Life and Death – All in the Same Day

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I am a proud grandfather once again as Melody Rose was born on Tuesday to my daughter Alexis.  What an incredible blessing she is to our family.

But Tuesday was a weird day.

The day started off early as I accompanied a family to Santa Fe to bury their mother at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.  I performed a short committal service, said good-bye to the family, and hopped in the hearse for the one-hour ride back to Albuquerque.

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While in the hearse – a vehicle that one can not think about death when riding in – I received a phone call that Alexis was in labor and being admitted to the hospital. The hearse dropped me off at my car, and I quickly made my way to the hospital – wearing the clothes I had just buried someone in.

Within 2 hours of my arrival, Melody Rose was born.  I mentioned the extremes of my day to someone at the hospital, and he said, “Wow. Kind of a sobering day for you, huh?” It was.

All I could think about that day were the words from the Old Testament book of Job: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

One family was mourning that day, and my family was rejoicing.  The Lord took one away from one family, and the Lord gave one to my family. I’ve experienced both death and new life in my family over the past year, and I can say that I agree with Job. Regardless of whether the Lord gives or takes away, I will still say, “Blessed be His name.”

Random Thought Thursday: April 10, 2014

Many people say they desire to worship God with their lives, and according to the Scriptures, a major way to make that happen is to be involved in the edifying activity of the church – where one can rub shoulders with and serve God’s people. However, a recent study shows that fewer and fewer people are attending church (and thus rubbing shoulders with and serving God’s people). What gives?

Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard - Killing Lincoln (v5_0)I’m currently reading Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly.  And just for the record: I love history books but can’t stand O’Reilly.  However, many have recommended his “Killing” series to me, and so far, the book is well written and void of any of his pompous arrogance that I loathe.

I just might read his Killing Jesus sometime in the near future if this trend continues.

Guns. In my position, I think it’s important for me to be very careful about exposing my opinion. What I am willing to expose is my opinion about people. It’s very clear to me that people are much more the problem than any inanimate object is that people wield to do horrible things to one another. I’m saddened – as I’m sure you are – by the violence at a Pennsylvania High School yesterday. This time, it wasn’t a gun; it was a knife. Regardless, people need hope…real hope. And I’m under not just the belief – but the conviction – that real hope is only found in following Jesus.

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On a much lighter note… Has anyone else been keeping an eye on CNN’s coverage of the missing plane? I have, and this guy keeps popping up to offer his expert analysis – but I’ve never really heard one word he’s said.  The dude’s mustache is so incredibly weird looking that it distracts from anything he says.  I showed this picture to my son, Taylor, and he asked, “Did the dude lose a bet?” Maybe so.

Random Thought Thursday: April 3, 2014

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I’d be smiling too. Miguel Cabrera who plays baseball for the Detroit Tigers will make $49, 423 every time he comes to the plate to bat – for the next 10 years.  The median annual income of a household in Michigan is $48,471 per year. Honestly, I think his salary is ridiculous – as are the salaries of many professional athletes. Kind of makes me sick.

KenalogTwo weeks ago, I declared my willingness to pay large amounts of money for allergy help. Allergy season here in New Mexico has been miserable so far. Well, I’m happy to report that I found the silver bullet – and it only cost me a $50 co-pay! The magic serum called Kenalog was pumped into my veins 2 weeks ago, and in about 48 hours, all of my allergy symptoms were gone. I no longer even have to take an allergy pill!

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Now that my son has committed to run at the University of New Mexico, I can – with a clear conscience – wear the shirt that my wife bought me for Christmas a few years back. Her motives were pure. She bought me a really nice “Lobos” long-sleeve shirt, but it wasn’t until I opened it on Christmas morning and held it up that she noticed the word “Dad” was merged into the design. She had purchased me a shirt made for dads of UNM students! I made sure to mention this to Taylor as he was making his final decision. I asked him if he would be willing to choose his college based on my need to legitimately wear the shirt. I’m pretty sure this was the deciding factor in his decision.

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Speaking of Taylor, his 18th birthday is Sunday. His draft registration card came in the mail this week, which was a sober reminder to Michelle and I that he is now an adult. We’re so proud of the young man Taylor has become. He’s a pure joy to all of us in his family. His dedication to the Lord, to his school work, to running, and to serving others is admirable. Will you join me in wishing him a happy birthday over the next few days?

Lopsided Missions

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According to an article in the November 2013 edition of Christianity Today, 400,000 Christian missionaries were sent in 2010 from one country to another.  The breakdown of who sent them and who received them is very interesting – and reinforces the missions strategy of my church.  Here are a few interesting and revealing stats:

The top 9 receiving countries received more than 1/3 of the world’s missionaries – but are home to only 3.5% of the world’s non-Christians.

The United States sent 127,000 missionaries and received 32,400 – which reveals that some countries see the United States as their mission field.

32,400 is the most missionaries any country received – making the United States the #1 receiving country of missionaries.

After the United States, the top senders were Brazil (34,000), Spain and France (21,000), and Italy and South Korea (20,000).

After the United States, the top receivers were Brazil and Russia (20,000), Congo (15,000), and South Africa (12,000).

Among other things, these numbers reveal that the large majority of missionaries are still being sent to countries where the gospel of Jesus has already taken root and where an indigenous church already exists.  And this concerns me – and it concerns many others who have a heart for missions as well.

I’m not saying that already-reached countries should not receive any missionaries, but what I am saying is that countries where there are large unreached people groups should be considered first.

The problem with countries like this is that they are difficult places to get into and to live, but the difficulty should not stop mission agencies and missionaries from trying.  At my church, we’ve committed ourselves to spending our mission dollars on and sending our missionaries to the unreached people living in hard to reach areas.

This has come with its set of unique challenges, but we’ve also seen the gospel break-thru among people who have never heard the gospel before.  As a matter of fact, among an unreached people group we targeted 20 years ago, we’ve seen an explosion of the gospel take place – to the point where now over 1000 home churches exist!

If you are a pastor, a missionary, or a Christian with a heart for missions (something every Christian should have, by the way), please consider focusing on the 4 billion people in this world who have not been reached with the gospel rather than focusing on the 3 billion who have.

Protesting the Police

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Albuquerque has made national news once again. This time because of the actions on Sunday of a couple hundred people protesting the Albuquerque police force. The protest lasted a long time and turned out not being very peaceful. Here’s the story in case you haven’t heard about it yet: APD Protest Ends After 12 Hours

There have been quite a few police shootings here over the past few years. A couple of weeks ago – just above my house in the foothills open space – a homeless man was shot and killed by the police after a long standoff. I saw all the police activity and actually heard the flash bang go off and the gunshots. It was pretty unsettling. This was the last straw for many in the city – thus the protest.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our police force in light of all this, and here are a few of my thoughts. Admittedly, I may be a bit biased as my brother-in-law is a sheriff in Ohio, and one of my good friends is a police officer here in Albuquerque. But here goes…

1. I personally would not want to be a police officer. The stress and scrutiny would be to much for me. I have a lot of respect and honor for those who serve the community in this way.

2. Albuquerque is a rough city with a lot of violent people in it. It’s no surprise to me that there is so much police activity and that some of the activity leads to violent confrontations with the police.

3. I find it quite humorous that the first thing the people protesting the police will do the minute they feel threatened by the violence in this city is call the police.

4. I’ve never seen a police shooting first-hand. I have no idea what goes on when they are called to confront a violent person. Most Albuquerque citizens haven’t either. So to say what the police should or shouldn’t do in those situations is presumptuous.

5. That said, I wish the man in the foothills wouldn’t have been killed. I don’t wish death on anyone for that matter. I wish the situation could have been resolved in a different way, but… see #4.

In spite of all of this, I still have faith in law enforcement. Are some officers corrupt? Sure. Do some law officers do unlawful things? Yes. The same can be said of anyone in any field.

I have faith that the large majority of law enforcement officers are committed to helping, protecting, and sacrificing for the good of the community. Even here in Albuquerque. And, I still know who I’ll be calling the minute I find myself in need of help.

Random Thought Thursday: March 27, 2014

Only one thought today, but it involves Shakespeare, the plague, and rotten teeth, so please read on…

shakesI’m reading a book called William Shakespeare: The World As Stage by Bill Bryson right now. Why, you ask? Well…because I really like some of Bryson’s other books, I love history, I was recently in London where Shakespeare’s plays became famous, and I don’t know much about the man that shaped so much of our English language – so I picked up the book.

One of the things I’m learning is that the now-beautiful city of London was a miserable place to live in the late 1500′s and early 1600′s.

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Food was scarce because of poor farming conditions, a plague struck the city about once every ten years killing thousands each time, the poor out numbered the wealthy by an incredibly large percentage, and injustice – especially toward the poor – was abundant.  It was a bad time to live in London.

One of the common maladies people suffered in London during this time was rotten teeth.  Most people’s teeth were black with rot and many lost their teeth all together.  As a matter of fact, Queen Elizabeth I wanted so desperately to relate to the common people in her kingdom that she purposefully had her teeth stained black!  This was captured in the movie Anonymous released in 2011.  Actress Vanessa Redgrave played Queen Elizabeth and had her teeth blackened to more accurately portray the queen.  Here’s a picture of her from the movie – one that I’m sure will haunt you for some time!

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Good movie.  Good book.  So, get your Shakespeare on and check both of them out!

On life, learning, love, and laughter.