Monday, July 30, 2007

Tony Snow

My good friend Craig Jones sent me this article concerning Tony Snow. As many of you know, Craig's wife Jan is battling is Tony. This article came out of "Christianity Today".

Commentator and broadcaster Tony Snow announced that he had colon cancer in 2005. Following surgery and chemo-therapy, Snow joined the Bush administration in April 2006 as press secretary. Unfortunately, on March 23 Snow, 51, a husband and father of three, announced that the cancer had recurred, with tumors found in his abdomen—leading to surgery in April, followed by more chemotherapy. Snow went back to work in the White House Briefing Room on May 30. CT asked Snow what spiritual lessons he has been learning through the ordeal.

Blessings arrive in unexpected packages—in my case, cancer.

Those of us with potentially fatal diseases—and there are millions in America today—find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence What It All Means, Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the why questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.

I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is—a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.

But despite this—because of it—God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.

Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere.

To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life—and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many nonbelieving hearts—an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live—fully, richly, exuberantly—no matter how their days may be numbered.

Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease—smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see—but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension—and yet don't. By his love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.

'You Have Been Called'

Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet; a loved one holds your hand at the side. "It's cancer," the healer announces.

The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. "Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler." But another voice whispers: "You have been called." Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter—and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our "normal time."

There's another kind of response, although usually short-lived—an inexplicable shudder of excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tinny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions.

The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing though the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment.

There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue—for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.

Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf.

We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us—that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God's love for others. Sickness gets us partway there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two people's worries and fears.

Learning How to Live

Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of love.

I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was a humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. "I'm going to try to beat [this cancer]," he told me several months before he died. "But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side."

His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity—filled with life and love we cannot comprehend—and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms.

Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

When our faith flags, he throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it.

It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up—to speak of us!

This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.

What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place—in the hollow of God's hand.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Kevin James, You Tube, Sectarianism, etc

Jan and I have a date every night.......yep, EVERY night! We have a date at 9:00 each evening to watch "King of Queens". As we have with so many other shows, we fell in love with it by watching the re-runs. Those of you who watch it and are used to the way Doug talks on the show, can't you just hear him saying "Syn-di-ca-she-on"! :) Yes, syndication has been the reason I got hooked on Mash, Cheers, Seinfeld, and now King of Queens. It's beyond me how this show was prime time for almost 10 years and never won any awards. The acting is off the charts, and the writers have to be up there with some of the best comedy writers in the business. We love Jerry Stiller, and can easily see where Ben got his talent. I have not seen the new Kevin James-Adam Sandler movie, but I hope it will be one of the few summer movies we choose to go to. Have any of you seen it? Are there any other K of Q fans out there? For those of you who don't like it, as Doug would say......"You shutie". :)


How many of you saw the CNN-You Tube Presidential debate the other night? There were some stupid videos, but for the most part I liked the format. I thought there were some great questions asked. I thought it was interesting that not one candidate used the word "terrorist" the whole night. I look forward to the You-Tube debate amongst the Republicans also. Kudos to CNN for having the vision to pursue this.


Insider language I don't use any more(meaning I did in the past but have repented), because I perceive it to be sectarian in nature:

"member of the church" meaning "member of the church of Christ".

"brotherhood" meaning "church of Christ".

"the Lord's church" when referring to churches that have "church of Christ" on their sign.

"the church" as in the sentence "He(or she)left the church" meaning he or she is not going to a "church of Christ" anymore.

Did we ever stop to think how arrogant and exclusive those phrases sounded? Jesus addressed that mind-set in Mark 9, yet we have ignored his admonition. I guess it didn't fall into the category of a command, example, or necessary inference. How convenient.


We are having a very mild summer in this part of the country, and it's wonderful!
How is it where you are living? This is NOT the kind of weather we are used to in July.


Are you as sick of professional sports as I am? The whole bunch of em just make me appreciate high school sports and athletes even more than I did before. I'll take high school and college teams ANY day over any NFL, NBA, or MLB team. Are there some good folks in professional sports? Absolutely. I'm wondering if they aren't in the minority though. I'm afraid there just aren't enough people like Payton Manning, Tony Dungy, David Robinson, or Cal Ripken anymore.........and that's the kind of folks it would take to win me back. I don't see it happening soon.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dogs vs Unborn Babies

For those of you who don't know me, you'll just have to take my word for it. Or, ask somebody who does know me. I AM CRAZY ABOUT DOGS!!!!!!!! I am a dog-aholic.
Did I just create a word? From the time I was born until I left home to go to college I never remember a time when we didn't have at least one dog.......many years we had 2 or 3. It's been 6 years this coming Oct. 7th since I gave up my last dog, and it's still so fresh I can hardly broach the topic. I never met a dog I didn't love. I'm saying all of that to say that I think what Michael Vick (and many other people who are sick like him) did to those dogs is unconscionable. If proven guilty, I hope they all get the maximum sentence....all of them. It's unspeakble, and I'm not even sure we have even heard the worst of it yet. What kind of people do this, somebody asks? Well, it's people who live in a culture that doesn't value life. They live all around you.

Know what is making my stomach turn even more? Watch and see if this doesn't happen.........some politicians who won't say a WORD about the millions of late-term abortions in our country will be on the front lines calling for justice to be done in regards to these dog-killers. It's nauseating......and it's the culture we live in. Dogs have more rights than unborn babies.

I don't do too many political posts. They get too ugly too quick. But I couldn't give this one a pass.

I love dogs more than you probably can fathom........I love unborn babies even more.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What's Up With That, John?

Ok, I'll let you in on a discovery of mine while reading John. For those of you who discovered this when you were in grade school, please cut me some slack. Isn't it neat to see things you've never seen before in your reading of scripture? I love making new discoveries like this one.

A few reminders before I disclose the thing that really caught my attention. First, remember we are talking about truths revealed to us by the Apostle John.....the one who referred to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved". And we don't read where anybody refutes that. As further evidence of his close relationship with Jesus, John is the one Jesus gives his mother to while hanging on the cross. "Dear woman, here is your son" and to John he said "Here is your mother". Why is all of this important? I just want to remind everyone that we are reading the testimony of someone who may have been closer to Jesus than any other person on Earth. In light of that fact, what he says or doesn't say carries a tremendous amount of weight with me.

John and Matthew are the only people we have eye witness accounts from concerning the last night Jesus spent with his apostles before he was arrested in the garden. Mark and Luke write about that night also, but they are writing at best from second hand knowledge. Matthew's account of that evening starts in Matthew 26:17 and Jesus is arrested in verse 50. For what it's worth, he talks about the events and teachings of that evening for 33 the math. How does that compare with John? As you picked up in my last post, John starts telling about that evening in the first verse of chapter 13 of his letter, and continues to reveal the happenings and teachings of that fateful evening until chapter 18 verse 12. Hmmm. No, that's NOT my discovery........but that in itself is interesting. John spends FIVE chapters plus 12 verses of the next chapter that are totally dedicated to this one evening. That's more than the other 3 Gospel writers combined! John is the only writer that tells of Jesus washing the apostles feet that evening. John is the only one who gives us the beautiful prayer of Jesus in chapter 17. John is the only one who recounts the encouraging words of Jesus to his apostles in chapters 14 and 16 about "the Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid". Get the picture? John goes into GREAT detail to tell us about this night! My conclusion is that all of this was very important to John, and evidently more important to him than the other Gospel writers. No, I can't prove that. But I don't think it's a stretch that one might come to that conclusion.

What was my discovery? With all of this detailed recounting of that last night together........being given to us by probably Jesus's closest friend........John was SO impressed by Jesus implementing what we call "the Lord's Supper", and it impacted him SO much........that he doesn't even mention it. No, this is not an April Fool's joke. See for yourself. John does tell about Jesus disclosing that Judas would betray him by saying "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish".......but other than that, NADA. NOTHING! I don't know why he didn't, and neither do you. All we can do is speculate. I don't want to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but I also don't want to gloss over it either. I think it's significant. Do you? Maybe I am the only one to think it's mind-boggling that John left THIS event out. An event that we generally think of as an "absolute" and a fellowship maker or breaker. Something we consider a COMMAND. So, I ask again.......what's up with that, John?

I look forward to hearing your take.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Reading John

Jan and I have been in Kansas City this week. If you have never had the opportunity to drive down Ward Parkway and to visit Country Club Plaza in KC, I hope you can soon. The drive along Ward Parkway has to be one of the most beautiful drives in America. As always, I was blessed to get to visit with some of the wonderful Harding folks in that area. As you might guess, we saw LOTS of water on this trip! Because of the amount of rain the mid-west has received, everything was SO beautiful and green. It never gets old seeing God's work in nature.


I am interested in hearing your take on something. I have been reading John lately, and I happen to notice something that I find noteworthy and interesting. I would like for you to read the same material, and give me your feedback on any interesting insights you might come up with. I will tell my discovery in my next post, which I promise will be in the next few days. Please read John chapter 13 thru at least verse 11 of Chapter 18. For those of you that I have already talked to on the phone, you can't participate! :) I look forward to hearing from the thousands of you that I have not talked to.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

How the West Was Lost

I usually don't read the editorial section of the Sunday Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, but a couple of Sunday's ago that title caught my eye. I'll come back to that in a minute.

A year or so ago, Bobby Garner handed me a book by the title "Life at the Bottom: the Worldview That Makes the Underclass" and told me to read it. It was by an author named Theodore Dalrymple. I respect Bobby enough that I am going to read anything he gives me. I don't have a whole lot of passion for the study of sociology, but this was a pretty interesting book. I later found out that Darlymple is a pen name for Dr. Anthony Daniels.......not that it matters. Dr. Daniels is a physician and psychiatrist from Britian that has traveled and worked all over the world. This book was the result of him working in a hospital in England that targets the lower socio-economic people who would not get medical help otherwise. Again, this discipline in not what I wake up in the morning thinking about, but it's a good read.

So, two weeks ago Sunday, the feature article in the editorial section of the Sunday Demo-Zette was by one Theodore Dalrymple. I don't know if it was his name or the title of the article that caught my eye. In the article, he actually does two things. First, he previews a book by Walter Laqueur by the title "The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent". Secondly, he relates his and Laqueur's thoughts on the threats to Europe's future. From his perspective, there are three threats:

A) Demographic Decline- "Europeans are simply not reproducing, for reasons that are unclear. They seem to care more about the ozone layer and carbon emissions than they do about the continuation of their own societies. Or perhaps bringing up children interferes with what they conceive to be the real business of life: taking lengthy annual holidays in exotic locations and other such pleasures."

B) A Sizable and Growing Immigrant Population Which is Not Necessarily Interested in Integration- He asks why "Europeans have abjectly surrendered to the dishonest nostrums of multiculturalism. Why, for example, can a couple of Dutch children be told by their teacher to remove the Dutch flag from their school bags because it might offend children of Moroccan descent--who, it should be noted, are supposed to be Dutch citizens? Why do German courts rule that beating women is a religious right for Turks in Germany, just as terms such as 'illegitimate children' have been banned from official usage as being denigratory and stigmatizing?"

C) The Existence of the Welfare State and the Welfare-State Mentality- "A system of entitlements has been created that, however economically counterproductive, is politicially difficult to dismantle: once privileges are granted, they assume the metaphysical status of immemorial and fundamental rights. The right of French train drivers to retire on full pension at the age of 50 is probably more important to them than the right of free speech--especially that of those who think that retirement at such an age is preposterous. While Europe mortgages it's future to pay for such extravagances, other parts of the world forge an unbeatable combination of high-tech and cheap labor."

It's an interesting article, with much more depth and insight than I had time to copy or include here. If you are interested in it, you probably can get to it on-line thru the Democrat-Gazette web site.

So, how far off are we from having this written about the United States?