Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve 2011

I'm going to a New Year's Eve party tonight, it's an 80's theme shin-dig. Unfortunately, with it being Saturday, I can't stay till midnight. I have to preach twice in the morning and teach Sunday School.

Nevertheless, I have a cool "Old School Rapper" costume to wear. Check out the hair and a little photo editing magic. Kind of a freaky picture, don't you think?

Friday, December 30, 2011

John Owen on beholding the glory of Christ

I am preaching on the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1-13) this coming Lord's Day. There is much to say about this incredible passage, but one sure outcome is a change in our life as we "behold the glory of Christ".

I like what John Owen says in his book about beholding the glory of Christ-

"In this then, I say, we may by faith behold the glory of Christ, as we shall do it by sight hereafter. If we see no glory in it, if we discern not that which is matter of eternal admiration, we walk in darkness. It is the most ineffable effect of divine wisdom and grace. Where are our hearts and minds, if we can see no glory in it? I know in the contemplation of it, it will quickly overwhelm our reason and bring our understanding into a loss; but to this loss I desire to be brought every day; for when faith can no more act itself in comprehension, when it finds the object it is fixed on too great and glorious to be brought into our minds and capacities, it will issue in holy admiration, humble adoration, and joyful thanksgiving. In and by its actings in them it fills the soul with 'joy unspeakable, and full of glory'."

Catch it Rover!

A little dog humor to close out the year...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Blue Moon in Dad's honor

Dad sharing his "special" egg nog with Shari

Eating Mom's lasagna on Christmas Eve

Our Christmas Eve traditions have stayed the same as long as I can remember.

Our day is ordered around being together as a family, eating, going to church, reading the Christmas story,opening presents, and reminiscing.

For years our Christmas Eve has looked basically the same.

For dinner, we have Mom's lasagna accompanied by meatballs and spare ribs cooked in the sauce. Almost as regular as the components of the meal was my Dad's overly dramatic praise of Mom's lasagna.

For treats we have Christmas cookies, shrimp, little smokies, and chestnuts. We'll have a couple versions of eggnog- the normal kind, and the alcoholic version my Dad concocted.

Some years we open presents before the Christmas Eve service, sometimes after. Before opening presents, I read the Christmas story. One of the blessings of this tradition is the day one of our children first read the story instead of me. The boys do their best to stay patient before getting their gifts as we always go oldest to youngest. In embellished fashion, Dad would rave about whatever gift we got him. Shari and I always have a spending limit for each other, and I always go way over it for her. Not because I'm some great husband, but because she deserves all the gifts I could give her and way more. She really likes surprises, so getting her gifts is fun.

The Christmas Eve service is a favorite of ours. I don't get to sit with my family, but I do enjoy looking at them sitting in the second row on the left as we sing the hymns and hear the Scripture read. When we do the candle lighting, I go to them first with my candle.

After the service, back at home, as we are all unwinding, Dad and I would drink a beer and eat some chestnuts. We all got a kick out of Dad and chestnuts. He was too cheap to pay for good ones so he'd buy the older ones. Without fail, half or more of the chestnuts would be rotten. He'd grumble about how you can't get good chestnuts. My mother would then remind him he got what he paid for. The beer covered the bad tasting chestnuts and we'd keep on eating just biting off the good part on the rotten ones.

I have never taken such days and occasions for granted, but it sort of feels like I have this year.

This year's dinner table had an empty seat. Dad is gone.

Mom's lasagna, meatballs, and spare ribs were as tasty as ever, but no embellished praise from Dad came forth. We opened gifts and enjoyed the generosity and surprises shared with each other, but no Dad sitting in one of the Lazy Boy's acting like the gift he just got would change his life. No egg nog this year. I'm not even sure what Dad used to put in the alcoholic variety. No chestnuts, too expensive (father like son) and it wouldn't be the same without Dad murmuring over the rotten ones. The service was beautiful and meaningful for sure, but no Dad sitting in the second pew anymore.

We were all a bit melancholy today, even the children. We all miss Pepa. At the same time, we can't imagine how much worse we would feel if it would always be like this. In this life the pain will grow duller each year, I suppose. But praise be to God for the life to come because of Christ!

So, as I finish this post I am drinking a Blue Moon in Dad's honor (he would be carrying on about my expensive taste in beer) and thinking of how much death sucks, how much I miss him, and how grateful I am for eternal life in Christ.

This pain is temporary, I know.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Favorite Christmas Movie lines

Here are some of my favorite lines from famous Christmas movies. See if you can name what movie they're from without using Google (or any other search engine)-

1. "What else can I be when I live in a world full of fools babbling "Merry Christmas" at one another? What's Christmas but a time for finding yourself a year older and not a day richer? There's nothing merry in that. If I could work my will, nephew, every idiot who goes about with "Merry Christmas" on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."

2. "Oh no! It was a classic, mother BB-gun block. "You'll shoot your eye out!" That deadly phrase honored many times by hundreds of mothers was not surmountable by any means known to Kid-dom, but such as my mania, my desire for a Red Ryder carbine, that I immediately began to rebuild the dike."

3. "Rats. Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I almost wish there weren't a holiday season. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"

4. "He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then he thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas, he thought... doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps... means a little bit more!"

And for no extra charge:

5. "I took a shower washing every body part with actual soap; including all my major crevices; including inbetween my toes and in my belly button, which I never did before but sort of enjoyed. I washed my hair with adult formula shampoo and used cream rinse for that just-washed shine. I can't seem to find my toothbrush, so I'll pick one up when I go out today. Other than that, I'm in good shape."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Handel's masterful "text painting" of 1 Corinthians 15:21-22

George Handel was one of the great "text painters" of all time. He masterfully crafted music to match the message of a given text. Several great examples of his text painting occur in Messiah as he sets Scripture to music.

My favorite might be the second song in the final part of Messiah, where we are reminded of the reality and grief of physical death. It's called "Since by man came death". There is a very dark, somber, first phrase sung to communicate the despair of our inevitable date with physical death because of Adam's sin and our inheritance of his curse. Then, in sharp contrast, there is a bright, victorious declaration of the final resurrection that will occur for all those in Christ.

Here are the words, listen to the song as you read (the first part is very soft, so listen carefully):

Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

Losing my father six months ago continues to sting. The thought of a loved one dying-even one who was a Christian and now with Christ- brings continued sadness. This song really captures how I feel (dare I say!). It is somber and depressing when declaring the reality of death because of sin. Death is because of sin, it's an aberration. The thought of my father's death will always bring a sense of pain. However, the truth of Scripture witnessing to the fact of Christ's resurrection means this pain will not last forever. It will not even last long (relatively). There will be a final resurrection for all. Those who are "in Christ" will be joyously and gloriously reunited with each other to bring praise to God.

This short song captures the truth of Scripture and has served to comfort me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 Turkey Bow Kill

I'm still hunting deer as the archery season in Kansas runs until December 31.

I have seen hundreds of deer this season, many have been in shooting distance. I'm holding out for a mature buck, preferably over 4 years old. This whole season I have only seen one that ancient six-point that looked to be declined (past his prime, hence only 6 points). I missed him at what I thought was 40 yards. He turned out to be 30 yards, so I shot over him. Otherwise, I have just not seen a mature buck worthy of harvesting. I still have deer meat in my freezer and my son Nico took a doe with his rifle, so I'm not looking to take a doe right now (my tune might change as the 31st approaches).

So, this morning, while buck hunting, a group of gobblers came in range. I shot this one at 41 yards. He's a nice Tom, 8-inch beard with close to 1-inch spurs. I have his breast meat marinating in Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce as I post this.

This is the first gobbler I have ever harvested with my bow.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

No Sushi for me

I have several friends who consistently try to have me try Sushi.

Eating raw fish has never been appealing to me in the least.

This clip sealed the deal for me.


Buffalo Boy Kane scores a dandy

I can't stand penalty shoot-out's as a way to determine a winner in hockey, but this goal by Buffalo boy, Patrick Kane, sure is a dandy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Money does strange things to our perspective

Albert Pujols spent ten incredible and productive years playing for St. Louis. While in St. Louis, he and his wife contributed to many excellent charities and institutions, several being Christian. There can be no question about the great good done through the Pujols involvement in worthy organizations.

Despite their investment in the St.Louis community and the several ministries they supported, when the Los Angeles Angels offered Pujols a bigger and longer contract than St. Louis, he bolted.

Fine. That's his choice. Surely he'll always be relatively generous no matter where he lives. However...leaving the Cards for the Angels seems like its all about money and ego. I said as much on Facebook and had several Christians rip me for questioning his motives. Now, to be clear- I'm a Yankee fan and don't have a "dog in the race" regarding where Pujols ended up (well, I guess I do now..since he'll be playing for the Angels in the AL), so my comments here are only observational about a player that is often beatified in the Christian community.

Initially I accepted the criticism about questioning Sir Albert's motives. Now I don't.

More details have come out. Initially Pujols was offered a 5-year contract by the Cardinals with a slightly greater annual salary then the Angels are now going to pay him. They eventually upped their offer to ten years, $210 million dollars which is $4 million per year less than the Angels offer. Mrs. Pujols got on a local Christian radio station in St. Louis (which the Pujols apparently funded the creation of) and said some revealing things. Notice what she says-

"When it all came down, I was mad. I was mad at God because I felt like all the signs that had been being played out through the baseball field, our foundation, our restaurant, the Down Syndrome Center, my relationships, my home, my family close...I mean, we had no reason, not one reason, to want to leave. People were deceived by the numbers." (See all of her comments here)

Seriously? All those incredible, eternal things they were part of in St. Louis were threatened because St. Louis wouldn't give Pujols a ten year contract? Mad at God for this? Honestly, how can it be said that money isn't the key driver here? Mrs. Pujols statements seem so warped. God has been using them in St. Louis far beyond baseball. He could have signed the biggest contract in MLB for the next 5 years, but instead they were insulted that it wasn't for longer. I see this is telling and sad.

Sorry if I'm being too hardcore on this. Furthermore, I'm not suggesting Albert Pujols is the only one who struggles with materialism and egoism. I'm a chief offender myself. This story grates on me because of the way Mrs. Pujols makes it seem like St. Louis some how forced them out. It's like they wanted to stay, but just couldn't for the measly $130 million the Cards were offering.

Sports are so much fun to watch, but money has screwed people up bad, even "good" people. Perhaps the statement that irked me most from the beleaguered and insulted Mrs. Pujols -"It's just like put us on a team called the Angels."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peden on the Covenant of Redemption

This is some deep stuff from Alexander Peden (an interesting character for sure), and extremely rich-

BE it known to all men, that, in the presence of the Ancient of Days, it was finally contracted, and unanimously agreed, betwixt these honourable and royal persons in the God-head, to wit, the great and infinite Lord of Heaven and earth, on the one side; and Jesus Christ, God-man, his eternal and undoubted heir, on the other side, in manner, form and effect, as follows; That forasmuch as the Lord Jesus Christ is content and obliges himself to become surety, and to fulfil the whole law; and that he shall suffer and become an offering for sin, and take the guiding [management] of all the children of God on him, and make them perfect in every good word and work; and that of his fulness they shall all receive grace for grace; and also present them, man, wife and bairns, on Heaven's floor, and lose none of them; and that he shall raise them up at the last day, and come in on Heaven's floor with all the bairns at his back: therefore, the noble Lord of Heaven and earth, on the other side, binds and obliges himself to Christ, to send all the Elect into the world, and to deliver them all fairly to Christ; and also to give him a body, flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone; and to carry Christ through in all his undertaking in that work, and to hold him by the hand: and also, let the Holy Ghost, who is our equal, go forth into the world, that he may be sharer in this great work, and also of the glory of this noble contrivance; and let him enlighten the minds of all those whom we have chosen out of the world, in the knowledge of our name; and to convince them of their lost state; and perswade and enable them to embrace and accept of his free love offer; and to support and comfort them in all their trials and tribulations, especially these for our name's sake; and to sanctifie them, soul and body, and make them fit for serving us, and dwelling with us, and singing forth the praises of the riches of our free grace in this noble contrivance, for ever and ever. Likewise, the same noble Lord of Heaven and earth doth fully covenant grace and glory, and all good things, to as many as shall be perswaded and enabled to accept and embrace you, as their Lord, King and God: and moreover, he allows the said Jesus Christ to make proclamations by his servants, to the world in his name, that all that will come and engage under his colours, he shall give them noble pay in hand for the present, and a rich inheritance for ever; with certification, that all those who will not accept of this offer, for the same cause, shall be guilty and eternally condemned from our presence, and tormented with these devils, whom we cast out from us, for their pride and rebellion, for the glory of our justice, through eternity.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Nico is very thankful and so am I

Nine years ago yesterday (December 9), I shot my first good buck with my father by my side. It's one of my most cherished memories.

I have taken my oldest son, A.J., deer hunting a couple times, both times he shot deer. It came pretty easy for him, as "luck" would have it.

My middle son, Nico, has shown the most interest in hunting as he really enjoys shooting a rifle (natural maturity will eventually take him to bow hunting). When he turned 9 last year, he was primed to go on his first deer hunt, but I wrecked my knee and couldn't walk without crutches during rifle season. We tried to hunt a few times by having friends drive us to spots and me crutching my way to a place I thought Nico could shoot a deer. Nothing worked out, we saw nothing the three times we went out in frigid temps. He was bummed and so was I.

This year has been so busy for both of us, I couldn't figure a good time to take him hunting during the 10 day Kansas rifle season. I negotiated with my helpmate to take him out of school the second day of the season so we could hunt all day. Well, we didn't see any deer within range. He was really deflated and so was I.

With the end of the season tomorrow, a day we don't hunt, it had to be today.

A good friend was taking his son hunting this morning and asked me a while back if I wanted to take Nico to the same place. He has a great hunting spot he works very hard to manage. It was a big privilege for him to ask us. Nico was stoked and so was I. We gathered our gear and headed to our spots so Nico could take a crack at shooting his first deer. From the picture above, you know Nico was successful. Now for the crazy story:

We were sitting in a blind waiting for a deer to pass through an opening, which happened about 8:15 am. Nico calmly shouldered his gun and listened to my instructions to stay calm and breathe carefully. It was a very good 3.5 year old ten-point buck. Talk about a first deer to shoot! Crazy. Anyways, the deer got closer and closer to our set up. At 90 yards I told Nico to be ready to shoot. The deer stopped broadside, and I gave Nico the go ahead to squeeze the trigger having just taken it off safety. Nico takes his time like an old pro, controls his breathing, and centers the cross hairs just behind the deer's shoulder. He pulls the trigger...and....CLICK!. The gun misfired!!! More accurately, the round in the chamber must have had a faulty primer as the hammer hit the primer, left an indentation, but didn't discharge!! I was TICKED. Poor Nico! We quick reloaded another round (it's a single-shot .243) but it was too late...the buck moved away quickly when he could tell something wasn't right in our direction. Man was I mad at the gun and the ammo!! Well, I just so happened to have brought my rifle with me. If Nico was able to harvest a deer early, our plan was to stay in the blind for me to try and take a deer. My gun is a .308 and pretty heavy. Nico is 10 and about 80 pounds. It's a bit too much gun for him, but I was not going to let him shoot his gun again should another deer present a shot. So I gave him my .308 and convinced him it wasn't much different than his .243. I could tell he was skeptical, but he, like me, was very leery of his gun. Nico was ticked and so was I!

The clock struck 9:30 AM and our friends came down the road, not far from our set up, to pick us up. We were bummed by what had transpired and my friend sympathized with us both. Still, Nico's spirits remained high having seen lots of deer that morning, especially the very respectable ten point. We needed to head back home, the 2011 gun season was effectively over for Nico...

Just then, our friend decided to drive us around his land to show how it was laid out and what he was doing to manage it for wildlife. At one point, from a distance, we could see does at the corner of an open field that tucked in to very thick, nasty, woodlot. My friend suggested we try and stalk down there and wait for a doe to step in to Nico's comfortable range. We did what he said, as he drove off leaving us there. Low and behold, eventually a good mature, fat doe stepped in to the little dirt road in front of us and Nico laid the smack down on her with my .308. It was 130 yard shot with a gun he had never held before that day. Nico thought it was cool and so did I!

So, almost to the day of the 9 year anniversary of a great hunt with my Dad, I was able to have an incredibly memorable hunt with one of my sons. Nico was very thankful for the morning and so was I.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

We must never forget

Today marks 70 years since the Japanese brutally attacked Pearl Harbor making it necessary for the U.S. to enter World War II.

The loss of life in World War II is estimated to be 50-60 million. An unfathomable number.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Handel's Disaster

I can't imagine a good reason to perform Handel's Messiah as a drama.

Here's proof-

Thursday, December 1, 2011

THE WAR gets 5 stars from Reep

When I was on study sabbatical a couple summer's ago, I picked up a used book on CD at the library. It was Ken Burns' "The War", his documentary of World War II. I never listened to it and it sat in my truck door compartment until a few weeks ago. On one of my many 90-minute trips to my favorite hunting location, I started listening to the book (8 CD's total). It is a riveting documentary. I wish I would have listened to it earlier and had my Dad listen also. He was a pretty big war buff. He would tell you that World War II was the last "necessary" war the U.S. fought. He was a veteran of the Korean War, which colored his outlook on how the U.S. Military should be used. There appears to have been an incredible unity among U.S. citizens concerning the necessity of being part of World War II, a kind of national one-mindedness seemingly long gone in our country.

As for dropping the bombs on Japan? Even Burns, the liberal political activist, seems to admit there was no real choice. The Japanese Emperor would have fought until every Japanese citizen was dead and a million allied troops with them. War is hell, no doubt.

World War II was complex, to say the least, but I think Burns does a good job simplifying the story without leaving out anything major. I quibble with some of his characterizations of allied commanders, but not majorly. Burns is of a different ideological stripe than I, and I think his lack of mentioning the role Christianity played in 1940's American culture is a poor oversight. Still, I highly recommend both his book on CD and the actual PBS documentary, which I just picked up for $20 on Ebay!! Total steal.

There are relatively few WWII vets still living. Within the next 10 years they'll probably all be gone. This documentary gave me a greater appreciation for our country and the brave people who have defended and preserved it.