Friday, January 30, 2009

Mississippi State Capitol

Today, I added to my collection of state capitol photos. I was impressed with the Mississippi capitol. Impressive building. Beautiful grounds.
In the past year, since I began travelling for Manuelito Navajo Children's Home, I've photographed 9 state capitols. The most impressive: Texas, of course! The least: Oregon (looked like a masoleum).

The Seige of Vicksburg (146 years later)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's a Small World After All

I'm watching Special Report on FNC, and Bret Baier threw out the tease, "Is Barack Obama the most famous living person in the history of the world?" The question made me pause for a moment, and left me quite amazed at the profundity of the observation.

Now, whether Obama is the most famous living person ever is debatable (I would argue that George W. Bush probably retains that crown, for now), but BO would certainly rank a close second. The criteria, of course, is the simple fact that either W or Obama is known by more people on the face of the earth at this moment than any other living person (and known by more people at this moment than any other person has been known in his or her lifetime).

Whether BO is first or second in the listing, this is amazing. Less than two years ago, he was known by relatively few people. Regardless of your esteem for the man (or lack thereof) who now serves as our President, has there ever, in the history of the world, been such a meteoric rise in fame?

Who would be third most recognizable living person? I would say, Ali!

Of course, one name remains the most recognizable name in history: Jesus!!!

Monday, January 26, 2009


  1. Trying to drive through sleet and rain with dried-out and cracked windshield wipers is not the funnest thing. Made it to Abilene, anyway.
  2. Chick-fil-A really has no peer.
  3. Read today that a number of schools, streets, and buildings have already been named in honor of President Obama. Now, I'm not chewing on sour grapes, BUT shouldn't we wait until a least the third week of the new presidency before we begin memorializing the man?
  4. Watching The Matrix on HBO. Somewhat hokier than I remember.
  5. So, the Senate has confirmed Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury. What's the lesson? I suppose if you fail to pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes, the new president (and 60 senators) will deem you worthy to be the chief tax collecting officer in the federal government. I suppose that's change.
  6. Unequivocally, I miss W!
  7. Sticking with my prediction from last week: Steelers 24, Cardinals 20. The team from Glendale puts up a valiant effort, but when it comes down to it the team with pedigree wins the championship.
  8. I'm headed to Jackson/Henderson, Tenneessee and the annual Bible Lectureship at Freed-Hardeman University. At last year's visit, I ducked a F-4 tornado. Hope there's no reprise visit this year!
  9. Prediction: the love affair the national press has for President Obama will be short-lived. They're only sycophantic to the degree they are treated with respect. Obama's arrogance and obfuscations will wear thin.
  10. Ice storm in the Metroplex: I can think of no place I'd least want to be than DFW during an ice storm!
  11. I filed my Federal tax return a few days ago. I think I figured out why our government is running a deficit. I'm expecting a return of every penny withheld from my paychecks plus $600. How does that work? Instead of paying taxes, the government pays me! And, the Dems say the rich arne't paying their fair share?
  12. I like Spaghetti Warehouse.
  13. I miss Calvin& Hobbes, The Far Side and Peanuts. The comics page in newspapers is now just wasted space.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dine'tah: An Appeal

Five years ago, I knew very little about the Navajo people (Dine') and the vast and beautiful Navajoland (Dine'tah). My education on these matters is still a work in progress, but in these past 5 years I have come to have a great respect and love for the Navajo. I find their history fascinating. I admire their triumphs (Navajo art, in particular, is among the most creative and beautiful of that of any culture in the world). I grieve over their challenges. I am anything but a "bleeding heart," but I am ashamed of the way earlier Americans treated the Navajo and other native peoples.

After five years of living close to the Navajo Nation reservation, I have witnessed firsthand the foolish (and, I will add, racist) policy of generations past of rounding up native peoples and driving them to "reservations." Often, our government placed these peoples on lands that were the poorest and most remote. No walls were built, but once the reservation boundaries were determined (and changed many times, by the way, by the bureaucrats in Washington), little effort was made to teach the indians new skills, or to provide modern infrastructure that would make assimilating into American culture easier. There were some basic and noble efforts made, to be sure, but these were few and far between. Most cruel of all, perhaps, our government brought in alcohol to "pacify" the indians and to quell dissension and revolts. Oh, what great tragedy alcohol has brought to the reservations.

The past cannot be undone, but the present and future can be better, much better. As I live and work among the Navajo, I see a people who love life, who are bright and industrious, who are honest and good-natured. I see a people who, when given half a chance, can excel and do great things. I continually pray that the resources and opportunities needed for continued and accelerated advancement of the Navajo will come. Share this prayer with me.

Of course, my primary interest here is with the children of the Navajo nation, particularly those children who are in crisis, whose families are beyond dysfunction and who are in great need. We at the Manuelito Navajo Children's Home are striving to help these children and families. We need partners in our ministry to enable us to extend our reach and to take more children into our care. Will you help us? Please make a contribution to our cause today.

As you consider this plea, let me share with you some statistics that describe, in some small measure, life on the Navajo reservation:
  • There is 58% unemployment on the Navajo reservation
  • Annual per capita income is around $7,300 (try feeding and housing a family on $7,300 a year!)
  • 32% of house lack plumbing
  • 20% of houses lack electricity
  • 50% of children drop out of school
  • Fewer than 7% of adult Navajos have college degrees
  • 90% of the population is impacted by alcoholism (either personally or through a close family member)
  • The median lifespan among men living on the reservation is 46 years (read this sentence again! . . . that's over 30 years shorter than in the wider American society!)
  • 20% of families are intact; 80% of families are fractured!

Monday, January 19, 2009

What I Love About New Mexico

Green chili
Clean air, clear skies & wide open spaces
Native & Spanish influences
Camp Blue Haven & many special memories
It's next door to Colorado
The Shiprock & Hermit's Peak
It's a long ways from New York City & Los Angeles
The Promised Land is just across the border!
Did I say, green chili?

Dog Day

I've received these photos over the years. I'm not sure of the photographers or mugs. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Architecture & Churches

Why do many church buildings have no windows? Is there a fear of looking out onto the world? Is there a fear of the world looking inside?

Many church buildings have stained-glass windows (or, should I say, stained-Plexiglas?), installed for decorative or inspirational effect, but few church buildings have clear-glass windows. Why? Am I alone in thinking that this cold?

We communicate in a number of ways. Through our speech, we obviously communicate words and thoughts. Through our body language and facial expressions, we certainly communicate emotions and feelings. Is it too much to assume that through architecture we communicate something about ourselves and our intentions?

What does a building without windows communicate about us? Do want to keep to ourselves? Do we want to hide our activities from the peering eyes of others? Do we want to have our eyes hidden from the things that are beyond our walls? What are we communicating as we gather and worship in a building without windows?

Perhaps I am nitpicking, but I wonder if the windowless-building is a symptom of a greater oddity: light that chooses to remain hidden under the bushel or salt that refuses to leave the salt-shaker.

And, as long as I am on the subject of churches and architecture . . . what does a meeting place designed like a movie theater suggest about the church?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Blessing of Teachers

In 1947, a professor at the University of Chicago, Dr. Chandrasekhar, was scheduled to teach an advanced seminar in astrophysics. At the time, he was living in Wisconsin, doing research at the Yerkes Astronomical Observatory. He planned to commute twice a week for the class, even though it would be held during the harsh winter months.

Registration for the seminar, however, fell far below expectations. Only two signed up for the class. People expected Dr. Chandrasekhar to cancel the seminar, lest he waste his time. But for the sake of the two students, he taught the class, commuting 100 miles through back country roads in the dead of winter.

His students, Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee, did their homework. Ten years later, in 1957, they both won the Nobel prize for physics. So did Dr. Chandrasekhar, in 1983.


They toil away in relative obscurity, but their contributions to the church are immeasurable. This can be said of so many Christian who quietly serve the Lord and his church, never seeking notoriety for themselves, but giving their all for the benefit of others. I speak about a group of men and women who are unknown to many within the fellowship of Churches of Christ. I speak of the professors and scholars who serve in the Bible departments of our colleges and universities.

My life has been deeply affected by the likes of Charles Stephenson, Leon Crouch, Jesse Long, Tim Hadley, and Steve Joiner. These men, and many others like them, taught me the Bible and prepared me for a life in ministry. I am a preacher because of their selfless efforts to ready me for the task.

I describe their efforts as selfless because they have not been greatly rewarded doe their work in wealth or fame. They teach young, aspiring preachers and ministers out of their convictions that Christ is Lord and his Word is the source of life. They teach because they love the Lord's church and desire to see the gospel spread to every corner of the world.

Their work is often met with skepticism. For reasons that escape me, Biblical scholarship is too often met with harsh criticism and the belief that formal, educated, and disciplined study of the Bible seeks to undermine the Word of God. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Such study, at least in the circles with which I am familiar, seeks to affirm God's Word and understand it with all the insight and ability God provides.

How many members of our churches are familiar with the likes of Jack P. Lewis, Thomas Olbricht, Everett Ferguson, Carroll Osburn, Abraham Malherbe, and Carl Holliday, and so many others who have given their lives to the study of Scripture and to the instruction of those who preach in our churches? They toil away in relative obscurity, but their contributions to the Lord's people is beyond measure.

Let us count our blessings.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Prayer Matters

In addition to Just Thinking, I author a blog entitled Prayer Matters. I haven't been as active with it as I have with this blog, but I am trying to post content there on a daily basis. To do this, I solicit your help.

My intention for Prayer Matters remains (1) to provide a forum for prayer requests and needs, (2) to post prayers from Scripture and other sources, and (3) to post articles and thoughts on the subject of prayer.

I invite your solicitations, contributions of content, and readership. A link to Prayer Matters can be found on my Facebook profile and on Just Thinking.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blogging on Paradise Island

FOX News reported today that a resort on Paradise Island, on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, is looking to hire a blogger for a seasonal salary of $105,000. (I'm not sure if American or Australian currency!)

The article offers this job description: The employee "will be expected to stroll the white sands, soak up the sand, snorkel the reef, maybe clean the pool--and report to a global audience via weekly blogs, photo diaries and video updates."

Now, that ain't bad work, if you can get it!

Have You Moved the Period?

How much easier would life be if the period was placed sooner? Oh to deal with the abstract rather than the clear-cut.

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. . . . [and] love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way; its not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things; love never ends."

These are the words of Jesus and Paul. Jesus, as he knelt to wash his disciples' feet, commented that love would be a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian (John 13.35). Paul was not satisfied with the abstract, so he elaborated and gave us a definition of love that we cannot escape (1 Corinthians 13.4-8).

It is easy to dismissively say, "I love my neighbor." it is much harder to actually love my neighbor. Jesus is calling for action on our part. Love is action not theory. Love is not mere words; it is demonstrated by thoughts and feelings, character and values, behaviors and motives. Love is a real thing. It is tangible. It is seen and heard and felt.

Consider The Message, a paraphrase of Scripture. Paul says, "Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always me first, doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies."

Have you moved the period?

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Pedestal Is a Lonely Place

Judge not, and you shall not be judged. These words of Jesus are among the most familiar in Scripture (Luke 6.37; Matthew 7.1). They are also some of the most misunderstood and misapplied.

We have all heard the response to criticism, "Judge not, let you be judged," and we have probably spoken the defense, ourselves. Tolstoy even went as far to explain that this instruction of Jesus forbade "the human institution of any law court." Is Jesus saying that we must avoid all criticism of others, to turn a blind eye to the sins of another? After all, one of the basic differences between humans and animals is the ability to discern and to make value-judgments. This is part of what makes us in the image of God. So, then, what is Jesus condemning?

Jesus is condemning the one who is hypercritical of others, the crusading fault-finder who is relentlessly seeking out the failings of others. It is the one who assumes he or she possesses the competence and authority to sit in judgments upon his fellow man. It is the one quick to assess, "You are going to hell!" To be judgmental in the sense Jesus condemns is to arrogantly usurp the prerogative of the divine judge, God, and pass judgment on another. It is, in fact, to play God.

What is the penalty for this self-righteous attitude? This self-righteous judgment has a boomerang effect. If we pose as judges, we cannot plead ignorance of the law we claim to administer. We will be shown the mercy we have shown to others. And this is the key: mercy. By condemning self-righteous judging, Jesus is calling on us to be merciful. Jesus is demanding that we treat our fellow man with respect and love.

When we are hypercritical of another, the motive is selfish. We seek to build ourselves up at the expense of another. We seek to promote ourselves as the wise, the correct, and the righteous. Through our denigration of others we place ourselves on a pedestal. The other person may be clearly int he wrong, but our self-righteous condemnation of them will only result in alienating them from ourselves. The pedestal is a lonely place.

When we place the importance on the other person, when we treat the other with respect and love, and when we are merciful, we humble ourselves. When we respect and love, we do not seek to condemn, but to compassionately correct and teach.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Persistence Pays Off


I still remember the moment with remarkable clarity: Todd Jordan catching the ball on about the five yard line and running into the end zone. We scored six points and beat the team from Amherst, Texas. Those six points were all the points we scored that season.

That moment defined my seventh grade football season. One score, one win, nothing more. But, my teammates and I kept at it and did not give up. Over the next five seasons, until the year I graduated from high school, we did not have a losing season in football. Over the next five seasons we went 8-2, 6-5, 11-3, 7-4, and 6-5.

Persistence pays off. This is true in so many ways. It is often seen in athletics. It can be realized in so many areas of life. Keep at something long enough and, with enough passion and focus, satisfying results will be enjoyed.

Persistence is the ally of parents. Tell a child only once what he should hear and chances are he will not learn, but tell a child repeatedly what is right and wrong and education will take place.

Persistence is the ally of students. Spend five minutes a night studying and the grades will reflect the lack of effort, but spend hours reading and researching and discovering and a subject becomes matered.

Persistence is the ally of the faithful. Devote an hour or two here and there to the worship and service of God and behaviors and values remain largely unaffected, but devote a lifetime and a lifestyle and one becomes transformed into an image of the One who is worshipped.

Results are not always immediate. It took my team ten games before a score was made and a victory enjoyed. It may take many years before a parent knows what type of man a boy will becomes. It may take months before a astudent is aware of what she has learned. A lifetime may pass before the value of a life lived in faith is fully understood.

Patience is a virtue of the wise. Patience is not made of inaction and passively awaiting results. Patience implies action with the understanding that a lot of effort may need to be extended before a reqward is found.

So, for those of us who have not yet scored a point: be persistent, keep up the good work, and have faith that victory is within sight.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Call to Compassion

A small child drinks from a container of lye left in the refrigerator by his parents for the purpose of manufacturing drugs. A department store security camera films a mother brutally beating her 4-year-old daughter. A father and his young son charge onto a baseball field and savagely assault a coach. A young girl is repeatedly raped and victimized by her father. A mother binds the hands of her small children, then methodically drowns them in the bathtub. Two pre-adolescent children are forced by their parents to "sexually" service the parents' adult friends. A child of four-years-of-age is left to scrounge around the house for food, while his teenage mother is out partying with her friends.

Seven scenes with a common, disturbing theme: the neglect, abuse, and exploitation of a child. These accounts made the news in the past couple of years, but how many cases of child neglect, abuse, and exploitation went unreported and unnoticed in the past week? Sadly, thousands upon thousands of children live in homes where their welfare is continually threatened. They are in the care of individuals who lack self-control, common sense, decency and morality.

As the church, what is our responsibility? As people of faith and compassion the welfare of children should be of prime concern to us. Our responsibility starts in our own homes: we should continually be the most the most loving and nurturing parents we can be. We should set the example for others to follow. BUT, our responsibility extends beyond the walls of our houses and into the community.

We should notice the children that live about us. Are they well-fed? Are they clothed? Are they being provided with shelter, medical care, and with proper parenting? Are they being provided with spiritual nourishment? A child that lacks these things is a child that is in need of our attention and care.

I am not saying that we are to be nosey and intrusive. I am saying that we need to be aware and at times be proactive when we see a child in harms way.

I am reminded of the example of the early church. In the culture of ancient Greece and Rome it was common for small children to be abandoned by parents who either did not want or could not care for them. Christians became known for rescuing these abandoned children and raising them as their own.

Today, we have many good people serving in a similar cause: the rescue of neglected and abused children. I praise God for the good work of organizations like Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. We are involved in the ministry of providing for children in need.

Let us all do our part in helping children who are in need. Let us be ever ready to show the compassion of Christ. Help in your community with children who are in need. Give of your time. Give of your financial resources. Pray. Recruit others to the cause.

If you can help Manuelito Navajo Children's Home and in our mission to serve the children of the Navajo Nation, please send your contributions to MNCH; P.O. Box 58; Gallup, NM 87305.

The psalmist delcares, "Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and needy; save them from the hand of the wicked" (Psalm 82.3-4 HCSB).

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Nativity Story

You are probably familiar with The Nativity Story, a movie that was released a couple of years ago and is now available on DVD. I have been a fan of this movie for some time. It is a great dramatic re-telling of the story of Jesus' birth. It is fairly true to the Biblical text and very cognizant of the cultural mores of the day. I highly recommend it. (In fact, I showed the movie this week in the Bible classes I've been teaching at Gallup Christian School.)
The movie does a good job emphasizing the humble circumstances into which Jesus was born. I especially enjoy the way the movie portrays the emotions of Mary and Joseph.
Great movie. Watch it, if you haven't seen it already.

Simple & Reverent Worship (Repost)

(This is a re-post of an article I published on this blog in June 2007. My thoughts have been on this subject a lot lately.)

As Israel came to worship, God demanded simplicity. In Exodus 20.24, he told his people, “You need make for me only an altar of earth.” It was not to be made of dressed stone. It was not to be atop a platform standing high in the sky. A simple earthen altar is all that God wanted.

Israel’s neighbors had erected elaborate and ornate temples in which to worship their gods. Pagan religion was a spectacle, a show, an event! Yet, Yahweh, the Lord of heaven and earth, demanded simple and reverent worship from his people.

I am reminded of the churches without walls that are so common in Third World countries. They are simple structures; basically, a few columns and a thatched roof—enough to keep worshipers shaded from the sun and protected from the rains. These structures are not much to look at, but they provide a place where Christians can gather and worship God. Each Sunday, thousands from all over India come to these places to pray, sing, study and commune.

Our world is filled with ancient cathedrals and modern arenas—ornate and imposing buildings constructed ostensibly to facilitate worship directed to God, but are they not really more for our sensibilities and comforts? I cannot comprehend the millions upon millions of dollars spent to build these structures and to keep them operating.

And, worship has become an event for so many, a show, great spectacle. Praise bands, graphic arts displays, Hollywood-style productions—and, yet, the Israelites were told, “You need make for me only an altar of earth.”

It is in the simplicity of our worship that the heart shines forth and the passion of our faith is most clearly seen. As we gather each week, let us join our voices in pure song, let us join our hearts and minds in prayer, let us open our ears to the honest and straightforward Word of God, and let us share at the table our remembrances of our Lord.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Shot from the past

A favorite picture. My daughters, Hannah and Elizabeth, flanked by my nephews, Tyler and Ryan. Taken at my grandmother's 80th birthday party in Lamesa, Texas. My grandmother is now 86, so that gives you a time reference.
You can tell someone is about partied out.

Gallup Sunset

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Christmas at Manuelito

This past Christmas was a wonderful time for the children of Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. The generosity of so many churches and individuals helped to make the holidays special to our kids. Thank you to all those who were a blessing.

The children of the Manuelito Navajo Children's Home come to us from dysfunctional and impoverished families and homes. Many of our children spent the early years of their lives lacking many of the basic comforts so many of us take for granted. We have children who were born into a home that had no running water or electricity. Some came to us from homesteads that were miles away from paved roads. And, much harsher, many of our kids come to us from families where one or both of the parents have been largely absent, homes where alcohol and drug abuse was common, where domestic violence was an all-too-common reality.

Thank you for remembering our kids, the beautiful children of the Navajo Nation and helping affirm to them that they are loved.

Our mailing address is Manuelito Navajo Children's Home; P.O. Box 58; Gallup, NM 87305.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Always a Star Wars Fan

As I spent many hours on the couch over the past few days fighting a rather ineffective battle against a rather tough virus, I watched more than a few movies, including the entire Star Wars franchise, from "beginning" to end. I had, of course, seen each of the six installments before (some of them, many, many times), but never in deliberative sequence. The experience has made my appreciation for these films grow even greater; and, my regard for the "second" trilogy of films has improved (I had been one of those who were, in general, disappointed by these later films, and thought them inferior to the "first" trilogy).

I can still remember going to see the first Star Wars movie in the theater. I was 7 years old! The theater in Lubbock my parents took me to to see the film no longer stands. The new frontage road for the Marsha Sharp Freeway runs over what was the foundation of the building (across from Jones AT&T Stadium). The moment the John Williams' score kicked in, I was hooked! I still remember waiting three long years for The Empire Strikes Back (saw it at the old Fox 4 Theater in Lubbock . . . now a lake!) and another three years for The Return of the Jedi (saw it at the Winchester Theater in Lubbock . . . now a Market Street supermarket). Then, it was the long 16 year wait for the new movies.

The Star Wars movies may never have received the Oscar-worthy praise of the professional critics, but has there ever been a movie franchise that has had as much of an impact on society as Star Wars? Will there ever be?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Choose Your Top 3

Here are my responses. I'd like to know yours.

Choose Your Top 3 College Football Teams
1. Oklahoma Sooners
2. Penn State Nittany Lions
3. Colorado Buffaloes

Choose Your Top 3 Famous People You'd Like to Meet
1. Benjamin Franklin
2. Noah
3. Babe Ruth

Choose Your Top 3 Places to Order French Fries
1. Fuddruckers
2. Johnny Rockets
3. Braums

Choose Your Top 3 Worst Movie Sequels
1. Batman & Robin
2. Rocky IV
3. Return to Snowy River

Choose Your Top 3 Things You'd Be Willing to Stand in Line for 2 Hours to Buy
1. Tickets to a Newt Gingrich Presidential Inaugural
2. A new Tom Clancy "Jack Ryan" novel
3. Tickets to Super Bowl XLIV . . . Steelers vs Cowboys!

Choose Your Top 3 Possessions that Have Sentimental Value to You
1. My grandfather's wedding ring
2. A Camp Followin' "billboard"
3. A commemorative bat from LCU's 1983 World Series Championship

Friday, January 2, 2009

A New Year's Resolution

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked (Psalm 82.3-4).

He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for the Maker, but whoever is kind honors God (Proverbs 14.31).

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1.27).

Seems like a unified theme: God's eternal concern for those most in need in society, namely, the poor and those without the stability and provision of family. Let's find in these statements from Scripture a call to action in 2009. Let us all be more socially conscious and committed to addressing the plight of the disadvantaged and using our immense wealth to help those in need.