Saturday, July 30, 2011


We took a tour of the ship’s galley when we were on a cruise a couple of weeks ago.

134 people work in it. 3,000 dinner plates, 7,000 dessert plates, 2,000 side plates, 5,000 glasses, etc. are washed daily. 4,000 dinner rolls, 800 croissants, etc., baked.

And an average cruise on the M. V. Oosterdam, consumes 12,000 lbs of meat, 3,900 lbs of poultry, 3,000 lbs of fish, 2,600 lbs of seafood, 13,800 lbs of vegetables, 23,000 eggs, 5,600 qts of dairy, 3,000 lbs of sugar, and 1,200 gallons of ice cream. Not to mention a million gallons of potable water. By 2,200 guests and 900 crew.

What an operation!

There’s an interesting story in Mark’s Gospel about a grander operation. It happens after Jesus had fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish (Mark 6), and after another episode where he had fed 4,000, this time with seven loaves and “a few small fish” (Mark 8). Jesus and his disciples are on a boat.

And they had forgotten to take bread,
and did not have more than one loaf
in the boat with them.
Mark 8:14

Yeah, but they did have one loaf. For 13 people.

They began to discuss with one another
the fact that they had no bread.
Mark 8:16

The 12 are worried. No bread. They could starve. They could wither away and die. Life is tough!

And Jesus, aware of this, said to them,
“Why do you discuss that you have no bread?
Do you not yet see or understand?
Do you have a hardened heart?  …
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves
for the five thousand,
how many baskets full of broken pieces
you picked up?”
They said to Him, “Twelve.”
“And the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many large baskets full
of broken pieces did you pick up?”
And they said to Him, “Seven.”
And He was saying to them,
“Do you not yet understand?”
Mark 8:1721

Nope, they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand that though they didn’t have any bread, they had the Bread of Life on board.

Well, they did have one loaf. But, nope, they didn’t understand that with that one loaf, their ratio of loaves:people was way better than 5:5000 or 7:4000 that Jesus had successfully fed. And that’s not calculating the residue and leftovers.

Forgotten. Not remembering. Ignorant. Faithless.

We, too.

But, the promise of God stands firm:

And my God will supply all your needs
according to His riches in glory
in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

All our needs! All!

Jesus explained it well:

“For this reason I say to you,
do not be worried about your life,
what you will eat or what you will drink;
nor for your body, what you will put on.
Is not life more than food,
and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air,
that they do not sow,
nor reap nor gather into barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not worth much more than they? …
Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’
or ‘What will we drink?’
or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’
For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things;
for your heavenly Father knows
that you need all these things.”
Matthew 6:2526, 3132

We have a Father who is aware. And so, instead of worrying we trust.

“But seek first His kingdom
and His righteousness, and
all these things will be added to you.”
Matthew 6:33

Give us this day our daily bread …

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Last month my father and I took a cruise to Alaska. Spectacular!  (Rest assured, you’ll see more of that trip in the aBeLOG.)

Glacier Bay in southeastern Alaska was one of the visual treats of this trip. The Bay has numerous inlets and lagoons and channels and islands, and is a popular cruise ship destination, especially in the summer, when folks like us attempt to escape, albeit briefly, the torrid temperatures of ye olde city called Dallas (101° yesterday).

The National Park Service, however, places restrictions on visiting vessels to Glacier Bay (which is part of the Glacier Bay National Park): only 2 cruise ships, 3 tour boats, 6 charter vessels, and 25 private boats can enter the Bay each day. Even then, in 2009, about 450,000 tourists visited Glacier Bay, 420,000 of them being cruise ship passengers.

Among the restrictions of Alaska waters is the requirement of a maritime pilot—one who guides ships through harbors and river mouths and bay inlets that are congested and/or dangerous.

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

For You are my rock and my fortress;
For Your name's sake
You will lead me and guide me.
Psalm 31:3

We had one come on board our ship as we entered Glacier Bay. The expert, navigating dangerous seas for us, to keep us safe.

As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boisterous waves obey Thy will,
When Thou sayest to them, “Be still!”
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.
Psalm 73:24

Yes, we might often feel we can handle it all. We might feel we are experienced captains in full control. We couldn’t be further from the truth: we need God.

Though the sea be smooth and bright,
Sparkling with the stars of night,
And my ship’s path be ablaze
With the light of halcyon days,
Still I know my need of Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

For such is God,
Our God forever and ever;
He will guide us until death.
Psalm 48:14
Life’s journey is long. Life’s journey is messy. Life’s journey is treacherous. Through it all, God’s presence through his Spirit, and the Word given to us, guide us.

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes,
He will guide you into all the truth.
John 16:13

And for those who have trusted in God’s Son as their only God and Savior, a passage to God’s presence is assured at death. For Jesus Christ paid the price of our sins.

When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
’Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me,
“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”
Edward Hopper, 1871

… the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
To shine upon those who sit in darkness
And the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.
Luke 1:78—79

And then at last, we’ll be at home!

"They will hunger no longer,
nor thirst anymore;
nor will the sun beat down on them,
nor any heat;
For Lamb in the center of the throne
will be their shepherd,
and will guide them
to springs of the water of life;
and God will wipe
every tear from their eyes."
Revelation 7:16—17

Amen (especially to that part about sun and heat)!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Ten years later, it’s over. At least as far as we can tell.

The last of the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, came out this week, closing the movie saga of the “Boy who Lived.”

A whole generation grew up with the bespectacled, magical boy with the lightning-shaped scar on his forehead, his friends, and a whole host of other beings, ordinary and otherwise, not to mention strange railway platforms, quidditch, and Hogwarts, a school of magic. (All with many Christian subthemes, I might add!)

Before movie doors opened on Friday at 00:01 hours, HPVII-2 had made over $30 million in tickets, breaking the record for midnight screenings, raking in $43 million. In the next 24 hours it had grossed over $92 million—a record for first-day sales, well on track to beat the opening-weekend record of The Dark Night—$158 million.  

If you haven’t read the book yet, you’re probably better off seeing the movie before reading it. Otherwise, you’re gonna be disappointed. I was.

Lots of things were changed in the movie. (I won’t give them away.)

But I don’t assign any blame for the change. It’s a function of the medium. There is no way all the nuances and subtleties of an exceptionally well-crafted tale (seven volumes of it—all intricately constructed, internally coherent, intentionally consistent) can be easily converted from ink and paper to light and celluloid. Just no way!

Each medium has its own advantages. In the film version, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the development of the characters over the years, chubby-cheeked Radcliffe (Potter) growing up to become a stubble-faced  teenager. I reveled in seeing what quidditch looked like. And Hogwarts. And platform 9¾. And giants. And goblins. And dragons. …

But the nuances and subtleties of the story? Nigh impossible to visualize on screen, even if the producer had 4+ hours (2 movies) to depict HPVII.

One scholar noted, a long time ago: “We have all heard it said that one picture is worth a thousand words. Yet, if this statement is true, why does it have to be a saying?” Indeed, why a saying (that has words) and not a picture (without words)?

Texts have some significant advantages. Communication of abstract thought is possible. Complicated ideas can be conveyed. Observations can be recorded. (Imagine science before the age of writing. How would one keep a record of experiments?) Deep and reflective thinking always involves texts. And so all deep and reflective religions have texts: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, ….

It is also possible to generate uniform and infinitely repeatable reproductions of texts, all at inexpensive rates that make texts easily accessible. No wonder that soon after Gutenburg came on the scene (1400s), a Luther rose (1500s), nailed a text to a wall of a church, and set in motion the Reformation. Actually it wasn’t the nailing of his 95 theses that did it; it was the printing of those theses and their easy dissemination that caused the revolution!

Yes, there’s something special about texts ….

Maybe that is why God chose to give us a book, the Bible.

Open my eyes, that I may behold 
Wonderful things from Your law.
Psalm 119:18
This is my comfort in my affliction, 
That Your word has revived me.
Psalm 119:50
O how I love Your law! 
It is my meditation all the day.
Psalm 119:97
Your word is a lamp to my feet 
And a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105
You are my hiding place and my shield; 
I wait for Your word.
Psalm 119:114

Thank God for the Text.

Saturday, July 09, 2011


My father and I visited the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field, south of downtown Seattle, a couple of weeks ago. One of the interesting displays that we could walk through was SAM 970, a modified Boeing 707, an erstwhile presidential aircraft, that was part of the presidential fleet from 1959 through 1996. This was the first jet to be designated to carry the U.S. President.

Exposed polished aluminum on the bottom, two blues on the sides: a slate blue representing the early republic and presidency and a cyan blue representing the present and future. Presidential seal on both sides near the nose. A large American flag on the tail. “United States of America” in all caps on the sides. And plush inside as befits a presidential carrier. Nice!

And no, its name is not Air Force One. It is SAM (“Special Air Mission”) 970. In fact, none of the planes in the presidential fleet is called Air Force One. They are all named SAMs, followed by a number. The current ones are SAM 28000 and SAM 29000. Air Force One is merely the official air traffic control call sign of any U.S. Air Force aircraft that bears the President of the United States. Of course, most often these are the earmarked SAMs, but any Air Force plane may bear the Air Force One call sign when the President is on board. So, when President Clinton did a short hop in March 1999 from Ankara, Turkey, to a local Naval Air Station on a Gulfstream III, that was Air Force One. Current President Obama and his family took a vacation in Maine last July, arriving in a similar aircraft, again with the call sign Air Force One, since the 747 SAMs were too large for the airport in Trenton, ME. On the other hand, when President George W. Bush completed his term, he flew back to Texas in 2009 on SAM 28000, but not with the call sign Air Force One.

I thought about that and realized that Christian is a similar label. If a person is the temple of the Holy Spirit, then he/she gets the “call sign” Christian. Of course, all those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ as their only God and Savior are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Thus, Christian.

… the love of God has been poured out
within our hearts
through the Holy Spirit
who was given to us.
Romans 5:5

And the contrary: no Christ, no Holy Spirit.

But if anyone does not have
the Spirit of Christ,
he does not belong to Him.
Romans 8:9

But to every believer in this age, the Holy Spirit is given, at the point of faith, when one puts one’s trust in Jesus Christ.

Or do you not know that your body is
a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you,
whom you have from God …?
1 Corinthians 6:19

And the Holy Spirit, unlike the U.S. President, abides with the believer forever. Hence our “call sign” forever will be Christian.

The Father … will give you another Helper,
that He may be with you forever,
the Spirit of truth,
… you know Him
because He abides with you
and will be in you.
John 14:1617

Among the many blessings of having the Holy Spirit indwelling us is the power He imparts to the believer to live according to the will of God.

I will put My Spirit within you and
cause you to walk in My statutes,
and you will be careful
to observe My ordinances.
Ezekiel 36:27

Bear the “call sign” with pride: Christian!

Sunday, July 03, 2011


Archaeologists have been pottering around in the ancient sewers below Herculaneum, one of those towns that, along with Pompei, was buried by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. In the sewers, they are searching, sifting through sacks of—guess what?—excrement. Apparently they discovered the largest accumulation of the good stuff in the Roman world: 750 sacks. Antique excrement. Probably worth a lot. Or so those experts claim.

And even if they were right, trash, excrement or otherwise, can be quite a problem.

They say Americans produce, on average, 150 million tons of garbage every year. That works out to be about 3 lbs of garbage per person each day. At this rate, the average U.S. person will generate 90,000 lbs in his/her lifetime!

Even outer space has not been spared; it’s fast becoming an extraterrestrial garbage heap. Over 15,000 pieces of flotsam and jetsam, from tiny paint flecks to huge 10-ton spent rocket stages, all whizzing around at 5 miles per second. That, folks, is at least ten times as fast as a bullet. Space junk. Dangerous junk.

Scientists warn of an imminent “Kessler effect”—a.k.a. “collisional cascading” or “ablation cascade,” put forth by NASA scientist Donald Kessler in the late 70s. The effect is this: with a high enough density of objects in “low Earth orbit” collisions between these debris could have a snowballing effect, each collision producing more particles of debris that increase the possibility of more collisions that produce more debris that cause more collisions that produce ….

Gosh, that might even render the use of satellites unfeasible, not to mention space exploration endeavors.

Yup, the Kessler syndrome is one dangerous possibility.

In more ways than one.

One thing leads to another and before you know it, there is a cascade. Of garbage and debris.

Of sin, too ….

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident,
which are: immorality, impurity,
sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery,
enmities, strife, jealousy,
outbursts of anger, disputes,
dissensions, factions, envying,
drunkenness, carousing,
and things like these.
Galatians 5:19–21

Sin begets sin. Little by little. Slowly but surely. One after the other.

The Kessler syndrome. The collisional cascade.One thing leads to another.

But those who want to get rich
fall into temptation and a snare
and many foolish and harmful desires
which plunge men into
ruin and destruction. 
For the love of money
is a root of all sorts of evil,
and some by longing for it
have wandered away from the faith and
pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 Timothy 6:9–10

Yup, one thing leads to another and before we know it, we’re slip slidin’ away into “many griefs.”

But if you have bitter jealousy
and selfish ambition in your heart,
do not be arrogant and
so lie against the truth.  … 
For where jealousy
and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every evil thing.
James 3:1416

Veering dangerously into “every evil thing.”

Kessler was right. But we can work it to our advantage. Peter said it well:

Now for this very reason also,
applying all diligence,
in your faith supply moral excellence,
and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 
and in your knowledge, self-control,
and in your self-control, perseverance,
and in your perseverance, godliness, 
and in your godliness, brotherly kindness,
and in your brotherly kindness, love.
2 Peter 1:5–7

You know, maybe it’s a good thing that one thing can lead to another!

For if these qualities are yours
and are increasing,
they render you neither useless
nor unfruitful in the true knowledge
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:8

Let’s Kesslerize: let one good thing lead to another!