Wednesday, December 01, 2010

My Advice:

"Don't ride that ride after eating a bunch of junk food!" That's what I would have told this 12 year-old kid at the Ector County Fair if I hadn't been so busy snapping his photo. But, he probably didn't need me to tell him what his stomach already had. :-)

Sunday, November 14, 2010


This guy was so focused on catching some pigeons that he didn't notice my presence . . . until he heard my shutter. By that point I had my photos, he had missed his meal, and his dinner was turning back on him. In the end, the birds chased him back into the cave.

Friday, October 08, 2010

One of My Favorite Commercials

My family laughs, almost hysterically, when we try to imitate this commercial while driving down the road.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Deer Season Approaches

More than 1000 pounds of corn rides on the back of this trailer. In front of the corn are are a deer stand and a feeder.

These hunters hope some unsuspecting deer think they have hit the jackpot when they come upon all this corn. They also hope the corn isn't wasted, which is to say, they hope the deer come home in place of the bags of corn.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

This Sounds Weird

Sunset, the local funeral home, has remodeled and is having an open house this weekend.

According to the article, a junior high orchestra will be performing on Saturday, and a harpist will be featured on Sunday. Kinda makes me glad I didn't learn an instrument! You never know what kind of gig you will get. 

And to make things feel a little less weird, those who register will have the chance to win door prizes and get special discounts. I have an idea what the special discounts might include, but what kind of door prizes would one win at a funeral home open house? I may need to stop by just to find out!

I know, I know: We will all need them one day, but really, an open house? That just sounds weird.

UPDATE: By 11:30 on Saturday, I was the only one who had shown up for the open house. In fact, the orchestra didn't even show up. They still haven't called to tell me that I won a door prize (it was a $100 gift card), so others may have shown up after me.

The open house wasn't exactly what I had expected; I had two workers escort me around the facilities, showing me each area. It lasted about 5 minutes and I left with the feeling I had a good chance to win the door prize.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rodeo Update

Well, I survived. A great time was had by all, and my legs still hurt more than I could have imagined. But that's what 4-5 hours of competing on horseback will do.

We were divided into teams, but the ropers (a specialty skill) served double, and sometimes triple duty on different teams. In the end, there were no trophy buckles or saddles, which is fine. We had the chance to spend the day on horses, encouraging one another in our efforts.

I had my first opportunity to ride a horse out of a roping box, which made me realize how much of a specialty skill calf/steer roping really is. There's a lot involved in guiding the horse with one hand and trying to rope with the other.

I appreciate those who made their horses available to those of us who don't have horses. I especially appreciate Mr. Smith who let me ride Tonka most of the day. I tried to ride the sorrel horse in the photo at the top, but couldn't reign him in a way that worked for either of us. So, I switched to Tonka (more affectionately known as "Chubs") and had a great day.

Grace also rode Tonka.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jairus and the Woman who Interfered

Last night in the small group I was leading we studied the story of Jairus and the woman who "interfered" with Jesus coming to heal Jairus' little girl (Mark 5:21-43).

I put "interfered" in quotations because it had never before occurred to me that that may be exactly what an anxious father might have thought in that situation. "Why are you doing this? Why now? My daughter is dying and we need to get there!"

I've had to take my daughter to the hospital and know what it is to have a very sick child, one sick enough that I couldn't do anything to help her. I also know the frustration of having to wait at admissions to get her checked in when she's fighting for a breath.

I wonder what Jairus thought as he waited on Jesus to finish with the woman who had delayed the Lord. I wonder if he thought the chance to heal his daughter was passing by, perhaps the same way Martha felt about Jesus delaying to come to help her brother Lazarus' (John 11).

I wonder if Jairus worried that Jesus might use up all his miracle working power on this woman and not be able to help the little girl. I wonder if he rejoiced in the Lord's mercy on the woman who had suffered for 12 years. Or was he too focused on his own situation?

As I began to think about these things last night, I realized that rather than find anxiety in the delay, Jairus, the desperate father should have found hope and encouragement, even as he waited. After all, he witnessed the healing of a woman who had suffered terribly for 12 long, painful years. I hope Jairus said, "If he can do that for her, imagine what he can do for my daughter."

I've been really encouraged lately as I've met some men whom Jesus has worked the "impossible" in their lives. And their testimonies encourage me to be hopeful in the way I hope Jairus was hopeful.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It was about 25 years ago . . .

. . . that I last put on a pair of these:

This Saturday, I may wear them again. I'm entered in Temple Baptist Church's Missionary Rodeo in Dumas, Texas.

I wasn't very good back then, so I'm not expecting to win all-around cowboy or anything like that. Hopefully, I'll have fun and be able to manage my horse well. I don't think there will be any rough-stock events (that's bucking events for those not familiar with rodeo lingo), which is good since it would be foolish for me to get on anything that bucks.

I was on a horse about a month ago, so I hope that was a sufficient re-orientation for me. 

Here's my motto for this rodeo:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Beware of Covetousness

Luke 12:15 - “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What About Mary?

Here's the first offering in a new category: Jesus Said

Luke 11:27 - As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you."

Notice Jesus' reply: "Blessed RATHER are those who hear the word of God and obey it (11:28)."

Saturday, September 04, 2010

You Asked About My Research

First, I'm surprised that anyone is still here. I wouldn't blame anyone for abandoning this site. After all, I abandoned it first. :-) Anyway, I hope this is a sign that posts will be here more regularly.

I'm honored that (soon to be Dr.) Danny Frese is interested enough to ask for some details of my PhD work. So, Danny, here goes:

My program is a PhD in Missiology - Science of Religion at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. UP has a large residential research doctoral program in a host of fields, theology being one of them. I've read that it is actually the largest research PhD center in Africa, which may or may not be saying much. UP's program is built on the British research-only model and has a number of respectable institutional partnerships with European Universities. And I understand the School of Theology is working on some type of institutional partnership with a US institution, but I don't have any more details, like which institution.

They have given me an exemption from being in Pretoria on a regular basis since my research is specific to where I have been living. (For those that aren't aware, we are mostly in the States for the next year visiting our supporting churches. I'm currently scheduled to be in Israel at least 2 times for research during this year.) I did have to agree to be present in Pretoria any time my adviser says I need to be there.

[Note: UP should not be confused with UNISA, the University of South Africa. They are not the same in many respects.]

In general, I can say that my research deals with conversion to faith in Jesus - the process, barriers, and social ramifications. Rather than reading the "how to" books by the experts, I'm interviewing those who have actually come to faith, asking them about their experience. I'm finding their stories are quite different than the experts seem to suggest. (I'm being purposely evasive here, but will send my proposal by email if anyone I know asks.)

In the end, I'm hopeful that my research will be a helpful knowledge base of what is actually happening in this region.

Friday, September 03, 2010

PhD Research Proposal Approved!

I was surprised with good news yesterday: I received official approval of my PhD research proposal. I was also surprised at the relief I felt when I saw that my proposal had been approved.

I submitted the proposal in early May, so I've been waiting on pins and needles almost four months. My adviser let me know that World Cup 2010 would delay the process since all state universities in South Africa were required to adjust their schedules to accommodate the World's largest sporting event. But that didn't make it any easier to wait and wait and wait. 

I've struggled with proceeding very much with my research because I've been afraid that I might need to make some major adjustments to my project framework; and I think struggling with the pressure/desire to move forward (to actually get something done!) but not wanting to go too far is the pressure I felt float away when I received this news.

I was confident in my proposal because I had worked hard on it, refining it several times to meet the guidelines. Also, I had a few qualified friends make helpful comments that improved it's quality. And my adviser, who is supposed to know about this kind of stuff, said it was a very good proposal. 

However, since there was so much riding on the "whims" of people I don't know and my adviser had "warned" me that it's almost automatic for the committee to return proposals, even good ones, with some recommendations to improve the document, the delay was causing me to feel some uncertainty that my work would be satisfactory.

So, I was quite happy to get this notation at the bottom of the evaluation form:

Aanbeveling / Recommendation

That the proposal be approved.

[Dept Head Signature]

Evalueerder / Evaluator: Prof. CJP Niemandt

Friday, April 02, 2010

Crucifixion Friday in the Old City

Many Christians from around the world were expected to flood the city for Good Friday, and they did. In fact, since Passover and Eastern and Western Easter falls on the same weekend this year, the city seemed particularly crowded. In expectation of the large crowds the Israeli government implemented new access procedures at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which created a lot of tensions. Flags like the one below could be seen throughout the Christian Quarter.

The flag is aimed at the Israeli authority's efforts to control the crowds, which at times ended up communicating to those wanting to be near or inside the church that they were not allowed to worship. Obviously, once the new arrangements were announced, someone(s) went into action to highlight the Israeli actions and paint them as negatively as possible. However, being in the area today, I must admit, one could easily get a very negative impression without the presence of the flags.

Here are the police controlling access to the church:

The police were standing behind barricades, allowing people to enter in very small numbers. At one point, tensions were so high that the riot police were called in:

I was told that things escalated to the point of blows being exchanged. I did not see that, but I have no reason to doubt it.

It seems to me that the Israelis are in a no win situation here: If they don't control the crowds, there is a real possibility of a stampede or worse, and they will be accused of shirking their responsibility for public safety. If they do control the crowds, they are accused of preventing pilgrims from worshiping. 

History indicates that during times like these, the various Christian groups that have authority within the church facility can't manage to get along without violence, so I'm not sure what I would advise them to do.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Here's a Test of Significant Proportions

According to Israel National News, a group of Jews have petitioned the Jerusalem District Police (again) to allow them to make the biblically proscribed Passover lamb sacrifice ON the Temple Mount.

In some sense this petition will once again be a test of Israel's sovereignty over the Temple Mount, but to what degree is unclear because of the issue of political expediency. I don't believe for a minute that the government of Israel is willing to face the wrath of the Islamic world in order to allow a minority Jewish group to practice a religious ceremony on the Temple Mount. They haven't in the past, and I don't expect that to change in  the near future.

Recent history (only the last few months is necessary) gives us a small example of what would happen if such a ceremony were to take place: Jews arrested for praying on Temple Mount, or declaration of Israeli heritage sites in Bethlehem and Hebron sparks clashes.

And it should be noted that if the ceremony is allowed to happen, the opposition will not be from the Islamic world alone.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A PhD Dissertation is . . .

After scanning the titles of (literally) over 1000 different dissertations and reading parts of about 20, I've come to the conclusion that writing a PhD dissertation simply represents the opportunity to park a lot of big words next to each other in such a way that only a select few can understand their meaning.

I hope mine is different.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Half Way Finished?

When I recently told a friend that my truck is half way finished since the engine was completely disassembled, he corrected me, "That's not half way finished. They still have to put it back together."

Okay, so he was correct - technically.

All they have to do is put all this:

and this:

Back in or on this:

Want to see the new pistons and machined cylinders?

Here's the new turbo, which is more than 1/3 of the entire cost of the rebuild!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Colleen's Favorite Green: Swiss Chard

Personally, I don't eat the stuff, but it is my wife's favorite green on her plate, and it's now available at the market.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Jewish Wedding

While waiting for someone at a hotel in Jerusalem, I happened upon this beautiful wedding. In the end, I was at the wrong hotel because the person I was waiting for had been moved to another hotel without his knowledge. Seeing this wedding eased the sting of being at the wrong place for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Can It Be Revived?

I took the plunge yesterday: I called the tow truck and had my Land Rover hauled to the garage as I followed behind.

It was a trip filled with emotions. I had excitement that my truck may be back on the road and trails before long. I also had a little anxiety that it may not turn out as well as I hope.

And when they started stripping everything to remove the engine, the anxiety didn't ease.

We'll see how things turn out.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Israel: Still Controversial After 61 Years

Recently, I sent a fax to a hotel in Jerusalem's Old City inquiring about availability for a group. When writing my fax, I took into consideration that the proprietor of the hotel was probably not pro-Israel, so I chose not to include the word Israel in the hotel's address. However, my address is in Israel (i.e. west Jerusalem), so I chose to keep the word Israel in my own address.

Apparently, the distinction wasn't enough for the proprietor of the hotel, because when I received his return fax, he had scribbled Israel out of my address.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

These Guys are Going on Vacation . . . for 2 Years!

If you are interested in fishing in the fresh waters of the Sea of Galilee in the near future, you have until February 28, to wet your hook because there is a fishing ban coming into effect from March 1, 2010 until February 28, 2012.

It seems the fish population in the lake needs to be replenished, so a plan has been put in place to fix that problem. You can read the whole story, which is being reported only by Israel National New, here.

And for those who are worried about being able to still get fish in Israel, the large number of fish farms in the north should be able to supply the market, but I would expect an increase in price.

Now, where did I put my pole? I'm scheduled to be at the Sea of Galilee just before the ban takes effect, so I need to find my pole.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Galilee Bee Keepers

Due to good winter rains this year, the Galilee is green and lush. And this bee keeper is out in the field priming his boxes for what he hopes to be a good honey harvest.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I'm Proud

I just want to take a moment to say that I'm proud of my cousins.

The photo on the left is of my cousins, first and first once removed. Jennifer is my first cousin, the daughter of my mother's sister, Terry. Brittney is Jennifer's daughter, my first cousin once removed. Gardina is also Jennifer's daughter, or, at least she will be in short order, which will also make her my first cousin once removed.

Gardina was an orphan in Haiti, and thankfully survived the devastating earthquake that rocked that nation to its core. She just arrived in the US and is being adopted by Jeff and Jennifer DeWitt and their 4 kids.

Gardina had been on their hearts and minds for some time, as either Jeff or Brittney had, on different occasions, visited the orphanage where Gardina lived, and brought reports of Gardina back home to share with the rest of the family.

For many reasons, this is a moving story, which you can read the rest of here

My hat is off to all those who "love the least of these," and I'm proud to count my cousins among them. How do you say, "Welcome to the family" in Haitian-Creole?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Repost: A Way to Help Those Without Clean Water

This post was originally published on October 5, 2009, but the Haiti earthquake has given me reason to re-post it and add some additional information.

(The additional information comes first, the original post with a demo video comes last.)

For those looking for a way to help the people in Haiti, Lifesaver Systems is currently offering a buy one donate one special. The USA distributor site is down at the moment, but may be back up shortly. They currently offer 4000 and 6000 liter bottles and 10,000 and 20,000 liter Jerrycans. (Note: Some have been confused about the size of these items: they produce the designated amount, they do not hold that amount.)

The end cost to produce clean water ranges from $0.14 per gallon for the smaller 4000 liter filter unit to only $0.08 per gallon for the larger capacity 20,000 liter (5,283 gallons) Jerrycan.

Here is Lifesaver Systems Frequently Asked Questions page, which is well worth browsing. (Note: there is a separate page for bottles and Jerrycans.)

Michael Pritchard has invented a water filter system that is inexpensive, easily transportable, and apparently very effective. For those living in developed areas, potable water isn't a daily issue for you. However, in most of the undeveloped world, drinkable water is a matter of life and death. A number of organizations have become involved in sponsoring water wells in various parts of the world. This water filter system should not be over looked if you are interested in helping provide potable water for those that don't have easy access to such.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Checking I.D.

Admittedly, I was surprised to see the police asking Jews for their identification cards at Damascus Gate. The first time I saw this, I had arrived on the scene after the event was already in motion, so I thought I was reading something into the officers' actions. I decided to hang around for a few minutes to see if the police would ask another Jew to present his identification card. After a couple of minutes, they did exactly that.

Here's a photo of the police doing to a Jew what many people think is reserved only for Arabs.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Corn Nuts, One of My Favorites

I was happy to discover roasted corn nuts in the Jerusalem market. Well, . . . not those Corn Nuts®, but close enough to satisfy my salty snack craving. These corn nuts are from Spain, but they taste identical to Corn Nuts®, and that makes me really happy.

When we are in the States, we usually spend a lot of time on the highways, and I have a few favorite road snacks: Jack in the Box tacos (usually 2/99¢, but even better at 3/99¢!), Corn Nuts®,  and quick stop (i.e. gas station snack bar) burritos when we are driving in west Texas. Wow, my mouth's watering just thinking about those treats!

Here's a bin of Spanish corn nuts at the Jerusalem market. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Female Soldiers

This is a group of female soldiers at Jaffa Gate. Two things are happening: First, they are learning to stand in an orderly fashion. Rows and lines aren't learned here in school, at the post office, or a restaurant; they are learned in the army. Some observers of Israeli culture would say, however, that lines are quickly forgotten immediately after a soldier is discharged. :-) In twelve years of baseball here, one of the most frustrating things was to need to repeatedly teach the players how to stand in rows and lines.

Second, the girls are touring the country, much like all the tourists just out of view who are taking pictures of them as they stand at attention. As they tour, they learn about the ancient and modern history of their country, which, to me, seems like a good thing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Does This Count?

A couple of years ago, I attended a media in ministry conference/seminar that attempted to help those who attended understand how to better utilize various media in our ministry efforts.

The conference was divided into two emphases: the philosophical foundations of using media in ministry and the practical "how to" aspects of filming, editing and broadcasting. Overall, the seminars were interesting and helpful, but I think most of those attending would have liked more emphasis on the practical tools.

The conference ended with the the conference professionals presenting us with certificates of completion. As each of us were called to the platform to receive our certificates, the main instructor - I don't remember his name - would say a word of encouragement to or prophesy about the recipient. Admittedly, I was a little uncomfortable with this, but took my turn like the rest, received my diploma and prophesy, which was that I would "become high profile."

Of course "high profile" could mean a host of things, pretty much whatever anyone desires it to mean. So, how does one evaluate the accuracy of a prophecy such as this one?

Here's what happened: After a few friend's giggled at me about the prophecy, I forgot about it. About 2 months ago, I was surprised to get an email from someone in England who I hadn't heard from since 2005. This person wrote that he was prompted to contact me because he had seen me on television in England on a show that is airing around the UK.

At first, I was pretty puzzled that I was on television in the UK since I am generally not in the news and don't do interviews. Was it something to do with baseball in the Jewish Olympics? Perhaps someone had filmed me teaching the Bible on location and somehow that video made it's way onto a Christian television show, I thought. Suddenly, I remembered the prophecy and that I had, in fact, been interviewed at the conference and that I had signed a release form allowing them to use my likeness and/or words in anyway they desired.

I had finally connected the dots: The man who gave the prophecy that I would become "high profile" had used an interview that his crew had previously filmed as part of a show or advertisement being broadcast on Christian television throughout the UK. Honestly, I was happy to figure out how I was appearing on television in the UK, but that left me with other questions.

Here's one of the questions: Is it a legitimate prophecy if he already had my interview "in the can" and knew he could/would use it in a future production that would be broadcast in the UK? (I suspect it is being broadcast elsewhere, too.)

Oh, one more thing: A friend told me on Saturday that I have recently been on Hungarian television. But that broadcast had nothing to do with the media conference.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Happy Birthday, Grace!

Early this morning, six years ago, I stood next to the midwife near the foot of my wife's delivery bed. I was taking it all in, doing my best to encourage my lovely bride to finish the task that was hers - but mostly standing there numb trying to take it all in.

While "our" delivery was a relatively quick process start to finish, time seemed to drag on. As each stage came and went the midwife seemed more excited than I was, but I was taking it all in with great amazement and wonder.

Finally, our daughter's head crowned and suddenly there she was! It seemed quicker than the flash of a flashbulb; and in one motion the midwife caught her and delivered her into my wife's arms. 

I hope that one moment in time, a flashbulb of a moment, will never leave my memory. I pray that through any future sickness, injury or old age God will be kind to me, allowing me to treasure that sweet and amazing moment until my last breath.

Happy Birthday, Grace!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium

Many of my readers may not have heard of Teddy Stadium or it's namesake, Teddy Kollek. Teddy, as both he and the stadium are affectionately called by locals, was a likable six-term mayor of Jerusalem (1965-1993) who led the city through the post June '67 reunification into a modern city.

The horseshoe-shaped Teddy Stadium first opened in 1992 with seating for 12,000 fans. However, the final stage (north end enclosure) wasn't completed until 1997, bringing seating up to 21,000.  It is surrounded by 5,000 parking spaces, which isn't sufficient and causes the nearby roadways to be lined with double parked cars during soccer games.

Now, some of you will be surprised that you have actually heard of this stadium, but in a place you might not expect: Left Behind. The best-selling Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins end-times series uses Teddy Stadium as the location of at least one critical scene. Unfortunately, I can't remember the details very clearly, but what I seem to remember is that (Anti-Christ?) Nicolae Carpathia gave a speech to the masses from Teddy. If you remember more, please add details in the comments.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Word Picture: Be Careful

"He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own
   Is like one who takes a dog by the ears."
                                                               Proverbs 26:17 (NKJV)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Security Measures

Security issues have been much in the news in the US lately. Here is a photo of Israeli police and border guards checking the identification of young Arab men.

Monday, January 04, 2010

I'm Back . . . I Think

My slow blogging of late hasn't been planned. Rather, it is the result of a number of things, not the least of which has been a lack of desire.

Just before Christmas, I thought I had come down with the swine flu, but it turned out to be something else that included a pretty serious Strep-B infection. Thankfully, I seem to be nearing the end of that awful experience.

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend time with a friend who is leading a seminary group on an Israel study tour. My friend even let me teach a little, which is always a blessing.

Some have expressed a concern for me since I have bid farewell to baseball, asking how I'm doing emotionally and such. Really, I'm doing fine. It was a great opportunity to be involved in Israel Baseball like I was, but it is time to move on.

We are transitioning in ways that we are not always able to share in this forum, but do appreciate our friends' continued interest in our well being and vocation.

Recently, I've been learning much about disagreeing more agreeably, and God has given us a graduate seminar in that topic. May God give us grace to succeed.