Friday, December 01, 2017

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON THE EVE OF DECEMBER

It's about 11:20 p.m. on the last day of November. Tomorrow (or perhaps today, depending on when you are reading this) is December 1. Thirty one days until the end of another trip around the sun for me and the start of a new journey (cryptic, enigmatic way of saying December 31 is my birthday). I've had a good night of study and I've listened to some Christmas music ("Santa's Sequel Sellouts", a volume from the annual revered Tanner's 25 Days of Christmas Music).

Since I'm not quite ready for bed yet, I thought I'd just string together a few random thoughts and observations. No sparkling prose here, folks, just good old fashioned "thinking through my keyboard."

It's been four years since I've written about the "War on Christmas." I think I'm due for another edition. But to summarize my position in as few words as possible, I think the expression "Happy Holidays" is silly, not sinister. Honestly, retailers, when you've got your store decked out in Christmas decorations, is anybody really fooled when you use "Happy Holidays?" Seriously? But on the other hand, the poor clerk who follows orders and says "Happy Holidays" is not the emissary of Satan out to destroy the Christian faith. All we have to do is smile, say "thanks," and maybe wish them a "Merry Christmas."

You'll have to read it to understand this, but Ezekiel 7 is pretty clear and understandable. And that's what makes it so unsettling. 

Old blog with new makeover: Telegrams From My Own Mind Field, written by O. Dean Neal. Agree or disagree, he has some interesting insights.

Grateful for the church's computer tech, who fixed an unsettling problem at my station with just a few keystrokes. Too bad all our challenges couldn't be corrected that quickly.

A little touch of melancholy: another year is passing by without being able to visit my home state of Colorado. Money and time always seem to be a factor. I'm not totally depressed, nor do I obsess over it to the point of distraction. I know the time will come. I have a list of things I want to do when I'm there, so the anticipation is good. So if you're family or friend from there, watch out! If I don't know when I'm showing up, then you sure don't know either!

One of my personal traditions when I drive home after Thanksgiving dinner is to put on Mannheim Steamroller's "Hallelujah Chorus", crank the volume up higher than usual, and, frankly, rock out as I'm driving. During the Christmas season, I also make it a point to listen to The Young Messiah, The New Young Messiah, and, of course, the traditional Messiah--yes, the whole thing.

Although this seemed like a short read, it has taken enough time to write that I now feel comfortable heading to bed. Good night one and all.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

MY FIRST PUBLISHING EFFORT: WHAT WENT WRONG?

It was the late 1970s. My hair was a little thicker and my waist was decidedly not. I was the very model of a minor major uhhhhh...pick your label: geek, nerd, brainiac. I was the top of my class, active in speech and debate and drama, and my budding writing career was still in development.

I was also a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. I had felt God's call to the ministry back when I was a sophomore in high school and I fervently prayed for His leading as to how that would play out in my life. Meanwhile, I wanted to spread the good news of the gospel using whatever means at my disposal.

And CRA was born. A friend and I were discussing how to use our talents and abilities for the Lord. And we came up with CRA.  CRA would become a leading publisher and distributor of Christian literature, gospel tracts, study guides, and more. It would become the launching pad for Christian novels and comics, allowing us to write and create. I could picture the shelves of books and pamphlets in our garage, ready to be packed and shipped to a number of bookstores and churches.

But first, we needed to write something.

So my friend and I brainstormed ideas and concepts and formats, and, after several weeks, we came up with the idea and plot for our first book: The Coming of the Agents of CRA. Two Christian young men help a young woman stranded on the side of the road, only to become stranded themselves. Finding a house in which they can seek shelter and use a phone, the trio meet the mysterious owner who has a secret (cue dramatic, mystery music). Spoiler alert: because it was to be an evangelistic tool, the young men share the gospel with the woman and with the mysterious homeowner.

Concept and outline in hand, I sat down to do the actual writing. My senior year was wrapping up and college was looming, so I worked hard to hopefully get this great work published before I left town. Using whatever spare money we could gather together, we rented a post office box for an address, then paid a Christian printer in town to do the actual publishing. This printer had created gospel tracts and reprinted books, so we knew we were in sound, professional hands. The Coming of the Agents of CRA, the flagship publication of CRA, was ready for is public debut.

It was bad.

Okay, Coming was not that bad. But it lacked several things:
  • Proofreading, editing, revisions, rewrites. In short, everything a professional writer would pour into a book. While my submission was not quite a first draft, it was light years away from being a polished manuscript. I was in a hurry and it showed.
  • Length. On paper, Coming looked a lot longer than it was. It certainly felt longer as I was writing it. When I finished the manuscript, I remember the sigh of relief after spending so much time on the thing. But the finished product was, at best, about the length of a short story, and, at worst, the size of a magazine article.Unless the printer was going to use 100 point type, we weren't looking at a 300 page novel.
  • Publishing. I visualized a standard size paperback, maybe with a textured cover with a heavier weight. The typesetting would be professional, with left and right margins straight and even, and even if it was short, it would still look like a quality booklet.
    What we ended up with made my heart sink. I don't remember the exact measurements, but I think it was roughly 2.5 x 2.5 inches, printed on standard paper. The courier type looked fresh from a typewriter, and some of the pages looked uneven. It was as if a couple of high school kids handed a printer what little money they could scrape up and expected something that came from the presses of a New York publishing company (which is pretty much what happened).  And, by the way, I don't blame the printer--he is a lifelong friend who probably did the best he could with the little bit of cash we gave him. But looking at it now, I cringe a little.
  • Distribution plan. Our original plan was to send complimentary copies to local and nationally known pastors and organizations, in hopes that it would stir up further interest. Sadly, our distribution plan was limited by the amount of money to buy stamps and envelopes and pay monthly box rent. My friend did the bulk of the work in this, as I had moved to San Diego to attend college. We were hoping maybe Billy Graham or Jerry Falwell would have read Coming and endorsed it, maybe offer it in exchange for a love gift of whatever or more. But the only acknowledgement we received from the "big names" was a "welcome to our mailing list" newsletter. And I don't know if anyone actually got saved after reading it (although, maybe they did...if God could speak through a donkey, He could easily have used the message in Coming of the Agents of CRA.)
  • Internet. This isn't a 20-20 hindsight observation, it's more of a time warp situation. Nearly every issue mentioned above could have been solved in our modern computer age. I've written and designed flyers, bulletin inserts, and other literature pieces that look really nice (if I do say so myself). Knowing what I know now, I feel I could not only publish a good looking print edition of Coming, but we could even distribute it online.
    Alas, we were a few decades too early. 
So today I'm bald and working hard at losing the weight that I have gained. But as I think back over The Coming of the Agents of CRA, I realize just how much I've learned and grown as a writer, minister, speaker, and person. Every author has that first book or first story which they wish they could hide away. Every preacher has that first sermon. Every singer has an early demo tape. Every actor remembers their role as bellhop #2. As I near the publication of my upcoming book (please don't ask me when, it's not that near), I look back with a certain amused pride that I am, indeed a published author, with that first work that I have hidden away. And who knows? Maybe one day,  you'll see the revised, expanded edition of The Coming of the Agents of CRA. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

CONFESSIONS AND ADJUSTMENTS: CHANGES AT "INCOMPREHNSIBLE"

It is 10:13 a.m. on Tuesday. I am in the midst of my morning routine of reading the Scripture and praying, working out, eating breakfast, and watching the news. I hammered out some more on my best selling novel which will hit bookstores sometime after I hit it a few more times (in other words, I'm not finished yet!). It's been a fairly decent, if not routine, morning. Before long, I will be getting ready to go to my (paying) job.

So now it's time to think about my other ongoing project: "the blog."

Someone asked me recently about the fact that I haven't posted any entries lately. I didn't have a good response, except that was a good topic about which to blog. It seems like my lack of blog activity comes down to two things: 1. Lack of time and 2. Lack of focus.

I could probably manage the time thing better. I have seen and used those charts that track my day in 15 minute intervals and I clearly have chunks of time that some may consider "wasted." I won't try to defend these moments, but sure--I can do better. And compared to some seasons in my life, I am doing much, much better. So chalk up time management to an ongoing process.

The deal with lack of focus is somewhat related to time. You see, I have a very vivid imagination and a very active brain. When I watch the news, I will often carry on an imaginary dialogue with the politician, activist, or celebrity, systematically refuting his or her points. I'm constantly reviewing my teaching notes in my mind or plotting my next creative endeavor.

But what happens is when I start to put everything to writing. Blogging is a wonderful way to express one's views, opinions, and personality. It's been said that blogging is one of the last, truest forms of free speech. And I want to opine on everything. My day's activities, my latest ideas and encouragements in the area of children's ministry, the notes from a message I gave, a summary of my vacation or day trip, an analysis of the President's speech, an evaluation of the latest legislation affecting families, a review of the latest movie, a look at my hobby, a promotion of my book (look for it in bookstores--when it's finished!), and a dozen other thoughts clamor for my blogging attention. And did I mention, I want to do it now? Right now. This minute.

I don't know if this a "thing," but my writing activities often suffer from "priority paralysis." I don't know what to do first, so I end up not doing anything. And that, dear reader, is why I don't post as much as I could/should/want to. Do I want to spend an hour plus writing a summary of a great kids' curriculum for Sunday School when a congressman just said something inflammatory and wrong during a speech? Hey, it's a great curriculum and I can't wait to let my kidmin friends know what I think about it, but I really need to add some balanced, cool-headed analysis to shed some light on the politician's speech. So, I write nothing.

So, I started thinking. I got out my yellow pad (the greatest invention for the enhancement of human thought) and asked, "what do I want to talk about?" I started this blog about 12 years ago. A quick scan of the topics show that "INCOMPREHENSIBLE" has often had a bit of an identity crisis. So I'm going to focus, organize, and compartmentalize my thoughts. So this blog will now be a home for children's ministry/adult ministry related items and personal reflections on stuff in my life. I am in the process of creating new homes for all things political/current events, pop culture, and even hobby related. And yes, when I feel I'm ready, I'll start pushing my book on its own blog.

I cannot guarantee that each of these blogs will appear on this particular platform. I may use a pen name for some of the columns. I may even use invited posters from time to time. But hopefully, by structuring my blogging in this fashion, I can focus on one subject at a time without wondering how to fit it all into INCOMPREHENSIBLE.

As always, I welcome your feedback and comments (unless you're a spammy robot; in which case, move along!).

Thursday, June 01, 2017

PAYBACK TIME AND SEVERED HEADS

I was about to swear off political posts, but thoughts began to flood my mind late into last night and I figured I ought to write something. I did this in a hurry, so if you notice some spelling, grammatical, or other mechanical irregularities, please forgive me. And, as always, I welcome your comments, but be nice and respectful. We're all friends here.

Kathy Griffin held up what looked like the severed head of the President. An amazing backlash ensued from across the political spectrum, with pundits and pollsters, liberals and conservatives, in rare agreement that this crossed the line. CNN severed ties with Ms. Griffin and there's even talk of a Secret Service investigation. Kathy Griffin even publically apologized for the incident.

But it really did not come as a big surprise that "counter memes" began appearing, showing pictures of President Obama being lynched, hung, stabbed, and mutilated and the posters wondering why "conservatives" weren't that upset at those acts of disrespect.

I can't speak for all conservatives, but as a conservative, yes, I was upset at the disrespectful way President Obama was treated. As I've written before, I have a personal code about respecting the highest office of the land. This includes being careful to use the title President (or alternatively, Mister) when referring to the POTUS, avoiding the use of derogatory nicknames, giving the man the benefit of the doubt and not pouncing on every rumor or allegation, and certainly, not supporting anything suggesting harm or violence against the President.

But one of the myths that "my side" has propagated is that conservatives sat nobly on the sidelines in stoic, respectful silence during the last eight years of Mr. Obama's presidency. Ummm, no. we. did. not. Smarting over the trashing that President Bush received by liberals, we jumped at Mr. Obama and jumped hard. Derogatory nicknames, pushing rumors, and joking about shooting or hanging the President were common place. Some of my conservative friends even went as far as to declare that Obama was "not my President." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

And now it's payback time, with the liberal left out for revenge. And while we can all agree that Kathy Griffin's horrifying display was, well, horrifying and that it crossed the proverbial line and that it was uncalled for, the fact is, it didn't stop her from doing it in the first place.

The severed head picture is only a visual representation of the overwhelming disrespect accorded to Mr. Trump since before the election. Barely past the first 100 days of the Trump presidency, the liberal left has vowed to resist, counter, stand against, and fight tooth and nail against anything and everything the President does or says. Instead of allowing us to weigh all the evidence and draw our own conclusions, many news outlets declare Mr. Trump's statements false in the headline itself! I mean, why bother reading the article when the reporter has already reached the conclusion for me?

So does Ms. Griffin's stunt sadden and anger me? Yes.

Does it surprise me? No.

We live in a wonderful country, where we are free to disagree with our leaders. And just as I could list the areas in which I disagreed with the politics, policies, and philosophies of President Obama, I could start a list for President Trump.  I can almost guarantee that I will make both sides mad at me to some degree.That's America, people.

But as long as every negative word, every disagreement, every counter-proposal is characterized as "hate speech," we will grow insensitive to truly hateful speech and actions and we will create a climate that seeks to "dish it out" in the same or greater measure. "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." (feel free to supply your own cliché at this point).

My prediction is that, before long, Kathy Griffin will attempt to defend her photo shoot by saying that Mr. Trump provokes that reaction in her. Bit by bit, her fans and celebrity friends will come to her aid, maybe invoking the first amendment, but most certainly saying that Ms. Griffin is only responding to the same heat unleashed on President Obama by the right.

And the cycle will continue.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

NOVEMBER MUSINGS: EPILOGUE: THE MORNING AFTER

Yeah, I know: I said "November Musings" would be over with my last post. Consider this post a postscript, an epilogue, a sequel.

Donald Trump is now the President-elect. After watching the news coverage, seeing the victory speech of Mr. Trump, the concession speech of Mrs. Clinton, and checking out social media commentary, I feel compelled to offer my own observations, warnings, and exhortations. These are "raw" thoughts, so if they lack a certain subtlety and refinement, well, that's the nature of politics.

1. One of the consistent themes in the news coverage was the sense of surprise."Nobody expected this." "How could the polls be so wrong?" With all due respect to our professional pundits, they began Mr. Trump's candidacy with dismissal. They continued it with the narrative that Mr. Trump only had a small, narrow minded bunch of supporters. But in my decidedly un-scientific observation, Mr. Trump's base was a lot larger and more diverse than the pros admitted.

2. I appreciated the gracious words of Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton in their respective speeches. I especially want to commend Mrs. Clinton for "practicing what she preached" in accepting the results of the election with class and dignity.

3.The popular vote shows a razor thin support for Hillary Clinton. Take note: roughly half of the citizens of our country voted for Mrs. Clinton! I strongly dislike the demonizing of the voter. Intelligent, passionate, patriotic citizens supported Hillary Clinton and they cannot be casually dismissed or ignored. We may disagree on issues, but now is the time to address the concerns in a way that unites us.

4.Take note: roughly half the citizens in our country voted for Mr. Trump! I strongly dislike the demonizing of the voter. Intelligent, passionate, patriotic citizens supported Donald Trump and they cannot be casually dismissed or ignored. We may disagree on issues, but now is the time to address the concerns in a way that unites us.

5. (Yes, the previous two points were identical).

6. I'm already seeing opinions around Facebook, particularly from these political opinion "papers," that are heralding the doom of our country. As I mentioned in a previous post in this series, the disaster scenarios that are often predicted by opponents rarely come to pass. Relax folks. Don't leave the country, don't hang your heads in closeted anger, and, whatever you do, don't take a page from the opposition and start digging up conspiracies and voter fraud.

7. Several conservative Republican sites are already gloating. Even Mrs. Clinton's delay in giving her concession speech has been characterized as "cowardly!" Good grief. It's over. Even athletes shake hands after a hard-fought match.  Not to overuse an Anchorman line, but, please, for the good of the country, "Stay classy, conservatives." As I've already pointed out, half the country chose Hillary Clinton. That's a whole lot of people to be against.

8. Finally, a personal note: someone recently said that I was trying to be "politically correct." Them's fightin' words! If you knew me, I mean really knew me, you know that I have very strong political opinions. And I'm not ashamed to tell you that most of my opinions are right (well, I meant as in "correct", but yes, on the political spectrum as well). But as I think I've mentioned in previous entries, I believe how we argue our position is also important. No longer do I feel the need to blow up my opponents when they are wrong. Do you really want to listen to or work with someone who calls you a "cotton headed ninnymuggin?" or characterizes your views as so much "feldercarb?"

9. (on the other hand, I wouldn't mind engaging in dialogue with anyone who can tell me the source of "cotton headed ninnymuggin" and "feldercarb.")

Well, there it is. The real conclusion to my "November Musings" series. And guess what? Jesus is still King of kings and Lord of Lords! Pray for the President-elect and pray for our country. Let's turn now to lighter things. . .

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Sunday, November 06, 2016

NOVEMBER MUSINGS #5 LAST THOUGHTS: MY CODE

As I write this, our country (USA) will be electing a new President in a little more than 48 hours. The two leading contenders are Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. And to hear supporters of both candidates say it, this will be one of the most important elections in our history.

But regardless of who wins (and trust me, barring a third party upset of epic proportions, one of them will win), one thing that will not change is my code. I don't remember when I came up with this, but a few administrations back, after carefully considering what the Bible had to say about my attitudes toward the government, I came up with some principles that would govern how I speak to and about our elected officials (it references the President specifically, but can apply to any kind of leader).

Word of warning: it's easy to follow this code when the President in office is "good" (read, "a President I support"). The challenge is with the President of a different party, or one that makes unpopular decisions, or that gives evidence of doing things that may not be good for the country. But as I study the Bible, I find the principles are not labeled with a D or an R. If Paul can pray for the cruel, pagan tyrant named Nero, do I have a reason not to pray for a President for whom I did not vote?

A couple of quick disclaimers: 1) I am not perfect and at any given time, I have slipped and violated my own code. I don't offer this as judgment, merely as aspiration.  2) We're still friends, whether you agree with me or not.

This will be split between "My Code" and "Guiding Scripture

My Code
1. I will refer to the President as "President Name" or "the President." I will avoid using just the last name unless the context of the reference calls for it.

2. I will avoid the use of pejorative nicknames for the President. While well done political satire and humor has its place in our history, I will continue to disapprove of proverbial "cheap shots."

3. As much as possible, I will give the President the benefit of the doubt.

4. I will not automatically believe every bad report about the President, unless there is clear and compelling evidence to support it. I will not entertain news of failure unless it can be objectively verified.

5. I will celebrate the victories and wins of the President that are for the good of the country (not just for the good of the President's party).

6. I will exercise my right as an American citizen to "speak truth to power," to speak against policies and practices that violate my convictions or that I feel are contrary to the best ideas of this country.

7. But when speaking in disagreement, I will always temper my comments with respect and consideration to the man or woman holding the office.

8. I will pray for the President, for his or her success, health, safety, protection, and that he or she would seek and heed the wisdom of God.

Guiding Scriptures:


1 Peter 2:13-17 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.


1 Timothy 2:1-2 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

Romans 13:1-7 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.


Acts 23:1-5 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?”And those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?”Then Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’"


Also see 1 Samuel 24, in which David, presented with an opportunity to kill Saul, refuses to harm the Lord's anointed.


Thanks for reading the "November Musings" series, one of my rare forays into politics. If you have not already done so, make sure you vote and pray. And remember, on Wednesday, November 9, I predict that Jesus will still be King of Kings and Lord of Lords!


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Friday, November 04, 2016

NOVEMBER MUSINGS #4: QUICK THOUGHTS BEFORE NEXT TUESDAY

As I type this, there is only one weekend between me and Election Day. So I want to use this post to share four quick thoughts about what could and should happen on Tuesday and beyond. No major theme here, no in-depth analysis, just shooting through my keyboard. As always, whether you agree or disagree, be nice.

1. No candidate is going to "save" America. There are dozens of reasons why the grand promises of the would-be POTUS fail to materialize, most of them out of the control of the candidate. When Secretary Clinton or Mr. Trump make these sweeping pronouncements about what the next four to eight years will be like under their watch, I just smile.

2. The horrible things we think the opposing candidate will do to America will likely not happen either. Again, there are dozens of reasons for this, but gloom and doom predictions rarely persuade me as to my voting preferences. Nuclear war has never happened, guns have not been confiscated, and, as of this date, I am still free to worship in the church of my choice. Please understand, I am not blind to the issues or concerns that face our country. It's just that, if I had a proverbial nickel for every celebrity that threatened to leave the country if (fill in the name of candidate) won the White House, I'd be able to buy a nice dinner for my wife. Maybe things won't be spectacularly rosy under one administration, but I doubt it will be a total disaster under another.

3. Whoever is elected is my President, whether they got my vote or not.  I've actually had people get mad at me for saying this. "He's not my President," they announce.  Ummm, yes he is. Defiantly proclaiming that the new President is "not my President" or refusing to accept his or her position in the Oval Office is really no different than threatening to leave the country if the opposition is elected. It solves nothing, it changes nothing.

4. I'm a bit of an idealist, so I think this is a good time to remember that we are one nation, under God. If we let this election continue to negatively divide us, we've lost something far greater than our guy or gal being in the White House.  One of the most disturbing elements of this election is the candidates declaring their contempt for the voters that are for the opposition. That's not cool. If, as the experts are predicting, this election is close, then theoretically half of the voting population will be on the "other side." That's when we realize that we are still American citizens and the President has the responsibility to work with all of us, not just the ones that voted for him or her.


In my next (and possibly last) installment of "November Musings," I will share my personal philosophy of how we should treat the President--any President. I've used this "code" for several administrations and it has served me well.

Until next time, remember that on November 9, Jesus is still King of kings and Lord of lords!

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