Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Alphabetical Brain Busters

Hello fellow flakazoids,

I enjoy word puzzles of all kinds, especially crossword puzzles. But here are some fun little challenges to brighten your day. Complete the missing words to make the statements true. The first one is done for you. I'll post the answers tomorrow, just in case you get stuck.

A. 26 = L of the A (= 26 Letters of the Alphabet)
B. 9 (Oops, make that 8!) = P in the S S
C. 1001 = A N
D. 54 = C in a D (with the J)
E. 1 = W on a U
F. 11 = P on a F T
G. 2 = T and a P in a P T
H. 200 = D in M when you P G
I. 3 = B M (s h t r)
J. 57 = H V
K. 64 = S on a C
L. 40 = D and N of the G F
M. 4 = Q in a G
N. 13 = S on the A F
O. 12 = S of the Z
P. 32 = D at which W F
Q. 7 = W of the A W
R. 18 = H on a G C
S. 90 = D in a R A
T. 29 = D in F in a L Y
U. 5 = D in a Z C
V. 1000 = W that a P is W
W. 76 = T in the B P
X. 1000000 = M I W for O O Y S
Y. 4 = H of the A
Z. 13 = D in a B D

How did you do? I know this isn't real spiritual but I thought you'd like it anyway. If you missed a few, it's OK. You're still a good person. Relax, Monk!

Crazy, but not stupid

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No Friend of Mine

Death sucks, big time! I'm really getting tired of saying goodbye to people I love and admire. That old TV program, "Touched By an Angel," always portrayed the angel of death as a handsome nice guy smartly dressed in a white suit. He was just an angel, like all the other angels, but had apparently drawn the short straw and gotten the dirty job. He would show up at just the right time and gently lead people away to Heaven. Their passing was almost always calm, quiet, and peaceful.

How I wish it were always so. Death is no friend of mine. Death is not pretty. It's usually not peaceful either. Death is an enemy that will one day be conquered and sent to the pit, right along with the Antichrist, the False Prophet, the Devil, and all the demons, not to mention those people who have rejected God's gracious offer of salvation through His Son, Yeshua, the Christ. At the end of the Book of Revelation, in 20:14 we read, "And death and Hades were thrown into the Lake of Fire [i.e. Hell]." A few verses later in 21:4 it says, "And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." The Scriptures tell us that the last enemy to be conquered by Christ will be death itself. I look forward to that day.

This week we have been hit with two more deaths. On Sunday morning, just as Sunday School was starting I got a phone call from one of the Portland Police Bureau sergeants where I serve as a chaplain informing me that one of our finest officers, a 17-year veteran of the bureau, had been killed on his way to work. His pickup started acting up on the I-5 freeway and he pulled over onto the shoulder to pop the hood and see what was happening. A moment later he was struck by a semi and killed instantly. He left a wife and several kids, all of them devastated. The whole police department is in shock over this. He was one of the most beloved and admired officers we have. Even the bad guys liked him. Like I said, I hate death!

Then yesterday morning, just as I was getting ready to leave the house to come to work, I got a phone call from a dear wife saying that her husband had died a little while earlier. Flor and Tateyana are from Uzbekistan. Flor accepted Christ 14 years ago while still working as a translator for the Soviet KGB. The story of their leaving Uzbekistan and coming to America is filled with miracles for which they give God all the credit. However, Flor was diagnosed not long ago with an inoperable liver tumor. Physically he has been getting steadily weaker, but his positive attitude and his childlike faith in the Lord have been amazing. He died at 3:05 AM yesterday. Oh, did I happen to mention that I hate death?

Death makes me angry. It was not part of God's plan. It should not even exist but it does. It was not created or invented like other things. It sprang forth spontaneously as the natural consequence of sin and disobedience and rebellion. It is the antithesis of life, just as darkness is the absence of light. Darkness cannot overpower light. When light is dimmed or extinguished the darkness always rushes in to fill the void, but while the light is strong, the darkness must hide. As long as the lights are on in the room, darkness is forced to wait outside. As long as the sun is visible in the sky, night has to slink and skulk around the fringes of the earth until the sun goes to sleep. Only then does the night find the courage to appear.

I think death works the same way. Death is not stronger than life. In and of itself death is weak. Life trumps death every time. But when the light of life goes out, death rushes in like a flood. In the twinkling of an eye the soul separates itself from the body and those who belong to the Lord go immediately to be with Him. "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, " the Word says. Only then does death take over the shell that's been left.

But that bit of philosophy mixed with theology is little comfort when we have to hold the hand of someone we love as they slip from our grasp into eternity like I did with my Mom and Dad not long ago. I know where they are and I know that I will see them again. But I still hate the death that took them. Christ ripped the stinger out of the beast so that it can't really hurt us anymore, but I still hate the look, the smell, the feel of death, and believe me, I've seen it plenty of times. There is nothing pretty about death. It is ugly and mean and I resent it, in all it's forms, all it's disguises. On that day when death is finally swallowed up in victory and cast into Hell, my voice will be one of many millions raised to praise the One who holds the power and is worthy to receive all honor, glory, and adoration.

Crazy to see the day when death goes down in flames,

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Couple of Funny Pix

Hi there fellow pilgrims,

One of the consequences of being slightly crazy is that I seem to attract loons and moonbat friends. It so happens that some of them are even relatives of mine. This week I received two pictures that made me laugh and I thought I'd share them with you. The first one may seem mean spirited if you happen to be a Hillary fan, but I thought it was funny anyway.

Reportedly a KFC in New York City.

These are the newest style of shoes for Oregon and Washington residents.

Some have asked if I've cut that glass shelf yet. The answer is no, but I'm getting closer to the big moment. The glass is standing propped up in our kitchen and I did a practice run the other night and cut a piece of glass to repair a picture frame, so it won't be long now. I'm just nervous because to make the shelf I have to cut a bigger piece and I don't want to screw it up. Keep your fingers crossed.
Tchau, until later

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Good Book Is A Joy Forever

Hello fellow crazies,

I love books--books of all kinds, all sizes. I especially love old books--the way they feel, the way they smell. OK, you who know me well know that I lied about that last part. I have no sense of smell anymore. I got electrocuted back in 1981 and it burned out my olfactory nerve so that now I can't smell or taste anything. But I used to love the smell of old books, and that's the truth.

Those who know me well also know that I'm eclectic in my reading tastes. I can spend hours in a used book store, going where my curiosity leads me. I recently came across a quotation that I liked from an odd source, because it's one that sums up both my book-reading and book-lending experience. The quote is from an old American magazine called Punchinello (Vol. 1, Number 2, April 9, 1870). Punchinello was the American spinoff of Punch magazine, a British weekly of humor and satire. Punchinello was published in New York City from April-December of 1870. All 39 issues can be found online at

Books are the best of friends. They are honest. They say what they feel, and feel what they say. Like other blessings, too, they often take to wings and fly; and it proves to be a fly that never returns. A good book is a joy forever. The only sad thing about it is, that it keeps lent all the time--not so much piously as profanely. Am I my brother's keeper? No. But my brother is quite too often a keeper of mine--of mine own choice authors. The best of friends are, of course--like the best of steaks--rather rare. Like honest men they count only one in ten thousand--an extremely small per cent in a commercial point of view. Books--what should we do without them? What may we not do with them, if it were not for the season of Lent?”

Looking around, one might conclude that books are going the way of the dinosaurs--becoming extinct, replaced by a more powerful rival. But I don't think that is going to happen. Audio books, online books, movies, IPods--none of these can hold a candle to the feel of a good book in your hand.

And speaking of good books... My friend, Herschel McGraw gave me a book for Christmas--What's So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza, the same bestselling author who wrote What's So Great About America and many other books. D'Souza is a former White House domestic policy analyst who now teaches at Stanford.

This is an amazingly well written book and one that is hard to put down. In it the author takes on the Darwinists, the secularists, the humanists, the atheists, and any other -ists who happen to show up at the party. He masterfully shoots down the notion that religion is on the decline and that atheism is on the rise, pointing out that famous atheists like Daniel Dennett, E.O. Wilson, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins have merely become more vocal out of growing frustration at seeing that Darwinism and the other -isms previously mentioned hold no answers for any thinking person willing to look at the evidence he lays on the table.

This book is a beautifully written apologetic for biblical Christianity, one that can confidently be put into the hands of thinking Christians wherever they might be in the spectrum, or non-believing "seekers" willing to be stretched and challenged by the evidence. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, a classic of Christian apologetics.

By the way, that word "apologetics" doesn't have anything to do with apologizing for being a Christian (though in my opinion there are a lot of so-called Christians who need to apologize to God and to the watching world for their lack of commitment to Christ, their selfish life-styles, and their cowardly faith, but that's another story altogether). The word apologetics comes to us from the Greek word apologia, which literally means "to speak off." It is used of a verbal defense, speaking off the charges, explaining one's involvement or position. It is the word we find in I Peter 3:15, "But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (i.e. an apologia) to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."

We live in an age when, as it was stated years ago by Dr. Vance Havner, that wise old Southern Baptist preacher, "There are very few Christians in America shaken by their faith, but many who are shaky about it." I couldn't agree more. If you want to read something that will add some chest hairs to your faith and make you proud to be a Christian in 2008, check out D'Souza.

Crazy about good books,

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Breaking On the Line

Hi again my friends,

I've had a honey-do project on my back burner for quite a while. We have a china hutch that used to belong to my folks. It is one of those big monster jobs that comes in two parts. The bottom chest has drawers down the middle and a cabinet with doors on each side. The top half has glass doors and three long glass shelves. When we moved it from Vancouver to our house in Milwaukie we managed to break one of the glass shelves in it. I had thought they were glued in but found out differently.

Anyway, Ramel has been after me to get that shelf fixed so that she can store some more of her pretty things in there. In my typical Mike fashion I've managed to put the job off for months. However, I recently decided to tackle the challenge. I contacted several local glass places and asked what they would charge to make me a shelf, but apparently all glass guys are crooks, so I decided to do it myself. In my wanderings I found an old piece of glass just the right thickness and big enough to make a shelf, and so I have been reading up on how to cut glass. My plan is to do it myself, just as soon as I get my courage worked up to a fever pitch.

Which brings me to my point... I've learned a bunch of stuff about glass cutting that I didn't know before. (It's amazing what you can learn on the Internet!) For example, glass has no internal crystaline structure, unlike most other inorganic substances. It is an amorphous solid, whatever that means. For that reason, many scientists even argue that it's not really a solid at all, but a very stiff liquid. (I'll leave you to ponder that for a minute.) Anyway, this means that glass has no cleavage planes (like gemstones, for instance). So glass isn't really "cut" in the normal sense of the word, but is actually subjected to a controlled break. Since glass is equally strong in any direction, you normally don't have to worry about direction of grain like woodworkers do. Within certain limits, wherever you score the glass is where it will break, at least in theory.

If you take a regular piece of window pane between your hands and try to break it in half, what happens? The glass actually bends through a very small arc - about 1 degree. That's when the tensile strength of the surface of the glass is exceeded, and SNAP! You're left with two pieces of irregular shaped glass in your hands. However, by carefully "scoring" (scratching) the surface of the glass with a glass scoring tool, you can control exactly where that lapse in tensile strength will occur. Again, that's the theory. After scoring the glass where you want it to break the last step is called "running the score." That is where you hold the pane of glass in your two hands and break it at the score line. Wah-lah! two lovely pieces of glass cut on the line.

But this is where the plot thickens. Several glass-cutting websites I found warned me that when using old or used glass to clean the surface thouroughly and also to examine it with care before trying to make the cut. They pointed out that tiny scratches on the glass, nearly invisible, can act as unforeseen score lines and can cause the glass to break in odd places, destroying the project and leaving you with shattered glass everywhere. My worst nightmare!

That's what started me thinking. Our lives are kind of like glass. Most of us are aware of where the big fault lines are in our lives. We can see those big score lines. We know our weaknesses. We know where we are most vulnerable, as least we think we do. However, we can have little scratches, little imperfections that we justify or choose to ignore because we think they are insignificant, yet when the pressure or temptation comes that may be where we snap instead of where we thought it might happen. Does that make any sense? It does to me.

The apostle Paul warns in I Corinthians 10:12, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." And this verse is in the context of falling prey to temptation. In fact, it is followed immediately by this familiar verse: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it." I think that Paul here is reminding us that we can be blindsided by temptation.

On a pane of glass, every impurity and every scratch act as score lines, weak points, where under pressure the glass can break. So it is with our lives--every bit of impurity and every scratch in our character serve as weak points for the devil to use to try and get us to shatter into a million pieces. Let's be careful not to give him any dirt or score lines, visible or invisible, to use against us.

Crazy and just a little bit cracked,


Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Job Finally Finished?

Hello friends,

As my short list of regular readers has no doubt noticed, I've been out of blogging circulation for an embarrassingly long time--since Dec. 27th. When I get overwhelmed mentally and emotionally I have no reserve brainpower to invest outside of the bare minimum things that I already have to do on a regular basis. Thus, I have been procrastinating in getting back into the groove of writing on this blog. Please forgive me, but that's the gospel truth of the matter.

Many of you knew my parents, Doyle and Helen Wilson, and know that they have both gone to be with the Lord. My mother died on August 1, 2005, and my dad died on May 26, 2006. On the one hand, quite a bit of time has passed since their deaths. An accusing voice in my head sometimes says, "You should be getting over it by now." That may be true, but the circumstances surrounding their deaths have made grieving and healing slow and difficult.

Moreover, after Dad died I was left with a large project with many different tasks. Those of you who have ever served as executor or trustee of an estate know exactly what I'm talking about. As the trustee for my parents' living trust the responsibility has fallen to me to resolve all of their affairs, including their bills, accounts, investments, properties, vehicles, and the remodel and sale of their house in Vancouver. For those of you who are financially savvy, naturally handy, and who have lots of extra time on your hands this might not sound like a daunting task. However, for a putz like me it's been a rough ride.

The hairiest part of the job has been getting their house remodeled and ready for sale. Besides dropping a pile of money on the project I've spent more hours, days, weeks, and months on the job than I care to confess to. At the beginning I found it hard to even go into the house. I felt like an interloper and I saw my parents everywhere I looked. But after getting over that hump I just found the job to be bigger than I ever dreamed it would be. I now have a new appreciation for home remodelers and people in the construction trades who actually know what they are doing. Even though I farmed out the biggest jobs there was enough left over for me to do that I am incredibly glad to see the project draw to a close.

Finally, this week I finished my part of the job. The house is remodeled inside and out and looks beautiful. It should make someone very happy. The house is now on the market and is in the hands of a very capable realtor who I'm hoping will be able to sell it for us in the near future.

I anticipate that with this job finally finished my stress level will soon be going down and my general attitude will be going up. At least my family hopes so. What's strange though is that I've been living under this stress load for so long I can't quite believe that it is finally over. Of course, there is still much to do before we can close the estate, but the rest is mostly paperwork.

Why am I telling you all this? I have no idea. I'm just writing out loud. I guess the point is that you don't always know what you are capable of until you are called on to do something that is beyond your normal abilities. We don't grow unless we are stretched. Muscles don't build mass and strength unless they are forced into it. Most of us, me included, are naturally lazy. We look for the easy way, the fast way, the painless way to get things done. But sometimes we find ourselves confronted with having to just gut it out, to press on through the pain, stress, fear, etc. and get the job done.

I think I've grown up a little bit by having to do this job. I didn't much like the learning process, but it was probably good for me in some ways. But isn't that how it often works? Most of our personal and spiritual growth occurs during the difficult or unpleasant patches on life's road. All of the big spiritual lessons I've learned along the way have come by getting knots on my head. I'm just glad that God is patient with me and that He doesn't grade on the curve.

I'll try to get back on track and write more often. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Still crazy,