Showing posts with label Current events. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Current events. Show all posts

Monday, September 3, 2012

And the Winner Is. . . Us!

Last evening, I heard a car hit another something or other as I was about to retire for bed.  It seemed like it was close by, but not right in front of my residence.  So I thought I'd check it out and see what's going on.  Mobile cellular telephone in hand, of course, in order to contact the authorities.

Wouldn't you know. . . I and some of my neighbors found a car that had been sideswiped while it had been parked at the curb on the street.  Not nice.  Before I knew it, here came the driver of the car that hit the parked damaged car, with alcohol on his breath, confessing to hitting the parked car with his own car. 

By now half the block was awake, and either there where I was with this man by the damaged parked car, or walking towards the spot.  Lots of witnesses to his confession.  He even said he had been drinking alcohol before he got in his car to drive it.  To top it off, he's a three tour veteran of the Iraq peacekeeping operation.  Not a good scene for him, but far better than to do a hit and run.  Truth is always the way to go.

Saying he was sorry, he walked back to his car up the street.  From there, he was met with a California Highway Patrol officer and directed back to the spot where he hit the parked car.  Upon confession to the officer, he was put into the patrol car and taken away apparently to be booked on DUI/DWI and property damage to another vehicle charges. 

The parked car's owner appeared, letting the assembled crowd know of his presence.  Fire Department and tow truck assistance made their way to the scene, doing the mop up work that needed to be done to return the roadway to pre-accident condition.  Good job by law enforcement, Fire and tow truck operations.  Help came as quickly as possible, and was well underway a half hour after the accident. 

The bad news here is there was a preventable accident that occurred.  The good news is that no one was hurt, and the neighborhood was paying attention to what was going on.  One of the factors in getting the neighborhood aware and involved is the recent (re)formation of the local Neighborhood Watch.  It's next meeting is tomorrow, just coincidentally at the site where the arrested driver (allegedly) hit the curb with his tire, leaving tire markings on the curb from my residence location on southward. 

This will be the fourth meeting of the Neighborhood Watch meetings where I live, and by now, the neighbors are used to getting notified of the meetings and being more aware and involved with fellow residents all along the street.  It was easy to remind them of tomorrow's meeting while they were all there watching the aftermath of the accident.  I could just say a few words, and they immediately remembered!  I expect an excellent turnout tomorrow as a result of the unfortunate accident, and the regular communications given to let residents know of the Neighborhood Watch meetings.

This is how a Neighborhood Watch, and a neighborhood is supposed to function.  When something happens, notify the authorites.  Get license plate numbers and descriptions of the driver.  Watch the scene until law enforcement arrives.  All of this was done by not just one person, but by more than one.  It's working, just the way the Community Relations Sheriff's Deputy said it would.  And I rejoice in a working, functional, healthy, reponsive community.  There's hope for this neighborhood after all!  And we're just beginning. . . It will get better than it currently is over time. 

Thanks be to God, who gives us more than we could ever imagine. . . more than we could ask or think.  Is this place Heaven?  Far from it.  But is it better than a lot of other neighborhoods where I live in my region?  By a long shot!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Heart Aches for America

Today's guest writer is none other than the Rev. Billy Graham.  He has great words of wisdom to share. 

*  *  *

July 24, 2012 - In a new prayer letter Billy Graham writes: "My heart aches for America and its deceived people. The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance."


Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

She was probably thinking of a passage in Ezekiel where God tells why He brought those cities to ruin. “Now this was the sin of ... Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).

I wonder what Ruth would think of America if she were alive today. In the years since she made that remark, millions of babies have been aborted and our nation seems largely unconcerned. Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.

Just a few weeks ago in a prominent city in the South, Christian chaplains who serve the police department were ordered to no longer mention the Name of Jesus in prayer. It was reported that during a recent police-sponsored event, the only person allowed to pray was someone who addressed “the being in the room.” Similar scenarios are now commonplace in towns across America. Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone—except God.

Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control.

My heart aches for America and its deceived people. The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance. In Jonah’s day, Nineveh was the lone world superpower—wealthy, unconcerned, and self-centered. When the Prophet Jonah finally traveled to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s warning, people heard and repented.


Read the whole thing here: http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=8813  A pilgrim's pilgrim, he. . . and he gets it that America is being deceived by the Evil One.  Refreshing to hear the truth. . . and he, like me in a recent post, knows that our God is a God of Mercy.  Indeed, his kindness leads us to repentance.    

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thirsting for Mercy

In the course of my teaching duties, I came across a most atypical young man.  This youth, incarcerated in a county youth camp like almost all of the students I have in my care, asked me a simple yet profound question.

"What word comes to mind when I say mercy?" he inquired of me. 

"Grace," I replied. 

"How is that?" he asked.

I pulled out a church business card from my pocket and gave it to him.  My church's name, by the way, is Grace Chapel - you'll find the link for it on the top right of the page here under "Links for the Journey" - so I explained to him the natural connection between these two words. 

"So what you're saying is that mercy and grace are equal - is that right?" he thoughtfully summed up.

"Essentially, yes," I replied.  "They are pretty much interchangeable words to a large degree." 

"Well, I always thought that grace and mercy were different.  Grace is being nice and stuff, and mercy is when you are really needing a way out of your spot," he countered.

"Interesting that you say that," I volleyed back to him.  "I can understand that in your life situation you have come to understand those two words that way.  But in the sense of how the Bible uses those words, they are more similar in meaning than different," I advised, praying a silent prayer that the Lord would use this situation to reveal himself and his perfect will to this young man, while asking for protection against anyone who might get upset and file a complaint with the ACLU, who has a presence in this one youth camp. . . and throughout the county camp system these days due to a recent ruling from a judge.

I looked around the room for some Webster's dictionaries.  There were none, surprisingly. . . the normal situation is to find several in each classroom.  Interesting. 

My student still verbally contending that grace and mercy are with different meaning, he reaches out to his probation officer, who is stationed in the classroom by the door - standard protocol for operating such a county camp classroom for the safety and discipline of the classroom.

"Valletine, come here!" he shouted.

The probation officer, Officer Valletine, saunters towards the student's desk with his handheld computer tablet with Internet access. 

"What you say about these two words - are they the same or different?" he readily asks.

"Oh, different," the PO replies. 

"See!  Valletine agrees with me!  You've got it wrong!" he glowered at me.

"Well, maybe on a common word usage basis, perhaps.  If you would look at a good concordance or get into the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, you'll find that in that sense I'm telling you the straight scoop."

"The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek?" he exclaimed.

"Certainly.  It sure wasn't written in English. . . only Archie Bunker believed that!" I replied. 

"What's a concordance do?" my student inquired.

"It tells you what the words mean with precision so you know what the text actually says in words you can understand and relate to," I answered. 

"Oh."  He slumped back in the chair as if in resignation, realizing there was a lot more in the world that he had never realized existed or had seen yet. 

He looks at his probation officer and asks, "You get a concordance thing up on that computer?"

"Yup, sure thing.  We can go look at one when you get out of class and see what we can find, OK?" he reassuringly replied.  

A moment of calm in my student heart was thus achieved.  Relief that he could find out what he wanted to find out.  It was important, because he was writing lyrics in his dorm time hours, and he wanted to do the best job he could in expressing himself and his yearnings for freedom and release from camp and its walled, barbed wire confinement.  But not mere physical freedom. . . the kind of spiritual freedom which is found only in Jesus Christ. "So if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed," Jesus said in John 8:36. 

*  *  *

Well, my student's question has been richoteting in my mind the last few days.  Let's answer it by looking at some applicable verses. (All in ESV unless noted otherwise)

From Hebrews 4:16:

 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Strong's Concordance lists our word "mercy" from the above passage as eleos, meaning

mercy: kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them
  1. of men towards men: to exercise the virtue of mercy, show one's self merciful
  2. of God towards men: in general providence; the mercy and clemency of God in providing and offering to men salvation by Christ
  3. the mercy of Christ, whereby at his return to judgment he will bless true Christians with eternal life
Contrast with "grace" which Strong's identifies as charis, from where we get our English word "charity":

grace
that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech

  1. good will, loving-kindness, favour
    1. of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
  2. what is due to grace
  3. the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace
  4. the token or proof of grace, benefit
    1. a gift of grace
    2. benefit, bounty
  5. thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward
From Titus 3:5-7:

5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Grace and mercy again appear in our text above.  Here, the sense is the same.  The exact same Greek words appear as before.  

Perhaps it's best to restate the above verses from Titus this way: "he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own  clemency of God in providing and offering to men Salvation by Christ, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ or Savior, so that being justified by his loving-kindness and merciful kindness which turns them to Christ we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

Clemency.  Salvation.  Lovingkindness.  Isn't that what all of humankind yearns for?  And that word "clemency" is a well used term in the prison systems across the United States. 

Finally, from James 2:13:

 Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Another way to put it is "The clemency of God in providing and offering to men Salvation by Christ triumphs over judgment."


Clemency is, of course, another way of expressing the notion of redemption, an important Biblical theme in and of itself.  Hey. . . even a major motion picture deals with the topic in a gritty but emotionally moving way: The Shawshank Redemption. 


Was I correct in my initial response to my student in what grace meant versus mercy?  Strong's does mention that part of the definition of grace is merciful kindness. . . so in that sense I got it right.  In the larger sense of the words' meanings, I needed to be clearer in my definitions.  That's what you get when you work in a tax supported public school system environment, though.  But I am thinking about the possibility of purchasing a tablet and taking it to my next work assignment for a situation like the one I had here.  The Lord will provide, as he always does. . . in his time.  Until then. . .

Selah.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Seeds of Destruction

What do the following statements have in common?

  • ". . . I'm not understanding what you mean by 'wrong.'"  -- (then) Penn State University President Graham Spanier, February 26, 2001 (1)
  • "The janitors were afraid of being fired by reporting a powerful football coach."  -- Judge Louis Freeh, July 12, 2012 (2)
  • "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."  -- fired Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno, November 9, 2011 (2)
A lack of moral clarity.  A "don't rock the boat" mentality.  Lack of moral courage to do what is right.

I kid you not. . . I have been troubled to hear the news lately regarding the entire Penn State football coaching staff scandal.  An entire university football program is likely in jeopardy and may not continue for a time.  Penalties may well be assessed that will hurt the school's football program and its lucrative financial dealings.  I'm not a fan of football generally speaking, and so a lot of this didn't get on my radar screen until it became headline news.  I'm certainly paying attention now, though. 

It's easy to shrug one's shoulders, give a look of disapproval, and condemn what's already happened at Penn State, which certainly could use prayers from God's people right about now.  The more difficult task is to know how to deal with such a situation and to quote a well known television character from the Andy Griffith Show, Barney Fife, "Nip it in the bud."  For starters. . . 

1) Call a spade a spade.  Call the wrongdoing what it really is.  Sin.  That's right, sin.  Sin is evil, you know.  And sin separates one from the Love of God found in Jesus Christ.  

 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, tI do not know where you come from. vDepart from me, all you workers of evil!’  (Luke 13:27)  (All verses ESV unless noted otherwise)

From Hebrews 10:

26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.

And

  31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Admittedly, these are words not often heard from church pulpits in North America.  Yet they remain the true words of God.  Sin and evil are therefore serious business.  I remember well the verse from James 3:1 (NASB): 
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a [a]stricter judgment.

2) The above statement implies, quite rightly, that those who teach - have moral and educational authority over others in their care - have a duty to be accountable to others. . . and most importantly, God Himself.  Here's a selection of some pertinent Scriptures: 

Proverbs 27:17:

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Matthew 18:15-17:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Galatians 6:1-2:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ezekiel 33:7-9:

7 “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

The Penn State football program had gotten to the point where it dominated the University and had unparalleled power and influence.  What the trustees and those charged with carrying out its mission forgot is sin is pervasive and endemic to the human heart, resulting in death.  That lack of knowledge about sin isn't just from those associated with Penn State, however.  Consider the following exchange I had with a fellow customer at Costco the other day:

Me: Kinda busy in the food court today, eh?

Her: Yeah.  I can deal with it, though.  I just wait and get through it.  Gotta be patient. 

Me: Patience is still a virtue.  Good to know you are willing to be that way. 

Her: Well, I'm really not.  You know, everyone is so busy these days, they make you pushy when you're in line for something.

Me: They make you pushy?

Her: Yeah, they do quite a lot these days.

Me: A wise man once said, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"  (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV)  

__________________

Well, that ended the conversation right then and there.  You hopefully get the point. . . they didn't make her pushy. . . she did out of her own volitional will, from her own heart.  But she undoubtedly let this bit of wisdom from God's Word pass her by. . . just like the "common sense" wisdom even the janitors at Penn State had and ignored, allowing Jerry Sandusky to continue his criminal acts in the locker room with his young "guests."  James has this very appropriate word for us to consider:

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.  (James 4:17 NASB)

That verse has always convicted me.  Ouch!

My takeaway questions I ask myself are these:

  • Do I possess moral clarity in my thoughts, words and actions?
  • Do I allow myself to be accountable to others who know me and submit to what is right in the sight of God - and most importantly God's Will for me?
  • Do I have the moral courage to do the right thing in the face of moral lapses of judgment in others?
I pray God may find me worthy in these despite my manifold shortcomings, and in that Wonderful Day when I am translated into Eternity.

One of David's Psalms gives some insight and perspective I find useful.  From Psalm 139:

 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.[b]
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts![c]
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting![d]

Please pray with me for all those affected by the Penn State football scandal, especially the young men who were once boys that were abused. . . they surely need them.  Until next time. . .

Selah.


___________________


References:

(1)



(2)


For more background and sources:



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Some startling statistics on Bible reading. . . and an Antidote

Yesterday, I had the opportunity and the privilege to teach some of the incarcerated youth in one of the several sites Los Angeles County has established for youthful lawbreakers; Challenger Memorial Youth Facility.  The teacher I worked with is a very culturally aware guy, and can speak the kids' language and idioms very well. . . he connects with them tremendously.  Your tax dollars well spent!  

The teacher, Mr. Banks, has several ways to attract his young charges to willingly learn new material and progress in their education.  One of these is the adaptation of the syndicated television Jeopardy! game show for use to these students.  He has category titles such as Nature, Movies, Sports, Football, and HipHop, allowing for his participative groups to contribute thoughtful answers from a knowledge base they currently possess. . . from their life lived on the streets and the 'hood.  He even has a "Final Jeopardy!" question (sans the well known show's musical number so many know the world over) to end each game, worth more points (no dollars behind the locked walls of a county youth camp) than the regular questions.  One of them was "In what year did the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression happen?"  Interesting to see these educationally challenged students reach for textbooks to eagerly search and find the answer. . . 1929.  The winning group erupted in glee!

Mr. Banks also has some language and thinking prompts to start the day he writes on the board each morning.  One of these was entitled "Number Phrases."  Written on the white dry erase board were these three clues to each phrase: "12 s of the Z," "7 D S," and "9 L of the C."  Of course these were 12 signs of the Zodiac, 7 Deadly Sins, and 9 Lives of the Cat.  Guess which one of these three was the most difficult to solve for these students?  Seven Deadly Sins.  They had honestly never heard the term, though they had heard of the Nine Lives phrase and had heard of the Zodiac.  And of course they didn't know that Sins, or Sin caused death.  There you are. . . 

But before we cast a condemning glance to these incarcerated, educationally challenged youth, let's consider some more evidence I've recently come across concerning the larger culture.  Looking at the United States, the general literacy rate in the District of Columbia - where adults read at or below basic levels is 61 per cent.  In Utah, it's 33 per cent.  California is at 46 per cent.  

  • 43% of American adults function at or below basic literacy levels – making them incapable of meaningful Bible reading.
  • People who are functionally illiterate process information differently than people who are literate – they require story telling and dialog, not exposition, to understand and retain information.
  • Only 54% of Protestant adults read the Bible each week.
  • 65% of adults who identified themselves as Bible readers have never read the entire New Testament.
The above statistics are courtesy of Faith Comes by Hearing, whose Internet site is here: http://www.faithcomesbyhearing.com/    The link for this particular set of statistics, and more besides, is here: http://www.faithcomesbyhearing.com/pastors-support-materials  Click on "Did You Know?" for the details.  Fascinating stuff. 

*  *  *

There's good news regarding this predicament: the Good News.  The Faith Comes by Hearing folks have developed an Internet site, http://www.bible.is, which has audio Bibles in hundreds of languages for innumerable people groups.  Russian, Arabic, Korean, Tagalog. . . you name it, they have an audio Bible for you to listen to and read along in, via a home computer, MP3 player, or even by using your cell phone.  Bible sticks for the computer literate to use while on the go. . . and military Bible sticks for the U. S. Armed Forces as well.  The English language versions of the Bible - of which there are scores of - are available here also.  Some of the materials developed through them are free. . . others are of a nominal cost.  The English Standard Version I've been listening to lately is well enunciated and read with different voice actors - my favorite avocation which soon, God willing, will become my vocation - to great effect.  Theatrical and memorable audio recordings through these folks.  Well worth your time while at home, at play, or in the car on a commute. . . no more excuses to not get into the Word of God on a regular, even daily basis. 

The English version of the audio Bible I described above is FREE!  This includes both Old and New Testaments.  Simply go to    http://www.bible.is/audiodownloader?dl=1&DAMID=ENGESVN2DA and follow the three easy steps they give.  You'll need to make an account first. . . scroll down to the bottom of the page to click on the blue button to create your user account.  Once an account is made, you may then download the Bible version of your choice for FREE.  

Bottom line: there's now no excuse for people with Internet access - 85 per cent of all Americans - to not read (and hear) the Bible in a version they connect with and understand easily.  I've given the links already to the places on the Internet which provide the Antidote to our Biblical Illiteracy.  Now we need to simply  Read (hear). the. Bible. everyday.  There.  I said it.  I'm talking to me more than I'm talking to you. 

Willing to join me on my journey?  My pastor has challenged our church congregation to read and hear through the New Testament in a 40 day period, reading/hearing about seven chapters a day on average. Let me know if you are joining me on this journey.  I'd love to hear from my readers via the Comments feature.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Welcome Respite

While doing the weekly marketing Friday, I came upon a long forgotten occurrence: actual kindness by doing the right thing!  Let me explain.

I was in my local Costco warehouse getting a few things - I avoid getting a shopping cart when I can hold them in my hands, which in itself is countercultural, keeping me focused on just what's on the shopping list - and in line with others at a checkout register stand.  Probably a good two thirds of the registers were manned by the employees. . . a typically busy Friday. 

The checkout lines were on the long side, and I knew that in time another register would open up in all likelihood.  I was right. . . one did to the right of me and the woman ahead of me, who had a cart.  We were asked to move to the newly open checkout stand by the clerk, Patty S., and we proceeded to do so in an orderly fashion. 

This did not suit one Costco member with a cart that insisted on having their own way, however.  This particular woman aggressively barged right in to take the first spot in line in front of us at this newly opened checkout stand.  I sighed. . . and then. . .

"Ma'am, I asked the woman in back of you to come over to my register.  Please allow her to be served and get in back of the gentleman in back of her,"
 Patty S. crisply, but unemotionally stated.  Patty looked directly at her eyes to communicate "I'm not going to check you out until I get the woman I asked to come over to me checked out, and the man behind her."  She never flinched.  What courage!  What chutzpah!  She never took her eyes off the offender of the store's protocol. . . and the opportunistic woman backed down after several tenuous seconds of debating in her mind if she, in fact, could get away with it. 


I thanked Patty S. in person as she checked me out.  I also took the time to let the front end staffers - the people who supervise the checkstand clerks - know just how "by the book" and "old school" this particular action by Patty S. was.  So old, rare and ancient an act, it actually made me think I was transported back into the days of my youth!  I was, of course, enraptured at the proper and gutsy treatment Patty gave the offending woman.  I still am as I'm writing this. 

My encouragement to this retail establishment, Costco, is simply this: be consistent.  Have all clerks do this kind of action in the face of such rudeness as what was on display from the offending woman Costco member.  Over time, and with such united resolve, I believe it is possible to get the general membership of such a place as Costco to change their behavior to one that is less pushy, less shoving and demanding, and frankly, more safe in the physical sense. 

You see, I have a balance problem due to a neurological difference I've had all my life - but was only finally correctly diagnosed in my later adulthood - which makes it difficult for me to keep standing up.  I'm easily knocked down, compared to others.  So from that vantage point, following proper and safe procedures such as the ones Patty S. followed that day reassure me that as I move about, I'm not going to be physically run into by shovers that put me off balance, causing me to fall. . . and quite possibly, get injured.  So major kudos to Patty S. and Costco!  Well earned and deserved praise. 

Then, at my next stop at my regular grocery store, Winco, I encountered a young mother trying to get her young recalcitrant son to get in the shopping cart. . . due to his running around without regard to other shoppers' safety or need to select their own grocery items in an unencumbered manner.  I see far too many kids running around without regard to other shoppers and causing a safety hazard at this store, much less reducing the kindness of allowing each shopper to find their own items hassle free.

"Son, did you hear your own mother?" I asked the boy.  He looked at me quizzically as If I were a space alien from some distant planet. 

"Well, did you?" I repeated to him. 

He dutifully climbed in the shopping cart his mom was using. 

"See, mom!" I chirped back to the now happy mother.  "There's folks who care about your kids here.  I'm old enough to be his grandfather.  Since his dad isn't here, I took his place.  Hope you don't mind. . . "

She smiled and expressed her thanks.  Another moment of bliss on this present Earth.  

*  *  *

I found a YouTube video clip that expresses what doing the right thing with character and integrity does to others around you and can even change the culture, if done consistently and often enough.  Here 'tis:

 
From 1 Corinthians 13 (ESV):

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Patient. . . kind. . . not arrogant or rude. . . not insisting on its own way. . . not irritable or resentful.  Such a world. . . and the World to Come, wherein dwells righteousness!  Ahhh. . . (smile)

Selah.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Fire!

If you follow the news you may have heard of the wildfires in Colorado, as well as adjoining western states.  Colorado Springs, Colorado has been particularly affected this week by the Waldo Canyon fire.  Over 32,000 people have been dislocated due to evacuations, two persons dead and 347 homes have been destroyed, as of this writing.  Thankfully the tide has turned to getting a handle on containing this fire, as the fire containment has gone from 5 per cent containment to 15 per cent and as of Saturday, even higher.  Prayer warriors praying and more needed! 

Colorado Springs is where I recieved my undergraduate degree, and where I worked part time at the Air Force Academy at the Cadet Store in Vandenberg Hall in the Cadet Area as well as the Commissary during those years of study.  So I'm familiar with the place.  Garden of the Gods park, Glen Eyrie castle and grounds - now the home of the Navigators Christian discipleship organization - and Flying W Ranch, home of some really great chuckwagon suppers and cowboy music singin' and funnin' with the Flying W Chuckwagon singers and band are all in the city's west side adjoining the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, next to each other.  I've mentioned them from a south to north orientation.

Flying W Ranch burned to the ground Tuesday/Wednesday overnight.  Glen Eyrie castle still stands as of this writing.  People are now being allowed back into some of the neighboring areas to these locations, but not all at this point.  Continuing need for prayer for firefighters, law enforcement (Colorado Springs Police Department and El Paso County Sheriff's Department) and citizens and visitors present.  Our first responders have been working up to twenty hours a day and need rest and strength for the fiery battle they are engaged in.  At one point there were no hotel rooms available in Colorado Springs, although neighboring Manitou Springs had a few left.  The Antlers Hotel downtown, a foundational institution in the city, resorted to opening their ballroom to accommodate guests!  10 obliged them as of 11:15 PM Wednesday evening.  Sleeping bags encouraged.  Amazing stories, all.

So please pray for these tired, worn, sleepy eyed folks.  They need it. 

Here is my debut into photo album creating and sharing on the Internet, using Picasa.  Several photos of the Waldo Canyon fire are posted for your benefit.  Enjoy! (Hat tip to the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper online, which opened up their e-edition to the general public during the Waldo Canyon Fire.)



First smoke from the Waldo Canyon Fire, Saturday, June 23, 2012.  This was taken from the top of Pikes Peak by a tourist.  He didn't know at the time this was the first indication of a major fire, but it became obvious later.


Pikes Peak looks like a volcano in this shot, but it's not.  The Air Force Academy Cadet area and Cadet Chapel are in the foreground.  June 28, 2012


Here's an earlier photo with a closeup of the Cadet Chapel.  Fire is more intense on this date.  June 26, 2012


Fire view from the Briargate neighborhood of Colorado Springs, in the vicinity of Chapel Hills Mall.  June 26, 2012


Fire view from the vicinity of UCCS.  This looks to be from the athletic fields adjoining Nevada Avenue looking west.  June 26, 2012


Fire View from Focus on the Family in Briargate.  Undated, but I found this on Jim Daly's blog Finding Home on June 28, 2012.  You normally see the Rampart Range and the Air Force Academy, with Pikes Peak to the south from this vantage point. . . and lots of blue sky.  Not today. 



Queens Canyon on fire, June 27, 2012.  This canyon is northwest of Glen Eyrie castle, owned by the Navigators, and southwest of Flying W Ranch, which had just burned to the ground hours before. It acted as a bridge allowing the fire to decimate the Flying W Ranch.  Sad.


The Colorado Springs welcome sign alongside southbound Interstate 25.  Normally the sky is blue with Pikes Peak and Cheyenne Mountain visible in the distance.  Not this day.  June 27, 2012 


Problem was, 32,000 people were all trying to move one direction - away from the fire - on the same roads at the same time.  Traffic jams ensued, both on major arterials like Woodmen Road at Academy Blvd. and Rockrimmon Blvd.  I don't know the location of this sign or the road it was on.  June 27, 2012



Hmmm. . . A rainbow!  See, God's promises are from everlasting to everlasting.  He has not abandoned his creation. . . and he forgets not his own who have trusted in Him.  He hears and answers prayer.  Just you wait and see. . . June 27, 2012

The Rockrimmon neighborhood and adjoining areas on fire at its peak.  June 27, 2012



A C-130 flies in support of fire suppression operations with a clear view of Pikes Peak in the background.  June 28, 2012


Waldo Canyon Fire Progression Map June 23 - 28, 2012.


Volunteers at Care and Share, one of the many nonprofit organizations that makes Colorado Springs the great place it is to live, take time out to say "Thank You!!" to the First Responders and other supporting volunteers.  A great deal of food and drinks was distributed by them and other organizations during the course of the Waldo Canyon Fire.  Care and Share does a lot of free food distribution to area residents year round.  June 28, 2012

Ahhh. . . a refreshing thunderstorm!  Now that's more like how the Springs is climatewise in the Summer.  June 28, 2012

One of the 50 livestock from Flying W Ranch that made it through the Waldo Canyon Fire.  Notice the burnt black udders.  This animal may not ever be able to give milk to its young ever again due to the injury sustained.  The buildings burned to the ground, but every living thing made it out alive!  Praise God for that!  June 28, 2012


Thank You Manitou Springs Fire Department, Colorado Springs Volunteer Fire Department, Manitou Springs Police Department - Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Information Center on Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs.  Areawide, more governmental agencies and nonpofit organizations/church and parachurch organizations to thank than just these, but for Manitou Springs, its all they had room for in the sign.  June 28, 2012


Flagstaff Fire photo near Boulder, Colorado June 28, 2012.  Hat Tip to my brother Steve Cox for this.  "Beautiful and scary at the same time!" my brother Kevin Cox responded back at Steve's emailed photo to us.  Other fires are still active in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona and perhaps more as of this writing.  A tough fire season this year and the Summer has just begun.  Pray!


Finally, I'll leave you with the link to a photo slideshow/gallery, courtesy of gazette.com:  http://www.gazette.com/sections/slideshow/?id=14914887 (Day 4/June 26) Not sure how long the free coverage by gazette.com will last, so if you are interested click around and view them while photos may be had. . . before the Gazette pulls the plug.  There's photo galleries there for every day of the Waldo Canyon Fire.  Check it out. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Freud's Last Session

 And now, a (live) theatre alert. . .



If you are in the Los Angeles, California area or will be in the near future. . . and have the opportunity, you might wish to take an unbelieving friend - and yourself - to see a new off-Broadway play coming to LA.  Intriguingly titled "Freud's Last Session," the play pits the famed 20th Century psychoanalyst against another famous 20th Century figure, Athiest turned Christian author and professor C. S. Lewis of Oxford.  The imaginary debate, set in the early World War II period, is both witty and profound.  It's also downright winsome, according to Eric Metaxas, Breakpoint radio commentator and noted author in his own right. 

The link to the Breakpoint commentary on this subject is here:
http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/19573
 
This sounds like a splendid opportunity to invite your intellectually oriented and/or skeptical friends to come hear an evenhanded discussion about the meaning of life.  I'd encourage that.  Should I find anyone who meets the intellectually oriented criteria - like many of my workplace sites' faculty colleagues - I will likewise do what I can to invite them to come and view this new smash hit play. 

More information on worldwide locations for this play is here: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/157473-Freuds-Last-Session-Goes-International-Dec-9-Opening-in-Sweden

And here, via their press release: http://freudslastsession.com/moving_press_release.html

Nothing with definite dates for Los Angeles or other world cities at the moment from what I see, but it's always good to have that "heads up" on knowing about this play beforehand. 

Hat tip: Eric Metaxas/Breakpoint

Monday, June 4, 2012

Does Anyone in the Media Ever Read the Bible?

Today's guest post is by Eric Metaxas.  You'll note from my last post that I am quickly becoming a fan of his and his work, whose site is here: http://www.ericmetaxas.com/  This op-ed is one which I easily could have written. . . it's that good!  But he did it, and the necessary research that provides the screws that tighten up the irony inherent here.  Kudos to Eric for all that. 

Here's the link, courtesy FoxNews.com: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/12/23/does-anyone-in-media-ever-read-bible/

I'll be spending today preparing for my role as precinct Inspector for the Registrar of Voters and  prepping our neighborhood polling place for the election Tuesday.  I've read one account where statewide in California the election turnout may well be light.  Hope you take the time to vote Tuesday June 5th. 

You'll note this post is in a larger Font size and a different Font than past posts.  I'll eventually get around to changing the previous posts to this Font scheme.  Thanks for the feedback from those who gave it.  I appreciate your input to my work here. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Few Words About Being Real

I came across (hat tip to Jonathan Macy on Chris Johnson's Facebook page) an incredible video of a gentleman who I have never heard of - at least I think I haven't as yet - giving a very compelling, winsome, humorous, engaging talk at the National Prayer Breakfast held last February 2.  The speaker is Eric Metaxas.  The President and First Lady were present, as were 4,000 others at the Washington Hilton that day.  Lots to digest and learn from here.  Enjoy!

Have You Ever Seen This Happen?

A couple of situations to chew on:


Ambulance

Normally, the general practice (and the California Vehicle Code) is to pull over and stop when an ambulance approaches you.  If yhou can't pull over and stop, then stop where you are in the lane of traffic you happen to be in.  All this is for the benefit of the ambulance driver and the patient they are carrying, or are enroute to carry. . . to save precious time in the event of a life threatening medical situation. 

The other day, I was returning home from running errands when I witnessed the following: not only were drivers not pulling over or stopping on my side of a three lane each direction city street - a busy suburban street heavily used within eyesight of a hospital at that - they were not pulling over or stopping on the heavier traveled opposite direction of the street!  Granted, that side of the street at that midday hour was full of cars, and it would have been difficult to pull over.  The ambulance driver gamely stayed in the heavier traveled lanes going his direction, and kept airing his siren, though at a low pitch as though he was resigned to not see the situation get any better for him to move more efficiently. 

My wife has spent her working career in the nursing field, and has been a Registered Nurse for years.  I reported what I saw to her.  She said that was crazy that drivers wouldn't pull over and show any courtesy or consideration.  I quite agreed.  I've frankly never seen this kind of thing happen anywhere before, at least in the United States.  So I called the Sheriff's Department about it. 

The deputy I spoke with told me that there was nothing he could do about it.  "When we see it and we are out there, we do ticket drivers like that," he remarked.  "Thanks," I sighed as I hung up the phone. 

This situation is sooooooo lamentable.  Have we as a society - as a culture - lost respect and compassion for those in trouble and in need of emergency medical assistance?  Is it really all about what's in front of one's nose that counts?  Selfishness?  I know, the deputy I spoke with said that if it were their loved ones - the driver's own family or friends - in the ambulance, they would behave differently and pull over.  But how about the rest of the drivers remaining?

Appointments

I was calling around to several doctor's offices lately.  I'll recount my experience with one younger doctor and her staffer at the phone here. 

Me: "Hello, I'm calling about seeing a doctor."

Receptionist: "You need to see her now?  She doesn't take patients now, and not even today.  She's booked up. . . booked until (two weeks later).  You'll have to make an appointment, or see urgent care somewhere else."

Me: "I don't need to see a doctor now.  I don't even need to see a doctor soon.  I just got out of the hospital!  I'm just inquiring about if your office takes my medical insurance."

Receptionist: "Everyone else has to see the doctor right now.  You don't?  You're sure about that?"

Me: "Yes, I'm sure.  I'm just calling around to see about seeing another doctor."

*****



Galatians 5 (from The Message) has some good words on these matters:

19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.
22-23But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.


Selah.