Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Patience of God

While in a brief moment of prayer this morning I was really drawn to one particular attribute of God. Patience. I am so aware of God's patience with with me. How he waits, not in anger, but because of his love.

After meditating on the numerous ways God has and continues to display His wonderful patience in my life, I remembered that scripture typically lists things in a particular order for a reason. I know in certain passages the most important or salient person or event or ideal is listed first. I don't know for sure, but I have to wonder if Paul was listing certain attributes of God in order of their importance to him? In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he describes love and begins with "love is patient". That's absolutely amazing to me.

We know that God is the actual emboddiment of Love and perhaps the quality Paul most appreciated about God, at least while he was writing to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, was God's incredible patience. This morning I am very much in agreement with Paul. God's patience is wonderful.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Talent and Heart

This artist is performing in a show like "America's Got Talent" in the Ukraine. She is depicting the war against the Nazis in 1940's. Wow!
It is so touching to see those in the audience crying. No doubt, they witnessed many of these things taking place or they have heard so many harsh stories from their parents and grandparents. It is beyond amazing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

History Reveals Government Isn't The Answer

I have been saying for a while that everything the government touches ends up broken and dysfunctional. With that in mind, why in the world would we allow the government to take control of medicine which amounts to 20% of our economy? Previous behavior is the best predictor of future behavior so I spent some time on researching their record. Perhaps we can look and see what the government has done in the past.

Here are examples of what the government has controlled and how (un)successful the government has been.

The United States Post Office: it was established in 1775. They have had 234 years to get it under control. Unfortunately, the US Postal Service is bankrupt and dysfunctional. When the number of complaints grow about customer service in the private sector businesses are very much at risk of losing everything so issues are addressed quickly. When the number of complaints grew at Post Offices across the country about the amount of time people had to wait in line they took an incredible measure. The removed the clocks from every Post Office waiting area in the country. Good Job! Idiots!

Social Security: it was established in 1935 and surely the government has gotten it right in the past 74 years, right? Not even close. The mark of well-run companies is that they accurately plan for the future through a series of investments, cutbacks and expansions. Since the government has many "experts" that wish to dictate how businesses should be run, I'm sure they know that. One would think so but unfortunately, the Social Security Administration has not at all planned for the future. The Congressional Budget Office reported just 6 months ago (March, 2009) that Social Security would continue operating with an expected surplus until 2016. However, they have since adjusted that projection. Now the CBO indicates that outlays will exceed revenue in 2010. "Outlays will exceed revenue" is congressional language for "We're Broke". Nice going "Government".

Fannie Mae: though it was founded in 1938 as a part of FDR's "New Deal", it was chartered by Congress in 1968 as a "Government Sponsored Enterprise" and surely 71 years is long enough to have been successful. If they weren't doing well before 1968, they have had 41 years to work out any kinks they may have had. That just isn't true for Uncle Sam. Years of poor business practices lead to gigantic financial losses for Fannie. The lack of revenue forced Fannie Mae to "borrow" money from the government, which sounds a lot like me borrowing money from myself, but anyway. Don't worry because I'm sure Fannie can pay itself back right away, right? No way. In the 2nd quarter of this year Fannie reported a loss of 14.8 Billion which is a lot better than the 1st quarter in which they lost 23.2 Billion. It sure doesn't seem like government interference in any sector ever works.

The War on Poverty: This program was kicked-off in 1964 and one might think that 1 trillion dollars and 45 years would be enough to become successful...since many businesses and programs in the provate sector have done so much quicker and in much less time. Unfortunately, the government needs more time and more money. In January 1988 President Reagan described this program very well.

"Today the Federal Government has 59 major welfare programs and spends more than $100 billion a year on them. What has all this money done? Well, too often it has only made poverty harder to escape. Federal welfare programs have created a massive social problem. With the best of intentions, government created a poverty trap that wreaks havoc on the very support system the poor need most to lift themselves out of poverty: the family. Dependency has become the one enduring heirloom, passed from one generation to the next, of too many fragmented families."

The largest redistrubution of wealth in human history has not ended poverty as 37 million Americans remain in poverty. So to once again quote President Reagan, "The Federal Government declared war on poverty and poverty won". I would add to his words by saying the war continues to be fought with our tax dollars...over 1 trillion of them.

Medicare: This special program began in 1965 and 44 years later it is a financial and beaurocratic nightmare. If the total amount of unfunded obligations of Medicare ($53 Trillion) were divided equally among American households, each household would receive a bill for $440,000. Since the average American income is less than $50,000 annually, imagine giving the government every penny you make, without paying any other bill or even buying food for the next 9+ years. If we all did that, again that is figuring on averages, we would simply eliminate the unfunded Medicare obligations...nothing would have been paid on the national debt or the continuation of the numerous entitlement programs. I think it is safe to say that Medicare is not the flagship of governmental success.

Cash for Clunkers: Perhaps you need a more recent reminder of government ineptitude. Here it is...the Wall Street Journal wrote that Cash for Clunkers is proof that "the feds can't even give away money very well". That statement could have been made about a number of programs, pork, projects or takeovers but the WSJ was specifically talking about this program. While I'm sure the Asian car makers are pleased with the program, it did little for the American public. Sure, a few cars were sold but the program that initially was "funded" (in this case funded is code for borrowed more money from China) with $1 billion. As we know, the program ended up costing American tax payers $3 billion and that isn't counting the amount of intrest we will be paying on the borrowed $3 billion. It may be interesting to see just how many American car companies increased their sales in the month of August, 2009...
Chrysler sales decreased -15%
General Motors sales decreased 20%
Ford sales increased by 17%
However, Honda sales increased 10%
Subaru sales increased 52% and
Hyundai sales increased 47%.

At the end of the program, which didn't come a day too soon, only 39% of the money spent by the government in this goat-rodeo of a debacle went to American companies. Since the money to buy the cars was borrowed from Asia, I guess it is rather ironic that the majority of the money returned there. Or maybe it is just one more reason why we shouldn't trust the government to handle any aspect of our healthcare.

If Americans have any remaining shred of common sense they will not allow the government to take control of our healthcare. The government seems to have the antithesis of "The Midas Touch". Every program they initiate turns out to be a drain on the American public and rarely, if ever, actually functions well.

Here's hoping Americans go vote for REAL change in 2010...and by REAL change I mean fire every elected official and elect people to actually serve the interests of the people who have elected them.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Ultimate Super Hero

I was never very interested in Super heroes as a kid...or for that matter, as an adult. However, my boys absolutely love them. Because of the really cool super power, skills (bow staff, nun chucks and throwing star skills excluded) and ability to bring justice to every situation, my wife and I are constantly reminding our boys that the REAL Super Hero is Jesus. They seem to understand and appreciate that. It might be easier for them if someone could find out that the true Hebrew meaning of "your rod and staff comfort me" should be translated to something like, "your nun chuck skills and ability to catch a bullet in your teeth brings me a lot of comfort". Until that time I think we are left with discussing the most amazing aspects of God...and they are plentiful. Here are some thoughts that may help my boys appreciate Jesus on a new level (satire should be expected).

• Jesus does not sleep. He waits.
• Jesus counted to infinity - twice.
• When the Boogieman goes to sleep every night he checks his closet for Jesus.
• Jesus is currently suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are trademarked names for his left and right legs.
• If Jesus did sleep he would do so with a night light. Not because Jesus is afraid of the dark, but the dark is afraid of Jesus.
• If at first you don't succeed, you're obviously not Jesus.
• Jesus doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
• Superman owns a pair of Jesus pajamas.
• Jesus doesn't have to do anything for a Klondike bar.
• When Jesus was in middle school, his English teacher assigned an essay: "What is Courage?" Jesus received an "A+" for writing only the words "Jesus Christ" and promptly turning in the paper.
• Jesus ordered a Big Mac at Burger King, and got one.
• According to Einstein's theory of relativity, Jesus can actually roundhouse kick you yesterday.
• The quickest way to a man's heart is with Jesus.
• Jesus owns the greatest Poker Face of all-time. It helped him win the 1983 World Series of Poker despite him holding just a Joker, a Get out of Jail Free Monopoloy card, a 2 of clubs, 7 of spades and a green #4 card from the game UNO.
• Pi is not infinite. It stops when Jesus tells it to.
• Once a grizzly bear threatened to eat Jesus. Jesus showed the bear his fist and the bear proceeded to eat himself, because it would be the less painful way to die.
• The Dinosaurs looked at Jesus the wrong way once. ONCE.
• It was once believed that Jesus actually lost a fight to a pirate, but that is a ploy, created by Jesus himself to lure more pirates to him. Pirates never were very smart.
• Oxygen requires Jesus to live.
• Jesus can eat soup with a fork.
• Jesus challenged a statue to a staring contest. Jesus remains undefeated.
• Jesus does not have to mow his lawn. He simply stares at the grass and dares it to grow.
• Bullets dodge Jesus.
• Jesus can eat a Rubix Cube and poop it out solved.
• Jesus can hear silence.
• Jesus can unscramble an egg.
• Jesus could play Russian Roulette with 6 bullets.....and win.
• On Neil Armstrong's second step on the moon, he found a note that said, "Jesus was here."
• Jesus doesn't have to stop bullets because they know better.
• When Jesus does push-ups, he does not push himself up. He pushes the Earth down.
• Achilles was supposedly the greatest warrior of all time, but he died because of his weak spot, the Achilles tendon. There is no Jesus tendon.
• The first lunar eclipse took place after Jesus challenged the sun to a staring contest. Jesus always wins.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Amazing Forgiveness

I came across a prayer written by an unknown Jewish woman in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp during WWII. It may be the most amazing example of Godliness and forgiveness I have seen this side of the divine. May God bless us all with such hearts, vision and with such an incredible walk with Him.

Lord, remember not only the men of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember rather the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering: Our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Tangible Kingdom

I typically don't write or forward a review on a book I haven't read. It is certainly not my custom to pass on a book review written by someone I don't know. However, this book was recommended to me 2 weeks ago by a dear Brother and I found this review on the website of the ministry through which he serves, Mission Alive. I can't wait to read this book and I am so anxious to do so that I also want to put the info out there on this book so others can join me. Enjoy.

Hobby Chapin is a church planter in Denver, CO at Higher Point. He shares with us his take on The Tangible Kingdom.

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay are practitioners in missional-incarnational church planting. The Tangible Kingdom is a platform for Hugh and Matt to share their stories in church planting and to extract the missional-incarnational principles from their experience.

The authors speak from the heart in addressing the tension that is present for those transitioning from traditional church paradigms toward missional-incarnational ones. Their goal is to show that the Kingdom becomes real in people’s lives when they have the right elements interacting. These elements are communion, mission, and community.

Missional-Incarnational communities must have a deep sense of communion with God. Both on an individual and a communal level, there must be disciplines that are aimed at spiritual formation and “being” in God’s presence.
Missional-Incarnational communities must have a deep sense of participation within God’s mission. The term “missional” indicates being sent; the term “incarnational” indicates how we are sent out into the world to live among people for the purpose of engagement. Therefore, there must be disciplines of engagement with the world.
Missional-Incarnational communities must have a deep sense of life together—that is, community. These communities practice disciplines of togetherness as they live out a shared story in God’s life. God’s calling and sending draws them together and form deep bonds.

Without these three elements, Christian community remains deficient and the Kingdom of God distant.

The transition toward practicing missional-incarnational principles can be messy and confusing. Hugh and Matt are pioneers plowing ahead and coaching others along the journey. For those who have read many books on missional theology or missional church planting, The Tangible Kingdom provides many similar bits of information and insights. What separates the Tangible Kingdom from many others is the candid story-telling of the authors and their insight as practitioners. For those of you who have taken the plunge into this journey of practice, there will be many relatable moments with sharpening nuance.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is that it will pose a challenge that will confront tendencies to sit and talk about these principles or to abandon them along the journey for “what works.” Missional-Incarnational practitioners are defined by their “being” in the presence of God and their willingness to “do” as God sends them to participate with Him in the world. That takes leaders out into the world rubbing shoulder to shoulder with those sojourners who are willing to journey with them. This requires consistency and intentionality. I appreciate Hugh and Matt for their candid leadership and for their sharp challenge to get on and stay the course.

*Halter, Hugh and Matt Smay. The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community; The Posture and Practices of Ancient Church Now. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 2008.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sermon in a Song

This is creative and confirms what I have shared with my wife on many, many occasions. That is that all love stems from the One who is indeed Love. God is Love...not like love or similar to love...He is Love. Therefore the love songs that the songs from every era discusses, if it is indeed love, flows from God. Classical, Oldies, Rock, Pop, all of it originates in the Being of God. This Minister of Music takes some popular, well-known songs and makes it applicable as love songs to the one who is Love. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Warriors, Where They May Be

Some periods in my life seem to have been very simple and extremely well defined. That isn't to say that those periods were always positive or even healthy, but there is something to be said for clarity and a sense of direction.

One such time in my life was during some of my initial military training. Life was difficult by design and the situations were stressful and trying. However, I think people who stop simply being a soldier and somehow have everything within them morphed into a warrior remember the exact moment when they changed.

For me it was the moment when marching in accordance with approved military regulations was no longer important. Knowing who and when to salute, the appearance of my uniform and even when, where and how I would eat again all became peripheral details that neither greatly mattered nor were irresponsibly ignored. The lone thing that mattered was life. Surviving and being able to preserve my life and the life of those with whom I was with and the taking of the life of anyone or anything that seemed to challenge the first objective.

While that admittedly sounds gruesome and perhaps a bit barbaric, the simple truth is that without the warriors in this world, life wouldn't be as grand...or perhaps even possible for most people. Warriors on the battlefield transform history through courage, honor, bravery and brotherhood...yes, often through the taking of life. Sometimes warriors live long enough to wage battles in other areas of life. From service in those battles Warriors rarely receive medals and often they don't even receive recognition. Those things are fine for the Warrior because only soldiers care about the applause of men and the kind of glamour one can hang on the wall. The warriors of this world simply care that they gave their all for an honorable cause and that they were, collectively if not individually, victorious.

Some times in this world Warriors aren't found on the traditional battlefield. Sometimes they aren't even called Warriors. Maybe we call them Mom, Dad, Single Mother, Coach, Neighbor, Friend, Husband, Wife, Teacher, Physician, Minister, etc.
Warriors, when not on the traditional fields of battle are the people who refuse to "half-ass" life. They refuse to be defined by what are at times, really horrible circumstances. They may get down but they never quit...the Warrior's Heart beating within them demands that they die before they quit, give-up, surrender or retreat from the battle of life.

Warriors, regardless of where they are found should, at the very least, be honored. I hope we can all find a Warrior in our lives to honor. If you are the Warrior in your life...I honor you.

I close with quotes from two great Warriors who fought on opposing sides in The War of Northern Aggression (Civil War). Their statements represent the two sides present in the lives and hearts of every warrior who has experienced death all too intimately and who have also experienced what it means to really, fully live.

"The scene now presented was unspeakably grand. The resolute and impetuous charge, the rush of our heavy columns sweeping out from the shadow and gloom of the forest into the open fields flooded with sunlight, the glitter of arms, the onward dash of artillery and mounted men, the retreat of the foe, the shouts of the hosts of our army, the dust, the smoke, the noise of fire-arms—of whistling balls and grape-shot and of bursting shell—made up a battle scene of unsurpassed grandeur."

—Confederate Brig. Gen. Bushrod Johnson
September 20th, 1863 regarding The Battle of Chickamauga

"But out of that silence rose new sounds more appalling still; a strange ventriloquism, of which you could not locate the source, a smothered moan, as if a thousand discords were flowing together into a key-note weird, unearthly, terrible to hear and bear, yet startling with its nearness; the writhing concord broken by cries for help, some begging for a drop of water, some calling on God for pity; and some on friendly hands to finish what the enemy had so horribly begun; some with delirious, dreamy voices murmuring loved names, as if the dearest were bending over them; and underneath, all the time, the deep bass note from closed lips too hopeless, or too heroic to articulate their agony...It seemed best to bestow myself between two dead men among the many left there by earlier assaults, and to draw another crosswise for a pillow out of the trampled, blood-soaked sod, pulling the flap of his coat over my face to fend off the chilling winds, and still more chilling, the deep, many voiced moan that overspread the field."

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: 20th Maine,At the end of the first day's fighting at Fredericksburg

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Great Warrior, A Strong Man

I suppose that we all have people in our ancestry that have fought in wars or that have at least served in the military. I personally served in the U.S. Army and have so many relatives that have served in every branch of the military that I would be afraid to mention them for fear of leaving some out.

Today I read the story of my great-great-great Grandfather, Hillard Garrison Waldrep. He was born January 4, 1842 and he went by the name "Hillary". He was a soldier in The War of Northern Aggression (The Civil War). His story is inspiring and is certainly one of valor, bravery, courage and toughness. Here is a bit of his story.

Grandpa Hillary served in B Company of the 16th Alabama Regiment of Infantry. He voluntarily enlisted in August 1861. He served as a personal assistant to General Wood and General Preston. I imagine only certain people were allowed to serve in those roles. Since he enlisted at the rank of Private, he surely earned his position with the Generals.

In a letter written to his local newspaper and dated May 19, 1905 Hillary wrote,

"I have been shot and badly wounded several times. the first battle I was at Fisher's Creek but I only got my heel shot off. The second was at Chickamauga, where I was badly wounded by a shot through the neck. I feel it until this day, but I still like the gray (the color of The Confederate uniform). On the 22nd of July, 1864, I got shot in the foot, through both legs and through the bowels all in the same battle at Franklin, Tennessee. Those shots through my legs were in my thighs and one knee shot off. The total number of wounds I sustained were seven"

Another story from Hillary's time spent fighting the Yankees was that while serving with General Bragg Hillary shot and killed a Northern General. He told General Bragg that he thought he could shoot the General even though the General and Northern troops were very far away. General Bragg told him to give it a try so he did. Hillary raised the sights on his rifle 200 yards MORE than they already were and fired. After Hillary took the gun down from his shoulder, they saw the Yankee General topple off of his large gray horse. The horse was spooked and ran across the large field toward the Confederate Soldiers. General Bragg told Hillary that he could keep the horse, bed-roll and equipment. For what it's worth, Hillary later sold the horse for $100.

Other stories about my Grandfather and his fellow soldiers were not so glamorous. Like how the food wagons were drawn by mules and were often several days behind the troops. Often, when the wagons would catch up to the soldiers the food would be spoiled or molded. The men were often so hungry they would scratch corn out of the ground from where it had been trampled on by horses who were once fed in that area. They would simply wash and parch the corn and eat it. Despite the unsanitary conditions, starvation, insufficient clothing and multiple wounds, Hillary lived to be 88 years old. He died on July 21, 1930.

Hillary Garrison Waldrep is a great American hero and is a man for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration. May his legacy of courage, honor and grit be honored and, if needed, repeated in the lives of his many descendants.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Red Clay and Red Roses

Death is part of life. Death is shrouded in fear and pain more than any other aspect of life and it just doesn't seem to be optional. Death can be tough at any age, but it seems to be more difficult for those who can't easily wrap their young and inexperienced minds around the concept. Such was the case this past Monday afternoon.

Reagan has been part of our family longer than our three sons have been. In fact, Reagan was the English Mastiff who was to be our "child" until we were ready to have kids years later. Obviously that wasn't God's plan as our oldest son was born a year after Reagan. Reagan was our 230lb baby that was determined and quite content to serve, love and play. It is only expected and natural that a void exists now in our hearts as Reagan died recently.

He appears to have simply gone to sleep and died in his sleep. We highly suspected that he had cancer as he had lost weight and seemed to age quickly over the past few months. Despite that, he never suffered and we know that far to many pet lovers have had a very different tale to tell regarding their sick pet.

After Reagan's death, my family gathered around a plot on our property where Reagan's original dog house was and we began to dig. For such a large animal a small and simple hole wouldn't suffice. After a long time of digging through the hard, red clay we finally had a very deep hole in which I could place our Gentle Giant. The boys helped me dig through the clay and we were all exhausted by the time we were finished. Alabama clay can be as hard to dig through as grief and sadness.

Once the burial was completed, the boys placed Reagan's favorite ball, a "tombstone" and some roses Brook cut from our plants. It was fitting and in so many ways beautiful. The most touching part to me was how the boys prayed to conclude the event. To hear their hearts being openly expressed to God and in their own way taking their emotions and loss to Him was amazing. Losing Reagan has been difficult for the whole family. His large stature is certainly indicative of the large hole left in each of us. I am thankful for the companion he was and for the lessons in life, loss and love the boys have learned through this process. The boys will face more significant losses in their future. We can only hope and pray that during those times they will show the same tendency to go to God with their hearts.