but that is not where I am going with this story.  Instead, let me draw your attention to the book of Psalms 139:11-12:
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you. 

    We all operate in the stealth mode, when we think no one is watching.  We do things that we think will never be seen by anyone; but as Bette Miller aptly sang, "God is Watching You" and he sees EVERYTHING.  All that we do will come to light someday.  Revelation 20:11-13 says this:

 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.  (emphasis mine).

     So don't operate in the stealth mode with regard to sin, or you too might find yourself "weeping and gnashing your teeth" in a very bad place....forever. 


Monday, October 3, 2011

Do Whatever He Tells You

    Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend yet another marching band competition, this one in Brentwood Tennessee at the John Overton High School.  You see, my daughter is one of the drum majors.....no wait, that is a term from my generation when the person who led the band actually marched out in front of the band and wore a HUGE furry hat and carried a HUGE javelin-length baton.  (Now they are called field commanders and direct from high in the air on an elevated platform...but I digress.)
     Anyway, after the preliminary competitions they had something called a "drill down."  Now this was new to me the first time I heard about it. (But then the first time you hear about something is always new...that is the essence of "new", but I digress.)

     Drill down is where the participants line up on the field in good old-fashioned style and the person in charge (in this case NOT a field commander) gives them rapid-fire instructions that they must follow to a tee.  Similar to "Simon Sez" if they fail to follow the commands precisely, they are eliminated from the competition.  This goes on until the last participant is standing.  In the case yesterday it happened to be a young man from my daughter's band (who, parenthetically, was the first boy to kiss my daughter while she was on a band trip a couple of years ago, which made my blood boil when I heard about it, but I digress).

     C'mon Pastor Dave, get to the point...try PROgressing for a change...OK I'll try.

     In my Sunday morning Bible Study class yesterday, we read the passage in John 2 where Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding feast at Canaan.

     Pastor Dave, what does a band drill-down competition have to do with turning water into wine?
I am glad you asked!

     In that story,   Mary, Jesus' mother, turned to him to inform him that the wine was running out.  In true first-child fashion Jesus replies, "Why are you telling me this?"  Well actually his words were, "What has this concern of yours to do with me woman?" (John 2:4)  (Now when I was a young man, if I had called my mother, "Woman" I would have come away sans a few teeth, but I digress.)

     So Mary turns to the people who were serving the food and said to them, no doubt pointing to her son, and said, "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5)

     Now it was a good thing that they were obedient because the next thing that happened was that Jesus told them to basically fill up the bathtubs with water.  Seems a little odd to be asking someone to draw a little bath water in the midst of a wedding feast, but they obey.  (OK, I know they were water JARS but they were used for ceremonial washing so "bathtub" is a close analogy, but I digress)

   The next thing you know, they have a bathtub filled with fine wine. 

   So hears the point:  (Finally, whew)   "If you're a Christian, then, during your lifetime, Jesus will ask you to do many things that seem fantastically audacious" (I quoted that from my Bible Study book because it has the word "audacious" in it, but I digress)

    When he tells you to do something, no matter how crazy it seems, you need to just "Do Whatever  He Tells You" because you may be the next person through whom he is preparing to do something miraculous.

     It is always a good thing to obey your mother.  It is even better to obey your Savior and Lord.  so...

Do Whatever  He Tells You!

(By the way, someone suggested that I might be a little ADHD, but you don't think so, do you? But I digress.)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Just Let it Go!

     Yesterday, I read that former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Dan Hampton refused an invitation by President Obama to join his former teammates for a visit to the White House.  The Bears were the 1985 Superbowl champions and had been scheduled to meet with President Reagan in January of 1986, but the Challenger disaster forced the White House to cancel the planned meeting.

     Hampton gave three reasons for refusing...  I want to focus on the last one.

Reason 3:  "It was 25 years ago. Let it go."  
    I tend to agree with him.  This would have been exciting when it was supposed to happen but now, 25 years later, it seems a little anti-climatic. It sounds like he let it go a long time ago.  

     So let me ask you a question:  "What are you still holding on to from your past that you would be better off to "just let it go?"  
  • Anger?
  • Bitterness?
  • That pair of lucky socks (that you never washed) from your brief time on the basketball team? 
     Ephesians 4:31 (KJV) says this: "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:"
     All of these are bad things to keep holding on to.  And except for the socks, can sometimes keep you from getting on with your life. 

      But you need to replace it with something.  I heard that Dan Hampton has opted to go to Disney World* instead.  Now that is a great substitution.  The Apostle Paul goes on to say this (verse 32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

     Listen, life is too short to be holding grudges.  There are too many other things to think about to keep harboring on the past.  Just Let It Go! (And if you can afford it Go to Disney World*!)  

*Disclaimer:  Disney did not pay me to say that.  But if they want to I can give an address where they can mail the check.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fire is Coming

     Amazon unveiled its new Kindle Fire, a 7-inch Android-based tablet  yesterday.  It is purported to rival Apple's Ipad.  Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos stated that "Fire is Coming".  Now where have I heard that before hmmmmmmmmm?

     Wait I know, let me find it...ah here it is in 2 Peter 3:10, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare."     

      Now what in the world was Peter talking about?  Well to get the full understanding of that verse we need to read the one just before and just after that one.  Here they are in context:

     2 Peter 3:9-11" 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives." 

     Now verse 9 is the kicker...it says that God doesn't want anyone to perish...but that everyone will come to repentance.  Hmmmmm so he is holding back the fire for a little while longer...but exactly how long?  No one knows.  One thing we do know is FIRE IS COMING.  So we need to be ready, because that fire is going to destroy Apple and everything else.

Hmmmm Apple.....isn't that where this all got started?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guilty of Murder?

     Last night, I listened as the prosecutors for the case against Michael Jackson's doctor played an eerie audio tape of the pop star himself sounding very drunk.  Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray wept as he listened to his former client speaking.  Murray has been charged with manslaughter for administering an anesthetic drug to Jackson to help him sleep.  The drug was the cause of the pop star's death.
     I found it ironic that he wept.  Perhaps he is experiencing remorse for his actions. That is not a bad thing.  What I find more ironic is that we seldom display any remorse for our actions.

     OK, admittedly we have not been charged with the death of someone...or have we?  Isaiah 53:5 says, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." 

       We are all indicted in the murder.  And if we get what we deserve, we will face the penalty for our crime.  But God has provided a way to avoid the penalty.  Interestingly, the solution to our problem is found in the one against whom we have committed our crime -- Jesus. 

     You see, while it was our sins that put him on the cross, is is because he died on the cross that we can have hope.  2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."   The words "We might become"  leaves us with a choice:  We can accept or reject the offer he makes.  It is totally up to us...the prosecution is offering us a deal -- an offer we can't refuse...it is totally up to us.

     All we have to do is:

A - Admit that we're sinners, repent and turn from our sins
B - Believe that Jesus is God's Son and that he came into the world to save everyone.
C - Confess that Jesus is your Savior and Lord.

Here is a sample prayer:
Dear God, I admit I am a sinner in need of you. Please forgive me of my sins and give me abundant life here on earth and eternal life with you in heaven. I believe Jesus died and rose again for my sins. I confess Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life. Thank you for saving me.
In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Flattery Can Get You Kicked Out of Heaven

     A little over a year ago I read a book entitled Demon: A Memoir by by Tosca Lee.  While I understand it was a fictional account of the fall of Satan, it did connect the dots for me.  Now only that, it was a page turner (as opposed to Paige Turner, the head cheerleader from my old high school).  But seriously...the book does purport that it was flattery that lead to Satan's downfall (Pun intended).

     Isaiah 14:12 says this about that legendary downfall: "How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!"

     Did you pick up on his titles?  Morning Star....Son of the Dawn.  Now I don't know the exact rank structure of the Angels but these sound like pretty impressive titles, especially since we use that first title to refer to Jesus himself: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16)

     So get this scenario:  Satan is way up there in rank among the angels being the morning star and all.  Another angel who, for a split second took her (or her) eyes off of God Almighty and turned to Lucifer (Back then it was a good name) and said something like, "Wow, you are beautiful."
     What happened next is only speculation but it seems that this whole scene took place because one angel took his/her eyes off of God for a split second -- just long enough to give a little flattery -- just being honest.  This led Lucifer to take his eyes off of God and onto himself.
     The same things still happens today.  Bad things happen to us when we take our eyes off of Jesus and onto ourselves or our circumstances.  It happens to everyone. Even if you are walking on water -- it can cause you to sink. (Matthew 14:27-29)

     So the next time you are doing something for God and someone wants to give you a little glory, don't absorb it, reflect it to God.  When you do you will avert your own downfall. 


Monday, September 26, 2011

Bait and Switch


     That's the headlines on USA Today's "Newsline".  The rest of the story explains that because of recent federal banking rule changes, banks are scrambling to find ways to recoup their losses caused by the changes.  According to Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate, "Banks are adding fees to recover from new regulations that could cost billions in lost revenue"  

      Wait a minute!  I chose your bank BECAUSE the checking was free.  Now you are going to start charging me?  What's up with that?   And this on the heels of Netflix increasing their fees too.  Everything is changing.  Or is it?  I was reminded that there is something, or actually someone that never changes:

     Did you see that coming?  Probably.  But it is true.  While literally everything around us is changing, it is good to know that the one who created us and who knows us best is not in the chameleon mode. In fact, His favorite nickname is "I Am".  How original is that? -- well after all, He is the ORIGINAL original.  And yet the One who never changes did something 2,000 years ago to change everything:

He sent Jesus, the greatest game-changer of all

     Hebrews Chapter 13  admonishes us (Admonish -- oooo big word Pastor Dave, can you break that down for us a little?  OK-- admonish simply means "to warn")  So Hebrews 13 warns us to "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “5Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” 6 So we say with confidence,“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
   What can man do to me?” 7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 

     Now that really is change we can believe in!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Facebook is Stressing Me Out!

     OK, I admit that I used that title to get you to read my blog today, but the truth is that all the changes that have been made to FaceBook have made a LOT of people mad.  I think I know why.

     A wise old Command Sergeant Major once told me, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  What he was expressing was the feeling that most of us have:  Change is hard. I taught stress management for many years.  As a part of the training I provided the participants something called the the Social Readjustment Rating Scale.  This little test measured the amount of change -- both good and bad -- a person had experienced over the last 12 months.  I was teaching this before the age of the internet (read- old guy) so, of course, I handed out a piece of paper.  Now you can take an on-line version of this test.  I found it here.  I would encourage you to take a couple of minutes to take this test...then come back and finish reading my blog.  I will just stand over here and wait for you...    hmmmmmm mmmmmmmmm mmmmmmmm.
     What did you discover?  Ah! That explains the way you have been behaving lately.  You are STRESSED.

     So now I am sure you are thinking, "Thanks alot Pastor Dave, now I have one more thing to worry about on top of all the stinking changes FaceBook made."

    Well, I leaarned a long time ago that you don't present a problem unless you can offer a solution.  So here is my solution:

Philippians 4.  Yep that is it.  Philippians 4 is the Apostle Paul's solution to stress.  Here I picked out a few of my favorite verses from that chapter.  I offer them to you from "The Message":

Verses 6&7:  6-7Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. 

Here are a few more:  10-14I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. 

Still want more?   Then here is some advice from Pamela Pettler, The Joy of Stress: It's called.... 
"The Stress Diet"

1/2 grapefruit
1 piece of whole wheat toast
8 oz. skim milk

4 oz. lean broiled chicken
1 cup steamed zucchini
1 Oreo cookie
Herbal tea

Mid-afternoon snack
Rest of the package of Oreo cookies
1 qt. rocky road ice cream
1 jar hot fudge

2 loaves garlic bread
large mushroom and pepperoni pizza
large pitcher of root beer
3 Milky Ways
Entire frozen cheesecake, eaten directly from the freezer.

I promise after a couple of days of this diet you will completely forget about FaceBook.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Westboro Baptist to Picket the Funerals for Members of Bikers who Care

The headlines read, "Members of the Bikers Who Care organization are still reeling from the deaths of five people at their weekend festival."

     It seems that the five people related to this group were found dead inside a recreational vehicle Sunday morning. Carbon monoxide that seeped into the camper from a generator is believed to be the cause of death.  They were staying in the camper at the end of a very long and successful day as this local organization hosted an annual "Toy Run".  

     As the funerals were announced, the news came that the Westboro Baptist Church, which is described by a local pastor as  "neither Baptist nor a church...[but a] demented cult."  was planning to picket these funerals.  You may remember this group as the same ones who often picket the funerals of service members who have been killed in combat.  They usually hold up signs that read, "Thank God for IEDs" and "God Hates Fags".

    According to the unnamed pastor, "Westboro "Baptist Church" is a satanic cult from Westboro, KS, led by Fred Phelps. It's primarily his family and ...a bunch of 'em (sic) are lawyers whose reason for living is to sue people. They say and live the exact opposite of God's heart and blame Him for all they do. They operate as pawns in Satan's army to pervert true Christianity." 

     If the rumors of their arrival are true, then they are mistakenly targeting an extremely well respected, benevolent organization that does lots of good things for this community.  

     We need to pray for the families of those who lost their lives.  We also need to pray that the folks from Westboro will have no impact on this community as Clarksville grieves the loss of these lives.  

     By the way, Bikers Who Care Charity has established four memorial funds for the families through Planters Bank. At this time, donations must be made in person at a bank branch until an on-line giving link is established. Planters Bank branches are located at:

  • 325 Commerce Street
  • 1971 Madison Street, Clarksville
  • 2019 Fort Campbell Blvd # A, Clarksville - (931) 648-7160

For more information about Bikers Who Care, visit their website: http://www.bikerswhocare.org. 



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who Are You Reaching?

As many of you know, Living Waters Church was established as a church plant in 2004, shortly after my retirement from the Army, It was based on a vision from God given in 1998 while I was still on active duty as a Chaplain.  One aspect of our vision statement is that we would be a reproducing church.  The vision statement (http://www.livingwaters-ky.org/home.aspx?igid=24537) says this specifically, "It is my goal that we seriously set a goal to begin a new church, similar to this one in its purpose and vision, outside the gates of another military installation within 3 years of this date."

     We met that goal (in part) when we established our first church plant.  The one exception to the vision statement is that it was right next door.  Let me explain.  You see, we saw the need for a church that would meet the needs of a very large segment of our population -- the Korean population that is estimated at between 5,000 and 6,000 in this area.  Many of these are military family members.  So our original target group, the military family, was still being reached in a new way right here in our community.  I am happy to say that our Korean congregation -- Eternal Living Waters is alive and doing well. 

     Recently, I was contacted by Pastor Larry Robertson, the Senior Pastor at Hilldale Baptist Church about the possibility of partnering with them to start yet another church -- this time right in our building.  My excitement grew as he explained that this new congregation would reach another segment of our local population that is largely unreached with the Gospel -- the deaf community.  

     I am happy to announce that this group, who is now meeting at Hilldale Baptist Church as a bible study will be holding a revival beginning September 30th and culminating October 2nd with a joint service between our congregation and this new church plant.  From that day on, this new church will begin meeting in our building on Saturday evenings.  
     So I go back to my original question, "Who are you reaching?"  Or to put it more succinctly, what segment of your local population is not being reached with the Gospel?  My follow-up question is this, "How might you reach them?"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Romance and Security-Two Sides of the Same Coin

“Husbands…live with your wives in an understanding way.”1 Peter 3:7

      Tomorrow will be the 37th anniversary of the day I asked my wife, Renee, to marry me.  As I reflect on the time between then and now, I am filled with gratitude for the way God has blessed our marriage.  While our relationship is not perfect, we have discovered the things that make a marriage work.  I want to speak to the men about our responsibilities to our wives.
      Part of husbands loving their wives is showing understanding toward them. God’s Word says, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way.” Part of understanding is knowing their need for romance. But another part of understanding your wife is meeting their need for security. God’s Word says that we are to remember they are the “weaker vessel.”
      Now ladies, before you start screaming, realize that this does not mean women are weaker than men intellectually, spiritually, emotionally or relationally. Often women are stronger than men are relationally. But they are usually weaker physically.
     In a world where some men may not have the best intentions toward women, women can feel vulnerable and in need of protection. Providing security for your wife is a way of letting her know that you love her. It meets a great need she hopes you’ll fulfill.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Prison Break

One of the most interesting, unusual and fulfilling assignments I had as an Army Chaplain was the 18 months I served, “Behind Bars” as a chaplain at the United States Disciplinary Barracks (U.S.D.B.).  I was actually the chaplain for the Military Police Battalion that served as the guard force for this Maximum Security Prison. 

Have you ever wondered what life behind bars would be like?  Well for most Christians the thought of experiencing life behind bars is a hard truth but did you know that of all the places Jesus told his followers to go, prison was near the top. 
In Matthew 25:45 it says “He will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”  Jesus makes it clear that the eternal future of those who claim his name is directly tied to visiting “Him” in prison.  But then Jesus identified himself with the least, the last, and the lost.
While serving his own prison sentence for his part in the Watergate scandal, Chuck Colson, the former Nixon aide, found Christ.  After his release in 1976, he founded Prison Fellowship (www.prisonfellowship.org).  His organization gives prisoners the opportunity to experience the radically transforming power of Christ that he had already experienced.

Many Christians, like most people in the general public, seem to believe that prisoners are simply getting what they deserve and the more they suffer for their crimes, well, so much the better.

But remember, Jesus himself was convicted of crimes against the state.  Max Lucado reminds us that we are people who have been saved by a death row convict. 

What I discovered during my time behind bars is that prisons are not limited by brick and mortar.  There are people everywhere who are imprisoned by their circumstances:  poverty, abusive marriages, demeaning jobs, attitudes, anger and a whole host of other feelings that rise to the surface during times of stress. 
In fact, many of the inmates inside “The Castle” were more free that some of you.  They were free on the inside. 

When we are unable to manage the complexities of life or our circumstances, we are drawn to the power of the Holy Spirit to help us deal with those areas of life for which we find ourselves ill-equipped, uninformed, or unprepared.  In times like these remember that the Holy Spirit works within us to bring a sense of joy-centered peace, and a deep sense of compassion in our work and witness with others.

As Christians, we are called to tear down the prison walls.  Maybe that is exactly what Jesus intended for us to do.  Why not start today!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Anticipation -- The Year of the Lord's Favor

Luke 4:14-30 (The Message)
14-15Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit. News that he was back spread through the countryside. He taught in their meeting places to everyone's acclaim and pleasure.
16-21He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,

God's Spirit is on me;
he's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to
the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, "This is God's year to act!"
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, "You've just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place."
22All who were there, watching and listening, were surprised at how well he spoke. But they also said, "Isn't this Joseph's son, the one we've known since he was a youngster?"
23-27He answered, "I suppose you're going to quote the proverb, 'Doctor, go heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we heard you did in Capernaum.' Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown. Isn't it a fact that there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah during that three and a half years of drought when famine devastated the land, but the only widow to whom Elijah was sent was in Sarepta in Sidon? And there were many lepers in Israel at the time of the prophet Elisha but the only one cleansed was Naaman the Syrian."
28-30That set everyone in the meeting place seething with anger. They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom, but he gave them the slip and was on his way.
Have you ever waited a long time for something? If you have, then the closer you get to that event, the greater the anticipation increases. Do you remember the turning points as you moved from dating, to engagement and then marriage? Maybe you are a high school or college student in your senior year and you are anticipating graduation and your future. Perhaps you are awaiting the arrival of a child. The moment when it comes is full of joy and the emotion that often accompanies that which has been anticipated.
God had promised the decisive demonstration of his salvation for his people for a long time. Now Jesus turns to declare the day as come; opportunity is present. After two-thousand years of promise stretching all the way back to Abraham, Jesus claims that the promises of the prophet Isaiah are now being decisively realized.
But as in many great moments, questions arise. Is this really it? Have we moved from the days of promise to the time of the beginning of realization? Is God at work to fulfill his promise?
Jesus’ synagogue declaration brings a moment of decision for those who hear his claims. A snapshot of his entire ministry flashes in this brief exchange. Jesus offers much, but the crowd questions what is offered. In the tension of the contrast, Luke’s readers are left to choose sides.
God has called us to do these very same things:
  • Preach the Message of Good News to the poor
  • Announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind
  • Set the burdened and battered free.
  • Announce, “This is the year of the Lord’s favor.”
It’s time to choose sides. Whose side are you on?
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations.
Isaiah 61:11(NIV)