Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mommy, why do those people talk funny?

Hello all,

I have long been fascinated with words.  In fact, I'm something of a language sleuth and amateur etymologist.  By the way, that's etymologist as opposed to "entomologist," which is a person who studies bugs and insects (such as Washington politicians).  Etymologists, on the other hand, study word meanings and word origins, and how the form and meaning of words have changed over time.

When I was a kid I didn't care a fig about English or any other language.  It was not until my family moved to Guam that I began to pay attention to the Chamorro language because we were living in a Guamanian village and I couldn't understand what anybody was saying at first.

Years later I studied Greek for two years in college plus I took a year of Russian because I was a math major at the time and it was the recommended language for that program.  Then in seminary I dove back into Greek and added Hebrew to boot.  My fascination with languages really started to grow.  Appointed as a missionary to Brazil in 1976, Portuguese became my working language for the next 15 years.  Along the way I picked up enough Latin, Spanish, and Italian to be dangerous and to embarrass myself in public.

My son, Chris, who also loves languages, posted the following video clip on Facebook and I thought it was very creative and funny, albeit somewhat coarse in a couple of spots.  It's long but I think you will like it.  We'll talk more on the other side.  Enjoy!

As most of you know, Ramel and I are preparing to move to Ireland as WorldVenture missionaries.  Our job description is "Evangelism and Church Planting."  Our immediate challenge will be to work with two other WV couples to start a Gospel preaching church in Sligo, the largest town in NW Ireland.

Ireland has two official languages: English and Irish (Gaelic).  While nearly everyone in the country speaks English there are still many places where Irish is the heart language.  Therefore, we are committed to learn enough Irish to be able to address people in their own language and to show that we value their culture and customs.  We've invested $400 in the Rosetta Stone Irish Course and have been studying away, finding it difficult but very interesting.  One of the revelations to me has been the number of words that have come into English from the Celtic languages, including Irish.  Who knew?

Please pray for us about this language acquisition journey.  While Irish is not required to do ministry in Ireland, we believe that it will help open doors in that very traditional region where we will be working.  They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but I'm betting that they are wrong.

Go raibh maith agat as do chuid paidreacha,
Mike & Ramel

P.S. That means, "Thank you for your prayers."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Geezers and Gadgets

Hello already,

I'm not even going to try and explain why I haven't written anything on this blog for so long.  The explanation and excuses would just bore you.  I'm back, and that's all that's important.

When I was a kid the most sophisticated piece of technology in our home was a big cabinet-style Philco radio.  Then in the mid-1950's we bought a television set.  We lived in Imbler, OR (98 people) at the time and my dad was the pastor of a little country church in Summerville.  Every Sunday afternoon a group of folks from our church would come over to our house to watch TV because we were one of the few families in the congregation that owned a set.  We'd pull up chairs and pop popcorn and bring out the chips and other munchies.  Then everybody would sit down to watch "Gunsmoke" or "Lassie" or "I Love Lucy" or one of the other shows popular at the time.

Believe me, that TV was considered a modern marvel. A small round screen with a black and white picture, yet still it was like magic to us.  Jump forward in time... the transistor radio.  I remember getting my first one.  I could actually carry it around with me and listen to music or ball games or any number of other interesting things.  I would often listen to it in my bed at night after I was supposed to be asleep. Sometimes I could pick up far away stations from foreign countries like Texas, or California.  That's because of the physical characteristics of AM waves.  They travel farther at night.  I liked to listen to Wolfman Jack from XERB broadcasting out of Chula Vista, CA.  Their transmitter tower was over the border in Mexico so they could use a stronger signal than was allowed by the FCC. It was a real boomer!

All that to point out that I've been around the block a few times and have seen the introduction of a lot of technical gadgetry during my lifetime.  And frankly, I'm having a hard time keeping up now.  The changes and innovations are just coming too fast.  Oh yes, I'm peddling along, trying to keep up a brave face, but this stuff frustrates the daylights out of me.  I regularly use 4 different computers, all with different operating systems.  I've got 3 email accounts and a smart phone.  I'm on Facebook.  I was on Orkut and My Space before that.  I write two blogs, maintain a website, and have a Twitter account.  I'm doing it all.  However, sometimes I get frustrated with it all, too.

These gizmos and gadgets are supposed to help us communicate with one another, to stay better connected to family, friends, and coworkers.  However, it seems to me that we are becoming more disconnected than ever from other people.  Looking at a tiny screen and texting cryptic messages to one another using symbols, acronyms, and abbreviations is not my idea of communication.  In fact, it's just one step up from cave-writing, which the Neanderthals perfected long ago.

I'll admit it.  I'm a geezer.  I'll probably never be fully comfortable with all this gadgetry.  But I just want to go on record as saying, just because something is new and shiny and fascinating doesn't mean it is an improvement.  Nothing can ever take the place of sitting and talking to a friend over a cup of coffee, or looking into someones eyes as we share life together.  Maybe we all ought to take time out for a "technology fast" once in a while, just to remind ourselves of what real interpersonal communication is like.

Seriously, would the world come to a screeching stop if you turned off your smart phone and computer for two or three days?  I don't think so.  I dare you.  Try it.  Maybe by reducing the noise and chatter you'll find it easier to hear that "still, small voice" that we all long to hear, but that so often gets drowned out in cacophony of modern living.

An old geezer and proud of it,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Hello crazy people,
     I've been AWOL from blogging for awhile.  As you've undoubtedly noticed, I sort of run hot and cold.  Anyway, don't think that I don't love you just because I don't write very often.
     As most of my friends and acquaintances know I love cops.  I'm a police chaplain for two different law enforcement agencies.  I am pro-cop all day, every day.  However, I have a bone to pick with the PIOs (for you newbies that stands for Public Information Officer) who represent the various police agencies when they are called on to explain a situation to the media.  Let's say there has been a holdup at a convenience store.  The PIO will look into the camera and say something like this: "At 3:15 AM this morning a gentleman wearing a black hoody and red tennis shoes walked into the 7-11 and held up the cashier at gunpoint.  He not only shot the man, he also kicked the guy's dog, and keyed his new car on the way out.  However, someone called 911 and the gentleman was apprehended two blocks from the scene of the crime.  The gentleman is now in the city lockup awaiting his hearing."  Gentleman?  Really?
     Maybe you are thinking, "Mike has finally lost it.  He's over the edge."  OK, this may not be the most important subject in the world but it bugs me to hear our language misused in this way just for the sake of political correctness.  I agree that on the TV News they don't have to say out loud what the guy really is.  There might be children present.  In reality, a guy who would do such a thing is a low-life, scum-sucking, bottom-dweller with a sloped forehead and no morals.  Granted, the PIO probably shouldn't say that.  However, he or she also doesn't have to go the other way and call the cretin a "gentleman."  That's just PC out-of-control.  Call the guy a "suspect" if you want, but please, don't call him a gentleman.
     If you look up the word "gentleman" in the dictionary you will discover that it originally meant a man born into a family of high social standing with large land-holdings who because of his independent means did not need to work for a living.  It also came to mean a courteous, gracious man with a strong sense of honor.  Today, however, the word can apparently be used to describe any homo sapien with male gonads, regardless of how worthless he might be.  That just burns my bacon.
     However, it goes right along with the trend in our society of changing the definitions or using euphemisms to avoid telling the truth.  After all, we wouldn't want to make anyone feel bad or diminish his/her self-esteem in any way.  For example, there is a whole long list of words we're not allowed to use anymore to describe human deficiencies and defects.  We want to make everyone feel like a winner, even if he's never accomplished anything, so we give prizes for participation.  We don't keep score because then we'd have to say that one team won and the other team lost.
     Even in many churches preachers avoid ever using the "S" word.  They'll say that we should admit our mistakes, acknowledge our lapses in judgment, and own up to our less than perfect choices.  However to come right out and say that we are all worthless "S'ers" in God's eyes?  No sir, we wouldn't want to offend anyone, in spite of the fact that the Bible clearly says that "All have S'ed and fallen short of the glory of God."  And it also says, "The wages of S is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life."  So even though the Bible declares that we are all gentlemen S'ers we'll just keep that our little secret because we don't want to sound judgmental and narrow-minded and turn folks off.
     GENTLEMEN, my foot!  We need to tell the truth, the whole truth, whether people like it or not.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More Wacko Interfaith Stuff

Hello my friends,
This video exemplifies what I was talking about in my last post.  This is a promotional video put out by The New Seminary, a strange collection of religious fruits and nuts, in my opinion.  The only way to put Jews, Catholics, Protestants, New-Agers, Buddhists, Hindus, and Native American Shamans together is if nobody believes in absolute truth.  Where it gets messy is when somebody brings up the fact that Jesus declared: "I am THE WAY, and THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE.  No one comes to the Father but through Me."  Religion per se has no answers, only questions.  The answers are only found in Christ.  Again, I'm posting this video to show what's wrong with ecumenism, not to promote it.

More convinced than ever that Jesus is the only way,

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"The Faith Community"

Hello people,
     I received a letter a few days ago from EMO, the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.  I still haven't figured out how I ended up on their mailing list unless they just send their stuff to every church in the phone book.  They write to me periodically, trying to get me to attend a meeting or march in some parade or give money to some cause.  And don't get me wrong, most of them are probably nice, polite, well-intentioned people and I'm sure they do some good things.  However, I'm not about to get involved with a group that brings together every possible stripe of liberal protestants, Roman Catholics, and openly homosexual churches into one big ecumenical stew pot.  Then to give more flavor they spice up the mix by adding in what they call "Interfaith Partners" including Jews, Muslims, Unitarian-Universalists, New-Agers, Zen Buddhists and a bunch of others.
     However, what I'm reacting to today is their constant reference to ministers as "those of us in the faith community."  I hate that phrase!  It means absolutely nothing.  What is the "faith community" for crying out loud?
     Think about it.  Isn't everyone in the "faith community"?  We all exercise faith, every day, many times a day.  We are all big into faith!  When I get in my car and turn the key I have faith that it will start and get me where I need to go.  When I sit down in my desk chair I have faith that it will hold me up without crashing to the floor.  When I eat my wife's cooking I have faith that she hasn't spiked my food with antifreeze.  The truth is we all have lots of faith--in something or other.
     Moreover, being part of the "faith community" isn't a question of the quality of our faith.  Some people are more religiously devout than others.  They will cheerfully walk over broken glass to win the favor of their "god" and sincerely believe that it will make a difference.  Some have the faith to believe that their "higher power"  will hear them if they fast, meditate, self-mutilate, and do penance.  They've got sincere faith to spare!
     However, if you place your faith in something that is unworthy, it matters not how much faith you have, or how sincere your faith might be, you will still lose.  For example, if I go to the horse races and put my whole August paycheck on EggSalad to win I am exercising faith.  That puts me in the "faith community."  I may believe with all my heart that EggSalad is the best horse out there--my faith is strong and sincere.  However, I don't have all the facts.  Maybe EggSalad ate some bad oats yesterday and was up all night.  Maybe he's just having an off day.  Now when he comes in 7th instead of 1st who am I going to blame?  Was there a problem with the quantity of my faith?  NO!  I had gobs of faith.  Was there a problem with the quality of my faith?  Again, NO!  I truly believed that EggSalad would win it.  The problem was with the OBJECT of my faith.  I just bet on the wrong horse.
     To get back to EMO and the "faith community" thing... There are nice people running around all over the place calling themselves "Christians" who by their teaching and practices deny the very One they claim to know, love, and serve.  Think about it-- I can claim to be a mallard duck.  However, if I don't have a big orange beak, shiny colorful feathers, webbed-feet and a girlfriend who lays eggs then I'm probably not a real mallard.  Likewise, if I claim to know Jesus, to be a Jesus-follower, and yet I have none of the personal character traits of Jesus, I don't do Jesus things, I don't like to hang out with Jesus people, and I don't produce any Jesus type fruit and good works, then I'm probably fooling myself.

Betting on Jesus,

Friday, August 12, 2011

Little Trees With Big Plans

Hello my crazy friends,

On Monday of this week I stayed home and worked in the yard--mowing, weeding, edging, that whole bit.  In the front yard, right in front of our main picture window looking out onto Thiessen Ave. is a small weeping-willow tree of some sort.  The trunk is about 7-8 inches in diameter and it stands about 6 feet tall.  It's a cute little tree and the little sparrows love to sit in its branches and torment our two cats.  However, every year I have to prune the darn thing back because it has visions of grandeur.  It wants to be a giant tree.  However, I want it to stay small and low to the ground so that it doesn't block our view out that window.  I want the tree to look like an umbrella with the branches going out and down.  The little tree, on the other hand, wants to grow up and outward, reaching for the sky and taking over the whole front yard.  It's not content to be what I want it to be.

Moreover, the little tree is sneaky.  It sends out these skinny branches from the top reaching upward.  Sometimes I don't notice for a while.  But eventually I realize that the little guy is at it again, trying to make like a giant oak or a noble sequoia.  On Monday, once again, I whacked the little guy back down to size and told him to knock it off.  I don't want him to grow into a mighty tree.  I like him the way he is and I'm the one in charge, not him.

That one-sided conversation started me thinking.  I'm a lot like that little tree.  I have my plans.  I have a vision of what my life should be like.  I want to be bigger, more noticed, more well-known.  I want to pastor a bigger church.  I want to have a more influential ministry.  I want to preach to bigger crowds and make a bigger impact in my community.  But every once in a while God has to say, "Settle down, Mike.  I didn't make you for that.  I made you for this.  I like you this size.  I want you to be a healthy, beautiful tree where I have planted you.  It's not about your size.  It's about My plans for you."

Sometimes I chaff under that.  I look out and see some bigger trees around me and I want to be like them.  When I compare myself to others I feel like a failure because I'm not bigger. 

But that's the problem, isn't it?  We have no business comparing ourselves to others.  That is an inappropriate and inaccurate standard of measure.  There is only one Person we need to please, and that is our Lord and Master, Jesus.  His plan is perfect and it is beautifully form-fit and unique for each of us.

If we can just learn to rest in God's love and be content with His approval our stress level will go down significantly.  The little tree in our front yard is stubborn though, and I'll probably have to have "the talk" with him again next year because he tends to forget what I tell him.  And probably, the Lord will have to remind me of these things again, too, because I also have a short memory.

Trying to be content to be a little tree,

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Are you a Democrat, a Republican, or a Texan?

Hello you crazy people,

I haven't written anything here for a long time.  My inspiration and creativity have been running low, and so has my spare time, but I plan to resume writing once in a while.  I have several articles going, in various stages of completion and will post them soon.  In the meanwhile, I offer you the following story that my daughter-in-law, Sharon, sent me.  This little charmer poses the question, "Are you a Democrat, a Republican, or a Texan?"  I hope you find it as amusing as I did.

Here is a little test that will help you decide.  The answer can be found in your response to the following scenario:

You are walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children.  Suddenly, an Islamic terrorist with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, praises Allah, raises the knife, and charges at you.  You are carrying a Kimber 1911 .45 ACP, and you are an expert shot.  You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family.  What do you do?  Think carefully.

The Democrat’s Answer:

“Well, really that’s not enough information to answer the question!  Does the man look poor or oppressed?  Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack?  Could we run away?  What does my wife think?  What about the kids?  Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand?  What does the law say about this situation?  Does the pistol have an appropriate safety built into it?  Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does this send to society and to my children?  Is it possible he’d be happy with just killing me?  Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me?  If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me?  Should I call 9-1-1?  Why is this street so deserted?  We need to raise taxes, have a “paint-and-weed day” and make this a happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior.  This is all so confusing!  I need to debate this with some friends for a few days and try to come to a consensus.”


The Republican’s Answer:



The Texan’s Answer:

Click...... (Followed by sounds of reloading)

Daughter says: “Nice grouping, Daddy! Were those the Winchester Silvertips we bought, or just the regular hollow-points?”

Son: “Dad, can I shoot the next one?”

Wife: “Listen to me now, Buford, you ain’t taking that to the taxidermist!  You hear?”

Oh yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about.  You've just gotta love those down-home fellers.  They know how to take care of business.