Monday, August 28, 2006

Accountability in the Cockpit

Grossman, Richard. "Flying Makes me a Better Doctor," Readers Digest. August 2006, pg 207.

Keywords: accountable, friendship, love,

Doctors are known to be terrible pilots. They don’t listen because they already know it all. I was lucky: I became a pilot in 1970, almost ten years before I graduated from medical school. I didn’t realize it then, but becoming a pilot made me a better surgeon.

I loved flying. As I flew bigger, faster planes, and in worse weather, I learned about crew resource management, or CRM, a new concept to make flying safer. It means that crew members share the responsibility to listen and speak up for a good outcome, regardless of rank or seniority.

I first read about CRM during my surgical residency in 1980. Not long after than, an attending physician and I were flying in bad weather. The controller had us turn too late to our final approach. The attending physicians was flying; I was safety pilot. He was so busy because of the bad turn, he had forgotten to put the landing gear down. He was a better pilot--and my boss--so it felt odd to speak up. But I had to: Our lives were at stake. I put aside my intimidation and said, “We need to put the landing gear down now!” That was my first real lesson in the power of CRM, and I’ve used it in the operating room ever since.

CRM requires that the pilot/surgeon encourage others to speak up. It further requires when challenged, the doctor doesn’t overreact, which might prevent colleagues from voicing opinions again. So when I am in the OR, I ask for ideas and help from others. Sometimes they are reluctant. But I hope that if I continue to encourage them, someday someone will keep me from “landing gear up.” Maybe you’ll be the one to benefit.

--Richard C. Grossman, DO is a facial plastic surgeon from Colleyville, Texas.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Servant Evangelism

Brundage, Chris. "Viewpoint." Presbyweb. December 2, 2002.

Keywords: Incarnation, evangelism, Diana Ross, dance, love, good news

Steve Sjorgren is the pastor of a Vineyard Christian Church in Cincinnati, a congregation he started in 1985 with thirty-seven members. Today it numbers six thousand.

He focused on their program of servant evangelism. Members of his church go out into the community, giving flesh and bone to the gospel.

Once on Christmas Eve, a group of Vineyard church members walked into a Waffle House in Cincinnati. Some made their way to the back room, slipped on aprons and started washing dishes. Others went to the juke box, fed in a few dollars and began dancing to Diana Ross. They invited the startled patrons to join them.

Now Waffle House serves good food, comfort food, but it’s not exactly high on the hierarchy of restaurants, and it’s a depressing place to spend Christmas Eve, the night these dancers and dishwashers showed up. The smell of cheeseburgers and cigarettes doesn’t remind most people of the holidays.

But slowly folks began to shake off their inhibition. First one person joined in the dancing, then another. Soon the whole place was pulsating to "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough." Passing motorists slowed down and stared in amazement. The party continued for over an hour. Eventually the Vineyard Christians left to go home and be with their families.

A few days later Pastor Sjorgren received a phone call from a local psychiatrist: "Are you the church that was dancing at the Waffle House the other night?"

"Yes sir. Umm... we’re sorry."

"No, no. I think it’s great. Two of the people there were patients of mine. Usually during the holidays they slide into a deep depression. But not this year. You gave them something special."

Expanding on a theme from Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the servant evangelists believe
"small things done with great love will change the world." They surely changed a little portion of the world by dancing at the Waffle House on Christmas Eve.

--Chris Brundage is a Presbyterian minister, and Associate Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Adrian, Michigan

A Cross in the Sand

David Lower was part of a group from Shenago Presbytery which visited Sudan in January 2002.

Keywords: christians, Sudan, church, cross, brotherhood, unity

In a desert village on the outskirts of a city in Sudan, I had just come out of a worship service. People were greeting one another. A slightly built old man, dressed in traditional white Arabic clothing walked up to me. His thin face with short black whiskers was almost hidden by his turban. His eyes were black and he had a look of hurt and sadness that comes only with a hard life. In spite of the fact that he spoke to me in Arabic I felt that I wanted there to be a bond and knew that somehow I had to communicate with him.

He carried a short rod about sixteen inches long that men use when they are riding their donkeys. Reminded of a story I once heard about how early Christians recognized each other, I took the stick from him and drew a fish in the sand at our feet. As I pointed to my drawing and looked into his eyes I saw only confusion. He shook his head--the fish meant nothing to him.

I drew a cross in the sand. Instantly a smile lit his face and his eyes came alive. He began to nod his head, took my hand and chanted with excitement, "Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ!" I repeated the same words with a feeling of joy that there truly was a bond between us. Can there be a better way for two strangers to come together than through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? No amount of conversation could have conveyed the feelings and message that my little sand drawing had done."

The Virgin Birth

Torrance, Thomas. "The Virgin Birth and the Unborn." Presbyterian Pro-Life News. Fall 2000

Keywords: Christmas, redemption, Mary, virgin, birth

The virgin birth of Jesus is an essential part of the Gospel of salvation. For through it Jesus was made one of us and one with us in such a way that he healed and sanctified in himself what he had assumed from us--our humanity--thereby recreating, humanizing, and personalizing it.

That is why leading theologians in the early Church, followed by John Calvin at the Reformation, rightly traced the root of our redemption, not only to the death and resurrection of Christ, but to his very conception and birth of the Virgin Mary. Because in Jesus the Creator Word of God was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, Christians came to regard the unborn child in a new light...

The birth of Jesus was of vicarious and redemptive significance. That means that our new birth is to be understood in relation to the birth of Jesus himself.

The doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus and its redemptive significance must be recovered for a proper understanding of the redemptive life and mission of Christ. Moreover, the virgin birth is crucial to our grasp of the nature and status in Christ’s eyes of the unborn child.

The Son of God became a human being for us in the womb of the Virgin Mary, bone of our bone and flesh. He became what we are. Think of the importance of the incarnation, then, for our understanding of and regard for the unborn child.

Every child in the womb has been brothered by the Lord Jesus. In becoming a human being for us, he also became an embryo for the sake of all embryos, and for our Christian understanding of being, nature and status in God’s eyes of the unborn child. So, to take no thought, or no proper thought, for the unborn child is to have no proper thought of Jesus himself as our Lord and Savior or to appreciate his relation as incarnate Creator to every human being.

Typical Sunday Morning

Achtemeier, Elizabeth. "The Year of the Child." Presbyterians Pro-Life News. Fall 2000.

Keywords: children, worship, teaching

"How should we raise that child to know the Lord? How can children be nurtured to become worshipers and followers of Jesus Christ?" We complain in the church that we are losing many of our young people. Why is that the case? What are we doing wrong?

Perhaps the answer can be given by describing a scene that greets many of us every Sunday morning. An eight or nine-year boy occupies the pew in front of us. He is absorbed in reading a Marvel Comic book. While the congregation stands, he sits and reads. He joins in none of the hymns. He participates in none of the prayers. He confesses none of the creeds. After the scripture reading and during the hymn, his younger sister is dismissed to a children’s class, where she will color or play a game or perhaps listen to a story. Disgustedly, the boy watches her go and gets out a toy car to run along the pew bench and over his mother’s leg. The boy is bodily in church, but obviously he is not really there. At the end of the service, he pushes through the crowd and rushes for the freedom of the outdoors. Next Sunday the scene will be repeated. And the mother and father will wonder why their children have no interest in the faith of the church.

Could it be that we lose such young people to discipleship because we do not urge them to participate in the worship of the Body of Christ, which is the center of the Christian life? When they are very young, we dismiss children from worship to classes that they can "better understand." That way they bother neither the preacher nor the parents. When they are youths, we let them entertain themselves, while we worship.

--Elizabeth Achtemeier is a writer, speaker, and Bible teacher

Convincing Friends you are Alive

Associated Press, "Villagers Shun man They Believe Is Dead", January 16, 2005 (Jim Sandell)

Keywords: death, resurrection

When Jesus rose from the dead, he had to convince his followers that He was really alive. Something Raju Raghuvanshi can relate to.

An Indian man is having trouble proving to his family and friends that he really is alive. Raghuvanshi was recently released from a short jail stint. When he entered his village, he was greeted by the sounds of neighbors locking their doors and shouts of "Help! Ghost!" If you ask his family and friends they will tell you the person they just spoke is a ghost sent to haunt them.

Raghuvanshi's problems began when he was sent to prison for a minor tax infraction. While serving his time, Raghuvanshi fell ill and was transferred to a prison hospital in another district. Some sort of clerical error occurred and word spread back to the man's family that he had died and his body had been cremated because no one claimed it.

The people in rural India follow an ancient system. They believe that if all the proper ceremonies are not performed a ghost of a person who dies will haunt the family. In a phone interview, Raghuvanshi says that is why his hometown is afraid of him. He says, "My family thinks I am dead. They will not permit me to enter my home because they think I am a ghost."

Raghuvanshi is currently living in another nearby village while he tries to convince his family that he is alive. He has enlisted the help of local police who are trying to convince Raghuvanshi's family that he is alive. Raghuvanshi says the best evidence he has is that his feet are still properly attached. Local beliefs state that the feet of ghosts turned backward. So far, none of his arguments have been effective.

Scripture: Luke 24:37-40

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Dreaming about a Church

by Simon Bailey, an Anglican priest in Sheffield, England, who lived with AIDS until 1995.

Keywords: dream, community

I'm dreaming about
a church of sensitivity and openness
a church of healing and welcome.

I'm dreaming about
a community of friends that celebrates differences and diversity and variety,
a community that is forgiving, cherishing, wide open.

I dream of
women and men who minister life and laughter and love;
of men and women who minister healing and harmony and hope;
of women and men who minister to each other and minister to the
crying needs of a world that hurts.

I dream against the rough climb still to come,
against expectation
against pessimism and despair;

I dream, I dream of the clear panorama of the vision of light
right at the top of the mountain.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Head and Heart

from "The Revival I Long For" by Anne Graham Lotz

Keywords: knowledge, passion

For years, Tom Landry was an American icon…He faced pressure with poise, criticism with grace, rudeness with courtesy, humiliation with dignity, victory with humility, and crisis with faith. He became a legend in his own time.

On more than one occasion, I’ve heard Coach Landry state that he had come across many good athletes, but very few great ones. He defined the difference between a good athlete and a great one as being 18 inches - the distance from the head to the heart. From his observation based on a lifetime of involvement in sports, he explained that good athletes have exceptional ability and a thorough understanding of the game, but great athletes have heart - a passion to play that drives them to selfless sacrifice, brutally long hours of practice, undivided focus, and ultimately, extraordinary accomplishments.

In almost 30 years of ministry, I have observed many good Christians, like Coach Landry’s athletes, but very few great ones. And the difference is the same 18-inch distance - the distance from the head to the heart. While there are many good Christians who have a head knowledge of Scripture, attend church regularly, are familiar with church traditions and rituals, are comfortable with prayer, group Bible study, and outreach ministries, there are very few who are great. There are relatively few who seem to be in love with Jesus, who put him first in their lives when to do so demands sacrificing their own time, money, and desires. There are very few Christians who want what he wants more than what they want - and are willing to lay everything on the line to pursue it. There are very few Christians who are willing to risk their jobs, reputations, status, friendships, financial security, and even their lives for the sake of sharing the Gospel and pleasing God. We just seem to lack a clear vision of God and a passionate heart for God that combined are the hub around which everything in our lives revolves.

The Story of Father's Day

Bears Repeating: Southeast Local Schools' Community Newsletter: Summer 2002

Keywords: father, honor

Mrs. John B Dodd, of Washington, first proposed the idea of "father's day" in 1909. Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart. William Smart, a Civil War veteran, was widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd's mother) died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington state. It was after Mrs. Dodd became an adult that she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent. The first Father's Day was observed on June 19,1910 in Spokane, Washington. At about the same time in various towns and cities across America other people began to celebrate a "father's day." In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father's Day. Finally in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day.

Teaching Right and Wrong in Great Britain

References:,,2-2292741,00.html (Jim Sandell)

Keywords: Relativism,

Schools in Great Britain are no longer required to teach the children the difference between right and wrong under current plans to revise the core goals of the Nation's Curriculum. Education ministers in Great Britain also propose deleting references to promoting leadership skills and a requirement to teach children about the nation's cultural heritage. Revised wording for the education plan states young people should become "responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society." Instead of requiring students to learn about their cultural heritage, the proposal says individuals should be helped to "understand different cultures and traditions and have a strong sense of their own place in the world." Rather than requiring teaching the difference between right and wrong, the new wording, which reflects a relative worldview, calls on teachers to encourage pupils the develop "secure values and beliefs." The proposed changes will be discussed formally next year as part of an ongoing effort to give schools more flexibility in the way they teach 11 to 14 year-old students. Opponents of the planned changes say teachers did not need to be told to teach children to distinguish between right and wrong. Professor Alan Smithers of the University of Buckingham's center for education and employment research said, “The idea that they think it is appropriate to dispense with right and wrong is a bit alarming."

Proverbs 22:6 (HCSB) “Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Found Fishermen

References: (Jim Sandell)

Keywords: Lost, Found

Three Mexican fishermen who disappeared while on a short shark fishing trip were rescued in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, after spending 9 months on the open sea. The men said they survived by eating raw fish, ducks, and seagulls, drinking rainwater, and reading the Bible. They were picked up halfway between Hawaii and Australia after drifting 5000 miles from a fishing village north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Antonio Aguayo, a local sport-fishing guide said the men took only enough fuel for a few days and ran into an unexpected storm. He thought they might have used up their fuel traveling in the wrong direction, thinking they were headed back to shore. Aguayo said the people of the tiny fishing village are celebrating the men’s survival. He said, “God is so great that he helped them all the time. Everybody is excited. They don’t know how it happened that they are alive.” Aguayo added, “Nobody has ever been lost for so long and been alive to tell about it. Not even Christopher Columbus stayed on the ocean so long.”

Luke 15:24 (ESV) “’For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.”

Forgiving Debts

The Flint Journal, "Thank God", By Kristin Longley, August 2, 2006.

Keywords: Forgiveness

When Pastor Larry Holley decided to close his used car business, he forgave the debts of his customers. Holley said he received a message from God telling him to forgive the debts totaling $191,673.06, with no strings attached. About 35 customers showed up at a news conference where Holley announced his unusual decision. Amid the prayers and tears of joy, each person received the title to their car, relieving them of their loans. At the news conference, Holley said, “Did I hear an audible voice? No, it was something deep down inside of me. The least I can do is relieve people of their material or financial situations.” Holley says he hopes those who benefited will go on to relieve debts owed to them or wrongs committed against them. He added, “So it’s like a chain.”

Matthew 18:32-35 (ESV) “Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. [33] And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' [34] And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. [35] So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Learning Who We Really Are


Keywords: baptism, identity

In Toy Story 2, a toy collector steals Woody, a cowboy doll. He takes Woody to his apartment. Woody finds himself in a dark room, all alone. And then he hears the voice of Jessie, a similarly dressed cowgirl, who recognizes him. Jessie gets very excited that "Woody" is finally here. Woody asks, "How do you know me?" She replies, "You don’t know who you are?" She then turns on a light and shows Woody the shelves that are filled with Woody memorabilia. Woody finds out he was a puppet in a famous children‘s television show from the 1950s. She shows him old episodes and Woody watches with great joy. So it is in baptism. God knows us before we know who God is, and in this sacrament we are told who we are....a child of God.

(submitted by Kathryn Self, Plano TX)

Surrounded by Christianity

Godfather III; retold in a sermon by Daniel T. Has

Keywords: Christendom, heart, hardness

There's a great scene in the movie The Godfather Part III. Michael Corleone, the Godfather, visits Cardinal Lamberto to tell him the bad news that a business deal involving the Vatican Bank had gone bad. The bank is run by an Archbishop and a group of Catholic businessmen. The Cardinal listens to the Godfather, then says and does something quite surprising. He picks up a stone and says, "Look at this stone. It has been lying in water for a very long time. The water has not penetrated it." Then the Cardinal smashes the stone, "Look, perfectly dry. The same thing has happened to men in Europe. They have been surrounded by Christianity for centuries but Christ does not live in their hearts."

Churches offering a Discount

Partee, Charles. "A Mangy Scene at Christmas." Presbyterian Outlook. December 20, 2002.

Keywords: Christmas, Easter, incarnation, Jesus, creche, nativity scene

Not long ago an acquaintance of mine traveling in South America purchased a crèche for his wife. It was unusual, and it was on sale. Some Presbyterians cannot resist a bargain. The nativity scene was quickly bought and gift wrapped. On Christmas day, he discovered to his dismay that, while every other piece of the traditional manger scene was in place, the baby Jesus was absent. A Christmas scene without Christ presumably explains the cheap price.

Sadly, I know some Presbyterian Churches which offer the same big discount...In Christian congregations where Jesus Christ is not present, baptism becomes a spiritual Jiffy Lube and the Lord's Supper is fast-food take-out: junk food supposed to keep you moving along the highway to Heaven.

The issue, of course, is not the number of homiletical references to Jesus, but their meaning. Put another way, most Christians accept much of the orthodox view of the work of Christ because people still yearn for a real salvation. However, some Presbyterians are willing to settle for a symbolic savior. Therefore, the traditional view of the person of Christ is today under both direct and indirect attack. This bifurcation leads to disaster. According to John Calvin, "the blessed and happy state of the Church always had its foundation in the person of Christ" (Institutes II.6.2).

Surely, most Presbyterians will refuse to buy a Holy Family without the baby Jesus. One would hope that the strong emphasis of Reformed theology on the integral humanity of Christ will never be lost but also not maintained by discounting the substantial relation of Son to Father. The birth of Our Lord is indeed a human process, but it is also a divine gift. Resurrection, on the other hand, is a divine gift entirely. Presbyterians should continue to understand Christ's person and work, Christmas and Easter, as interlocking realities.

Charles Partee is P.C. Rossin Professor of Church History at Pittsburgh Seminary

Mister Rogers--Evangelist

Zoba, Wendy. "Won’t You Be My Neighbor?" Christianity Today. March 6, 2000

Keywords: Mister Rogers, evangelist, love

But what most people don't realize about Mister Rogers and his Neighborhood is that behind the puppets, the tennis shoes, and the simple songs lies an abiding faith and weighty theology. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ordained Fred Rogers as "an evangelist to work with children and families through the mass media." He does not bring evangelism in its churchly sense to this calling, and neither does he introduce religious themes in his programs. But his daily neighborhood visits with children sow seeds that awaken something basic in their hearts. It is hidden growth, like the parable of the seeds sown in secret. It is growth, as someone has said, as "silent as light, as subtle as life, and mightier than either." Mister Rogers, in his silent, subtle, mighty way, rescues children from a world that would too soon warp their souls. He summons them to a special place where trust arises and does not disappoint. Hearts come alive, awakened by his unconditional acceptance. "Everybody longs to be loved and longs to know that he or she is capable of loving," he says.

Losing the Center

Rev. Dr. David Henderson. "What's One Life." Presbyterians Pro-Life News. Winter 1997.

Keywords: vocation, identity, society, exploitation, other

When a culture loses its center, it is first seen at the fringes, in its treatment of those unable to fend for themselves--those nearest birth and death. Colin Turnbull pointed this out in a frightening way in the "The Mountain People," his classic 1970s study of the Ik people of Uganda. Disoriented when their hunting land was revoked, the Iciens lost their direction as a society, and with it any concern for each other. They began to think only of themselves, living in a society of what Turnbull describes as "mutual exploitation." They would steal food from the mouths of their aging parents, throw infants out to fend for themselves, and abandon the old, the sick, and the handicapped to die without a second thought. "Does that sound," asks Tumbull, "so very different from our own society?"

Glory to God

"Out of the Depths" PDA publication 2002. pg43

Keywords: suffering, burn, glory, sovereignty, doxology

On November 14, 1940, Coventry Cathedral in England was destroyed by the Luftwaffe's bombs. All night the cathedral burned with the city. Shortly after the destruction, the cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, noticed that two of the charred medieval roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross. He set them up in the ruins where they were later placed on an altar of rubble with the moving words ‘Father Forgive’ inscribed on the Sanctuary wall. Another cross was fashioned from three medieval nails by a local priest, the Revd Arthur Wales. After the war, the cathedral was rebuilt. In the transformed cathedral, a tablet reads "To the glory of God this cathedral burnt November 14, 1940."

"Do You Know Who I Am?"


Keyword: identity, Bush, fame

This is a story floating around about then--President George Herbert Walker Bush a few years ago. He was supposedly visiting a nursing home, where he took the hand of an elderly man walking the halls and asked kindly, "Sir, do you know who I am?" The man replied, "No, but if you ask the nurses they can tell you."

The Christian Novelist


Keywords: prophet, ministry, modern world, Flannery O'Connor

"The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as the hard of hearing you shout and to the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures."

--Flannery O'Connor

With Family, You are Strong


Keywords: Alone, Separation, Strength from Unity

A father and and his young son were fishing at the beach, when the son noticed the pools of water formed on the beach did not have the same strength as the mighty ocean. He inquired his father as to why this was so, and was told that the pools had been taken from their place of strength where they belonged. "You see", said the father, "we people are the same: when you are with your family and village, you are strong, but if you are separated off by yourself, you become weak...

-- a traditional Wolof story (anonymous)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Man is a Child of God, Made in His Image

quoted in Presbyterians Pro-life News; Winter 2002; pg 5

Keywords: martin luther king, image of God, oppression

"Man is more than a tiny vagary of whirling electrons or a wisp of smoke from a limitless smouldering. Man is a child of God, made in his image, and therefore must be respected as such...And when we truly believe in the sacredness of human personality, we won't exploit people, we won't trample over people with the iron feet of oppression, we won't kill anybody."

--Martin Luther King, Jr. in a 1967 Christmas sermon.

Count The Cost: Star Trek

Reference:; "Boldly Living Where None Has Lived Before," February 7, 2006

Keywords: fool, cost, obsession

A fan of the "Star Trek" television series had big dreams, but ended up losing more than he imagined when his plans went south. Tony Alleyne turned his apartment into a mockup of the Starship Voyager. He added molded walls, touch panel blue lighting, and even a life-size model of the show's transporter room. Alleyne built a command console, reshaped windows to look like portholes, and set up vertical lights so he could pretend to be "beamed up" just like on the show. Alleyne hoped his makeover would tempt other Trekkies to pay him to convert their homes too.

Unfortunately, Alleyne's plans backfired. He took out two huge loans and ran up debts on 14 credit cards to finance the undertaking. Alleyne's wife left him after he replaced the refrigerator with a "warp coil." Alleyne has now filed for bankruptcy and admits he was wrong and overstretched. He says building the "Star Trek" fantasy was enjoyable, but he adds, "I was convinced Trekkies all over the world would want a house like mine and would pay me to do it. I'm still proud of what I created but it's been a financial disaster."

Luke 14:28-29 (NET) "For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn't sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? [29] Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him,"

Prisoners of Hope

Achtemeier, Elizabeth. "Prisoners of Hope," Presbyterians Pro-Life News. Fall 2002. pg 4.

Keywords: prisoner, hope, abortion, pregnancy, death, society

In one sense, all of us are prisoners. We are locked into a death-dealing age of immorality, nonbelief, violence, and killing. We cannot escape our society, nor should we want to. The biblical faith never consists in an escape out of this world to some realm of peace and beauty, where evils of the world are forgotten. Those evils are squarely faced.

Thus, we share a common prison life with every woman swollen with a problem pregnancy. No matter how she was impregnated...we are locked into the cage of our age with that woman. Her plight is ours, and we are fellow prisoners. We are, however, "prisoners of hope"--such is the term applied to the faithful in Zech 9:12. Through the gloom of darkness that marks our society’s ways, we are those who can see a light that radiates from "the God of hope" (Rom 15:13).

Zechariah 9:12, Romans 15:13

Beyond the Deep Magic

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Collier Books. 1970. Chapters XIII and XV. begining on page 138.

Keywords: Narnia, traitor, atonement, sacrifice, propitiation, Easter, Good Friday, grace

"You have a traitor there, Aslan," said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund...

"Well," said Aslan. "His offense was not against you."

"Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?" asked the Witch.

"Let us say I have forgotten it," answered Aslan gravely, "Tell us of this Deep Magic."

"Tell you?" said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. "Tell you what is written on that very Table of Stone which stands beside us?...You at least know the magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill." ...

"And so," continued the Witch, "that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property." ...

"Oh Aslan!" whispered Susan in the Lion’s ear, "can’t we--I mean, you won’t, will you? Can’t we do something about the Deep Magic? Isn’t there something you can work against it?"

"Work against the Emperor’s magic? said Aslan turning to her with something like a frown on his face. And nobody ever made that suggestion to him again...


"But what does it all mean?" asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.

"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little farther back into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards..."

Just Only John

Kent, Jack. Just Only John. Young Readers Press Inc. 1968

Keywords: identity, peer pressure, pretend, animal, John

Just Only John is a wonderful little story about a four-year-old boy, John, who is tired of being "just" John. Even pretending to be something else is not good enough for this little boy. John soon finds himself in a mysterious shop buying a peppermint-flavored magic spell for a penny. He wasn't sure what he would turn into, but he waited with anticipation. John began to turn into whatever anyone suggested he was. His mother called him, "my little lamb," and he turned into one. He later turns into a bunny, a pig, and even a little man. Finally, John is so frustrated changing that he asks his father what to do. His daddy says, "The magic spell won't bother you if you'll just remind yourself that you are you." John kept repeating, "I'm just only John." The book ends, "And he was. And probably still is. Moral--be yourself because somebody has to and you're the closest."

Summary by James.

Leaving Your Sins at the Supermarket

Executive Newsletter 9:2 (1994), 6

Keywords: sin, confess, confession, ministry

A Catholic priest, who had become very deaf in his advancing years, had formed the habit of asking those erring members of his flock who came to his enclosed stall to write their penitences on a slip of paper, instead of speaking them to him. The practice worked fairly well until one day when the father heard a heavily-breathing man enter the visitor's side of the confessional and fumble for a few moments as a small, crumpled piece of paper was passed through the curtain into the old cleric's hand.

The confession read: Two cans of beans. Quarter pound ham. Cans of Coke. Four fish filets. Bread rolls. Toilet paper. Large coffee. Soap. Butter.

The priest studied the note for a puzzled minute or two and then silently passed the slip back.
Suddenly, there came an agonized voice from the stall beside him: Mother of God, I've left my sins at the supermarket.

--As told by British journalist Godfrey Talbut,

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Most Will Preach Better Dead

James Kiefer;

Keywords: chaplain, ministry, life, death

An English chaplain in the First World War, Studdert-Kennedy, gave an address to his fellow-chaplains in which he said (approximately):

"The one thing that you absolutely must do as chaplains is to go into the line with the men. The Army does not require it. As far as regulations are concerned, you are free to stay out of the trenches, well behind the front, and minister to the men before they go into combat and when they come back out for brief intervals. But if you do that, you will do no good at all. There is no way that you can talk about the meaning of life and death to a man who is facing death and knows that you are not. But if you go into the line with the men, if you get shot at and shelled and gassed along with them, then they will listen to you. And it doesn't matter whether you are eloquent. The fact that you are there with them when you don't have to be, doing your Master's business, will tell them something about your Master. Of course, taking this advice means that you may be killed. So be it. The more chaplains that die in the trenches doing Christ-like deeds, the better. Most of us will preach far better dead than alive."

Hospitality and Wal-Mart

Quoted in The Presbyterian Outlook, Oct 4, 2004, pg13.

Keywords: hospitality, greeters, ushers

"Wal-Mart does not have greeters at the door because the management is theologically committed to a culture of hospitality. They have them because they have figured out that people who feel welcome come back more often and spend more. I’d like to see us do at least as well as Wal-Mart in the hospitality department. "

--Kristeen Bruun, a parishioner of Gesu (Jesuit) parish in Milwaukee, writing in the Sept. 20 edition of America magazine about the need for Catholic churches to be more welcoming to visitors.

Faith Walk at Ground Zero

"Faith Walk at Ground Zero" by Rick Ufford-Chase

Keywords: sacrifice

St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City, the oldest public building that has been continuously in use on the island of Manhattan. This was George Washington’s first stop after his inauguration. St. Paul’s also has the distinction of being immediately across the street from Ground Zero where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once soared well over one hundred stories in the air.
St. Paul’s became a place of hospitality and care for the recovery workers who worked to clear away the rubble and debris that reached twenty stories up and sank seven more into the ground…

Here, the pews are battered with the marks of the heavy tool belts worn by the hundreds of workers in the recovery effort who came in to sit for a while and try to recharge after long hours of working to clear bodies, mementos, and the wreckage of the towers. Today, there is still a trundle bed, low to the floor and neatly made up with stuffed animals on the pillow, a reminder of the beds which ringed the sanctuary for many months to provide a place of refuge for the exhausted folks whose bodies and souls were equally battered by the grim work.

There are home-made banners of support from all over the country and around the world that hang on the walls and on the front of the balconies that line the room on three sides, and there are what can only be described as shrines of remembrance for both the victims of the disaster and for the sacrifice of so many of those who responded. Members of this church and hundreds of volunteers of all faiths fed thousands of recovery workers here each day. They offered counseling and care for the men and women who came in off "the pile" that eventually was known as "the pit." George Washington’s historic pew, a ten by ten, enclosed box on one side of the room, became the podiatry clinic where the workers received care for their cut or burned feet. One volunteer told us that no one entered the room untouched by their experience in the pit, but they left with spirits renewed in this place of worship...

There is a wrought-iron fence that surrounds the historic graveyard between the church and the site of Ground Zero. On the morning of the disaster, firefighters parked on the street by the church and rushed to change from civilian clothes into their protective equipment. Many hung their street boots upside-down on the spikes of the fence to be collected when they returned at the end of the day. By the next day, volunteers realized that the owners of many of the boots would never come back to collect them, and the fence that circles almost a city block became a memorial to those who lost their lives - more than three hundred of them - in their attempt to save those who were in and around the towers at the time of the attack.

Boots upside down on the fence. This is the image that stays with me. A witness to the fact that there is a cost to caring for and about others. I hunger for a church and a country in which we embody that kind of sacrifice

Resurrection of the Body

Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox Issue #258

Keywords: death, grave

The body of B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.

- the epitaph of young Benjamin Franklin

Costing All You Have

"The B-Team Report," Connections: Newsletter of the First Presbyterian Church of Wichita Falls, December 2004

Keywords: widow's mite, cheap, expensive, christmas

In one of the "Peanuts" comic strips, Charlie Brown cracks open his piggy bank. He says, "Look I’ve got $9.11 to spend on Christmas!"

Lucy is not impressed. She says, "You can’t buy something for everyone with $9.11, Charlie Brown."

Charlie Brown retorts, "Oh yeah? Well, I’m gonna try!"

"Then," Lucy continues, "they’re sure gonna be cheap presents."

"But," Charlie Brown says with absolute conviction, "nothing is cheap if it costs all you have."

Mark 12:41, Romans 8:32

Pastor and Prayer, Joy

"Don’t Only Be The Way You Are". Presbyterian Outlook. September 24, 2004. Pg 19

Keywords: prayer, joy, Barth, charge, pastor

The following Charge to the Pastor was given by Thomas W. Currie, Dean, Union Theological Seminary/PCSE in Charlotte, NC to his son, Chris, as Christ was ordained July 25 at Covenant church in Charlotte.

I leave you with two citations from Karl Barth. The first is from his book, "Evangelical Theology." In it he says that the first and basic act of theological work, of being a minister of the Word and Sacrament, is to pray. Barth says that prayer is theological work, not just an act of piety because prayer is turning away from one’s own efforts and turning toward the God whose mysterious presence never leaves us just the way we are. To that extant, prayer is subversive of this world’s grim self-centeredness and is a witness to the deep comedy of Easter’s joy. So I charge you to pray as you study and pastor. I do not charge you to become good at it; I am not sure that is possible, or even desirable. But I do charge you to do it daily, in all its humbling, stumbling embarrassment and wonder. Pray.

And rejoice. Take joy in your work and in the life of the community of faith gathered in Calypso, NC…The Gospel is not preached or known except in embodied form. So love that community, the streets of that little town, its homes and people. And in their midst, something of the joy of the Gospel will become daily evident to you. In his discussion of the glory of God, Barth reflects on the glory of being called to be a minister, the splendor of studying theology and being a servant of the Word. "The theologian," he writes, "who has no joy in his work is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts, and boring ways of speaking are intolerable (here). May God deliver us from (such) tedium."

Faith Is Not a Comfort

From an interview of Madeleine L'Engle about a Wrinkle in Time movie.

Keywords: L'Engle, comfort, challenge

What are you working on at the moment?
A book about aging: enjoy it, you might as well. And it’s not all bad. I can say what I want, and I don’t get punished for it.

Such as?
Such as I sometimes think God is a s--t-and he wouldn’t be worth it otherwise. He’s much more interesting when he’s a s--t.

So to you, faith is not a comfort?
Good heavens, no. It’s a challenge: I dare you to believe in God. I dare you to think [our existence] wasn’t an accident.

Many people see faith as anti-intellectual.
Then they’re not very bright. It takes a lot of intellect to have faith, which is why so many people only have religiosity.


"The Unchurched," The Pastor's Weekly Briefing (Apr. 1, 2005)


An annual survey (2005) of church attendance conducted by the Barna Group shows that one-third of all adults (34%) remain "unchurched" - a proportion that has changed little during the past five years. With the continuing growth of the nation's population, the number of unchurched adults also continues to grow by nearly a million people annually.

The research confirms that millions of unchurched people are spiritually active:
* One out of every five reads the Bible in a typical week.
* Six out of ten pray to God each week.
* During the past year, five percent shared their faith in Jesus Christ with people who are not professing Christians.
* During a typical month, six out of ten unchurched adults worship God (but not via church services).
* Three out of ten study the Bible.
* One out of every seven has times of prayer and Bible reading with family members.

The religious media play a part in their spiritual life, too, with four out of ten absorbing Christian content through television, radio, magazines or faith-based Web sites during a typical month. One explanation for this significant degree of religious involvement is that only one-quarter of this unchurched group (24%) are atheists and agnostics. One-fifth (20%) are adults who are aligned with a non-Christian faith. The remaining 56 percent are people who consider themselves to be Christian. In fact, 15 percent of the unchurched are born again Christians: they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that they deem important in their life, and believe they will go to heaven after death because of their confession of sin and acceptance of Jesus Christ as their savior.

Music of the Spheres

"Creation Moments," February 8, 2005
Science Frontiers, Sept-Oct, 2004. pg4.

Keywords: music, praise, creation

People living in the Polar Regions are familiar with the patterns of colorful lights that appear in the night sky, such as the northern lights. Recent research has confirmed another odd phenomenon associated with the Aurora Borealis. Sometimes when the light shows become intense, they emit an eerie type of music. While other people don't hear anything, they report feeling something during the displays. Using very sensitive instruments, researchers have confirmed that the charged particles in the upper atmosphere can create pressure waves in the lower atmosphere. These infrasonic waves reverberate beginning around 20hz, the lowest level of human hearing.

The same instruments have detected other strange sounds in the atmosphere. One example has been termed, "mountain music" created as winds blow through mountain ranges. Researchers have even discovered that the Earth's oceans "sing" as winds pass over its surface. The "song of the sea" is at such a low frequency that it carries for thousands of miles. Though these sounds are often below the range of human hearing, scientists speculate this music could be a blending of all the storms in the world, with each storm adding its unique tones to a symphony that began at creation.

Active Membership

"Explosive Growth: Unleash the Creativity of Your Congregation" by Rick Warren


Napoleon once pointed to a map of China and said, "There lies a sleeping giant. If it ever wakes up, it will be unstoppable." Today the American church is a sleeping giant. Each Sunday, church pews are filled with members who are doing nothing with their faith except "keeping" it.
The designation "active" member in most churches simply means those who attend regularly and financially support the church. Not much more is expected. But God has far greater expectations for every Christian. He expects every Christian to use their gifts and talents in ministry. If we can ever awaken and unleash the massive talent, resources, creativity and energy found in the typical local church, Christianity will explode with growth at an unprecedented rate.

I believe that the greatest need in evangelical churches is the release of members for ministry. George Gallup once took a survey and discovered that only 10 percent of American church members are active in any kind of personal ministry. But he also discovered that 40 percent of all members have expressed an interest in having a ministry. They would like to be involved in ministry, but they have never been asked or they don't know how.

This group is an untapped gold mine! If we can mobilize this 40 percent and add them to the current 10 percent already serving, your church could have 50 percent of its members active in a ministry! Would you be happy if half of your church were fully-functioning lay ministers? Most pastors would think they'd died and gone to heaven if that occurred!

JAMES' COMMENTS: Although Rick Warren is rightfully pointing out the need for our members to have ministries, he equates ministry with the institution of the church. 100 % of our church members have ministries. Our members just don't know it. We confuse church programs with ministry. The two are not the same. Being a parent, a teacher, an employee or an employer are all ministries. We need to move beyond the walls of the church building.

Refueling Your Life in Mid-flight

Refueling your life in mid-flight by Rick Warren


The Strategic Air Command -- our nation’s defense system -- operates 24 hours a day as a shield of protection for our nation. This means that at any point in a given day there are airplanes carrying nuclear warheads in the air over our country. If these planes fly constantly, how do they keep them full of gas? In the military, they do what’s called mid-flight refueling. A re-fueling plane actually flies up next to the Strategic Air Command plane, docks in, and fills the plane with gas.

As a pastor, you need to learn how to refuel your life in mid-flight. You can’t just hop off to Tahiti every time you get tired and discouraged. You have to keep going. You have to learn how to recharge yourself in the middle of your hectic lifestyle.


Discouragement leads to doubt. How do you defeat doubt? You remember three things:
1. I remind myself of God’s goodness yesterday. I make a list of all the things he’s done in my life, and I just start being thankful. The attitude of gratitude is the healthiest emotion that you can have.

2. I remember God’s presence today. I remind myself that he’s with me right now. I’m not alone. Even when I feel like I’m completely alone, I’m not. I’ve just forgotten that he’s there with me. He says, "I’m here. I’m going to help you. I’ve promised I’ll never leave you or forsake you. I’m with you right now in this crisis."

3. I remind myself of God’s promises for tomorrow. There are more than 7000 promises for us in the Bible. Each one is like a blank check that I can write out: "God, I claiming this one today. I’m turning in this coupon." He has said, "I will give you strength. I will give you the necessary tools to accomplish the task I’ve given you. I will give you the wisdom you need in this situation if you’ll just call on Me."

God’s goodness yesterday, God’s presence today, God’s promises tomorrow. I don’t need to doubt. I don’t need to be discouraged. I don’t need to be distracted. I can renew myself daily.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Prom, Camels, and Stephen Colbert

SojoMail 5-17-2006

Keyword: kingdom of heaven, rich,

Students at Kellenberg Memorial High School, a private Catholic school in Uniondale, New York, will not be celebrating prom this spring. The school's principal, Brother Kenneth Hoagland, cancelled the event. While Hoagland was disturbed by the sex, alcohol, and drugs that have become part of the prom weekend experience for many, he primarily denounced it for "the flaunting of affluence, assuming exaggerated expenses, a pursuit of vanity for vanity's sake - in a word, financial decadence."

Hoagland wrote the parents to inform them of the reasons for his decision. He argued, "But we are concerned about how our young people are being educated in the use of wealth and the experience of power that wealth gives. ... The current culture of the prom on Long Island does not represent to us a proper Christian use of wealth."

Comedian Stephen Colbert tackled the prom story on his new show The Colbert Report, a spin-off of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show…After introducing the story, Colbert launched into an over-the-top defense of extreme capitalistic spending.

Colbert asked: "What is this teaching our children? That affluence is not supposed to be flaunted? Do you know what would happen to our economy if the rich stopped acting rich? America has a simple deal with the wealthy: we cut their taxes, and in return they inspire us with their gloriously macked-out cribs, golden toilets, and young taut trophy wives."

Colbert continued his rant by jokingly justifying American decadence: "Yeah, I know that this is a Catholic school and Jesus said it's easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. But may I remind Brother Hoagland, our nation is rich enough to buy some really huge needles, with eyes you could drive a limo full of drunk prom kids through. ... So, remember kids, they may take away your prom ... but never let them take away your champagne dreams and your caviar wishes."

We've Always Done It That Way

floating around the internet

Keywords: tradition, change

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches.

Why? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads.

Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

If they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

The United States standard railroad gauge is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. They were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs.

The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track which is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

A major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.

Pride Before Fall

floating around the Internet

Keywords: pride, arrogance

A West Texas cowboy was herding his cows in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him. The driver, a man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses, leans out the window and asks the cowboy, "If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?"

The cowboy calmly answers, "Sure, Why not?" The man whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. The man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response. Finally, he prints out a full-color report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the cowboy and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."

"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves," says the cowboy. He watches the man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the man stuffs it into the trunk of his car. Then the cowboy says to the man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?" The man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"

"You're a Congressman", says the cowboy. "Wow! That's correct," says the man, "but how did you guess that?" "No guessing." answered the cowboy. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about cows…Now give me back my dog"

Testing God


Keyword: test, tempt, apologetics

A Ukranian man who claimed God would keep him safe was killed by a lioness in the Kiev zoo. The man reportedly shouted, "God will save me, if he exists," and then lowered himself into the lion's enclosure at the zoo. He took his shoes off and walked up to the lions. Officials say the lioness went straight for him, and killed the man instantly. The incident was the first of its kind at the zoo, and occurred on a Sunday evening when the park was filled with visitors.

Luke 4:9-12 (NIV) “The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here. [10] For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; [11] they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' [12] Jesus answered, ‘It says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Leaving a Man to Die


Keywords: Good Samaritan, Good Shepherd, love, compassion, selfish

The man who was first to climb Mount Everest says he is concerned about the attitude of climbers today. Sir Edmund Hillary who reached the summit of the world's highest mountain in 1953, said he was shocked that dozens of climbers left a British mountaineer to die during their recent attempts to reach the world's highest peak. 34 year-old David Sharp had apparently died of oxygen depravation while descending from a solo climb last week. More than 40 other climbers are believed to have seen Sharp as he lay dying, and almost all continued their quest for the summit without offering assistance.

One of those who did try to help was New Zealander Mark Inglis, the first double amputee to reach the top of Everest on prosthetic legs. Inglis said a member of his party tried to give Sharp oxygen and sent out a radio distress call before continuing to the summit. Inglis said Sharp had no oxygen and there was virtually no hope that he could have been carried to safety from his position about 1,000 short of the 29,000 peak, well inside the infamous "death zone" on the mountain. Inglis said, "I walked past David but only because there were far more experienced and effective persons than myself to help him."

In a report, Sir Edmund Hillary said he would have abandoned his own historic effort to save the life of another. Hillary said, "There have been a number of occasions when people have been neglected and left to die. " He added, "I think the whole attitude toward climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying." He added, "It was wrong if there was a man suffering altitude problems and was huddled under a rock, just to lift your hat, say 'good morning' and pass on by."
Luke 10:36-37

Teleology in Star Trek

Star Trek: Nemesis; Chapter 16: But Through a Glass Darkly; 1:15:10-1:16:12

Keywords: identity

In Star Trek: Nemesis, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is speaking with the holographic image of Praetor Shinzon of Remus, his own clone. Captain Picard is literally to face to face with himself.

Picard urges Shinzon to turn away from his plans to destroy all life on Earth. Despite the years of abuse and pain Shinzon has endured, Picard says, "I know you. I see what you could be." Shinzon refuses to listen and rise above his past. He can only see his life as a sum total of all that has happened to him. He responds by referring to himself in the third person. "He is what his life has made him."

Then Picard asks, "What will you do with that life? Waste it in a blaze of hatred? There is a better way! You still have a choice, make the right one now." Despite Picard's pleadings, Shinzon says sadly, " I can't fight what I am." Picard then pleads one last time, "Yes, you can..."

A short pause follows, before Shinzon makes his decision. He replies "I'll show you my true nature, our nature..." He has chosen to remain the same and not take a new path. Shinzon ignores his potential, choosing to remain as he is.

Application: Jesus sees the true potential in every person. He knows what we can be, if we will surrender to His will. He pleads with us to make the right choice, while we struggle to see how life could be different. We look through a mirror clouded by our fears, pain and the past. Though we only know in part, one day we will know fully as we have been fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV) "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

Giving Back


Keywords: stewardship, gift, communion, fellowship, unity

Officials at the Louisiana Baptist Convention are used to receiving donations, but a recent gift was unexpected and extraordinary.

A group of twenty men from the Island of Sumatra sent a gift of $854 to help those hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. The men themselves experienced the tragedy of natural disaster when their island was hit by the tsunami on December 26, 2004. Teams from Louisiana traveled to the stricken areas to help with the recovery and relief effort. When the news about Katrina and the damage it caused in New Orleans reached Indonesia, many Indonesians who were impacted by ministry efforts wanted to do something to help Americans in the midst of their disaster.

Disaster strategist Gibbie McMillian said the gift shows the spiritual impact of the tsunami relief work. McMillain said, "This gift is amazing. Just think people on the other side of the world felt led to make a contribution to our disaster relief work here in Louisiana." What makes the gift even more amazing is that the average monthly income in Sumatra is around $100. The men who gave the gift gave sacrificially, because they remembered how these Americans helped and cared for them.

2 Corinthians 9:7-8 (NIV) "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."

Lost and Found

References:, Family reunites With Dog Lost in 1999 Tornado, May 4, 2005

Keywords: lost, found, seek, prodigal,

When tornadoes left a path of destruction around southern Oklahoma City in May 1999, many things were lost, including pets. After six years, some families are still locating items they lost that day. One family recently located a dog that had been missing for six years.

Ginger, a Dalmatian puppy belonging to the Collins family, was lost in the storm. Though the family often wondered what had happened to her, they never expected Ginger was still alive. Amy Collins happened to be looking at a Dog Rescue Site and thought she saw her dog. Collins said, "I thought, 'there's no way this dog can be in there.'" On Easter Sunday, Collins and her family went to the shelter just in case and discovered that the dog was their long lost pet. The dog recognized the family's scent instantly and went crazy when she saw them.

As they talked with the rescue personnel, Ginger's story unfolded. Not only did Ginger survive the tornado, a car had hit her requiring that she have hip surgery. One family that adopted Ginger abandoned her. They moved away and left her tied to a tree. Ginger bears the scars of other encounters. At some point, someone shot Ginger, and she still has buckshot embedded in her back. Her face also bears the scars left from a fight with a pit bull. Collins said, "She's had some miles on those feet." The family had a microchip implanted in Ginger's back. If she ever gets lost again almost any veterinarian or shelter can scan the chip and bring her home.

Luke 19:10 KJV "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Witness to Jesus Christ


Keywords: evangelism, good news,

Instead of feeling sorry for herself when Brian Nichols abducted her, Ashely Smith said "I believe God brought him to my door."

Smith, the widowed mother of a five-year-old daughter, said her ordeal began about 2 o'clock in the morning when Brian Nichols, stuck a gun in her side in the parking lot of her apartment building. Nichols initially tied the woman up while he took a shower telling her, "I don't want to hurt you. I don't want to hurt anyone else." Over the course of the evening, Nichols untied Smith and they talked about the Bible and looked at pictures of Smith's family. Smith made the fugitive pancakes with real butter. According to Smith, Nichols said he "just wanted some normalness to his life."

After asking permission from Nichols to read some things to Him, she got her Bible and a copy of Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven® Life. According to Smith, Nichols asked her to repeat a paragraph "about what you thought your purpose in life was -- what talents were you given." Smith encouraged Nichols, telling him that the fact he was still alive was a "miracle." She told him "You're here in my apartment for some reason." She told Nichols he might be destined to be caught and then to spread the word of God to fellow prisoners.

2 Tim. 4:1-2 NASB "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction."

Offerings Made in Love


Keywords: offering, love, stewardship

From Fr. Jonathan Hemmings...

Do you remember the story from the fathers of the monk who had been a circus performer (a juggler) before he became a monk?

Others had skills in singing and chanting,in organising, farming and in cooking but this young monk could only juggle. One night having nearly despaired that he could do nothing else well, he decided to go into the church and to offer his one talent, juggling, in front of the Holy Icons of the Saviour and the Theotokos. The Abbot was awoken in dismay to discover this young monk juggling in front of the Holy Icons. He beat him without mercy and locked him in his cell.

That very night the Theotokos [Mary] visited the Abbot in a dream: "How dare you treat this precious servant of God in this manner," she warned the Abbot “Go to his cell and beg his forgiveness this very instant for this was his one talent which he has offered in love before the throne of God.” The Abbot awoke and straight way went to the cell of the monk to beg his forgiveness. That night the Abbot learned a lesson about humility, of the potential in every person and the value of every offering given in love.

Changing for the Worse

"Just Make Sure You're Changing for the Better" by Rev. Tom Wisdom; Newsletter of Faith United Methodist Church of Vernon, Texas. May 31, 2005

Keywords: change, growth

"…I recall a time in late 1998 or early 1999 after leaving the scaffolding company where I had been working to return to college and begin work toward completing my Bachelor’s degree when I encountered a former customer. Jimmy and I exchanged the usual courtesies and then Jimmy asked me if the scaffolding company was closing. The question caught me by surprise, so I inquired why he was asking. Jimmy said, “The person they brought in to replace you is gone. You go in to get scaffold and you always have to await for someone to help you, they are either on the phone, out sick, or gone somewhere.” Jimmy said, “If I didn’t know better I would say they are going out of business.” The next day I stopped by to visit with my former employees and see what was going on. They assured me that they were not going out of business; however things were not the same as they had been while I worked there. They were under new management and the new management in Dallas put priorities in a different order than I had. Some day they would get the weeds cut down, the equipment in the storage yard straightened up and sorted out, and they would clean up the office, but that wasn’t their priority. Over the next few weeks I visited with some other former customers of the scaffolding business and they told me they were tired of not being able to get what they needed when they needed it, as well as not being able to get in and get loaded and back to the jobsite in a timely fashion, so they has taken their business elsewhere. I believe this was one of those times where change wasn’t a good thing."

How the Lion hunts the Giraffe

“The Taller They Are, The Harder They Fall” by Parker Williamson. The Layman Vol 38, No 2. June 2005. pg 1+

Keywords: pride, sin, hubris

“Do you know how the lion brings down a giraffe?” asked the Rev. Dr. David Githii, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. Nelson, Githii’s driver, shifted uncomfortably in the seat of his Land Cruiser. Nelson’s name in the Kikuyu language is “The Lion.”

On our way to visit churches in the Rift Valley [in Kenya], a plain that lies between the lofty ridges of now-extinct volcanoes running through Kenya and Tanzania, Githii described the kill. It happens, he said, when the giraffe lowers its head at the watering hole. At that moment, the lion leaps for theneck, digs in with his claws and holds on with all his might. The predator’s weight does the rest, for if the giraffe cannot lift its head above its heart it will die in a matter of minutes.

The heart of a giraffe is a super-powered pump. It must generate an enormous blood pressure in order to fuel the brain of such a long-necked animal. But when the giraffe’s head is down, the pressure is too great. A small valve restrains it for a few seconds, long enough for the animal to drink, but if the head does not come up quickly, the valve will blow – resulting in instant death.

I was struck with the irony of that animal’s plight. His greatest asset, a powerfully pumping heart, can kill him. On the plain, the giraffe’s lethal kick can send a pride of lions flying, crushing the cats’ bones with each deadly blow. No lion can contest flailing hooves that can kick frontward, backward and even sideways with amazing strength. But if the head goes down for more than a few seconds, the giraffe is dead.

Scripture teaches us what the giraffe’s perilous plight so clearly illumines: In our greatest strength lies the secret to our weakness. Pride can move us to strive for excellence, to be the best that we can be, to soar to the top of the organizational pecking order. But that same pride, unchecked by humility, can bring down the highest achiever.

A person’s devotion to others and sensitivity to human feelings can open the door to unchaste affections. A brilliant mind can outrun student receptivity and alienate the very persons it had hoped to teach. Lofty ideals lead to ideologies that energize the beast within us and destroy the soul. In pursuit of noble causes, humans have done their most inhuman deeds. Like the lion in the tall grass, disaster stalks our idealism, energy and ambition.


from the Presbyterian Planning Calendar 2005-2006

Keywords: strength, presence

“Lord, help me to persist although I want to give up.
Lord, help me to keep trying although I can’t see what good it does.
Lord, help me to keep praying although I’m not sure You hear me.
Lord, help me to keep living in ways that seek to please You.
Lord, help me to know when to lead and when to follow.
Lord, help me to know when to speak and when to remain silent.
Lord, help me to know when to act and when to wait.”

This prayer was written by Marian Wright Edelman (1943-present) who is founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund. She is a lawyer, educator, reformer and children’s advocate, she was the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi state bar.

This is a quote from her book: Guide My Feet: Prayers and Mediations for Our Children, Beacon Press, Boston, MA 1995.

Mass Media Culture

Mass Media Aliens are Sucking Out Your Kids' Brains by David Batstone; SojoMail 07.20.05

Keywords: parenting, children, counter-culture, church, identity

It is a curious thing. Parents by and large carefully instruct their children in the values that are important to them. But many of those same parents are cavalier about the kind of media - and the values those media convey - that their kids immerse themselves in on a daily basis.

The majority of kids spend a good slice of their day consuming mass media. Studies show that children spend on average four-and-a-half hours a day in front of televisions, video games, and computers.

And what are the messages they receive? Dr. David Walsh, author of Selling Out America's Children: How America Puts Profits before Values and What Parents Can Do, identifies six key values that dominate mass media. It is hard to argue with his list:
1. Happiness is found in having things.
2. Get all you can for yourself.
3. Get it all as quickly as you can.
4. Win at all costs.
5. Violence is entertaining.
6. Always seek pleasure and avoid boredom.

While individual parents may teach strong values, they are contradicted and drowned out by enticing and technologically alluring counter-voices. "When faced with these odds, parents' messages have difficulty competing," contends Walsh…

Bono on Grace


Keywords: reap, sow, ying, yang,

In the book, Bono in Conversation by Michka Assayas, Bono, the lead singer and songwriter for the rock group U2 said,

"At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics-in physical laws-every action is met by an equal or an opposite one," explains Bono. "And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that. . . . Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff."