Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sunsets & Sunrises


As an old year draws to a close and a new year will be dawning soon, I am reminded of some words I wrote several years ago.

In a world filled with blessings from God, isn’t the sunrise among the most special? Think about it, the sunrise represents a new beginning, an opportunity to close the chapter that has preceded and enter into a new day filled with promise and potential.

Everyone takes a misstep here and there. Some of us take more missteps than we do correct ones. Everyone endures regrettable experiences, because of one’s own misdeeds or foolish choices, because they are in the path of calamity wrought by others, or because they are simply unfortunate. (It is a reality of a fallen world that innocent people do sometimes suffer.)

Yet, God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, blesses us with the sunrise. Every twenty-four hours, a new day dawns, and the regrets, unfortunate circumstances, and ills of yesterday, while not forgotten, are history. Rather, they can be made history if our perspective is what it should be.

Sometimes, many times, we are our own worst enemy. We allow our regrets, misfortunes, and mistakes to keep us down. We allow yesterday to seep into today and cloud our view of tomorrow. Some of us, many of us forget the sunrise (if we even take the time to view it!), and we allow the darkness to linger.

Now, the ramifications of yesterday do affect today, whatever our perspective. History still speaks, whether it be a day ago or a millennium. The path we have trod has led us to this moment and will influence the steps we take ahead. But, the sunrise is God’s subtle yet profound way of telling us that the opportunity for change, renewal, and a new beginning is real. While the past will always be a part of us we do not have to be captive to it. Let us master yesterday by living anew today.

Just as the sunrise is a wonderful blessing from God, so, too, is the sunset. With the sunrise, we are greeted with a new day filled with possibility and potential. At the sunset, the accomplishments of a day passed can be considered and evaluated. However, introspection is a valuable tool that many forget or refuse to employ.

I can remember a hike to Marble Falls, a scenic waterfall not many miles from Camp Blue Haven. My good friend, Chetlen Crossnoe, and I had hiked to Marble Falls and spent the afternoon scaling the rocks and enjoying the spectacular sights and were headed back to camp. We became distracted by this and that and found ourselves a couple of miles past the point where we should have turned onto the trail that led to camp. Instead of retracing our steps and returning to the trailhead, we decided to cut cross country and use our orienteering skills to find our way back to camp. We found camp, but only after hiking about 15 miles farther and several hours longer than we would have had we followed the proper trail.

Introspection is the opportunity to retrace our steps, to look back down the trail we have taken, and to reevaluate where we are headed. Life is filled with missteps, many of which we could have avoided, and many of which would not have been as disastrous if we had taken the time to stop, think, and get our bearings. Most of our trouble comes when we keep barreling forward without any sense of caution or regret.

The sunset is a blessing. One day is drawing to a close. The long, still night lies before us. There is a moment of respite before a new, busy day dawns. The sunset facilitates, rather, invites introspection. Will we accept the gift as it is given?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008's $100 Million Movies

According to the USA Today, 24 theatrical releases grossed $100 million dollars at the box office. They are listed below, ranked in order of earnings. I have indicated which movies I have seen and included my critique in the form of a letter grade. Which of these films have you seen? What are your critiques?


  1. The Dark Night ($530.9 mil). I gave it an "A" and have already bought the DVD.
  2. Iron Man ($318.3). Another "A", and I have the DVD.
  3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($317). A solid "B", but only a weak 3 out of 4 for the series. The DVD is sitting on the shelf at home.
  4. Hancock ($227.9). A solid "D."
  5. WALL-E ($223.8). An A+, and I don't usually go for the "cartoons" (unless it's Bugs Bunny and gang). Of course, I had to get the DVD for my girls.
  6. Kung Fu Panda ($215.4). Haven't seen it.
  7. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($174.9). Haven't seen it; slept through the original.
  8. Twilight ($167.3). Will NOT see it; can't figure out the fascination with the undead.
  9. Quantum of Solace ($164.3). A "C-." It made me long for the days of George Lazenby . . . and that's sad.
  10. Dr. Seuss' Horton hears a Who! ($154.5). Haven't seen it, but I think Suess belongs in a book not film.
  11. Sex and the City ($152.6). Don't care to see it, but I'm blessed with a "Y" chromosome!
  12. Mamma Mia! ($143.8). Will NOT see it. See note on #11.
  13. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ($141.6). A weak "B", and I purchased the DVD. I just wish Peter Jackson had decided to tackle C. S. Lewis as well as his friend Tolkien.
  14. The Incredible Hulk ($134.5). A "C-". For me, the Hulk will always be a Friday night at 7 p.m. thing.
  15. Wanted ($134.3). Haven't seen it.
  16. Get Smart ($130.3). A surprising "B". I thought I was wasting my money when I bought the ticket, but it made for a good evening.
  17. Four Christmases ($111.6). A "C-". Had a few good laughs, but belongs nowhere near the Pantheon: A Christmas Story, Home Alone, Christmas Vacation and The Santa Clause.
  18. Tropic Thunder ($110.5). Haven't seen it, but will probably rent it. I'm sure I will need to employ the V-chip.
  19. Bolt ($102.4). A solid "B". Another animation win. I'm sure the DVD will get added to the collection.
  20. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor ($102.3). Haven't seen it. I saw the original and liked it, but these never-ending sequel series get a little tiring.
  21. Journey to the Center of the Earth ($101.7). haven't seen it, but would like to.
  22. Eagle Eye ($101.1). A "B-". Decent story, but the trailer has all the good scenes.
  23. Step Brothers ($100.5). An "F". Before I bought the ticket, I told myself that it was just junk, but I went any way . . . and was miserable.
  24. You Don't Mess with the Zohan ($100.0). An "F". Ditto the remark on #23 . . . amplified.

Thumbing through a Year's Worth of Snapshots

Today, I began one of my favorite year-end tasks. At this time during each of the past several years, I have gone through all the many photographs I have taken of my girls during the year, picked out my favorites, and arranged photo collages to hang on the walls of my house.

Photography has become a passion of mine. I am not very good at it. I know absolutely nothing about the technical aspects of photography. I can't even explain in any intelligent manner how a camera captures a scene and translates it to a digital image. I am a novice when it comes to taking pictures, but I absolutely love taking my cheap digital camera and capturing moments in time.

I like to take shots of nature. Mountains, especially. And, this past year of travel for Manuelito Navajo Children's Home has offered me lots of spectacular views to photograph. BUT, my absolute favorite photography subjects are my girls, Elizabeth, Hannah, and Grace.

I've taken untold thousands and thousands of photographs of my girls, from their very first moments of life to the moments of fun we enjoyed this past week. I know that tired of dear old dad springing the camera on them (incessantly, it must seem), but I love to capture them in so many of life's moments: from the posed to the unexpected. Yet, I know from their smiles and giggles that they love to look through the pictures weeks and months and years later. And, I know that as they grow older, they will cherish the captured moments of their lives.

As I "worked" my collection of 2008 photographs tonight, my mind drifted back to so many wonderful experiences: birthday parties, road trips, family gatherings, those unconnected moments, Six Flags, zoos, afternoons in the park, fun in the snow, LCU basketball and volleyball games, Leadership Training for Christ, Four Corners Encampment, swimming pools, and much, much more. What a blessing: a moment's glance at a photograph can take you back to the moment, to relive it again, albeit in a quick and fleeting way. And, I know 10 years from now, 20 years, even when I'm 80, that moment can be relived again.
(The photo above is of Hannah and her cousin Zachary, taken on Christmas day.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mourning the Cowboys & Playoff Picks

I watched the Cowboys get rolled by the Chicago Bears 44-0 in 1985. I saw them get stomped by the Rams 30-0 in the playoffs that same season. I made it through a 3-13 season (Landry's last) in 1988 and a 1-15 season (Jimmy's first) in 1989. I made it through the Dave Campo and Quincy Carter years. But, today, was the most frustrating and embarrassing day I've had as a Dallas Cowboys' fan.

At first I was angry. Fire all the coaches. Ship off half the players. Somehow banish Jerry Jones from the NFL. But, in the hours since, I've calmed somewhat. It was just a football game, after all. And, life goes on. And, as they say, there's always next season.

And, I now want to see something else result . . . I want a do over. I want the Dallas Cowboys to return next season largely intact . . . the same players . . . the same coaching staff . . . and, yes, Jerry Jones, too.

Looking back at the season, I see that several factors led to the collapse of this team. I lost track of the injuries several weeks ago . . . injuries certainly took their toll (think, if Romo didn't miss three games, the Cowboys would have won at least 2 of those games, and the significance of today's game would have been mute). The press (especially, Ed Werder, wreaked their havock on this team with their incessant efforts to keep the drama flowing form Valley Ranch.

I believe Tony Romo will be a great quarterback. Marion Barber, when healthy, is a beast. The line, when healthy, is the best in the NFL. I love the passion of T.O. (I'd rather him demand the ball than be complacent). Witten is a Hall of Famer. DeMarcus Ware is The Best in the league, hands down. Most of the defense is underheralded. I can do without Pacman. Wade Phillips is a great defensive coach; Garrett lost a step this year, but still has so much promise. This team, given a clean slate, can make a great run.

Print it in three-inch letters: The Cowboys will win the Super Bowl in February 2010.

___________________

Here's my picks for this season's NFL playoffs:

Week #1
Eagles over Vikings
Cardinals over Falcons
Dolphins over Ravens
Chargers over Colts

Week #2
Giants over Eagles
Panthers over Cardinals
Titans over Dolphins
Steelers over Chargers

Week #3
Panthers over Giants
Steelers over Titans

Super Bowl
Steelers over Panthers

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be the first NL franchise to win 6 Super Bowls. The Dallas Cowboys will be the first to win 7 (in 2011).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The First Great Quarterback


Before Manning. Before Marino. Before Unitas. There was Slingin' Sammy Baugh. He died today at age 94.


Sammy Baugh revolutionized the NFL as quarterback of the Washington Redskins in the 1930s and 1940s. He, more than anyone else, brought the forward pass into the pro game. And, as did many of the players of his day, he played on both sides of the ball (on offense and defense), and excelled at both. One feat stands out more than any other: Sammy Baugh once threw four touchdowns and intercepted four passes . . . in the same game! Wow!


Another great thing about Sammy Baugh: he lived most of his life (before and after football) on the plains of West Texas (near Sweetwater).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Random Thoughts

I watched Frost/Nixon on Saturday. What a great movie. It was made by a liberal film maker (Ron Howard), but I though the portrayal of Nixon was reasonable and fair. Like a lot of Americans who prefer the Republican-stream of politics, I am conflicted about Nixon. In many respects, he was a good president, but I recognize the serious short-comings in his character and recognize that as-a-whole his presidency was regrettable.

_______________

I have a lot of respect for John Walsh and his family. I am glad that they have received some closure as the kidnapper and killer of their son, Adam, has finally been determined. Read the story here.

_______________

Ben Witherington is a must-read for me, whether it be his published works or his blog. Today, he offers up another interesting blog post; read it here.

_______________

The Greatest Game Ever Played. ESPN's "representation" of the 1958 NFL Championship game between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants is must see TV. I watched it Saturday night when it first aired, and caught about half of the reply tonight.

The program ends with this incredible stat: In 1958, the NFL had 12 franchises, whose individual value amounted to less than $1 million per team. In 2008, the NFL has 32 franchises, whose individual value exceeds $1 billion per team (including the Dallas Cowboys, whose value is estimated at close to $2 billion dollars . . . of course, a billion dollar partially-public financed stadium doesn't hurt the bottom line).

_______________

I'm sad. Next Tuesday is Brit Hume's last day as anchor of FOX News Special Report. He will be missed. He is, in my sometimes humble opnion, the best in the business.

His explanation for his "retirement" says a lot about his character. He's leavng to spend more time devoted to 1-God, 2-his granddaughters, and 3-golf. Can you imagine an anchor of CNN or MSNBC (or one of the Jurassic 3) saying that?

Brit, you wll be missed!

Monday, December 15, 2008

We're All Skill Players on God's Team

Football aficionados know the term "skill player." A skill player is usually designated as someone who handles the ball (quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end) as opposed to a lineman or defensive player.

I've never liked the term (perhaps because I was once a lineman), because it seems to promote the importance and contributions of certain players over their teammates . . . at least in the estimation of the uninformed. Any serious football fan knows that all 11 players are indispensable and vital to the team's performance (not necessary equally so, but all important, nonetheless). Tony Romo may get the lion's share of credit (or criticism) for the Cowboys' success (or lack thereof), but Marc Columbo's performance is important, as well. And, Tashard Choice doesn't make his 43-yard jaunt to end zone last night if Flozell Adams and his mates on the line do not get their blocks.

Most enterprises are like this. In every group, there will be the high-profile players and the behind-the-scenes contributors. The boos of an outfit often gets the public acclaim (or ridicule), but the secretary, the researcher, the bookkeeper, the custodian . . . they all play an important role in the performance of the company.

Churches are like this. The preacher is often out in front. Elders are often on the pedestal. Youth ministers are up there, as well. But, where would a church be if it were not for the secretary, or the one who faithfully unlocks the building each Sunday, or the one who prepares the communion, or the one who checks on the shut-ins, or the one who keeps the lawn, or the one who stocks the pantry, or the one who keeps the Bible class curriculum ordered, or the one who prints the bulletin, or . . . well, you get the idea.

I had the blessing of worshiping with the church in Farmersville, Texas yesterday evening. A delightful group. I enjoyed my time with them. I met a young man there who has Downs Syndrome; a wonderful person, with a bright smile, a kind heart, and a commitment to service. Each Sunday and Wednesday, he turns on the P.A. system, puts the numbers up on the "stat" board, and post the song numbers. He takes great pride in his jobs, and he serves his church well. He may not be a "skill player," but his service to the Lord's family is just as important and vital.

I love the words of Paul, as he addresses a church that is beset with division and pride. He tells the Corinthians, "But God has placed the parts, each one of them, in the body just as He wanted. And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? Now there are many parts, yet one body" (1 Cor. 12.19-20 HCSB).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

37th Presentation


In between dosages of cold and flue medicine, I spoke to my 37th congregation of the year on behalf of Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. I've made a couple hundred visits to other churches on weekdays and worshipped with many others, as well. I've also attended 11 seminars and lectureships with our MNCH display. But, thirty-seven times I've been given the pleasure and blessing of speaking to assembled churches about the work we are doing in Gallup to serve children and families in need, work in which so many churches and individuals are partnered with us.


I miss preaching for a local congregation immensely. That form of ministry was so much of my life for a long period of time. But, I have grown to love what I am now doing and have a great passion for sharing the news about MNCH and the great need that is among the Navajo people. And, after the great trial I went through last year, the Manuelito family has been a life-saver to me personally.


My travels for the year are winding down. I will spend a couple more days in Arlington (mainly to get over this crud), and then on to Lubbock for a couple of days, and back in Gallup for the weekend. Since January, I've travelled in excess of 70,000 miles and journeyed through 14 states. I've met so many good people, reconnected with a lot of dear friends, spent quality time with most of my family . . . it's been a good year, no, a great year! God is so good!!!


I'm looking forward to a wonderful holiday season and the beginning of another year of promise. My prayer is that you and yours are equally blessed . . . and more so!


The photo is another of my favorite pictures taken during the year. It is of my girls at Cloudcroft, New Mexico in March.
Okay, it's time for another round of Tylenol!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fav Pics of 2008

Elizabeth, Hannah & Grace . . . on the San Antonio River Walk in June.

Oh, How Pro Sports Have Changed!

You've heard about the latest mega-dollar contract in Major League Baseball: the Yankees giving pitcher C. C. Sabbathia a $161 million deal . . . and, during a recession, at that! Fortunately, for the rest of baseball, the biggest bankroll doesn't always profit with a championship (when did the Yankees last win a World Series?).

A story told in Tom Callahan's biography of NFL legend helps to illustrate how much professional sports have changed over the past 50 years. The story is found on page 47 of Johnny U: The Lie & Times of Johnny Unitas (pub., 2006). Callahan quotes Unitas relating the story to Steve Sabol of NFL Films.

Unitas describing his first day in the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room in the 1955 off-season (yes, Unitas was a Steeler before he was a Colt!).:

I asked the guy, "Where are the whites?"--you know, the T-shirt and the athletic supporter and the socks, the undergarments you put on before your pads. He said, "Oh, right over there on the floor." I said, "On the floor?" He said, "Yeah, over there."

Here was this big pile of socks and athletic supporters and T-shirts. You rooted around in there until you found what you wanted. And I said, "This is professional football?" "It's the way we do it"

We went out and practiced and came back in. So, I just figured you took off your whites and threw them in a laundry hamper. "No, no, you hang them up on a hanger and we turn a big fan on to dry them up for the afternoon's practice."


How times have changed! Most professional sports' locker rooms are luxurious spas compared to what Unitas and his contemporaries endured. In fact, as I firs read Unitas's story, my mind went back to the small, cramped locker room me and my 7th grade Eagles' teammates used at Lubbock Christian School. That smell could knock you out!

This past weekend, the Dallas Cowboys held an auction of items from Texas Stadium, which will host its final game on December 21. One of the items put up for sale was a urinal from the Dallas Cowboys' locker room. The winning bid? $500! Can you believe that? And, that, in a recession!!!

I love professional sports, and am a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Cardinals (baseball). I have a few memorabilia items blazoned with the teams' logos. I even shelled out $50 to watch the Cardinals play against the Houston Astros this past summer. But, the money thrown at professional sports in our country highlights some misplaced priorities in our society. Of course, to be fair, and to keep a proper perspective, the inflation in sports is outdone by many other excesses. For instance, Americans spent more on M&Ms last year than they did on tickets to professional sporting events. And, Oprah Winfrey made more last year than the entire lineups of the New York Yankees, New York Mets, and Boston Red Sox combined, together with half of the other teams in the National League!

Am I trying to make a point with this post? Not really. But, I can't believe anyone on their right mind would spend $500 for a urinal, even one "marked" by Tony Romo and Troy Aikman. I'm a fan, but that's a fanatic . . . a fanatic in need of therapy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Service with a Smile

I travel a lot. That's an understatement. I've been "home" all of 12 days since mid-September And, so, I eat most of my meals in restaurants. (H0me-cooked meal, anyone???).

I have some favorite eateries:
  • Rosa's Cafe
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Chipotle
  • Cici's Pizza
  • Spring Creek

There's other regular stops, but I visit these establishments often. Why? Consistent quality. Relative low cost. Cleanliness (for the most part). And, especially, service with a smile. Most of these restaurants excel at customer service (there are exceptions, but true as a general rule).

My travels also put me together with many congregations of Christians. I meet churches of all sizes. I meet churches that are growing. I meet churches that are struggling. A common factor in churches that are doing well? You might say, service with a smile.

Growing churches are friendly churches. They are churches that care about people: churches that love being together, and churches that go out of their way to make visitors and newcomers welcome.

Sometimes, congregations fall for the notion that church growth is primarily a matter of big and fancy facilities, or polished and well-educated preachers, or a plethora of programs and offerings. These can be important contributors to growth, but the first spark, I believe, is the people-friendly quotient. After all, the example of the of greatest people-loving person should inspire us!

Fav Pics of 2008

Elizabeth at the Rip Griffin Center during an LCU Lady Chaps basketball game in January.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From the Sand Trap

Amateur golfers are well acquainted with the Mulligan. Hit a ball into the water, no problem, take a Mulligan, re-tee your ball, no penalty stroke. As a rather bad amateur golfer, the Mulligan is my best friend . . . if the rest of my foursome is merciful enough!

So many of us would like the occasional Mulligan to employ in life--the opportunity to do-over some tough moment or unfortunate circumstance. But, life plays through.

Eighteen months ago, I thought I was driving straight down the fairway, flag in sight, but out of nowhere, it seemed, the deepest and most foreboding sand trap of my life reared its head, and suddenly I went from a good streak to an awful lie.

At such a moment there are two basic courses of action. You can flail away at the ball, hoping to pound that ball out of the sand and straight to the pin, and more than likely drive your ball deeper into the sand. Or, you can take your wedge and simply play for the fairway or green, lying up for a better view on the next shot. I must admit, I've spent much of the past 18 months flailing away at the ball: either to recapture my life as it had been (or, as close in semblance as possible), or out of an in-your-face attitude toward the ones whose foolishness (and sin) forced the sand trap. I should have been playing for the fairway.

Life will not always unfold smoothly. There will be sand traps--resulting from our own foolishness, the actions of others, a combination of the two, or simply because we are in the wrong place at the wrong time. It helps to know of the sand traps that are ahead, but our forewarning can often be brief.

"Gird up your loins," Peter wrote. Be prepared: the next shot, or series of shots may be tough. Preparation is good; a level head in the midst of the crisis, however, is better. The key to conquering the sand trap is a plan of action--a plan that is not irrational, motivated by unhealthy emotion, but a plan that recognizes the tough spot and knows that the distance ahead cannot be recaptured in one glorious shot . . . the mindset that it will take a series of steps to get back on track.

I'm looking for that next lie; it may only be a few yards from the sand trap, but it will give me a much better position to then shoot for the flag. In fact, I think I have already hit out of the sand trap, but now I'm in the short rough. But, I'll take the short rough over the sand trap any day. Yet, I will not be completely satisfied until I reach the green.

One shot at a time. That's my daily reminder.

Fav Pics of 2008

That's a real shark! Grace at the Albuquerque Aquarium in May.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Slow Fade" Video

The Casting Crowns' video of their song "Slow Fade" is powerful (see it here).

Fav Pics of 2008

I'm counting down the year by posting my favorite photos of my girls that I have taken this year. Here's one of Hannah and her new Build-a-Bear Huskey at Chandler, Arizona in March.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Way to go, Joe!


It's about time. Joe Gordon was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee today. Gordon played for the Yankees and Indians in the 1940s and was one of the best during that era and in the history of the major leagues. In my Strat-o-matic playing days, Gordon and his 1948 Indians were one of my favorite teams, and his 1941 Yankees weren't bad either.

Where in Texas am I?

Texas has some impressive looking court houses, perhaps none more so than this majestic structure. I took this picture yesterday. Where is this court house?

Autumn's Art

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Today's Sights & Sounds

The road took me from Houston to Fort Worth today. The scenery was beautiful. Some random experiences and thoughts . . .

Mannheim Steamroller is still the king of Christmas music in my CD player, but Amy Grant, Randy Travis and Trans-Siberian Orchestra are worthy princes and princesses.

I ate lunch in Aggieland. Now, I am neither an Aggie, nor the son of an Aggie, but I was impressed with the campus of Texas A & M University. It was only my second visit there; I was 13 year old the first time.

I only had time to walk around the outside of the George Bush Presidential Library, but that alone left me impressed. One of these days, I will be back to walk through the inside. I've been to four Presidential Libraries this year: those of Ronald Reagan (awesome! . . . with Air Force One indoors), Lyndon Johnson (not a fan, but a great library), and Bill Clinton (looks like an over sized mobile home on stilts . . . his is certainly outclassed by the others!).
My brief visit to the Bush Library included seeing the statue pictured below. It is of a herd of wild (and free!) horses trampling over the remnants of the Berlin Wall. Powerful imagery. Reagan's Library also has a section of the Berlin Wall. I guess Clinton's only memorial is the stained blue dress. (Forgive me, but I couldn't refrain.)
Ahhh, Braum's! I stopped in at the one in Hillsboro. Double-scoop waffle cone: chocolate chip and peanut butter cup . . . hit the spot. And, I've got the physique to prove it!!!

I must say, my week in Houston was enjoyable. The weather was perfect . . . and you can't say that about Houston very often. I visited there in June (100 degrees; 98% humidity); I returned in December (mid 50s to 80s; sight rain on one day). And, except for one long drive, the traffic wasn't too bad.

Anticipating another Big 12 Championship for Oklahoma. Go, Sooners!

I MISS MY GIRLS and home! 12 more days to go.

Friday, December 5, 2008

NASA Needs Windex

I took a "quick" tour of NASA's Johnson Space Center the other day. I found out you need more than 2 hours to see it all, but I enjoyed my time there. My only other visit came when I was 13 years old.

You would think with a 20 billion dollar annual budget, NASA could find someone to wash the windows!!! Fingerprints on the photos . . . argh!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

On Ike's Trail


I visited my 14th state for the year in my travels for Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. I made a quick venture into Louisiana to make some PR calls in Lake Charles and the vicinity. I once lived in New Orleans (my 1st grade year), but this was my first visit to Louisiana in over 23 years. And, this was my first time in the southwest corner of the state.


Returning to Houston for the night, I headed south out of Lake Charles to the Gulf coast and then along the coast back into Texas at Port Arthur. I saw firsthand the cruel remains of Hurricane Ike's fury. The destructiveness reminded me of the power of nature. But, I was also struck by the beauty of the Louisiana coastal wetlands.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Impatience Hurts

My grandfather would often sing a little song that I wish more people would take to heart.

Have patience, have patience,
Don't be in such a hurry.
When you get impatient,
You only start to worry.
Remember, remember,
That God is patient, too;
And think of all the times
When others had to wait on you!

These words are just the chorus, but you get the point. Patience is a virtue. It is, according the apostle Paul, a fruit of the Spirit (the product of a faithful and Christ-centered life). And, it is so counter to what we often see in the world (and, sadly, too sparingly seen in people of faith . . . and, I'm raising my hand in self-analysis).

Today, I spent a lot of time on the highways and byways of Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in America. Without some patience, such an adventure would drive you crazy . . . and maybe off an overpass!

Tonight, some unfortunate driver became impatient and paid the price . . . a price that was exacted in some measure from countless hundreds and thousands of other motorists.

You see, this driver (unknown to me), cut somebody off, an action that led to a chain of accidents and a few crashed cars. Then, traffic became backed up . . . for miles and miles and miles. I first encountered the traffic at a standstill 15 miles! from the scene of the accident. It took me and the other cars around me 1 hour to drive those 15 miles! Argh!!!

Impatience hurts. And, often the innocent!

Tragically, the point was proven beyond a doubt this past Friday in Long Island, New York. You've undoubtedly heard the sad news of the Walmart employee being trampled to death by hundreds of impatient and greedy shoppers. All because they wanted to be the first to get a discounted big screen HD TV.

Impatience is all about self. It is not concerned about the welfare of others.

Let us learn to put others first . . . and to slow down a bit!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lunch Break

One guess as to where I ate lunch today. The lone star is a hint.

I have been to this majestic building several times in my life, but I leave impressed after each visit. It is a beautiful place. I love to walk the halls and view the artwork and historic notices. Today's visit had to be rather quick . . . just long enough for a quick stroll, a few pictures, and a bite to eat.

You know, I am a New Mexican by necessity of my employment . . . but I am a Texan by birth and heart. I have a shirt that I wear often that says it all . . . Texas is a state of mind.

Audie Murphy . . . now that was a great American. For the uninformed, he was the most decorated American soldier in World War II . . . and a Texan. The portrait hangs in the House Chamber of the Texas Capitol.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

On the Road Again

My layover in Lubbock has drawn to a close, and I am back on the road in the morning.

I worship with the Dunn, Texas Church of Christ tomorrow morning. They are a small country church south of Snyder and a very generous bunch who care deeply about the welfare of children in need. They support a number of children's homes, including Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. I will be sharing with them a report on the work they sponsor at MNCH. I'm looking forward to being with them.

Tomorrow night, I will visit with the church in Lamesa, Texas and then travel on to Abilene for the night. On Monday, I will drive to Houston. I will spend several days there visiting churches. Then, its on to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. I speak at Bowie, Tex. on Dec. 7 and at Farmersville, Tex. on Dec. 14. I will be making other contacts and visits, as well.

I return to Lubbock on Dec. 15 and then to Gallup with my girls!!! on the 19th.

I love sharing the news about the Manuelito Home and the children of the Navajo Nation. Please pray for my safe travels and effectiveness in raising much needed support for an important ministry.

Friday, November 28, 2008

BCS Hopes

Texas vs. Oklahoma for the National Championship. That would be perfect. It can happen.

Oklahoma needs to take care of business tomorrow night and bury OSU.

Bobby Bowden and his Seminoles need to humble Florida tomorrow afternoon.

Florida needs to then beat Alabama in the SEC Championship next weekend.

OU/Texas (whichever) needs to dispatch Missouri in the Big 12 Championship.

Then . . . Texas and Oklahoma (ranked 1 and 2/2 and 1 in the BCS) are scheduled to meet in Miami in January. Think Red River Shootout times 100! This one would be for all the marbles.

And, sorry to all the disillusioned Tech fans here in Lubbock . . . you don't get second chances when you get beat by 44 points! Get over it!

Curiosity Killed the Cat

I bought the new album from the "reunited" rock band Asia today. The original line-up (discounting a couple of other "hybrids") came back together for the first time in 25 years to record an album. I was curious what these guys would sound like after 25 years apart . . . they should have stayed apart! The album is horrible.

What a disappointment!

I first heard Asia when I was in the 8th grade, on a youth mission trip to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Up until that point in time, I was a big country music geek (since that was all my family listened to) . . . I didn't quite think that rock-n-roll was devil's music, but it wasn't for me. That is until that fateful day I heard "Don't Cry," from Asia's second album, "Alpha." I was hooked.

To this day, Asia's first two albums remain among my favorites. Their newest offering, "Phoenix," is a pale imitation.

Asia is not the first music band to try to recapture the magic of eons ago. It seems that every rock band of the past has put themselves onto the nostalgic trip (and some--the Rolling Stones!--have been been pursuing nostalgia non-stop for, what, the past 3 centuries!). Why do they bother? Why rest on the creativity and artistry of decades past? Why not push themselves to evolve, to discover new chords and rhythms, to create original music?

Think Johnny Cash. The music he produced in the years prior to his death was different in many ways from the music he created when he was in his 30s and before. There was a certain progression in his music. He experimented. He wasn't afraid to do something new. After all, in his later years, he recorded with the likes of Bono and U2 . . . this singer who came from the Mississippi Delta land of Arkansas!

Or, consider Ricky Skaggs. In the 80's he was the Brad Paisley and Garth Brooks of the day. But, now 20 years later, he is a bluegrass trailblazer . . . and even blending his bluegrass sound with the eclectic "jazz" of Bruce Hornsby.

And, Eric Clapton . . . from rock "god" to a prince of the blues (there is only one King . . . B. B., that is!) . . . and master of the acoustical set.

These men and other pushed themselves into different facets and genres of music and are still creating new and satisfying sounds. So, why, are Asia, Styx, Journey, Rush, and the like dressing up in leather pants at age 50 and 60 and putting out the same old stuff?

Now, don't get me wrong, I like the old stuff . . . the original old stuff . . . and I throw those tunes into my CD player all the time . . . but the tracks are (c) 1983 and not (c) 2008!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Three Precious Gifts

Ignore the ugly guy in back. The three beautiful jewels in front remain the primary focus of my Thanksgiving.

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Terry Rush has penned another probing and challenging blog post, entitled The Restoration Movement and Its Demise. Read it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quips from the Gipper


He's the greatest president of my lifetime (and, in my thinking, the past century). Here are some great comments by Ronald Reagan.


"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so."

"Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong."

"I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress."
"Freedom is not something to be secured in any one moment of time. We must struggle to preserve it everyday. And freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction."

"The taxpayer: That's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination."

"Government is like a baby: An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other."
"How do you tell a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin."
"We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions."

"The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program."

"It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first."

"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
"America is too great for small dreams."

"Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed, there are many rewards; if you disgrace yourself, you can always write a book."

"No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is as formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women."

"America needs God more than God needs America. If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under."
"Let us resolve that young Americans will always find there is a city of hope in a country that is free. . . and let us resolve they will say of our day and our generation, we did keep the faith with our God, that we did act worthy of ourselves, that we did protect and pass on lovingly that shining city on a hill."
"All great change in America begins at the dinner table."
"When the liberals say 'family,' they mean, 'Big Brother in Washington.' When we say 'family,' we mean, 'honor thy father and mother.'"

Turkey Day Toons

Monday, November 24, 2008

This Bond Doesn't Stick

I watched the latest Bond flick tonight, Quantum of Solace. Not quite a waste of $8.50 and two hours of my time, but close. It isn't a dissatisfaction with the producers "rethinking" Bond, because I liked what they tried in Casino Royale, nor a displeasure with Daniel Craig, because I think he's nearly as good as Connery in the role (yes, I mean that), but this episode lacks a coherent or compelling story.

I did like the trailer for the newest Star Trek, however (that may have been worth the cost of admission tonight). But, I've got to wait until May 2009 to see the actual movie. Argh!

Lubbock Now 218Large!

For most of my life, I have been fascinated with the Lubbock city limits signs, particularly the ever growing population numbers posted thereon. Every few years the signs are updated with a new number. I heard today that the new number will be in excess of 218,000. I can remember the many years of eagerly awaiting the day when Lubbock officially eclipsed the 200,000 milestone . . . that happened several years ago. My hometown just keeps growing and changing.

Here are a few things I like about Lubbock (in no particular order):
  • (for the most part) nice, down-to-earth people
  • wide streets
  • a "clean" look
  • all those "W" bumper stickers, even though his last election was in '04
  • Lubbock Christian University
  • (for the South Pains) lots of trees
  • its in Texas, after all
  • football is king
  • most of my family is here, and many, many friends
  • the Christ-centered culture
  • great weather (w/ exception of occasional dust storm)
  • it's not Amarillo!
  • it's not anything like San Francisco
  • faith, family and country still matter . . . big time!
  • the drive on 19th Street between Frankford and Quaker
  • you can be anywhere in the city in, at most, 15 minutes
  • hard work and integrity are valued . . . and expected
  • and, of course, Rosa's

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Off the Bandwagon

65-21. Can't say I was surprised. I had rooted for the losing team . . . the first time I can ever remember rooting against the Oklahoma Sooners. But, as I stated a couple of weeks ago, I was overriding my support of O.U. to root for the hometeam Texas Tech Red Raiders (something I have also rarely down in life). I was caught up in the euphoric silliness that believed a Tech football team actually had a shot at the national championship. Last night, the silliness was buried in one big reality check.

Now that all is right with the world, and my senses have come back to me, I'm riding the Sooner train all the way to Miami. The Sooners will defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide for their 7th National Championship. Although, there may be some difficulty in telling the uniforms apart.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mac Davis Had It All Wrong

Lubbock. Home. It's that simple.

My official residence is Gallup, New Mexico, but Lubbock, Texas is and always will be home. This is where I was raised. This is where my parents (and many extended family) remain. So much of my identity and values find their roots here.

I'm back in Lubbock for the next 10 days. The visit is partly business, but mostly about family. I will continue on from here to spend two weeks in North Texas (all about business there) and then come back to Lubbock for a few days before returning to Gallup for Christmas WITH MY KIDS!

And, a trip to Lubbock is never complete without a pilgrimage to the mecca of semi-fast, casual-chic, Mexican dining . . . Rosa's Cafe. I was there at 11:25 this morning ready to indulge in beef fajitas and possibly the best guacamole and salsa around. Let's see: 10 days in Lubbock, 10 trips to Rosa's? It's possible, perhaps likely . . . better stock up on the Zantac, just in case!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back to Texas

Two weeks at home: it's time to hit the road again. Tomorrow, I'm off to Texas, with a stop in Carlsbad, New Mexico tomorrow night. This trip will be a mere 31 days and take me primarily to Lubbock and Dallas/Ft. Worth. As of today, I know I will be speaking to congregations in Dunn, Tex. on Nov. 30; Bowie, Tex. on Dec. 7; and Farmersville, Tex. on Dec. 14. I'm still working out some other visits.

The highlight of the trip, of course, is time spent with my daughters and mom and dad. Because of my need to be on the left coast last month, it has been a few weeks since I was able to travel to Texas to see my girls. Speaking regularly on the telephone is not an adequate substitute. I MISS THEM greatly. Separation from your children (and they from you) never grows easier. You know, divorce really is an act of the evil one. I pray and pray that others would realize this!

In the News


Did you know that an egg costs 35 billion dollars in Zimbabwe? Of course, their dollar is the least valued currency in the world (by far). One U. S. Dollar is worth 642,371,437,695,221,000 Zimbabwean dollars (that's 642 quadrillion to one!). And, we thought we were having money problems.

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The feel good news story of the day . . .

Twenty-three year old Ulysses Milana of Maine just joined the Marines. To be eligible for enlistment, he had lost 140 pounds in 11 months. Now, that is a young man who is devoted to serving his country. I'm very proud that men like him have my back.

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I resisted the Vista upgrade for a long time, but the Home presented me with a new office computer this week, and it has Vista. So far, I'm impressed (actually, relieved, is more like it . . . everything is working). I do especially like one feature: the stock photos (a sample shot of Monument Valley is above).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Great Post on Elders & Churches

As usual, Terry Rush has an awesome post on his blog, Morning Rush. As a recovering preacher who has served 6 congregations and 5 sets of elders, Terry's analysis is right on the mark.

The Root Cause? Excess!

So, the leaders of the world's 20 largest economies met in Washington D.C. over the weekend for a Global Economic Summit. They met to address the growing worldwide recession. On the menu for the State dinner: $300 bottles of wine! Now, I'm just a poor guy out in western New Mexico, but in these economically troubled times couldn't they have served 5 cent pitchers of Lipton Iced Tea, instead?

Guess who picked up the tab? Take a good look at your withholding on your next paycheck!

I'm a recovering preacher not an economist, but it seems like many of the recent financial problems besetting our country and world can be traced back to excess. Prospective home owners getting mortgages that were more than they could handle. Consumers maxing out a dozen credit cards. Union workers demanding and getting huge benefits packages that the companies had no hope of paying. CEO's and other executives seeking huge salaries and stock options. The Federal government spending and spending, promising and promising, without any hope of ever balancing the books . . . just quick to print an ever-increasing supply of cash.

Now, this recovering preacher is one of the guilty. I have never been disciplined with money and gotten into my share of debt (those student loans are pesky little things, aren't they?). It seems to be that excess and an acceptance of debt are part and parcel of our society . . . BUT, as Dave Ramsey is so keen to say, "The debtor is slave to the lender." Our way of living is unsustainable!

The words of the apostle Paul are instructive. Philippians 4.11-13: "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed of hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (NIV). Notice, he doesn't say the secret of contentment is maxing out a Wal-Mart credit card or purchasing the latest Prius!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Can You Donate a Bible?


We have a great need at Manuelito Navajo Children's Home and at Gallup Christian School. We need several NIV Study Bibles for our children and students to use. Most of our kids come to us without ever having touched a Bible, much less read one. We have several old and tattered Bibles for them to have and use, but many of these are older versions (lots of KJV). But, our kids need Bibles that are easier to read, and they would certainly profit from having a Bible with some study helps.


Could you add a Bible to your Christmas shopping list and provide a child from the Navajo Nation the blessing of a good Bible? If so, purchase the Bible (hardcover NIV Study Bible would be the best) and mail it to Manuelito Navajo Children's Home; P.O. Box 58; Gallup, NM 87305. Mark the package to my attention: c/o Jeff Foster. We need a total of 30 Bibles. Bibles with thumb-indexing would be an ever greater blessing.


Asking a favor of those bloggers who happen by this site: Will you put a notice of this appeal on your blog? Many thanks.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Random Thoughts

I went a whole month without Cracker Barrel (the left coast doesn't have them!), so in the week I've been home in Gallup, I have made up for lost time. My days go so much better after I've had my two eggs, sausage, hash browns, wheat toast, and half-gallon of iced tea.

I've been in Cracker Barrel so much in the past week (8 visits) that I wouldn't be surprised if the manager handed me a "Rising Star" smock and puts me to work.

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It took me 35 years to discover Johnny Cash. Now his music is a staple in my CD player.

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I read another story in the USA Today this morning about the safe-haven law in Nebraska. Thirty-four teenagers and older youth have been abandoned by their parents in the months since this law came into effect. Some of the children have been reunited with their families, but many have been placed in foster care.

I'm not certain where I come down on the controversy this law has produced--whether the law should be left as is, or amended to allow only the abandonment of infants. I just know the situation has highlighted the desperation so many families find themselves in. Whether it be the heartlessness or irresponsibility of parents, the challenging economic fortunes of some, or the unruliness of some kids, it is obvious that families are in crisis.

I cannot help but think that too many families lack the great resource of community. From the article I read this morning, it seems that many of the children who have been abandoned by parents come from single-parent families or families where a parent is incarcerated, addicted to drugs, mentally unstable, and estranged from extended family members. Children need a support system that ranges far beyond the immediacy of father and mother and sibling. An aspect of ancient culture that is sorely missed today is life lived within the context of family, clan/tribe, community, nation . . . and, I must add, church (or, community of faith). I was blessed to have parents who kept me connected not merely within our house, but also our neighborhood, and church.

Perhaps the situation in Nebraska should waken all of us to the responsibilities each of us have to each other.

__________

I have rooted for the Oklahoma Sooners since I was a kid, but tomorrow I will be cheering on the Texas Tech Red Raiders to defeat O.U. and move one step closer to a #1 ranking and a shot at the national Championship. Call it a case of hometown loyalty.

__________

Any body up for a round of golf? It's been 13 months since I last walked a course.

__________

Six days and counting to Rosa's! It's been over 5 weeks since my last bite of beef fajitas! It's a shock that I'm still breathing.

__________

I absolutely love playing Santa Clause. I'll be travelling for the next 5 weeks, so Santa went shopping last night. Finding those special gifts (insofar as they can be found at Wally World) for my special little girls is a great joy. In route to that mecca of American commercialism, I even popped in the latest Christmas offering from Mannheim Steamroller . . . Christmasville. The only thing better, is watching my beautiful girls rip open their packages and seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter.

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Life is full up of ups and downs, but without a doubt, God is soooo good!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Life Is Worth the Effort


This photo was taken Saturday at the Open House we hosted on the campus of Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. As you can see, one of the attractions was a rock-climbing wall. Our kids at the Home absolutely loved it. One of our boys scaled the wall 38 times! I refrained from an attempt, however, out of the fear I would topple the thing over :-).
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You know, life is a lot like scaling a rock-climbing wall. Commitment/choice. Effort. Strategy/forward thinking. Concentration. Assistance. Exhaustion. Exhilaration. Failure. Success. All of these are involved in the rock-climbing experience and also with life.
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A lot of life is grounded around the choices and commitments we make and don't make. For some, even many, choices can be confounding, perhaps crippling. But, life cannot be taken for granted, we must place one foot in front of the other. Life isn't a conveyor belt. We can't sit around hoping life will come to us (in the form of a great paycheck, a hot date, a thrill of a lifetime, whatever our anticipation is centered on) . . . we have to take a step and go after it. When climbing a rock-wall, you must reach your arm up to a handhold and lift your foot up to a foothold and pull your body up; the apparatus isn't going to do the work for you. You must decide to go!
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Effort is certainly a component of life. Life is work. It doesn't come easy, even to those who seem to live on Easy Street. Life is a marathon (actually, a series of marathons); it is not a sprint; it is not a casual Sunday stroll. There will be some lulls along the way. Even moments where we can stop and smell the roses. But, there are gonna be some long, rough slugs as well. Moments (or, years!) when we're trudging up a 9% grade (on a good day!), with the wind howling around us and rain beating in our face. But, there is a summit, and then it is all down hill . . . that is, of course, until we hit the next hill! Yet, I'm told hat with age and maturity, life begins to level out to a more consistent plain. Hills and plateaus, even mountain ranges, remain, but or aptitude for life grows. Our efforts pay off.
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Life requires thought. Mindlessness leads nowhere (or, rather, to some serious pitfalls). Life doesn't come equipped with Autopilot, or cruise control, but with big signs, "Lots of Assembly Required," and "Proceed with Caution." Life is much easier and productive when we look ahead to the horizon (and beyond) and set out goal and then plot the course required to reach that goal. In scaling a rock-climbing wall proficiently, the climber looks above and finds the ideal handholds and footholds, she plots her course with a distinct strategy guiding her way.
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Pay attention! How many of life's travails could be avoided, or be made much-less destructive, if we simply paid attention to what we were doing, to our surroundings, to those around us, and to the course before us? Effort is not simply a matter of physical application and force, it is a lot of brain power, as well. Was it Lombardi that said, "Football is 90% mental"? Put "life" in the sentence, and it would be as true.
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Life is not lived in a vacuum, with merely ourselves and immediate surroundings. No, life is full myriad things, especially those people close and far. A rock climber rarely will set out on his own; to do so can often be suicidal. Someone is needed to hold the guide rope, to help plot the course, to share in the work of setting spikes and giving a helping hand. Life is best lived when in tandem or association with a partner or partners. After all, God Himself, our Creator, declared, "It is not good for man to be alone." Interconnectedness is a key to life.
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Life will be tiring, even exhausting at many points along the way, but there will also be ample exhilaration, when our weariness will drop away and newfound energy and excitement will rush over. Remember the exhilaration of scaling a high mountain--the course up filled with tightened muscles, thirst (and, in my case, heavy panting!)--and the moment of finally looking out from the peak onto the valley and plains far below. That's a lot like a new mother and father staring down at their beautiful new child in the moments following a very difficult pregnancy. Or, the proud parents applauding a son as he walks across the graduation stage following the many years of the awkwardness and challenges of raising a child.
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Success and failure. Failure and success. Life is filled with both. A rock climber is not always going to find the best hold. He may slip a time or two. H may even have to descent before a successful ascent can be mounted. Keep going. That's the key. Learn from mistakes. Observe the success of others. Try, and try again. Life is worth the effort.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Older Even than Dine'tah

Today, Trey Morgan has a moving post about a great need in the country of Honduras and the efforts of some compassionate young men and women to help. Visit the post here and contribute what you can to this good work.

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I was blessed with the opportunity to teach the high school Bible class at Gallup Christian School this morning. I will do so again on Friday and Wednesday of the coming week. These opportunities are some of the highlights of my all-too-short homecomings to Gallup. I enjoy going out on the road and talking to churches about MNCH, but I absolutely love to get back to my roots as a preacher and youth minister and teach and peach God's Word. Especially to our kids at the Home and School.

These kids, for the most part, have had no experience with Jesus and the Bile before coming to MNCH. Many are still very stepped in the traditional beliefs and practices of the Navajo people. It can be a challenge to talk about the Gospel in a way that makes sense and is not overtly threatening or unsettling. The love of God for humanity (especially the person of Jesus) communicates very easily, but the particulars of "Bible-speak" can be hard to convey. But, I enjoy the challenge . . . rather, opportunity . . . to share what I hold dear and what I know is meant to be a blessing for all humanity.

My task in these three classes I've been asked to teach is to give a general introduction to the Bible. Not a subject that is easily reduced to three class periods. But, I'm focusing primarily on the specialness of Scripture.

To this end, I related one of my favorite stories this morning. It is of a man, an archaeologist, who discovered a fragment of Numbers 6 (the Priestly Blessing, vv. 24-26) in an amulet/locket in the ruin of a house outside of Jerusalem. Once dated, this fragment was determined to have been from at least the 8th Century B.C. That is the time of Isaiah! I used this story to speak about the ancient nature and genuineness of the Bible. Here is the case of a person living 2,800 years ago who cherished a portion of God's Word by keeping it close to their person (in a locket hanging from their neck). Wow!

I then compared the ancientness of that portion of Scripture with the ancientness of many of the Native American ruins that are close to Gallup. We have Canyon de Chelly to our northwest, first inhabited in the 5th Century A.D.; and Mesa Verde to our north, first inhabited in the 7th C. A.D.; ad Chaco Canyon to our northeast, regarded by some of the Dine' (Navajo) as the birthplace of their people), first inhabited in the 8th-9th C. A.D.

Th Navajo treasure what is long-standing and preserved (a trait I deeply admire of this beautiful people), and so the comparison I drew of the ancientness of Scripture (as represented in the Priestly Blessing fragment), and how it even outdated the cherished sites of Navajo and Pueblobean (or, Anasazi) history and culture, made an impact of the kids I was teaching. And, I must say, on me as well.

I love the words of the Psalmist:
The instruction of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise.
The precepts of the Lord are right, making the heart glad;
the commandment of the Lord is radiant, making the eyes light up.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are reliable and altogether righteous.
They are more desirable than gold--than an abundance of pure gold;
and sweeter than honey--than honey dripping from the comb.

(The words of Psalm 19.7-10 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

To Whom We Owe Our Freedom!

It is my estimation that when historians look back to my generation (graduated 1988) they will conclude that a lesser percentage of us served in the U. S. Armed Forces than in any other generation previous and perhaps following.

You see, my generation came of age at the ending of the Cold War when it seemed that armed conflicts were largely a thing of the past. Yes, the first Gulf War happened just three years following my class's graduation from high school, and that did result in the enlistment of some my age, but that war came about when many my age had already set themselves on a career path, and many had already married and started families. So, few of my generation served in the military. Indeed, of all the many friends and classmates I had in school, I know of only one or two who served in the military.

As I reflect on this Veteran's Day this contrast of generations came to mind. I am afraid that so many my age have taken for granted the great sacrifices of those who went before us, those men who dedicated themselves to serving the country in very trying and dangerous times and circumstances. Men who put themselves in harm's way, so that their children could have the prospect of living in a free and safe country. These men are the one's to whom we owe the freedom we now enjoy.

I am reminded of the third stanza of America the Beautiful, our sentimental national anthem. The words of Katherine Lee Bates: "O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine."

As I reflect on this Veteran's Day, I am deeply proud to be the son of a veteran of the U.S. Navy, who served in the Vietnam War, and who served for 20 years, and the grandson of a veteran of the U. S. Army, who served and was wounded in World War II (Philippines).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Home? Yes, finally!

Eleven states. 9,996 miles. 50 days. Three time zones. (What seemed like) four seasons. 83 visits to churches. 12 opportunities to speak to congregations. 2 Christian college lectureships. A whole month without seeing a Cracker Barrel, Rosa's, or Chick-fil-A. One broken down vehicle, subsequently repaired. Countless new friends.

That's a quick summary of my latest trip. It was productive for the Home. It was personally enjoyable, but also exhausting. I have enjoyed the past 3 days and counting being home in Gallup. Home? Sometimes it seems that the asphalt of some Interstate highway or the spartan interior of a Days Inn room is my home, but whenever I return to Gallup, I realize that this is my home. I am blessed to be here. I am blessed to represent Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. I am blessed to be a part of the Gallup Church of Christ. I am blessed to live on the border of the vast and beautiful Navajo Nation. It is good to be home . . . for another 9 days! Then, it's off to Texas, again.

The photos are among the last I took on my trip. They are of the Colorado River in Moab, Utah.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Gingrich in 2012!!!

Well, the election is over, and the outcome is not what I had wanted. BUT, I pray that our nation can come together and support our new president. May he lead with wisdom and humility. I pray that he and our other leaders will seek God's council. I pray that our nation will be kept safe and prosper and honor God in our morality and concern for one another, especially for those who are less fortunate and in need.

Despite what has happened today, I know that our God reigns, and that He will effect His way despite the challenges that are put before Him.

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I am now in Salt Lake City, Utah, my first visit to this beautiful place. I will be here until Thursday making visits for the Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. And, then, I make the final leg of my trip home. I am so ready to sleep in my own bed!!!

Here's a photo of the Idaho State Capitol in Boise. It is a replica of the U. S. Capitol, albeit a significantly smaller version. I have also attached some photos of the Columbia River east of Portland, Oregon and the countryside of southern Idaho. Yes, that is snow!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ate a Tater in Idaho

I've added a new state to my travels: Idaho. This is my first visit. I'm in Boise for the night before I continue toward home. I will be in Salt Lake City tomorrow.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

FALLing for Oregon

My first visit to Oregon is drawing to a close. I will begin my journey home tomorrow morning, a trip that will take me through Idaho and Utah. My six days in Oregon (and 45 days on the road) have been profitable for Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. I had some good visits with churches and especially enjoyed my time with the Gladstone Church of Christ this morning and the Oregon City Church of Christ tonight. These are two wonderful congregations; their love for Jesus and for one another is so encouraging.

My travels take me to many places, and it is hard to be away from my family and friends for long periods of time. But, it is so heartwarming to walk into a church building and know that there I will be surrounded by family. As we share in faith, as Christ's blood washes us clean, we belong together, we are family . . . even when we have never previously met!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fill 'er Up, Please!

A couple of observations about Oregon:
  1. I like the "NO" sales tax
  2. I do NOT like that I am NOT allowed to fill my own gas tank . . . it's an odd thing to drive up to a fuel pump and have a 70-something-year-old female station attendant come up to my window and ask, "Can I fill 'er up?" (That really happened yesterday.) Oregon is one of two states that do not allow drivers to operate a fuel pump at a filling station (New Jersey is the other)

Friday, October 31, 2008

. . . the harder they fall!

Following Lewis & Clark . . . 200 Years Later

I visited Fort Clatsop yesterday. Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Expedition spent the winter of 1805-1806 here. It represented the westernmost terminus of their historic journey to explore the Louisiana Purchase and to find a route to the Pacific Ocean. The fort that stands today is a replica, of course; the original is lost to history (but built anew through the drawings and notations found in Lewis's journal).

I have been fascinated with the story for the Corps of Discovery for a long time. It was truly neat to stand on the ground upon which they stood, and worked, and lived two centuries ago. Here are some pictures.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shipwreck

This is what's left of the Peter Iredale, a British sailing ship that ran aground on the Oregon coast on October 25, 1906 . . . 102 years ago!
Today was fairly overcast, but the view of the Pacific was spectacular, nonetheless. I will post more photos later, including some I took of Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1805-06.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oregon

My travels for Manuelito Navajo Children's Home have brought me to Portland, Oregon. I will be here until Monday and speaking to the Gladstone Church of Christ on Sunday morning and the Oregon City Church of Christ on Sunday night.

This is my first trip to the Northwest, and I am greatly impressed by the beauty. The drive from the California-Oregon state line to Portland is spectacular. Every inch of real estate is beautiful. Here are some photos I took along the way.

This last photo is of the Oregon Sate Capitol in Salem. Its a rather impressive building, but it does look a lot like a mausoleum. And, from a distance the gold statue on top reminded me of Moroni!