Time, Money, and Energy

This morning I got a text from my friend, Zach McKinney. He read the Sportsman Devotional early and texted me saying that it was particularly good today. I read it and discovered that the topic concerned believing something based on the testimony of someone respected.  The author said that the State of Virginia’s official position is “there are no mountain lions in Virginia” . . . but he personally knew some good, honest, and experienced hunters who have seen mountain lions in the state. So the discussion was . . . who to believe—the State or honorable men?

I replied to him saying that I enjoyed the devotion and we discussed it some. During the discussion I told him that I had seen a mountain lion on the ranch between Christmas and New Year’s. I told him I have been looking for him for four years, since discovering his presence by seeing his tracks in the snow. I knew he was around and likely living in one of the caves, but this was my first sighting of the big cat himself.

Zach responded that was justification for buying a weapon equipped with good night vision optics. He chuckled and asked if I thought Sandy might buy into that being good justification and commented that his darling wife, Kim, would smell that a mile off.

The conversation shifted to the different places in life where he and I are today. He has five hungry, growing boys and I have an empty nest. I assured him a day would come when he and Kim wouldn’t need to discuss every purchase and told him there was a time when Sandy and I would discuss any purchase of $100, but we don’t do that today.

Zach said he could see the light at the end of the tunnel . . .  only 15 more years. It is has been my experience that the light one sees at the end of the tunnel is sometimes a train coming at you. I fear that may be pal Zach’s case . . . in 15 years he will have five boys in college, all driving cars provided by Mom and Dad!

I chuckled and said, you know what they say, “By the time you can afford a Corvette, you can’t get in the thing.”

Zach’s reply was, “Time, Money, and Energy, it takes all three . . . but we only get 2 at a time.” I laughed and said, “Now, that would make a good blog and I may steal it.” He took the fun out of it and gave me permission to use it, but he is like that . . . a big-hearted guy.

 

His statement really is true . . . or certainly has been true in my life experience. One needs time and freedom to do the things he or she enjoys, such as hunting and fishing. Yet when you have a family and kids in the home, you are busy earning a living and raising a family and all that entails. I recall one spring evening years ago, sitting on a bleacher watching a Little League game, leaning over to Sandy, saying, “I think people determine how many kids they want by deciding how many spring and summer nights they want to spent each week in a baseball diamond.”

Money . . .  it is pretty much the same thing. For families with children, it seems to take every nickel earned to provide a home, food, clothing, and the essentials. It costs a great deal to raise a family, and I am not sure how people manage today with the costs being so high. Our first new car cost $4,200 and that same car costs $42,000 today.

Then, finally you come to that place of the empty nest, and you have some time and a bit of money stashed away . . . but by that time you are out of gas . . . drained of energy!

I fear that is where I am at the moment as I face knee surgery! A boat setting unused, several nice rods and reels in the rack, a lovely bay nearby, reports of fish being caught, money to buy bait in my pocket, and yet I am sitting in front of a word-processor writing a blog.

“Time, Money, and Energy, it takes all three . . . but we only get 2 at a time.”

I know of a few exceptions . . . but for the most part that is how it seems to work.

Time and money, but no energy!

As I think about people I know and how it has worked for them, one couple sticks out as a rare exception to this . . . Roger and Betty Horan. Those sweet folks are like the energizer bunny . . . loaded with energy and going strong. In fact, they are two of the busiest people I know . . . always on the go, doing things for others, flying off in their plane, fishing, and just enjoying life to the fullest.  I wonder what they know that the rest of us haven’t figured out?


Faith and Love . . .

The Apostle Paul said these are two of the greatest things. . . and he went on to say that Hope was the third greatest thing. But he concluded that Love is the greatest of the three. Do you know why? Because there is a day coming when we will no longer need to have faith . . . or hope.  At that point we will be in eternity, seeing the reality of what we had faith in and hoped for while we were living on earth

But, even in the greatness of Heaven, love will be essential, that is why it is the greatest of the three. In Heaven we will be surrounded by love . . . the power of it . . . the greatness of it . . . the blessing of it . . . the miracle of it!

Love is the very nature of God. We are told in the Bible, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son ……”. That is God’s love in action, and it is His only begotten son, Jesus, who gives us the ability and power to love . . . and to be loved.

The Apostle John reminds us that “Perfect love casts out all fear.”  Without Jesus, we would only be able to live in fear and doubt. That would be tragic, because fear and doubt limits us . . . but love frees us. It is through God’s gift to the world, Jesus, that we find God’s pledge to love us forever and his assurance that He has good plans for us.

This truth enables us to have the ‘sound mind’ Paul wrote about. A sound mind that says, “Because God is with me and loves me, I have no reason to fear . . . I have no reason to complain.” It is with this ‘sound mind’ that we can replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts . . . replace doubts with shouts …. replace anxieties with assurances . . . and we can replace fear with faith.

A ‘sound mind’ enables us to know who God says we are, and He says some really good things about who we are. He says we are . . . righteous . . . beloved . . . more than conquerors . . . his children . . . the redeemed of the earth. He is able to say those things about us because of Jesus and what he did for us.

Why was Jesus willing to do that for us? There is only one explanation  . . . LOVE!  However we look at it, it just keeps coming back to love.

It is inside the human heart that the battle between fear and faith is waged. But Jesus offers faith and love to win that battle of the heart . . . what a lovely combination. What a wonderful gift.

FAITH SAYS                                                                      DOUBT  AND  FEAR SAY

Try                                                                                                      Let it go

Keep it up                                                                                           Give it up

Step out                                                                                              Step back

Rise                                                                                                     Fall

It is folly to live with doubt. The truth about doubt is that it has never accomplished anything . . .  faith and love accomplish everything!

These are truths I have known for a long time . . . things I have long appreciated. Truths I have tried to build my life around and upon . . . but this year I have a refreshing new appreciation for them.  I am a new Grandfather to Ali and Abi, those precious little girls who recently joined the family! Ali calls me “Pappy” . . . Abi just grins.

Courtney was with them and Sarah in OK City over the weekend and we have received photos. What a joy they bring . . . even in just looking at photos of them. They have given me a renewed appreciation for life . . . love . . . and for God’s mercy and goodness. They have done that for the entire family.

I am reminded this morning of how highly favored we are in Jesus. I am reminded how far God has brought us . . . and that He promises to continue and take us all the way . . . that He watches over our lives . . . that He has kept us breathing through all sorts of difficulties.

What a blessing Love is . . . to experience it, to bask in it, to receive it, to be able to extend it to others, and to be warmed by it as we witness it at work in others.

God really did something special for us . . . in us . . . with His love. Today He wants to do something special through us!

 

Co-ed 56-Up

Being Shaped by His Love—FBC, Rockport, Texas

That is the name of the Sunday school class that I get to teach. It is not a typical name for a Sunday school class . . . but then it is not a typical Sunday school class.

In fact, it is an incredible class and a wonderful group of people. The class is actually pretty large by Baptist standards, but it is a unique situation. I have taught the class for almost 20 years and have been blessed, touched, and influenced by so many that have been part of the class over the years. I suspect that I would have been sent packing long ago if they weren’t such loving people. The truth of it is that I am just a mediocre teacher . . . but it is a great class and they inspire me to work harder and to be better.

The class was formed almost 23 years ago by, I believe, five couples. The women were unhappy that they wanted to attend Sunday school and be part of a class, but they wanted their husbands to go too. The Church did not have a class for retired couples, so Alice Thurman, Bette Thompson, Willie Mae Timmons, Virginia Baker, and Sybil Thurmond went to work. Bill and Jack Thurman, Bill Timmons, Jimmy Thompson, and Larry Baker were drug along by the ladies and the class was started. Soon, the men became solid supporters and engaged in the effort. That group was determined to make the class work . . . and work it has! They were certainly people with vision . . . but there was no way they could have envisioned what would happen in and with this class in the years to come.

The class had a variety of teachers over the first three years. All were good teachers but each ultimately moved away for a variety of reasons. The couples worked faithfully and the class took off and has continued to grow through the years. There has been a lot of water that has run under the bridge since then and many lives have been touched by the class. Those couples did a good thing when they started the class. The men were wise to join their wives’ effort.

Bill Thurmond, Jack Thurmond, Jimmy Thompson, Bill Timmons, Virginia Baker, and Sybil Thurmond have all gone to be with the Lord, but their investment of time, money, and labor in this class continues to pay dividends. 

As I think back over the years, it seems to me that something close to 100 people who have been part of the class have now gone to be with the Lord.  I have been inspired as I have witnessed this precious group of people come alongside each other in times of bereavement and stand with the families, love and serve one another during illnesses, and carry one another’s burdens.  I have seen them laugh together and cry together, thanking God for His goodness all the while.

These folks put their love into action . . . and everyone knows this is a class that can be asked when help is needed. I am amazed at their generosity to the ministries and needs of the Church and the needs within the Church. But it doesn’t end there . . . I can’t remember a year that the class has not sent at least $1,000 to support South Texas Children’s Home.

You can bet that right this moment there will be at least a half dozen of these good folks at the Church working tirelessly . . . some will be in the kitchen cooking for some need, others will be working on the building or grounds, while others will be volunteering in the Church office.  There will be others making calls to shut-ins and those who are sick at home. There will be others making hospital and nursing home visits. Some will be sending e-mails alerting members about prayer requests.

I am amazed at how effective the class has been with the folks who come to the area to spend the winter. Many of those winter visitors maintain contact with the class throughout the year and return to visit  . . . year after year. In fact, many of those winter visitors have eventually moved to the area and some say that the class was part of that decision. 

If you encounter one of them at Whataburger for lunch, just know you are going to be invited to Sunday school. It is an invitation you would do well to accept.

One illustration about these precious, loving folks and their influence on me: When the time came to build the new building, no group in the Church was more supportive than this class. No group reached deeper or contributed more. When the building was finished and it was time to move in, class space was assigned. I didn’t feel that the class got a particularly good assignment. My feelings were a bit hurt for them; but, I held my tongue and watched. As I observed them happily preparing the assigned space it occurred to me . . . “These precious folks don’t feel slighted one bit!” Then it occurred to me, “that’s what Grandparents do” . . . and they do it with happy, grateful hearts . . . “they carry the heavier load financially and yield the better to the others.” Through their influence, I changed my thinking and got my heart right.

What a special group of people! I love them.

 

Have You Staked your Claim?

A young man named James W. Marshall made a discovery that changed The United States. He was a carpenter and a saw-mill operator, who had been born in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, on October 8, 1810. At the age twenty-four, James left New Jersey and headed west. He finally settled in Missouri and began farming. He soon contracted malaria and, on the advice of his doctor, left Missouri. He joined an immigrant train headed to Oregon, where he stayed in the Williamette Valley for a few months. Not finding what he was searching for, he then headed south along the Siskiyou Trail into California. He would settle in Suttor’s Fort . . . and it was there young James would make the discovery that would change a nation.

But first, he had a war to fight. In 1846 he volunteered and served in the California Battalion in the Mexican-American War.  Following the war, he returned back to Sutter’s Fort. There he entered into a partnership with John Sutter, the founder of Sutter’s Fort. The partnership would be for a saw mill to be known as Sutter’s Mill. Young James would oversee the construction and operation of the mill and would in exchange receive a portion of the lumber. After scouting out the area, he located the perfect place for the saw-mill, along the American River.

The legend is that one afternoon, tired from his labor on the mill, young James went to the river to refresh himself. As he knelt down to drink, he saw a reflection in the water. He picked up a gold nugget and the cry went across the nation, “There is gold in those hills.” The mill was never completed . . . but the California Gold Rush was on . . . People by the thousands flocked to California to find instant wealth. Some would . . . others would lose everything.

The legend continues that in spite of the many people who became wealthy . . . young James, the Father of the California Gold Rush, died penniless and alone.   It seems that he never staked his claim . . .

The Bible speaks of the Gift of God as being eternal life . . . eternity with God in a wonderfully-prepared place. But to inherit that gift, you must first stake a claim . . . Have you staked your claim, or will you end up like young James?

 

Jonah and the Whale

Our Sunday school lesson this week is about Jonah and the Whale. I have been amazed at the controversy that surrounds this book of the Bible. There are actually those who dispute the story and say that the book should not even be in the Bible. They allege that it is impossible that Jonah survived three days in the belly of a large fish. Some argue that the story is simply an allegory. Others argue that the fish was simply a literary device in the story.  Others suggest that the story was a vision . . . or a dream, but they fail to identify if it was a vision or dream of Jonah himself, or that of another who simply wrote about the vision or dream. 

Then there is the debate over whether it was a “Great Fish” or a “Whale”. The argument centers on the technical point . . . a whale is a mammal, and, thus, not a fish. Therefore, the obvious conclusion is it could not have been a whale. That may well be true, but I would argue that the term “mammal” was not even understood at that time in history and, thus unavailable for use in distinction. I would bet that in the 8th century B.C. any whale that was seen was later described as a fish.

As I read through the debated topics, I was reminded of the tale of the pretty young woman riding on a city bus. The bus came to a scheduled stop and the town skirt-chaser climbed aboard. As he scoped out the ladies on the bus, his eyes came to rest on the pretty young woman. Slowly he began to move in her direction, thinking about the possibilities. As he got near, he realized that she was reading the Bible. He was taken aback and he thought …… “Uh oh, a Bible reader, this will be more difficult than usual.”

After thinking about it some, he altered his normal pick-up line and asked the pretty young woman, “Do you believe that Book?”  She smiled and said that she did, indeed believe the Book and said, “Every word, every page, and even the name Holy Bible on the cover.” He thought about that for a minute and asked her, “How did Jonah live in the belly of the fish for three days?” she paused, thought about it a few minutes, looked up at him and with a sweet smile answered, “I don’t know, but when I get to Heaven, I am going to ask him.” The wolf chuckled and asked, “What is he is not up there?”  Again, she thought about his question for a moment and then answered him, “Then, I suppose you will just have to ask him yourself.”

If one really believes that “All things are possible with God” . . . then it is not much of a stretch to believe the story of Jonah. It seems to me that a problem occurs when we try to understand every single detail within God’s creation  . . . with minds that are not prepared or capable of understanding every single detail. That is where faith is called into play. Personally, I don’t have to understand exactly how God did a thing . . . to be able to accept and believe that He did it.

We know that Jesus certainly believed the life and experience of Jonah was a real, historical event. Matthew 12 testifies of that truth and records the incident of a very learned group of religious officials approaching Jesus. These were men who accepted parts of the Scripture, but because they were unable to understand other parts, they simply questioned them. These religious men wanted something from Jesus. The debate of the day concerned the question of Jesus being the Messiah. These men wanted to know if that were true, so they came and asked Jesus for a sign that would demonstrate that he was, indeed, the Messiah.

Jesus told them that it is a wicked and adulterous generation that goes about seeking after signs, but the sign he would offer them relative to his being the Messiah was the “sign of Jonah the Prophet.” Jesus explained it like this, “as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, the Son of Man will be in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights.”

So, since Jesus believed it, then why the questions and the debate? Oh, yeah, I remember, there is even such a debate about Jesus . . . debate about if He is in fact who He said He is . . . debate about if He did for us what He said He did . . . and debate about His ability to change a human life and destiny. 

Did you know that Christians are not the only people who believe the story of Jonah? It is true.

The Torah . . . the Book of Jonah is included in the Torah. If fact, in Judaism it is taught that Jonah was the boy brought back to life by the Prophet Elijah.

The Qur’an . . . the story of Jonah is recorded in Chapter 10.

Muhammad . . . is said to have used the story of Jonah. In fact, one of his most damning and misguiding teachings concerns Jonah. He taught . . . “One should not say that I am better than Jonah.” That statement is believed by mainstream Muslims and historians to emphasize the notion of equality between all of the Prophets (which he claimed to be) and the law of making no distinction between of any of the messengers (which he claimed to be).

The story of Jonah is even the basis for a long-time sailors’ superstition. The superstition is expressed amongst sailors by the term, “A Jonah” . . . their way of describing any person believed to carry a jinx . . . a person who will bring bad luck to any enterprise.  One such example is the sailor who killed the albatross in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner . . . a story about a man destined to drift in unchartered waters  . . . and die there, and the ship’s crew along with him.

But, if we get caught up in and distracted by all of the foolishness that some do with the story of Jonah, we may miss a wonderful opportunity to understand a great truth . . . something with great value in a world of confusion, strife, sin, and struggle.  That truth is that God has abundant grace and mercy . . . and He yearns to extend them to sinful humans.

As demonstrated in the story of Jonah, God goes to great lengths to pursue people . . . He didn’t let go of the Ninevites . . . and He didn’t let go of Jonah . . . just as He pursued the Ninevites . . . just as He pursued Jonah . . . He is right now pursuing us.

I love how God dealt with Jonah, who can only be described as bitter, unhappy, selfish, and angry.  God always approached Jonah with love . . . and logic. He continually tried to reason with Jonah.

I have thought some this week about why God didn’t tell us what decision Jonah finally made . . .

I am not sure of His reason for not sharing that with us . . . but . . . It Seems to Me . . . that the decision Jonah ultimately made is just not really very important in human history . . . but we can be certain that decision was very important for Jonah . . . his decision would determine his place in eternity.


When a “Quick Get-a-Way” turns into something . . . from which you yearn to escape . . .

My friends, Jerry and Betty Mickey, have a son and daughter-in-law, Mike and Dana, who are at that very place this morning. If fact, they have been at that place since last Thursday. 

To celebrate Dana’s birthday, Mike booked a cruise on the Carnival Triumph out of Galveston. The cruise would cross the Gulf of Mexico and make port calls in Progresso and Cozumel. What an exciting get-away. Pleasant evening walks on the deck in the salt air, fine dining, lots of rest, laughs, good entertainment, and dessert bars without end. Well, that is how it is advertised . . .

However, the ship had a serious fire in the engine room on the return voyage and lost power. It lay dead at sea for several days. Finally, Carnival Cruise Lines send tug boats to push the crippled beast to Mobile, Alabama. It is scheduled to arrive later today.

Mike and Dana have been accompanied by 3,143 other passengers and a crew of 1,086. That is a bunch of folks when the ship’s sewage and air conditioning systems are not working.  Reports are that food service has had some issues as well.

It is an amazing and romantic thing to look at a huge ship as it sails away from port, but we seldom think about what is required for a huge vessel like that to function. The Triumph takes five generators to power the ship, and 80% of the power is required to simply push the giant vessel through the water. Each generator is the size of a Greyhound bus . . . speaking of a Greyhound bus . . . that will be Mike’s and Dana’s next mode of transportation, along with the other passengers. Carnival will transport the passengers from Mobile to New Orleans by Greyhound. Now, that is a serious change in transportation!

I once played poker with a group of guys. There was one fellow in the group who had amazing skills as a poker player. I asked him if he had ever tried his hand in Las Vegas. He smiled shyly and said, “Yep, when I was younger. I drove out there in a brand new $35,000 Cadillac, and I came back home on a $200,000 Greyhound bus!” Poor Mike and Dana . . . set off on a multi-million dollar luxury ship for a fun time and headed home on a bus. But, you can bet that just getting home is their primary interest at this point.

Escape is near . . . but those folks still have more frustration ahead of them. It will be a difficult and lengthy thing for the tugs to get the ship secured at port, it will take a long time to de-board and find and claim luggage, then there will be lines to board the buses and it will be a good two-hour bus ride to New Orleans. Then there is still the matter of getting back to Galveston, where they left the car, and then there is still the drive back to Rockport.

I have been married for 40 years and understand how things tend to work out in a marriage. The thought just occurred to me, “What will happen the next time Mike suggests that they ‘get away’ for a few days”?

Hey, Carnival is offering the passengers a full refund PLUS a voucher for another cruise AND $500 bucks to be used aboard that next cruise . . . Hmmmm, I wonder if that package just might be what Mike and Dana give Jerry and Betty for Christmas this year . . . I am thinking that Dana will plan their next trip and that trip will be by plane!

 

Is there a Meaning and Purpose of Life, for Life, and in Life?

In the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, I once saw an interesting and thought-provoking painting. It was a painting of people, by Paul Gauguin. It was a wide painting, but it was not very tall in height.  It was a panoramic view of people of many nations and eras, all standing by a river.  There was a caption with these three questions: 1. “Where Do We Come From?  2. What Are We? Where Are We Going?”

 

I think of that painting from time to time. I especially think of it when I talk with someone who is struggling with questions about the meaning and purpose of life, asking “Do our lives really matter?” “Do we really have a purpose?” “Is there really any meaning and intention in life and for life?”  I recently talked with a man struggling with those questions.

These questions are critical, but they are not by any means new. Such questions have been asked throughout history. One such example was asked by the Prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:18) thousands of years ago, when he asked, “Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?”

I believe these are good questions for us to ask. Were we simply put here to have a bunch of problems?  Were we put on this planet to have heart-ache, grief, and stress? Were we put here to deal with problem-prone people and pressure-packed situations? What is the meaning of it all?

The Poet, Robert Frost said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

Lowri Williams said, “Your life lies before you like a path of driven snow; My life has a superb cast but I can’t figure out the plot.”

Jack Handy wrote, “I hope life isn’t a joke … because I don’t get it.”

Carl Jung, the famous Psychiatrist said, “”I don’t know what the meaning or purpose of life is. But it looks exactly as if something were meant by it.”

 Frankly, I find it amazing the number of people I encounter who simply don’t know their purpose, and as a result, are confused about how they should live and what they should be doing.

Yogi Berra said, “”You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”

 For life to have meaning, we need to know why we are here, so we don’t waste our lives in blind alleys, simply following after trivial pursuits and things that ultimately do not matter; because life without purpose . . . is simply not worth living.

Interestingly, suicide is skyrocketing and is now the 2nd leading cause of teenage death. The sad truth is, when you take God out of the equation, life will never add up. One is left without purpose, meaning, or direction.

So, how do we discover our purpose?  There are many different approaches being offered today. Here are a few:

  1. The mystical approach: It says, “Look within yourself and you will find your purpose”.  But, if that really worked, we would all have the answer and there wouldn’t be such confusion over the issue.  The truth is, it takes more than simply looking within.
  2. The Philosophical approach: It seems to be that the key to life is to be found in studying philosophy and great ideas in the search for meaning and purpose of life. This approach is much like the idea articulated by Shakespeare in his play, Macbeth: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more.” It is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
  3. The Survivalist approach: says the purpose of life is simply to stay alive …. “Live as long as you can.”
  4. The Naturalist approach: says, the purpose of life is to perpetuate oneself.  Life is merely for biological purposes.
  5. The Materialist approach: Life is all about acquisition of things. Life is measured by what you own … what you control, and who ever ends up with the most toys before he dies is the winner. The problem here is that it really doesn’t matter how many toys you end up with . . . You still die and leave it all behind.
  6. The Self-Help approach: This is a hot new thing today. In fact, ever book-store has shelves filled with books, tapes, CD’s, and DVD’s seeking to help one discover his or her life purpose.  In reality, they all echo the same thing in one manner or another. They all, basically say “if you want to find meaning and purpose in the life experience, you need to set some goals and go after them, dream great dreams, have some aspirations, develop some ambitions, believe you can achieve, have faith in yourself, figure out what you are good at . . . and master it, perfect it . . . And never give up.  Actually some of this is pretty good advice, and will help one find some degree of success in life . . . But the truth of the matter is that having some success in life and knowing the purpose of life are not the same thing.  One can be a raving success in life . . . and yet, never know why he or she was here.

I have discovered that the search for the meaning and purpose of life is not to be found looking within . . . or even outward . . . it can only be discovered by looking upward.  We can examine our own thoughts, ideals, presumptions, presuppositions, and speculations for our entire lives and never discover the meaning and purpose of life.  The answer is simply not in us.  The answers to these critical questions only come from listening to the voice of God himself.

Why? Because we did not bring ourselves into existence . . . we did not make ourselves . . .  We did not design ourselves . . . and we did not fashion ourselves.

God designed us . . . He created us . . . He shaped us . . . He crafted us . . . He fashioned us . . . and only He knows what he had in mind when he put each one of us here on this planet.

Colossians 1: 15 – 16, says, 15” The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” (NIV)

Revelation 4:11 says – “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (NIV)

Proverbs 16:4 says – “The Lord works out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster.” (NIV)

Our goal should be to understand what and strive to be who He created us to be. The truth is none of us were an accident . . . none of us were a mistake.

We were created by God. Our purpose was here . . . even, before we were put here.  Until we understand that truth . . . life will simply not make much sense.

God’s purpose is there . . . waiting for you to discover it . . . move into it . . . and develop it . . . so that God can deliver you through it . . .

BoatUS Magazine article on Hurricane Sandy

 The current issue of BoatUS Magazine has an article entitled, “Sandy . . . by the Numbers.” The article shows what great damage Sandy caused and compares data with other storms. The article says that BoatUS (which is the largest boating association, as well as the largest provider of boat insurance, in the world) has determined that Sandy damaged or destroyed over 65,000 boats.  It estimates that the total boat damage was over $650 million, making it the single-largest industry loss since BoatUS began keeping track in 1966.

The article goes on to say “Sandy, in one day, delivered claims equal to 6 months its normal volume.”

Here are some of the numbers:

Costliest Huricanes:

 

Storm

Year

Landfall

Damages

( in Billions)

Diameter

(in miles)

Winds

(MPH)

Andrew

1992

FL

$44

90

105

Katrina

2005

LA

$128

200

110

Wilma

2005

FL

$25

250

105

Ike

2008

TX

$32

240

95

Sandy

2012

NJ

$60-$70

940

94

 

Areas with vessel damage from Sandy

Area

No. of Boats

$Boating losses$

Marinas with serious damage

Connecticut

2,500

$23 million

20-25

New York

 

 

300-400

New Jersey

25,000

$242 million

80-120

 

BoatUS and this article just looks at two categories of damage caused by a Hurricane: boats and marinas, and shows that damage to both are terrible and costly. Think about the damage to homes and businesses . . . then, factor in the emotion, stress, and health of individuals and families.

I often hear people ask, “Why would God allow such a storm and such damage?” or “Where was God, when this happened?”  I have thought about such questions quite a bit. I think I know the answer.

With a hurricane, I think God is doing what He has always done . . . in the fall of the year, He moves the heat from the South to the North as His means of changes in seasons across the planet. If He didn’t move the heat some folks would be left in winter ice all year and would be asking, “Where is God?” and “Why is this happening to us?”

The truth of the matter is if one chooses to build and live along the coast-line, the possibility of a hurricane should be properly factored into that decision.  Hurricanes are simply part of the cycle . . . and go with the territory.  For me to question or blame God for damage to my property when I built it in Hurricane Alley is foolish.  But a sad truth is that we are, indeed, a generation that wants to “have our cake, and eat it, too.”

There are some other things which God does . . . generation-by-generation and generation-after-generation. One does well to investigate and make wise and prudent decisions on those matters, too.  It is important to realize that there are consequences to one’s choices.

Anyway . . . that is how It Seems to me . . .

 

I love the Nation, Israel . . .

 I love the Nation Israel ….. I love her for two reasons: (1) because God loves her; and because it is in her history I learn a great deal about God. The history of the Jewish people and their nation is both rich and tragic. Its ancient history is provided in great detail in the Old Testament. Parts of it are inspiring; yet, other parts are heart-breaking. I have been a student of her history for 40 years, and I try to keep up-to-date on events affecting her on the world stage. I pray for peace in Israel.

Both the Bible and the Torah declare that God gave the land to the three Patriarchs of the Jewish people: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It testifies to the marvelous things God did in and through the Jewish people. It records the mighty things He did in delivering them to the Promised Land; the land that was to be occupied and passed down generation-by-generation.  Yet, because of the rebellion of the people, the land has been primarily controlled over history by many other nations. Some of the world powers over history which have controlled the land after the Diaspora have been: Persia (modern day Iraq), Greece, the Roman Empire, Syria, Turkey, and a host of other empire-building kingdoms. It remained under Turkish control until the end of the First World War.

Soon after World War II, the British began to experience difficulties in the region, and hundreds of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors and refugees wanted to leave Europe and go to the sacred place where the Jewish people had always yearned to live.  On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which called for . . . an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem.  The City of Jerusalem was placed under an International Trustee System. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was reborn.

Yet, the following day, the armies of four Arab countries had launched the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. That was just the beginning; there has been stress, struggles, trauma, war, and tension since that time. Her enemies have remained the same; yet, have changed names and faces over time. I suppose there will always be tension in the region. The Bible seems to predict that.

Israel operates under a parliamentary system as a democratic republic, wherein a member of parliament supported by a parliamentary majority becomes the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister today is Benjamin Netanyahu.  As the Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu is the head of government and of the Cabinet.

Last week, Mr. Netanyahu’s party narrowly won the most seats in the parliamentary election. Many are suggesting the narrow election has weakened Netanyahu. I don’t think so.

I like Benjamin Netanyahu. I think he is a great leader for the Nation. He has terrific credentials; perhaps the best credentials of any individual leading any nation in the world today:

He is the first Prime Minister to have been born in the State of Israel since its founding;

He served with distinction in the Israel Defense Forces;

He was injured (gunshot) in battle defending his nation;

He led a Commando Assault team of Special Forces over a number of years and through many battles;

He was honorably discharged as a Captain;

He served as Israel’s Ambassador to the U. N. (1984 to 88); and

He is currently serving his third term as Prime Minister (the first to do this since the founder David Ben-Gurion)

One thing I really like about Mr. Netanyahu is that one never has to wonder about his position. It is always clear that he is absolutely committed to Israel and her safety. He can find the ugliness to do battle for his small nation, and makes no secret about that.  He certainly is no run-of-the-mill politician . . . he is far more concerned with standing for his nation than he is for what, today, is being called statesmanship.  He is like a modern-day David in his total commitment to Israel and her safety.

 It troubles me that today our Nation seems to be wavering in its pledge to stand along-side Israel. That has been a commitment of the USA since Israel’s re-birth.

 Personally, I still believe God’s pledge to Abraham . . . “I will bless those who bless you, and I will deal with those who plot against you.”

From Anxious, Excited Anticipation to Absolute Horror . . . in just a few Seconds . . .

Some of my pals and I drove down to spend the day in Progresso, Mexico, yesterday; we like to do that from time to time. It is always a fun time, and Progresso is probably the last safe place on the Texas/Mexico border to do that. We generally pick up a list of medicines from one of the many pharmacies there. The lists are made up by our wives and always include items for our own families . . . and, of course, stuff for neighbors and her friends. We also eat lunch at a nice place there. We walk the streets and interact with many of the Winter Texans who love to cross over. Sometimes, we get manicures and pedicures. That is always a funny sight. Sometimes we buy trinkets from the street vendors, but always . . . every time I give money to many of the poor, down-trodden people we encounter on the streets. Life is brutal over there and a couple of American dollars can help them a great deal. I love doing that and seeing the smile come to their faces. One thing I always do when crossing over the bridge is turn off my cell phone. The minute you cross over the middle of the Rio Grande you shift to the international rate and it is expensive; I did that yesterday. When the day was over and we returned back to this side, I turned my phone back on. In a few minutes it began to receive missed calls, voice mails, e-mails, Face Book alerts, and texts. As I looked at it all coming in, I saw a group text from my Daughter-in-Law, Sarah . . . it was addressed to Nana, Aunt Courtney, and me. I opened it first thing. Sarah’s text included three photos of our precious little Ali. Here is the first photo . . . she is full of anticipation . . . she is about to assert herself . . . to make herself even prettier . . . and demonstrate how grown up she is . . . (hey, I mean she is a “Big Sister” now!)

Looking at this photo, I can just hear her saying, “Hey, I am up for this . . .” As Ali began to see the other girls with their ears pierced and wearing pretty little ear studs, she began asking when she could enjoy such a grown-up experience. Sarah told her, “When you get 4, and are ready; you can do that.” Yesterday as they went through the mall, Ali announced that her time had come . . . So Sarah reluctantly escorted Ali inside. The photo below shows Ali’s reaction to the experience . . .

Looking at this photo, I can just hear Ali saying, “Holy Cow, What have I done? I must be nuts to have done this”. . . I must confess this photo broke my heart as a I looked at that precious girl in such distress

Looking at this photo, I can just hear her saying, “Dear Lord, if you will get me out of here alive, I will never, ever, do this again . . . I have seen the Light!!” As I laughed and cried all at the same time, my pals were looking on and became quite interested. I showed the progression of events and the related photos to the guys. The suburban was wiggling as we laughed. When we settled down a bit, we began to talk about our own life experiences in which we have all gone through the same process Ali had experienced on that day. Those stories continued all the way home . . . The simple truth is that we have all been at that place . . . that place where we want to do something and completely ignored the element of danger, refused to think about the pain that may be associated with it, ignored the warning signs, and disregarded sound counsel and just move forward . . . doing exactly what we want to do! Sometimes, those things become a nightmare; we are horrified and can’t seem to find a way out. Personally, I have been like the mouse caught in the trap . . . that place where I didn’t even want the cheese anymore . . . I simply wanted out of the trap . . . Then, some things happen, the pain subsides a bit, and we begin to think, “Dear Lord, thank you. I think I may survive, and if I do, I promise I will never do anything like that again . . . ever in my life . . .” In any event, I suspect that our darling little Ali, will never be one of those girls with multiple piercings . . . based on the 2nd photo, I am thinking that she is done with that business. In fact, big sister that she is, I am thinking that Abi may never have the opportunity to make such a choice for herself . . . I am betting Ali will block the door to the piercing place and refuse for her little sister to even enter such a place of torture . . . I am also very confident looking at the 2nd photo that Ali will never be one of those girls sporting a tattoo . . . Well, that is how . . . It Seems to me . . .