Wednesday, February 29, 2012

ACT OF VALOR

My friends and I had a Guys Movie Night. We saw "Act of Valor." This movie is a surprising blend of a Blockbuster Action Adventure and a Reality Documentary. Active duty Navy SEALs are cast as the main characters. While the acting is not up to Hollywood's intense, emotional range standards it is powerfully believable. A briefing from the Senior Chief has the ring of authenticity and the jargon-laden conversations don't suffer from a lack of interpretation.


The action scenes have the feel of authenticity because much of the movie consists of actual training using live fire. One scene has two SWCC (Special Warfare Combat Crewmen) boats extracting the SEALS from a riverbank crawling with armed hostiles. The SWCCs turn one of their vehicles into a flaming colander that makes Bonnie and Clyde's car look like it ran into a little light hail.



Apparently, there are a lot of critics of the movie. I would have to give them a big raspberry. I guess they are offended that the SEALs don't commit atrocities, or engage in soul-searching self examinations, or show how America really deserves to be hated. Instead, the movie follows a SEAL platoon as they discover and track down a terror threat approaching the continental United States.

The movie also carefully avoids revealing certain tactics and descriptions; as it should. The team parachutes into Central America, but the movie does not show how they form up, or conceal their landing presence. Intelligence on the terror attack is developed, but HOW that is done is severely limited as far as the audience knows. Good. as a writer of action adventure stories I am curious about such things, but I don't want to reveal them to the bad guys, either.

Since I wrote COLOMBIAN KILO, a SEAL/Submarine adventure, my favorite shot of the movie is of an SSGN (Guided Missile Nuclear Submarine) diving; The Sub's sail is visible underwater as it slowly disappears beneath the waves. Very cool shot and done without the benefit of CGI.



To say the least, I HIGHLY recommend this movie. It accurately depicts the men, women and families of our warriors as they put their lives on the line to protect us daily.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

THE ROMAN TRIUMPH

For over a thousand years Roman Generals returning from the wars enjoyed the favor of a Triumph—a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in the triumphal chariot, the day’s prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children—robed in white—stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning; that all glory is fleeting.” 

                                                             General George Smith Patton

Monday, February 20, 2012

WANDERING IN THE BEWILDERNESS

G.K.CHESTERTON ON "SIN"

Chesterton said that the doctrine of "original sin" was "the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved." He followed that with:

"If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two conclusions. He must either deny the existence of God as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The New Theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat."
                   G.K. Chesterton, "Orthodoxy"

Saturday, February 18, 2012

SHERIFF CHAPLAIN LOGO

My son designed a Chaplain Logo to use as an auto sticker. I'm really happy with it.

WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY IS CHRISTIAN EDUCATION?

Christianity is a religion which depends upon a responsible, knowledgeable and informed membership. Though we have our professional ministers and theologians, this does not reduce the necessity for the non-professional members to understand the teachings and principles of the Christian faith.

In my opinion, the best way to develop this educated membership is to follow the Biblical injunction to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6. Whose responsibility is this training?  Most people today seem to assume that the professionals down at the church are the only ones competent and motivated to teach religion. Perhaps this is so, but there are some serious limitations that the church faces in educating children, or even adults for that matter.


The largest limiting element is the time factor. The average person probably spends less than one hour per week in actual Bible study at church. Although procedures are improving in the use of that Bible study hour, it is still only a fraction of time out of a child’s sensory packed week. Obviously, the church cannot be expected to be the only source of Christian education. I would argue that we should not even think of the church as the primary source.

Clearly, the believing community and the home are at least theoretically dedicated to training their children to the point of commitment to Christ and a life of service to Him. Some Christian education literature producers, such as the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board, produce materials designed to be used in both the church and home. When both are coordinated in their educational approaches, the child will begin to see a strong identification of the church with the home. Although the church building is not where most children live, her ideas and practices should be.

FORMAL EDUCATION

Christian education in the home should have formal, structured times which are set apart specifically for spiritual matters. Family worship is a recognized way to hold a structured teaching time. It is most effective if the practice is consistent throughout childhood. Christian parents who have suddenly tried to begin this practice with their teenagers have discovered, shall we say, a decided lack of enthusiasm and cooperation. Effective Family worship tends to be less formal than a Sunday morning Worship service. Here is a time both for worshipping Almighty God and for answering the questions of inquisitive children. Symbols and terminology can be discussed and the mystery of “church” can become more comprehensible.

In considering formal educational opportunities in the home, it is wise to remember the ready made ones. I am referring to our annual celebrations of Christian festivals. Popular culture, has spent the last couple of decades revising the content of Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving. In their sanitized secular versions they have become Spring Break at Lauderdale, Native American Saviors and Gimmie Time. These festivals contain rich deposits of Christian heritage. Christian parents would do well to invest these holidays with their spiritual meaning for their children. Here is where the beauty of forgiveness, humility, gratitude and charity are obviously taught. A study of the Christian calendar will reveal other days and festivals throughout the year which can be employed to introduce spiritual concepts into our daily lives.

A third form of formal education in the home is good old fashioned personal study in the scriptures. With today’s emphasis on discipleship, surely it is an exciting idea for parents to want to disciple their own children. This requires however, that parents be willing to equip themselves to be competent to lead.  In the case of younger children printed church/home literature can be used.  Games and activities are the best learning tools for younger children.

For older kids, a weekly assignment could be given. Once a week the child and parent could meet to discuss the results and issues of the week’s study. Admittedly, this third course is probably more than many parents are willing to do. Wisdom would call us to face our priorities. Since we already support soccer, ballet, baseball, swimming and every other cultural activity, shouldn’t we give consideration to helping our kids develop into mature disciples of Jesus Christ?
   
INFORMAL EDUCATION

Not only should there be structured times of learning in the home but parents should also be ready to teach in informal circumstances. Family outings are excellent times to teach from a casual perspective. Outings provide new and different experiences. Children are open to learning at these times. On one vacation, our family traveled out of state. We visited the Grand Canyon. We were appropriately awed by the experience. After a time of roaming over the rocks and risking sudden death on the cliff edges we talked about God’s creation and how majestic it is. Trees, mountains, animals, games, water, ships, trains, planes and stars can all be used to illustrate truth to children. The intimacy of a family outing plus the excitement of unique experiences serve to make these lessons memorable.

Spontaneous moments are treasures to be mined. The death of a pet or the joy of a moment may provide an opening for the alert parent. “Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16  The fact is, parents teach in these situations, whether they choose to or not. If parents fail to draw spiritual truth out of daily situations it is highly unlikely that their children will. Failure to draw spiritual truths from daily circumstances is an indirect teaching that daily circumstances don’t have much to do with spiritual truth. Deuteronomy 6:7 reminds us that instruction should occur “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  In other words, whenever or wherever you happen to be.
   
PUT YOUR LIFE WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS

James Smart says that “It is impossible for a child not to notice what his parents value most in life.” If parents teach Christianity but live materialism, their children will spot the inconsistency, even if their parents don’t. The spiritual maturity and balance of our children’s lives depends on parents being honest both with their kids and themselves. The parents who commit themselves to living honestly will undoubtedly have some uncomfortable moments. Their limitations and imperfections will doubtless shine through, but the children will see integrity undergirding the shortcomings.

Take heart in the knowledge that whatever parents do their influence is not absolutely determinant on the spiritual lives of their children. If you receive Proverbs 22:6 as a unalterable promise from God, what will you do with the children of obviously Christian parents who reject Christ? For that matter, what would you do with the children of non Christians who accept Christ? No, the proverb is not a universal promise; it is common sense wisdom. This is a liberating concept. On the one hand we can release our children to God’s care, while striving to impart our own faith to them. On the other hand, God can move in our children’s lives even though we ourselves may fail miserably.

It must be stressed that whatever parents do they are teaching their children something. Why not sieze the opportunities that exist while the children are still around to be taught? The Christian home has the potential to utterly change the course of society. Christian families who abdicate their responsibility to educate their children call into question whether their home is truely Christian or not.

Monday, February 13, 2012

MY JOB

These things are making the rounds of the social networking sites so I thought I make one myself.




Wednesday, February 8, 2012

9,000

8,975 page views as of 8:30 pm. Rushing the 9,000 barrier.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

HARD-BOILED PREACHER FICTION

Last night's Castle featured a flashback plot from the 1940's; Real hard-boiled, Raymond Chandler, Maltese Falcon stuff. I thought I'd try my hand at some Hard-boiled Preacher writing. Here goes...

                           ***

        Just south of the San Gabriel mountains in sunny Southern California, lies the megalopic burg of Los Angeles; City of the Golden Haired Angels. To most people, it may seem like a harmless sort of place, the quintessential American municipality. To us hard-bitten professional ministers though, it’s the fabled Town of Tinsel, a veritable hotbed of hedonism.
    I was sitting in my shabby old office at the Big Downtown Church, pecking at my keyboard, pretending to work. My secretary Euodia had gone out to the local diner to partake in another round of heartburn. So, when the door to the outer office squeaked open I felt it would be polite to get up and greet my unknown visitor. By the time I stood up however, the door to my private sanctum swung open and a woman stepped in.
    Not just any skirt now, I’m talking about a high-class dame. She was dressed to the nines in a blue satin dress, black spike heels, and a wide-brimmed black hat with a veil subtly obscuring her beautiful face. She wore a large, diamond studded dove over her left breast, and under her arm she carried a Bible big enough to hold a Billy Graham crusade on. My keen professional eye noticed her "sword" had one of those custom-fit leather covers on it; real class. I indicated a hard-backed wooden chair she could sit in and flopped back into my own swivel job.
    “What’s on your mind sister?” I asked.
    “It’s about my husband,” she said in exasperation, “I just don’t know where else to turn.”
    “Is the lug doing you wrong?” I asked crudely.
    “Oh, no, it’s nothing like that!” she said. She appeared to be taken aback by my blunt insensitivity. Tough for her, I guess. Being a professional hard-boiled minister is a tough racket. She took a few moments to regain her composure, then charged ahead. “You see, it’s like this; lately he’s been watching ‘God Stuff’ a lot on TV. And this morning,” she sniffed,  “he told me he had a vision of a 900 foot tall televangelist in a pink tuxedo!” With that sad confession, she broke down in tears right there in my office.
    “This is serious,” I said. Leaning over, I pulled out the bottom drawer of my desk, just to check. Good. My trusty Thompson Chain-Reference was still there. From the sound of things I’d probably need it soon…

Friday, February 3, 2012

JERRY REED--THE PREACHER AND THE BEAR

I had this album when I was in High School. Didn't know at that time that I would be a preacher.

MOLDY ORANGE FIGHTS

Larry Geiger asked if we ever had citrus fights in our neighborhood. Here is a fictional description of one.

         Every summer of our childhood, Gordie would roam the neighborhood barefoot. I could never figure it. Oh, around the house, sure. In the yard, okay; we had a deep carpet of cool springy grass. What amazed me was his ability to run around unshod on hot pavement. I mean, this was Colton in the blazing Southern California summer. Oftentimes temperatures got so high the blacktop would soften and bubble. Yeouch! That stuff would stick to your feet like fiery brimstone. It never mattered to Gordie. He would run around blistering himself until his feet turned to shoe leather, a process he called “summer feet.”
        He particularly loved running barefoot through the orange grove. The grove, covering an area of approximately four football fields, lay just beyond our back fence. All the houses on our side of the street bordered it. It had been neglected for years. In the spring, the grass would grow tall and thick like a wheat field. By summer, it had become an undulating green sea lapping at the lower branches of the orange trees.
       The sweet, itchy grass, the fragrance of overripe oranges, and deep cool shade all combined to make the grove a wondrous, private playground. We’d romp through it all summer, climbing and making secret crawl spaces in the tall grass under the low-hanging boughs. The grove was better than any five city parks.
       When it comes to something good to throw, there’s nothing like a moldy, greenish, penicillin-packed citrus fruit. I’ve said playing Army was our favorite pastime. Moldy orange fights were a popular variation, and the long untended grove was chock-full of ammunition.
       “Hey!” A wet, sticky sensation impacted the center of my back. A misshapen orange rind dropped to the ground, leaving a sweet, pulpy residue on my shirt, soaking through to my skin. I spun with my own rotten citrus-missile, arm cocked, searching for a target.
       Gordie and Leticia ran giggling into the trees. “We got you, Gus!”
       “You’re gonna get it, Squirrelly!” I chased after them, dodging in and out among the rows. They kept changing direction, denying me a good shot. In, out, they moved through the tall grass, leaping over dirt rows, slapped by sucker branches. Each time I thought I could let fly, Gordie evaded me again. Then I turned into a lane to see my little brother standing still, waiting for me. He was out of range so I moved in, but slowly, expecting a trick.
      “Nyaah, Nyaah!” Gordie put his thumbs in his ears, waggled his fingers, and stuck out his tongue. “Gus can’t throw!”
      I didn’t need to take that from the little sap. I closed in with a rush. When I got in range, I stopped, planted my feet, and rocketed that orange like Don Drysdale, of the LA Dodgers, pitching a strike. The sloppy bomb caught Gordie square in the chest.
       “Ha, gotcha!” I crowed, dancing in my moment of triumph. Then, from either side, a passle of younger kids from the neighborhood appeared among the trees, pelting me with a barrage of dripping fruit. Their aim wasn’t so hot but sheer volume of missiles made up for it.
      Ambush! I’ve been suckered by the little sneak. I put my head down and ran back the way I’d come. Boy, am I ever gonna get him back! I blazed out of their effective range, trailing clouds of orange juice as I ran.
       I dashed to the neighborhood in search of reinforcements. I needed help to meet this upstart children’s crusade. As I rounded the end of the line of houses, I spotted Hector, two blocks away on the far side of Meridian. He was tossing a baseball in the air, playing catch with himself.
      “Torquato!” I ran, rubber thongs slapping against the sidewalk, waving to get his attention.
      Hector slapped his forehead when I stopped, panting before him. “Can’t you stay out of trouble, Gus?” He shook his head, eyeing the condition of my clothes. “What happened this time?”
      We swept through the neighborhood, building a coalition force to launch a counterattack. Jerome and Paul joined us and we reentered the orange grove through a hole in Paul’s back fence. Pausing to collect the greenest, mushiest bombs, we made our stealthy way to the battleground, seeking our quarry.

                                                               ***

      “But Mom, Its only orange juice. You always say it’s good for us!” I waved a hand at my little brother, standing shamefaced, picking bits of orange goo out of his hair. “Besides, it’s not like we never got dirty before or nothing.”

Thursday, February 2, 2012

DEAD LINES

Douglas Adams, the late author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, once commented that he loved deadlines: “they make such a nice whooshing noise as they rush by.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

WHAT WON'T BOYS THINK OF?

This is the age of first-person-shooter video games. It began in the early 90's with "Castle Wolfenstein,"which produced "DOOM" and "Duke Nukem." Mac fans had the "Marathon" series. Now the list is legion. I've played the "Medal of Honor" series and "Call of Duty" as well. There's something soothing about what my friend R.P. calls "Blasting Bozos."

First-person-shooter video games did not spring into existence sui generous. When I was a boy it was called "Playing Army." My dad played "Cops & Robbers." These games differed from the video variety in that the player actually had to go outside and move his body through three dimensional space, rather than virtual reality.

My neighborhood was blessed to have an untended orange grove at the time I was growing up. That meant no irate California Citrus Growers ever showed up to complain about the quasi-military maneuvers, forever climbing trees and digging foxholes. In the Spring the grass would grow tall in the grove, climbing up into the lower branches of the orange trees. If you were careful, you could crawl in, mash down the grass under the tree, and from outside no one would ever be the wiser to your secret little fort.

We boys always played Army, year round. We didn't have super deluxe weapons, either. Some kids had identifiable, manufactured guns. Often we just used a stick or maybe a handy board dad cut and painted in the garage. I did have a "Monkey Gun Bazoka" once, but my proudest possessions were my Roy Rogers, pearl handled Fanner-Fifties. Until I lost them. Sometimes, even the girls played along. But not too much. The girls much preferred riding up and down the block on their Schwinn bicycles, pink tassels trailing from the handle bars.

There was one army game the girls refused to play. A particularly gruesome innovation I've never heard of outside my neighborhood. We called it "Machine Gun Nest." One kid got to be the machine gunner. Then others ran heroically at the nest, one at a time. The object was to die in the best Hollywood tradition. It could be heroic, pitiful or grisly. Flamboyance was the key. The guy who was judged the best in each round got to be the machine gunner. (There was a Naval Aviator version where you played a carrier-launched plane who got to crash and burn.)

Yeah, I can hear all the mothers and grandmothers now... "How horrible!" Tough. Fact is, we had fun, and though I still enjoy first-person-shooter games I've managed to live through most of my fifth decade without becoming a crazed serial killer.

WHIRLWIND JANUARY

Boy, January was a busy month. New year, new message series at church. Sheriff's Department asked me to serve several times as a role-player in live-fire simmunition training. My friend Rick, who is also Director of Missions for the High Desert Baptist Association, took a new position. He will become the Western Regional Director of the North American Mission Board. The job has him directing new church starts in the western states and the Pacific. On top of all that, our church is doing Biggest Baptist Loser and so far I've been running from gig to gig so much I've only exercised once a week.

I'm tired. Yesterday, I had NO scheduled appearances so I vegged at home, catching up on minor housekeeping chores; tax prep, bedside lamp repair, organize desk, prepare notes for May writers conference. I felt really worthless and lazy, but sometimes lazy is the best defense.

Today I have a meeting and a few errands to run. Hopefully, I might even think of something deep, significant, or at least funny to post here later.

I'm off.