Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lessons Learned While Dining With the Troops

Hello fellow moonbats,

My wife's brother, Cliff, is a retired Army guy. He now works for the State of Oregon helping vets find jobs when they get out of the service. A while back he stopped by our house and picked up some stuff to take back home for his daughter. As we were loading up his trunk he handed me an MRE pack. For all you civilian types, these are the ready-to-eat meals that our young soldiers eat in the field when they are out on missions away from their bases. They are what many of our young soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan experience every day. I promptly stuck it away in a closet and forgot about it.

However, recently my wife, Ramel, was gone for three days to a pastors' wives retreat so I was baching it at home (that's short for "bacheloring," by the way, and has nothing to do with Johann Sebastian Bach). The first night I ate some old dried out fried chicken that I found in the refrigerator. I had a can of chili the second night. But on the third night, while poking around in the pantry looking for some grub, I came across that MRE. I decided to check it out.

It turned out to be kind of a weird experience for me. As I slit open the heavy green plastic packet with my tactical knife I began to remove the items one by one. It gave me a strange sensation. All of a sudden I felt like I was looking at the scene through the eyes of a hungry young soldier. All of the individual packets inside were Army green. There was one that said, "Crackers." To go along with those there was a generous tube of creamy peanut butter. There was another packet that claimed to be, "Western Beans." To be honest the first thing that came to my mind when I read that was the campfire scene from the movie, "Blazing Saddles," but let's not go there. They turned out to be very tasty. The entrée packet claimed to be, "Steak With Mushroom Gravy." That sounded promising indeed.

In among the other things was a special plastic bag with a chemical heating agent in it. The instructions said to insert the entrée packet and then pour a couple of ounces of water down the side. Then you are supposed to fold down the flap and insert the whole thing into the little paper box provided. The instructions suggested propping the packet up against a rock while waiting for the food to heat, but I made do by laying it on the bread board. What happened was quite amazing. It started heating immediately and got very hot. Within 10 minutes the food was ready to eat. While I was waiting I mixed 8-ounces of cold water with the beverage packet that said, "Grape Drink." The instructions advised me to use only purified water from my canteen but I took a chance and used tap water.

The whole meal was surprisingly good, and my stomach was full when I finished. There were even two medium sized Tootsie Rolls for dessert. I sat there alone, thinking about the brave young men and women who might have been eating the very same MRE off in some forgotten corner of Afghanistan. It gave me a strange feeling.

But there was something else, too, though I'm not sure I can do an adequate job of explaining it. I began to think about how I looked forward with excited anticipation as I opened up each one of those silly little food packets, unsure what I would find in them. I was amazed at the little chemical "stove." I enjoyed every bite of the steak and finished off every drop of the gravy.

I got to thinking how I go through so much of my life, day after day, without noticing or appreciating little things or looking forward to new experiences. I've become sort of jaded; nothing much surprises me anymore. Life has few adventures left for me. But that is not really true, is it? That is a messed up perspective. Life, every day, should be an adventure. Certainly, with God in the picture you never know what is going to happen. He has a funny way of upsetting your apple cart. I think He has to do that sometimes just to wake us up to smell the roses.

I want to live life every day the way my little granddaughter, Natalie, does. She sits and watches everything, with big brown eyes that grow even bigger when she sees something new. She smiles all the time and laughs a lot. I want to be more like her, because I think that when we lose the wonder of life, the joy of living, we become poorer in spirit, indeed.

The Bible says that real life is to truly know Christ, "...whom to know is life eternal." We were created by God to enjoy this life and to look forward to the next.

Dear Lord, please help me to see every day as an adventure, a blank page. Help me not to grow old in my mind and in my attitudes, but to always be like little Natalie, looking at the world around me in wide-eyed wonder, always excited about what's in the next package. And help me to always remember that the best is yet to come.

Hoping for a great dessert in Heaven,

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Hello my crazy friends,

I remember back many years ago when my kids were little and we used to travel a lot by car we would listen to Ray Stevens tapes to help the miles pass more quickly for our boys. You remember Ray Stevens, don't you? He was one who sang "Ahab, the Arab," "Guitarzan," "The Blue Cyclone," and of course, who could forget "The Streak," just to name a few. Before long Jonathan and Chris had every single one of his songs memorized. I think they still remember most of them to this day, even after so many years.

But one of my favorite Ray Stevens songs was called "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival." I happened to find a video version of it recently on YouTube and thought I'd share it with you in case you've never heard it. Ray Stevens sings the song and acts out the part. I hope you enjoy it. I'll have a few more things to say after you've watched it.

I wish it were that easy to get a revival started. If I thought it would help I'd be out trying to trap squirrels. Unfortunately, revivals are not so easy to kick start.

I meet every Wednesday from noon to 1:30 with a small group of pastors to pray. We've been doing this for about 12 years now. We pray for our country, our city, our leaders, our churches, and for one another. However, from the beginning one of our major prayer requests has been that God would once again send revival to Portland, Oregon where we continue to serve Him. If revival were something that we could just schedule or work up and make happen, we would certainly have had one before now. But it just ain't that easy. You see, revival is a God thing.

Not long ago I saw a church sign in Vancouver, WA announcing, "Revival Meeting Here Tonight!" Oh, I wish it were that easy. Unfortunately, revival is a Heaven-sent event and cannot be scheduled by pastors or evangelists, no matter how pious and dedicated they might be. But that doesn't mean I'm giving up hope. I believe that prayer moves the heart and hand of God. I believe that while II Chronicles 7:14 was written to God's people, Israel, the principle holds true for His Church today as well. In that verse the LORD says, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

I've been a Christian for a very long time and have been in pastoral ministry for 36 years, but I have never experienced a genuine revival where God rends the heavens and pours our His Spirit upon the hearts of men. I've read of such things. I have even talked with people who have experienced it on a small scale but I have never seen it with my own eyes. Yet I continue to pray in faith and ask God to do it here in our midst, in our city, in our church.

The city of Portland experienced a revival back in 1905. It was dubbed, "The Portland Outpouring." Revival historian, J. Edwin Orr, tells the story that in Portland for most of that year starting in March, 240 major downtown businesses closed their doors from 11 AM to 2 PM each day to enable their customers and employees to attend prayer meetings. In fact, the store owners voluntarily signed an agreement so that no one would cheat and stay open. Thousands of people came to know Christ that year. Churches grew as God filled them with spiritually hungry new believers. Dead churches received new life. Sleeping Christians were awakened, surprised by God doing a new thing in this city.

If God did it once, He can do it again. I'm praying that He will, because we need it now more than ever.

Crazy to see it with my own eyes,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sad news about a fallen brother

Hello friends,

My heart is heavy as I write this. I subscribe to a weekly email newsletter called, "Church Leaders Intelligence Report." It helps keep me up to date on current trends and often has short, stimulating articles that make me stop and think, which is good exercise for my tired old brain. Today I got the latest installment and it had a brief news item that literally brought me to tears. Here it is...

Christians Shocked, Saddened Over Boltz's Homosexuality

There is shock and sadness in the Christian community over word that famed Christian vocalist, Ray Boltz, has publicly announced he's living a homosexual lifestyle. In an interview with the Washington Blade about the announcement, Boltz said, "If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I'm going to live…I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself." Boltz, a father of four who was married for 33 years before officially divorcing his wife this year, is well-known for his widely acclaimed songs "Thank You" and "I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb." (OneNewsNow 9/15/08)

Ray Boltz has long been one of my favorite Christian singer/songwriters. His music has often touched my heart and pointed me to the Savior. His song, "The Anchor Holds," is one of my favorites. To know that he has fallen prey to the lying schemes of the devil and has now "come out" as a homosexual breaks my heart. Once again, a high profile Christian bites the dust and succumbs to the enemy.

I shouldn't be surprised. The devil is very astute and knows exactly how to take advantage of any areas of hidden sin and shame that we harbor in our hearts and minds. Any hidden sin in our life provides a playground for the powers of hell and a foothold to eventually bring our life and ministry crashing down. Our protection is not found in silence or hiding, but in dealing openly and honestly with sin. If we try to cover our sin, to keep it hidden, it just festers and stinks and eventually erupts where everyone can see it. Secret sin is like mold in your basement. As long as you provide a dark, dank, lightless, airless environment the mold will grow unchecked. You can try all kinds of methods to defeat it but nothing will work until you throw open the windows and let the sunlight and fresh air flood into the basement. You see, mold doesn't grow well in sunlight and fresh air.

Apparently Ray Boltz has been hiding his sin and brokenness for a very long time. He "came out" to his wife and children on Dec. 26, 2004 but this situation has not been publicly known until just recently. He stopped recording and touring but most people just thought he was burned out and needed rest and some downtime. Few knew what he was struggling with. That is because he chose to keep a lid on it, nurturing it in secret, letting it grow unchecked in the basement of his life. Had he dealt with it sooner, sharing this burden with someone, allowing some other Christian men into his life to help keep him accountable, perhaps this wouldn't have happened. If he had thrown open the windows and doors and allowed God's healing light into those dark corners of his life, perhaps this train wreck could have been averted before it destroyed his marriage, his family, his ministry, and a whole lifetime of built-up trust.

If you want to get more information and hear it from Ray himself, read the Washington Blade article at...http://www.washingtonblade.com/2008/9-12/arts/feature/13258.cfm. I found one quote especially telling:

Boltz declines to go into specifics about the first time he was with a man, but says he has been dating and lives “a normal gay life” now. “If you were to hold up the rule book and go, ‘Here are all the rules Christians must live by,’ did I follow every one of those rules all that time? Not at all, you know, because I kind of rejected a lot of things, but I've grown some even since then. I guess I felt that the church, that they had it wrong about how I felt with being gay all these years, so maybe they had it wrong about a lot of other things.” (The underline is mine for emphasis.)

Ray is doing what so many other's have done. Coming to the point where his burden of sin and guilt and pain were too heavy to carry, instead of dealing with it in a biblical way, he has simply adjusted his theology to take away the guilt. He has come up with his own definition of what is and isn't sin. But in this process he has apparently jettisoned other key pieces of his theology too. He is now involved with the Metropolitan Community Churches, an openly gay so-called "Christian" denomination.

I share this story not as gossip or as a way of making myself look holier than Ray Boltz, but as a reminder and warning to all of us. God's Word says, "Be sure your sin will find you out." Sin cannot be hidden forever. It is described in the Bible as being like yeast. It grows. It breaks out of its bonds. It slowly but inevitably works its way to the surface of our life like a weed that comes up through the cracks in the sidewalk. Frankly, that scares me clear to the bottom of my feet. Sin is a powerful deceiver. If we choose to walk afar off from the Lord and His Word and the saving power and influence of His Spirit, it is only a matter of time until we too will fall flat. And great will be the fall.

Profoundly saddened but warned,

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

If I've said it once I've said it...

Hello fellow wingnuts,

It has been said that parenting is not for the faint of heart. I can say a hearty "AMEN!" to that. But it is also a wonderful adventure and well worth the effort. The big payoff, of course, is grandchildren. They are really cool, and I ought to know, I have a boatload of them and they are all great kids.

Here is a YouTube video I came across a while back that made me laugh out loud. The singer's name is Anita Renfroe and she is a well known Women of Faith singer/comedienne. Anita calls this piece, "Momsense." Here she has boiled down into less than three minutes all the things the average mom says to her kids in a normal 24-hour period and has set them to the tune of the William Tell Overture. Enjoy.

In all fairness Anita wrote a second song that she calls, "Dadsense." I thought that was very sporting of her. Moreover, I'm sure that after you watch this second video you dads will agree with me that she has done a fair job of summing up what many of us dads say to our kids in the average day. This is funny but sad at the same time. I just got back from a great men's conference where we were challenged from God's Word to become better husbands and dads by putting our wives and children on a higher priority level, by loving them more than we love ourselves and our own interests, and by getting more deeply involved in their daily lives. After you watch this second video you will see more readily why this is important. Too many of us have been using the "too busy" excuse for way too long. That's not "dadsense." It's Godsense.

Crazy about being a dad and a grandfather,

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Time in a bottle...

Hi crazy friends,

Well, Labor Day has come and gone and school will soon be back in session. Where has the summer gone? I recall the days of my childhood when summers seemed to pass very slowly. But I've learned that time is very elastic, or at least our perception of it is certainly flexible. For someone flat on his/her back in a hospital bed time passes very slowly. However, while on a cruise up the Southwest Coast of Alaska time passes very quickly. Of course, time itself didn't change, only our perception of it.

In II Peter 3:8 we read that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. That just means that God is outside the box, outside the framework of time and space. He lives in the realm of the eternal where time is nonexistent or at least inconsequential. He sees as completed what we see as process. He knows the end when we are barely able to grasp the beginning. When I try to mentally lay hold of this concept I feel like David in Psalm 139:6 who says, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it."

Many years ago one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Jim Croce, wrote a song called "Time In a Bottle." In it he talks about the frustration that all humans feel about time. The words go...
If I could save time in a bottle the first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day 'til eternity passes away just to spend them with you.
If I could make days last forever, if words could make wishes come true,
I'd save every day like a treasure, and then, again, I would spend them with you.
But there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.
I've looked around enough to know that you're the one I want to go through time with.

The moment you were conceived in your mother's womb you became an eternal living being, destined to live forever someplace. God's plan and desire is that we spend eternity with Him in the place He has prepared for those who love Him. It is called Heaven. But those people who reject His gracious offer of salvation are no less eternal beings. They too will spend eternity somewhere, in a place the Bible calls Hell. It was not created for man, it was not designed for humans, but many will go there and will remain for all eternity. The thought is sobering.

Another songwriter, Pete Seeger, back in the 1950s wrote a song he called "Turn, Turn, Turn." It later became a hit when it was recorded by The Byrds in October of 1965. Check out their classic version on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNopQq5lWqQ. But you may or may not know that Seeger lifted the lyrics for his song straight out of the OT book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Those verses tell us that for everything and every event under heaven there is a divinely appointed time--for birth and for death, for weeping and for laughing, for mourning and for dancing, for war and for peace, just to name a few. But immediately following that passage just down in verse 11 we read, "He [God] has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart..." I really like how the verse reads in the New Living Translation: "God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end."

"God has planted eternity in the human heart." That is a thought worth contemplating. But what does it mean? I believe that every human has a notion of eternity hardwired into his head, into his heart. Those people who insist that they don't believe in God or an afterlife tend to backpedal on that stupid theology when they approach death. There is an old adage that says, "There are no atheists in foxholes." I think that's true.

I have reached the ripe old age of 58 years and I'm becoming more and more aware of how fleeting this life really is, and yet how much time is still out in front of us. This earthly life, with its 70+ years is but a preview of coming eternal attractions. We who know Christ and have come into a life-saving, life-changing relationship with the Living God will continue to know and experience fulness of life forever. I blows my mind!

Still loving crazy people,