The Climate is Changing! The Climate is Changing!

The Climate is Changing! The Climate is Changing!

Horror of Horrors! Crisis of Crises! Surely this must be a crisis unmatched in the history of the world! The whole earth is warming. The glaciers are all melting!The polar ice caps are melting! The sea levels are going to rise so much that our beautiful coastal cities, such as Miami and Tampa Bay and New Orleans (not to mention all the other coastal cities around the world) will soon be under water! Horrors!! Following that tragic line of thought, if we perchance allow all the ice in our water glass to melt, it will surely run over and flood the whole table. Good Heavens!

That whole presumption seems ridiculous to me. Nevertheless, the perceived ‘Global Warming’ crisis gained near unprecedented traction. I think it was Winston Churchill who coined the phrase, “Never let a good crises go to waste.” And many of our vaunted leaders are certainly following that advise to the max. Rahm Emanuel, then President-Elect Obama’s appointed Chief of Staff, declared their plans for the Obama Presidency by stating, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” In a speech during a town hall meeting with people at the EU Parliament in Brussels March 6, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed that same philosophy to the audience in attendance. In a graduation address at West Point, President Obama described ‘Global Warming’ as the menace that threatens to destroy the world’s great cities, uproot millions, and turn crop fields to dust. In a recent speech made in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Global Warming is as big a threat as terrorism or weapons of mass destruction. Really??

But it was evidently Al Gore who had originally stumbled onto the theory of global warming during a course at the revered Harvard (Hah’-vud) University under Professor Roger Revelle, one of the first scientists to measure carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Revelle is now widely regarded as firing the opening shot in the global warming debates. But it was the opportunistic Al Gore who saw a ready made crisis; and he was certainly not going to let that ‘Global Warming’ crisis go to waste. It was Al Gore who seized the opportunity to become rich and famous by perpetuating that ‘crisis’ to heights unmatched since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Hmm, let’s see if we are getting all this straight. According to Revelle, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the great perpetrator of global warming. And now we are told by Al Gore (and all his faithful followers) that the human race is the great perpetrator of carbon dioxide. Thus, the onus is on us. We are the main culprits causing global warming crisis. With that perceived crisis in hand, Al Gore and other liberal politicians have duped much of the civilized world into believing that global warming is public enemy number one, threatening life as we know it here on planet earth. In the 2014 commencement address at University of California at Irvine, President Obama stated, “Levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years.” Whew!

Ah, but now the global warming debates have cooled somewhat; the populous is turning. But we can’t afford to take our foot off the pedal; so the new crisis is ‘Climate Change’. Of course climate change is indeed a fact—always has been and probably always will be. It’s the nature of God’s complex ecosystem. Climate change was even prophesied in the Scriptures. In Genesis 41:29-30 we read, “The next seven years will be a period of great prosperity throughout the land of Egypt. But afterward there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten in Egypt. Famine will destroy the land (NLT.)” And it happened exactly as prophesied. I submit that it was not carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but rather it was God dealing with the Children of Israel—no more, no less.

And as to the actual source of carbon dioxide, scientists disagree on what percentage of atmospheric CO2 is actually produced by humans rather than by volcanic activity. Others have even theorized that cattle flatulence is another major source of CO2 in the atmosphere. On March 28, 2014, the Daily Caller reported that the White House wants to cut methane emissions from the dairy industry by 25 percent by the year 2020. That story was repeated by the Washington Times on March 31, 2014. Hmm, I am curious as to how they can accomplish that and then measure it. (That gives new meaning to the phrase, ‘passing the smell test’.) And I am also curious as to how our esteemed president knew how much CO2 was in the atmosphere 800,000 years ago. I guess he thought he could throw that out there and no one could disprove it.

Let’s look a few other facts. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Great Lakes were once huge glaciers. They melted! Imagine that! I wonder if the politicians were wringing their hands over that ‘global warming’ crisis? Apparently not. Borderline Nordic landmasses such as coastal plains of Southwest Greenland have been alternately covered and clear of ice. But did those climate changes create a crisis? Also, apparently not. And, another interesting little fact conveniently omitted: according to published scientific charts and graphs, the average global temperature has risen by a “whopping’ 0.89° C since the year 1880 A.D. (In case you missed it, that’s less than 1º—in the last 134 years) As a matter of fact, the average global temperature has remained basically flat for the last 17 years. How is that for creating a crisis? It should also be noted that during all their hand wringing, no mention is ever made of those phenomenal weather makers referred to as El Niño and La Niña. I suppose they are also ignoring reports that polar ice in Antarctica is currently at record highs according to the Washington Times and Forbes. According to AccuWeather, the 2013-14 winter season is one of the coldest winters in 20 years. And, the Huffington Post recently featured this headline, “Chicago Just Had Its Coldest Winter In History.”

So, what is the underlying impetus for all this hysteria over alleged Global Warming and/or Climate Change? Could it be money? Could this fabricated crisis possibly be money driven? According to numerous reports, Al Gore has amassed a fortune of over $300 million since his Vice Presidency days. Big chunks of that wealth were obtained through a succession of very profitable shady deals with Occidental Petroleum Company. All the while he was also earning huge honorariums by giving numerous speeches out of the other side of his mouth decrying the evils of petroleum based fuels. For example, the Student Union Treasury of Washington University in St. Louis voted to allocate $92,350 for the College Democrats to bring him to campus for a speech September 15, 2011. By all indications, this was a typical honorarium. It doesn’t take long for paychecks such as that to run into serious money… the opportunistic Al Gore had obviously happened upon an honest-to-gosh, bona fide ‘money tree’.

And, as with all ‘money trees’, as soon as one is discovered, the feeding frenzy begins. Wow! Does it ever! Hoards of politicians, and nearly all media types jumped on board to cash in on the action. Climate Change is now the cash cow of the day. Millions upon millions of $$ have been earned personally and/or funneled through to various pet alternative energy projects. It is so obvious that since the Iowa caucuses are so important in presidential elections, all presidential ‘wannabees’ promise to produce massive amounts of fuel derived from Iowan corn. “Vote for me and I will make you rich and famous!” Yeehaa! I can only surmise that if the early caucuses were held in Idaho rather than Iowa, we would all be burning fuel derived from potatoes. And the beat goes on.

In thinking of this phenomenon, I feel that nearly all of us are familiar with the Scripture, “For the love of money is the root of all evil:…(! Timothy 6:10 KJV).) That remarkable display of greed is certainly on display here—from the president and his minions on down.

Rejoicing Always

Rejoicing Always!

On a recent visit with my Occupational Therapist a small round object popped off her wrist watch, falling to the floor.. As she was picking it up and replacing it on her watch, curiosity got the best of me. As if it was any of my business, I had to ask, “What was that?” She readily responded that it was was inscribed with 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always”. She continued by telling me that every time she looks at her watch she is reminded to “Rejoice always”. Wow! What a neat reminder! I cannot help but believe that the Lord popped that simple little reminder off her watch, at that precise moment in time, to also serve as a reminder to me. “Rejoice always!”

Rejoicing! What a wonderful emotion that is! But, how often do we actually rejoice over something? What does it take to cause us to jump up up and down with joy? As I was pondering instances that cause great rejoicing, I began visualizing scenes at various sports venues filled with rabid fans, all erupting with unbelievable joy when the home team scores. Team mascots race around the arena waving banners in victorious jubilation. Whole crowds are standing, flailing their arms wildly in the air and cheering with all their might! The noise is wonderfully deafening. I must admit, it’s really exciting when I am privileged to be in attendance at such events and experiencing such exuberant feelings with them.

On a more personal note, I will never forget the joyous scene at our house many, many years ago when the news of Hitler’s suicide reached us. I can still see my dad racing home from his Naval Base, nearly blowing the door off the hinges as he entered and jumping headlong into the bed laughing with joy. Of course Mom and I jumped in with him; all three of us laughing and crying and hugging—sharing that joyous moment with him. It was, and always will be, a highlight of my life.

As I was reliving that joyous day in our lives, I was suddenly compelled to wonder, “Where was the joy on the day before we received that wonderful news?” ”Where was the joy when my dad received that dreaded letter that began with, ““Greeting… you are ordered to report for induction….”? “Where was the joy as my mom and I tearfully waved goodbye to him as his bus rolled out of sight?” I must admit, the thought of those sad and lonely days brought no joy into our lives. There was nothing about that series of events that that would cause us to rejoice. We could only pray that that terrible war would soon end and he could return safely back home to us.

As I asses my life through the last 50 years hereto, I have been joyfully blessed. God gave me a beautiful wife and daughter with whom to share my life and it’s been a wonderful life. She was a widowed mother when we began our courtship, and as a result, many of our dates were threesomes. I remember the joy I experienced at our first kiss. I remember an even greater joy when we shared our ‘I do’s’. We’ve been a close knit family from day one. However, during these last few years my joy has suffered a serious blow insofar as my dear wife, my soul mate, has been stricken with incurable dementia. I can only weep as I helplessly watch that ruthless thief slowly stealing her brain cells one by one, leaving her mind and body wasting away into oblivion. Although she still lives with me in our home, I feel I am living virtually alone. I find it near impossible to view her current plight with joy.

And yet, through all our trials, the Scriptures exhort us to. “Rejoice always”! Wow! How is that possible? Rejoicing during all our trials? Rejoicing during our sufferings? Rejoicing during the sufferings of our loved ones? Rejoicing when we lose a parent—or sibling—or child? How can we find joy in any and all situations, no matter how stressing they may be? That seems impossible! Nevertheless, that’s what He asks of us.

To answer such daunting questions we must also realize those trials are not the only things going on in our lives during those stressful days. We are not necessarily required to rejoice over our trials; but If we pay attention, there is nearly always something else for which we can rejoice during our trials. We are never left to suffer alone. We have a constant companion who promised to never leave us nor forsake us (1 Kings 8:57, Psalm 27:9, Hebrews 13:5). In my case He is continually reminding me of His presence by doing little favors to bring joy into my life. These seemingly insignificant little favors serve to take my mind off the trials and give me reason to rejoice. Our loving God certainly knows how to lift my spirits.

I am strangely reminded of His ever presence in my life by our little pet poodle. She never lets me out of her sight. When I take a seat in my recliner, she is right there to share it with me; when we sit down for a meal, she curls up between my feet; she even curls up between my feet when I am sitting on the potty. During extended hours when I am working at the computer, she drags her bed into the office and curls up on it right beside me for the duration. She rarely, if ever, has a bad day. She even shows me how to rejoice each time our daughter visits us. All I have to say is, “There’s Darlene!” and she starts running and jumping toward the door, squealing with joy all the way. She gets so excited I sometimes fear she’s gonna have a heart attack.

Oddly enough, we are rarely like that; we seem to reserve our overflowing emotions of joy such as that for special days and special events. But, in order to live abundant lives, we should strive to make all our days special days. And we can accomplish that l if we will always simply remember Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (NASB).” According to that, no matter how dire—how hopeless our situations may seem at the time, our awesome God will cause them to work together for good. Thus it is our privilege to claim that promise—hold on to it with both hands, and rejoice in the fact that all our stories will eventually have a fairy tale ending. That should give us cause to ‘Rejoice always!” Heaven awaits!

All Men Created Equal?

All Men Are Created Equal?

I am blessed to have a special needs cousin—not just any special needs cousin, but this extraordinary special needs person. I first met him when he was a new born baby. His dad, a minister, had accepted the call to our church in Corpus Christi, TX, and their family (all 4 of them) moved in with us until they were able to relocate. That would be no big deal in our present quite roomy home. But, at that time my dad was a lowly Seaman First Class in the Navy; and due to his meager military income, we lived in a tiny 4 room unit of government housing. Looking back, I have no earthly idea how the 7 of us managed to live comfortably within such close quarters. But we did. I do remember our the parents improvising a bassinet for our new little buddy by lining our lone bathtub with quilts.

Through the years I have been reasonably close to him, watching him deal with his handicap as he has gracefully reached his (so called) golden years.. Like all of us, he has had his ups and downs; but for the most part, I feel that he has accepted his station in life far better than I could have under similar circumstances. Observing him in his prohibitive condition, I can only acknowledge that God obviously extends his amazing grace to us according to our needs. God is good!

It was during my high school years that his condition brought about questions in my mind with which I continue to struggle. My history teacher had required us to commit to memory all or parts of several famous speeches—not the least of which was Lincoln’s famed Gettysburg Address. I suppose it will be forever etched in my mind. I still remember standing before our class, reciting, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…”

WHOA! All men are created equal? How could that be? Abraham Lincoln must have never known the likes of my dear cousin. How could his life be considered equal to those of us with whole bodies? He was never able to tie his own shoes; never able to ride a bike (not even with training wheels); he could never go outside and play with the other kids, never able to attend summer camp, never able to earn his own spending money—no part-time after school jobs, no temporary summer jobs. He was never able to casually go to the kitchen and make a snack of peanut butter and crackers to munch on while watching TV.

Obviously, he never experienced ‘coming of age’ indicators such as learning to drive nor going on that first date. He couldn’t experience the thrills of the Senior Prom, moving out on his own, nor voting.. Even now, he has spent the last several years confined to a wheel chair and could never be left unattended. Thus, my natural thoughts concerning “All men are created equal…” Hogwash!

But then I turned the page and saw a new and different mental paragraph—a paragraph that is 180° removed from my negative thoughts. What if that renowned speech had been delivered by Almighty God? What if God had said that He (our Father) had brought forth on the earth a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Hmm, that would shed a wonderfully positive light on that seemingly hopeless matter. And that is exactly what happened. The Scriptures plainly state that God doesn’t look at my little cousin through my eyes. We read in I Samuel 16:7 that when the nation of Israel was looking for a new king, God told Samuel, “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (NLT).”

With that in mind, we must realize that God wasn’t having a bad day when He created my (so called) special needs cousin. In a somewhat similar situation Jesus and His disciples encountered another special needs person—a blind man. Just as in my case, that incident also brought up questions in their minds. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:2-3 NIV).”

In one of the beautiful Psalms of King David, he was musing, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed (Psalm 139:12-16 NLT).”

There you have it. It was our awesome God that wove my dear cousin together in his mother’s womb. God had a purpose. He created a person with an unusual body that would become one of His most zealous witnesses. And I would venture that no creature alive loves our God more than my little buddy. Everyone that comes in contact with him will soon know that he is a devoted Christian—a proud child of the King. He is quick to sing His praises.

But that’s not the end of the story. He will not always be saddled with that temporary set of unseemly circumstances. His life here on earth will soon end and his deformed body will be placed in a grave. But he won’t be there! He will have moved out of that imperfect body. “Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6 NLT).” God will place him a new and perfect body—a body that will never, ever suffer or die—a body just like that of Jesus! “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is (1John 3:2 NLT).” And then, our little buddy will live for all eternity, in his new and perfect body, in a new and perfect kingdom where all of God’s children will truly be created equal.

Oh Lord my God, how great Thou art!

The Lady with the Withered Hand

It was a most memorable day—a day I shall never forget. We were in Salzburg, Austria, the birthplace of world famed 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. WOW! We had made our way into the historic “Old Town” section of the city which is surrounded by an ancient wall. We were immediately enthralled by its uniqueness and could hardly wait to visit the shops, see the sights, experience its ambiance and its internationally renowned baroque. This was going to be a wonderful day to be alive.
And we were not disappointed! It turned out to be one of the most beautiful and interesting days of our entire vacation. We would go back again tomorrow. But as intriguing and romantic as those wonderful shops and restaurants were, those memories paled in comparison to the beautiful memories we still cherish of a particular sales lady in one of the shops, and a series of little acts of kindness shared between her and us.
As is our custom, when we experience special days and places such as that, we like to bring back souvenirs unique to those experiences to keep those memories alive. And, as it seems to always happen, the very first quaint little shop that we visited had all sorts of European artifacts and collectibles from which to choose. This was the place to find our cherished souvenir. As we entered the shop, we were greeted by an attractive young blonde with a withered hand. She was cordial enough but seemed very shy—especially shy for someone working in that position. We figured her shyness to be a direct result of that withered hand. Our hearts were immediately touched, thinking that she had probably spent most of her life embarrassed by her infirmity. But, her pleasant countenance immediately compelled us to treat her with absolute kindness, respect and dignity, totally ignoring the fact that she had a withered hand.

Although it had already become apparent to us that we would make our purchase there, our purpose and goal inexplicably became geared more toward making that day a good day for her, rather than simply the purchase of any curio we might take from there. We began asking her non intrusive questions which would allow her to introduce herself to us. “Was she a native of Austria? How long had she been in Salzburg? Did she still admire the awesome beauty of her surroundings? Were most of her customers tourists? Etc.” She seemed equally intrigued to find that we were from Dallas! World famed Dallas; the hometown of the notorious Ewings!! Besides her outward attractiveness, we soon found that she also had a wonderful hidden beauty. Perhaps because of our interest in getting to know her, she soon warmed up to us. Her shyness disappeared. It nearly seemed like a developing mutual kinship.

When we explained the nature of memorabilia we were seeking, she began taking pride in introducing us to their more rare collectibles. She proved to be quite knowledgeable and finally directed us to a pair of exquisite Hummel figurines that had long since been retired. They had become well sought after treasures. As she was showing them, she explained how they had risen in value each year since the day that they were retired. Our interest in them was piqued. Since we also dealt in collectibles, we were well acquainted with that phenomenon, but we were also intrigued by her professional approach. She was a joy.

Since we had just arrived in their picturesque Old Town, we asked if she would hold them for us until we had finished visiting as many shops and restaurants as we could squeeze into our day. She assured us that they could and would, so we went on our way. (It’s very possible that she thought it to be no more than a 50/50 chance of us actually returning to their shop). But we did! And, to our dismay, when we returned, our new-found friend was not there. Bummer! When we asked of her whereabouts the owner told us that she was taking a lunch break and would not be back for about a half hour. She kindly asked if she could help us to which we replied, “No thanks, we won’t mind waiting for her return.” (That would pose no problem; Salzburg Old Town is a great place to easily kill an extra half hour.) When she returned, she seemed totally surprised and somewhat overwhelmed, not only that we had returned, but that we had also awaited her return before finalizing our purchase. Her inward pleasure shone through. She then took them to the back room, carefully wrapped them in ample bubble wrap and packed them securely in a nice corrugated box. She obviously took every precaution that they would make it safely back to the states. At the end of our time with her, we shared a brief hug and were on our way.

When our package finally arrived back home, we anxiously opened it, hoping to find that our new treasures had made the trip safely. And they did. Not only were they perfectly intact, but much to our pleasant surprise, our new-found friend had also enclosed a beautiful box of chocolates, embossed with the image of Mozart on each one. It was her special thank you. We will always believe that she was thanking us, not for any purchase we made, but rather for our shared acts of kindness. And, as you might suspect, that box of chocolates meant more to us than our rare Hummel figurines.

The joy of that whole experience should come as no surprise to us. Not only do a number of Scriptures implore us to act with kindness (Ephesians 4:32 et al); but our pop culture also admonishes us to act with kindness. During the 60’s, Glen Campbell released a hit song, ‘Try a Little Kindness'; and there is even a website, ‘Random Acts of Kindness Foundation’, inspiring people to practice kindness and pass it on to others. ‘Acts of kindness’. What satisfying deeds they become. The rewards are immediate! They are among the virtues leading us to the abundant life promised in John 10:10. But we cannot realize the total benefits until we experience them first hand.

It has now been 30 years since our trip of a lifetime. But of all those 16 memorable days in the Alps— the one most memorable—the one forever etched indelibly in our minds is—you guessed it!—the day we spent in Old Town Salzburg sharing equal acts of kindness with the beautiful young lady with the withered hand.

Chatterboxes

Here is an interesting little observation. Nearly all groups have at least one chatterbox. Surely, among your circle of friends, at least one of them would be considered a chatterbox, tending to dominate nearly all conversations. I know that’s the case among my wonderful circle of friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love them dearly! I count most of them among my closest friends. I wouldn’t trade any one of them. I want to have them around me, I enjoy being with them. That’s just one among many of their defining traits. It’s part of the fabric from which they are cut..Chatterboxes are usually very interesting. They are often the life of the party. We nearly always enjoy their stories. By the end of our visits we know all about what’s been going on in their lives. We know them well! Their lives are open books.

However, I must admit that I sometimes wish they had more interest in hearing from us—where we’ve been, what we have done, and what we might have to say. I often wonder how they gain any knowledge of the rest of the group. It would appear that they certainly didn’t hear it from any of us insofar as when we’re together, they talk, we listen. We cannot get in a word edgewise.

On the other hand, on numerous occasions I have suddenly realized that I was being the chatterbox in the room. I was dominating the conversation—where I’ve been—what I’ve been doing; or expounding at length on my religious or political or social views. On such occasions, I was not engaged in dialogue, I was delivering a monologue, after which I often became ruefully aware that I had been doing all the talking while everyone else was doing the listening. Those are times when I wish I had taken the time to be a good listener rather than the self appointed chatterbox in the room. Who knows? Someone else may have had a worthwhile opinion or statement; someone else may have had a bit of news (good or bad) that would have piqued the interest of all the rest of us. Someone else may have had some wisdom or advise or experience which would have been of benefit to all of us. But because I didn’t take time to listen, we all missed it.

Of greater gravity than that, I dare say practically all of us become the chatterboxes in our conversations with the LORD. Our prayer life is predominately monologue—rarely dialogue. (I say that assuming that most of God’s children are like me in that respect…) We rarely engage in conversations with Him with the intent of being good listeners. It would seem that we have no interest in anything He might have to say. Our monologues are all about us—our wishes and desires—what we need from Him—what we want Him to do for us. About the only time we call merely to thank Him for something He has done for us is the obligatory ‘blessing’ before our meals. Even then, we do all the talking and expect Him to do all the listening.

And yet, He loves us dearly in spite of our propensity to be chatterboxes. He knows us better than we know ourselves and accepts that as being one of our defining traits. Even so, He enjoys our company, He wants to be around us, He loves to hear from us even if our prayers are all about us. Each and every one of our prayers wafts its way to His throne and becomes a sweet aroma in His nostrils; all the while knowing that He could readily offer encouragement or advise on how to make our lives more abundant and rich. But, we miss it. We are so intent on doing all the talking that we routinely fail to hear what He might have to say. We seem uninterested in getting better acquainted with Him and His desires and wishes. We hardly ever allow Him to get in a word edgewise.

There is a very interesting story on that subject in the nineteenth chapter of 1 Kings. An infamous old hussy named Jezebel had threatened the great prophet Elijah and instead of standing up to her like a true man of God, he tucked his tail and ran like a coward and hid in a cave (not unlike many of us) and was having a pity party (also not unlike many of us).

It was during his pity party that he got into a conversation with God. Wow! That sounds like reading a page right out of my life. Anyway, when all was said and done, we will notice how softly and subtle the Lord is when He speaks. If Elijah hadn’t been listening closely, he would have missed what God had to say. Let’s pick up the story in verse 9. “And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Then He (the Lord) said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice (1 Kings 19:9-12 NKJV).

Hmm, a still small voice! Our Almighty God doesn’t bully His way into our conversations with a voice of thunder; He gently speaks with a still small voice. He speaks softly to us through our conscience, He speaks to us through lessons happening all around us, He speaks to us through His Holy Word, He even speaks to us during the wee hours when we are otherwise sound asleep. How often have we gone to sleep with one of life’s questions, only to awaken with God’s answers.

And if we want to live more stress free, abundant lives, we must take a lesson from Elijah’s conversation with the Lord. We need to be quiet and listen intently in order to hear still small voice of Almighty God. If we are too busy doing all the talking—too busy to listen, we will surely miss anything He has to say to us. It’s our loss.

Life Outside the Grid

In my idle time I like to watch the ‘Destination America’ channel. I am especially drawn to such series as ‘Buying Hawaii’ and ‘Buying the Bayou’ and especially ‘Buying Alaska’.

WOW!, Buying Alaska… I suppose I’m most intrigued by the hardy souls who are drawn to properties in the remotest areas of Alaska—areas ‘outside the grid’. They want to get away from it all—to rough it—to live off the land. It is their desire to be totally independent—self sustained—self sufficient. In so doing, they are forfeiting all the benefits and comforts that living within the grid affords. They are choosing rather to barely subsist, living in near unbelievable primitive housing—no running water, no electricity, no sewage disposal, no access roads, no neighbors. It seems so odd to me that such people would choose kitchens with no refrigerators, sinks with no faucets, no indoor facilities where they can take care of business when nature calls or take a hot shower after an arduous day in the woods. They are obviously cut from different cloth than me.

There must be some sense of accomplishment and pride derived by saying they did it themselves, proving they can make it without depending on the sources of energy and pure running water which is readily available when living within the grid. They declare that they can cut their own firewood to provide heat during the brutal Alaskan winters, bring in water from nearby rivers and streams and boil it to remove the impurities. They can purchase their own little generator to provide their own electricity (as long as they are able to keep an ample fuel supply). They can rely on a remote, dark, unheated ‘outhouses’ to take care of business when nature calls, and forego any need to take a hot shower. Primitive ‘coal oil’ lanterns prove to be a necessity during the long winter nights.

Although many of the couples in search of such a primitive way of life appear well groomed, scrubbed and brushed and pampered, they seem anxious to leave all that behind. They are set on following their dream, away from the maddening rush of the big city. They imagine sitting on their porch with a morning cup of coffee, looking across the lake at the distant snow capped mountains and marveling at their ‘million dollar’ view. They dream of sitting cozily in front of the fireplace on cold winter nights, sipping hot buttered rums as the snow is gently falling outside their window. Wow! What romance! They fantasize of the enjoyment they will receive by walking a couple hundred yards to the water’s edge, catching their dinner from among the plentiful salmon, and roasting them over an open fire. They surmise that a single moose will yield about 600 pounds of meat; enough to last them all winter. They look at the dense stand of trees surrounding them and proclaim there will be plentiful firewood.

For whatever reasons, they are indifferent to the negatives accompanying such lifestyles. I wonder what happens to their dreams when it is dark 20 hours out of each day, 30-40º below 0º, and snow is 6 feet deep outside their door. Can you imagine trudging through such severe conditions during the darkest hours of the long evenings, carrying the obligatory ‘coal oil’ lantern, merely to use the ‘outhouse'; or make a necessary trip the the wood shed to gather another supply of fire wood. What happens when the fuel for their little generator runs low, and they are snowed in—prisoners within their houses? How hard will it be to fetch water from the surrounding rivers and lakes when the ice cap is over a foot thick? No quick trips the the grocery store to pick up some essentials; and no neighbors! No sense of community! No one one to call on if they need help. I would imagine that they will also be off the grid for cell phones (which can be both a blessing and a curse). Although they will no longer receive computer generated telemarketing calls during their dinner hour, but they will also lose contact with all their family and friends—no way to call for help in times of emergency.

Sudden thought: I wonder how many Christians choose to live outside God’s grid. Like the hardy souls buying Alaska, it is the natural desire of many Christians to be totally independent—self sustained. They believe in God, love God, but choose to go it alone, forfeiting the benefits and comforts and abundant life readily available when living within His grid. They are trying to live the good life outside the wonderful sources of strength and power which is only readily available when living within the grid of God’s amazing grace.

I suppose there is some sense of accomplishment and pride derived by saying they did it themselves, proving they could make it without tying into His power. Their motto seems to coincide with Walt Whitman’s quote, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.” They don’t need God’s grace to survive. But I wonder what happens when the storms come and the lights go out; when they lose a dear companion or child; when life wipes out their ‘nest egg'; when they get a bad report from the doctor. Who do they go to when they need the help and encouragement of fellow Christians? How can they help a Christian brother in his time of need?

In such times of stress we might be inclined to ask “How do we tie in to God’s grid? How do we access His grace? How can we become recipients of all the comforts and benefits He has for us?” Short answer: Faith! Live by Faith! Faith is the conduit to all His grace and power. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8 NASB).” Notice the words, “through faith”. When we, through faith, put our total trust in God, we have tied into God’s grid of amazing grace and His awesome source of strength and power. Jesus described the power available through faith when He told the multitude gathered around Him “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you (Matthew 17:20 NASB).” How is that for tapping into the power and energy available when living within God’s grid! The Apostle Paul elaborated on that in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (NKJV).”

Let me also share a couple more of my favorite Scriptures relative to living within God’s grid. “Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You (Psalm 31:19 NKJV).”

And another wonderful verse along that same line, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV).”

Ah, life can be so much easier when we are living within God’s grid—experiencing all the benefits God amazing grace affords.

Happiest City in America

n a press release dated Sept. 4, 2013, ‘Market Watch’ of the ‘Wall Street Journal’ listed
Dallas/Fort Worth, as the Happiest City Among America’s Top 10 Markets!
Wow! Dallas! My hometown! The happiest city among America’s top 10 markets! When I heard that, my chest began to swell with pride. I knew I had always been happy living in Dallas. Perhaps, like many of us, I probably took my happiness for granted.
But, then I began to question that lofty proclamation. What would bring about such noted happiness in our own Dallas/Fort Worth cities? What makes them different? I feel reasonably sure Katharine Lee Bates wasn’t being inspired by DFW when she penned the words to ‘America The Beautiful’. They would certainly not be considered as ‘gleaming alabaster cities’, nor are they outlined by glistening white beaches overlooking shining seas. They are not surrounded by purple mountain majesty nor or they overlooking amber waves of grain. There is no crystal clear river running through them, no romantic horse drawn carriages carrying lovers along scenic tree-lined boulevards through parks and historic neighborhoods. On the surface they would seem rather mundane.
As a matter of fact, like most other large cities, both Dallas and Fort Worth seem to be no more than busy cities with numerous dense neighborhoods surrounding a complex of skyscrapers and crisscrossed with a network of concrete thoroughfares heavily snarled with the rush of commuters. As with all large cities, our news media seem to be filled with bad news. In our search for some degree of happiness, our sports arenas, restaurants, bars, and other entertainment venues are filled with the masses—seeking a respite from their wearisome workdays, just like other large cities. No difference there!
So what is it that sets Dallas/Fort Worth apart from other large cities? What could possibly be the source of our happiness. Could the fact that we are located in the region of the U.S. often referred to as the “Bible Belt”’ have something to do with it? Could that degree of happiness be derived in the fact that a large percentage of our citizens have found an inner peace that only God can supply? Could it be that our Christianity—our faith is God—our predominantly socially conservative, evangelical culture brings about a special happiness not found in other areas. In thinking of these possibilities, it should be noted that this ‘Bible Belt’ label is not merely wishful thinking of a few local religious zealots. This was the findings of a recent Gallup survey. According to that survey, the South truly lives up to its lofty label, insofar as nearly all of the top 10 most religious states are located there. The results are based on telephone interviews conducted between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2012, with a random sampling of more than 348,000 adults, ages 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

And, to take it a step further, if the South is indeed considered as the Bible Belt of the U.S., DFW is often referred to as “the Buckle of the Bible Belt”. Perhaps DFW has indeed earned that designation. Our area is home to several noted theological seminaries, including the Bright Divinity School of Texas Christian University, Dallas Theological Seminary, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (the largest Protestant seminary in the world), and the Criswell College. Among notable Christian colleges and universities, DFW is home to Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, Dallas Baptist University and the Catholic University of Dallas. Additionally, the DFW area is also home to several of America’s largest megachurches including The Potter’s house (pastored by T. D. Jakes), Prestonwood Baptist Church (pastored by Jack Graham), Fellowship Church (pastored by Ed Young), First Baptist Church of Dallas (once, under the leadership of W. A. Criswell, the largest Protestant church in the world), and Lakepointe Church (pastored by Steve Stroope and listed as one of the fastest growing churches in America) .
This is not a recent phenomenon. In its glory days, Tenth Street, in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, earned a spot in Ripley’s ‘Believe it or not’ when 28 churches called Tenth Street home. During the 1950’s, that area of Dallas earned the title “Land of Churches,” as it was highly touted that more than 300 houses of worship were located in Oak Cliff — said to be the nation’s largest concentration of churches per square mile. It was during the 1950s that Tyler Street Methodist Church (at the corner of Tenth and Polk streets) took the honor of having the largest Sunday school enrollment in all of Methodism. My own home church was located just a block away at the corner of Tenth and Tyler.

In addition to all the afore mentioned ‘brick and mortar’ centers of worship and study, the DFW airwaves are filled with Inspirational broadcasting. We can name a number of Christian Radio Stations that originate right here in our area including:
KVRK 89.7 Power FM – The Christian rock station!;
KCBI 90.9 FM – Family friendly Christian talk and music ;
KDKR 91.3 FM – Christian Talk;
KLTY 94.9 FM – Contemporary Christian Music;
The WORD 100.7 – Christian Talk Radio;
KYDA – 101.7 FM – Alternative Christian Rock.

Is it happenstance—mere coincidence that Christianity and happiness cohabit in the same areas of the nation? Would we think it odd that those two traits walk hand in hand? I think not. In Psalm 33:12 and again in Psalm 144:15 we read, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD (NIV),” In the Amplified Bible we get a more complete meaning of the word ‘blessed’. There we read, “Happy and blessed are the people who are in such a case; yes, happy (blessed, fortunate, prosperous, to be envied) are the people whose God is the Lord!”. I would venture that that beautiful verse would also apply to individual cities whose God is the LORD.

That being the case, wouldn’t it seem logical to set Dallas ‘the land of churches’ apart from other cities in which Christianity is not a priority—cities causing our president to declare that the United States is no longer a Christian nation. We can only pray that our happy city doesn’t join the ranks of that tragic designation.