Tuesday, September 25, 2007


There was once a mighty king, Nathan the Wise one, who had a magic ring. Whoever possessed this ring would be rich, wise & powerful. King Nathan also had three sons. He knew that when he died, his sons would quarrel over possession of the ring. So, he had two duplicate, but non-magic rings forged. On his death bed, he gave a ring to each of his sons, and so died.

His sons spent the rest of their lives quarreling over who was the richest, wisest, and most powerful.

The moral of the story is: If you believe that you have the truth, act like it.

Friday, September 21, 2007


This one’s for you, Eric…

Single-board nuclear reactor Supplies pc standby power for 12 years

Now available on a full-length plug-in card for IBM PC or compatible computers, the QBX-1 add-on nuclear reactor card provides backup power for as long as 12 years. When the card senses a power failure, explosive bolts eject moderator and control rods from the reactor’s interior within 20 msec, bringing the reactor to its fully rated output of 20 kW in less than a millisecond. Over the 12-year active life, the reactor’s power decreases by 25% to 15 kW.

Integral heat fins provide convection cooling of the reactor’s 500W power dissipation while the reactor remains in its standby condition. If your computer’s fans can’t furnish 400 ft3/sec of forced air for cooling, consider buying the manufacturer’s heavy-water cooling jacket and stainless steel pump module, which fit conveniently under a desk or workbench. Latches on each side of the reactor module let you quickly exchange the radioactive core, should you need to replace it. An optional circular viewing port of lead glass lets you check the reactor’s internal mechanical assemblies.

To protect users from undue radiation, each reactor includes a shielding kit comprising five self- stick lead plates and 20 radiation-monitoring film badges. The lead plates mount inside your computer’s enclosure and reduce gamma rays that cause soft errors to floppy-disk and RAM data. For further protection, consider buying the manufacturer’s 200-ft extension cords for keyboards and monitors.

Because the reactor can supply more than enough power for your computer, you can sell excess power to your local utility company. An add-on phasing and metering kit (PMK-1) lets you connect your reactor to the local power grid. Each PMK-1 includes standard power-sale contracts and Rural Electrification Board rules and regulations.

Although not required in all localities, each reactor card package includes a standard 23 volume site evacuation plan. The plan includes blank forms for you to fill in the name and address of your reactor site and then mail to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As an option, the manufacturer supplies the plan on 12 MS-DOS-compatible disks in Wordstar format. User-friendly templates let you type in information so that your word processor can create a complete, printed document.

Reactor prices start at just $2.3 million each (1). Delivery, seven years ARO.

Regus Patoff

Luminescent Electronic Products Inc. Box U-235, Trinity Site, NM 43210


Sunday, September 16, 2007


Let me preface this by saying I am offering a critique, not a sour grapes criticism. I realize that there are business realities to publishing that I know not of. I realize that as an unpublished novelist—articles and cartoons, yes. Novels, no—I do not have the experience in the industry to even know what I don’t know.

Don the Baptist’s

Ninety-five—Give-or-TakeTheses on Christian Fiction

Though I see this slowly changing, it seems that many Christian publishing house’s criterion for the content of fiction is based on the same doctrinal soundness guidelines as their non-fiction materials.

Fiction is what-if stories about real life. Theology is not fiction.

I want to read and sell fiction that is godly in its basic nature without being made to feel like I am choking down a spoonful of caster oil that’s “good for me.”

Often times when I spend money on Christian Fiction, I feel like I’m “taking a hit for the team.” In other words, it’s not really worth the money, but by supporting my cause I’m being a loyal team player.

I hate to finish reading a work of Christian Fiction and think, “well, it was almost as good as a real novel.”

I think a book may be Christian because of the character of the writer, not the overt content.

I do not believe Christian Fiction has to be a sermon disguised—however creatively—as a novel.

I think Christian Fiction should show the outworking of Christian values and God’s providence in the midst of a harsh and fallen creation, warts and all.

I think CBA publishers are excluding men from their calculations of what sells. It is circular reasoning: men don’t read Christian Fiction, so don’t sell fiction that men will want to read.

As a guy and a Christian, I hunger to read things that interest me as a Christian guy. I don’t want to read watered down guy-stuff because that’s the only way women will read it.

Women and men have different interests and tastes; why not have the grace to bless both? I don’t want to exclude women’s fiction, I want to see an appreciation for men’s fiction.

I believe God has called and gifted me to produce works of “art” that give Him glory simply because they exist, not to concoct commercials and ditties that will help to market Jesus.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I wanted to remind you to pray for my friend, Commander Mark Schwartzel, USN, as he and his troops are serving in the Middle East Area of Operations. Mark is the Commanding Officer of a customs detachment. (Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Customs Battalion TANGO) The command consists of 500 sailors performing Customs Inspections on sailors, soldiers and airmen returning home after serving in Iraq.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


Hey, guess what? Kidney stone's not gone, that's what.

Had another x-ray and coffee clatch with my urologist today. He's not happy. After three traditional lithotripsy procedures, this darn stone refuses to break. Must be a diamond, I'm thinking. If I pass it, I'll be wealthy. But no, that's not likely.

As famed Ghostbuster "doctor" Venkman says; "Okay, the usual stuff isn't working." So now I get to have a laser probe inserted. Shades of Fantastic Voyage. Actually, inner-corporeal laser surgery isn't all bad. At least it ought to go over well with my congregation--Trekie Memorial Baptist Church.

However, before we get too excited I must note that there is a slight hazard of burning holes in my ureter; apparently the darn thing--ureter, not laser--wiggles around like a frisky puppy while the laser--Hello, LASER!-- probe is moving around in there. Oh joy.

Now where did I put that ash heap?

Thursday, September 6, 2007




Years ago, my sons bought me a music tape for my birthday. Since they are practical as well as generous, they made sure that the music was the kind they themselves wouldn't mind listening to. The group is called Spin Doctors; and to my mature, evangelical shame, I must confess that I still like some of their music (Stone him! Yes, stone him!). One song in particular evokes feelings I have experienced in the ministry. It’s called Jimmy Olsen Blues. It paints a somewhat humorous picture of Jimmy’s frustration as he vies with Superman for Lois Lane’s attention. He sings; "I can't believe my dilemma is real, I've been competing with the man of steel."

I know just what he means. It sounds a lot like my own laments when I foolishly compare myself to other pastors who seem to have all the talent, charisma, grace and breaks. When I really want to draw blood from my psyche, I say things to myself like; “Rats! I’m not Super-Pastor. I don’t leap tall pulpits at a single bound. I’m not faster than a speeding youth director.” Do I dare to show my face around real pastors; Super Pastors?

In my saner moments, I realize that this is not only my own problem. We all experience feelings of inadequacy. Of course, never at a pastor’s meeting or anything like that. The good news is that when Paul spoke of each of us as individual members of the Body of Christ, (1 Corinthians 12:12) he was championing individuality within unity.

We are unified by our allegiance to Christ, not our sameness. In other words, God has chosen to build his Church from diverse types. Literally, E Pluribus Unum; out of many, one. This is a liberating concept. God can, and actually desires, to use you right now. Just as you are. You may not get Lois, but you don’t have to be Superman, either.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


So, okay; update time.

1. Last Friday I had lithotripsy to dislodge kidney stone gravel. Usually I pass quite a bit of debris in the form of oh, call it beach sand. This time the pickins are slim. Not much actually collected. However, I did note that some of the very fine bits were passing through the strainer. The Doctor must have blasted that gravel to talcum powder. That sounds good. Its possible that he did nothing of the sort, that the gravel is still in place. However, I do have corroborating evidence; My blood sugar numbers have dropped an average of forty points since the day after the procedure. Yippie.

2. The late and lamented finger tip seems to be healing over. I won't go into the gross and gory details but yesterday when the nurse changed the bandage she did not have to soak it off. It slipped right off the finger tip all by itself. Double Yippie.

I'm feeling pretty good. Haven't had to resort to pain medications much. I may actually resume my exercise schedule this week. Though biking is out until I can trust this finger around the handlebars. I plan to start walking Godde Hill. Its a thousand foot climb in three miles from my front door. If I improve my time up Godde, I can start thinking about Half Dome next summer.
Up, up and awaaaaaay!

Saturday, September 1, 2007


I’d finally managed to arrange a day off. It was early and my wife and I were rushing to take our sons to their separate schools. As my older son and I sat in the driveway warming up my old car, Karen appeared at the front door making “phone” gestures. “It’s Willard,” she shouted over the engine’s roar, “sounds important.”

Great, I braced myself for the usual litany of Willard’s personal woes. How right I was. When I picked up the phone, Willard spoke in his usual slow-talking drawl. “Pastor, we've had quite a bit of damage done to the church building. It looks like somebody had themselves a field day chucking rocks through our windows.”

So much for my day off.

Talk about personal; it hit me right in the gut. It felt like a judgment against my entire ministry. I felt insulted, I felt enraged. As I drove anger grew within me. I saw everything and everyone on the road as an extension of my problems. Traffic lights seemed timed to delay me. Old men dawdled in ancient pickup trucks clogging the streets. Creeping across town in slow motion, I mentally added up the possible breakage. I wondered how much money we had left at the tag end of the month. My depression deepened. I considered thoughts gloomy enough to dispatch Kenneth Copeland AND Robert Schuller to the pits of despair.

By the time I arrived at the church plant I had whipped my wrath into a fine lather. Then I saw the damage—Ouch! Seven windows starred, holed, and just plain shattered! The windows down one side of the building had been enthusiastically attacked by a storm of rocks. Stones and shards of colored panes littered the auditorium. As my shoes crunched through broken glass, I honestly think I would have preferred to handle a tragedy, even a death. At least those were problems within my area of expertise.

A workday to replace these same windows would have been cause for rejoicing. Now however, I was depressed at the thought that anyone would do such a thing to a church building. To be honest, my righteous indignation was not unmixed with fleshly self-pity.

We had called the sheriff and the window glaziers. What was keeping them? I ached to clean up the mess. My building—God’s House!—had been desecrated. It reminded me of the time my son broke his collarbone and I fumed over the time it took to relieve his pain. Finally, a sheriff’s car appeared, followed presently by the glass truck. While the deputy made his report, he informed me that vandalism of a synagogue or a church was a felony. At that moment—God, help me—I secretly hoped it carried the death penalty.

Anger was a reaction I could have anticipated. It didn’t really surprise me. What I did not expect was the feeling of vulnerability I experienced afterward. I felt defenseless. When the windows had been reglazed, floor swept, glass shards vacuumed from the pew cushions, I saw my fresh, matching golden windows not as an improvement but rather as liabilities. There they were—targets, monuments to vandalism. Here I glaze mine Ebenezer. They could be shattered again—all too easily. I found myself reluctant to leave.

Less than a week later, the windows were attacked again. The same seven were broken. I determined to foil the miscreants. I resolved to catch these vandals—obviously lineal descendants of the original barbarian tribe. I went to work collecting evidence. Willard took photographs of the crime scene. I measured sneaker prints in the dust. My son identified the sneaker brand by the tread pattern. I staked out the building at odd hours. I bided my time until they fell into my trap.

Wise as serpents, eh? I said to myself. I'll show ‘em.

And then one afternoon it happened. Driving into the parking lot I saw three boys walking across our property on their way home from the neighboring junior high school. As I parked, I heard the raucous clatter of breaking glass. The building alarm began its earsplitting razz. I ran around the back in time to see the boys sauntering out the other side of the lot. They studiously ignored my call of “Hey guys, I want to talk to you!”

What could I do? I yelled in a taunting manner, “What’s the matter, scared of an old man?” They stopped.

I stopped too. Then, in as friendly a voice as I could muster I said, “We really can’t afford to have any more windows broken here. It’s cost this church seven hundred dollars in the last three weeks.” They responded by informing me that they had never been, were not now, and never would be involved in such a reprehensible activity, no sir. At least that’s the best translation I could make of their inarticulate mumbles.

There they stood: radical hair, dangling earrings, counter-culture T-shirts, and expensive footwear. I thought briefly of how I’d like to punish these guys. What I actually said was, “I don’t know or care if it was you guys or someone you know. I’m not the police. I just want to say please don’t do it again. If I’ve done anything to tick you off, I’m sorry. I’d like to apologize.”

This time the response was easier to decipher. A sullen, “We didn’t do nuthin’.”

I trudged back to the building to reset the alarm. Sherlock Holmes solves another case. I had physical proof. One of their shoes appeared to match, but without the services of the FBI forensic crime lab it probably wouldn’t be considered admissible. I didn’t really want to put three more kids into the juvenile system anyway, in spite of my hard-nosed philosophy of criminal justice.

As I swept up the mess one small rock had made I heard hesitating footsteps in the hall. Two of the three boys had returned.

“We’re sorry,” they mumbled. “We won’t ever do it again.”

“Thank you,” I said, stunned. “I appreciate your honesty.” They turned and left me alone with my dustpan, and my God.

How do I explain what had just taken place? I hadn’t taken the opportunity to share the gospel with them. I failed to get their names for my prospect file. One thing I do know, grace occurred. It happened to them. It happened to me. Forgiveness of a debt that could not be paid had once more been placed on Jesus’ account.

I haven’t seen those boys since. It used to bother me that I didn’t have the presence of mind to hand them a tract or ask them Dr. Kennedy’s spiritually diagnostic questions. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that God doesn’t waste opportunities. Perhaps He was able to begin moving in their lives through a simple lesson of honesty seasoned with grace.