Dumb 'Old Cheerleaders

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School is located in the northwestern corner of Georgia, very close to Chattanooga. The school made national headlines over the last two weeks because they have been allowing something very bad to take place on campus during their football games. The main culprits were specifically their high-school cheerleading squad.

Cheerleaders, you just can’t trust them. They always cause trouble. In fact, they should all be banned and put out of business, I tell you.

What were they doing and why did it become an issue that garnered national attention? They were being a little too provocative and that is never a good thing. I’m only amazed that it went on for so long before someone pulled the plug on their dubious actions.

It was not scantily-clad bodies gyrating to a hip-hop beat that caused the concern and ire of the school administrators in that county. Neither was it profanity laced into their cheers or the defamation of the opposing team. No, it was much worse than that. I almost can’t put into words this morning the abominations of their actions. And it came to light that the school has been allowing cheerleaders to perform this lewd behavior since 2003 – that’s SIX years by my count! The nerve!

OK, let me calm down and start from the beginning. Every summer since they began this stunt back in 2003, the cheerleaders would meet and put together ‘buster’ signs for the upcoming football season. A buster-sign is the big sign they hold up before the game and allow the football team to ‘bust through’ as a form of motivation. Most schools do this and I remember painting the signs for the cheerleaders in my own high school almost thirty years ago. The signs usually have the opposing team’s mascot drawn on the front and some kind of slogan like ‘Kill ‘Em’ or at least close to that painted below it. By chance there might be something like ‘Homecoming 2009’ written on there as well. It is nothing new.

But these cheerleaders had the audacity, the very nerve, to write Bible verses on their signs! Oh, the horror! The turmoil it caused in the stadium must have been legendary. I’ll bet there were riots and shootings, and it probably brought on gang-related warfare and drug usage throughout the stands. Teen-age pregnancy statistics undoubtably went through the roof as each sign was mercilessly hoisted onto the goal-posts. How did the school allow that sordid behavior to continue for six long years? Children that grow up in government schools may not be able to read and write these days, but you can bet the farm they have been taught and fully understand that bringing up any inkling of God on campus is definitely taboo.

In a school of over 1300 students (I went to their web-site), one brave student stood up and told his parents about the evil-doing that was going on down at the ball field. Of course they were aghast, knowing immediately that something had to be done. One anonymous student, one anonymous parent, and in the end, one anonymous phone call was all it took to make the Superintendent realize the error of her ways and she banned the practice indefinitely. There is no place on campus for signs that promote arcane ideas like loving and caring for your neighbor, doing the best that you can, or seeking a closer relationship with God. God was banned from public schools almost fifty years ago; the schools are so much better and much safer without Him.

By now I hope you realize I am being sarcastic. I looked for the sarcasm font in Office, but could not find it.

What in the world is going on in our country? If God was replaced with Allah or Buddha on those very same signs, would this story have garnered the same response from the media? Would it have required a decree by the school authorities to ban the signs if that were the case? I wondered about it this morning, but not for too long as I know the answer to that one. I’ll bet you do, too.

But my heart goes out to those cheerleaders and I like what they were trying to do. The words of Joshua ring down through the ages to promote and validate their actions. “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

It is a pity those girls appear to have found themselves dwelling in the land of the Amorites, and in fact we are all apparently doing so today. But in a world that seems settled on the idea that it is an evil thing to serve God in everything that we do, well, my hat is off to them this morning. Good job, girls. Stick to your faith and beliefs, thereby proclaiming your choice to serve God regardless of the consequence of your actions. There are a lot of people out there like me who feel the same way.

An example of the behavior of these seditious girls

In A Grocery Store

Few things can be worse than the process of going through a painful divorce, especially when there are young children involved. I speak of this by personal experience, as I did my own stint in the courts back in the mid-1980s. I’m not going to pontificate on all of the details here in this blog, but at the time, it was a very rough patch in life that I happened to find myself going through. A lot of times we look back on things and decide that maybe they were not as bad as we remember, but this is not one of those cases. My memories of that time revolve around dark, dreary days that seemed to set me adrift, and it was only through God’s grace that I made it through to the other side.

Does God get involved in divorces? I can’t answer that question for anyone but myself, because I know that all situations are different. As an example, although the book of Esther in the Bible makes no mention of God; He is there on every page by the way that things happened for her. I believe that my life during my divorce replicates that situation. God was there, though I could neither see Him nor the work he was performing for me at the time. I am only cognizant of what he did for me by looking back from where I find myself today, many years later.

My lawyer had a secretary, a beautiful girl that I recognized from our small town. She was friendly, maybe a little precocious, but I had so much on my mind during those visits to his office that other than the fact that she was unusually pretty – I did not give her a second thought. As the legal battle wrangled on for many months, she eventually left his office to work elsewhere and I did not see her again.

Meanwhile I began playing the guitar for a gospel-singing group and began to really enjoy it as it was a new experience for me. It also gave me something to do on weekends and was less apt to get me in trouble than the things I had been doing. Through the songs and the sermons in the various church services we attended, little did I know that God was performing a work in my life. Some would call it maturity, but believe me, that was not it as I struggled with that part of my personality for many years afterward and continue to do so today. No, there was something spiritual happening in my life - in that place where God moves just out of sight and ostensibly behind the curtains. I cannot remember the service, though I do recall the church. The service was over and it was time for the altar-call. I went down the aisle and prayed a simple prayer: “Lord, I have made a mess of my life and I know that only You can fix it. Please do.” Probably not my exact words, but it was something like that. My point is that the prayer was sincere, from my heart, and He was listening when I prayed. This sounds simple yet I’m afraid to overstate it. Something happened in my life and it started on a cold, rainy night in a small, country church with a simple prayer that came from an earnest heart.

I ran into that pretty secretary a few nights later in a grocery store. I stopped by on the (very) (ultra) slim chance that they might stock rabbit food that a friend of mine needed. We talked for a second or two, but it was enough so that I saw her in a different light. I went home and asked my brother about her and since he knew her better than I, he ‘fixed’ us up on a date two days later. We have since been inseparable for twenty-two years as of this month. Have those years been perfect and all of the days we have spent together been filled with bliss?

For the most part… yes!

But how did it happen? How did a chance encounter at a grocery store, during the middle of the week, lead to a first date that has been followed by a life spent together? What did I do that qualifies me to have her in my life when she is so much better than me in every way? Roll your eyes and say things like ‘coincidence’ and ‘serendipity’, but I know better. It is a love that was fashioned not by fate, but as the answer of a simple, frank request to God by someone who realized there was nothing else that he could do by himself. It was a love formed out of caring by two people that trusted in God when nothing else made sense to either of them. You see, it turned out that she was also going through her own ‘rough patch’ at the time, and an all-seeing, all-knowing God looked beyond what appeared to be impossible for either of us and instead made it possible for both of us. He specializes in that particular line of work.

One of my favorite verses is found in Romans 8: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Sometimes things just look impossible. We can make a really big mess out of our lives; it is in our nature to do so. The world will fail us, friends may abandon us, and at times there does not appear to be a silver lining behind any of the dark clouds that cover us. But God always has a plan for His children. As His children, it is we who are ‘the called according to His purpose’ and we should never forget that or think about it in a careless or flippant manner. He works things out. And we are happiest when we simply trust and allow Him to do so.

The Morning News

I’m looking over the various news reports this morning as I drink my coffee…

Reuters reports this morning that the Chinese are going to display newly developed strategic missiles in a national parade on October 1rst. FT.COM has a story on their front page explaining that India now has thermonuclear weapons – they have 200 kiloton bombs in their arsenal which brings them up to par with the fully developed, elite nuclear nations. Supposedly, they produced these weapons to counter their arch-enemy Pakistan’s capability to attack them with their own nuclear bombs. Meanwhile, My Way’s featured article discusses Iran’s missile tests yesterday and specifically mentions the Revolutionary Guard divisions of that country performing military maneuvers at this time. As a side-bar to the report, they mention that the missile tests over the weekend confirm that Iran is fully capable of striking Israel. To top these stories, Drudge reports that Venezuela is also pursuing a joint uranium venture with Russia.

It appears as though the world is once again beating the drums of war and has become hell-bent on a path that will assure us of mutual destruction and pave the road to Armageddon. All of this, despite the now seemingly empty rhetoric that was put forth during the U.N. meetings that took place less than a week ago. We are sliding down a proverbial greased pole, or so it seems, with no apparent hope in sight.

In our own country, the average Joe on the street appears to have his own sense of foreboding over issues that range from the economy and unemployment to health care and the fear of big government. A protest against a government policy this week is followed by a protest for the same policy the next week. It is there, a rift that is dividing our nation; all you have to do is notice it.

The ominous tidings we see in the news today were predicted by prophets thousands of years ago. I believe this with my heart through my faith, but even that is no comfort, really. Though I am in awe of God’s Word and how it shows me what is really going on and what will happen as it all plays out, it still has a way of depressing me. I know that none of these stories are going to change and they will in fact grow worse with each passing day, hour, minute, and second.

I wish I had more to enter on these pages this morning instead of what, I know, only appears to be gloom and doom. But good news is becoming harder and harder to find these days as the world seems to be drifting ever closer to the abyss. It has a tendency to make one despondent – so is there yet any hope to be found out there?

In the end, I turn to the words of Jesus as it appears to be all that I have left this morning: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. “ John 14:1-4

Because these words were spoken by The Word, I know they are more than merely empty rhetoric spoken only to make me feel better. If I meditate upon them and pray, my heart does not seem to be quite as troubled. He has a place prepared for me! And through His Word I know the way and how to get there. All I need do is look up, because He is coming back - just as He promised He would.

The Road To 2012

There's something happening here,
What it is ain't exactly clear.
Buffalo Springfield, 1967

Lately I’m finding it incredibly strange, almost surreal, when I listen to all of the hype surrounding the year 2012. There are theories running the gamut on everything from the Mayan calendar to the nefarious Planet X (Nibiru); all of them supposedly pointing to our demise as a culture as well as a species around or near December 21rst of that year. At the same time we are cautioned on climate change, and in not taking immediate action we have been forewarned that by doing so we will cause the veritable extinction of the human race, so to speak. And of course we may deserve it - to listen to some of those pundits.

I do not subscribe to any of those theories and submit them here as purely speculation by others whose mindsets are clearly slanted that way. But the crux of the matter is this: the whole world appears to have a sense of foreboding concerning the future of the planet and the survival of our society. The ominous changes in weather, floods, earthquakes, the wildfires sweeping across various parts of our nation, the economic and the political climate all serve to persuade many that something bad is happening out there. That perhaps something dark and sinister is well on its way to our neck of the woods.

I mentioned that it is strange and surreal to me. I adhere to the counsel of the Almighty, and according to His Word all of these signs must come to pass and were prophesied to do so many millennia ago. Yet the world today will place much more faith in the theories I mentioned in the above paragraphs than in what the Bible has to say on the subject. The Bible is far-fetched, but Nibiru makes a lot more sense? Do tell.

Jesus faced the same dilemma in His day: “He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” Matthew 16: 2-3

What are the signs of the times? They are blatantly obvious to anyone who chooses to keep track of things. A close watch on the evening news (and not specifically Fox in my case) appears to produce only more concern for us. The theories I mentioned above have been put forth by others to explain the symptoms of a society that is apparently crumbling right before our very eyes. But there is more to ‘chew on’ than mere weather patterns and natural disasters. If you step back and view the forest through all of those pesky trees, you’ll notice that right is now wrong and wrong has become right. Nothing is in black and white anymore - it all varies with whatever shade of gray works best at the time or fits the situation. We are fast approaching a time once described in the Bible where “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

There appears to be a lot of anger in the world today as well, and there are a lot of different opinions as to why it is that way. Our morals are all but nonexistent and not only have we grown accustomed to it; we celebrate and actually thrive in it. Tolerance is the by-word of our society, and we worship at the altar of diversity. We have no room for God and seemingly kicked Him to the proverbial curb many years ago. Churches, once the watershed of our thoughts and actions have been relegated as something to be considered merely as passé. And sadly, it appears as though most of the churches have melded with the world anyway, in a vain attempt to gain acceptance by those who do not care and will not believe.

So what is going to happen in the future? I believe that something is in fact on the way, and it will be a time of sorrow for many when He arrives. Our morals cannot save us; we lost them a long time ago. Our government will not be able to intervene for us. Science and technology cannot prevent the things that shortly must come to pass. Our own critical thinking and philosophies won't help us - in fact, they have brought us to the place we find ourselves today.

There can be only one way out when the Lord arrives to ‘judge the nations’. It will all boil down to our faith and trust in Him and the salvation that comes by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Mark my words and remember them, but most of all be ready for that day to come when it arrives. If I am wrong and the prognosticators of 2012 and the Mayans, Nibiru, or global warming are right, then we all die together.

But… what if I am right?

Of Pheasants

My blog has been sparsely updated during the past few days, but I have an excuse. As I mentioned in one of the columns last week, I took a trip to Alabama to take part in a pheasant-shoot. I’m back home tonight, and though I enjoyed the time I spent traversing those late-summer fields, it is always good to return home to my family and friends.

The weather showed merely scant signs of promise as we set out on the road Monday morning; floods had ravaged eastern Alabama and Georgia and we listened intently to the reports of such on the truck radio. By the time we turned onto Highway 280 and made our way down to Sylacauga, the weather had cleared and the sun reminded us that it was not yet fall in those parts. We spent the evening having dinner with old friends and went to bed anxiously awaiting what the next day would have in store for us.

'Chopper', as our guide is known, had prepared quite an interesting experience for us we discovered, once we arrived at his house the following afternoon. He went over the rules with us, and then escorted us to our designated stations encircling a dark lake hidden deep within the woods. We took to our posts, loaded our shot guns, and began anticipating what would happen next. We did not have to wait very long.

I’ve neither saw a pheasant nor have I made an attempt to shoot at one; the birds are non-existent in our area of the world. Needless to say, they get airborne in an almost slow motion manner, but once their wings begin working, they are extremely fast. A lot faster than the quail or doves I have grown accustomed to stalking in the past. For the first few minutes of the shoot, the birds were winning and we looked foolish despite our expensive guns and carefully chosen ammunition. Luckily for our egos, a little correction to our technique (and changing to high-brass shells) made quite a difference in the final outcome. My shooting partner and I took down a lot of the birds and quickly began filling our tote-sacks with them.

There is a lot to be said about the sport of hunting or shooting birds, but there is so much more of what I experienced that day than simply bagging a prey. It was the site of the Labrador-retriever patiently swimming after the felled birds in the lake, the crisp hint of fall in the air as the sun flamed its golden hue while settling into the mountains. It was the feel of spent pellets sprinkling around you and on you from wayward shots fired from the other side of the lake, and the laughter of Chopper’s children who had graciously been allowed to take part in the activity. Most of all, it was a group of older men valiantly attempting to stave off mortality for just a few short hours with a reward of feeling young again, even if only momentarily.

My share of the birds currently reside in my freezer, and we are planning on cooking them this weekend. That will be a new experience for me as well; Chopper and the other veterans provided many different clues on how best to prepare them. In the end I know that it will be yet one more gift from the experience, and I find myself looking forward to it.

The process was not easy, looking back on it now that I am home. I have bruises on my shoulder and upper arm from the gun. And climbing over the hills and down the swales to each new post proved to be a most difficult task; especially for someone that is older now and in much-less-better shape than I was only a few years ago. Although it was a lot of fun, I am sore from the exertion tonight. I could conceivably purchase pheasant from a grocery store, maybe not in this area, but in our world of Fed-Ex and the Internet anything has become possible. But what would be the fun in that?

“The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.” Proverbs 12:27

Notes From The Creator's 'Twitter' Account

4:57 AM – I’ve prepared another beautiful day, just as I do every day. In a moment I will wake Shannon and he will be amazed that he woke up before the alarm clock went off. Oh that he would be as amazed that he woke up at all! Or that he would at least acknowledge the beautiful day I have created for him.

5:19 AM – Sad to say it, but this moring Shannon ignored the quiet time he usually spends with my Word reflecting upon his relationship with Me. Instead he chose to watch the news and worry over things that he has no control of.

5:34 – Shannon is in the shower. Instead of pondering upon Me and all that I have blessed him with, he is already thinking ahead to work and other things that are passing and ephemeral in nature.

6:01 – Shannon and his wife are drinking their coffee in silence. I wish they would comprehend that it was I who put them together and it was part of my plan for them both from the very beginning.

6:28 – I’m disappointed that he walked right out to his truck, got in, and drove away without noticing the beauty of the morning. The fresh roses, the soft dew, and the chorus of birds were all placed there by Me.

6:50 – On his drive to work I watched over him. He does not know, nor will he ever be able to fathom that on this morning I kept him from getting involved in no less than two traffic accidents. He arrived at work safe and sound, but did not bother to acknowledge Me for it.

7:15 – (Sigh) He should have walked away when his friends were telling that risqué joke around the coffee pot a few minutes ago.

9:10 – So far he has made seven decisions that will affect not only his job, but the jobs of those that work for him. Not one of those seven decisions was made with a simple nod in My direction or by asking Me what to do.

12:02 – Ah, lunch. Shannon finally acknowledged Me and said a prayer of thanks for the food that I provided for him. Too bad he did so only in his mind so that he would not be embarrassed in front of his friends.

14:25 – There is multi-tasking and then there is multi-slacking. Shannon appears to be doing the latter this afternoon. In either case he is not doing his best today. I created him for much more than this.

17:51 – Shannon and his family are eating supper at the end of just another day – to him. He should be teaching his children more about Me and how to live a righteous life. The years are going by and he only has a few more to spend with them before they are out on their own. I won’t have to wonder how that will work out for them judging by the example he has been setting.

19:22 – I can’t stay here while they watch the things they are watching on the television tonight, because I am holy. Such violence and depravity! What bothers me the most is watching Satan smugly sitting there on the couch next to them, laughing at them the whole time.

22:12 – The family is in bed, and Shannon is ready to sleep. Another day has gone by and he has seemingly wasted it on the world and the things thereof. Maybe he will acknowledge Me with a prayer before he falls asleep, but I am not counting on it.

"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." Mark 12:30

I Was A Teen-Age Liberal

1980, fall semester at college, and I was a freshman. Having recently turned eighteen, I had also registered for both the draft and the opportunity to vote. Since it was all new to me, especially the part about voting, I studied the candidates hard in the months leading up to the election. When the date finally arrived, I turned out and voted for the very first time, like a good American should always do. It is a right granted to us by our forefathers and in essence is what Democracy in our Republic is really all about.

Ronald Reagan was the Republican candidate during that election, and to me he represented corporate America and the rich side of the fence; both of which I considered evil at the time. Jimmy Carter was the incumbent, and though at times he appeared to be a buffoon, I strongly considered him due to his supposed Christian beliefs despite the fact that things appeared to be going downhill in our nation during that time. I proudly entered the booth that day and cast my vote for Mr. Carter. It was a memorable day for me.

Mr. Reagan won and his victory went a long way toward ending my career as a liberal and as a Democrat. Things had changed dramatically by the end of his first term. The country was in much better shape and President Reagan had proven himself as an adept leader on both the national and the international stage. During his second term I served in the military and he was without a doubt our leader, those of us who wore the uniform, as the 1980’s wound to a close. From that point on I’ve always voted Republican with the exception of local elections where party does not seem to matter. (Coroners and tax assessors of either party, for example)

Far-right and far-left politics both worry me; though as a conservative I am much farther to the right than most centrists. Liberalism makes no sense to me – it is something that I cannot comprehend as far as most of the views they espouse. Abortion in a no-brainer because I firmly believe that when God said ‘Thou shalt not kill’ He meant it. Taking money, jobs, or possessions from one class of people to give to another only serves to break yet another commandment. Besides, not only does it not seem to be working, it appears as though it is making things worse for those that are poor. Removing God from all things public is just one more symptom of a belief system that is flawed by nature. Without God in the picture, anything can become rational or rationalized. Also, when I see a gay-parade on the TV news, and one of the participants weighs 350 pounds and is clad in only a g-string; it’s not that I’m bigoted or phobic – it is just plain gross! Get some clothes on and act like a responsible adult!

Liberalism is based on good intentions. They want to help the poor. They want everyone to have equal rights. They want a woman to have a say on whether or not she wants her unborn child to be a part of the world. But the core of liberal belief rests in the doctrine of secular humanism, which by definition has no room for a divine being. And in the mind of those that hold these viewpoints, this manner of thinking appears to be the best way to achieve their goals. Solomon considered it so important to oppose this train of thought that he recorded twice in Proverbs: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25.

Unlike liberals, I can cross the fence and look back at myself and my beliefs from their point of view in much the same manner. It is hard to explain to someone the reasoning behind your belief system which is based on a book that was written over two-thousand years ago. It is even harder to explain that most of the things you put your trust in are based on something you can’t see. At least not physically. A stoic belief in creation is also hard to justify against the theories that have been proposed to us through science and technology. Yes, I can see why my belief-system would be hard to comprehend or even be acknowledged by those on the liberal side of the fence.

Jesus told Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This verse explains where the problem lies and I believe it is the root cause of liberals not being able to understand the Christian-Conservative side of the conversation. Unless you are born again you cannot see, nor even fathom, the Kingdom of God and what it means to be a part of it.

That statement in itself cannot be comprehended by a liberal who finds himself caught up in the thralls of the secular-humanist mind-set. But nor will he care.

Finding The Promised Land

Many times in my life I have been almost there. I’m not speaking of some perfect place where everything is fine and dandy and visions of lollipops, rainbows, and unicorns stream fantastically by around me. I’m talking about a spiritual state in my life where I know that I am walking side by side with God and I find myself perfectly within His will. I have been so close at times that I have almost tasted it. (Psalms 34:8 – “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”)

The problem has always been that I live in the world, and more often than not, I drift much too close to it. OK, let’s be frank – I have a tendency to wallow in it! Living a spiritual life is tough because if you live that life there are things you can no longer be a part of. And many things in life are hard to give up. In my fallen state, sometimes those things appear to be better or more important than things I know will be waiting for me if I just let them go and follow the Lord explicitly.

There is also an evil in the world that is beyond what I can imagine or am cognizant of realizing. If I do take the plunge, and settle in my mind that once and for all I am going to follow the Lord; that power will be unleashed upon me. The roaring lion is out there, and he will make my life miserable as his bell of evil and misery will surely toll for me. At the present I am comfortable in my life; I am safe. My spiritual life could be better, but life would be so much harder if I did the things that God would have me do.

Israel was approaching the Promised Land, fresh from the miracles they had witnessed God perform on Mount Sinai. God was leading them through the desert with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They sent ten spies into the land to scope it out and to see what they were up against. When they returned, the reports were extraordinary. They reported that the land was ‘flowing with milk and honey’ and brought back a staff of grapes so huge that it took two men to carry it as proof. The land was a veritable Eden and was all that they had imagined and more importantly, all that God had promised it would be. Excitement ran rampant through the camp as the reports were told and retold among the assembled congregation.

Then came the report of bad news: “Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.” When Joshua and Caleb responded that it was still possible to take the land, the other eight spies quickly added, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.”

How quickly things changed out in the wilderness that day. The children of Israel were now pining for a return to slavery back in Egypt, and any thought of continuing on into the Promised Land was summarily dismissed. Slavery appeared to be a better option than facing the giants of Anak. The cluster of grapes looked appetizing, but it was surely safer and a lot less trouble to continue living off manna and water in the dry, barren desert.

But here’s the thing – they were designed for much better things through the promise of God. His desire was for them to live in the land of promise as His chosen people, and to be a light for the rest of the world to follow. But how could God keep that promise if the people He chose did not want it? You’ll have to read the rest of the story for yourself in Numbers 14, but it is not a pretty sight – I’ll warn you ahead of time.

Over three-thousand years later, God still has a plan for us. He wants us to obtain the state of being spiritual in our lives, of finally reaching the goal of living our lives within His will. Yes, it looks tough and the road can be hard to follow from time to time, but He is always leading us. I can’t beat the giants on my own and neither can you; they are there and they will be waiting for us at every turn we make. But I have found that when I am weak, when I finally give in and decide that I need less of me and more of Him, then I can be strong. Suddenly those giants are not quite as fierce or dangerous as they were reported to be.

But we have to take the first step. It is up to us to cross the river and begin the journey. Yet I know He is waiting patiently for us on the other side.

A Time For Everything

I guess you could say it appears as though today has been a typically mundane day. I got up and made it to work on time, listening to a morning show on the radio as I drove in. Patrick Swayze died, and Kanye West is still apologizing to anyone that will listen or actually believe him. Methinks that somehow the incident with Taylor Swift was fabricated either to add to his popularity or for the network’s benefit. Either way it apparently worked as not only are the airwaves buzzing, but the gospel of the water cooler has been going pretty strong as well.

The coffee at work this morning amazingly hit a new low, barely passing off as a drinkable beverage. We have had a generous uptick in business during recent weeks which has brought about a protracted sigh of relief from everyone in the office, and has served to alleviate our employment concerns somewhat. It is good to have a job these days and I am thankful for it. I have so many people depending on me each month; GMC, Wells Fargo, Visa, Wal-Mart, and most of all the ‘Feddle Gub-munt’.

Oh, and I also happen to find myself burnt-out on Facebook, if that can be imagined. I still go on-line when I get home in the evenings to check my Mafia and tend to my Farm, but there is no sense of urgency as was the case only a few short weeks ago. It’s funny how that works out - and just in time, too. Football season has started and NASCAR has entered the Chase stage, while Survivor and The Biggest Loser will start their new seasons within a few days. So long, Facebook, we hardly knew you. It is time for me to lose myself in other things.

Like pheasant-hunting in Alabama next week.

Summer is fading away with fall quickly approaching, and the air has a small hint of the ominous winter that is lurking just over the horizon. I actually love this time of year, the twilight days of Indian summer between September and October always bring back fond memories for me of days gone by. Thoughts of County Fairs and hauling hay when I was a teenager, and playing football or hunting squirrels return to me in the same manner as the love-bug swarms we’ve all grown accustomed to.

I’m rambling tonight, much like that old song Linda Ronstadt crooned back in her day. I’m obliged to do that once in a while. There is a time for everything; Patrick Swayze and Kanye West, coffee and Taylor Swift, and new business with the bills that come along with it. There is a time for Facebook, and a time to stop doing Facebook. There is a time for planning hunting trips, for seasons, and a time for memories. As I have proven, at least to myself, there is also a time to ramble-on inconsequentially. The ‘Preacher’ of Ecclesiastes was right on the money; God’s Word is always perfect for whatever thoughts might happen to be on your mind.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

I can’t add anything to this. Yes, it sums up my day much better than I, with my own feeble attempt at words, will ever be able to do.

A Pair Of Ducks

Note: Today I am going to delve into something a little different than what I normally write. As a result, be forewarned: This column may not be for everybody. My goal is not to try and offend; this is simply my blog and therefore I use it to put things down that happen to be on my mind on any given date. A lot of times when I do so I find that I learn things on my own or discover things that I may not have found out otherwise.

Paradox - Statement or tenet contrary to received opinion; proposition on the face of it (in pop. use, actually) self-contradictory XVI; phenomenon conflicting with preconceived notions XVII. — late L. paradoxum, -doxon, sb. use of n. of paradoxus — Gr. parádoxos, f. para1 + dóxa opinion. Hence paradoxical XVI.

Observe the picture at the top closely and you’ll have a general idea of how perception of an object can be skewered by viewing it from a different angle. This is a prime example of a paradox. Things are looked upon and accepted as they are without a second thought that there could be something else worth considering. In Mississippi-speak – there may be more here than meets the eye, or better yet, still waters run deep.

Exodus 20: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

This commandment is part of the Ten Commandments and there isn’t a way to justify it by any manner of interpretation as not being so. However, the keeping of this commandment has become quite a paradox to me. I keep Sunday, the first day of the week, instead of Saturday, which is the actual Sabbath. I do this because I am a member of a Christian church and it has always been as such. We keep Sunday instead of Saturday because that is the day The Lord rose from the grave. At least that is the way it has been explained to me by those that have taught me and shaped my knowledge of the Bible throughout my life. The Catholic version of the Bible has even re-written this commandment to read ‘Remember the Lord’s Day to keep it holy’. But which day is the ‘Lord’s Day’? Judging from a reading of the qualifiers listed in this commandment, I’m inclined to think that the Sabbath (Saturday), or the day the Lord rested following creation, is the Lord’s Day. I also notice that this commandment precedes the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai – it was put into place during the creation process and God sanctified the Sabbath at that time, not later on.

It has been explained to me that we are no longer under the law, but under grace, and therefore it does not matter. Also, an attempt to keep the law or ‘works’ borders on one becoming a legalist by nature and therefore it is - wrong. However, Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep his commandments. By the same token, we would never as Christians consider it acceptable to kill, steal, commit adultery, etc. as mentioned in the rest of the commandments – whether we are exonerated by grace or not.

A second explanation is that the disciples and the early church met on Sunday in lieu of Saturday as mentioned in the New Testament book of Acts. However, a closer reading shows that more often than not, they met on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is mentioned as being a time they met eight times in Acts, whereas the ‘first day of the week’ is mentioned but once - and then only as a time that they met to share bread. Furthermore, even Jesus kept the Sabbath, not the first day of the week.

There are other things I’ve learned, verses that mention not putting one day above another, and how we should live every day as a Christian and not just one day a week. These sound good, are correct in their own right, and comfort me a little when studying this subject. Maybe not. It seems as though if one commandment out of the ten was going to be made obsolete or no longer valid as one to keep, the Bible would have mentioned it plainly. Like maybe in one of Paul’s letters he could have thrown in a ‘By the way, you guys keep Sunday instead of Saturday because God has changed His mind on that commandment.’ Instead I am reminded by God Himself: “For I am the LORD, I change not;” and “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

I’m not thinking of converting to another religion by any means. But studying this subject gives me pause; and it certainly meets the criteria of a paradox by any definition.

The Judge And The Haircut

The 70’s were a time for expressing yourself. It was a time of gaudy, tie-dyed t-shirts and jeans with wide, flared legs. Let’s not forget the high-heeled shoes that we wore during those disco-inspired days, and the higher and thicker the heel the more upscale your standing would be among your peers. Looking back at old pictures I have to wonder what we were thinking, and I’ve done my best to hide/eliminate any documented evidence of my so-called style during those days from my own children today. But it was more than the clothes and shoes that we wore – it was also our long, shaggy hair! I do not recall anyone during that era sporting a closely cropped crew-cut, maybe there was. But no person under the age of 40 that I can recall from either my high school or my church had hair above the ear-line during the Nixon/Ford years.

We had a barber that my family used and he was a good man. He later became a judge in our county and served in that capacity for many years. Honest and forthright, he attended church with us and became a close, family friend. The places available to get a hair cut back then were fairly limited, and no boy in his right mind would have considered going to a ‘beauty salon’ during that period of history. What I am saying is that everyone used him and he was the barber of choice in our rural part of the county.

Early one Saturday morning my dad informed me that enough was enough and he wanted me to get a hair cut. It was useless to object and I knew it was pointless to argue with him as I brushed the thick, bushy locks up and out of my eyes. I drove my car over to the barber shop and I was the only customer that gray morning; the shop was empty except for the fishing magazines that lay haphazardly on the chairs. He seemed pleased to see me and as I sat in the chair he asked me how I wanted it cut. I replied that I just wanted a little trim, maybe out of my eyes as I thought that would satisfy my dad for at least a few more weeks. He began talking to me, telling me a story as he was apt to do, and the hair began falling in droves as he did his work. When he finished, he swivelled me around in the chair to face the mirror and I was mortified! A little trim? Maybe I should have been more precise with my instructions, I thought, staring at the neatly-coiffed person in the mirror. I even had the dreaded ‘white-walls’ over my ears – it was a personal tragedy. The thoughts whirled through my mind and in that moment I realized that I would be the bane of my circle of friends and (horrors!) no girl would ever look at me again!

Being unnaturally shy as a teenager, and also very respectful, with downcast eyes I thanked him and told him that it ‘looked real good’. But inside I was seething and on the verge of tears. How could he have done this to me, I wondered. Oh, the humanity! How uncool! I drove myself home, too depressed to even bother turning on the radio. Life for me was over, I was sure of it; and my anger burned within me as I knew it was all his fault!

I survived somehow. My hair proved resilient and grew back while most of my friends, after I took a lot of ribbing, got over it. As I look back, the real ones always did. I continued to use him as a barber because as I have mentioned, there were no other choices. Yet I do not recall him cutting my hair that short during any of my later visits as the years quickly passed by. Later on, after I joined the military and was stationed close to home his haircuts even became an asset – because of him I never failed a formal military inspection!

When I attended his funeral a few years ago, I rehashed the haircut story with one of his daughters and I finally learned the secret of what had transpired during that morning so long ago. She explained that my father had placed a call to him while I was in-route to the shop and had given him specific instructions on how he wanted my hair to look once the job was completed. It wasn’t his idea to shear (scalp!) me, but he had his orders from my father and he was inclined to follow them as such. My anger that day, though not expressed, was ill-aimed as not only did I not have all of the facts, but I did not understand the context of the situation. He had higher orders that originated from above me.

I’m older now and I can also see the wisdom of what my father was trying to do. I have had to force my own sons to get haircuts and many other things they needed to do on several different occasions. At no time was it out of spite or harshness. And though much like me during my haircutting experience there may have been times they were unable to comprehend it; the things I did were always for their own good.

In Romans 8, Paul writes: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I may not always understand why things happen in my life the way they do. At times certain issues I’ve faced may have seemed unfair to me. There have been times when I've almost lost faith because of my own failure to comprehend what God was doing in my life, and during those times I have felt many emotions ranging from anger to sorrow. But God has always had a plan for me. By trusting in Him and ignoring the things that I cannot see or know, in the end I have no doubt He will lead me down the path I need to follow. It is for His purpose that I was designed and created, and I'll always need to remember that.

The King's Grace

One of the greatest examples of grace in the Old Testament is found in II Samuel, Chapter 9. The story of grace in this chapter is a portent of what was to happen later in the New Testament when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. I’ve always marveled at the similarity between the two stories, and especially appreciate how the Old Testament passage has a knack for bringing grace down to our level of understanding.

From Webster’s: Grace – (1) Unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification (2) A virtue coming from God (3) A special favor - Synonym: Mercy

King David had established his kingdom and defeated those that would oppose him. His rule and his power was absolute, and at the time of the story it appears that he has had time to reflect on all that has happened during the few years since King Saul’s death. Now he finally has the opportunity to tie up any loose ends that might remain.

“And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan's sake?” II Samuel 9:1

Many years before, David and Saul’s son, Jonathan, had become best friends. They had made a pledge to each other to remain as such, despite troubles that were brewing between David and Saul. Now, remembering that pledge as well as the friendship they had shared, David asks if anyone is left alive in Saul’s family that he can show kindness to in honor of his late friendship with Jonathon.

There was a servant in the palace named Ziba, and he replied to David when asked, that Jonathon had a son that is still alive named Mephibosheth. Then he adds the tag-line that ‘he is lame on his feet.’ In essence he is saying that there is one left, but he is a cripple, and hence, not worthy of the King’s time. David ignores the label, and asks where he can find him, and Ziba replies that he lives in Lo-debar. I’ve studied that word over the years and the meaning of Lo-debar appears either to be ‘no communication’ or ‘no bread’ depending on whose translation you read. Either way, the point is made. Mephibosheth is by this time merely a footnote, or in a state of no longer being relevant. Again, however, David ignores this information and sends someone to get him.

If you study history, you know that kings and princes were usually family, and the crown was passed down from generation to generation. When a new king gained power that was not of the original family; that family was in trouble. Usually the new king would wipe out the remaining family members of the old king to prevent someone from bringing up later that the old king’s family was better suited for the job due to their leadership, blood-line, etc.

Whether you knew this or not, it is apparent that Mephibosheth did. When he is brought before King David, he falls on his face, does reverence, and proclaims himself to be David’s servant. Imagine the thoughts going through his mind at that time. He probably thought he was going to be the latest victim of the purge that was sure to follow David’s accession to the throne. Crippled and worthless, unable to defend himself, standing before the king who had the ultimate power of life and death over him, he does all that he is capable of doing. He asks for mercy, requesting to be thought of as merely a servant of the new king.

But this is not what David had in mind at all. David orders Ziba (the man who loved tag-lines) to give to Mephibosheth all of Saul’s land and possessions, and Ziba and his fifteen sons were to take care of the place for him. And then David adds, “but Mephibosheth thy master's son shall eat bread alway at my table.” What a day it must have been for poor, destitute, crippled Mephibosheth. He had ridden an emotional roller-coaster of fearing the worst but now getting the best that life had to offer, all in one afternoon!

We are very much like Mephibosheth, crippled by our sins and by the labels others place on us. “He’s a good guy, but he had a little problem with…” or “Yeah, she does a great job, but do you remember when she was younger and…” Worst of all, the sin that cripples us also keeps us separated from God, and we understand that God is going to judge us one day and we know that we will have nothing to offer when that day arrives. So we dwell in our own land of no communication or no bread, while we fearfully wait for the other shoe to drop.

In our wildest dreams we have no idea that the King is calling us out of grace. Just as Mephibosheth had nothing to offer King David, we have nothing to offer God. But in the same manner as David’s friendship with Jonathon, due to the fact that Jesus paid our sin penalty for us, God is ready to accept us and has prepared a place for us at His table. All we have to do is accept the gift that has been freely provided for us through His Son.

Now that, my friends, is Amazing Grace!

The Great Falling Away

Where have you gone, Hal Lindsey?

He’s been missing in action for about two months now, well, at least the column he usually writes for WND has been so. There have been no posts from the Late Great Planet Earth author since May 22nd of this year. Maybe he took the summer off. I have been an avid reader of his column for quite a few years now - I like the way he explains current events as they relate to prophecy in the Bible. Yes, he has been wrong on more than a few occasions, but his insights are very interesting and most of the time he is not too far from hitting the mark.

In the interim, a friend of mine has turned me on to other columnists and web sites that are built around the subject of the end times as prophesied in the Bible. Most of them are interesting and some are even in agreement with each other as far as the chain of events they suppose. They advise me to keep an eye on Israel, pay attention to the monetary system, and keep abreast of the various changes in US policy. Each earthquake, flood, famine, or rumor of war is investigated and hashed over on those sites; and sometimes you have to simply stop reading as you can get depressed if you ponder upon them for too long. The times we are living in are perilous, indeed.

In God’s Word there are many signs we as Christians are instructed to watch and be ready for as the clock here on earth begins to wind down. Sometimes, however, we can watch too closely and if we do so the most obvious signs might be overlooked. The political climate, the unrest, changes in weather patterns, and declining morals are all spoken of by the Bible and are easily discernable to even the most casual reader of prophecy. But there is another prophecy spoken of by Paul that is much too often ignored. We do not like to think about it therefore we usually sweep this one under the rug. To heed it would mean we might need to examine our own churches, as well as our own individual hearts.

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” II Thessalonians 2:3. The day Paul is writing about is the day of the Lord, and he tells us that first will come a falling away in the church. There will be earthquakes and famines, pestilences, one-world government and religion, and of course there will be the anti-Christ to contend with. But this withdrawal from the church and the things of God will happen first.

Personally I do not think he meant that everybody would stop going to church all at once. But we do seem to act as though it is less important to join with other believers in weekly praise and worship of God; at least not in the way we used to. Sunday mornings in the Bible Belt are still fairly important to us, while Sunday nights now appear to be much less so. There are too many things going on to even consider returning to church on Wednesday nights for most of us these days, and besides, we are simply too tired from work and school to do so. Overall attendance is down during all services from what it was barely ten years ago. And what about Sunday School? Not only has it become harder and harder to keep a class in regular attendance, but it now appears harder to find a teacher that will be reliable enough to actually show up each week. Ironically, this is but one end of the spectrum.

The other end contains the mega-churches that are apparently having no attendance problems whatsoever. At face value this appears to be a good thing. But when you dig a little deeper into what is taught and preached there, it appears to be a watered-down version of salvation without repentance. I went to a big church as I grew up and I enjoyed the programs and I believe they taught me a lot of things I was able to apply in my life even unto this day. But I also had a family that was spiritual in nature and while I learned a good bit in church, I also learned at home. I’m all for programs if they are used correctly. I’m all for praise and worship music in services if they are used correctly. But I am against conforming to the world and its standards just to draw in a few more numbers. If it has a hip-hop beat, you should leave it out on the street.

A preacher-friend told me the story of a young couple with two children that recently visited his church. They were looking for a church to attend regularly and they asked him what his church had to offer for their children. He replied, “Jesus Christ”. That should have said it all, but strangely enough in this day and age, people seem to want more than that. They want entertainment. And they apparently want someone to assume the spiritual responsibility to teach and train their children in the ways of God without having to be a part of it themselves. I wonder – does this help them sleep better at night?

Church should not be a social-club extravaganza each week. If you use a hot dog fellowship to draw people in this week, you’d better have steak and potatoes ready for next week. Jesus said if He was lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself. These days we seem to have forgotten that. And until we right our ship, remembering that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance; I strongly fear that this falling away will continue as predicted.

Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8

Oscar Wilde and Me

Back in the 1970’s I watched a movie that left a lasting impression upon me. After viewing the film on television I went straight to the library and checked-out the book; reading through the thick volume in only a few days time. Though the book was written seventy years before I was born and the movie was filmed when my parents were young, there was a considerable controversy surrounding the story. The book was titled Dorian Gray and was the only published novel by Oscar Wilde.

How was I able to view this movie and read the book without drawing the ire of my parents? The movie was old and in black and white, thus it was relegated to a Saturday afternoon showing on network television. Also, what was considered controversial back in the 40’s was merely winked at by the time I was a teenager. It was much later when I learned the word narcissism, (and I spelled that right thanks to Google!) but the basic plot of the story is a perfect example of that personality disorder. I believe that is what Mr. Wilde had in mind when he penned the novel.

The story revolves around a handsome young man by the name of Dorian Gray. He is asked to pose for a portrait and the artist is amazed at his perfect features, advising him that he may even start a new art movement with his profile. Knowing that beauty and looks fade with age, Dorian sells his soul. In exchange for his soul the man in the portrait will age but he (Dorian) will not grow even one day older. With the problem of aging taken care of, he then begins living a life of hedonism, pursuing his every desire and whim. However, he discovers that the portrait becomes more and more disfigured with every callous act he performs in his life. I’ll spare you the ending if by chance you decide to read the book or watch the movie on your own.

What made the book entertaining and popular is that there is a little bit of Dorian Gray in all of us. I say this as a product of the ‘Me’ generation myself. For years we have been taught by the media and by those around us that it is important to take care of ‘number one’ first and foremost. Whatever it takes to advance our station in life and elevate us to where we seemingly need to be should be done with no thought at all for the consequences of whatever actions may be required to get us there. The proof is in the statistics for money spent on plastic surgery, weight-loss clinics, and self-help books. Get-rich quick schemes and scams are all the rage, causing many people to be taken advantage of by those that would impulsively prey upon them when given a chance to do so. It wasn’t meant to be that way.

In Luke 12, Jesus teaches us with a parable the story of a man who was caught up in this mind-set: “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

By the text, we understand that this man cared nothing for anyone but himself. He did not confer with his wife or his family, and he did not pray for God’s guidance, either. Note the wording, he says “What shall I do”, “This will I do”, “I will bestow”, and “I will say to my soul”. In the end, though, we see the axiom sadly proven yet again that man proposes and God disposes. Knowing this, I should strive to lay up for myself treasure in Heaven, and be much less obliged to build up things here on earth knowing that I will pass away and that somebody else will simply get them once I'm gone.

Is it wrong to be rich or to have nice things? No, it is not. It is never wrong to have the finer things in life; it is all about how I manage to acquire them in the first place. What did I trade for them? Was it simply for me and me alone with no thought of how it might hurt someone else to gain them? Did I have to turn my back on God in the process?

An honest answer to questions such as these will go a long way toward preventing me from painting my own Dorian Gray-portrait in life.

Flying Solo

I was a teenager when I had my first opportunity to take a trip without my parents or siblings accompanying me. It was a church trip and I remember it well because it was 1976 - the year of the Bicentennial Celebration for the United States. My family had earlier agreed to visit my relatives in New Mexico during that time, but I had ‘won’ the trip; so they compromised and allowed me the opportunity to travel by myself.

The trip lasted almost two weeks and I saw some pretty neat things along the way: New York, Cape Cod, Niagara Falls, and we also paid a visit to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The trip culminated in a week-long seminar at the Baptist Center in Ridgecrest, North Carolina, so there was a spiritual aspect to travelling as well. I was in the company of my closest friends, therefore I was not in the least bit nervous, but still it felt odd to know that I was basically on my own. No parents to look over my shoulder and no brother or sisters to ‘rat me out’ if I did something wrong. Because my parents both did an outstanding job raising me, I did not get into any trouble during the trip and have nothing to look back on with shame or regret today.

I thought about that trip as I took my youngest daughter to college a few weeks back. As I moved her into her dorm-room, I hoped and prayed I had performed as good of a job in raising her as my parents had with me. If that was the case, I would have nothing to worry about. (Who am I kidding? I constantly worry about her! It was hard on me!) So far she has alleviated my fears and seems to have found her niche in school, and though this is her first time away from home I know that she will bring honor to both of her parents by her studies as well as her behavior.

The story of Daniel opens with a group of young boys, probably around fourteen years of age, taken captive and hauled away to Babylon. The Jewish nation had been conquered by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar, and they had taken all of the young people that were ‘fair’ in complexion, athletic, and mentally sharp to be trained (brainwashed) as servants in the king’s court. These four boys were among that group. I’ll step back here and let the Bible speak of the matter:

“And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.”

These young boys found themselves hundreds of miles from home, among other teenagers their own age, and it seemed as though they were going to be well-treated. They would be served the same meat that the king himself ate, as well as the wine that he consumed. They also were given the opportunity to learn from the Chaldeans, who just so happened to be the most advanced civilization of the era. Not too bad for a group of teens far from home and on their own.

But as is always the case, there was a slight problem. As Jews they were not supposed to eat pork; and the king had an affinity for glazed ham. Wine was a totally separate issue unto itself.

So what could they do? To refuse their captors would possibly mean death by having their heads chopped off. On the other hand, mom and dad were far away, as was their rabbi (preacher) and all of their close family and friends. We only know about these four, but it is implied that they were part of a group. The rest of the group apparently ‘lightened up’ and decided to ‘go with the flow’. They are never mentioned again in this book.

Notice that they didn’t refuse the opportunity to gain knowledge and they did not protest when their names were changed. But they stood firm on what they specifically had been taught was wrong. Another thing to note is that they were not high and mighty about it – they offered a compromise instead. They asked to be fed pulse and to drink only water for ten days, after which their master could judge for himself by the results. Because they had gained favor with him, the master agreed to the challenge. After ten days they were in obvious better health than the rest of the captives, and he allowed them to continue avoiding the diet that was spiritually wrong for them to follow in the first place. The Bible also explains that God blessed them for taking a stand. “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”

It is amazing to me when I ponder all of the things the world has to offer young people today. I am also heartbroken when I witness those same young people captured and pulled down into the depths of despair by the fruit of those same offers. Working with teenagers over the years, I have seen far too many Christian teens get burned by walking too close to the edge and flirting with worldly promises or ideas. We are called to be different. As Christians we are admonished to be in the world, but also to be separated from the world.

John reminds us of this in I John, Chapter 2: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

Yes, my heart literally aches when I see one of ‘my young people’ all grown up and suffering from sin in their lives that could and should have been avoided. Possibly it hurts most because I know I made the same mistakes in my own life at their age. Yet my heart also leaps when I run into one of those teens that received the message, took it to heart, and made a firm commitment to God and kept Him in their life. I know that ‘come what may’ they will be fine, and God will keep His hand on them and bless them throughout their lives for doing so.


I do not remember how old I was at the time, but we lived in Roseland Park so therefore I had to have been younger than eight years old. For either my birthday or possibly some other unknown reason, my uncle presented me with a coin collecting kit. It consisted of a binder with places to insert the coins, and was designed specifically for collecting Jefferson nickels. I learned a lot of neat things about the nickel that I still remember today, things like the letter close to the date indicates where the coin was minted. A ‘D’ stood for the Denver mint and a ‘P’ indicated that the coin originated in Philadelphia. No letter was proof that the coin was stamped out in San Francisco. The Jefferson nickle first went into circulation in 1938, if I remember correctly.

My dad had a Maxwell House coffee can full of loose change that he had saved, and he graciously allowed me to sort through the coins to assist me in starting my collection. The can was almost full and using it helped me fill many of the open spaces in the binder from the onset. That is probably when the trouble started – there were still dozens of coins left over that were duplicates of what I had already inserted into the collection. I seem to recall that 1964 appeared to be a very popular year for Philadelphia nickels; I had a pile of them on my hands.

The days went by (or maybe hours) and finding coins to fill the empty slots became a challenge. So I did what any other child that age would have done. I simply filled in the empty spaces with whatever coin I could find in dad’s can regardless of date or origin. The binder was full and the collection was completed, at least as far as I was concerned. It was not long before my uncle paid us a visit and he wanted to know how my collection was going, and I proudly showed him the binder, filled with nickels that did not belong in there. He wasn’t too hard on me, but he let me know quickly that it was not the way to do things if you were going to be serious about a coin collection, and of course he was right.

I’ve collected other things in my life, from tractors to NASCAR memorabilia. I’ve been more careful about it; age and maturity will do that to you. But I was thinking this morning that I have been slack or even careless on other things that I have collected without realizing it. I’m talking about my collection of hours, days, and years.

In Genesis, chapter five, there is a phrase that is repeated several times throughout the chapter. I’ll start with verse five: “And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.” This chapter traces the patriarchs of Genesis, from Adam to Noah, and after a brief description of each one’s life, it adds the phrase I mentioned. All of their days were x amount of years, and they died. I believe with all my heart that the Bible does not mince words, and each one is there for a purpose. The ‘days’ that they lived were for a set amount of years, and then they died. It is important to note the days.

Whether I’ve realized it or not, my life has been a collection of days. I can’t recall each one that I’ve lived. Some I can; specifically the good ones, or so they seemed to be at the time. There were bad days I do not wish to recall, and there were mundane days that seemingly had no purpose or meaning and were therefore forgettable as merely days that passed into non-discernable memories.

But each day of my life has begun with a promise, with a purpose and an opportunity to be lived and enjoyed. Each day is a gift and therefore a blessing from God to be treasured and should end with it being considered as having been time well-spent. Jesus taught that we should live life one day at a time, and sometimes I forget that. I get caught up in wanting the week to go by faster so I can get through to the weekend or to a holiday. In so doing I place things in my day-collection that have no purpose or reason for being found there.

I continuously need to be reminded that I need to embrace each day as a golden opportunity for reaching goals, for finding a purpose, for enhancing my spirituality, for showing kindness to others, for obtaining personal growth, and for refining my relationship to God. At the end of the day, these are the things that really seem to count as worthy of remembering and adding to my collection.

The Blame Game

Have you ever had one of those days that seem to stick with you for years and years, despite the seeming inconsequence of it? I have one of those days in my memory bank, and it has occasionally been known to resurface. I’ve conjured it up myself at times to remind me not only of how much I have been blessed, but how hard it is to appreciate what you have when you’ve neglected to be thankful for it.

I was walking into the plant in which I used to work many years ago. It was early in the morning and I had arrived for work wondering how I had gotten there. Not to work, mind you, but in the situation and place in life that I found myself in at that particular moment. I walked down the corridor to the clock that I used to punch my time-card, and suddenly I became very depressed, and the day had barely begun. Was this all that life had to offer me? Is this what I had expected to become when I was young and full of hopes and dreams? It was definitely not an ‘It is well with my soul’ moment.

As the morning rolled on I did what is natural to do when you find yourself in that particular mindset – I started a mental list of all the people and situations I could blame for being in my supposed predicament. The shackles and chains of what ifs and if onlys were all too happy to oblige me, and I sank deeper and deeper into a funk that choked away any chance I had of being in a good mood for the remainder of the day.

The blame game, we call it, or sailing the wide-open seas of victimhood. My parents did not support me enough when I was growing up. My ex-wife ruined my whole life despite the short time we were together. My boss did not appreciate my talents. I would have graduated from college, but my professors had it out for me from the very start. The list went on and on and I found it easier and easier to add names, places, and events to it. Instead of enjoying another day of living that God had given me, I became bitter and despondent.

It is the oldest game in the book and has been around since not very long after man was first created. In Genesis, check out what Adam had to say when he got caught doing wrong and his world began to crumble, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” It didn’t stop there, listen to Eve’s take on the situation, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” The cause for wrongdoing was sent right down the line and none of the parties wanted to accept the blame that lay squarely on their own shoulders. It is much easier to blame others when we fall or fail. It feels better, but it does not change the facts of the matter.

The charade continues today in every facet of our society. What appears to be missing is that we no longer want to be accountable or take responsibilities for our actions. When we were kids playing softball and we would pop-out; we would call for a ‘do-over’. In golf if we make a bad tee-shot, it is a ‘mulligan’ that we lobby for. But those things should not be expected in our day-to-day lives. Once we learn to live with the consequences of our bad choices, then we have a shot at reaching the elusive goal of maturity. Hopefully a lesson is learned and experience gained that will enable us to do a better job when the next opportunity presents itself.

Although I remember the day clearly, I cannot recall what brought about an end to the funk that I fell into that morning. But it passed. There were more opportunities waiting for me down the road and once I learned to recognize them, I took a chance and pursued a different path. Sometimes the choices were hard and sometimes I made the wrong move and found myself having to back-track. But I kept going. Things are still not perfect for me today and I still have my ups and downs. But I keep going. Life is funny like that.

Each day of our lives should begin filled with glorious hope for an opportunity to try something new. We should always look towards the future and cease to dwell on negative things in our past. And we should learn to shoulder the blame when we make a mistake and simply move on to a new opportunity that can often be found lurking right around the next corner.