Saturday, March 29, 2008

Clever Home Remedies

(It's the weekend! You probably know that means we get a little loony around here and have some fun. Maybe even poke some fun. Beware. . .)

AMAZINGLY SIMPLE HOME REMEDIES: THEY ALL WORK.

1. If you are choking on an ice cube simply pour a cup of boiling water down your throat. Presto! The blockage will instantly remove itself.

2. Avoid cutting yourself slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold while you chop.

3. Avoid arguments with the Mrs. about lifting the toilet seat by using the shower.

4. For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use a timer.

5. A mouse trap, placed on top of your alarm clock, will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.

6. If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives. After that you will be afraid to cough.

7. You only need two tools in life - WD-40 and Duct Tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.

Daily Thought: Some people are like Slinkies--not really good for anything, but they bring a smile to your face when pushed down the stairs.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Gospel of 10 Commandments?

(A friend of mine asks the following question, which led to this post: "I have a question for you. There is an evangelistic ministry in our area called "The Way of the Master" which uses the 10 Commandments exclusively to show people their sin and the need for them to repent and come to Christ. Their method has become very popular in our Christian community. My question is: in light of the New Covenant are the 10 Commandments necessary in bringing a lost person to salvation? Please explain why." My response follows.)

Yeah, this has been bothering me for years. It has long felt like we bash people over the head and make them feel horrible, and then ask them to trust us to make them feel better. And some people are very skilled at that—probably some of the people you alluded to in your email.

I don’t know, Barry.

In the book of Acts, Peter really turned the screws on people before telling them the gospel. However, it seems clear that he was always talking to Jews—“Men of Israel,. . .” (Acts 3:12) His approach or leading of the Spirit is different when speaking to Gentiles.

In chapter 10, God gives Peter the vision concerning the cleansing of the Gentiles. After that, a formerly reluctant Peter gives the gospel to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house. There is no salvation appeal, no threat of hell, and no “repent and be saved” admonition. Yet, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.” (Acts 10:44,45)

Several points: I think that because many Christians do not believe that God actually chose us in Christ before the foundation of the earth, that we have to get them to do the choosing. And here comes the scolding and haranguing and beatings to induce the choice from the otherwise reluctant people. Even though we believe the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, we think a good beating will give them sight.

In my terminology, these people have “Prosecuter flesh”—in other words, they believe an airtight argument will force a guilty plea and a gospel ear.

Second, many of us do not discern the difference in our listeners that Peter did. Maybe we should pray for these people to have a holy “Sheet Dream.” Oh, I have a warped sense of humor! That sounds so close to something else, doesn't it?

The Spirit gave Peter that bothersome vision in Acts 10, where Peter’s failure to understand the magnitude of the new covenant was exposed. “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” In other words, God has taken upon Himself everything and anything that once separated Him and frustrated His love. It’s all gone! Go and tell them! Peter did, and the result startled everyone—the Holy Spirit entered them all.

Remember what the church leaders did to Peter?
Acts 11:1 The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." 4 Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened. . .

So, if I were to speak with Jews, perhaps I would don my become all things to all men garments, and “use” the law as Peter did in chapter 3 in order to lead them to the fulfillment of the age, the gospel of the new covenant. However, I would not use the same technique with Gentiles, who were never under the law to begin with. The distinction must be made.

Third, many of us have failed to grasp the end of one covenant and the dawn of another. We’re seduced into believing that a good mix of the two is the just-right elixir for our hearers to drink. So, some of us introduce listeners to the God Who Is Pissed-Off, the God who has yet to take out His wrath on sinful man, and who is about to do it on those listening—better repent before He smashes you in the way you deserve.

In other words, we don’t believe “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:19, italics mine.) We don’t get that at all, I’m afraid. While there will be an accounting one day (for those who do not believe and receive Jesus), that day is not this day, not this time. In our day, God is not counting—God is calling.

And I must wrap this up.

To conclude, Barry, the apostles were led by the Spirit, not by a technique they thought would work what they wanted. That’s very difficult for us to grasp, but it is, nevertheless, the way for Christians. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Gal 5:25) I am helped immeasurably by knowing the gospel of God's grace to us in Christ. Everything I do and the way I see people is framed by it. But God knows who people are, He knows their design and destiny, and He knows what He’s doing. That’s why I make it my highest goal to know Him, especially when I’m with people—those He loves.

Tell me what you think of all this, will you?

Ralph
(If you would like to ask me a question, fire away. Click on Comments just below, or email me at Ralph@LifeCourse.org.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Call Me Dorothy

Here’s the thing: I upgraded some software on a three and a half year old mac (the OS and a suite of software called iLife), and nothing has been the same. It’s been bad—real bad.

Although I have meticulously backed up my iWeb files (I publish four web sites), there’s this one file that doesn’t back up when you back up. Got that? Oh, and there’s nothing about it in the manual. It hides somewhere and no one tells you about it, but it’s like the engine of the whole car. Without this one file (Domain), you’ve got what looks and feels like a web site in your computer, but without any motor to get it anywhere. Like on the internet.

The upgrade reduced this file from nearly 800 MB, to 20 KB. That’s like taking the universe and shrink-raying it onto the head of a pin. With an engine less powerful than a windup toy, the files are useless. Useless. I feel a little like Dorothy, trying to go toe to toe with the Wicked Witch of the West. I don't think there's any way of getting back to Kansas now.

Thanks for your purchase. Enjoy your new software.

So, it’s taken a couple of on-again, off-again weeks to get what looks like web sites back up and, well, sort of functioning. Can you buy my book? No. Buttons aren’t working. How does the Home Page look? Like Homey the Clown did it. Any downloadable sermons posted? Yes, they’re there. . .but you can’t see or hear them. But they are there—I swear.

Now everyone reading this will probably flock to LifeCourse.org to see if it looks as bad as I say it does. Probably crash the server. But that’s okay, I guess. My personal crashes have just nudged ahead of my technological ones, so let’s get some balance back.

The only time I haven’t been working on it is when I was in So. Cal. for five days, taking care of my mother and father, who had heart surgery. (Yes, he’s doing well.) It was a lovely break.

Anyway, that’s my story of late. I hope to get it all back up to speed tomorrow, but I know I’m probably setting myself up for a frustrated end of the day. Oh, well. At least it’s a mac, so I don’t have any viruses.

Sympathy? Maybe not.

Prodigal Brother Breath



I've got prodigal brother breath. Pray for me?

I sometimes find myself skipping over certain passages in the Bible, like Jesus' tale of the masculine mess, because the voice of Christian maturity in my head says I should—I've read this so many times. But because recently I wasn't entirely certain it was, in fact, the voice of maturity, I decided to slow down and pay attention. After all, the letters are in red.

I've been stuck at this stop sign for three weeks.

In Jesus' story both brothers are a mess. But if I had to wear the shoes of one or the other for a day, frankly, my field trip would be in the elder brother's Nikes. It's not difficult to imagine the ungodly and bad-boy scenes of carousing and raucous laughter embraced by the wandering younger brother. Not good. And as far as messing with the pigs, my sense of decency would be putting on rubber boots and gloves long before I even got near the pen. Count me out. Besides, I'm already acquainted with the front end of his trip—my days at college attest to it—so my personal body guards of been there, done that are working overtime to warn me against the trip.

Working in the field seems the right choice, doesn't it? Almost holy in comparison. Lots of friendly sayings come to mind in support of my decision: Work hard and keep my nose clean. Provide for my family. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. That's the stuff.

Trouble is, the Prodigal's end was better than the elder brothers'. Way better.

The awful younger brother knew he was a derelict in the truest sense; no home, no job, and a resume founded upon proven greed, disloyalty and desertion. And what does he get from the father? Congratulations! You're the Grand Prize winner! Let's have a party to celebrate you!

Oh, come on. I'd grab a slab of filet mignon and a bottle of cabernet from the buffet (I deserve it more than he does!), and ditch that scene for the fields. At least out there I know how to get stuff done and don't have to be a party to this pathetic bunch of free-loaders, living off the gravy of dad's idiotic grace. You can have your party—I've got work to do.

All too often, that's how I live. I don't want to need grace, and work hard to avoid it. Over the last few weeks I have worked slavishly in the field to raise a crop of an efficient and inviting web site, a well-positioned book, and a sparkling speaking tour, all the while ignoring the plea of my Father to come in and party a while. Oh, I've flirted at the edges, well aware of the feast and festivities inside, but there's so much work to do—the delights and pleasures provided by Dad will have to wait.

And shouldn't they? Parties are for when I've succeeded, not for when the work is yet to be finished. . .or for when I've failed, as the case has been. I'll party when I deserve it—I want to earn my party. I'll stay at arms length from dad until I'm proud of my report card. No party for now.

Isn't that crazy? But that's the elder brother's approach—a quiet pledge of perfection. He and I get along just fine out in the field, working within earshot of the party.

As far as I know, the prodigal son never said a word in protest, but likely soaked-up and marveled at the largesse of his father, who so enjoyed making a scene of his love. Really, what else would that boy ever be but a spectacle of his father, a walking billboard of dad's staggering grace? And I see that that's not enough for me, not enough to satisfy fleshly cravings to make something of myself. As if there's something better!

In the fourth chapter of my book, Better Off Than You Think, I wrote: the flesh is that part of us which suggests a course for living which results in living without the life of God. Oh, how that haunts me today. Is it normal to be haunted by one's own book? Shouldn't I have learned and gotten a good grasp on what I've written by now? I should be something of a master, shouldn't I?

Maybe you hear the elder brother in me. Make something of yourself. Don't take time to enjoy what God has lavished upon you, there's work to be done! Get after it, and when you've finished it perfectly, you can take time to enjoy God—you know, a little luxury and leisure time, quaffing a few bottles of cool grace. When you've got the servants in line, the fields plowed, and everything in its place, then you can hang out with dad. That's the honorable approach.

The Prodigal brother approached like he was going to make a deal with dad. "If I confess my sins and promise to be good, if I re-commit and re-dedicate myself, can I have a bit of grace?" The father virtually ignored him! "Oh," he might have thought, "my son is going to do that ridiculous 'I'm really bad, but I promise to be good' thing. What a needless and laughable bother. Let me see if I can overwhelm him with my goodness, and once and for all get rid of his let's-make-a-deal-for-grace syndrome."

It must have worked.

Today, the elder brother writing this is going for some of that. I'm reminded of what Paul wrote: "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ." (Rom 5:17, italics mine.) I suspect my Father will love helping me get used to being a receiver.

Because it's difficult for many of us to lay down our tools of self-righteousness, I think we should come up with a returning prodigal son injection. Call it Returgalson, or Reprodison. We'll cut out the pigs and prostitutes parts, and include something powerful and chemical—way beyond herbal—that will induce us to believe we cannot live without the grace of Dad. Maybe we could invent pocket breathalyzers for when, having halted an elder brother suspect, a friend looking fieldish, we could have him breathe deeply into the mouthpiece to see how long he's been out of the party. Can you see it?

"A double dose for this prodigal brother breath."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter, everyone!
He is risen!

(I know--it isn't an Easter Lilly. But I was just in So. Cal. with my parents for a few days, and took this picture with my cell phone in their backyard. They didn't have any Lillies, and neither do we back here in Colorado. Can this suffice? Besides, I like it.)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Oops.

It's the weekend--Look out!
Staying with my parents for a few days has brought back lots of Easter memories, including yellow Peeps, chocolate eggs and chocolate bunnies. Man, were they good. . .

Friday, March 21, 2008

"No!" To The Pervert


“Whether yellow, black or white, they are precious in His sight.”

Whenever ugly prejudice strikes at a particular group, whether it’s a group of color or gender or nationality, etc., we don’t want to be a part of that. Some of us will come to the defense of those persecuted, others will not. If, in fact, we now live by the Spirit, then His leading is what determines our involvement. Right?

“If we live by the Spirit, let us stay in step with the Spirit.” (Gal 5:25) Rather important advice, don’t you think?

Our need to see clearly—by the Spirit—is vital. Otherwise, when the flesh contributes its’ worldly suggestions, we’ll take the bait and go forward without the grace of God. My experience shows that if I start off by the flesh, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

And really, that’s the point of all this. Having been made the magnificent new creations of God, we no longer live as we once did. We no longer battle or argue or strategize as we once did. To do so would be perverted.

To be certain, the god of this world thoroughly enjoys twisting and perverting the sons and daughters of God. While he cannot change them from what they have become, he can hide what they are by perverting how they live. I think that’s his goal, don’t you?

On this day when many of us celebrate the long-planned death of our Savior, remember that you were included in His crucifixion. That means you’ll never suffer the recompense of your sins because, in Christ, you already did. Further, you were included in His resurrection, which means that you came forth holy, blameless and righteous—all new! Hooray! With that in view, your approach to people will be entirely new, as well.

Live by faith in what God has done in and through Jesus—and say “No” to the pervert.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Antidote For Racism


Over the years I have spent time in such places as Saudi Arabia, England, Holland, Bahrain, Tokyo, Scotland, Croatia, France, Mexico, Canada, Italy and India, and have traveled all the way from Hawaii to New York. Before my arrival, I have gotten as much information as I could about those places and especially about the people who lived there. If I could talk with someone who had experience in those areas, I might ask, “Tell me about Mexico and Mexicans,” or “Tell me about Croatia and Croats.” I wanted to know as much as I could before arriving to maximize my time there.

Usually I read or was told not only what I should expect to enjoy about those places and people, but what to watch out for: “Saudis are amazingly hospitable, but you can trust them only so far.” “Italians are fun loving and gregarious, but watch out because their anger can flare up in an instant.” Have you ever heard those kinds of generalizations? Have you found them useful?

Most of these generalizations were useful because they were meant to help me navigate in places and cultures that were foreign to me—to decrease my learning curve. Indeed, I think lots of generalizations about people and places are helpful.

But it can start to get a little racist, don’t you think? Maybe we could call it quasi racism, or gentle racism. Maybe not.

But the cure for true racism, the antidote for terrible and injurious generalizations—the kind Reverend Wright and David Duke make—can only be found through faith in Jesus Christ. Only when a man believes that Jesus Christ has been making a new race of people since His resurrection, a holy, blameless and righteous people, a majestic and noble race born of Himself, can anyone be truly free from the visual bondage of what is less. When once a man is gripped by something superior and true, he will let go—even throw away—what he once thought worthy of his grip. This amazing new race has to believed before it can be seen.

Paul wrote about the view for you and me:

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:16,17)

Christians don’t view or think of people only according to how they behave or how they look; we view people by their birth! Anything else and our approach to people will be twisted and inaccurate, and we won’t be living by faith. If people have yet to have a second birth, we know how lost they are. If they’ve had a second birth—they’ve received Jesus—then they’re actually a new kind of people, a chosen people, a royal band of priests, a people belonging to God. Not only are they better off, they’re new.

Peter writes: Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:10)

The great mercy Christians have received is not only forgiveness and righteousness, but newness—we’ve been made regal sons and daughters of God. Remember?

So the question is, what do you believe today? What has your view? Is it what you see—skin color and hair and facial features—or is what you see determined by what you believe about Jesus? That’s the way to live by faith. If, perhaps, you’ve fallen under the influence of the flesh and this world, if you cannot now see this new race of the sons of God, then ask the Spirit to show you what He sees.

That’s the antidote for racism.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why Wright Is Wrong


I likely have an unusual take on all this. But no worries--you've thought of me as unusual anyway, right? Nothing new about that.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright, lontime mentor, confidant and pastor of Presidential candidate, Senator Barrack Obama, has an obvious and serious problem. That Senator Obama does, too, is not my issue here.

Reverend Wright has a lot of awful, hateful and racist beliefs, many of which are now out in the open--he's a top draw on YouTube.com. What an honor. Unbelievably, there are at least some of his peers who have come to his defense, attempting to make little and light of what is huge and dark. They'll have to deal with those of us who think Wright's rants (the white U.S. government concocted the AIDS virus and injected it into black men in order to kill blacks; the U.S. of Ku Klux Klan America; rich white men persecuted and crucified Jesus, etc.) are not only terribly inaccurate, but dangerous. Watching the many members of his congregation rise to their feet in loud and angry agreement with his lunatic opinion is equally disturbing as the vitriol that brought them there.

But to my point: Reverend Wright does not believe the gospel. I don't mean that he isn't a Christian--I mean he doesn't believe what a Christian must in order to have any chance of bearing fruit to God. Pardon me if this sounds overly simplistic: Jeremiah Wright is a racist, but that's not his problem. He has been blinded by the god of this world, and has accepted his vision of who people are and how to get things done. That's his problem. Whenever anyone of any color does not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, he is left to living under the influence of the flesh and the devil. There is no other way. The gospel of Jesus Christ is evidently missing in Jeremiah Wright.

Listening to him speak makes it plain that he does not think of himself (or anyone else) as having been crucified and raised with Christ Jesus, brand new, now to live in the new way of the Holy Spirit and not by the former way of the flesh. Watching him condemn white people and shout "God ____ America!" makes it obvious that he does not believe ". . . that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us." (2 Cor 5:19,20a) That's simply not working for Wright. And he clearly does not believe that the Kingdom of God is within him, along with God Himself, ready and willing to show Himself through the church--even through Rev. Wright. Like many, Wright believes and gives himself more to the overthrow of visible problems and strongholds than to the overthrow of invisible strongholds. He's got the game confused. He is much more crusader against than ambassador of.

If I were to have an hour with Wright, I would ask, "Where is God right now?" When once he responded with something like, "Because of my new birth in Christ, He is in me," I would then present the following scenario: "Let's pretend that God decided to confine Himself only to being inside of you--nowhere else in the world. What would you do? What would be the best way for you to serve and honor God? Would it be to work like crazy at various projects, urban and rural alike? Would it be to go on television and tell everyone that God lives in you, and so here's how to make every wrong right? No. It would be to let Him do whatever He wanted from within you. Whatever. Whenever. Wherever. God in you--on display.

"How do you suppose He would behave through you? What would He say through you? What would He do through you?"

I believe that's the essence of Christianity, and maybe our remaining discussion would be invigorated because it is. But I don't believe that's Wright's brand, and I don't believe that's a lot of people's idea of Christianity. I hope it's yours. While we cannot see God inside of us, Christians are His containers, and belief that that's true will make Him visible.

What you and I believe about the visible and invisible, the temporal and eternal, will determine our tactics as well as the power that feeds them. It will either be flesh, or it will be Spirit. It will be hellish, or it will be heavenly. We'll either look like Hell, or we'll look like Jesus. And since Rev. Wright is likely a new creation in Christ, our approach to him and those who believe what he does must have that at the front. We're ambassadors.

I think we're going to see and hear some really awful looking Christians in the days ahead, believing men and women who hold crazy beliefs. Better said, men and women who are held by crazy beliefs. They don't know what's true because they have been deceived into the storms of this world. If we get caught up with what we see and hear, rather than by what we know and believe, the storm will take us, too.

My advice? Keep your head. Our battle, our labor is not against flesh and blood, but against spirit--the same spirit that makes Wright so wrong. It will matter very little what our political view is and how well we defend it if the same spirit that fools Wright fools us. What will count is how we live by faith in Jesus Christ--that He has made a new race of people, a regal race, through the cross and resurrection, and He has enabled us to live by the Holy Spirit and not by the flesh.

We're new--so is the way we live.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Something I've Not Seen Before

It's the weekend--time for a bit of the rare and abnormal.

Here's an unusual piece of art, something I've never imagined. How do people get these ideas, anyway? How marvelous. Do you suppose he's called The Nail Man?













Saturday, March 15, 2008

Veggies--Where Are They Now?

(I enjoy foraging at a clever and funny web site, LarkNews.com. I got the following "article" from there. I hope you enjoy a weekend of grace and rest in Christ. What would be better?)

BRANSON — In the wake of Big Idea Productions' bankruptcy and sale to new owner Classic Media, VeggieTales characters are struggling to define their post-Big Idea lives.

In a modest but clean condominium in Branson, Mo., Bob the Tomato sits on a rented couch and nibbles cheese curls. The window overlooks the busy thoroughfare jammed with tourist traffic. Bob's chin shows three days of stubble, his eyes the emotional scars of a recent bout with depression, but tonight he'll be performing again for the first time since Jonah — A VeggieTales Movie. After bouncing around the country for the past year, exploring a singing career in Nashville, enrolling at classes at the University of Tupelo where he briefly considered earning his degree in botany, he ended up here, providing warm-up entertainment for Russian comedian Yakov Smirnov.

"Yakov became like a brother to me," Bob says. "When nobody else would touch me, he invited me over and said he'd help me get my own theater here one day. He understood what it means to lose your platform overnight. For him, it happened when the Soviet Union collapsed. For me, it was Big Idea."

Later that evening, Bob gives a humorous, at times sentimental 15-minute performance before a friendly, curious crowd, riffing on subjects from the difficulties of child-rearing to the dangers of being left too long in the sun. The routine "is a big part of restoring my confidence," he says backstage after receiving a standing ovation. The next afternoon he makes a surprise appearance in the Andy Williams show, sending the crowd into rounds of cheers. But during a lively, big-band rendition of "God is Bigger Than the Boogie Man," he breaks down and is escorted from the stage by Williams. "It'll take a while," he says later.

One of the most unfortunate consequences of the Big Idea debacle was the break-up of the once-inseparable duo of Bob and Larry. It has been "months" since they spoke, Bob says. Larry, who was portrayed as bumbling and good-natured in the videos, is actually shrewd and business-minded, acquaintances say. When Big Idea was sold, Larry briefly sued for rights to the back catalog, but after an acrimonious public battle with Bob, he disappeared to Alaska for a long-postponed vacation, then returned to New York and promptly became the pitchman for drinkmaker V-8, a move Bob interpreted as a direct jab. ("You're talking about pureed tomatoes," Bob says. "How was I supposed to take it?") Larry now pitches a line of food processors on late-night infomercials and is a spokesman for the Sleep Number bed. He also sells autographed photographs of himself on eBay, "to make extra money for the wife and baby dills," he said by e-mail.

Other characters have had harder landings. Laura the Carrot, the pudgy, orange sidekick, was booked for breaking and entering a Las Vegas dry cleaner last December. She told the judge she had not received a royalty check from Classic Media for five months, and that "there is no career path for washed-up baby carrots." She was sentenced to six months of probation.
Russ and Cody Dillinger, the twins who played Junior Asparagus, are now adolescents and have lost the squeaky, innocent charm that made their character adorable. Both boys smoke, against their parents' wishes. They have taken edgy roles in independent films and earned reputations in their native Cleveland as "wild veggies," says one club-goer.

"When the Dillingers show up, you know it's a good party," said a local bartender.
Other VeggieTales alums have fared better. Daniel Nichols, who played bad guy Nebby K. Nezzer, has returned to Hollywood and earned parts in NYPD Blue, The Practice and other crime dramas.

"Dan was the only one of us with acting experience," says Bob. "He went right back to character acting, his forte." Ann Packett, who played Junior's mom, moved to Santa Barbara and is covering the Michael Jackson trial for E! network. Bill Winslow, Junior's father, has gone back to his accounting business in Puyallup, Wash. Both happened to sell their company stock within days of its peak, meaning that of all the cast members they came away with the most money.
"We got lucky in that, but I miss the group," Winslow says. "We were like family."

Archibald Derrey, the asparagus, teaches grade school in Oxford, England. French peas Phillipe and Jean Claude reprised their back-and-forth comedy routine to great success in Hilton Head, N.C. last summer, though the show's name, VeggieTails, drew threats of a lawsuit.

As for Willy Mayer, AKA Pa Grape, nobody has seen him since the last, dismal cast meeting. Some say he's upriver in Wisconsin flyfishing, one of his pastimes. Others fear he has rotted. Others believe he's holed up in his Florida condo, waiting for the inevitable demand for a VeggieTales reunion video.

In the meantime, Classic Media, the new owner of VeggieTales, is re-tooling and re-launching the series with broad inter-faith appeal. They have removed biblical references from old videos and aimed them at different religious markets, and will soon roll out revamped "3-2-1 Pagans," "Where's the Goddess Kali When I'm S-s-scared?", "King George and Dianetics" and "Rack, Shack and Buddha."

"We hope the VeggieTales consumer embraces them," says a Classic Media spokesman. "We want them to see we're strengthening the brand by reaching out to other faiths."

None of the VeggieTales cast members would comment on the videos' new direction. As for a reunion ..."It's too soon to talk about that," Bob says, back at his Branson condo. "We all have a lot of maturing to do." •

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Invisible al-Sadrs

Ever have one of those mornings when it seems like you’re greeted by this kind of guy?

Muqtada al-Sadr is a real peach of a guy, an Iraqi muslim cleric who never says anything that isn’t laced with poison. You know—kill everyone who might be happy and free because, well, it is the will of Allah. And if his lunatic followers can’t get their hands on you right now, it’s because they’re making bombs with your name on them. Be just a few minutes.

And why do people surround him with microphones and cameras, giving him a stage he wouldn’t ordinarily have? How crazy is that?!

But he does remind me of something I regularly face—the accusations of the devil. He’s an invisible terrorist.

While usually more subtle and skilled than his loyal subject, al-Sadr, the devil is never satisfied with me being satisfied. He is a continual thorn in my side, a relentless bother. And I hate that he has such a microphone in my life.

Listening to his rants against me (“You failure!” “You loser!” “You lust bag!” You covetous clown!”), either I get bogged down and wearied, thinking he may have a point, or I wake up and slap him down without mercy.

The fact of the matter is I’m no longer a rookie in this world. While my enemy is, therefore, relentless in his attempts to derail and sidetrack me, God is even more tireless in treating me as a son. He knows who I am and He knows how I work. I am made to live by the Spirit, not by the flesh, and I am knowing that more and more these days.

The Muqtada al-Sadrs of this world (as well as those of the invisible world) strangely assist me in knowing that I cannot live as though I were of this world—there’s just not enough to it. If I believe what God says is true of me, then that means every day is a day of choosing to live as I am in this world; alien, foreigner, missionary. The invisible world, angelic and demonic, will recognize who I am—trouble is, I sometimes forget. When I grow foggy about that, the harsh voices of invisible al-Sadrs actually wake me up. I wonder, “Why am I hearing so much crap in my head?” Or something like that.

Right about then I begin to turn from the microphones and cameras of this world to the truth and grace of the invisible, eternal world. That’s where I live! I usually have one of those “Eureka!” moments, only I say something less sanctified like, “Oh, crap! I’ve been getting trashed!” My enemy loves to give me big doses of the visible and passing away world because he seeks to inoculate me against the real world, the invisible and eternal one.

But he has overdone it. I’m awake now.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Burying Your First Husband

(I know this is an unusual format, but give it a whirl. Read the following passage, and then see how the illustrative story that follows grabs you.)

Romans 7:1-6 Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.
So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature (flesh), the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Italics mine.)



I know this woman who is delighted about her new husband—her second husband. She goes on and on about him: he loves her like crazy and regularly makes it obvious; he does lots and lots of wonderful things for her, both little and large; he never ever gives her reason to doubt her security with him; his plans for their future together are wonderful and believable. He’s just sure she’s perfect. She is completely convinced that, although she doesn’t deserve him, he is God’s gift to her.

But she still struggles with her former husband.

He was a perfectionist, and even though he’s not around anymore, the way he made her feel about herself lingers on. He was always watching her. Always. She remembers that he never let up on his criticism and faultfinding. Never. Sadly, he wasn’t really wrong about her, and it hurts to this day. She was never able to earn his approval.

Haunted by his memory, she finds herself acting like her new husband is her former husband. Does that make sense? Because her former husband left such a mark in her mind, she thinks she will soon do something wrong enough to lose his approval and affection—it’s only a matter of time, she thinks. So, some of the same old fear plagues her: I don’t keep things clean enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m too fat, I don’t do things right, I get grumpy and bitchy and say bad words (see?), and I’m not always lovable. Dogged by fear, she tells me that either she works hard at doing what she thinks her new husband will like, or that she gets depressed and doesn’t do much of anything.

“How could he want me?” she wonders. But he does.

Her new husband doesn’t seem at all impressed with her slave-like efforts, particularly because he doesn’t think she’s getting any joy or pleasure out of doing them. He’d take one little loving kiss over a clean house and a dozen obligated roses any day. Lately, he’s been telling her that he didn’t marry her because of her abilities and talents—he just loves her and wants to be with her, not caring if she lifts even a finger. She tells me that she’s just starting to believe him, and that her behavior is a little less influenced by the one time fearful scrutiny of her former husband.

Last night he told her that her former husband is gone, never to return, and that he planned to prove for the rest of her life how marvelous she is. “I’m right about you!” he said. As she looked into his eyes, she realized she had become a little more convinced that he was right. It felt really good.

Over coffee this morning, she said, “Ralph, my problem isn’t so much that my life is up and down or good and bad, it’s that, in my mind, I keep swapping husbands. I hate that I do that! It’s like trying to impress my new husband by getting a good relationship with my former husband—impossible! So I’ve asked my husband to help me bury the past by enjoying him in the present. I don’t think there’s any other way, and that’s fine with me! He said he would, and that I would grow confident and find myself as I relaxed around him and by listening to what he thinks of me. But even if the memory of my first husband should darken and haunt me, he will always come for me and lead me out—I’m his now. Oh, how he loves me!”

Oh, how He loves you.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A Burrito In Jesus' Name


Last night was one of those odd kind of nights that I’d just as soon forever avoid.

I teach a group of 15-25 year olds on Thursday nights at our local Christian bookstore, Lords’ Walk. I really like them (it borders on love), but last night felt like we hardly got anything done together. They were either up and down almost constantly to help customers (there is usually someone who takes care of that who couldn’t be there last night), or they were eating burritos—big burritos. Gargantuan burritos, with loads of goop and glop. You know the kind.

Anyway, I suspect they got at least something helpful, though I don’t know if it was much. But since that’s not the first time in my life when things didn’t go as planned, I rolled with it.

Rolled on home, right into a storm.

I walked in the door with a beckoning and beautiful fajita burrito of my own (guacamole on the side), and instantly knew, “Ugh, oh.” No one greeted me, no one looked up, no one even threw a casual wave at me, which meant they were deeply into something deep. Within moments there were tears, frustrated murmurings, and a stomp-off into the bathroom. “Ahh,” I thought, “peace and joy in my castle.” Wisely, I zipped my lip.

What did I do? Ate my burrito in Jesus’ name.

I know that sounds funny, but I really did. Romans 6:13-14 plays a big roll in my life, no less so than last night: Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

Since the Holy Spirit first brought life to me, I have been looking for ways to enjoy it ever since. Why? Because I like it! I love God (who is life), and I love finding Him within me, which is where I looked to find Him last night. As a slightly ordered chaos paraded around me, I consciously offered myself to God, expecting to hear something from Him—Don’t do anything just now—or feel something from Him—peace in the storm. I became more aware of God in me than I was of the raw emotions and feelings on parade in front of me. Does that make sense?

I could have jumped into the storm and snuffed it out. “I want your attention! I want silence, and I want you to fix yourselves so that I like you and you all get along. There now—isn’t that better?!” But I didn’t. I had a Corinthian moment instead.

When Paul and company were visiting towns while holding out the offering bag, Paul noted a peculiar thing about the Macedonians. They didn’t just do what was logical, and they didn’t succumb to the pressure an offering bag can bring; before anything else they offered themselves to God. That surprised the offering bag people:

And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. (2 Cor 8:5)

That’s what I did, and since He didn’t lead me to do or say anything, I didn’t. And my fajita burrito was great. Just enough guac.

Ah, but later that night. . .When each of my girls had collapsed or dived into bed, I visited them. Offering myself to God, I felt compassion and patience, and had wisdom for daughter # 1, comfort and wisdom for daughter #2, and comfort and peace for my wife, girl #3. I just rubbed her back and shoulders, which drew quiet and approving murmurings.

Good move? Don’t copy me. I did what I did because I first did something in faith. I believe Romans 6:13-14, so that’s what I did. Avoiding some fleshly appeal to fix the situation, I offered myself to God instead and found life. That’s what life for Christians is—life by the Spirit. By grace, not by law, not by rules to make life work. Life by God.

Next time there’s a storm in your house, or when you’ve got a burrito to eat, or when the offering bag comes around, surprise someone—offer yourself to the Spirit. He might have something He’d like to do.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

This Won't Hurt A Bit


Got an opinion? Why not give it?

Leaving a comment for the forum is really quick and easy - really. Painless.


Click on the word "comments" at the end of any blog and another window will open. In the comment box, you may write what you want and then choose an identity. The fastest way is to choose "Anonymous," and then type the nonsensical red letters into the box next to "WORD VERIFICATION."

Click "Publish" and you're done.

If you want to leave your name and your web site, choose "Other," and fill in what you want.

Done.

Quick. Easy. Painless.

(And if you would like to send someone a link to a particular blog, click on the envelope at the bottom of any blog.)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Snow ManBabe

(We have a little fun around here on the weekend. I just loved the idea of this snow monster, and thought you might, too.)















BETHEL, Maine — The world's tallest snowman is no man.

The "snowwoman" towering over this village features eyelashes created from discarded skis and bright red lips made from painted car tires. She wears a giant red hat and a 100-foot-long scarf, and her blond tresses are made from rope. She gets a little bling from a snowflake pendant that's 6 feet long.

"She's a beauty. Gotta love those eyelashes," said Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the local chamber of commerce and a chief instigator of the town's offbeat project.

With the temperature in single digits, several hundred people including busloads of schoolchildren turned out for Friday's dedication of the 122-foot-tall mountain of snow.

This ski town of about 2,400 residents already holds the record for tallest snowman, dedicated in 1999. Since then, they have been waiting for someone else to break the record. When no one rose to the challenge, the folks here decided they'd have to break the record themselves.

Mark Bancroft, who donated the 150-foot crane used during the project, noted that it has been a tough winter with high fuel costs and nasty weather.

"What does Bethel, Maine, do when it gets tough? We build a snowman!" he said to the muffled applause of mittens and gloves clapping together.

"Olympia," named for Maine's senior senator, Olympia Snowe, stands nearly 10 feet taller than "Angus, King of the Mountain," who was dedicated by the town in 1999. That snowman, named for then-Gov. Angus King, was created by the same folks responsible for Olympia.

Although the snowwoman's namesake was unable to attend Friday's dedication because of her duties in Washington, a statement was read to the crowd.

"I've joked that it's just my luck I'd have a world record-breaking monument named after me — and it will be gone by summer," the senator said.

It took more than a month, dozens of volunteers and tons of snow to create Olympia. Jim Sysko, a civil engineer, oversaw design and construction.

To get an idea of scale, Olympia is about 30 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty (without the base). Her arms consist of 27-foot-tall evergreens. Her "carrot" nose, painted by schoolchildren, is 8 feet long. Her eyes are made from giant wreaths.

She was built with a series of concentric circles. The crane dumped the snow into frames, and volunteers climbed in for long hours shoveling and packing the snow.

"The best part of it is how everyone in town pitched in and made it happen," said volunteer David Lynch. "It got hairy up at the top. I only made it to 80 feet."

The final product is the talk of the town. People especially liked the lashes created from old skis donated from the Sunday River ski resort.

"It's the whimsy of it all. That's what makes it so great," said Iris Roberts, of Jefferson City, Mo., who watched with her husband on Friday.

Angus was certified as the world's tallest snowman by the Guinness Book of Records. It remains to be seen if Olympia will get the nod as tallest snowman, or snowwoman. There's currently no separate category for snowwoman, so residents are petitioning for one.

There was plenty of snow for the project. Parts of Maine have had more than 100 inches of snow this season, unlike 1999 when Angus was built. Volunteers started with manmade snow and then used snow piled on the runway of the municipal airport to finish the job.

"People love it. With all this snow, we did something good with it," said Darlene Ginsberg, who directed traffic with one hand while holding a cup of hot coffee in the other.

After the ceremony, local resident Julia Reuter stepped to the microphone and led the crowd in an impromptu singalong to the classic song, "Winter Wonderland."

In fact, more winter weather was on tap for Friday night.

Alex Kaufman from Sunday River credited Olympia for bringing the snowiest winter in 12 years.

Then he took a jab at Angus.

"Angus didn't bring squat for snow," he quipped. "In this case, it took a woman to get it done."

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Life Isn't Based On What You See

It's the weekend, so you know what that means--we get a little crazy around here.

This video is an example (albeit a gross one) of what focusing upon the visible, temporal arena can do to us--it will make you judge too soon and in error. If, in fact, you've been born from above, then the invisible, spirit realm is what's most real for you. The apostle Paul literally commands us to set our focus there (Colossians 3:1-4) because that's what's true and that's where we're found! And that's how we live by faith in what God says He has done to us and for us in Christ. It's amazing and reviving!

Focused anywhere else, you'll soon weary and begin to grow weak in faith. Your judgment will be impaired. That's not normal for you! So get back to looking at where life is found. You'll feel better.

video