Daily Manna – Philippians 1:27-29

Whatever happens, as citizens of heaven live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together with one accord for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. Philippians 1:27-29 TNIV Bible

To my mind, those that preach a “feel good” message of Christian prosperity overlook key passages that say otherwise. Yes, we are promised abundant life, but if your definition of “abundant life” includes fast cars and a yacht, then perhaps a rethinking is warranted.

As Christians, regardless of our circumstances, we are to live in joy – through peace, through illness, through suffering. Perhaps especially suffering as we acknowledge God’s hand in making us righteous and allowing us to be His examples in a fallen world.

When you hear the “abundant life” message for Christians, what do you think that means for you?

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Kenya Mission, Day 4

December 30, 2005

Goodness, can it be Friday already?  We left Houston Tuesday afternoon and we’re still not at our final destination.  It’s like Africa is on the other side of the world or something.  😛

We woke up in the Methodist Guest House in Nairobi, and in the light we could see how quaint this place is.  We me in the breakfast room for fruit and toast and coffee.  Something I had never seen before, the cream for the coffee is heated, very hot.  Makes sense; why pour cold milk into hot coffee?  Then we had a short prayer and discussed our plans for the day.

Piling back into the van was an interesting exercise. The van seats 10 and counting the driver, we had 9 people. In our case, though, the van also had to seat all that luggage. There were 13 very large bags plus 1 or 2 carry-on items per person. It looked like we were building little forts inside the van. I took the far side window behind the driver which gave me some leg room (I have really long legs), but getting in and out was like a combination of Yoga and the game Twister.

The roads out of Nairobi was gentle at first, but then turned into terrain almost indistinguishable from the terrain. A good driver is mandatory because staying on your own side of the road isn’t part of the culture. Kenyans drive where the potholes are not, so there is significant weaving from one side to the other. There were several times I thought a head-on collision was imminent, but at the last moment both cars would swerve to their side of the road.

Road from Nairobi to Kitale

Out the window of the van, far off in the distance, we saw wild zebra. And once we stopped to let a baboon family (unrelated to me) cross the road. And far off in the distance we saw pink flamingos covering a lake so that it looked pink. No pictures of any of these; most were too far away, except for the baboons which were too quick.

Our morning break after about 2 hours of driving was at a scenic overlook above the Rift Valley, looking toward the Chogoria mountains. The scenery was just spectacular.

Rift Valley Kenya overlooking Chogoria mountains

We stopped for lunch in Nakuru. I eat adventurously when traveling so I had irio for lunch. It was mashed potatoes blended with spinach and then maize stirred in. The maize was sort of like corn, only bigger kernels and not nearly as sweet as our yellow corn. Anyway, it sort of looked like this big green mush with yellow lumps and tasted about the same, too. I have no idea why this is a Kenyan favorite, I won’t order it again on purpose.

Back on the road after lunch, we were stopped several times by armed policemen. They stop cars by laying down a strip of 6″ spikes across the road that you have to drive figure-S style through them. We asked the driver what the police were looking for; he said, “money.” The general consensus was that they do not have enough money to buy the bullets to go into their guns, but I don’t know of anybody that would ever test that hypothesis.

We finally arrived at Kitale, our destination, and checked out our surroundings. We were staying in a nice compound (we wouldn’t know until later how nice it really was), with a couple of buildings with a variety of bunk beds and multiple showers and bathrooms. We dropped off the gear and headed to town to buy breakfast for the morning. The grocery store for some reason was called “Trans-Mattresses,” complete with a picture of a mattress on the billboard. Most of the signs for businesses were in mostly-English, I’ll call it, with a mix of Swahili thrown in.

Buying groceries in a strange country is an interesting experience. You wander the aisles trying to figure out what the ingredients are and what you can combine to make something edible. They had eggs, fruit, and bread, so we mostly settled for items we recognized.

Outside Tran-Mattresses we came into one of Kitale’s developing problems. Boys outside the grocery store, living off of handouts, sniffing glue in broad daylight. Even though Kenya adults discourage this among the street children, the street children get enough handouts and a sympathetic adult somewhere to buy them glue. Shopkeepers told us that these children live to maybe 20 or 25 years old before dying of violence or their brain rotting. One of the hard lessons for missionaries to learn is that giving money directly to those in need can have devastating consequences; it’s far better to contribute to an organization that will provide food, shelter, or medical care. Even if you give these street children something that they need, like shoes, they are likely to sell them for glue money.

We took our breakfast groceries, our bottled water, and mosquito netting back to the compound where we probably spent 3 hours trying to hang them. We were handicapped by a lack of tools, but the bunk beds were handmade and oversized and the netting wouldn’t stretch properly. Some nets were cut with scissors (ok, it was tiny nail file scissors) and then duct taped back into a larger net. I hadn’t seen a mosquito all day, and it was the dry season and very likely to see one. I was also taking malarone to prevent malaria, so given all that I went without netting.

Tomorrow’s a busy day; the plan is bathe street children and orphans at a local church.

American Values Awards for Movies and Television

Apparently I’m not the only person irritated by the Oscars this year, dominated by sexual immorality and politically controversial left wing movies. Michael Class has started a new awards program, American Values Awards for Movies and Television, to reward those movies that are more family friendly.

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – A conservative US filmmaker, angered by the awards success of films such as the gay drama “Brokeback Mountain,” launched a rival cinema prize to honor American “moral” values.

In a year where films starring homosexual or transgender characters or those dealing with thorny political issues such as US oil interests in the Persian Gulf are dominating Hollywood’s awards season, right-wing film industry figures are hitting back at what they say is a vacuum of morality in Tinseltown.

Former dot-com entrepreneur turned movie producer Michael Class is calling on conservative media groups to support his American Values Awards for Movies and Television.

“I want media leaders with a sense of patriotism and respect for family to join with me to turn the American Values Awards into a high-profile event,” he said.

This year’s Oscars race is led by “Brokeback” and also features “Capote,” the story of gay US author Truman Capote, and “Transamerica,” about a man in the process of undergoing a sex change.

In addition, two politically-charged dramas starring George Clooney are also competing for awards gold.

“Good Night, And Good Luck,” the Clooney-directed story of US newsman Ed Murrow’s fight against the right-wing communist witch-hunt of the 1950s, and “Syriana,” about US oil interests in the Middle East.

“Skip ‘Syriana’, ‘Munich’, and ‘Brokeback Mountain’ unless your only criterion for seeing a movie is aesthetic merit,” said Class, referring also to Steven Spielberg’s contentious Middle East violence thriller “Munich”.

“They are morally confused — I don’t want my kids seeing them,” Class added.

“‘Syriana’ blames America for terrorism. ‘Munich’ confuses justice with vengeance. ‘Brokeback Mountain’? What’s positive about a film whose main character’s sexual behavior destroys a family?,” he said.

Instead of the awards frontrunners, Class, head of a tiny independent studio called Magic Picture Frame Studio, applauded the values of films including “Cinderella Man,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” “Star Wars: Episode III” and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

Also honored by the new awards were “The Great Raid,” the story of US heroism during World War II, “End of the Spear,” about religion and the British film “Millions,” about a family that ends up doing the right thing after finding stolen loot.

“Cinderella Man,” starring Russell Crowe, is the saga of a depression-era US boxer overcoming adversity, while “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars” are tales about good versus evil, according to Class.

Katrina and Social Security Reform

These two topic shouldn’t go together, but if the Angry Left can combine hurricanes and racism, then I can combine hurricanes and Social Security reform. 😛

Ted Kennedy, liberal stalwarth, said recently, “what the heck is a stalwarth? Did you misspell ‘stalworth’? What kind of cheesy website are you running?” Then he said, “What the American people have seen in this incredible disparity in which those people who had cars and money got out, and those people who were impoverished died.”

Teddy is on to something. Who were the people who did not have cars and money? They were people dependent on the government. And not a small conservative government, either, but a liberal Democrat decades of spending goverment. What socially liberal programs bred in New Orleans was an entire class of people living below the poverty line and dependent on government handouts. People who looted and fired shots at rescuers when the government couldn’t be there for them.

What did the government do for them in a time of emergency? The government bused them to the Superdome without sufficient food or water, then left them stranded there so they could rape and maim each other.

Social dependency on the goverment is a bad idea. This includes lifetime welfare and depending on Social Security for your retirement when you’re old. It’s a bad idea for nationalized healthcare, Medicare, and prescription drugs. That’s why private Social Security accounts, designed to give the poorest of the poor a lifetime personal savings account they can pass to their children, makes good sense.

Once people have a vested interest in their local and national security with a sense of ownership, then people will take care of what they own instead of looting and shooting at it.

More info on this topic at OpinionJournal.

Church for Men

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When Diane & I discuss dating topics with other church singles, always we end up discussing the proper roles of men and women in both dating and in marriage. Usually we end up agreeing that men are not taking the role of “spiritual leader” properly in accordance with Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 11.

The women often complain that the men are not strong enough. The first big stumbling block is usually pre-marital sex. The men profess to be Christian, then pressure the women to have premarital sex. The women submit, then lose trust in the men because the men were supposed to be the spiritual leader. While what the women did was also improper, it was the men that were supposed to lead here.

What happened? Author David Murrow in a book called Why Men Hate Going to Church says that 90% of all American men believe in God and 5 out of 6 call themselves Christian, but only 2 of 6 attend church. They see no value in it; they believe church is for women, children, and seniors.

These two are very much related, I think. While Christian men should be motivated to study the bible and practice God’s instructions, they don’t do it like they should because they do not subject themselves to accountability with other Christian men.

Is there something the church can do? Right now, many men feel the church has been feminized – where Jesus commanded, “Follow me!” it has been replaced with “Let’s have a relationship with Jesus.” Women love the idea of Christian relationships. Men on the other hand want challenge, risk, structure, commands.

In Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox, he excerpts several things churches can do to reach out to men. While churches have volunteer opportunities for singing, nursery, cooking, planning social gatherings, churches can add more masculine activities such as working on cars or fixing houses. Or even just encourage the men to get out with each other to do “guy things.”

Men want a masculine leader, not a love object. Yes, Jesus was tender and empathetic, but presenting a “soft” Jesus every week can turn men away. Churches should present the masculine side of Jesus, too. Jesus did what was right in the face of adversity, He died for what was right. He led 12 male disciples. He threw himself on a grenade for us. It’s hard to recognize Jesus as a man’s man when the church looks like a ladies’ garden club or a baby shower. The goal is not to get men to cry; it’s to get them to walk with God.

More links on this subject here and here and here and here and here.

Lamentations of the Father

Lamentations of the Father
by Ian Frazier

Laws Pertaining to the Living Room

Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea, and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat, but not in the living room.

Of the hoofed animals, broiled or ground into burgers, you may eat, but not in the living room.

Of the cloven-hoofed animal, plain or with cheese, you may eat, but not in the living room.

Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the living room.

Of the quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen after-meal treats you may eat, but absolutely not in the living room.

Of the juices and other beverages, yes, even of those in sippy-cups, you may drink, but not in the living room, neither may you carry such therein. Indeed, when you reach the place where the living room carpet begins, of any food or beverage there you may not eat, neither may you drink.

But if you are sick, and are lying down and watching something, then may you eat in the living room.

Laws When at Table

And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair such as a greater person might use, keep your legs and feet below you as they were. Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the table, for that is an abomination to me. Yes, even when you have an interesting bandage to show, your feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy of rebuke.

Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not what they are for; if you will dip your blocks in the milk, and lick it off, you will be sent away. When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding like a duck; for you will be sent away.

When you chew your food, keep your mouth closed until you have swallowed, and do not open it to show your brother or your sister what is within; I say to you, do not so, even if your brother or your sister has done the same to you.

Eat your food only; do not eat that which is not food; neither seize the table between your jaws, nor use the raiment of the table to wipe your lips. I say again to you, do not touch it, but leave it as it is. And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend, for we do not do that, that is why. And though the pieces of broccoli are very like small trees, do not stand them upright to make a forest, because we do not do that, that is why.

Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or the other, nor slide down until you are nearly slid away. Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass.

Laws Pertaining to Dessert

For we judge between the plate that is unclean and the plate that is clean, saying first, if the plate is clean, then you shall have dessert. But of the unclean plate, the laws are these: If you have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of your peas with each bite consisting of not less than three peas each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can see, and you have also eaten enough of your potatoes to fill two forks, both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then you shall have dessert. But if you eat a lesser number of peas, and yet you eat the potatoes, still you shall not have dessert; and if you eat the peas, yet leave the potatoes uneaten, you shall not have dessert, no, not even a small portion thereof. And if you try to deceive by moving the potatoes or peas around with a fork, that it may appear you have eaten what you have not, you will fall into iniquity. And I will know, and you shall have no dessert.

On Screaming

Do not scream; for it is as if you scream all the time. If you are given a plate on which two foods you do not wish to touch each other are touching each other, your voice rises up even to the ceiling, while you point to the offense with the finger of your right hand; but I say to you, scream not, only remonstrate gently with the server, that the server may correct the fault.

Likewise if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you, and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming. Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint unto death, make not that sound from within your throat, neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your nose. For even now I have made the fish as it should be; behold, I eat of it myself, yet do not die.

Concerning Face and Hands

Cast your countenance upward to the light, and lift your eyes to the hills, that I may more easily wash you off. For the stains are upon you; even to the very back of your head, there is rice thereon. And in the breast pocket of your garment, and upon the tie of your shoe, rice and other fragments are distributed in a manner wonderful to see. Only hold yourself still; hold still, I say.

Give each finger in its turn for my examination thereof, and also each thumb. Lo, how iniquitous they appear. What I do is as it must be; and you shall not go hence until I have done.

Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances

Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time. Neither drink of your own bath water, nor of bath water of any kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it be in the package; nor rub yourself against cars, nor against any building; nor eat sand.

Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? And hum not that humming in your nose as I read, nor stand between the light and the book. Indeed, you will drive me to madness. Nor forget what I said about the tape.

Complaints and Lamentations

O my children, you are disobedient. For when I tell you what you must do, you argue and dispute hotly even to the littlest detail; and when I do not accede, you cry out, and hit and kick. Yes, and even sometimes do you spit, and shout “stupid-head” and other blasphemies, and hit and kick the wall and the molding thereof when you are sent to the corner. And though the law teaches that no one shall be sent to the corner for more minutes than he has years of age, yet I would leave you there all day, so mighty am I in anger. But upon being sent to the corner you ask straightaway, “Can I come out?” and I reply, “No, you may not come out.” And again you ask, and again I give the same reply. But when you ask again a third time, then you may come out.

Hear me, O my children, for the bills they kill me. I pay and pay again, even to the twelfth time in a year, and yet again they mount higher than before. For our health, that we may be covered, I give six hundred and twenty talents twelve times in a year; but even this covers not the fifteen hundred deductible for each member of the family within a calendar year. And yet for ordinary visits we still are not covered, nor for many medicines, nor for the teeth within our mouths. Guess not at what rage is in my mind, for surely you cannot know. For I will come to you at the first of the month and at the fifteenth of the month with the bills and a great whining and moan. And when the month of taxes comes, I will decry the wrong and unfairness of it, and mourn with wine and ashtrays, and rend my receipts. And you shall remember that I am that I am: before, after, and until you are twenty-one. Hear me then, and avoid me in my wrath, O children of me.

Weekend Recap

My brain is not yet in gear this Monday morning, so I’ll just recap the weekend.

Friday night Diane and I caught “Million Dollar Baby.” Highly recommended; although it’s a boxing movie, it’s not what you expect. Hilary Swank was terrific; she sure can throw a punch. In the race for Oscars, I thought this movie was far superior to “The Aviator.”

Saturday morning we went to M3’s basketball game. Young girls play basketball with a different set of rules. In pro basketball, for instance, you rarely see an official time-out so the referee can tell all the players to make sure their shoes are tied. Thoroughly enjoyable. Afterwards, I hit the gym and Diane went to visit a home for troubled kids.

Saturday evening Alex came by early for his birthday party. DIane baked a strawberry cake, and I’m pretty sure Alex ate the whole thing in one night. We went to Joe’s Crab Shack (meh – it was ok) and then played Monopoly. Alex used to whup us at Monopoly when he was younger, but the luck wore off as an adult. He’s coming back for a grudge match soon.

Sunday was church (Romans 8) and bible study (Luke 22), then we visited Irv in the hospital. He’s looking good; he’s out of ICU and in a private room now. All the prayers were fabulous; Irv says obviously God has one more task for him and he’s not ready yet. We stopped by Mom’s to visit, too; she caught the flu and hasn’t seen Irv since Thursday, so we brought her a first-hand update.

Back home for a little early Valentine’s celebration. Diane brought some candles and we camped on the sofa and watched “Second Hand Lions.” I had heard wonderful things about the movie, but it’s eluded me; I haven’t seen it playing anywhere, so I finally just broke down and bought the DVD.

That’s about it; a very pleasant weekend all around, but way too short, as always.