Archive for November, 2008

Montana In The Morning

Montana in the morning is a medley of sounds and sights. Having just returned the sensations are fresh and refreshing.
Sitting on the patio of the lovely ranch lodge looking up the swiftly flowing Big Hole River, the fragrance of new mowed hay blends with a bouquet of wildflower fragrances to awaken the senses. Even the sky is a different blue.
Looking down on the meadow along the river the horse trainer is at work. She is a big league cowgirl with records to prove it. Her beauty belies her strength and merits her being featured in the photo journal, “Cowgirls.”
A doe and fawn wade the shallows of the river to get to the greener pastures. They cross to the east in the morning and west in the evening. Soon they join about twenty-five more deer in the meadow for breakfast.
The Big Hole River is one of the ten top trout streams in North America. Lazy charter fishing boats with a guide and two fishermen float past the ranch hourly.
Soaring above the river and meadow are bald eagles on the hunt. A flight of pelicans looking for fish glides above the river on wings spanning eight feet. When they find a school they form a circle around them and begin splashing in the water as they close the circle and scoop them up. Their beaks hold over three gallons of fish and water earning the line: “A wonderful bird is the pelican. His beak can hold more than his belly can.”
The primeval deep resonate rattling call of the Sandhill crane reverberates across the plain. The colorful but raucous Black-billed Magpies chatter as they flit about.
The sun rises over McCartney Mountain, the tallest free standing mountain in North America. Its golden rays illumine the Pioneer Mountain range to the west. Later in the day we ascended from the ranch base which is 5,500 feet above sea level on a four wheeler by way of a mountain trail in the Pioneers. The trail went through verdun forest and mountain meadows blanked with fragrant blue Silky Lupine.  At an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet we topped out and had a picnic amid the snow covered peaks. From the summit beautiful Lake Agnes can be seen cradled in a valley 1,300 feet below. It is rich with grayling and trout.
On an average day on the ranch hundreds of whitetail and mule deer, elk by the dozens, large herds of pronghorn and moose are seen browsing in the alfalfa and along the river bank.
The state is 700 miles wide and 500 miles from north to south with a population of less than a million.
People are catching on. The nearby sleepy little town of Melrose with a population of less than 300 now has a developing suburb on the Big Hole river of a gated community of million dollar houses.
This community contrast to the nearby ghost towns such as Virginia City, Nevada City, Bannack, and Heckla that attest to the gold riches of the past.
Montana in the morning is a cacophony of sensations enriching ones spirit. Under the Big Sky life moves slowly but a visit passes all too fast. Having the joy of sharing all this with friends made it all the more enjoyable.
To revive your spirit and be renewed expose yourself to something BIG. Montana is a great place to do it. Looking at all this expansive beauty one can’t help but see a revelation of creative purpose and be drawn closer to the Creator.

Beautiful Bermuda

In a weeks time we just came down from the magnificent mountains of Montana to the beautiful beaches of Bermuda.
This lovely archipelago with pink beaches consists of approximately 138 islands. The seven largest linked by bridges comprise the “mainland.” One of these bridges has the world’s smallest drawbridge, 18 inches. It is just large enough for the mast of a mid-sized sail boat to go through.
The land mass consists of slightly more than twenty square miles. The greatest width is two miles. Only 800 acres is suitable for farming. The population of just over 65,000 consists of some of the most joyous and friendly people in the world.
This is the sixth year I have gone there to teach at  Willowbank Resort. It is an award winning cottage resort community on a scenic promontory overlooking picturesque Ely’s Harbor, once a haunt for pirates, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. It has just gone through an extensive renovation and expansion.
A group of British and Bermuda business men established the retreat years go in this semitropical paradise. Most who come are from England, Canada, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Boston, Philadelphia and New England.
We were there last week during the most exciting week of their year. It was a four day holiday for “Cup Match.” The island closes and everyone focuses on the cricket match between Somerset and St. George’s, the two extreme ends of this chain of islands shaped like a fish hook.
We went to the match and had an exciting time without understand a thing we saw. It started at 10:00 AM, took a break for lunch, and being a British colony they took a 4:00 PM break and went to the locker rooms for tea before resuming and ending around 7:00 PM. It went on for two days and ended in a draw.
Before explaining the game of cricket I want to note the explanation will be followed by a reason for sharing it.
You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.
When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.
Now the reason for the explanation. It is for those spouses married to a football fanatic to share with your spouse to help your spouse know how you feel when an attempt is made to explain football to you.
The convivial atmosphere at the match and the exotic foods make the outing enjoyable apart form the game. Muscle pie, clam chowder, fish stew, and hoppin-john were but a few menu items.
Bermuda is a wonderful place to go for a lesson in hospitality.

Sex In America

John Edwards, former candidate for President, has acknowledged having an illicit sexual relation. His marriage has been betrayed. The public has verbally pummeled him. His mendacious actions are reprehensible. When his concupiscence was exposed his deception was finally admitted. His actions were repudiated by most American as unacceptable. They didn’t meet our broadly accepted moral standards.
However, even a casual observer of TV sitcoms knows what was once considered promiscuous sex is now the cool thing. It is represented as the norm, the thing to do, talk about and laugh over. It is the basis of most intended humor in our entertainment. Our heroes and heroines in the media are more promiscuous than Hugh Hefner or a neighborhood cat. They have an insouciant attitude about sex.
Illicit sex is so open and blatant that it must leave parents of small children with a lot to explain. In the mean time children are growing up seeing it as almost normal. Gone are the days when in our media two persons of the opposite sex could have a good personal relationship without sex entering the picture.  That is the norm that is downplayed in our entertainment.
Check the news racks that line the check-out lines in stores and try to find one feature related to a well balanced marriage or a celibate star or starlet. Stories about super-models who want to have babies but don’t want to marry sell-not celibacy. Baby bumps by unwed prospective moms are big news. Five million opposite-sex couples in the U.S. live together without the benefit of marriage. Thirty-eight percent of all children in America are born out of wedlock costing taxpayers $112 billion a year.
A “Sex in the City” or “Desperate Housewives” culture never hints of virtue, chastity, moral integrity, or fidelity.
Why then beat up on John Edwards?
Because there is still a significant core in America that believes in fidelity and values the sanctity of marriage.
To paraphrase statesman William Penn “Immorality is still wrong, though all be for it and virtue is still right though all be against it.”
C. S. Lewis in his work “The Abolition of Man” refers to moral maxims as “Tao.” These maximums constitute our human moral inheritance. They are starting points for moral reasoning, deliberation, and conduct. The moral and spiritual earthquake in our culture is shaking these foundations. Any society that has tried to stand on morally neutral or empty ground has found it impossible to have any moral reasoning. Tao is as essential to civil life as axioms are to mathematics.
Aberrant appetites and desires cause people to want to ignore what moral reasoning requires. Without proper moral education our cherished freedom to make moral decisions will give license to be inhuman in any personally desirable manner.
History teaches us that when the freedom members of a society seek most is the freedom to do what ever they want freedom is lost.
Many in the media in America are seeking to reeducate our society on a new morality using entertainment as the means.
Are you involved in any organization that teaches the long held moral standards we inherited?

God’s Judgement on America

Have you ever noticed that when an individual says a certain thing is a judgement of God there is an immediately dog pile-and the dog being piled on is the person making the statement. If the judgement is spoken of as being by God against America the implied response is that America has done nothing deserving of harsh judgment and after all God doesn’t pronounce judgement on nations.
God is depicted in the Bible as a God of love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. He is patient, kind, and long suffering. Those are but a few of the admirable attributes ascribed to Him by Scripture. However, He is also depicted as just and a God of judgement. All books considered holy by various faiths depict God as judging and disciplining or rewarding as fitting.
Every person has a basis for his or her belief on the subject. Some simply dismiss the very existence of a god and scoff at the concept of an after life. To them the subject is of no significance or relevance.
Others take a self-defensive position declaring God is too loving to discipline. To them God is a benevolent grandfather who indulges his children.
I am always reluctant to point to a specific act and declare it to be a judgement of God on a nation or person. However, the concept of divine judgement is one to which I subscribe.
Through the prophet Jeremiah God is represented as saying: “…the instant I speak concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good which I said I would benefit it.” (Jeremiah 18: 9, 10)
Again the prophet wrote as inspired, “The instant I speak concerning a nation and a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.” (Jeremiah 18: 7, 8)
That is judgement of the highest magnitude.
James Madison kept fastidious personal records. On Thursday, June 28, 1787 he recorded a rebuke offered by the 81 year old Ben Franklin. Addressing the President of the Convention, George Washington, Franklin said, “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?” Regarding this statement he continued to say, “I firmly believe this….”
Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey, a delegate to the convention described the moment: “The words of the venerable Franklin fell upon our ears with a weight and authority, even greater than we may suppose an oracle to have had in a Roman senate!”
“…God governs in the affairs of men….”
That should put the fear of God in each of us. The fear of God? Dare it be mentioned? That is a whole other subject but here is in part what is meant by it.
I feared my dad. He was no tyrant. He was a good, kind, and gentle man who had my welfare in mind at all time and aspired for me to be and do my best. My fear of him involved fearing I would let him down by not living up to the admirable standard he had for me based on his knowledge and love for me. That is how we should fear God and avoid His judgement.

What is Norming?

Two words to add to your lexicon of societal philosophies are “norming” and “synthetism.”
They go beyond tolerance.
Norming is a word Europeans often use in reference to what America needs to do. It is the concept that our national decisions should be based on international consensus rather than our long standing commitment to constitutional democracy. This process has emerged in our Supreme Court in a decision which one jurist stated he based his opinion on a European law. This was done to the exclusion of our own Constitution.
Norming is a word for lets all get together for an international group hug. It is a ploy to do away with national sovereignty. The hot bed for this is the United Nations. While advocating many norming regulations contrary to American standards they can’t even agree on a definition of terrorism.
It has been suggested that in the insect world norming would involve putting lipstick on a caterpillar and calling it a butterfly.
Synthetism in the legal community is the process of compromise requiring the blending of long held Constitutional legal norms with trends of the times and international law. An example is one jurist who voted for the ban on prayer in public schools saying if his decision was based on a religion it was the religion of paganism.
Syncretism in the faith community involves the blended the traditional norms of faith with what has been known as heresy, scepticism, apostasy, heterodoxy, even cultic or occult. It is an amalgam forming an eclectic faith. It is a “go along in order to get along” view. The consequence is a theology that is a mile wide and an inch deep.
Traditional tolerance, now known as negative tolerance, has long held that every person is entitled to his or her own beliefs. This allows for person to disagree without being disagreeable. Though a person’s beliefs may be unacceptable the person is acceptable.
Positive tolerance states one belief is as good as another and no one should disagree with another’s. In this school of thought it is improper to contest an opposite belief as wrong. If this is true Hitler is due an apology and a commendation should be give Timothy McVeigh.
College professors are now finding some student given to positive tolerance are showing up who are advocates of Nazism and others as proponents of slavery. Why not, if one idea is as good as another.
Introspection is often painful. Socrates said, “The unexplored life is not worth living.” Therefore, engage in self-examination. What is your world view? What sources are helping influence it? Do you have a norm, a standard other than your own likes and dislikes, by which to determine wright and wrong? Is there right and wrong?
In a textbook used at Florida State entitled “The Roots of American Order” author Russell Kirk makes a case for Bible based concepts being the norm used by the founders of our nation. To this day many find the Bible a reliable standard for faith and practice. In matters of law our Constitution is still unexcelled.

How To Edify Others

Do you ever get discouraged, depressed, defeated or depleted? Most folks do. What then?
In the movie “Lord of the Rings” trilogy Frodo reached the slopes of Mount Doom only to collapse. His journey was so nearly complete, his goal was in sight, but he just could not go on. In his seeming victory of good over evil now it appeared evil would win.
Sam, Frodo’s faithful companion, pleaded with him to get up and complete his task. Fellow hobbits exhorted and appealed Frodo to get up but he just could not. He was too depleted to continue
Sam too was exhausted but he said, “Mr. Frodo, I can’t do it for you, but I can pick you up and take you there.” Exhausted as he was, Sam lifted Frodo and carried him to the heart of Mount Doom, where victory was finally won.
Sooner or later we all are a Frodo in need of a Sam. That appears to be the norm.
Here is the good news. Often you have the opportunity to be a Sam. Don’t miss a single chance. The Sams of the world are the most fulfilled of all people. Look for opportunities to be a Sam.
They abound. You will find them right at home some days.
Our English word “edify” comes from the same root as edifice. An edifice is a building. An edifice has been built up. When you edify a person you build them up. All of us need edifying at some time. Here is the good news. There is a market for edifyers. Be one.
There was a Bible character named Barnabas. His name meant “son of encouragement.” To join his ranks as sons or daughters of encouragement is to align yourself with a cadre of positive people.
Edifying someone is the most edifying thing you can do.
Encouraging someone is one of the most encouraging things you can do.
Being a Sam is one of the most gratifying things you can do.
It is then you know the meaning of the expression “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” For it is in giving that we receive. It is therapeutic.
When we get our self off our mind and our mind off our self then we can see the opportunities all about us.
Charlie Brown asked Lucy. “Why are we here?”
Philosophically Lucy replied, “To serve other people.”
After musing over the answer Charlie replied in a manner that might typify many of us. He said, “Well, why are other people here?”
We seem more interested in the last query of Charlie without giving enough attention to the reply of Lucy.
There is a remarkable edifier in Bermuda. Johnny Barnes gets up at 3:40 AM every day and goes to the Crow Lane roundabout. Till 10:00 AM he is there waving to every passerby shouting “God bless you,” or “I love you.” He has been doing it every day for twenty years. Island dwellers appreciate and enjoy him so much they have erected a life-size bronze statue to carry on the tradition after he is gone.
There may be no bronze statue in honor of us but we can all manifest the spirit of Johnny Barnes and be a Sam, a Barnabas, a Johnny, an edifier.

The Curse For Cain

The “Curse,” and the “Mark” Given “to” Cain.
the King James Reads: “the Lord Set a Mark on Cain”
(Gen. 4:15B). the Hebrew, “Wayyasem Lqayin Ot,” Literally Means “the Lord Prescribed a Mark for Cain.” “the Mark” Was Given to Cain As a Sign to Protect Him (Vs. 15).
if the “Mark” Had Been “on” Cain the Hebrew Word “Be” Would Have Been Used. It Was Not but the Hebrew “Le,” Meaning “for,” Is Used. the “Mark” Was “for” His Protection.
in the Text Immediately Cain Went out to the Land of Nod (Vs. 16) and Developed “the City of Refuge.” It Was to Protect Him.
Numbers 35:12, Speaks of Such a City: “There Will Be a Place of Refuge from the Avenger So That No Person Accused of Murder May Die Before He Stands Trial Before the Assembly.”
in Light of All This the “Mark” Given to Protect Cain Might Well Have Been the City of Refuge. It Was the First Such City.
It Is Impossible to Say With Certainty What the Mark Was. Whatever It Was It Was Given to Cain to Protect Him.
Most of the Rest of Genesis 4 Relates to the Culture of the
“City of Refuge” Stressing Its Importance.
the “Curse” (Vs. 11) Was Not the Same As the “Mark” (Vs. 15). the Curse Related to His Future Agricultural Efforts Failing
(Vs. 12.). the “Mark” Was to Protect Him (Vs. 15).
There Is No Hint That This Resulted in the First Black Man.

An Eye For An Eye

Matthew 5: 38, “You have heard that it was said, “An eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth.’”
This is found in the oldest known law, the law of Hammurabi, which originated between 2285 and 2242 B.C. This was a law of vengeance. It allowed for paying back an injustice with an equal one, not an excessive one. It allowed only for equal payback. This was originally designed to prevent payback by harsher means than the offense.
Jesus stated it in order to cancel it and introduce a higher law which rejects vengeance and payback. He instructs us to respond to our injustices with a higher form of response —- love. Jesus then gives illustrations in the passage which indicate how we should respond in love.
One, “But I tell you not to resist an evil person…” (Vs. 39). This doesn’t mean not to defend yourself. The meaning of the Greek text is “don’t payback evil with evil means.” It means don’t be aggressive in retaliating by evil means. Don’t escalate the situation by trying to get even.
Jesus continues, “But whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Vs. 39).
There is of course a limit to this but it means, “be very patient and don’t respond aggressively or rudely”. It means to respond in a positive courteous way to show an attitude and speak in such a way as to show the spirit of Jesus. The Bible say we are to be slow to anger. Jesus forgave even those who crucified Him.
Proverbs 16: 32 says, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty….”
Jesus is teaching that we should not meet evil with equal or greater force. We are to meet it with a greater positive force, kindness.
This does not mean don’t assert your right if struck. Jesus and Paul were both struck on the cheek. They didn’t strike back but they did appeal to their rights. By saying turn the other cheek He is saying it is best to receive a second affront than to stoop to the same level as the one striking the blow.
The second significant insight from Jesus is: “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Vs. 41).
Roman soldiers had the right to compel a person to carry their pack a mile. Jesus instruction means go beyond what is required of you, go a second mile, and let him see the love of Jesus. In all things do more than is expected showing a Jesus’ like spirit.
Peter and Paul had a disagreement and confronted each other regarding it. They did it in a constructive way showing love for each other. They dealt with the principles and didn’t attack each other’s character. Their purpose was to resolve the issue in a Christlike way. In these Jesus is not establishing a new form of legalism. He is giving guidelines.
Jesus gives a third example: “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.” (Vs. 40).  This does not mean do not allow yourself your legal rights. It mean be as gracious and generous as possible before resorting to legal self-defense. The teaching allows for self-protection but does not allow for vengeance.
A final illustration follows: “Give to him who ask you….” (Vs. 42). Jesus is not encouraging us to give endless amounts to money to every con-artists. It is an encouragement to be generous.
If this is interpreted in a mechanical and literal manner it becomes ridiculous. Jesus isn’t encouraging us to not be wise and give to every leach that comes along. The Scripture speaks of a lazy person who won’t work: “If any would not work, neither should he eat” (II Thess. 3:10).
Jesus is appealing to us to not be self-centered and selfish, but to help meet legitimate needs as best we can.
Every right is given to ask questions to determine if a need is legitimate.
The verse doesn’t say, “give to everyone everything they ask of you.” It says, “Give to him who asks you.” What you might very well give may be of more value than money. It might be good sound advice. Discernment might result in not giving money to a person or loaning them money. However, we have no right to insult the one asking. We are still to be kind to them.
When a Bible passage isn’t clear on a subject always go to a passage that is clear on the subject and interpret the unclear one in light of it. In regard to this saying an understanding is gained from reading Proverbs 11:15; 17:18; 22:26.
Basically these passages are an encouragement to respond to offensives like Jesus would respond. Don’t try to please the other person or yourself —- please Jesus.
The Bible says of Him “He came not to be served but to serve.” It also says, “It is proper for the servant to be like his master.” As our Master He is to be our model in all things.