Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Somewhat Surprising Admission

Peg and I went to see THE SHACK yesterday. We enjoyed it to the max.

No, that's not the admission.

All I can say is that is that it was the best $16.90 I've spent watching a film, since I don't remember when. The admission, on the other hand comes (perhaps inadvertently) from those criticizing the film. Most particularly those of the same branch of the faith as me. Namely, Southern Baptists.

The admission, to me, is that the film's critics ... particularly pastoral or professorial types ... seem to feel that those within the sound of their voice (or circle of their reading/writing) are theologically unable to discern Spiritual truth when they see it. And conversely unable to see something which might mislead the clueless, about things theological. And, since most of what I read is in SBC circles, I'm thinking that the higher-ups opinion of the quality of discipleship is that it's pretty low. That discernment of theological things is severely limited, perhaps most particularly amongst SBC folks..

Well, that's not surprising. Especially considering that around 2/3 of those who consider themselves Baptist aren't in church on Sunday morning.

Consider, for a minute, the film FIELD OF DREAMS. Watch it and you will be told about mysterious audible voices whispering to people, telling them what to do. Mysterious letters appearing on baseball scoreboards, for the same reason. People coming back from their long-ago death to play baseball in Iowa. People appearing from, and disappearing into, a cornfield. Young baseball players becoming old doctors when they step across the baseline.

I'm not critical of FIELD OF DREAMS. In fact, I loved the film and I believe we have the DVD in the living room. But my point is this: I never heard anyone voice a protest that it was spiritually misleading. But my, oh my, the protests about THE SHACK!

For a denomination ... and the SBC's own website used to use that term ... which seems proud of what all it does, of how many churches it has and how many people it baptizes and how many members belong ... it's surprising that they'd be upset about members going to see the film.

When you see it, you will come away with the impression that:

  • God loves you. In a very real sense. Intensely. consistently.
  • Despite what He went through, Jesus is a happy, winsome man. One who loves to engage with His people.
  • The Holy Spirit is sort of ever-present, always willing to gently nudge us in the right direction.
  • When we see a mess in our life, something that makes no sense, seeing it from God's viewpoint is a whole 'nuther matter...
  • When things inexplicably come into our life, they'll serve a purpose in God's plan. Hang in there and you'll understand it some day.
  • God comes to us as what we need to see at the time. 
  • Living as ones loved by God, and sharing that love with those around us, really is best for us.

If you don't know the backstory of THE SHACK. learn it. You'll discover it wasn't written to be a theological display, any more than FIELD OF DREAMS is a story about the afterlife, heaven, or even baseball.

In the meantime, a message for the theologians and professors who might stumble across this: 

Thanks for admitting what we already knew out here. Now maybe somebody will get to work on the real problem. Which is not found in motion picture theaters. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Quick Example: The REALLY Temporary Nature of Stuff

The picture there is the Riverchase Galleria, a huge enclosed mall shopping center just a few miles from our home. The tall building is the Office Tower, and the Hotel .. a few stories less than the Office ... is at the far right.

This was developed by a gent from Montgomery by the name of Jim Wilson. Jim was an acquaintance of a lady who worked for me at Riverchase Business Brokers, and she got us an invitation to the topping-out ceremony. And we went.

The party was held late morning in mid-1985, in the dirt immediately in front of where the Office Tower stands, It was a lot of fun .... I even got interviewed by a local talk radio host, asking what my view of the business climate, and the prospects for the Galleria's 100+ stores might be. (As if I might know something....)

When it came time to lift the highest steel I-beam into place, Jim Wilson had all of us sign the beam with a black marking pen. Needless to say, we all felt pretty good about having done that.

We all went back to work and carried on as usual. But a couple days later, our younger son called my office and told me to look out the North-facing windows. I did, and saw a HUGE plume of smoke in the distance. He worked for an LP gas company at the time, and Brad told me a tar kettle with one of their tanks attached had caught fire. It was quite a sight.

It singed and thoroughly smoked up the beam we'd all signed. So. they cleaned it up, sanded it down, and re-painted it.

So much for having signed the topping-out beam

2 years after that, the signature on the beam was gone, I'd closed my company and moved to the next career stage, my son went into computer programming, and the developer had died.

SOOO ... While the memories of the events are good, they really do need to be. Everything else is gone, including the signed beam, the developer, the talk show host, and my company.

The good news is that I am still saved and a beloved child of God. And that has only gotten better.

You can guess what I'm focusing on these days.....

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Something Like Automatic Pilot

Here's a picture of a portion of the dashboard on our 2015 Ford Fusion. The part that shows, to the right, is a programmable section which can can show one of several information screens ... Phone, Entertainment, Climate Control, or Navigation.

When I took the Picture, Navigation is what showed.

That particular screen shows several things, most notably a compass to show where we're going, as well as a little Speed Limit sign, telling us how fast we can get there.

Somehow, the programmers of the GPS system accessed all the numbered routes in the nation, and programmed them in. As you can see, when I snapped the picture ... at a stoplight ... I was on a road with a 45 mph speed limit.

I usually run with that screen showing, for no particular reason, and I can change to another screen with a few flicks of my thumb anyway, thanks to steering-wheel-mounted controls.

I noticed something a few days ago that I thought I'd pass along. Namely that, most of the time, I don't pay a lot of attention to my speed, but when I do, I'm traveling about the speed shown on the dashboard. That's true on 2-lane Helena Road, 4-lane highway 31, Interstate 65, or congested Cahaba Valley Parkway. I'm guessing that I've gotten so used to driving there that I just naturally drive at the right speed without really consciously doing so.

That's the part that got me to thinking. Isn't that how the Christian life should be? If it's true that God remakes us from the inside out, shouldn't we eventually settle into "Automatic Pilot Mode" in how we live? Shouldn't we simply, by default, turn the other cheek when insulted, give the sort of soft answer that deflects wrath, pray for leaders we don't like, love those who hate us, show love for one another, and live our lives in a manner which reflects our relationship with the risen Christ?

Shouldn't that be our automatic reaction, our default mindset?

I think so.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

It Really IS All About Grace

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) 

This was posted by my friend, Karen Scott, and it word-bombed my brain. A whole flood of thoughts invaded my consciousness, immediately.

The first is that God has been exceedingly gracious in my life. And in several areas, too! I am 78 and still kicking. Arthritic, overweight (hey .. I AM a Baptist...), titanium knees, contact lenses, hearing aids and all. But here I am,

Family: I have the best kids and grandkids, and even the world's neatest great-grandson. Plus the touchstone flesh and blood of my life, my wife (of 57 years), Peggy.

I had a terrific career in the Property and Casualty Insurance business. Started as a mailboy with a (now defunct) insurance company, and worked my way up through the ranks to Sr. VP of a national insurance marketer here in Pelham ... finishing as VP of a local insurance brokerage firm.

A retirement of nearly 9 years now is everything I could hope for. And then some.

During my career, some interesting things happened. One that comes to mind is the time I insured a bowling alley in South Alabama, during which time a hurricane hit the coast. I had the privilege of delivering, the next day, a sizable advance check to the owner so he could immediately start repairs. I felt pretty good about that.

Then there's the time a local businessman, and friend, was unable to find insurance on his lumberyard. I arranged coverage through Lloyd's' of London, just a few months before a record snowfall ... in Alabama! ... collapsed his building. He was instrumental in sending me quite a few clients, after that.

Once, our firm was about to lose its biggest profit-making program for lack of an insurer. Via a personal friend and contact in Ohio, I made a few calls and located an insurer that wanted to take on the program. All in about 10 minutes.

I recall a time in Connecticut that I discovered an unmet need among jewelers. I mentioned it to my boss and in 30 minutes, he designed and presented a program to fill that need. And got it approved. That gave us a considerable edge over the competition.

There are a lot of other things, too. But the point that strikes me is that the bowling alley owner died many years ago, as did the lumberyard owner. The company that bought our firm ... and the big program we almost lost ... went out of business many years ago. And the jewelers' program went down the drain when our company's buyer bit the dust.

The point is that nothing I did then, in my business-related career, matters now. Unless, that is, God brought some good out of it, for His glory. And that'd be on Him, anyway, as He's the author and completer of all increase.

He's said so, in so many words. On the other hand...... When I show up in church, it's another world entirely. When Hannah Grace gives me a hug, I recall the time I had a hand in sending their family on a vacation not too many months before her daddy died. And I marvel at how God worked that out, and thank Him for the privilege of having a hand in that.

When I write a poem or do a painting that blesses someone, I (again) marvel over how God uses something I did to bless another person. Or when a child in the church is saved, and I get to reflect on the days when Mommy and Daddy were in our newlyweds Sunday School class, and once again marvel at how God uses ordinary folks to do extraordinary things.

And occasionally I'll recall the Sunday morning I shared the plan of salvation ... accidentally ... with a class of teens at a Boy's Prison in Plainfield, IN. When 6 young man prayed to be saved.

There are lots of other things, too, but then I guess that's expectable when we've belonged to one church for 35+ years. When we've been pursuing God in our lives for about 50 years. And, when some of those newlyweds, from that long-ago class, are now grandparents themselves.

Then I get to see our grown, productive sons, grandchildren, and our year-old great-grandson, and thank God for the blessing of such a family.

Picture this: two times since I've been doing the Arts and Crafts paintings, I've sent one of them to Facebook friends. Both times, they've said it really brought joy to their kid!

Here's one of them... It'd be easy to keep that for myself, but I have to ask what God can do with what I did for that young man. I gotta say that seeing that picture brings me a lot more joy than seeing the painting ever did before I sent it off.

BIG POINT: I fear that many, many people don't see the joy that comes from doing things for God. Many people think "I'm not able", or perhaps "I'm not worthy". Well. the good news is that nobody's worthy of being used by God (except Jesus) and nobody's really able. But God is certainly able to use the things we do in His name, here on earth.

One of the reasons I share all this stuff is that I am, by nature, an introvert. According to the Industrial Psychologist I saw 50 years ago ... I'd been sent there by my new employer, who saw me as management material and wanted to be sure I wouldn't "go postal" some day ... I am/was shy, introverted, insecure, and high-strung. And in my heart, I knew he was right.

But I could also remember the day in August of 1953 that I decided I would simply not act like that. 

All of this stuff .. the good parts ... is attributable to the Grace of God. And I cannot help thinking that is the essence of abundant life. One of the things Jesus said that He came in order to provide for us.

We're told to lay up treasures in Heaven. That's done by investing in things that will go there. Namely, people. That occurs, 100%, by the Grace of God.

So how's your retirement plan going?

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Keeping The Most Important Thing the Most Important Thing

Colossians 1:17 tells us something interesting. Speaking of Jesus:

"He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."

My curiosity about why God makes these statements leads me to conclude a couple things. One is that the Scripture says that Jesus is before all things. Not was. I figure that's because Jesus existed before God created time, so there's no past tense where time did not exist.

Also I looked up the words in the original languages, and they tell me that it all means exactly what it says. 

He holds any, every and all thing(s) together. Today. Right here.

I don't draw a breath ... in fact, there's not even any air ... unless He holds it all together.

Ponder that for a moment. And when you do, consider how dependant you are, on Jesus.
Whether you know it or not ... whether it's in your conscious thought ... even whether you are a believer ... we are totally dependant on Him. Each of us needs Him as badly on our best day, as we do on our worst.

Holding that thought for a moment, let's go on to the living of your life. Hopefully, you won't shuffle off this earth via some tragic instantaneous occurrence like a big accident or an atomic bomb, and you will grow old, able to contemplate your future. That happens to be what I am doing at present. And I am struck by one growingly important thought:

One day, I will wake up and it will be the last day of my earthly life.

Yup. I'm going to die. And that's the word; God says it's appointed to me once to die ... see Hebrews 9:27 for details ... and that's how I'm going to describe it.

So ... the day after my last one, don't go saying I have gone to my eternal reward, gone to see my Savior, or any other euphemism. Please use the word God used. In His Word.

Anyway, I figure on that ultimate day, the most important thought in my mind ... and in my life ... will be my faith in my Savior. My reliance on Him. And I intend to practice that every day I have here on earth.

I want it to be a fait accompli.

Now. If it is going to be the most important thing to me, then, shouldn't it be the most important thing to me, now? Thankfully, at my age, it is. Resting in His grace. Sure of my future.

My eternal future, that is. We're all going to be here 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 years, or some such; we're going to be somewhere else a whole lot longer than that. So, do the math.

I'm not talking about doing something ... some sort of works ... to bolster my faith. I'm talking about faith being so important to me that my life becomes a living representation of it. Doing everything I do in accordance with it.

God said whatsoever is not of faith is sin. I want my life to be 100% "of faith".

The bonus: as God says, it's abundant! 

Who'd want anything less?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Something the Whizzes in Washington Probably Didn't Think (THINK?) Of

I blogged about this in 2013. What with the recent announcements of insurers pulling our of "Obamacare" markets, I thought I'd re-post this now, as a testament to just how stupid the Affordable Care Act really is.

Anybody who'd spent much time in the insurance business could see this coming three years away....

So our fedd'l gummint is starting some new insurance plans. Well, having been with a company which was in that business, there's something I am sure they have not thought of. And somebody had to at least think about something, like maybe stock in Paper Companies, before they cobbled together that umpteen-thousand page monstrosity commonly known as Obamacare.

I'll try to simplify a complicated process.

Let's say you want to start an insurance plan. So you print the paper, prepare the website, and open for business. Who's going to sign up first?

  • People with pre-existing conditions. Hey, you've been bragging about that, so when you build it, they'll come.
  • People whose health has been generally poor, and they didn't want to pay the market price under those conditions, for coverage they COULD HAVE purchased on their own.
  • People who just would not buy coverage on their own.
  • People who worked for an employer who didn't provide coverage, and chose not to buy coverage themselves. Who would rather have a car payment than health coverage.
On the whole, you might guess that such a mix of people might produce a huge exposure to claims. And you'd be right ... certainly more than the average of all Americans.

Second unanticipated, but nonetheless real, snag: The first year this plan is up and running, they're only going to receive and pay 9 or 10 months of claims. When you buy this thing, you then get sick, and finally go to a doctor or a hospital, stay a while, after which a claim is sent to the company. There it is processed and eventually paid. By the time it's open 3 to 6 months, say, the process is churning along and claims are being steadily paid.

So after the first year, losses look pretty good. They should ... you got a year's premium but only 9 months of claims to pay. So rates stay the same.

Everybody else's rates go up a little, owing to inflation, but yours stay put, in light of the prior paragraph here.

NOW ... at the start of the third year, the plan has paid a whole year's claims, and finds the premium wasn't enough to cover it all. So ... BOOM ... a big rate increase. Then, those who can get coverage elsewhere cheaper, do so, and they were the healthier folks in the group! And that's when the plan goes sour.

There have been some of these sorts of plans that were backed by an insurance company. So, shortfall comes out of their reserves, called "surplus".

There have been some of these sorts of plans that were self-funded ... uninsured ... enabled by ERISA some years ago. They usually simply fold up, leaving kazillions of sick people uninsured.

Then there's the government......

And while we're on the subject of "pre-existing conditions" ... let's say you're in charge of a big checking account. Guys who own cars put some money in every month, and then when one of them bends a fender somewhere, he brings you the repair bill and you pay it out of the checking account. You could call it sort of an "insurance exchange". In fact, there are some of those, all over the country.

Then one day a guy comes in with a car that's already smashed up. Says he wants to join the plan, pay the first month, and you pay to fix his car. If you were in charge, would YOU do that?

I didn't think so. But that's what health plans that agree to insure pre-existing conditions do. (Note there are some exceptions to this, in very large groups and particularly where you're leaving one insurance plan that covered the illness, and joining another one that would cover it. That's called "no loss - no gain".)

Insurance companies have to hold what's called "statutory reserves" as a hedge against unexpectedly high claims payouts. Then it has to have surplus .. undesignated money over and above their capital. Since our government is broke, what do THEY do when year #3, say, of the health plan turns sour?

Can you say "Higher Taxes"?

There you have it, folks. The whole mess is JUST THAT STUPID!


Had a bit of an epiphany this morning. Big enough, in fact, that I knew I had to write about it.

That's really a big deal, seeing that I have not been inspired to write in something over a month.

It all hinged around Proverbs 3:5 - 6......

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."

This is, incidentally, what I share with Deacons being ordained at FBC Pelham, and it's one of my favorite passages.

Anyway ... I  studied the verse long ago, digging into the original. I wanted to know how we could acknowledge Him in all our ways. What I found was ... according to this untrained guy in a pew ... the word "acknowledge" was "yada", meaning to perceive and see, to discern. And "ways" means our journey, the course of our life.

That's exactly what happened this morning when Kami ... our granddaughter-in-law ... dropped Mac off at our house so we could do a little baby-sitting. It struck me, as it always does, how much love she shows for Mac, in everything she does when she's around him. Peg and I have talked about that many times, in fact, what a good Mommy she really is.

What occurred to me this morning was that I have never heard Kami say that she loved Mac! But it is as obvious as anything can be that she does.

You can tell it by how she treats him! And how she goes out of her way to be prepared to treat him out of love. Always being prepared, always ready to feed, nurture, interact with him. To see to all his needs.

What really screamed at me this morning was I could see her love in all her ways, and this is the heart of Proverbs 3:6, for me ... that our love for God would show in everything we do in our relationship with Him, just as Kami's love for Mac shows in everything she does in relationship with Mac.

So the big question for me is: How do I discern Him ... perceive, see, discern ... Him in all my ways? That's certainly what I desire, as it's part of the abundant life which cause Jesus to come down here and live & die for us. Fortunately, He left us some clues as to how we can do that.

For instance: "If you love me, keep My commands". That's John 14:15.

Or maybe "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching".  John 14:23.

Commands and teachings. I see them as a bit different ... one instructs us what to do or not do, while the other goes to who we are and how we're to act. And to do the things we're instructed to do.

That seems pretty comprehensive. And the interesting part is He's not telling us to say how much we love Him. 

We get the lingo down pretty good. But it seems to me the mouth isn't the first place our love for Jesus shows up. Just as everyone, regardless of their faith, could easily see Kami's love for Mac, so anyone, regardless of the setting, should be able to see ours for the God Who has done indescribably precious things for us.

I want to "yada" His presence in all my ways.

May it be so in my life....

Friday, June 17, 2016


Figured that might get your attention.

Did a bit of checking and found that the flag we see here was actually the flag of the Northern Virginia Army, and was used unofficially as the Confederate battle flag. There were several different versions as to number of stars, height/width ratios, etc, but nonetheless it's the one we usually visualize when the topic comes up.

Which it did, this week, at the SBC Annual Meeting in St. Louis. Well, everybody else seems to be expressing an opinion on the Resolution decrying the display of the flag, so I might as well jump in, too.

Translation: haven't had much to write about, lately, so might as well pick up on this one.

Personally, I like the flag. But remember .. I was raised in Indiana, so I view it through the eyes of my childhood memories, associating the flag with the South, Dixie, The South Will Rise Again, and y'all. And I like all that.

Even the banjo on my knee.

OK. What are the reasons for displaying the flag, nowadays?



Uhhh .... tradition? I guess. I can't think of any other reason to fly the thing.

What are the reasons for NOT flying the flag. I can think of one, which is really sort of two. Namely, the flag was born of the Civil War, which was brought about by the practice of slavery. To one extent or another. And slavery is a historical fact, so why shy away from historical facts?

Because American slavery was racially based, and those in the Black Community might well be offended by celebrating that in any way.

Think of it. The Ku Klux Klan is a historical fact, but do we celebrate that by flying their flag? Or how about the American Communist Party? Or the American Nazi Party?

I've been to Germany a couple times. You don't see any Swastikas flapping in the breeze over there. In fact, there are "Documentation Centres" around the nation, displaying graphically and openly all the atrocities of the Wars and the Holocaust.


"That this may never happen again".

So, why the necessity to fly the Confederate flag? I guess I could make an argument for the same reason, but there's a bigger one to consider for us, as Christians (not just Baptists).

I said it a couple paragraphs ago. Some may be offended by it. And there's no "IF" about it, anyway. Rev. Dwight McKissic, who brought the Resolution before the meeting, has stated that he and his people do find it offends them. And just last week, a young black lady ... a member of FBC Pelham and a good friend ... happened into (a name God sometimes uses...) a restaurant where Peg and were having lunch. I invited her to sit with us, which she did, and knowing the resolution would come up this week, I asked her how she felt when she saw the Confederate flag (whatever you may call it).

She said she understood it, but still had some misgivings about it. Some troubling emotions.

Bingo! I told her that her feelings alone would be enough for me to never display the flag again (which I've never done, anyway).

1 Corinthians 8:9: "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak."

OK then. Let's act like we believe that. And let's be open about it, so we know the world will see us and our transgression, should we violate our duty to act like we believe what we profess.

Maybe that's one reason some seem reluctant to jump on the "no fly bandwagon". The world will see, and the world will know.

Good. But that gives rise to a few other thoughts.

We firmly believe in the Great Commission ... to make disciples as we are going. And we get all proud when numbers are up, and duly chagrined when attendance or churches or baptisms are down.

Which they are, at present.

We pay a lot of attention to those numbers, and talk about them a lot. But some numbers I don't hear about much are attendance, and what the reveals when compared to membership. Last numbers I saw published in the Alabama Baptist showed that, in the 6 biggest areas of Alabama, attendance represented 33.28% of membership.

That means, on the average, 66.72% of our members aren't studying or worshiping on Sunday. And remember ... attendance includes infants, toddlers, children who aren't members, and visitors!

It's hard to say we're fulfilling the Great Commission when 2/3 or more of the people sent to us, by God, think it's OK not to be there. And they think that because it is. We haven't insisted on attendance, and we haven't disciplined non-attenders.

I have to ask which is more important. The flag, or making disciples?

The answer is neither. It's like asking which wing on an airplane is more important. So ... where's the attention on making disciples, or our lack thereof?

Let's not just settle for a win in what's obvious.