Happy Thoughts

Providing Christmas cheer. I received an email from American Patriot Daily News Network, whose tagline is “Helping You Live the American Dream.” It began with these happy thoughts for the holidays:

“It’s like handing your enemy a loaded shotgun — and then wrapping your mouth around the barrel…Buried in the sea of refugees flooding the United States lurk the bloodthirsty ISIS thugs who stand ready to bring the barbaric brand of terrorism to our shores. And unless you act today, I’m worried this madness will not stop until our country starts pulling severed heads off the streets and dead bodies out of the rubble.”

Apparently, to stop the impending carnage I must sign their petition and send them money. The only question is…who exactly are you?

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At the Dentist’s

This morning I had my semi-annual dental cleaning. Lonnie has been my hygienist for at least ten years. She’s very gentle…which is such a contrast to her predecessor.

The previous hygienist came from a long line of prison wardens, but broke from the family business. She always attacked my teeth with a vengeance, intermittently asking me, “Is it safe?” She’s the only hygienist to keep a barber’s strop hanging from the chair, which she uses throughout the ordeal to sharpen her instruments. Her goal, which she always accomplished, was to reduce me to tears. That always made her smile in an evil sort of way.

The cover story is that she left to have a baby, but my understanding is that shadowy government operatives offered the chance to refine her techniques at Guantanamo. In fact, I heard that her efforts yielded information which led us to bin Laden. So in a small way, I feel I contributed to history and national security and should, perhaps, receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom for my suffering.

Anyway, I do appreciate Lonnie. Getting my teeth cleaned is, now, a somewhat pleasant experience. (I may have exaggerated somewhat about her predecessor.)

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“We Salute the Rank, Not the Person.”

winters-sobel

I grew up with a deep respect for the office of President. It’s how I was raised, in a different time. It doesn’t mean I’m a fan of everyone who holds that office–by no means. But each one has been THE American president–MY president. I think of the line from Band of Brothers, when a rival of Major Winters tries to walk past without acknowledging him. Winters stops Captain Sobel and admonishes, “We salute the rank, not the man.”

I personally choose to believe that every president has had the country’s best interests at heart. They also all lie, possess enormous helpings of ego and ambition, and exhibit numerous other characteristics a Christian must label as sin…yet each one is MY president. I can dislike, even detest, certain policies and actions they advocate (abortion and torture come to mind)…but still MY president.

So I have great difficulty with the way so many people, Christians and nonChristians, demonize and mock President Obama. It goes way beyond what was directed at GW Bush. One Christian lady here on Facebook recently blustered, “I call him Lucifer.” The way I see people talking about President Obama far exceeds the vigorous policy discourse we cherish in America. He’s a Muslim, a communist, a nazi, not really an American, out to destroy Christianity, the anti-Christ, a traitor, against everything our country stands for. Such baseless demonization is, to me…unbecoming of a Christian. It grieves my heart.

That’s not how I was raised. And I refuse to give in to it (though I’ve crossed my own lines sundry times). Whether the next president is President Clinton or President Trump, that person will be MY president–and YOUR president. I will have profound disagreements with either one. But IF you choose to believe the Bible, that person will be the authority “which God has established.” It’s a biblical concept I don’t understand, and I want to point at all kinds of tyrants and say, “But what about…?” Yet it’s right there, in Romans. Deal with it.

Though I will voice my policy differences with conviction and with every writing tool at my disposal, including heaping spoonfuls of sarcasm, I’m gonna salute the Office of President. And I can’t do that while demonizing the person who holds the title. The Presidency belongs to all Americans, not just to whatever party occupies the White House. As an American, respecting the Presidency seems like the patriotic thing to do. And as a Christian, it just seems right.

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The Woman in the Burger Joint

12346569_10153453637563558_1718509235430568008_nPam and I ate at Five Guys (Times Corners) on Saturday. As we ate, a young woman–late 20s, I figured–came in wearing a hijab and what I will describe, in no doubt unlearned lingo, as Middle Eastern attire. As she picked up her order, one of the employees, a young black fellow, engaged her in brief conversation. She responded with a big smile and abundant personality.

As she ate, I kept glancing her way. She was just an ordinary young woman eating a cheeseburger and fries while reading a book. Yet she also represented the fears and hatred of so many Americans. I considered going over and asking her if people in Fort Wayne ever gave her a hard time about being Muslim, but I didn’t. I assume she endures some of that, like derogatory remarks thrown her way from passing cars.

Another thing occurred to me. Everybody in that restaurant knew she was (most likely) a Muslim. Nobody knew I was a Christian.

As the woman finished her meal and headed for the door, the young black man behind the counter called out, “Thanks for coming, ma’am.” He didn’t say that to anyone else–just her. I’m going to guess that he was trying, in a small way, to compensate for the attitude of so much of society. Good for him. We should all think that way.

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Reporting from the War on Christmas Frontlines

Please, please, enough with the, “I know it’s politically incorrect, but I’m gonna say Merry Christmas.” Let me just stipulate in advance that, yes, you are a remarkably spiritual person, as is everyone who says Merry Christmas. It is, indeed, the mark of a true Christian. In fact, there is no better way to win the world to Christ than by shouting “Merry Christmas!” on every street corner. But I think people have gotten the idea, and we can back off just a bit without undermining the Great Commission. Some people might even view us Christians as a little less annoying.

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Does God Guarantee Our Safety?

insanity-of-godNik Ripken spent six years ministering in Somalia, including during the Black Hawk Down episode. When he went, there was not a single church in all of Somalia, and not enough Christians in the country to fill a small church. When he left, there were only enough to fill a pew. His organization would feed a village, and the next day, Muslim rebels would attack and slaughter villagers BECAUSE they accepted help from a Western organization. Any Western organization was assumed to be Christian, and anyone working for them was suspected of being a Christian (which is why Ripken almost entirely employed Somalis with solid Muslim credentials).

Ripken would share his work with other Christian organizations. They would acknowledge the need, but would decline to get involved because of safety and security concerns. He understood, but….

One of the most profound spiritual experiences of Ripken’s life was when he and two other Westerners shared a clandestine Lord’s Supper with four Somali Christians. A few weeks later, all four Somalis were ambushed and killed in separate, simultaneous attacks. Death threats followed, and nearly all Western relief workers pulled out; within two months, their number plummeted from 70 to 4.

Ripken writes, “We stayed because we were convinced that Jesus was still there. Long ago, Jesus had explained that whatever we, as His followers, did for ‘the least of these’–the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the naked, and the persecuted–we did to Him. We believed that we were ministering to Jesus in the least of these throughout Somaliland.”

But eventually, he, too, left–in despair.

Ripken’s experience in Somalia led him to ask, as he states in the introduction, “Does God, in fact, promise his children safety?” He says he grew up with “the idea that obedience to God’s call would result in a life of safety and security.” He was told, as I remember hearing myself, “The safest place to be is right in the center of God’s will.”

To answer that question, Ripken decided to interview Christians who had lived under persecution–Russians during the communist years, and present-day Christians in China, Muslim nations, and elsewhere. Over a period of years, he visited many countries and interviewed nearly 1000 Christians who had lived under persecution. He tells many incredible stories in “The Insanity of God,” the best Christian book I’ve read this year. I highly recommend it. The book blew me away.

In China, Ripken encountered Christians who asked him if people in other countries knew about Jesus. That’s how isolated they were. Few house-church leaders had their own Bible. House-church leaders would meet clandestinely, and before leaving, they would rip up a Bible and give each house-church leader one complete book to take home. Ripken saw this happen.

Going to prison for three years was extremely common for Chinese leaders, almost an expected right of passage–the seemingly inevitable result of obedience to God. They viewed prison as their seminary. One large house-church movement, when Ripken visited, had over 400 members in prison at that time. Christians lost jobs, families were separated, and they faced incredible suffering and hardship.

Does obedience to God guarantee our safety? Absolutely not. But among these terribly “unsafe” persecuted Christians, Ripken discovered a dimension to their faith that was lacking in the West. They were partaking in the sufferings of the Lord–not the little things we in America inflate into a War on Christianity, but hardcore suffering and persecution. Although they knew obedience to Christ was unsafe, they obeyed anyway.

Ripken writes, “Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the Risen Jesus.”

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A Merry Starbucks Christmas

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Starbucks is drawing criticism from Christians for putting coffee in plain red cups bearing the Starbucks logo. Although the color indirectly calls attention to Christmas, please DO NOT commend the company, because it doesn’t go far enough–the cups do not include the word “Christmas.” This, obviously, constitutes a total rejection of our Lord.

Therefore, as Christians, we MUST CONDEMN STARBUCKS. This will cause Starbucks employees and customers across the world to want to become Christians. If Starbucks will no longer carry the banner of Christianity, then America is doomed to the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. So rise up in holy protest against Starbucks in order to fulfill the Great Commission in our lifetime!

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The Line Outside the Oval Office

port-a-potty-lines

You have the president, then the vice president, then the Speaker of the House. There seems to be some confusion as to whether Paul Ryan, as Speaker, is second in line to the President, or third in line. So let’s clear this up.

There is a line at the Porta-Potty. The President is INSIDE the Porta-Potty. Outside are the Vice President, who will enter when the President leaves, and behind him is the Speaker, who is having doubts about how long he can hold it.

The LINE has only two persons. The Vice President is FIRST in line, and the Speaker is SECOND in line. The President is NOT IN THE LINE at all. He is inside, which is where the others want to go, literally.

So the Speaker is not THIRD in line, he’s SECOND in line. Consider yourself informed.

But please don’t ask me to explain how the British royalty system works.

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A Commandment Kids Can Love

<Alert: amateur theological musings ahead.>

As far as I can tell, the Israelites didn’t observe the Sabbath until Moses descended Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments. I imagine, as Moses read through the commandments, people accepted the first three as no brainers–no other gods, no idols, no using God’s name in vain. Duh.

Then Moses read the fourth commandment, which was new information.

“What? We can’t do any work on the Sabbath? One day out of seven, we just sit around doing nothing? Are you serious?”

That’s what the adults said. I’m guessing that teens throughout the tribes went, “Awesome! We’ve got the coolest god EVER!”

Every sabbath–no chores. It said so very plainly–you can’t make your sons and daughters do any work. Play time!

That’s what I would have thought, anyway.

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The Untold Danger of Time Travel

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I hate to spoil every time travel movie you’ve ever seen, but your misconceptions must be corrected. For the sake of science.

When Michael J. Fox goes back in time in “Back to the Future,” he goes back to the exact same location. Just like what happens in every other time-travel movie. But the thing is, it’s NOT the exact same location. The earth, in its journey around the sun, was not in the same location in 1955 that it was in 1985. It fact, it was millions of miles away the earth’s orbit covers nearly 600 million miles).

So rather than find himself outside the Hill Valley courthouse in 1955 (or 1885 or 2015, depending on the movie), Marty McFly would actually find himself in outer space gasping for air.

This, of course, applies to the Terminator movies, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, miscellaneous Star Trek movies and TV episodes, and the entire “Time Tunnel” TV show from my childhood.

Whether you go back or forward in time, you’ll end up somewhere in the dead of space. So when somebody invites you to take a ride in their time machine, I advise caution. Just my opinion.

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