Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Some Highlights from my Vacation

I know most Protestants don't usually visit Catholic shrines on vacation, but Jeff and Miriam thought I'd be interested....I was. Here are some pictures.

More Vacation Highlights

Yes, I rode this thing, and, NO, I did NOT throw up!
At the City Walk at Universal Studios, this scene caught my eye...hmmm... wonder why?
I was expecting high prices at Universal and Disney, but $24.00 for a piece of cake... at Publix? Actually, I got one piece of cake, and was...this will surprise you, talking with the lady helping me, and I think she got distracted...luckily, the lady at the checkout noticed it!
Last Saturday, Jeff and Miriam and I went to a local college to see the play, Arsenic and Old Lace (which was pretty good.). It's an Assembly of God school, and I thought this fountain of Jesus washing the disciple's feet was pretty cool!

This couple had no idea I was taking this picture, but it looked like something you'd see in a Disney brochure, so I went ahead and shared it with you!

Even More Vacation Highlights

Here are a few highlights of my trip so far...

Here are Jeff and Miriam Payne posing across the lagoon at EPCOT from Italy...still in love after 31 years of marriage...and I was even in their wedding way back when....some friendships do really last a lifetime!

Here Miriam is trying to remind me that being fifty-two isn't all that bad...could be worse...then again, the lady was only sleeping...we didn't move on until we saw her move!

On the way to EPCOT, Miriam let me know about other famous people having my birthday! Wow, Abe Vigoda and me have the same birthday!

Ever wanted to know what a $2.99 Coke looked like???? OUCH!!! How these people can live with themselves is beyond me! At Universal, AFTER you pay for a ticket you still have $12 for parking, $20 for an "express" pass to bypass the long lines, and even, if you really want to splurge, $5.00 for a lanyard to hold your express pass! Miriam and I split a $9.00 double hamburger...Jeff splurged on his very own salad!

My Birthday

Well, Disney made good on its promise to let me in free on my birthday. It was a great day...perfect weather, great friends (Jeff and Miriam Payne) willing to take time (and money) to accompany me on my special day....though I readily admit that fifty-two years ago it was my mom, not me, who had to do the really difficult work getting me into the world. By the mom was in church on the morning of the day I was born...just under five hours after the service!

Anyway, it was a record breaking day in the number of "Happy Birthdays" I got...I'm sure Disney employees are threatened with termination if they are anything less than "happy," and they were pretty consistent in wishing me a happy birthday (since I "had" to wear a big button designating me as a happy birthday person), as were many strangers.

That was special, but not as special....not anywhere close to as special as having a continuing series of text messages and voice mails and emails throughout the day wishing me a Happy Birthday. Thank you all...sorry I couldn't call back, but we were continually rushing from attraction to attraction so I could maximize my time at Disney.

My mom called about a second before the rocket ignited on the Mission Space ride, which puts people in a centrifuge so you can feel the effects of being launched into was pretty intense. A lady in the line warned me that I'd be okay as long as I kept my eyes on the screen in front of me and didn't close my eyes or look to the side...and there were air sickness bags on the dash board...fortunately, no one in my "crew" had to use I had to call my mom back since I was the navigator and the lives of my crew depended on my pushing my buttons at the right time!

All in all, it was a great day, and I am thankful for the life God has allowed me to have...mainly because of the people He's given me as family and friends. As Jeff and Miriam put it...God gives us certain people who fall into the category of "foundational friends," who have lasting, continual, vital impact on us, and I thank God for everyone of you who fall into that category!

I agree with the author of Hebrews: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (10:24,25)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Vacation Day One - I Slept Late, Too!

Day One of Vacation: I drove the 450 miles to Lakeland yesterday. No one in Florida seems to be limited by posted speed limits. I only visited, can you believe it, ONE Wal-Mart on the way down. Proud of my Honda...averaging 39 plus miles per gallon.

I've known Jeff and Miriam Payne since college days, and they are excellent friends and hosts! Here is their 16 year old "Spike" sleeping in on Saturday morning. The weather is great, and we're still in the planning stages for our "non-Disney" time together. Tuesday, I plan to go to Disney FREE because it's my birthday! What a great country! I won't even notice paying $10 for a $3 hamburger while in the park!

I listened to the first part of an audio book entitled, "Leading with a Limp" by Dan Allender...interesting stuff on learning to be an effective leader, flaws and all...details's time to do some vacationing....Florida style!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What Cameras and the Moon Can Teach Us

Here are three photos I've taken over the past couple of years, and my little, over-analyzing mind came up with these object lessons.

Photo One: This is a "moonset"(is that even a word?)...over Lake Keowee near Clemson. The camera shutter was open only a fifth of a second for the dim picture, and 30 seconds for the brighter picture. The lesson? The longer we are "opened" to the light of Christ, the more His light "collects" in our souls, hearts and minds. Or another way to put it: the more "exposure" (for all you photographers) you have to the light of Christ, the more brightly you reflect His light to those around you. Isn't the brighter picture really more interesting and engaging? How interesting and engaging and reflective of Christ's life is you. (See Colossians 2:6,7: So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.)

Photo Two: I was surprised that this shot came out. It is very difficult to get a clear pictures at night of anything without the steadying influence of a tripod. This is because the longer a camera's sensor is exposed to light, the more the sensor will blur objects in motion. Being still is essential for clear night time shots. The moonset pictures above were taken using a tripod. The lesson is our crazy, on-the-move-all-the-time lifestyles, we need to "be still" to get a clearer picture of Christ! As the Psalmist reminds us, " 10 "Be still, and know that I am God..." (46:10) You'll get a clearer picture of just how amazing your Father in Heaven is if you do!!!!

This final shot is a lunor eclipse. I took this while standing in the courtyard of my church... why the eclipse? The shadow is cast over the moon because the world is getting in the way!!!! The beauty of the full moon is dimmed when the earth passes between it and the sun...sort of like what happens to a believer when he or she allows the concerns of the world to get in between them and the light of God's love and power! His light of love and power NEVER diminishes, but distractions can get in the way, and we lose our focus. Then things will look a lot darker than they actually are! It reminds me of the parable of the seeds when some of the seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns stood for "concerns" of the world that choke out the good news of the gospel. (See Matthew 13)

Don't worry about having to remember all this, just look up and see the moon...God will remind you!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wonders in One Picture

Job, as he "processed" the calamities that befell him, pondered the nature of God when he said, "He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea. He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted." (Job 9:8-10)

This is a picture of the Orion Job is talking about! (See diagram below to see exactly which dots make up Orion.) I took this picture recently on a trip to the upstate, and I thought it was cool that several of God's "wonders" are present in this picture....

1.) Wonder #1 is that little faint red dot at the top of the constellation which is a star called Betelgeuse. It is 600 light years from earth. That little dot is SO big that if it was placed where our sun is, the earth (and Mars for that matter) would be INSIDE IT! That's huge! Though our eyes tell us it's a little speck of light, the truth is that it is a burning mass of nuclear explosions that is one of the largest objects in the known universe!

2.) Wonder #2: The second amazing thing is this picture is that I was not looking at Betelgeuse in 2009, but was actually looking at how it appeared around 1409!! It took 600 years for its light to get here, so in a way, my camera was looking into the past! Cool!

3.) Wonder #3: The blackness around the stars is a thing called infinity, and I haven't figured out that marvel yet either.

4.) Wonder #4: The unseen miracle is that the One who made all the stars of the universe, and infinity itself, created me, too, and has made it possible for me to know him not just as the Creator, but as my Abba can't get much more wonder-filled than that! Tonight, if the sky is clear, look up, take in the wonders, and thank God that He not just all-powerful, all-knowing, and the Creator of the Universe, but that He is tender and loves you enough to adopt you through Christ. Talk about wonders! That's a wonder!

Google Maps...CREEPY!

Look what I found at Google Maps when I typed in the church's address and clicked on "Street View!" I know, I know...most of you already know about it, but it's still sort of cool...uh, and a bit creepy! Speaking of creepy....I haven't succumbed to peer pressure to join Facebook yet, but I did think of all my Facebook friends when I came across this about how Facebook has the right to use whatever you post to it FOREVER, even after you close your account....I know, I should assume anything you put in the internet is going to stay there forever, but it is just another little "creepy" aspect of the Internet! The article:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

In honor of Valentine's Day and in the cause of defining true love I offer I John 3:16: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

John continues with the appropriate response to this kind of love in vs. 17,18: If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

I still remember a statement about love from a religious ed. professor way back in seminary. He said that basically, biblical love is "action in the best interest of another PERIOD." The PERIOD is important in that unconditional love does not require that the object of love earn it!

As someone once said, true love is "unconquerable good will." Such is the case with God's love, which was demonstrated in God's ultimate "act" in our best interest, the death of Christ on the cross, and what a great time to thank Him for this ultimate love the best way loving Him (with our actions) and loving others (again, with our actions!).

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Painful Thermometer

Baker, California, is a tiny town in the middle of the desert on I-15 from Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Other than being one of the few oasises on one's desert trek to or from Vegas, it also boasts what the locals call the world largest thermometer. It's function is measure the surrounding temperature. But what about your spiritual temperature?

I was listening to a message by Matt Chandler from the Village Church in Highland Village, Texas, when he made a simple, but great point.
He said that one of the best spiritual thermometers is made up of two indicators: how you spend your money and how you treat other people. He said the biblical support was basically any teaching about money, and I John for how you treat people. So we should ask ourselves with regards to our money and stuff, "how would Jesus want me to spend my money?" and with regards to EVERYONE we meet, "how would Jesus want me to treat this person?"

Hmmm....I wonder if when our works are tested in heaven (I Cor. 3:10-15) God will pull out a lifetime's worth of bank statements, and will then interview everyone we've ever interacted with? Hopefully, your spiritual thermometer is already reading boiling hot when it comes to how you handle your money and how you treat everyone you meet...then you won't have to worry about being embarrassed on your first day in heaven!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Next Time You're Griping About Traffic

And you thought your commute was bad!
I wonder what kind of conversations they have on their commute?

Stay on The Field: Not in the Stands!

I’m sure the Pittsburgh Steelers were pretty excited about winning their sixth national championship at this year's Super Bowl. Those players on the field, however, could not have won the game without a coach and his staff.

In away, the coach’s position reminds me of how God works in the lives of His children, as stated in Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." The coach’s goal is to coordinate all the talent and strength of the team to work things out for victory. The players listen to and obey the coach (and his staff) if they want to stay on the team. They learn the plays, practice the plays, get corrected when they mess up plays, and get encouragement when they do the plays right.

One thing they cannot do is to go out on a field and ignore what the coach says. How long would a player last if he said,
“I don’t care what the coach says, I’m going to do this thing my way.” Let's get really crazy and imagine a player leaving the field, going to sit in the stands, and yelling to the coach: "Hey, could you bring me something to eat, and maybe a pillow?" He’d probably be off the team before he couldn't even sit down in the stands!

Is it any less crazy than a person who calls himself a Christian, thinking he can have a fulfilling life while telling God (either directly or through his decisions), “I don’t care what You say, I’m going to do this thing my way.” That person is simply going to lose out on the kind of life only God can “work out” for him.

In Romans, Paul is saying that God will work things out for good, not so that life will be easy and convenient, and the way you like it.
Great football players have to respect and honor their coach’s wisdom, integrity, and commitment to winning if they are going to experience the victory. Romans 8:28 says that God works things out for those who love Him. The question is, “Do you love Him enough to let Him work for your good even when that work might be painful?”

If you love Him, you will do just that, and the victory will be won. It may take time; it may be painful; but it will be for your good and for His purposes.
His purpose is to transform us into people who think and act more and more like Jesus Christ and less and less like the world. There is no better life than this.

Times are tough, but God is ready to “828” whatever circumstance you’re in for your ultimate good! The best thing you can do is TRUST HIM. Ask Him to 828 your day, every day and your life will become a whole new ball game! He just might use you to draw others to join His family and His team!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Be Careful About Judging!

I had a flat tire on Christmas Eve, and bought a new set of tires at a certain "discount" club the day after Christmas in Augusta, GA. I would have rather been on a post-Christmas bargain hunt, but you've got to do, what you've got to do. A few days later I noticed the driver's side tires were both very low.

I took the car back to the "club." They said they couldn't find anything. I was in a hurry, and not very good at being the irate customer...and it was a little too early to demand anything, so I thought, "Hey, maybe it was random "lite" vandalism."

A little over a week later, the tires were very low again, in Columbia this time, so I headed for the "sister" discount club there. I told them about my two visits to Augusta, and gave them permission to upgrade to the next tire if necessary. Well, they found that the Augusta store had not put in new valve stems, nor checked them on the second trip. This was impressive in that they could have played dumb and given me new tires, but they didn't. I felt satisfied.

Well, a week or two later, the back tire started to lose pressure again, so I was ready for a new set of tires...I headed back to Columbia....and when I picked up the car, was told that this time, it was my fault....a nail I had run over! Glad I didn't decide to play the "irate" card!

Romans 2:2 states, "Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth." God has the credentials to judge people because He knows perfect truth about the person and the situation. We, however, are not like that. We judge people, but never with perfect truth. Often we judge based, not on truth, but on our feelings; our perspectives, which are flawed. Better to leave judgment to the only One capable of doing it right! Be careful about those planks in your own eye!