Sunday, May 29, 2016

Obligatory Memorial Day weekend devotional thoughts on how faith is like & unlike the Indy 500

Growing up in central Indiana, just 45 minutes east of Indianapolis, the Indy 500 was always a big deal. The whole month of May was, and still is, race month.

While on Memorial Day weekend we always gave proper due to the remembrance of those who served and died in battle, when the race was on, so were our radios.

This year was the first year ever the race was not “blacked out” for TV viewing. We only got to watch it hours after it was over. So we listened to it on our little transistor radios at the church picnic. Oh yes, the Memorial Day church picnics were a big deal, too.

In the Bible, depending on the version you use, “race” in the sense of racing is used about 6 or 7 times: Psalm 19:5, Ecclesiastes 9:11, Jeremiah 12:5, Nahum 2:4, 1 Corinthians 9:24, 2 Timothy 4:7, and Hebrews 12:1. If you know of others, please share them in the comments.

Probably the better known are Paul’s references:
  • “Do you not know that in a, race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24, ESV).
     
  • “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
So, comparing faith to the Indy race is not entirely outside of reason. And there are comparisons to be had.

Endurance: Indy drivers do a lot of strength training. Their steering is, as I understand, not power-assisted. Maintaining control of the steering and the car requires raw physical strength. In addition, they endure heat, dehydration, and a lot of vibration for all the hours they’re on the track.

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11, ESV).

Engagement: Going around and around a giant oval track can, I’m assuming, become a little monotonous, especially when fatigue sets in. Drivers must keep their heads in the race at all times, paying attention to track conditions, listening to instructions from their pit crews, and being aware of all the cars around them.

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13, ESV).

Encouraging: Okay, maybe I’m pushing it a bit with the alliteration, but... Veteran drivers and retired drivers encourage and offer guidance and advice to the rookies. Sure, there’s competition, but there’s also respect. During the race, the good drivers give leeway to the faster drivers, allowing them to pass safely.  While each wants to be the winner, they also want all the drivers to complete the race and do so safely.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:1. ESV).

Dependent: (Ha! A non-“e” word!) While the driver who wins gets the trophy and the spotlight, they don’t get there on their own. There is a huge team of people behind their success. The more obvious are the pit crews who risk their wellbeing to ensure their driver is fueled and equipped to stay in the race. Everyone depends on everyone else doing their part to be successful.

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:14, ESV).

These are just four positive comparisons that can be made between the Indy 500 and Christian faith. I’m sure you can think of several more.

But it’s also important to point out one major difference. As with any earthly race, there will be only one winner of the 500. For those of us running the spiritual race, there are many runners and, hopefully, all will make it over the finish line.

For the race of faith, the goal is to help our fellow racers to succeed. And for all who do, there will be plenty of trophies to go around.

Let’s go!



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How are you doing in your faith race? Are you keeping up? Helping others endure with encouragement? What tips can you offer to help your fellow believers stay engaged? What other comparisons can you make between the 500 (or any race) and the Christian faith? Please sound off in the comments!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Culture is a cancer.

We sit stunned before our TVs as the news breaks announcing the evils between which we must choose in November.

“How did this happen?” we ask our dumbstruck selves over and over.

“Please!” we (many of whom check off the Christian box when asked to name our religion) implore any who will listen, “Explain to me how this happened? How did we, the ‘merican people, let this happen?”

Writing on ChristianityToday.com about how messed up sexuality has become, Halee Gray Scott states,
“Culture is something one can’t escape, for it seeps into us unseen, like the oxygen we breathe, affecting the way we perceive the world, the way we think about ourselves, and the way we relate to one another.”
Well, Ms. Scott, sexuality isn’t all that’s messed up in our culture. Everything about the milieu in which we live and move and have our being is askew.

Years ago as a fledgling journalist, I had an opportunity to interview Francis and Edith Schaeffer.  He, a noted theologian, was battling cancer.

I asked him, on behalf of many who wanted to know, how he was dealing with it. He said,
“Well, actually, I have to think of this very practically. What you are asking me is not a question that I haven’t thought through. And I always begin the same place. It’s the place that has made it possible for our whole family to live with this. That is emphasizing the reality of the Fall in an abnormal world. Not just as a theological position, but really living in the light of the fact that we live in an abnormal world.”
This is something we, as true Believers, often forget: Since the Fall, the world in which we live is abnormal. Off kilter. Not exactly as it should be and will be eventually.

The Fall affects all, and not for the good.

The only way to counter the Fall’s bad influence is to yield our lives to Jesus, open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, and steep our minds in God’s Word. The discipline involved in doing this doesn’t come naturally and is not something culture supports.

Without the counterbalance of faith in God, culture embraces evil and leads those mindlessly immersed in it far astray. Wrong becomes right. Patriotism overshadows faith. The pursuit of happiness tramples on the life of holiness. Greed and selfishness become virtues. Even though our battle is not against flesh and blood, packing a gun is more important than clinging to the cross.

In other words, we reap what we sow. And that’s how “this” happened.

The remedy? Well, for now we’re kind of stuck with the consequences we’ve brought on ourselves. But going forward? The Apostle Peter offers a clue:
“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3:17-21, ESV).
Repent! Turn from the world and lean in to God, our Rock in the midst of so much sickening roll. Francis Schaeffer, in the context of his cancer, put it like this:
“[W]e live in an abnormal world. I have cancer, but nevertheless God is so great – He is infinite – that He can reach down in the midst of the abnormal mess and bring something good out of it. Once you look at it this way, the whole thing changes. The whole perspective changes.”
The classic old favorite hymn instructs “turn your eyes upon Jesus.” Actually, that’s just the first step. We must turn and bend our whole lives to His will and away from the influence of an abnormal, soul-cancerous culture.

Anything less leads to death. And to “this.”


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What are the struggles you are having with our current Presidential election season? Are you happy with the choices? Will you abstain from voting, vote for the “lesser” of two evils, vote for a third party, or write in a candidate? How did you come to your course of action? Do you feel you can support it biblically? Please sound off in the comments? 


Friday, May 27, 2016

A Christian by any other name is probably trying to avoid something

Over the past few years there has been a spreading move toward abandoning the title of “Christian” by, well, Christians.

Instead of “Christian”, many Christians are asking to be labeled as believers, followers of Jesus, disciples, Christ followers, His chosen people, and so on.

Why? Because, for these other-labeled-persons-who-believe-in-God, the title of Christian has been reduced, in their minds, to an empty tag.

In other words, if someone like, say, Donald Trump, who eschews the most basic orthodox biblical beliefs -- such as the need for forgiveness -- and who speaks and behaves like anything but a true believer, can be labeled “Christian,” then what’s the point?

Francis Schaeffer might agree. In The God Who Is There, he wrote this:
“I suggest that if the word (or phrase) we are in the habit of using is no more than an orthodox evangelical cliché which has become a technical term among Christians, then we should be willing to give it up when we step outside our own narrow circle and talk to the people around us.”
Interesting.

But does this really doom the title “Christian” as a suitable identifier for those of us who do truly follow Jesus?

Where did the title Christian come from?

The Bible tells us when and where the title Christian was first applied:
“So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:25-26, ESV).
According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty (Walvoord & Zuck editors, Victor Books),
“The ending ‘-ian means ‘belonging to the party of; thus ‘Christians’ were those of Jesus’ party. The word ‘Christians’ is used only two other times in the New Testament: in Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. The significance of the name, emphasized by the word order in the Greek text, is that people recognized Christians as a distinct group. The church was more and more being separated from Judaism.”
The culture observed the behavior of the disciples and those who claimed association with them, the first century church.

The culture was aware of who Jesus was and what he taught.

The culture recognized that those who were part of this church movement were different from the bulk of culture, and that the difference was how they emulated and embodied what Christ had advocated and taught.

And so, the culture gave the fledgling church participants the title of Christian based on their visible behavior.

In other words, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

There but for the grace of God

Let’s go back to Schaeffer. Above is only the first part of his quote. Here’s the rest:
“If, on the other hand, the word is indispensable, such as the word God, then we should talk at sufficient length to make ourselves clear. Technical words, if they are used without sufficient explanation, may mean that outsiders really do not hear the Christian message at all and that we ourselves, in our churches and missions, have become an introverted and isolated language group.”
“Christian” was accepted as a title of honor by those first century churchers. If you’ve read the New Testament, particularly Acts, you know that they didn’t all behave well. There were those who were literally an embarrassment to their fellow Christians. There were even those who wanted to take on the title as a label to look good in certain circles.

Of course, just as happens today, a transitory label is no more meaningful spiritually or ideologically than the designer label on the shirt you bought at the thrift store. In fact, groups try to “re-brand” to appear as something other than what they are.

True Christians understand that we are saved by grace and will struggle with sin for the rest of our earthly lives. There will be duds in the church.

So then is the correct response to ditch the honorable title of Christian for something else? Especially when the people taking on the new label are still the same people believing in the same things? Just because there’s sin, do we also need spin?

This doesn’t seem like a good strategy for Christians.

Any other name for a rose does not make it smell different


Again, turning to Schaeffer, in his brief book The Mark of the Christian, he points to the last commandment of Jesus where the essence of being Christian is declared:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, ESV).
Who we are in Christ is not determined by the label we slap on ourselves. As Schaeffer reminds us, Jesus gave the world the right to decide the genuineness of our faith by our observable love:
“[First, w]e as Christians are called upon to love all men as neighbors, loving them as ourselves. Second, that we are to love all true Christian brothers in a way that the world may observe. This means showing love to our brothers in the midst of our differences – great or small – loving our brothers when it costs us something, loving them even under times of tremendous emotional tension, loving in a way the world can see…. Love – and the unity it attests to – is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.”
I’m sticking with the title of Christian

A label is disposable. Nothing more than a faddish descriptor-of-the-moment. A title, on the other hand, is more substantive and meaningful, a mark of respect. And in this instance, the title Christian attaches those who truly are directly to Christ and the lives of all those through history who have borne it.

Yes, there are those who have and do dishonor the title, wearing it more as a slapped-on label for political or other advantage. By their rotten fruit, as it were, they will be exposed.

For those of us who take the title seriously, it’s our job to live up to it, infuse it with true and accurate meaning, and preserve it as something that is, as it should be, honorable and fetching.

This means bending our lives to God’s Word and away from the culture around us. Only then will the culture be able to see how different we are, and how attractive the Gospel truly is.


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Additional resources:


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Are you a Christian? Or are you a believer who goes by a different label? Why or why not? Schaeffer also said, “The true scandal is that however faithfully and clearly one preaches the gospel, at a certain point the world, because it is in rebellion, will turn away from it. Men turn away in order not to bow before the God who is there. This is the ‘scandal’ of the cross.” So if the culture around us accuses us of not living up to the title Christian, could it be they are merely rejecting the gospel? Or are they actually seeing a deficiency in our lives we need to correct? How do we determine the difference? Please share your thoughts in the comments!there been times in your life when forgiveness felt impossible?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Love is a many splendored thing & forgiveness will get you there


Love is a hot topic throughout scripture and plays a fairly significant role in our daily lives.

We love certain foods, which means we like them a lot. We love to read, which means books are an important part of our life. We love our favorite sports team, unless you don’t care about sports, and then it’s more or less a matter of feigned interest.

All of these loves are essentially choices we make.

When it comes to people, love means something different. It’s still a matter of choice but there is a definitely different quality to it. Plus, loving a person and being loved by a person is far more important that food, sports, and even books. Or at least should be.

When the topic of love surfaces, almost always hate gets a reference. These are seen as opposing forces, one usually canceling out the other. Love is characterized as pretty, sweet, joyful, and, of course, lovely. Hate gets painted as ugly, dark, bitter, and all things nasty. Usually rightly so.

In John 13:34-35, Jesus even declared as a final commandment that we “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” not just because it’s a feel-good thing but because “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Clearly, love is important in the Christian life. But what blocks love and feeds hate?

Anger by any other name is still anger

Some years ago, a counselor explained to me that when we say things like “I’m frustrated” or “I’m annoyed” or “I’m unhappy with...” these are all really just different ways to say, “I’m angry.” That what we’re doing is merely putting a nicer face on our anger.

Why are we prone to whitewash and minimize anger? Usually it’s because we feel anger is a bad thing -- even a sin thing -- while being frustrated, annoyed, irritated, etc. are acceptable. Her point was that what we are really doing is lying about how we feel, and ignoring the root anger that we are expressing as something else.

It took me awhile to buy into this, but she challenged me to think and say “angry” whenever I wanted to think or say something else. So, instead of saying I was frustrated by someone’s procrastination, I said I was angry. Instead of saying that a person’s failure to return my call in a timely manner was disappointing, I said it made me angry. And so on.

It didn’t take long before I began to see her point and to reassess what I was really feeling in these situations.

There’s good anger & there’s bad anger

As most of us have realized by now, anger in and of itself is not necessarily wrong or sinful. There are times when anger can be motivating. But the challenge is not allowing anger to set up in us like concrete. To mix metaphors, when anger hardens in us, soul rot sets in.

Held anger is unhealthy. This point was made in a meme someone recently posted on Facebook. Here’s the first part of the meme:


It says “One minute of anger weakens your immune system for 4-5 hours.” I’m not sure if this specific claim is true, but I do know that, in general, it’s a claim supported by science and experience.

Again, anger is not automatically bad. Stuff happens and we get angry. The key is what happens then. Do we acknowledge it, understand it, find a way to use it, and move on? Or do we hold onto the anger, sitting and simmering in our own stinky mad juices?

Anger held always turns us sour. Anger transformed and released yields world-changing love.

Forgiveness makes all the difference

In his first extended teaching we have on record, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers a model prayer that centers on asking for, receiving, and giving to others forgiveness. In fact, forgiveness is so important he adds after the prayer, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15, ESV).

In many instances when Jesus healed someone, he would also say to them, “Your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2, ESV).

When Peter asked Jesus how many times must we forgive others, suggesting seven times was good, Jesus responded expansively with seventy times seven, and then launched into the parable of the unforgiving servant as an example of the consequences of not forgiving (Matthew 18:21-35). 

Jesus makes it clear that forgiveness is an essential part of living a healthy spiritual life. It’s so essential that when we deny forgiveness to others, it will be withheld from us.

It takes cross to change a village

So here’s my point. What’s more important than love and hate? Forgiveness and anger. Anger leads to and feeds hate. Forgiveness clears away anger and allows love to flourish.

Withholding forgiveness -- no matter how good we think our justification for doing so is -- is sin.

Refusing forgiveness is really worse, in a way, than clinging to unhealthy anger. Why? Because it’s easier to hide and cover up unforgiveness. It’s easier to say, “I’m no longer angry with you,” but a lot harder to say, “I forgive you.”

Our favorite anger verse of Ephesians 4:26 says be angry but don’t sin. It doesn’t say be unforgiving but don’t sin. Why? Because it’s not possible to be sinless while clinging to unforgiveness. Unforgiveness blocks love and feeds unhealthy anger.

In fact, refusing forgiveness and clinging to hate in a specific instance will spread and impact everything. If you’re angry at your co-worker, it’s easier to be angry with your spouse, your children, your friends, your neighbors, your elected officials, your town, your state, your country, the world and all the “weird” strangers it holds.

When you forgive your co-worker, then it’s easier to forgive others, and the world in general doesn’t seem so glum.

Forgiving just feels better. And that leads us to second part of that meme.


It says, “One minute of laughter boosts your immune system for over 24 hours.” Studies that offer the science behind this meme actually measured people’s compassion versus anger.

As with many memes, the message isn’t always perfect. What’s important is that positive, godly thinking and behavior lead to positive, godly outcomes. This is why it’s possible to be angry and not sin. Righteous anger when sifted through biblical thinking transforms into healthy, positive action. It starts with forgiveness.

Frankly, I’m not sure it’s possible to truly love someone you won’t forgive. I’m not sure it’s possible to really love anyone when you harbor anger and unforgiveness toward someone. Why? Because just as a little yeast impacts the whole ball of dough, held anger turns a whole life bitter. A bitter life tends to exhibit all manner of bias, prejudice, discontent, greed, and more.

Here’s one way to illustrate it:



If anger fails to “cross” over to forgiveness, nothing good follows. If, instead, anger does “cross” over to forgiveness, then the story has a better ending. Which way the story goes is our choice.

My prayer is that you and I choose forgiveness, seventy times seven and then some.







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Additional resources:

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Have there been times in your life when forgiveness felt impossible? How did this impact your attitude and outlook in general? Do you believe that sometimes unforgiveness is justified? If so, please explain. Do you agree or disagree with this post? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

E-gads! The slings & arrows of managing your Internet presence & domain name (aka URL).


21st Century Hamlet laments on Facebook:
To be, or not to be on the Internet with a website,
that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous Internet claims,
Or to take arms against a sea of scams
And by opposing end them.
Well, dear Hamlet, only you can decide if going online with a website presence is right for you.

But if you decide to go forward, then, yes, you need to take up arms, expose scams and misinformation, and, thus by opposing them, end them.

It’s really not that complicated. Since forewarned is forearmed, take heed to the cautions and recommendations that follow.

Forsooth!

Protect your domain name with paper records

Choosing just the right domain name, also called a URL, is an art. You want something pithy and catchy that reflects who you are or what you are offering accurately, and is easy to remember.

There are several online vendors that will sign you up once you’ve decided on your domain name. Right now, the average fee to register a domain name for one year is about $15, more or less. Avoid anyone offering domain name registration for substantially more.

And once you’ve decided on a domain name, found the vendor you feel comfortable with, MAKE SURE YOU KEEP PAPER RECORDS OF EVERYTHING!

Yes, I know all caps is considered shouting. I am. BECAUSE I WANT YOU TO GET THIS!

Before you start shopping for your domain name registrar, webhost provider, and other online services, make a file folder, mark the tab prominently “INTERNET” or something related, and place in it printed records of every online or other purchase / transaction you make related to your online presence. This includes logins and passwords.

Be fastidious and diligent about keeping this file up to date and understanding clearly with whom your domain name is registered and where your website is parked and how to access them.

Fool me once & that’s probably all it takes

Why is keeping records important? Because there are sharks online (and everywhere else) who want to swindle you.

Recently I received two very official invoice-like mailings from a company called IDNS (Internet Domain Name Services). At the top the letters declared in bold type, “Domain Name Expiration Notice.”

The letters offered to renew the registrations for two of my domain names, including their “best value” rate of an outrageous $180 for 5 years. That’s a rate of $36 annually, more than twice the average available rate from legitimate, non-deceptive service providers.

The thing is, my domain names aren’t registered with IDNS and I’ve never done business with them ever.

Yes, this is a scam. It’s a perfectly legal, yet totally deceptive scam. And IDNS is only one of dozens of players. I get letters like this all the time.

They are counting on you not paying attention and not having records of your online transactions. Once you send them a check, you’re going to be held as a virtual hostage. Given that your domain name will be transferred from your legitimate provider, havoc will be unloosed on your website.

Blindly responding to these letters will cost you a lot of money -- all wasted -- and could cause you to lose control of your domain name(s) and associated websites.

If you’re going to go online you need to understand what’s involved, maintain careful records, and pay attention to these scam mailings.

By the way, they’ll also come after you through email and over the phone.

Misty water-colored mem’ries of...wait...it’ll come to me


Beyond the scum trying to scam you, there’s the problem of your memory. It will fail you.

What do I mean? Simply this. If you don’t keep careful, thorough paper records of your domain names, website host, etc., and think, “Oh, I’ll remember who they are.” You won’t.

I used to do website creation. I stopped offering this service many years ago. Many, many years ago.

Yet still, at least once a year, an old client contacts me asking if I know where they registered their domain name or how to access their website to make updates.

Seriously! They don’t have a clue. Sometimes I can help them, but not always.

Please, don’t be like them. Make a file. Keep it up to date.

Some more basic tips to survive online

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to be online, but you need to know enough to not be taken for a schmuck. Here are a few more tips to help you manage your online presence.

  • Don’t do business with those who make unsolicited phone calls selling any Internet-related services. Probably 99% of these cold-callers are scammers. Just hang up.
        
  • Know who you’re dealing with. Ask others who already have successful, professional websites who they are using for help. Seek out reputable, well-known companies. Talk to their customers.
        
  • If you get something that looks like a bill, check your records before making payments.
        
  • Before signing up with a service provider, Google their name to see if there are negative reports.
     
  • When you register a domain name, opt for the private registration option if it’s available.
       
  • Compare prices among various service providers. Avoid those who aren’t willing to offer upfront pricing, or whose prices are far above the average.
       
  • Learn basic concepts and terms involved with being online. Talk to your friends who work in IT. The more educated you are, the more protected you will be.
     
And, as always with anything, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t say yes to something you don’t really understand.

When it comes to the Internet, bad stuff happens. But you can protect yourself by being educated and alert. Don’t be a victim. Be smart.

AND MAKE SURE YOU KEEP PAPER RECORDS OF EVERYTHING!




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Beware of this company and their misleading mailings:
  • IDNS, 924 Bergen Avenue, Suite #289, Jersey City, NJ 07306-3018
Others warning about IDNS (Internet Domain Name Services):

Additional resources:


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What’s your experience with online service providers? Are there those you would recommend? How about those you would not recommend? Share your experiences and recommendations in the comments!

Monday, May 23, 2016

And then...hate (#Poetry Monday*)

You’re flying in clear skies
looking forward to returning home
from a fun, really great vacation,
and then...

You’re having a quiet dinner,
on a beautiful night, talking about
the theater and the play you’ll see,
and then...

You’re out with friends
dancing, having a good time,
you laugh, throw your hands in the air,
and then...

You’re in the market shopping,
selecting just the right items
for a dinner your family will love,
and then...

You’re in the stadium cheering on
your team, relishing the camaraderie
of like-minded fans. Score! Goal!
And then...


And then...
     the bomb goes off,
          the guns fire,
     the smoke roils up,
the people disassemble,
     crumple, go down
          in front of your eyes
     as blood paints red
everywhere.


Hearts miss beat after
     beat after
          beat
     as the plane plummets
          as the bullets fly
               as the debris scatters
as mindless hate salivates.


Momentarily there is
     stop-motion
          weightlessness
               disbelief
          terror
     screaming
intolerable noise.


And then...
                  silence.
Stunned calm.
          Dazed disbelief.


On television screens
     all over the world,
the morbid numbers tick up,
     a macabre score-keeping
of pieces of wreckage spotted
     of bodies and parts under sheets
and people bleeding, groaning
     in the streets.


And then...
   the
      tears
         fall
           like
        rain.


Meanwhile, hidden,
                             hate
                      sings
                             rejoices
                     coils.




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* Its PoMo! To learn about PoMo (POetry MOnday), click here. Terrorism seems to be the norm now. EgyptAir Flight MS804 (likely terror but still to be proven), Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels, and on and on. Behind all of it, the father of every attack is Evil, who coils and readies to strike again and again, stealing, killing, destroying. How do you view terror? How do you process it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Trump's spreading chilling effect on free speech impacts...me!


A couple of weeks ago I uploaded the image below to CafePress to appear on mugs, T-shirts, etc., just for fun. The image is well within the legal bounds of fair use parody. It also has nothing to do with politics. Even so, due to blanket threats from Trump, CafePress removed the images and will not allow ANYTHING that includes the phrase Make America Great Again! in ANY context to be posted on the site.

An article from Money explains (http://money.cnn.com/…/donald-trump-make-america-great-aga…/): "One of his first targets is CafePress, a popular website where people can print T-shirts, coffee mugs and other garb. The company received a 'cease and desist' letter from Trump's lawyer at the end of September [2015]."

That CafePress takes such a broad-brush approach in removing items, refusing to discern among those that actually violate Trump's alleged copyright/trademark and those items that legally are protected and not liable to action by Trump is sad and not a little scary.

Click here to read the full Facebook post...

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Do support Trump? Why or why not? Do you believe he is justified in shutting down ALL use of the phrase Make America Great Again? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts below or in the comments section of the Facebook post.

(BTW: Russell Moore gets it right >> . I won't vote for DJT or HRC. In November, I'll write in John Kasich.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

No, it’s not an app. But it’s perfect for unconcealed carry! The NKJV study Bible now in a new travel size. (Brief review)

Every Sunday morning, in churches where the Bible still matters, when the pastor says, “Turn with me to...” and then cites the passage that is the basis for his message, dozens of smartphones come out.

And no one really minds.

This is a big change from less than a decade ago. Driven not just by the exponential proliferation of smartphones, but also by the availability of several, free, well-designed Bible apps.

Some apps are simply the Bible in one version, with no additional bells or whistles. A few offer access to a variety of versions as well as additional Bible study resources.

I’m one of those who has a couple of apps on my phone that allows me to carry God’s Word everywhere I go. In fact I use my Kindle for daily devotions, dipping into three different versions.

Convenience is a huge factor in the popularity of Bible apps and ebooks. We carry our smartphones everywhere, in pockets or purses. Tablets are also easily portable.

However, there are a few drawbacks with the apps.

Maybe it’s just me, but none that I have found offer truly easy navigation between passages, footnotes, or study materials. Note taking isn’t as convenient either.

Frankly, there are many times when the “real” Bible -- meaning the ink and paper book -- is a better experience for study. It’s easy to hold your place with a finger or bookmark while you turn to a second reference. Underlining and jotting marginal notes is a snap.

And when you walk into the coffee shop, church, our your study group with a “real” Bible in hand, it shows you’re serious about your faith. No need to carry this baby concealed!

What’s the best Good Book to carry? A study Bible is a great choice. However, some of the better study Bibles are ginormous and not necessarily made for easy transport.

Until now!

The NKJV Study Bible, Personal Size, Paperback: Full-Color Edition is now available from Thomas Nelson.*

While admittedly hefty at 5.4 x 2 x 8 inches, 2.7 pounds, and 2400 pages, it’s still more convenient to carry than it’s big full-size brother (which I previously reviewed in detail) or other full-size study Bibles. It’s easy to hold in the hand and takes up less room in backpack or suitcase.

But smaller does mean smaller everything. While the font is legible, it’s probably a bit much for the visually-challenged. Unless you also want to carry a magnifying glass.

Other than that, everything that was in the big book -- color charts, maps, sidebars, commentary, etc. -- is in this smaller, handier, solidly bound version.

Beyond your own use, this personal size version would make a great gift for graduates, those in the military, or anyone who is on the move. It will also take up less space on your nightstand by the bed or the top of your desk, or you could even keep it in the glove compartment of your car. Nice!

Have Bible, will travel. Happy trails!

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NOTE: To comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255): I selected these books to review and received them free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


* Technically it’s not available until 5/17/16.


Additional resource:

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What’s your preferred Bible version? What versions do you avoid and why? Do you read in both translations and paraphrases? The first time you read the Bible in a version other than the KJV, what was that experience like? Do you have a favorite version or study Bible? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Between prose & poetry: New Castle musings | Prince (#Poetry Monday*)

He came to us a stray. Black, whimpering, cowering
under one of the cars in the driveway. A mutt. He
wouldn’t leave apparently because he had no
where else to go. I loved him on sight. Begged
to keep him. He was a good friend. We kept him outside
at night, chained with a long chain attached to the clothesline.
This was not cruelty but for his protection. He could move
freely and then settle into his warm, dry, strawed house whose roof
shingles matched ours. He was family and we let him in during the day
where he padded behind me wherever I went. From time to time as
the need arose, we let him out to do his business. He’d come back,
barking, to the door when done. But not this time. I realized
it had been longer than usual and went to look for him.
It took me a few moments to recognize the dark heap
in the middle of the street as him. Was he being silly or what?
I wondered as I whistled and called his name. His tail wagged,
slapped against the asphalt, but no other part of him moved.
As I came to the curb, I could see a  pool of liquid around his head,
as if he were laying in a puddle of water. But it hadn’t rained and
I didn’t notice at first that the pool was red, his head split open,
the thought of life leaking out. I ran across the yard to the house
screaming. A passerby had stopped and gotten out of his car, approached
just as my parents came out. He said he’d seen the other car hit and run
and had stopped to see if there was anything he could do. He was kind,
the way most Hoosiers were then, and uncertain what to say, how to help.
But there was no help left for Prince. His tail had stopped wagging.
                                            The stranger moved him to the curb.
A little later, Dad helped me wrap him up in an old towel,
carry him across the street into the woods where he remains buried.
My memories of him are somewhat blended with those of the one
or two other dogs that came after Prince. Or was it before?
But that moment of seeing, of sudden first confrontation with death,
is clear. As is the regret for ever letting him off his chain, letting him go
out of my sight, not watching over him as he needed to be watched.





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* Its PoMo! To learn about PoMo (POetry MOnday), click here. Pets come. Pets go. That is a reality that we learn as children. But when they go too soon, it is an especially hard lesson. How many pets have you lost over the years? What memories do you have of them? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I put the graphic and poetry quote at the bottom to preserve the line length of the poem. You may need to open your browser to the full width of your screen to ensure there are no line breaks.

Click here to read a sample chapter (PDF) from my forthcoming novel, “The Hungering Dark: Awakening.” To learn more about the book, go to TheHungeringDarkStory.com.  


In the meantime here's a campaign I could get behind... POETRY: Make America Great Again!