FREE ACID

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Yes, it’s true! ACID is free . . . at least the Kindle edition is from Friday, May 27, 2016 through Monday, May 31, 2016.

As my way of saying thank you for the HUGO Award nomination, I am offering the e-book edition of ACID, The World Has Changed, But Man Has Not, free for you to download and enjoy this Memorial Day Weekend.

So what are you waiting for? You’re looking for a new and exciting adventure to read over the long Memorial Day weekend. Look no farther.

However don’t wait too long, the promotion ends May 31.

If you already have ACID, then tell your friends, even your enemies, and let them know that ACID is free to download.

Sandstorm !

SandStorm

Life in the southwest includes sandstorms. The photo was taken from my front porch—the sand is being blown several thousand feet into the air by fifty to eighty mile-per-hour wind. Drive your car into that and you will probably need a paint job after only a few minutes. My folks would talk about the dust bowl of the 1930s. They would stuff wet towels around the windows and under the doors, and still the relentless dirt would invade their home. I can now understand. We vacuum and dust our house and in a matter of hours it looks like we haven’t vacuumed or dusted in weeks.

When I was a kid my dad would occasionally listen to his LPs on a Sunday afternoon. He had his favorites and one of them was a collection of Westerns called: “The Shifting Whispering Sands” recorded by Billy Vaughn and his orchestra and narration by Ken Nordine. “Shifting Whispering Sands” is a song and poem written by Vivian Clark Gilbert. The poem and song is in the top 100 Western songs of all time. When my dad had that LP on, I would always stop to listen. The poem is really good storytelling. On a side note, I am certain he would never have approved of how I listened to my Kraftverk or Pink Floyd LPs on his stereo.

If you want to listen to Ken Nordine’s narration of Shifting Whispering Sands, I found it on You Tube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=919r63iHCZM

While watching the sandstorm I remembered the Shifting Whispering Sands. Okay these sands aren’t exactly quietly shifting and whispering, they are violently relocating and roaring! Still, I watched and remembered. Also I remembered a line from the Louis L’Amour book, The Marching Drum; allow me to quote it. “Coming to a crossroad I looked down and considered a crumbling pile of stone, where once had been a town. Wind and time had left the town all but forgotten.” (Italics mine.)

Witnessing the wind relocate the soil somewhere faraway, my heart tied some thoughts together that I want to attempt to put into words.

If you know me you probably know my frustration with the Christian Church, especially the big-box or mega churches. I lament how “Christians” want to build edifices to their glowing memories, complete with the greatest sound and light systems et cetera. Now I know you may be one of those who are already warming up to fire off an email in defense of your super church, but please hear me out. I’m not saying that these titanic churches aren’t doing good. I am saying that Jesus didn’t commission his followers to go into all the world and build churches, he commanded us to go and make disciples. Yet we insist on pouring piles of money into an edifice that is bigger and nicer than the one across town; while there are people in need of the gospel, the good news, who are hungry, poorly clothed and barely making it in the neighborhood.

You won’t walk down the streets of gold on the new earth and find it lined with fully restored buildings reflecting the greatest cathedrals and churches built by mankind. I really don’t believe you will find in the new heaven and new earth any need for high-end sound and light systems. The new earth isn’t being prepared for the most inspiring architecture of Christianity. The new earth is being prepared for people, specifically those who have chosen Jesus as their Lord.

Christianity is too willing to pour money into a building. Buildings don’t last! Wind and time will wipe that expensive building from the landscape. Steel, brick and lumber are temporary! People are eternal.

While watching the sandstorm carry away acres of soil, I considered the buildings Christianity has erected. If only a portion of the money invested into a work of architecture to make a gathering of Christians happy would be invested in the lives of people. Instead of throwing money into a building, invest it to help Christians use their living room as a place to disciple others in their walk with Jesus. A building won’t change people the same way your life will. And think of how much money we will save by investing in lives instead of buildings that wind and time will erase.

A good place to find some tools and information to begin the discipling adventure can be found at www.weare3dm.com . Also look up Francis Chan, he has some great guidance in building a discipling culture.

Thanks for listening. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to dust and vacuum . . . again.

Home On The Range?

berkshire

If I asked you to describe your perfect home what would it look like?

If you could have your ultimate house anywhere, where would it be?

Did you imagine a mansion in a prestigious neighborhood? Maybe you are the Robinson Crusoe or Swiss Family Robinson visionary. Whether you are the tropical island dweller, the mountain top dweller or the rolling ranch or farm dreamer, most of us have dreamed of our perfect place to live.

Growing up I learned the song, “Oh, Give Me A Home”. Allow me to share the original version—I say original version because there were two primary re-makes of the song. The original was written by Dr. Brewster Higley in 1876. Next was a popular version written by William and Mary Goodwin in 1904; personally it’s my favorite. The version I learned in elementary school, and has been sung by many popular singers was written by John A. Lomax in 1910.

Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam

Where the Deer and the Antelope play;

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,

And the sky is not cloudy all day.

Chorus

A home! A home!

Where the Deer and the Antelope play,

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,

And the sky is not cloudy all day.

Oh! give me a land where the bright diamond sand

Throws its light from the glittering streams,

Where glideth along the graceful white swan,

Like the maid in her heavenly dreams.

Chorus

Oh! give me a gale of the Solomon vale,

Where the life streams with buoyancy flow;

On the banks of the Beaver, where seldom if ever,

Any poisonous herbage doth grow.

Chorus

How often at night, when the heavens were bright,

With the light of the twinkling stars

Have I stood here amazed, and asked as I gazed,

If their glory exceed that of ours.

Chorus

I love the wild flowers in this bright land of ours,

I love the wild curlew’s shrill scream;

The bluffs and white rocks, and antelope flocks

That graze on the mountains so green.

Chorus

The air is so pure and the breezes so fine,

The zephyrs so balmy and light,

That I would not exchange my home here to range

Forever in azures so bright.

Chorus

–Dr. Brewster Higley (1876)

Here are a couple of verses from the other version I learned in grade school.

Oh, give me the hills and the ring of the drills

And the rich silver ore in the ground;

Yes, give me the gulch where the miner can sluice

And the bright, yellow gold can be found.

Chorus

Oh, give me the mine where the prospectors find

The gold in its own native land;

And the hot springs below where the sick people go

And camp on the banks of the Grande.

Chorus

Oh, give me the steed and the gun that I need

To shoot game for my own cabin home;

Then give me the camp where the fire is the lamp

And the wild Rocky Mountains to roam.

I wonder if children still learn this song?

Living out on a remote ranch in Southeast Arizona, I am able to appreciate that song now more than I ever imagined I would. Okay, there are no Buffalo here, just some free range cattle, and there are occasional days with clouds. Instead of curlew we have roadrunners and quail. There isn’t much in the way of poisonous herbage just poisonous snakes, centipedes, and scorpions. Aside from those differences we are living in the home on the range.

Recently I have come to realize something about life, I really don’t have a place that I call home. Growing up I could always go home because my parents lived in the same house for nearly 50 years. Every time I have attempted to settle down in a place and make it home, life seems to have an uprising and I am moving. I really don’t like to move, I really want the American dream and own a house—or maybe I just want a place to call home.

You may be wondering about the picture heading for this month’s blog; it is a 39-foot, Windriver Bershire motor home. That motor home is a first rate diesel pusher. That is our dream home. Instead of a home on the range, we are dreaming of a free-range home We don’t consider any city or state a place where we really want to settle down, so a motor home would allow us to roam.

On the other hand, maybe we are just feeling that this old world isn’t our home, and there is no place we want to hang our plank.

Now if we can only find someone who wants to sell us one of those motor homes for a couple of hundred dollars.

False Accusations, a Bad Rap, and the Smoking Gun – Part 2

 

SmokingGun2

This month I continue with my thoughts on being falsely accused.

If you don’t remember last month’s photo, it was what appeared to be a smoking gun; scroll down to re-view it. Had you accused me of posting a photo of a smoking gun, you would have falsely accused me. Compare this month’s photo with last month’s and you will see that it isn’t a handgun but rather a Ramset. A Ramset uses a .22 caliber blank to drive a nail. It is a tool, not a weapon.

Seeing a photo of a wisp of smoke curling from a blued barrel, one would easily conclude it was a fired gun. Okay, I admit that I used some powers of suggestion to lead the average individual to assume that the photo was a smoking gun. An accuser will, even after seeing this month’s photo, continue to vomit their opinion that it is a gun; they will explain, in not a few words, that a Ramset is a nail-GUN! I have known a lot of guys in the construction industry and all of them will tell you that a nail-gun is a nail-gun and a Ramset is a Ramset, and a Ramset is not a nail-gun.

False accusers tend to jump to a conclusion with only a partial image of evidence. Accusers want to be in the front of the line to state their case that I posted a photo of a smoking gun. An accuser will be adamant that they are right. The accuser is the person who loudly declares, and often with a profusion of words, their opinion is the only truth and no amount of arguing will persuade them otherwise.

Bottom line, if you are going to accuse someone, first and foremost treat them as you would want to be treated. Ask yourself: how do I feel when someone falsely accuses me? Then, if you are going to accuse your neighbor, go to them with a case, not an opinion. And when you present your case to them, do it with a few polite words. Next is the difficult part. Be prepared to calmly listen to their defense. Remember, treat them the way you would want to be treated! If your neighbor doesn’t want to treat you with the same decent respect you gave them, then that’s their problem. Leave the garbage on their front porch and walk away.

Last month I stated that I believed one of the disciples of Jesus has received a bad rap. I believe one of Jesus’ disciples has been falsely accused of being a loud-mouth always sticking his foot in his mouth. With that introduction you probably instantly assume I am referring to Peter. You’re correct.

My presupposition is simply this: I believe Peter was actually a man of few words, the strong silent type, not a blithering fisherman so often presented by preachers who blather on and on.

Have you ever been in attendance of a meeting, either in a business, church, or club? Most meetings will have the talker or talkers, they are the ones who obviously love to hear themselves talk. The talkers more often than naught really don’t say anything. If the meeting were held in a balloon, all their talking would give the balloon enough hot air to lift it drifting among the clouds. Talkers will tell about a time when they did this and such this way, and therefore it should apply now; or it may not apply at all, they only wanted to tell a story about themselves. When the talker has their mouth engaged and are speaking at inordinate length we may politely call them filibustering. An interesting side note: The American Dictionary offers an origin of the word filibuster as coming from the French flibustier; pirates who pillaged the Spanish colonies in the West Indies. Ultimately the english word comes from the Dutch vrijbuitier or freebooter; pirates who incite revolution often through sabotage.

I don’t know about you, but every meeting I have ever attended, I never took a single note or logged into my memory anything the talker said. Usually when they are blathering on and on, quite frankly they are sabotaging the meeting and making me wish the facilitator would politely move the meeting along. When I have served as secretary for a meeting, I don’t recall logging anything the long-winded individual imparted at the meeting—in my experience, what they rattled on about wasn’t worth recording.

On the other hand, in most of the meetings mentioned there is also the listener. They are sometimes known as the strong silent type. When the talker is satisfied that they have expressed their point in at least sixteen ways, and the facilitator asks for any other comment, the listener will shift their position slightly or quietly clear their throat. The air in the meeting room suddenly freshens. As the strong silent individual speaks, their language expresses rich and subtle meanings. People are often found jotting down what the quiet fisherman says, and they talk about it for a long time afterward.

Did you catch my segue?

As I repeatedly listen to the gospel writers, I am time and time again brought to the conclusion that Peter was a strong, quiet fisherman. When Peter remarked on something or made a comment, everyone noted what he said. When Peter spoke, you can almost hear the ripple of silence pass through the cloud of disciples followed by whispered comments such as, “Peter said something? Did you hear what Peter said?”

James and John, the sons of thunder, probably were much like their father: loud and talkative. Andrew, Peter’s brother, Thomas and Phillip may likely have been basically good conversationalists. Matthew, Judas Iscariot and Simon the Zealot were most likely always voicing their opinions and throwing in political comments or expressing concern about the resources of the group. Bartholomew and the other Judas were like Peter, but may not of had as deep of conviction to test their faith.

Jesus saw a lot of potential in Peter. Peter did more listening than talking. Like many strong silent types, Peter had great faith, some deep insights, but also had great struggles in his faith. Jesus knew that Peter would go on to do some really amazing work for the kingdom, so he gave him some focused discipling.

I challenge you to put aside what the blathering preachers say about Peter. Before you accuse me of heresy, read the gospel accounts in the light of Peter being a strong quiet fisherman. Listen to what he says and in the context of what is happening. And next time you or a preacher you know makes a comment like, “I know I talk too much and often put my foot in my mouth, just like the apostle Peter . . .” you, or they, are probably being more like Simon the Zealot, not Simon called Peter.

In review, keep your own front porch swept. If you know for a fact that you did not do what you are being accused of, the accuser will ultimately be the one whose porch will fall under scrutiny. It’s called having integrity. When you have internal consistency and lack corruption your honesty will stand, so that is where you need to stand. As a suggestion, the best place to weather a storm is on a rock, not on a sandy beach. The best rock is the Word of God and having Jesus standing beside us. And reflecting back on this month’s thoughts, If you are going to accuse someone, treat them as you would want to be treated.

Now go and read the four gospels in the New Testament and pay special attention to every instance when that strong, quiet, fisherman Peter talks. You will likely conclude he has been falsely accused.

Finally, beware of photos on the internet.

False Accusations, a Bad Rap, and the Smoking Gun – Part 1

SmokingGun1

 

Have you ever been falsely accused?

You are Colonel Mustard in the study with the revolver and have been accused of murder with a knife in the conservatory. There are no cards of defense you can provide and the truth falls on deaf ears. Mr. Green and Mrs. Peacock are engaged in a lurid affair, you caught them, they now conspire to eliminate you, and break the rules of the game to guarantee you will never set foot in the billiard room again. If you are reading this and don’t have a clue what I am talking about, don’t worry, it’s just a game.

Have you ever been the focus of a false accusation where you want desperately to state your case, but the accuser only raises their voice louder and regurgitates their accusation against you with ever increasing intensity. And then when you believe you will finally have the opportunity to defend yourself, the accuser tromps away. Lastly the jury and judge exit without any desire to hear your side of the case. You are a chick wet from the shell feeling cold and exposed.

After publishing my latest book, ACID, The World Has Changed, But Man Has Not, I and my book repeatedly fall prey to accusations that are false. Throughout my residence on this earth I have been falsely accused of some minor transgressions, however this is different.

As an author and an actor, and a preacher for that matter, I am open to both compliments and criticisms; now thanks to email they come poorly written and from faceless people. I’ve come to know that some folks love me, some folks hate me, and most folks . . . well, they are silent fence sitters. Book clubs or reading groups are typically ones to sign-in with a review. Book clubs and reading groups generally offer creative criticism or humbling compliments. A representative of one group of readers referred to me in terms that if I shared them here would change my rating from G to R. They deemed my book a worthless bit of drivel focused on demonizing Hillary Clinton. (On a side note, they spelled her name Hillery.) First, Hillary Clinton manages to be demonized by the media without any help from me. Second, allow me to defend my book.

ACID, is an apocalyptic, science fiction, adventure with a twist of romance set 40 years in the future. The book is only shaded with politics. Yes Hillary Clinton is mentioned. There is a character named Hillary who is a pirate queen. Statistically speaking the book is 79,827 words long, the mention of Hillary Clinton is found in a brief conversation that takes 420 words. Queen Hillary never really appears in the story. The name Hillary occurs 6 times. You do the math to determine the percentage of the book dedicated to “demonizing Hillary Clinton”.

Have you seen the movie, The Princess Bride? If you haven’t you should. In the movie there is a character named, Dread Pirate Roberts. Actually he is not the Dread Pirate Roberts, he only assumes the name because the name instills fear and respect. So it is with my story. Queen Hillary isn’t Hillary Clinton, she only uses the name Hillary (and wears a blond wig) to instill fear.

Bottom line. Did I write the book to demonize Hillary Clinton? No. But you be the judge. If you haven’t read, or listened to, the book then please get a copy and decide for yourself.

What can we do when we are falsely accused?

Assuming you are a scholarly Christian you will likely quote Jesus’ sermon on the mount, specifically the part recorded by Matthew and found in our Bible in the fifth chapter of the gospel of Matthew, beginning in verse 38.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love you neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

– Matthew 5:38-48 (NIV)

That’s all good and right, and fine for Jesus to say, but it ain’t so simple to live, anyway not for a regular guy like me. Maybe you are one of them super Christians who have proven yourself by walking on water—living these verses in the adversity of being falsely accused is simple for you.

Now don’t go accusing me of something! Hear me out. And if you are a regular Christian like me, maybe, just maybe, my words will help. Admittedly I am not a theologian, anyway not by the standards set forth by the institutions of higher learning. However I am a theologian based upon the Latin: I think about, and or study about God.

I am very fortunate to have had a dad who was good, kind, wise, intelligent, good-looking, a hard worker, creative, inwardly and outwardly a Christian, loved his wife and family, and was generally loved by everyone. Okay, he would probably make a fuss and downplay all those . . . except maybe being good-looking. Throughout my life he offered his proverbs or sayings, some of which didn’t make sense until I was wise enough to understand them myself. Give ear to a couple of his proverbs that provided me with the stamina to get through the event of false accusations.

Keep the nose to the grindstone.”

Keep your front porch swept.”

 – Maurice Klinger 1920-2012

Beginning with the second, “Keep your front porch swept.” Basically keep your own business in order and don’t worry about the business of your neighbor; they need to worry about their own front porch. And, it is not important to point out that your neighbor has a messy front porch. Being an accuser tends to make folks scrutinize your porch. Do what is good and right. Be a Daniel and keep on honoring and praying to God. When the accusers come and demand you be thrown into the lions den, don’t worry, God will defend you. As long as you keep your front porch swept, you’ve done all you can do.

“Keep the nose to the grindstone,” took me a bit longer to decode. My dad was a welder for much of his life. I will add: He was a really good welder. When I was young he taught me some basics in metal working. Much of my welding required grinding afterwards . . . still does. He taught me to always, when holding material with a pliers while I was grinding, keep the pliers straight on at the grinding wheel. If you hold the pliers off to a side, the grinding wheel conceivably can catch the material and throw it, potentially injuring you. Referring to the pliers he would remind me to keep the nose to grindstone. In life I have come to understand that to keep the nose to the grindstone, is another way to say, whatever you do, do it right, approach it straight-on, and it likely won’t come back at you and injure you. Be like Stephen in the book of Acts, answer your accusers straight on with truth. You may get stoned to death, but you will have seen heaven open beforehand.

In life, I earnestly try to keep my front porch swept. Doing so provides me with the assurance that I am keeping my life in order. The accusations of my demonizing Hillary Clinton did not weigh on me too much. My book is science fiction not a political essay. True I occasionally wonder, knowing some of the history regarding people who fell into disfavor with the Clintons, if some strange accident will befall me or my book will be banned by the Feds. Typically I make an effort to keep my front porch swept by living a fairly transparent life. Admittedly there is some clutter on my front porch, I don’t hide the fact that I’m not perfect.

Being declared, in no uncertain terms, to be less than a male cow’s excrement when it came to my writing stung (maybe I should say it stunk). Because I keep the nose to the grindstone, I do all my work and my writing to the best of my ability, I didn’t suffer injury. I know the truth. I’m not doing anything on the sly, working an angle to demonize anyone. Like most writers I aim for an audience. Originally I aimed for a Christian audience, now however I find the Steam Punk culture more receptive. Again let me say, my book is science fiction not a political essay.

Although I wasn’t given opportunity to verbally defend myself, I don’t need to. My book speaks for itself.

This month I have attempted to defend myself from a false accusation or bad rap. Next month I will attempt to defend one of Jesus’ disciples from what I believe is a bad rap.

Scroll back to the top and take another look at that smoking gun. Beware of making a presupposition about that smoking gun, next month you will probably be proved wrong.

It’s All About a HUGO Award

HUGO Award Hopeful

2016 HUGO Award Hopeful

Years blur by. New Years celebrations pass blasé.

You may ask, have I been reading Ecclesiastes 1?

Now that you mention it, let’s read a portion of the words of the Teacher.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.

“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.

What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?

Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.

The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.

The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.

All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full.

To the place the streams come from, there they return again.

All things are wearisome, more than one can say.

The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’?

It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.

There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.”

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

There was a day when I would read those words and hear despair and depression in the seemingly pessimistic words. Not any more. Now I hear the wisdom of hope carried in the words of the Preacher or Teacher of Ecclesiastes.

Take a moment and read the passage again, only this time put on the cap of optimism before you read it.

I have never been the type to make a New Years resolution. Long ago I began to live one-day-at-a-time; maybe that’s why New Years Day is jaded in my opinion.

As an author it is easy to be pessimistic about the present. Why isn’t anyone reading my books? What new story line can I create that hasn’t been told before? Why is that book by that first time author, who by the way is in my opinion a poor writer, selling a million copies?

You see there is enough despair, depression and pessimism in the life of a writer. Why make some outlandish resolution that likely will not transpire to add to the trouble?

Well all that to say, this year I made a resolution. I resolved to hope for my latest novel, ACID, The World Has Changed, But Man Has Not, to receive some extraordinary recognition. In what form is my hope for extraordinary recognition? The HUGO Awards. Every year the Science Fiction community awards a HUGO to various categories from the previous year, among them being best new novel. Truthfully I have a better chance of winning the Power Ball Lottery drawing for 100-million; except I would need to buy a lottery ticket, which I never remember to do. But I did publish an action adventure, science fiction,with a twist of romance novel in 2015, so why not hope for a nomination or award.

If you haven’t read my latest novel, it is available as a kindle e-book, paper back and audio book. So what is your excuse for not getting a copy and reading it or listening to it. After all, you may just like it.

Yup, the desire to write a novel is to come upon a story that is new; to break the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 1. Receiving the HUGO Award would declare that I did in fact come up with something new, and the science fiction community likes it. And if the science fiction community likes it, well maybe others will too. And there you will have something new under the sun.

LIGHT

Burning_a_Candle_at_Both_Ends

Φῶς

lux

Light

Here in the northern hemisphere Christmastime comes when we have the shortest days and the longest nights. Therefore artificial light is necessary for a greater portion of the day. And therefore, Christmas lights shine the brightest and can be enjoyed the longest each day.

I have always enjoyed Christmas lights. My earliest memories of Christmas include our, often scraggly, Christmas tree, the heavy clip-on lights and the entertaining bubble-lights. It was always a special evening when we first had the lights of the tree on and all the other lights would be off. The glow of the lights seemed to fill the room with a special warmth. I still enjoy a room illuminated by only the lights of a Christmas tree.

In the New Testament of the Bible, My favorite disciple of Jesus is John. Writing the introduction of his gospel, John says:

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”

John 1:9 (NIV)

And there we have a reason for the Christmas season: Light.

The Bible has a lot to say about light. John recorded Jesus saying: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Light helps us see. Our eyes are created to react to the light entering them and to relay it to our brain. As I am writing this I am beholding a sunrise; the sky is a kaleidoscope of shades of blue, yellow, orange and red. Gradually the landscape comes into focus as sunlight washes away the darkness. All this is visible because of the amazing creation of the eye. Charles Darwin stated that the eye alone is cause to disprove and disbelieve his theories of evolution. In his words, it made him shudder. (Francis Darwin, ed., The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. II (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1899), p. 67.)

Matthew 6:22 records Jesus saying, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good your whole body will be full of light.”

The eye is amazing and important.

Light also helps us be seen. Learning to find the light is a basic discipline taught in stage acting. As an actor it is important that when your line is to be delivered, you are in the light—the audience then knows to focus on who is speaking. In life there are those who are always seeking to be in the light, and those who only step into it when necessary, I believe it is important to find a balance in when to be in the light.

As you enjoy the lights of Christmastime, consider the true light, Jesus. I offer to you one more passage to hear from the beloved disciple, John.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with on another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

1 John 1:5-7 (NIV)

This Christmastime when you see the festive lights, pause and give thanks that you can see them. And when you meet the Grinch, step into the light and explain the true meaning of the season.

Thanking God and Butchering Chickens

Butcher Block

The Butcher Block

“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, who has brought forth bread from the earth.”

This is a typical prayer of thanksgiving given during a meal. Some may phrase it: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, who has brought forth grain from the fields of the earth that we may gather it and make this bread for our nourishment.” The point is, we should be aware that it isn’t just the labor of our hands that provides our bread, it is the Lord God who provides it. Therefore we should be thankful on many levels. First we should be thankful to God for causing the earth to have seasons that will produce crops. Next, we should be thankful we have seed to plant that will produce a crop of its own kind. Next, we should be thankful to have the knowledge and understanding to plant and tend and harvest a crop. For many of us we should be thankful for income allowing us the ability to purchase a portion of the crop. Next we should be thankful to have the ability to take what we have grown or purchased and make a meal for our nourishment from it.

Okay there is a lot more complexity to it all than these few points. However this is not a discussion in irreducible complexity. Maybe some other time I will delve into the fascinating subject of irreducible complexity.

I have never raised chickens until this year. One thing I have learned: if you are buying chicks, buy pullets. Don’t get any roosters! Unless you plan to breed or invite the birds to dinner, as the main course, don’t buy roosters. Roosters, when they mature, will crowd the feeders not giving the hens a chance to eat (think of them as teenage boys at a buffet). Roosters, when they mature, will fight and pick on each other and the hens (think of them as teenage boys trying to impress girls). Roosters, when they mature, will cause so much stress in the hen house that the hens will be too stressed to lay eggs (think of them as teenage boys stealing a girl’s diary and reading it to an audience of her friends)(okay that would probably get a teenage boy murdered). I hope you get the picture. Roosters, when they mature, are trouble.

Well there were 15 roosters too many in my hen house. The time had come to thin the flock. Remember, I mentioned that I have never raised chickens before? Well that also means I have never butchered chickens either.

I remember, when I was very young, watching my aunt Emma butcher a chicken. It can’t be that hard, so I thought as I sharpened my hatchet.

It is known that memories can be triggered by certain smells. I can step into a shed or garage, with its dusty timbers and motor oil stained floor, and suddenly be transported back in time to my grandfather’s garage beside their house, or my uncle’s garage in town. While walking through a produce market I can instantly be swept back in time to the little grocery store in town where there was a basket of fresh fruit near the door and creaky wooden floors. When I butchered and rendered my first rooster I was instantly whisked back to a time when I watched my aunt butcher a chicken. Chickens smell bad on the outside and they even smell worse on the inside. It is a smell that triggered a vivid memory of hiding beside a shed and watching with wonder as my aunt transformed a live chicken into a bird ready for the kettle. On a side note, I also remember how good my aunt’s fried chicken tasted.

So what does butchering chickens have to do with giving God thanks?

As I calmed each rooster, I reminded him that I raised him from the time he was only about 3 days old. As I raised my hatchet, I offered God thanks for allowing me the task of raising the chicken and now being able to provide meat for the ranch. Then it took all my wherewithal to bifurcate its head from its neck.

Now you may be thinking that I was going a bit over the top with thanksgiving. Allow me to share a story, recorded by Luke in the New Testament.

“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’

When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’”

Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)

Too often it is too easy to forget to be thankful.

You may be the type that says Grace before each meal. But do you truly give God thanks for providing the food before you? Now don’t argue and claim that it is because you work hard earning a living to put bread on the table. Remember this is not a discussion in irreducible complexity. The bottom line is, God provided. Don’t go and piously state that you are thankful in your heart and God sees that. I am asking, do you give God thanks for the food you have?

Living as a missionary has given me a new perspective on being thankful for the food we have, since much of it comes from donations. Generous gifts of money or goods from food banks are a primary source of food here. Of course I have a tiny source of income from sales of my books, but you wouldn’t want to live on that income in this day and age. Bottom line is: God provides. Therefore we are truly thankful to God for the food on our table every time we sit down to eat. We understand that God has provided and so we are quick to run back to him and give him thanks.

This month we in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving. For much of the population its about eating too much and then watching football. For some of you it’s just another day to eat too much and watch sports; your waistline is proof of that.

I challenge you, before you pickup your fork, to honestly give God thanks for your food. And I also challenge you to give God thanks, not just on days like Thanksgiving, but every time you indulge in eating. Let’s be like the one in Luke’s gospel that returned to Jesus to thank him, not like the other nine, who were probably thankful too, but didn’t make an effort to come to Jesus and say, thank you.

Today as I visit the hen house, it is so quit and peaceful without all those roosters causing trouble. Now the hens can get about the business of laying eggs. And I will truly thank God for each and every egg I get to enjoy. Nothing like farm, or in this case ranch fresh large brown eggs for breakfast.

Water

Water

Water

All living organisms depend on the colorless, odorless liquid that forms the earth’s seas, rivers, lakes and rain. If you are thinking I am talking about water / H2O, you’re correct.

Now some will say that whiskey is the water of life; I propose that is hogwash(water used in the washing of pigs . . . mmw—mud, manure, water). Allow me to state: Water is the water of life.

If you live in the United States or most any modern city in the world, you probably can go to a faucet and receive a flow of water, probably clean and possibly hot and cold selectable.

The unique chemical properties of water make it able to dissolve many other substances therefore making it desirable for cleaning and bathing. Because we are one of the aforementioned living organisms on this earth our makeup includes water, therefore we must drink water to sustain our life. Physicians will tell you that you can live for 40-60 days without food, however you can only live 5-7 days without water.

If you cool water it will become solid and if you heat water it will become a vapor.

I will venture to say that if you were to count, in any given day, each time you use water, you would get bored counting and or lose count before your day is half through.

There is no need for me to step out on a limb to state that we take water for granted. In the book, Farewell Otto Tryk, by K.C.Dean (ISBN: 978-1502446541), the author recounts his first visit to an orphanage in South Africa. He observes children bathing in dirty, muddy water you wouldn’t allow your dog near. Each of the orphanages or schools and clinics he visits, water and the wells that supply it play an important role. Oh, by the way, I recorded and produced the audiobook of Farewell Otto Tryk. The print edition, kindle edition and audiobook are available on amazon. If you haven’t read or listened to the book, I recommend it. And by purchasing the book you are supporting a great cause.

Back to the subject of water.

Southwest Agape Ranch Water Main Work

Southwest Agape Ranch Water Main Work

Here at Agape Youth Ranch I have learned to not take water for granted. Our water comes from a deep well, it is stored in a large above-ground tank, then pumped into a pressure tank to be distributed throughout the ranch. If pumps aren’t breaking or malfunctioning then water mains are breaking. Keeping the water flowing here is a full-time job. Here is a photo of an 80 foot long section of water main I recently replaced.

In the Bible, from Genesis to the maps, there are countless stories where water plays a role. It isn’t amazing to me that probably every time water is mentioned in the Bible, there is a teaching moment where we can learn a life lesson. Matthew 10, in the New Testament, is such a place. I’m not going to offer the entire chapter here for you to read, read the chapter in your Bible. For my purpose let me simply tell you that the chapter begins with Jesus calling his twelve disciples. No he didn’t use a cell phone, it means he selected the twelve men to be his close followers. In verse 5, Jesus sends out the twelve disciples with instructions. Let’s focus on the final bit of instructions, beginning at verse 40 and going thru verse 42.

Jesus talking:

He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”

Matthew 10:40-42 NIV

Frequently this passage is used by “name-it claim-it” or “prosperity” preachers. They will tell you all about the prophet’s reward. You will probably hear the story found in the Old Testament book of First Kings 17:7-24. Allow me to offer a hacked paraphrase of the story. Elijah asks a poor widow for a drink of water. As she goes to get him the water, he asks for a piece of bread too. She explains how she was preparing the last of her flour and oil for a final meal for herself and her son, and then they were going to die. Bottom line of the story is that a poor widow gives the prophet Elijah the last of her flour and oil in a meal and for the whole time the prophet stays with her she never runs out of flour and oil.

The “prosperity’ preacher will probably get all excited at this point as they tell you that if you give to a prophet, you will have unending abundance. And oh by the way, they are a prophet and if give to them, even your all, God will guarantee that you will never go hungry. Enough about fringe heresy.

We then turn to authorized commentaries. They will contradict themselves by telling you that giving something as basic as a cup of water to a child will bless you. Their contradiction comes when they erroneously translate the Greek for “little ones” as children . . . Oops.

So if this passage isn’t talking about a reward that looks like a cornucopia of abundance or giving a child a drink of water, then what is it talking about?

Let’s take the passage apart then reassemble it and see what Jesus is teaching. This is a discipling moment that Jesus repeatedly teaches and it is a valuable lesson for us as disciples.

First let’s build a foundation for this discipling moment by understanding who the “little ones” are. We know he isn’t talking about children so who is Jesus talking about? The passage tells us: “one of these little ones . . .” In the previous sentence we read about prophets and righteous men. Clearly, including the original Greek, the little ones are the prophets and righteous. How are they little ones? In the old English of Shakespeare, the word for little may have been niggardly, meaning an insignificant or small person in status (status more so than stature). So how is a prophet or righteous person insignificant? Let’s jump to the end of Jesus’ ministry.

Join me as we step into an upper room where Jesus and his disciples are eating the Passover meal together, the last supper they will enjoy together. Tradition would have allowed for everyone as they entered to have their feet washed by a servant. None of the disciples seems to be bothered by the fact that no one washed any feet. The meal is going along with laughter and conversation. But Jesus is aware of the oversight in tradition. Finally he gets up, takes off his robe, wraps a towel around his waist, fills a bowl with water and washes his disciples feet. Awkward! Here is the master, the Lord, the rabbi(teacher) washing feet. Can you just see the disciples initial reaction? “What is Jesus doing?” “Why is Jesus doing the servant’s job?” Of course Peter makes a fuss. Then when Jesus is finished and dons his robe he asks his disciples, “Do you know what I did?”

Glancing around the room we can see the look of bewilderment in the disciples eyes. We can almost hear their thoughts. “You washed my feet?”

Jesus explains how he, being the Lord and Teacher, humbled himself and washed their feet, they should do the same. His teaching moment isn’t just in words but in action, and the lesson is: to be great in God’s kingdom, one must have the attitude and humbleness of a servant.

In society, greatness has always meant wealth, fame, power. In God’s kingdom, greatness means being humble, serving, being little or taking on the insignificant position. In Jesus day, about the lowest duty a servant could do was to wash feet, it didn’t get any lower.

So in God’s kingdom a prophet or righteous man is great because he is a servant in deed and in heart. Therefore we can understand Jesus’ teaching moment in Matthew 10, as twofold. Prophets and righteous men are rewarded in God’s kingdom by being called great because they are humble servants. Second, if anyone gives something as basic as a cool cup of water to a prophet or righteous man, because they are a disciple of Jesus, they are being a humble servant and therefore receive a prophet’s reward: greatness in God’s kingdom.

Bottom line for us as disciples. If we want to be truly great in God’s eyes, we should work to serve others before we look to our own needs. At a meal, we should be the one to make certain that others have been served before we serve ourself. If we are thirsty, offer the cool cup of water to a fellow disciple who is also thirsty. It is better to be considered great in God’s kingdom than to be looked upon as being great in this life. And by living this way, those we are discipling will observe how we live, and learn to do the same.

All this talk about water has made me thirsty. First, however, I need to see if the water main here on the ranch is leaking anywhere, or if the pumps are working, or . . . .

Growing Rocks

Agate1

Just Another Rock?

Here at Agape Youth Ranch in Southeast Arizona, we grow rocks. I’m serious! I will go for a walk on the road that loops through the ranch and come across stones that weren’t there the day before. And I don’t mean little stones, these are rocks big as my hand. Okay the stones don’t grow in the middle of the road—erosion from wind and rain wash the dirt away leaving behind the big stones that had been hidden just below the surface. But it sure seems like the stones magically grow.

Regularly I toss or kick aside the larger stones, otherwise they could damage a car or tire. The other day I was moving aside some stones. I reached for an angular stone and discovered it was an agate. Now you need to know, I’m an amateur rock-hound (emphasis on amateur). I am constantly picking up interesting rocks, and many are added to my collection. I acquired the rock collecting bug from my dad, he had a couple of stashes of interesting rocks—I have his collection in with mine now.

Back to the agate. I confess I was thrilled to find an agate; it is only the second agate I have ever found. Peering into the crystal grotto, I let the sun’s rays fill the agate. It is a “young” geode agate so the crystals are small, but it is still really cool to look at. On the other hand, the outside of the agate is actually rather nondescript, I would go so far as to say it is blah.

Agates are semi-precious gemstones in a form of chalcedony, which is silicon dioxide. Geode agates develop when an empty pocket, or vesicle, inside a host rock fills in with fibrous quartz crystals. At some time the vesicle was filled with fluid rich in dissolved and suspended quartz (silica), as well as other mineral impurities. Gradually the silica began to form crystals and concentric bands of mineral rich deposit creating unique patterns. Agates are commonly found in riverbeds where a flow of water will erode a passage through the vesicle. Once inside the vesicle the water will dissolve the silica. Then during periods of time when the rock is out of the water, late fall for instance when the river is running low, the water will evaporate leaving behind the dissolved minerals and silica. Evidence of this type of agate formation can be found by examining the rock for tiny holes that allow water into and out of the vesicle. I was able to identify the telltale holes in my agate.

Reading the 19th Chapter of the gospel of Luke in the New Testament of the Bible, we come to a scene, beginning in the 28th verse, where Jesus “triumphantly” enters Jerusalem. You are probably familiar with the story. Jesus is riding a colt or donkey and people are paving the road with their coats and palm branches. Excitedly people shout and sing and dance. Now get this, while Jesus is riding along from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem through the din of celebration, the religious hierarchy, the Pharisees, come alongside him; they probably had to shout to be heard above the roar of the crowd. Here is the J.B. Phillips rendering of Luke 19:39-40:

39 There were some Pharisees in the crowd who said to Jesus, “Master, restrain your disciples!”

40 To which he replied, “I tell you that if they kept quiet, the very stones in the road would burst out cheering!”

I am certain that Jesus meant that the stones would in fact begin to audibly praise him. After all, Jesus is the God of Creation. If God can make man from the dust of the earth(see Genesis 1-2 at the beginning of the Bible), He certainly can make stones have temporary voices. Mind you, having stones begin to shout, “Hosanna!” would have terrified most folks.

Now you are possibly saying, “that’s impossible.” Given our limited understanding of science, it is difficult to imagine stones suddenly acquiring voices and cheering. But for just a moment, let’s let God be God. Allow God out of your preconceived “box” of understanding. I believe that God will usually work within the laws of science and order that he established. But this is Jesus we’re talking about. He healed people of all kinds of illnesses and disabilities. This is Jesus, who fed thousands with only a couple of loaves of bread, and on another occasion he fed thousands with a couple of loaves of bread and a couple of small fish. This is Jesus, who confounded the most highly educated men of his day. It is this same Jesus who calmed storms and walked on water.

So, can rocks praise God? Scientifically and artistically I believe that rocks praise God, they display the fingerprints of God the Creator of everything. So let’s take a look at the agate I found and look and listen. Let’s give the rock an opportunity to declare, “the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

Throughout the gospels, Jesus often says the Kingdom of God is like a seed. Seeds are mysterious. Plant the tiniest seed in soil, add water and time, and you will get a plant. So how is the Kingdom of God like a seed? It is a fact that a seed is a wonder of life. We may consider that from a single seed, a plant will grow and produce an abundant supply of more seeds. You may suggest how a single seed can grow a tree that will provide homes for birds, insects and countless other animals. All these ideas are what the Kingdom of God is. But for my purpose I would like to consider how the Kingdom of God is a hidden wonder waiting within our reach to be shared.

Crack open a seed and you don’t get much, unless you have a microscope, and even then it is not too amazing. It is in the planting of the seed that the amazing thing happens. An agate is like a seed, only opposite. Most agates are also not much to look at. Like the one I found, agates are rather blah on the outside. But crack an agate open and, wow!

The Kingdom of God is like a geode agate. What begins as a plain old rock, is gradually changed into a hidden treasure. The Kingdom of God is as close as a plain rock in your hand, but unless you crack it open, you will never know the treasure. You are like that plain old rock and when you accept Jesus as your Lord and savior, the Kingdom of God begins to form within you.

Opening the Kingdom of God happens when we obey Jesus’ final command to go and make disciples. You see, when you open your life to Jesus on one hand, and open your life to others on the other, you become that seed germinating into a great plant; you will reveal the amazing beauty forming in you. When you live your life, allowing others to walk with you in your life, letting them share your joys and your sorrows, your exciting days and your mundane days, you allow others to see into you where the hidden crystals of the life of Jesus’ kingdom are forming.

As disciples of Jesus we are to live our lives in such a way that others can see into our life. Think of the word intimacy. Say the word intimacy out loud this way: “In to me see”. This is how the Kingdom of God grows like a tiny seed or like a mysterious agate. We must allow ourselves to be like Jesus and invite others to be immersed in our life. It is living life on life. We must teach others with words and by letting them see how we live. Invite others to see into you where the mystery of God is being formed. And then send them out to do the same.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood the model of discipling that Jesus lived. Otto Dudzus, one of the men Bonhoeffer was discipling said this about him. “Whatever he had and whatever he was, he made that accessible to others.” (Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010)

Hmm, sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it?

Can it be said of you that whatever you have and whatever you are, is accessible to those you are discipling? (Of course I am assuming you are being discipled and are discipling others.)

If you think that being a Christian is about going to church, being a good person, and hoping you will win a place in heaven . . . you are only walking down the road stepping on rocks without realizing their hidden treasure. You are eating the ear of corn because you’re hungry. However, you’re probably neglecting the fact that corn are seeds, and if you hold back some of the corn and plant them, you will soon harvest a crop of corn that you can share with others who are hungry.

Being a Christian is about living in such a way that you invite others to see how the Kingdom of God is forming in you, so they will learn how to live like you do and go and do likewise.

Geode Agate

Geode Agate

You are like a geode agate, probably kinda blah on the outside. However, God is forming a mysterious beauty within you, you just need to be willing to allow others to see into you what God is doing within you. And the best way to show others the life you have in Jesus, is to be in relationship with Him and them.

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