Hawaii 2010

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

The third cup of coffee

Ship Island Ms.

Sitting on our back porch listening to the chorus of birds in the early morning cool, sipping the last cup of coffee, preparing for our trip to the gym to move, lift and stretch, it is a beautiful spring day in Arizona.

A friend gave us a Topsy Turvy tomato hanging grower and we are watching our plantlings begin to grown for an eventural harvest. Our first venture into growing something in a long time.

Our museum palo verde is preparing to blossom its little yellow flowers. At just five years old it has two masaive truncks coming out of the ground that are 10 inches wide and we are wondering just how big it will get.

Yesterday was tax preperation day and a meeting with some advisors about getting ready for retirement for Laura in five years. Like many, the flat market has broken the rule of 72s for us and we need something to improve. I am amazed at how much our life changed after we moved west and bought real estate and got an empty nest. Glimmers of hope. But the real treasure is life, health and a morning like this.

Friday, March 30, 2012

More, please; and thank You for thus far

A meditative flower arrangement at Rainbow acres in the growing barn.

I had an early morning breakfast at Denny's with friends. This is the Denny's where I had my first heart problem in 2000, it was a walking heart attack OK, but like a dummy I ignored the signs.

Attack #2 was 2007, in the middle of the night, in which I showered and drove myself to the ER. Dummy again, duh!

Attack #3 was one year ago April Fool's Day, afternoon after returning from the driving range after hitting a bucket of balls, no fool this time, I called 911. Began a relationship with a new cardiologist since I went to the nearest hospital where my old cardiologist does not practice.

Intervention #1 was one month later, when he opened a narrowing artery in the widow maker artery in the rear of my heart.

Intervention #2 was in December when I failed a stress test and had more work done.

So, at Denny's I thanked God for another year, even though 2011 was not a good year medically. Then I thanked Him for the medical interventions and the nutritional and supplementing advice I have added to my fight against heart disease. Thirdly, I drove through my old neighbor hood where I lived for seven years with such pleasure.

I thanked God for those years and that beautiful roomy house on the cul-de-sac. while realizing that in my life I often have to give things I love up, as I will one day give up my life in this present realm. So my fourth prayer was a prayer for more time to enjoy, preach, teach, see my family grow. Amen, Amen.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"As your poets have said"

Come Lord Jesus!

"Cretans are always liars, beasts, and gluttons". Thus I quote the Apostle Paul in Titus.....Now that's racial stereotyping, even if he is quoting one of their own people.

I suffered collateral damage recently, when trying to illustrate how the doctrine of eternal conscious torment had grown during the pre-reformation times to be something even Paul would not recognize.

I inadvertently offended a person who thought I was church bashing, and I am saddened.First because my background as a Presbyterian taught me to bash other beliefs with vim and vigor, and I often return to that habit, as habits are hard to break.

Second, I am saddened because truth and growth can not really be attained without critically looking at the things we have been taught, and even when it is done in love it is still painful to admit you believed a "doctrine of man" instead of a divine revelation.

Now I have never been to Crete, but I would not I would not desire to quote Paul's quote, or to practice ethnic slurs or to use Paul as an example of how it's OK to slam people and cultures.

Since this blog refers to my growing up southern, and sometimes engages in a bit of judgment against the southern ways of thinking, I guess I should renew my desire to be more like Paul usually is, "let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth but only that which builds up" (my translation from memory of some verse somewhere".

Dear Cretans, how you doing with those nagging habits? Learning to tell the truth more?, acting like gentleman in public? Getting those buffet splurges when you feed at the trough for hours under control? Praise the Lord, bless you, see you in church on Sunday?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A conflagration of crazyness ahead

You can feel the tensions rising, the stakes of this election have partisanship boiling and race relations reeling. The 24 hour news cycle churns the pot, the instant connection to everything world wide makes the changes more fearful.

The Mayan calendar clicks to the end, the end times books have found America in the book of Isaiah, and I can't stop hooking my golf ball to the left. All signs....

......that I may need to stop reading my instant news feeds, the prime part of the election news, and just sit quietly before the Lord while I ponder the need to stock up my cabinets with staples, or just trust that this mania will subside.

My whole ministry career has been overshadowed with "millenial madness".

Is there a little country church, filled with people of all ages, where I can live out my days tending a backyard garden and walking in the woods and sitting by still waters???? He dreamed, wishfully. I would probably miss my Xoom.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Serendipity of facing north

Sunrise, sunset,sunrise, sunset, quickly flow the day, one season following another...

We have friends who love sitting out in the back yard at the end of the day. They believe that a south facing patio created the most ambiance for the evening sun and for the morning sun as well.

When we bought this home 8 years ago, we were under a time and budget crunch and had no freedom to think of such things. So we found the most acceptable house and bought it. We feel comfortable here although some things were a compromise, like no high ceilings.

It faces south, which gives us a north facing patio, which we use in the spring. Here is the serendipity. In our bedroom we have a large sliding door to the patio, which has nice louvered slats, and our bed faces east, so every morning for the last 8 years we wake up to the rising sun, clearly visible over our side fence and behind the neighbors patio. I cannot tell you how much joy greeting the rising sun and sipping coffee in the comfort of the bed as its redness lightens and another day begins.

Monday, March 26, 2012

No little people, No little places

These are not little trees.

This was a Francis Shaeffer title I have always loved. I spent some time digitizing photos from Jim B.s family snapshots to make them large and project something of the journey and joys and sorrows of one man.

It is like the subtitle of this blog, every persons life impacts so many others that the world would be a different place if we were not born.

His family paid high tribute to his integrity, hard work, passionate play and loving committment to his wife as she lost her health.

Just a handful of our church folks came because they did not really know Jim like his neighbors and me, his pastor. I guess this is why my position gives me such a sense of the big picture in the body of Christ. Jim was not a Christian leader, a deep thinker, just one of the sheep, but he lived, he really lived, because he loved those around him.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Gym to Grocery Shock

Working out in Maui. 2010, can't wait for summer vacation to have more vaca pics.

Our Saturday hour at the gym is pleasant, not crowded, relaxed. I always observe the newbies who have waited too long to start getting in shape and I applaude their efforts to learn to move and stretch and lift heavy things.

I notice the progress of many that I see month to month, and the work ethic of young men and women who are fit and want to stay that way. Its a good thing.

Then I go to our large grocery with Laura to stock up a bit for her return to the world of elementary school, and I cannot help but notice the obesity, the extreme lack of muscle tone, the poor buying habits.

I sometimes wonder in the judgment if we are shown how much better our life would have been if we had maintained the temple with more good habits and physical effort.

I am loving the philosophy I get from some of my educational sites that stress the joy of moving, the freedom of physical lifting and stretching without turning the whole thing into a dreary drudge. I struggle to get there from time to time but always enjoy the time and leave thankful for my health.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Good Goats

An android phone pic of Miss Laura at 10,000 ft on Mt. Haleakale, Maui.

I am reading a delightful book by three good Catholics who desire to heal the image of God that many Catholics have developed. I was told and have no reason to doubt that this book is on the approved reading list for good Catholics and that is good news.

I believe we become like the image of the God we believe in over time. Look at Muslims as an example, angry vengeful god, creates angry vengeful people. Look at some Christians who are very proud and judgemental, or very selfish and uninterested in the needs of those who suffer. Points made.

Jesus is the best picture God ever had made, He is the express image of the Father, but in some texts of the Gospels He is finishing the Father's work with the chosen people and is quite ungracious, so even in this we must understand just what changes God is ushering in with the New Covenant.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

We want a Cook's Parade

Annually our men prepare a large breakfast for the man and then the ladies. Today was ladies day and we focused on our mission trip to Mexico and heard some fine music. The men do a fine job of preparing the room and the meal is sumptious, egg and sausage casarole, sausage patties, fruit, waffles, orange juice, coffee. A great day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Remembering Jim B

Dear friends from other parts of the country, you just have to come here to see the crazy cactus varieties we have in the desert, this dude had some kind of giant head at the top.

Sometimes the life we live toward the end contains great suffering. I met Jim when called to comfort him. His wife died in her sleep and we stood by the bed and prayed.

He came, joined, and loved our church and was finding new friends and enjoying life, when a small plane crash took his son and wife and passenger.

Lawyers were hired by various parties, and Jim's life became a legal nightmare representing his son's estate.

He battled sleepless nights, less than kind thoughts toward lawyers and estranged family members.....and it is over, and he slipped through the door to the next world.

He last came to my office to give me a book by Billy Graham, Nearing Home, telling me how much it helped him, that book became the source for my January ministry which blessed others, and of course he did not know how close to home he was. I will miss him as a great friend.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No place like home

Added another kitchen decoration over the sink. Very beautiful. Our new kitchen is such a pleasure in every way. We are tending to keep things organized better and to cook at home more and hang out in there more.

We are about to take the same cabinets and redo the Laundry room for a uniform look with a new counter top.

Then comes the bathrooms which have aged with the house, and that's the story of home ownership.

Monday, March 19, 2012

When the wind blows

Some parts of the valley had hail stones collect to cover the ground, we had a nice long set of showers as people in the northest were enjoying sunshine and springlike conditions, and it was so nice to burn a few more logs in the fireplace while enjoying the afternoon.

I do lots of second marriages, some widows, some divorced. I do not believe marriage is a holy sacrament and cannot be dissolved. The RC church has done untold damage with that view. Jesus, I am told, was tightening up the Old Covenant rules when he spoke of marriage and divorce but I think we have misunderstood His emphasis if we go hardline on this.

I performed a ceremony for two really nice people on St. Paddy's Day and I feel that they will be more secure under this covenant contract than just living together.

Just heard of a sweet lady who passed away whose family never quite accepted the second husband into their circle. It was sad. Companionship is sweet, and for some sweet the second time.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Hope of a Restored Creation

Father is an artist, and spring and summer show His love of beauty and color.

For three weeks I have spoken about shrinking the doctrine of the final end of the wicked away for "eternal conscious torment", to include other possibilities, ie, annihilation, or ultimate reconciliation.

It is an emotional topic and many are fully invested in the views they have been taught. So I shared some of the hope I have derived from my studies and shared the larger hope I have been researching.

Today I shared that once you see the thematic importance of restoration, and realize that God moves from age to age and not from time to eternity, you have the wiggle room for God to be both just and merciful, not only in this evil eon we call the age of grace, but in the eons to come, when God may release those who have realized what they have done to harm others and self in this life, and bow the knee, late, and chastised as Father continued to be the reconciler of the lost sons and daughters of Adam. Then sin and death and hades and everything become God's all in all, for all the coming eons.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

People aren't asking and People aren't telling

How's this for a backyard view?

I have suspected this for quite a while but Christianity Today reports that engaging people with spiritual conversation has become more difficult and is resented in most parts of our nation. The classic "If you were to die tonight, and God were to ask, Why should I let you into my heaven, what would you answer?" may not be the best lead in to a helpful conversation, so says the article.

Accordingly, the number of Christians who actually engaged people in spiritual conversations on a daily or weekly basis has diminished a great deal as well.

Part of this I think is our rapidly expanding world of information, and our perceptions of the differences between religious beliefs among Americans.

I do not see this article as particularly alarming, for the ways in which God brings people to think about spiritual things is amazing and changing and always effective. Sometimes the way in which we confront people or threaten them does more to set back the cause than we expect.

This tension in the last few decades between a God who loves you and is ready to burn your forever and ever if you do not respond in a timely and proper fashion, may not actually resemble the gospel Jesus lived, and the gospel Paul preached. God may be much more interested in justice and compassion than manners and sin management.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Middle East

Ah, springtime and golf in our perfect weather. Surely my life has fallen in pleasant places.

So different than we are in the Christian west, in dress, custom and language, the strange figures of their written language, the passion with which they gather in anger and protest.

The violence in this country and in the region breaks my heart and I have no idea what to do about it except pray.

Heard a quote from Albert Einstien who knew and understood nuclear power when he said that if we pursue WWIII, the WWIV will be fought with sticks and stones. God help us to help the middle east to value life and peace more than power and violence.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

To a watery grave, often!!!

Yesterday I enjoyed a rare free round of Golf at Ocotillo Golf resort. You hit over or near water on most of the holes and it does something to your brain.

I have the physical ability to execute a good effective swing, but the mental aspects of the game affect that physical ability, and that is exactly why Golf can be for many a spiritual lesson, because we use the same types of dynamics in getting our mind and body to walk after the spirit and not fulfill the fears or the desires of the flesh.

It was a long frustrating walk in the sunshine with I loved/hated all afternoon. Made two birdies on the front nine.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Passing on a talent

This is a piano teacher and her son, playing together. It is a picture of what family is all about, training and discipline and skill and the enjoyment of life, and music, and beauty. Each musician at this mini concert to a formal bow before the mostly elderly audience, and they were charmed by the performances and the discipline.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Brain Fog

The wife of a friend was going through her High School papers, and others noticed she had drawing skill, so after 40 years she took a class and is a budding late life artist in the field of pen and ink. Way to go! Great work, keep it up.

I am battling a brain overload, or an aging issue, or an organizational struggle, or something.

I have always been a good multitasker, carrying bunches of unrelated thoughts in my mind and having a kind of internal reminder clock that told me where I needed to be and what my to do list was, and all that is eroding lately.

My Zoom tablet reminds me of meetings, but I must remember to put in the dates. I missed a meeting on Saturday that I had reminded myself internally not to miss.

The present demands seems to be erasing rather than prioritizing the other demands.

I started preaching Sunday and forget I had promised our brilliant flutist another song. Gone, erased, and no one stopped me, out of politeness or pity, though I caught some complaints after the forgetful deed.

I am aware of it, and doing more to combat it.........What was I talking about?

Monday, March 12, 2012

You continue to work after retirement

I gave the invocation at an awards banquet that honors people who volunteer and continue to work to make our world, and community a better place.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Flute Lesson

This is the week of Irish and Celtic Music for me, in preparation for St. Patrick's Day. This is an Irish Wooden Flute we heard last year.

Daniel P. left America to return to Romania, with a 90 percent pay cut, to encourage the churches in his country, to evangelize, to serve God as a lay preacher, the son and grandson of preachers, with Ramona, his wife, involved in a medical and dental ministry.

Eight years ago he began learning flute to play with a church orchestra and the passion for the instrument caused him to study and practice until today he is widely respected by his ability to interpret a song with feeling and skill. I agree.

After playing with his professional level instrument he played with the student level flute I bought for my daughter 25 years ago, and it sounded wonderful.

Romania has deep problems with the lack of jobs in the rural areas, a low standard of living, a loss of young people desparate for better opportunity, but still work to be done, and Daniel and Ramona have the heart, and his flute brings in crowds to hear his wide variety of songs, and then to hear a message of hope.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Good Day

The mighty Mississippi River in plantation country in Southern Louisiana.

Saturdays when the Grand Kids are here are special. We drink coffee and relax and read the paper or scan the E news. Then waffles with real Maple Syrup. Today's were too heavy, but still tasty.

Then we played an hour of golf and the chip and putt as Ben began to learn how to swing his new junior set of Callaways. He hit some fine shots and is working at the putting stroke with less enthusiasm.

Shannon has a piano voice recital this afternoon we will enjoy along with the Ocotillo Village residents. Spring like weather has everyone out and walking, biking, in the sunshine. These are the moments of life we remember.

Friday, March 9, 2012

When its Breezy

I hear that Callaway has built a basketball dynasty these decades. We struggle to a poor season but had lots of charactar building experiences.

Swing it easy. A piece of advice I have been unable to obey for many decades. I should make up a new phrase. When its breezy, turn your car around and leave the course.

Looking forward to showing my grandson the golf starter set I got him this week. Maybe helping him get started will be more fun that the struggle I had today on the links.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

America's Team

The Dolpins greatest season occured during my college years and we loved them.

I am not much of a football fan. I wait for the playoffs. I loved the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, and the Indianapolis Colts when they were winning.

My senior year in college I was given tickets to three Ole Miss Games, and watched Archie Manning play. I also saw Pistol Pete Maravich shoot 60 points at an Old Miss Basketball game. Archie and his future wife were there.

I suffered through Archie and the New Orleans Aints, but was so inspired to see the way he loved his boys and his family and kept up his church going, (I don't know his heart), and played football in the backyard with his boys, teaching them the fundamentals.

This is a sensitive subject for me because I failed my own boys by being too busy to do that.

I loved the Payton Manning years with the Colts. Thank you Payton, may you get healed and give some other team the benefit of your skills.

So...you know your getting old the when the children of your favorite retired quarterback are getting near retirement from the sport, and by the way, Phoenix is a nice place to live.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Are differing views worth holding?

A dummy prisoner stuck in the LaHaina prison for visitors to view, forever and ever and ever and ever.

Christian Smith wrote a powerful and balanced book last year called, The Bible Made Impossible, in which he demonstrated that we have never arrived at one view in many things fairly important in the Christian life, and that using the Bible as a unified life manual is very difficult because frankly it is a progressive revelation that causes us to turn away from its earlier parts and leave them behind.

In other words the bible is a revelation narrative, and what role Jesus plays in the main and most important part, and although we still have differing views in some of the details, we are unified that he is the Savior and Redeemer of the world.

I have been studying a view over the last several years that believes the Churches embrace of the doctrine of "eternal conscience torment",has led to violence, war, genocide, holocaust, hatred, abuse, and so many types of evil done in the name of God that it must be seriously reexamined as a fundamental of the faith. Is this a view worth defending or questioning, or is it just too woven into the fabric of Christianity to change?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Let your speech be gracious

Take the high road when possible.

Rush Limbaugh is in the news. I listened to him faithfully in the late 90s during the Clinton Era. Very funny and politically savvy. But I really think our speech must be salted with grace if we claim it is the gift of God.

I do not want to pay for lots of things people want the government to pay for, like cancer surgery for life long smokers who have not quit, or stomach stapling for the super obese. But, I also remember how Rush bragged about how easy it is to lose weight when he is a poster boy for rotundaty. Ouch! that sounded ungracious of me.

The vitriol in our divided society can suck Christians into places that compromise our desire to be salt and light.

I also agree with ORielly that the legitimate church/state issue got turned against conservative by turning it into a woman's rights issue.

I am also pretty sure that if either Israel or Iran make a first strike, there will be lots of new crosses in the military cemetery's of the world, and this is the thing Jesus tried to show us a better way about, in speech, in action. God help us.

Monday, March 5, 2012

17th Annual Choir Festival

I have been to nine of these, although Laura reminds me we went to Disneyland one year.
Each choir sings two numbers, bells perform, All Choirs gather to sing and close the service. It is quite inspiring to be in a large choir like that, and I enjoyed it, but am always glad to get past it, for the next two months are Arizona's true shirtsleeve and outdoor time. Bring on the springtime Lord.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Deserts must be studied slowly

The cactus, home to many critters who eventually kill it. A Jumping Cholla light by the afternoon sun. The early moon shining against a mountain peak. Click to enlarge, and enjoy.

After over 2 decades out west you can get very used to the rather boring look of a desert. When you have a camera, the beauty must be searched for in shadows and shapes and tiny blossoms in the desert. Here are a few of the closeups I enjoyed.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Day in the Superstition Mountains

What fun. I hiked the Hohokam Indian hieroglyphic trail hike this afternoon. 2 hours up and a bit less down the mountian. I took 200 pictures and enjoyed being alone at the destination along with some bees and chipmunks. There is usually running water as it is a runoff valley for several ranges, but it was dry and mossy.

I did this 20 years ago with a youth group, and I have a picture somewhere that I can dig up that shows my young sons resting. I think the 20 years made this one a bit more exhausting.

Remembering Doug T

/When I zoomed this picture I saw a couple who had swum out to that little rock island and were climbing around and I wished for a moment to be young again and bold enough to try something like that.

I keep in touch with my denomination from time to time, and read an article by one of my seminary roommates, Doug, who was diagnosed with ALS last year. Of all the diseases we face this slow loss of function is one of the cruelest.

I had just watched a video this week by a former preacher named Ed Dobson who is chronicling his own life with ALS, especially the emotional toll on a man who loved public speaking and has lost a life where the phone rang constantly.

Doug and I came from different backgrounds, he was a Bible college nerdy type of guy who studied all the time. One day the discussion of finding a mate came up and I shared my philosophy of dating to see who fits and to learn about potential mates. Doug assured me that he was praying in his future wife and that dating was a waste of time. In fact, he said, God has already told him who he would marry. He wrote her name and sealed it in an envelope and told me to see if it came true in future years. I never did.

He has, life me, spent his life as a pastor teacher, did in fact have a wife and kids, and now, he shared his intention to trust God through the tunnel he is entering with this wasting disease. I found his email and sent my prayers and blessings, and today, my day away from the office, I am going out to enjoy our spring like weather and treat today like the gift it truly is. Thanks Paul, for the TEDS video that reminded me again to be grateful for each day.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Widening my circle of friends

A group shot at the recent Mexico shelter construction.

Most believers are theological snobs. We hang out with an approved list of thinkers, writers, teachers and have a list we look at with lesser enthusiasm.

When I went on my personal search to rediscover who God is and what the gospel is, I found myself reading outside my box, and being blessed.

Eventually I decided to spend time at conferences other than those blessed by my group. Part of that was because as an independent pastor, I really no longer had a group, but part of it was to see how other groups functioned.

I did notice that people in a particular denomination or movement had their own set of proper talk, heroes, boxes ect., just the fact that they were different was refreshing to me, and helpful in my own journey.

In my series on the Grace of God, I read Church Swindoll, a Dallas Dispensational, and Phillip Yancy, a bit of a counter culture hip generation writer, and I was just given Joseph Prince, a mega church young dude out on the charismatic edge,...and I felt that tinge of snobbishness. I am going to give it a good reread from a year or two ago. It's a process, this growth in grace.