Thursday, August 27, 2015

Is the Media Playing the Trump Card to get Hillary Elected?

POLITICAL RANT ALERT: Please change channels now if you can't handle it.

After watching CNN blather on this morning about Donald Trump, a couple of thoughts occurred to me when they showed the current poll with Trump way out in front of other Republican candidates (28%, nearest contender, Dr. Ben Carson, with something like 12%) ...
Can Dr. Ben Carson heal a broken GOP? (The Daily Beast)
When was the last time we heard the media elite profile ANYTHING Carson had to say? I've heard him speak, he's an incredibly intelligent fellow, and nodoubt has intelligent things to say. But you wouldn't know it by listening to CNN and the like. All they talk about is Trump said this arrogant thing, and Trump said that stupid thing, and Trump said this other angry thing. Every time he opens his fool mouth there's 100 cameras whirring.
We all know that the media elites would like for nothing more than to see Hillary get elected, but as things stand now she stands only the slimmest of chances. So what's the trump card they could play (pardon the pun), the only thing that might give Hillary a chance?
Dr. Ben Carson: #BlackLivesMatter misdirects righteous anger
to political convenient targets, ignoring true culprits. (USA Today)
It's Donald Trump, of course. If he doesn't get the numbers he wants and goes independent, he could split the Republican Party. If he stays and keeps blathering on, and somehow secures the nomination, I'd like to see a poll indicating how many Republicans (like me) would leave the party and declare themselves Independents. Once again, potentially throwing the election to HIllary.
Trump is by far the media's best (possibly only real) chance to actually get Hillary elected. No wonder they're talking about him 24x7. God forbid they should give any profile to an intelligent candidate like Carson.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Taking the Kingdom of God by Violence

Occasionally I publish posts here reflecting my conversations with Global Media Outreach contacts who are seeking to learn about Jesus or grow in their relationship with Christ. I serve as a volunteer "online missionary" with this great organization that is reaching millions of people with the Gospel, all online. (If you'd like to know more about how to get trained and serve in this way, please let me know.)

One thing I love about my contacts, and particularly those in developing nations, is the astute theological questions that they ask. These questions always force me to study Scripture to find an answer, which always blesses me immensely (and hopefully blesses them as well).

One young man from Nigeria, with whom I have been corresponding extensively, recently asked:
"Please share your understanding or opinion of this verse: 'The kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent take it by force.'"
That was a very interesting question, because I had been perplexed by that verse many times but had never received sufficient motivation to truly dig into it. But now I had it! His question spurred me to read a number of evangelical commentaries on Matthew 11:12, and the scholars who wrote them all seem to more or less agree on an interpretation which makes very good sense to me, now that I've studied it through. And I also think it has some incredible applications to things we struggle with here, today, in America ... far, far away from Nigeria! (Where the church obviously struggles with many other issues.)

Here's how I responded to my contact:

Context is always important, but it's extremely important here in this passage in Matthew 11. Jesus has been speaking about his cousin and precursor, John the Baptist, who is now sitting in prison. John "made straight the way" for Jesus by preaching repentance of sin, baptizing, and pointing toward the coming Kingdom.

The sequence (in Matthew 11) really starts in verse 3 when John (from prison) sends his disciples to inquire of Jesus whether He truly is the one to come, or whether they should expect another?

We know that the Jews longed for deliverance from Roman oppression, and expectation was high that the coming Messiah would provide that deliverance. But it didn't seem to be happening. Jesus didn't appear to be in any hurry to raise an army. And so one can understand why John, sitting in a Roman prison, was growing tired of waiting. He essentially asks: "Jesus, are you truly the Messiah? If so, WHEN are you going to bring the promised deliverance?" (I.e., "WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?")

Perhaps even John the Baptist, whom Jesus said was the greatest prophet ever born, didn't fully understand the nature of the Kingdom that Christ was ushering in.

In that context, Jesus' words in verse 12 make more sense: "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it." In their impatience for deliverance, crowds had thronged to the counter-cultural John. And they were doing the same thing to Jesus, in an even greater way. The New Testament tells us that even His own relatives sought to take Him by force and make Him their king. Why? They were all tired of waiting for military deliverance from the Romans. They wanted to "take matters into their own hands." (Sound familiar?)

I think the message for us, today, is that God's ways are not our ways. He does not bring the Kingdom to us on our terms, He brings it on His terms. In Christ's day, that meant turning the other cheek and laying down your life for those you loved ... not raising up an army.

How Does This Apply To Us, Today?

We may be passionate for the blessings and benefits of God's kingdom, as the hearers of both John and Jesus were. Here in America, we struggle mightily with a false teaching called the "prosperity gospel" (also known as "word of faith"). Some preachers teach that God does not want you to be poor, he wants you to be wealthy. All you need to do is name it and claim it. These preachers are ravenous wolves who fleece gullible people who are tired of living in a cycle of poverty and want to have nice things.

This false Gospel is (in a sense) an attempt by violent (passionately greedy) men to "take the Kingdom of God by force" -- to make it after their own image, to define it to be what they in their own flesh want it to be and not what God wants it to be.

But Christ will never allow that to happen. Ultimately, He is the head of the Body and the Body exists to serve Him and His plan. He is the one who decides what the Kingdom is and will become. That is why we must commit ourselves to following His lead (which is completely different than thronging Him and seeking to misuse His name to get what WE want).

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Comcast is evil ...

... they bugged us for months about "upgrading" our modem (which I pay them a monthly rental fee for, like an idiot) to the latest, greatest, fastest, newest tower model. It includes an integrated wireless router which they promised would deliver greater speed. (I have "TriplePlay" with a home phone, which I didn't even want and tried to get rid of, but they were going to increase my price to remove this "service." But the home phone of course depends on their leased router.)

So I finally relent and they send this me this magnificent new device. I spend hours getting the old one all untangled and unplugged and the new one installed, only to discover:
  1. Now I'm locked into a new (Comcast-provided) network name and password. Apparently I can't change either.
  2. Therefore I have to go through all my devices (Sony set, Blue Ray, 2 Chromecasts, and wireless setups on 2 phones) and update my network settings to the new network SSID and password. Plus I have to tell everyone else who visits our home who depends on our wireless. I spent hours doing this yesterday.
  3. The new wireless signal is EXTREMELY WEAK (5 bars on the old one, 3 on the new) and crawls like a baby. I can no longer access any of my apps or features on the Sony set or Blue Ray (like Netflix), it's simply too slow and times out. On my laptop wireless, internet runs so slow I can no longer effectively use Facebook. (Which as a social media professional, is part of MY JOB.)
  4. The new tower is broadcasting some sort of new public wireless internet access point into our neighborhood (independent of my private home network -- see the linked article for confirmation). This has GOT to be affecting my bandwidth somehow, since it's all feeding through that little coax cable sticking out of my wall. (And the electricity, which I also pay for, is powering all this.)
I've joked before about how Comcast's goal is apparently world domination: to get you completely dependent on all their services so you can never disentangle yourself, and then to ream you with escalating bills from now until the day you die. And possibly longer. And now you can add to that something I never thought possible: they charge you for the privilege of providing wifi access to OTHER customers who are also paying them for it! What's wrong with this picture?

I swear, at this point I'm ready to cut my losses, throw in the towel now, and try to find some podunk internet provider who cares. I shudder to say it ... but Century Link? Any other suggestions?
I'm also considering joining this lawsuit against Comcast ... what do you think?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fire Morels

Morels in the griddle, simmering in butter and Tawny
Port over a open maplewood fire, with tri-tip steaks
and asparagus waiting to be sauteed in the gravy.
Okay, this is very possibly the best meal in the world, so I had to brag about it a little bit here and make your mouth water.

Last weekend my sister Kay and I went up to the Carlton Complex Fire burn area (off highway 153 in the Methow Valley, between Twisp and Pateros, in the region northern Washington state where the Cascades slope majestically down to the eastern plains). Our goal was to hunt first-year Fire Morel mushrooms, which typically spring up in such a burn area that has swept through Douglas Fir or other candidate trees at certain altitudes.

In case you're not aware, Morels (Morchella tomentosa, M. esculenta, M. conica and similar species) are considered to be among the best eating mushrooms in the world. They grow in many areas of the world and are common in the northwestern and northeastern parts of the U.S.A. during the spring. Michigan is probably the state where they grow in greatest abundance. They grow predominantly in the wild, although I have read about one facility in Michigan that has learned the complex secret to domesticating Morels and growing them in the laboratory.

For a reason not everyone understands, but probably relates to soil chemistry, Morels (particularly M. tomentosa, the greys) are most abundant in the spring in areas that have previously experienced a forest fire. They grow most abundantly the first spring after the fire. They are lean the second spring, but if the second spring has been relatively dry and the third spring gets good rains, they can come back. The fourth spring is the leanest of all, then they return to normal levels of rarity after that.

Kay can hike the slopes like a mountain goat, if there
are possibly any Fire Morels to be found up there.
They also grow occasionally in areas of timber that has been harvested, and in old apple orchards primarily in the Northeast. Here in the Puget Sound region, we occasionally get them in beauty bark beds, which contain ground bark from Douglas Fir trees which I assume have hosted the Morchella mycelium. I'd been looking (fruitlessly) in the forests of Puget Sound for them for years, when a friend who lived a mile away sent me a snapshot of a mushroom growing in his lawn. "It looks like a dog turd," he said. "What is it?" I recognized it immediately as a Morel, and quickly rid him of his infestation.

There are several varieties of "false Morel" so you have to know what you're doing, harvesting them. There are Verpa bohemica (which grow in lowlands under the cottonwoods common in this area), which look and taste a lot like true Morels, and most people can eat them (if cooked well, as you also have to do wtih true morels), but a higher degree of incidental allergies occur with them. The Wikipedia page on Verpa says they are "edible if properly prepared." (By the way, check out the meaning of "Verpa" on that page. I won't repeat it here!) The most telling difference between Verpa and Morchella is that the latter is hollow inside, whereas the former is filled with white fluff.

My son and I have also found "Snow Morels," Gyromitra (gigas or montana), which look a bit like a calf brains or disfigured black morels (though the color is more reddish). They are also said to have an excellent flavor, but have a toxin related to hydrazine (the primary component in rocket fuel) which must be cooked out first (avoiding the fumes). And even so most experts advise not eating them due to the risk, according to what I've read. The ones we found, we threw out. Better safe than sorry.

Anyway, last Sunday afternoon we started hunting about 3 p.m. By 6 p.m. we had thoroughly searched two of the three canyons that we had identified as potential candidates on a map, but hadn't yet turned up a single Morel. (We did find one lonely Bolete! Slightly off-season.)

There were several mushroom buyers who had set up shop down in the town of Carlton, so we descended the mountain to go talk with them. While there, we saw a number of hunters coming in with bins full of Fire Morels. I struck up a conversation with one, and told him we'd been hunting all afternoon and hadn't found any. He laughed out loud.

"It took me three days up here, hunting, before I got into my first patch," he said. "But once I figured out where they were hiding, it wasn't too bad."

I was glad he shared that. I didn't feel as bad then about my lack of patience.

I told the mushroom buyer I didn't want to return home empty-handed (we only had time to go check one more canyon before dark fell), and asked if he could sell me any. He said he couldn't, but he would give one of the sellers from whom he was buying permission to sell to me instead! "I was going to pay this guy $7 a pound for his top grade Morels," he shared. "Ask him what he would sell them to you for."

The answer was $10 per pound. Which was way less than I expected to pay for top-grade, table-ready Fire Morels*. So they sorted through his bins of blacks and greys (and a few blondes), and weighed out slightly more than a pound into my bag. I paid him $10.60, and then tipped the buyer my remaining change ($4.40) for his generosity. Even $15 didn't seem too bad (to me) for reaping part of the benefit of his three days of work (and our five hours of fruitless searching).

After we thus procured something to show for our trouble, we went and hunted in our third canyon, once again without finding anything, until it became too dark to continue. Kay helped herself to a few of the morels I'd purchased, and we parted ways.

The weather turned nasty that night on the way home, and a bad accident involving a hapless deer and a trailer full of motorbikes in the lanes right in front of me delayed my return until about 1:30 a.m. But, despite all the bad luck, I returned home a happy hunter with my nearly-a-pound of top grade morels.

Nathan and I found these nice Black Morels during our Spring 2014 hunt.
Most of what we found, we located in the first hour of two full days of
hunting. And we ate them all that first night!
And Monday night my son and his wife came over and we cooked them up into the meal pictured above: tri-tip steaks seared in a cast iron skillet then grilled over an open flame fueled with chunks of maple hardwood. The morels were sauteed in the meat juicy pan with butter and a sweet Tawny Port. The gravy that resulted was then used to saute a nice bunch of asparagas. With more butter.

Add mashed potatoes and watermelon chunks, and wash it all down with a nice Cabernet, and we duplicated for our spouses the meal that Nathan and I had enjoyed in the mountains of Eastern Washington following our first successful morel hunt in the spring of 2014.

"What did you think?" I asked my wife, after dinner.

"They were good," she said, "but after years of you talking about how wonderful Morels are, I think you set my expectations a little too high. They're just mushrooms, after all. And it must be disappointing to have to buy them, after driving all that way."

Grrr.

Where we hunted was about a four-and-a-half hour drive from home. Each way. But, I don't regret it. It's the Mighty Morel we're talking about here, after all! And it's not every day you get to enjoy one. I do plan to go back, once or twice more before the season is over. And find one (or hopefully more), I will!

*About Morel grading: Three grades are used to describe a Morel just brought in from the field. Grade 1 means table ready -- crisp and fresh. Grade 2s have some flaws which relegate them to "dehydrate only" status. And grade 3s are moldy, or broken, or floppy, and otherwise not worthy even of being dehydrated. They are usually thrown out behind the tent, into a pile which the buyer hopes will, next year, spring forth some nice, new mushrooms right near his buying spot!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A new twist on spam ... does this amount to blackmail?

I receive a lot of spam and phishing emails, many telling a very sad story, but the one I received this morning takes the cake. It appears designed to prey on gullible pro-lifers. I am the latter, but hopefully not the former.

Here is the email I received this morning:

From: fira moga [mailto:mogafira1@gmail.comSent: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 1:03 AMTo: Larry Short - USSubject: urgent helloo my name is firanol am from Ethiopia I am christian and i do have girl friend accidentally my girl friend got pregnant and now she has an appointment to abbort it. we are both student now am inviting you to save this child please help us not to commit this sinfull act. we need money to grow this child and she need comfirmation from me if i can get money to grow up this child am doing this with faith because your mission in this world is to save life and make jesus happy and your comfirmation for the reality is holly sprit. am waiting for your response may be you are the one to save this child may be this is not the right place for this message but you can invite others who can do this


I originally considered simply tossing the email into the spam folder, but after some thought and prayer, I replied as follows:

No, my friend, YOU (and your girlfriend) are the only ones who can make such a decision to save your child’s life. (If indeed there is a child at stake here, and this is not a scam, as it appears.) I would happily give all that I own to do this, if it were true, but obviously I do not know you and cannot determine whether that’s the case. And, certainly it would not be wise to just pay out money to someone I don’t know who makes such a claim on email. This essentially amounts to blackmail. The decision rests with you alone. I am praying that you will do the right thing, and I know that God will take care of you and your family if you do. -          Larry

Have you received email messages like this? How would you respond if you did? What's the most manipulative or heart-wrenching scam email you've ever received?

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Snookered by the Today Show

Today I was completely "snookered" by the Today Show.

Today Show reporter Madame Snooker with a very
officious-sounded Mr. Archaeologist in Jerusalem
"at the very (alleged) tomb of Jesus!"
I normally consider myself a fairly snooker-resistant person. The daily emails that come from Nigerian princes who for some reason want to give me millions of dollars, I dutifully ignore. Ditto for the emails I receive informing me that my bank account security has been compromised and urging me to log in and reset my password.

But this one completely got me. Perhaps it got you, too. At the beginning of the popular Today show they teased a story they said "could change everything." And indeed, it sounded quite dramatic: "Scientists believe they have found the lost tomb of Jesus. And buried inside may be his wife and his son! Stay tuned, you won't want to miss this."

And honestly, against my better judgment, I didn't want to miss such an amazing story. As a person who loves (and believes) the biblical account of Jesus' life, this would indeed be big news. Because:
  1. According to the Gospels, Jesus never married,
  2. hence He never had a son. And,
  3. perhaps most importantly, the Gospels tell us Christ's body was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, where it lay until the third day ... when the power of God RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD.
In case you missed the story (the one in the Bible, not the farce on the Today Show), Jesus appeared to His followers, several times and in several different places, then finally called them all together to commission them before He ascended ... STILL ALIVE ... to take up His well-earned place as the eternal Lord of Lords and King of Kings at the right hand of His Father in Heaven.

So, if Jesus' body is still in a tomb down here somewhere, that is indeed Big News. It does indeed change everything. If true it would prove the most-loved book in human history to be a fabrication, the most powerful story ever told to be a big lie, and the whole idea of God Himself would be called into serious question. For me personally, I'm not sure what the point of continued (and very temporary) existence would be.

So I made the decision: I would wait and watch the story to see just what sort of "proof" they had conjured up.

Here's the snookering part ... this was one of those stories that they teased with a good hook, and kept doing so throughout the entire tedious hour-long broadcast, only to present it at the very end. So I had to endure all the rest of the relatively meaningless drivel they call news, not to mention all those hideous ads, before they finally got to the Big Story.

And what was that proof? That big story? Let me summarize it for you here ...

... some little-known archaeologist opened up a crypt of some sort in the middle of Jerusalem, right between two apartment buildings. Apparently there are a lot of these crypts around, supposedly dating from the first century. There was some dust inside that may or may not have been human remains. They made a big show of very official-looking scientists scooping it up into vials as if they were going to do some fancy DNA tests or something.

(And I'm curious ... if you are testing for Jesus' DNA, what exactly are you looking for, anyway? Half of the strand points to mom, but the other half does WHAT precisely? Does God's DNA glow or something? Of course, if you don't believe Jesus was raised by God from the dead, you probably don't believe he was actually the Son of God, either ... do you?)

But no, there was no big announcement regarding DNA, disappointingly. When it boiled down to it ... drumroll, please ... the big evidence was that this crypt had the names "Joseph," "Mary" and "Jesus" inscribed on it.

At this point I was at a bit of a loss. How exactly did this prove that Jesus was married? And had a son? They didn't really explain. The only thing they mentioned was James Cameron's crazy and unsubstantiated theory, derived I think from an apocryphal account which has been thoroughly debunked, about Jesus supposedly marrying Mary Magdalene and impregnating her before He was killed and buried. If this sounds familiar, you've probably been reading some of Dan Brown's entertaining works of fiction. Which I think may be where James Cameron came up with his theory. I'm not sure who's the chicken and who's the egg here.

Anyway, simply referencing the James Cameron theory seemed to be the end of that train of thought. Quite disappointing.

And as to the other "proof," the names etched in stone, one has to ask a few rather embarrassing questions. For instance:

Was Christ's the only first-century family with members named Joseph, Mary, and Jesus? Slate Magazine doesn't seem to think so:
Christ's given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee .... Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus' death.
WHAT?!? You mean Jesus is buried in 70 other places around Jerusalem too?

Also, the Patheos blog "The Secular Outpost" says Jesus was "the sixth most-common name for Jewish males of the time period." Joseph and Mary were also very common names, by the way.

And that's assuming that the inscription was referring to who was actually buried there, and wasn't added by someone at some point as some sort of a blessing or epitaph on whoever was buried there. All kinds of possible explanations.

So, I've been kicking myself all day for wasting an hour listening to this kind of hogwash, when I could have been out walking in the sunshine and enjoying the morning air. I may or may not start watching the Today Show again once they stop getting their news second-hand from the National Enquirer.

But, on second thought, I guess this type of thing should be good for your faith. If hacks like those desperate writers at The Today Show seem to have to obviously dig so hard for dirt to throw at the magnificent name of Jesus this time of year, then the Easter message must really be getting through to somebody, right?

So, let's all repeat it together, shall we:

"HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!"

Monday, March 30, 2015

Celebrating a transition to Glory

Today we're reflecting on the life and legacy of Darlene​'s dad, Frederick W. French, who passed peacefully into glory on the morning of March 30 at about 3:30 a.m. in Victorville, CA. He was 95. For many years Fred had been anticipating this homegoing, and we are very grateful that he is now in the arms of the Savior he was so excited about seeing face-to-face.

Fred was a beautiful example to us: of single-minded devotion to Jesus, of care and concern for his family, and of integrity with all with whom he did business. Before he retired he was a valued agent of Allstate insurance, and at one point was celebrated as what they called a "Life Millionaire" for his extraordinary life insurance sales.

After he retired and they moved to live full-time in Wrightwood (where they had vacationed for many years), he worked tirelessly with his son-in-law Jerry and other contractor friends to build and sell custom homes in that community. His fingerprints are on many of the beautiful homes in that quaint mountain town.

He also loved (and even composed) sacred music. He kept a tape recorder on the bed stand near where he slept because he would often dream of tunes, and woke to hum them into the recorder for later development. He even produced a tape recording of his songs at one point after "retirement."

Fred led such an interesting life. When he was a teenager growing up poor on a farm in New York he came down with tuberculosis, then incurable, and spent seven years in a sanitarium. That's where he met Dottie (also a patient). After a cure was developed they were both treated and released, whereupon they married and moved from New York State to California, where they grew their young family, attended evangelistic services and received Christ, and helped start a vital and growing young church. (Darlene had 3 siblings. Her younger sister, Lori, passed away at the tender age of 14. Her older sister is Sharon bonds, and her older brother Gary French.)

In his latter years, Fred dictated his fascinating life story to Dottie, who typed it out and passed it along to us. Darlene and I had the privilege of putting it together into a small autobiographical book which you can now read on Amazon Kindle.

Fred touched many lives and I know many people will be saddened to hear of his passing. Please be in prayer for Dottie (also 95), and the rest of the family as we travel and gather together to celebrate on Saturday, April 18. We do hope you will also rejoice with us in the sure hope promised in Psalm 116:15 — "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."