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Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Meal with the Least of These.

                                        Casa Blanca

      Back in the late nineties my wife and I went to the National Church of Christ Convention.  It was sort of a strange time for us as my wife and I attended the Instrumental Church of Christ.  My daughter and her husband attended the Non-Instrumental Church of Christ. We had the opportunity and time to attend the National Convention with them in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

   Over the years I have had many people ask me what the difference is.  The only answer I could come up with was that when the first Church of Christ split, the ones who got the piano became the instrumental church and the ones who did not have a piano became the non-instrumental.  Being truthful I do not have an answer. I do love to hear really good acappella music though.  There is nothing prettier than perfectly harmonized voices.  Supposedly instruments are not mentioned in the New Testament, which is supposedly the basis for the non-instrumentalist churches decision.  In Psalm 98 it says. 
        4Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. 5Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. 6With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King. 7Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.  8Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together 9Before the LORD; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.

     So to me it is a matter of the whole Word, or picking and choosing. Both churches tend to not have women in positions of authority or preaching, which they will tell you is totally Biblical. The non-instrumental tend to be a New Testament based churches and kind of discount the fact that the 98th Psalm is in the Old Testament.  In verse 3 & 4 it says make a joyful noise unto, all the ends of the earth and to all the earth, which were not even discovered until long after all the Words of the Bible were written. They argue we are not under the law, but they believe in the story of creation and it is old testament. So it is a matter of what one chooses to believe. To me it is, "The Whole Word and Nothing but the Word."

    The keynote speaker told a joke the first night that set the tone for the whole convention, It was very controversial, but he wanted to make a point. The joke went something like this.  A man died and went to heaven. When he got to the Pearly Gates he was given a guided tour.  The guide took him down a long hall with doors on both sides.  He started explaining who was in each room. This room is the Methodist, this one is Baptist and this one is the Episcopalians.  Then he told the man when we pass this next room we have to be real, real quiet.  The man asked why.  The guide explained to him that the next room was the Church of Christ and they think they are the only ones here.

     There was a deafening silence for a minute or so.  Then a quiet applause started to build.  It never did get very loud but it did go on for a while. It was a point of discussion for the rest of the convention.  The point was that no one was better than the other person. We will all get to heaven strictly by the Grace extended to us by God through Jesus Christ.

     It was my first ever convention and I was really amazed by it all.  They had a large hall where you could by T-shirts, CD’s and all kinds of things from bumper stickers to scheduling a group to attend your church and sing.  One of the neat features was the spontaneous singing that would spring up all over the hall.  It really touched me.

    The day we were getting ready to leave my daughter asked me what I liked best about the Convention and I said lunch.  She was shocked and I had to explain to her that it was not the meal  but the experience.

    Just down the street from the fairgrounds was a place called the Casa Blanca, which was a Mexican restaurant, it was laid out with a cave motif.  You had to go down two long halls before you got served.  Many of the tables were in areas that resembled small caves. Even being four and five abreast the line moved fairly smoothly, though slowly.  Some of the people started singing gospel songs at barely a whisper.  It was a moving experience. Suddenly I had an Epiphany and started crying and I could not stop.  My wife said what is wrong. I could barely speak I was so moved.  Like I said it was like we were going down this long cave into a dungeon.  I could suddenly see the early Christians going down the same path to be martyred. Finally I got it together enough to speak. I said, “We are here in line going to lunch, I just realized the difference between us and the early Christians.  We are going to eat lunch, but they were going to be lunch.” Suddenly I had a whole company of blubbering people around me.

      My daughter was moved to tears when she saw I was not making fun of her but had, had a really moving experience.  It has touched me over the years and sort of gave me a ministry during my truck driving years.  When I would see a person sitting
 on their bags outside the truck stop I would invite them to have lunch with me. It would give me the opportunity to see if I could help them in some way. Sometimes I could and sometimes I did.  Other times I just got to share that God was still looking to help those that had needs.

    So the next time you see the guy with the sign, “Will work for food.” Offer to take him to lunch and find out what his needs really are.  Just handing someone cash is not biblical. Read II Thessalonians 3:10. If you consider holding a sign work, go ahead. The Lord corrected me for doing that, but that is another story. 

     Sometimes they just need a short ride up the road.  Sometimes a shower and a place to rest for a bit.  Sometimes just giving them some money, usually by letting them pay for the meal, with my money.  I would let them keep the change if it would help get them through the day.  After eating a meal with a person you will know if you feel comfortable going a step farther in helping them.  Sometimes just giving away a free shower at a truck stop or letting them sleep in my truck while I ate would help as much or more than a meal.  Nothing tests your faith like leaving a running truck and quarter million dollars worth of equipment and cargo in the hands of a complete stranger.  The point is if you feel you are truly being moved by God to help someone, test the spirits first and do it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Oil Light Just Came On

                 The Oil Light Just Came On

     Most people are happy the price of oil is down even if they don’t understand why.  A couple nights ago as I watched the evening news they were not sure why oil prices were going down.  As I watched the news the glare from an overhead light annoyed me.  Then suddenly a light came on and I thought maybe I had figured it out.  Remember all the energy savings that were supposed to happen by changing to the stupid squiggly light bulbs.  Well maybe as you can no longer buy the old kind of bulbs maybe the energy savings is actually happening.  Humor me and read on. You may accidently learn something that may save you some money. 

     While I personally hate the squiggly bulbs, mainly because they have forced me to change light covers on many of my lights, because of their stupid shape.  I have to admit they may have accomplished what they were meant to accomplish.  The only way I know this is because I am so cheap.  Basically I do crafts and have a lot of paint and stains which are very expensive and will be damaged by freezing.  In winter I am only in my shop a couple hours a day, a couple days out of the week.  Heating the whole shop would be an exorbitant waste of money and energy. Practical as I am I dreamed up a solution. I found an old freezer drilled a hole in the side and ran a wire inside the freezer and rigged up a light fixture.  I put all the stains in the freezer, a 100 Watt light bulb and a thermometer. I quickly found 100 Watts gave off to much heat. A 60 Watt bulb would keep the inside of the freezer at 50 degrees even at -10 degrees.  On warm days the temperature would get up to about 100 degrees which was acceptable. As the only thing running in my shop in the winter was that bulb I learned a 60 Watt bulb costs about $6 or $7 a month to run.  The 100 Watt bulb cost about $10 to $12 a month to run.  I have already established that the squiggly bulbs do not give off as much heat, which means they would save you money on air conditioning, but that is not what this is about.  It is about saving my stains and paint.  I have not yet figured out what size or how many bulbs I will have to use to save my paint, but I am sure it can be done.

     Getting back on track the news announced last night that the oil prices are down because the Arabs are flooding the market with cheap oil.  I am not a rocket scientist but I am sure they got used to having all that money when oil was over a $100 a barrel.  My conclusion is that to maintain their income they decided to sell twice as much. If they were making $60 a barrel profit, or about 60% of the total price.  Then at $50 a barrel they need to sell twice as much to maintain that income.  Doing that would force other producers who do not have the capacity to produce more to lose money.  That is why Russia is suddenly in a financial crisis. 

     There is one thing the Arabs have not figured out. Cutting supplies would raise prices and preserve their oil.  They are acting like they have an infinite amount of oil.  In reality there is only a finite amount of oil and sooner or later the world is going to run out.  What are they going to do when their wells start sucking sand? They are going to be up the proverbial creek without a paddle and without the water to paddle it they had one.

     I am happy about all this, because I see that saving energy may help us get even with those who sponsored the terrorists who performed the 9/11 attacks and are still sponsoring all the groups who perform the acts of terrorism in the Middle East.  The only question to me is how long will it take?  The terrorists sooner or later will bite the hand that feeds them.  Not soon enough, but it is going to happen. Just as the Afghans bit the hand of those that helped defeat Russia.  What goes around comes around and sooner or later Saudi Arabia will get their just reward.

     So America, put up those wind towers, those solar panels and screw in the those squiggly light bulbs and sooner or later we may see the Middle East implode as they all kill themselves off.  What a great day that will be.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Karma, Fate or Destiny

              Karma?, Fate? or Destiny?

      Is it karma, fate or destiny if a person survives a nuclear bomb attack, only to be bombed again three days later and survive again?  Sounds unbelievable but supposedly there were 165 such people in Japan.  One of the best known survivors and recognized by the Japanese government as having done so is Tsutomo Yamaguchi.  He was working in Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped there. Having survived though injured he returned to his hometown of Nagasaki in time to be there for the bomb attack there.  A British comedy show in 2010 called him the unluckiest man who ever lived.  That has to be a matter of perspective.  While his ear drums were ruptured, and he was temporarily blinded and seriously burnt on one side of the upper half of his body.  He had had two children by his wife, who was also a survivor of the Nagasaki blast and lived to the age of 93.  He ultimately died of stomach cancer and had other nuclear related health issues.  The article I read on him said he lived an otherwise healthy life until his death on January 4, 2010.

    While we are speaking of Japan, long term survivors seem to be the norm not the exception.  Another famous Japanese survivor was Hiroo Onoda who was still fighting World War II until he finally surrendered after twenty-nine years in the jungles on the island of Lubang in the Philippines.  He and his men(all of whom had died or surrendered) had killed 30 people and wounded 100 over the years. The Philippine government pardoned him for his war crimes. He surrendered March 9, 1974.  After surrendering he returned to Japan and could not adjust to the changes. He moved to Brazil in 1984 and died January 16, 2014 at the age of 91. So he spent almost forty years as the last known fighter of World War II. You can Google more details on both these stories.

    As time goes on there are many stories of survival that happened by strange circumstances on 9/11.  Just as there are many stories of heroic deaths.  I was in Bayonne, NJ unloading that morning and saw the first plane hit. Rather than block traffic I left and headed to Bloomsbury, NJ.  Trying to find out the details I tuned in a local NYC radio station.  The announcer reported he had been advised to leave the building as he was in the other tower.  He said he was going to keep reporting as long as he could.  Shortly later the station I was listening to went dead. It was not till I reached the truck stop that I found out that his decision had probably cost him his life. I don’t know his name, but he is one victim I can relate too.

    It may sound strange but while many lost friends because of 9/11, I made one.  Shortly after 9/11 many Americans were ready to kill anybody that looked like and Arab or a Muslim.  One of the drivers from my company was/is a Sikh.  Sikh’s wear turbans and to the most Americans that automatically meant Muslim.  There is an irony to that as many Muslims don’t get along with Sikh’s.  One day when we were unloading at the same place I met Arminder, he is an Indian(like from India) Sikh, he related to me how he had been persecuted and threatened many times since 9/11.  Anyhow we hit it off and often traveled together in the time we worked together after 9/11.

     In January 2004 I had the Big One. I had died technically but they bought me back which explains my fascination with survivors.  The government cancelled my CDL(Commercial Driver’s License) and basically put me out of business.  It has been ten years since I quit driving but Arminder has been my steadfast friend during that time.

     Another survivor story I like is from my time in Vietnam.  I did not see it happen but had it related to me by somebody who was there.  A platoon of the 101st,(about 40 men) were taking a lunch break on the side of a hill overlooking a rice paddy.  While they were eating a Vietnamese with a pouch over his shoulder came walking through the rice paddy on a line parallel to their position.  One of the men was assigned to shoot the courier and he missed.  The courier started high stepping across the paddy.  Suddenly all forty people were shooting at him and the water around him started churning like a washer from all the rounds.  He really started moving then.  The guy that told me about it said it was almost as if he were running on the water. Finally he chucked the pouch and started running like an Olympian.  He finally made it to the wood line on the other end of the field. When they sent people down to recover the pouch they found he was definitely a courier.  They never found the courier so it is assumed he survived the ordeal.

    Not all stories are about survivors though.  A squad of the 101st were on patrol and moving along a stream.  Suddenly they heard sounds of people laughing and cutting up.  The stream went over a cliff making a waterfall, and at the base of the waterfall was a horseshoe shaped gorge. about twenty Vietnamese were bathing and relaxing.  The Americans formed a half moon arch around the top and each took two grenades and on signal pitched them into the gorge. There were a few shouts as the grenades started going off.  A moment later only silence.  All the Vietnamese were dead.

      The events of 9/11 showed me that it is not just in the military that a person’s fate can change in a moment.  Life is fleeting at best and its ultimate path is known to none.  The attack of 9/11 may have been by people in civilian clothes, but it was a well-planned and methodical destruction of human life.  The reality of radical Islam was shown to America.  The question is how do we respond to it and more important how do we overcome it? Is it Satanical?

  The only viable solution I see is to convince the world of the evil it is facing.  It is not hard to show. Then there has to be a consequence for fomenting or tolerating evil.  South Africa was forced to abandon apartheid with sanctions. The whole world needs to turn its back on any and all nations tolerating and advocating radical Islam. Where do all their guns and ammunition come from? How can they travel with immunity unless someone enables them? There are a lot of questions.  The world needs to step up and cut off the supply lines of evil.  No army travels without logistics.  Even the 9/11 terrorists had people providing them means to do what they did.  They did not do it as an out of pocket expense. Even if they did it required someone else to line their pockets with the means.