Friday, December 28, 2007

The greatest country in the world

I visited with a Lebanese pizza maker last night while waiting for my ham and pepperoni pizza to come out of the oven. A young mother of two school-age daughters, she immigrated to the United States several years ago to escape the constant warfare of her native country.

"When I was a child, Lebanon was predominantly Christian," she told me. "Since the coming of Hezbollah, though, the Christian majority is shrinking. Muslim families have six, seven, ten children, and Christians have at most three. We're becoming outnumbered." She went on the explain that Palestinians from Israel have flooded into southern Lebanon, using her homeland as a base to stage attacks on Israel. "I completely support Israel in their attacking of Lebanon because, when they attack Lebanon, they are attacking Hezbollah. The Palestinians come to Lebanon to fight against Israel. If they want to fight Israel, let them do it in Palestine and not in my country."

Her partner in the pizzeria is also a Lebanese immigrant. Two years ago he and his wife adopted a baby from Lebanon. His wife, in fact, was in Lebanon to pick the infant up when war broke out between Israel and Lebanon. Her return to the U.S. was doubtful before congressional leaders from Michigan and State Department officials intervened. Eventually, the U. S. Marines escorted them to safety. His story received such notoriety that he appeared on Larry King Live.

Speaking of the United States he told me, "This is the greatest country in the world. People who don't believe that should see places like Lebanon. Here there is peace and everybody has the opportunity to build a better life."

Earlier this year I read Thomas Friedman's book, From Beirut to Jerusalem. His first-hand account of Beirut's deterioration from "the Paris of the Middle East," to a squalid, war-torn city filled with pock-marked hovels is sad and instructive. My two Lebanese friends had enough and left in search of something better for them and their children. They found it in the United States of America. I wish that folks who constantly run down the U. S. could see this country through the eyes of those who've seen suffering abroad.

Still, they hope to return. "I have family in Lebanon, and I plan to return there when I am old," Petaline told me, "but right now there are no jobs, no opportunity. That is why I am here."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cluster Map

Regular readers of Frankly Speaking will notice the new addition at the bottom of the column to the right of this posting. Cluster Map shows the location of the various IP addresses of the folks who've accessed Frankly Speaking. There are 23 nations from five continents represented. Don't ask me, I have no idea why . . .


My kids and I spent about two hours Tuesday night playing Guitar Hero III - the latest of the Playstation games that are bringing back the hits of my childhood. My son, Caleb, is a whiz at the game. I struggled to play the bass guitar on "Sweet Child of Mine," while Bubba started the song in hard mode before turning around to play the lead guitar facing away from the television. Then, just to show his complete dominance over the old man, he laid the guitar on the floor and played it with his feet while I continued to fumble around on "easy" setting.

Did I mention he plays the drums, too? Uncle Marty took the boys to Wal-Mart on Monday to pick a few things up for Christmas. He dropped Caleb and Jonah off in the electronics department where they found the latest game. It's like Guitar Hero, but it includes a set of drums. Caleb, who plays in the percussion section for the Grand Ledge High School marching band, set the game to expert and proceeded to smoke it on the first time he ever saw the game. Marty told us later that Caleb actually drew a crowd with his "performance."

We had a ton of fun with my mom and dad, sister and brother-in-law, and their kids.

I hope your Christmas was blessed, too, and that the promise of the New Year brings you hope and determination.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lori sent this to me. Growing up on a farm in Indiana, I can really relate to little Logan. The background to the clip is below:

We have had a lot of requests to replay the phone call that Pastor Mike shared during our church service on Sunday, Nov. 11th, 2007.

Here you'll find the video clip that was created just for you. We've placed the video on YouTube so that you can watch it and share with family and friends.

Logan is a 13 year-old boy who lives on a ranch in a very small town in Nebraska. Logan listens to Christian Radio station 89.3FM KSBJ which broadcasts from Houston, TX. Logan called the radio station distraught because he had to take down a calf . His words have wisdom beyond his years.

Since airing the audio of the phone call and now the making of the video clip, it has taken on a life of its own. People are forwarding it all over the world. We encourage you to share the love of Christ with anyone you can.

(**Sky Angel is a family safe broadcasting service that is offered on satellite. KSBJ is a local Houston Christian music radio station. Video clip produced with love by

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What's in your trunk?

I realized today that I am fully integrated into the Michigan culture when I opened my trunk and saw the tree stand that I've been carrying around since early October. You never know when you might want to shinny up a maple tree to ambush some unsuspecting deer.

Lots of guys carry stuff around in their trunks.
Passionate golfers carry their bags around from March until November. My dad, although never a boy scout, lived by the "be prepared" motto. To this day he still carries around a small toolbox with everything he might need during a breakdown. Tony Soprano carries around dead guys in his trunk. Okay, I made that last one up. He has his people carry around the dead bodies.

One holiday season I drove around from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve with my wife's presents in the back of the minivan. (Technically not a trunk, but the posterior of the vehicle nevertheless.)

What's in your trunk? Are you hiding something? Maybe not literally, but I suspect most of us have an item or two tucked away behind the back seat where no one can see. This is not good.

Last night Mrs. Frankly and I hit a couple of stores for some yuletide shopping. There were several bags in the trunk when I picked up the two youngest Franklies from youth group. Normally they toss their school bags and whatnot in the trunk. Absentmindedly, I hit the trunk button and popped the lid. The next thing I heard was my wife yelling, "get out of there boys!"

Once something is in the trunk, we do our best to keep it in and keep others out. This, too, is not good.

The thing about trunks is that the light is only on when the lid is open. Otherwise its just dark in there. (Okay, I've never actually been inside a trunk to know; just roll with me on that one.) John wrote in 1 John 1,

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Its pretty simple, really. Trunk closed, light off, no fellowship with God. Trunk open, light on, sin forgiven.

Now where's that remote?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Love wins . . .

Saw this bumper sticker on a Volvo earlier today: "Love wins."

"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." Joseph, a righteous man, takes Mary home; raises her son as his own. Love wins.

Twelve years later Mary and Joseph search hysterically through a web of streets and alleys for their lost son. Racked with fear for what might be, they find him sitting among the elders, a child prodigy impressing the old men with the depth of his questions. "Why did you do this to us, Jesus?!" "I had to be about my Father's business," is his matter-of-fact reply. Love wins.

The lawyers want to kill her. No one comes to her defense, no one disagrees. She's a whore, after all. What is more, she's a tool they can use to trap the carpenter-turned-rabbi from Nazareth. "What should we do with her, Jesus?" "Whichever of you who is innocent . . . clean . . . without blemish . . . you throw the first rock." Love wins.

Standing outside a tomb. Mary and Martha pull their cloaks over their mouths and noses. After three days, the stench will only magnify the pain of losing their brother, their protector, provider, legitimizer. "Lazarus, come forth!" Shuffling from his tomb he comes, dragging his death clothes with him. Love wins.

"Father, let this cup pass from me. . ." He prays in the garden. He doesn't want to die. His Spirit wages war with His flesh. The pain of an agonized death versus the pain of a lost humanity. "Yet not my will, but yours, Father." Love wins.

"Eloi, eloi lama sabachtani?" "God, why have you forsaken me?" "Abba! Where are you daddy?" He gives up His spirit, slumps forward, breathing stops, the struggle ceases. Love wins.

Peter and John race to the tomb. John, the faster, out paces his old fishing partner. Jesus is not there. Mary says He is risen. She says she's seen him with her own eyes! Christ is risen; He is risen indeed! Love wins!

The sky splits. Angels descend. Riding on a cloud, surrounded in light, trumpets blaring, He returns to call His own to His side. No more night; no more death or pain; no more tears. God dwells among them. They are His people, and He is there God. Satan banished to the pit, nevermore to assail.

Love wins.

Put that on your Christmas cards this season.

Let those two words inspire and motivate you to greatness.

Christian brother, Christian sister, you win. I win. Because . . .

Love wins.

Wal-Mart Scrooges

This link to a story about Wal-Mart appeared in my inbox today. Shame on Wal-Mart. With billions in corporate profits, they pick on the little people. Regular readers of Frankly Speaking know that I rarely step on the anti-corporate soapbox. I certainly don't bash Wal-Mart, as they've saved me tons over the years. Now I'm wondering if I should continue to shop there . . .

Monday, December 17, 2007

Alan Keyes?

Michigan's early primary has forced me to begin thinking through my vote considerably earlier than in the past. I am struggling to decide who to vote for. I appreciate Mike Huckabee, but am perturbed by his fiscal policy. I like McCain on immigration. Mitt Romney's state was the first in the nation to marry homosexual couples. Where was his leadership on that issue. Mayor Giuliani's pro-choice position, when coupled with his marriage problems, makes me wonder about his commitment to the family (Dr. Dobson notwithstanding).

I'm taking a hard look at Alan Keyes. He doesn't have a prayer of winning. But he stands for what I stand for. I still remember his capital punishment answer during a 2000 presidential debate. It was the clearest, most sensible treatment of that issue that I've ever heard from a politician. (Why is it that the pols who make the most sense don't seem to have a prayer of wining?)

Jon, a guy I play hoops with on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is urging me to vote for Ron Paul, but I can't bring myself to vote for a guy whose part advocates the legalization of marijuana.

I'm thinking Keyes more and more. I wonder . . . is he even on the ballot in Michigan? [No, as t turns out] Now who?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things . . .

Wally and I are working on new lyrics to the Sound of Music classic, "My Favorite Things." (I haven't actually told him he's helping yet, though.) You know the one: " . . . when the dog bites, when the bee stings . . ." We want to create the guy version of the song. No cream colored ponies for us. Crisp apple strudel? More like buffalo wings, I think.

Here's my question, men. What are your favorite things. Fill me in, and you could be immortalized in this soon-to-become classic.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My girls

Check out the two hot brunettes I saw eating lunch outside my office window earlier today. I was able to take their pictures without them noticing I was staring. They were only about fifty feet from my office window, and they were wearing . . . well, let's just say they were wearing only what God gave 'em.

No fear

Ananova is reporting that Japanese scientists have created a genetically modified (GM) mouse that does not fear cats. Think about that a minute. Do you suppose that, out of respect for the mice's newfound confidence, cats are going to throw in the towel. As sure as Tom chases Jerry, I don't think so.

There is a reason that "mousy" is a synonym for "timid," "fearful," and "shy." That's how mice are supposed to be. It's what has kept them around for the thousands of years since they managed to avoid being trampled by the elephants on Noah's ark.

Humans have their own version of fear avoidance. Although not genetically modified to avert our natural fears, we certainly have been culturally modified (CM?) to lose them. There was a time when a boy feared getting his girlfriend pregnant. When my friend Mike got his gal pregnant in high school, his father made him drop off the football team, get married, and get a job. Just a few decades earlier he would have been forced to quit school, too. Fear of early fatherhood kept us in check. It helped that girls were equally afraid of having to quit the cheer leading squad, and worried that their reputations would be sullied by over-amorous behavior.

Not any more. There isn't any fear of pre-marital sexuality any more. Not even the fear of sexually transmitted diseases has curbed our sexual appetite. I actually heard a radio doctor reading from a recent medical journal study encouraging early sexual activity as a means of avoiding teenage participation in vandalism. What?

There was a time when one of the most fearful four letter words in the English language was DEBT. The very idea of having to file bankruptcy was a horrifying as being quarantined for typhoid or tuberculosis. Families avoided debt at all costs. Maybe, just maybe, one would get a mortgage for a home, but never something so extravagant as a car, certainly nothing trivial like furniture or jewelry. Not any more. Credit companies market to consumers by suggesting that, not only is it good to pay with "the card," but it is preferable to paying with cash. Paper money just gums up the giant capitalist machine.

I've often heard the phrase, "a healthy fear," but I've never been too sure what that means. Maybe it is something akin to what I feel whenever I have to work with the wiring in my house. I fear, frankly, being electrocuted. That is, very literally, a healthy fear. Breeding the fear out of mice is one thing. But I'm pretty certain taking the human fear gene away, and its cultural equivalent - the relaxing of proper and helpful social norms - is not a good thing. At the very least, we're creating successive generations of men and women for whom, "No Fear" is more than a brand of clothing or a catchy idea for a "reality" show, but rather a mantra that leads to self destruction.

At it's worse, though, we're creating a conscienceless culture where anything - and anybody - goes. Frankly speaking, that's not a good thing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My civic duty

For years I've amazed my wife as the only person she knows who actually wants to serve on a jury. Whether it is my highly developed sense of civic duty, or just my fascination with the legal process, I've always wanted to the opportunity to see the legal process up close, but I've never had the chance.

Until now. I was called for jury duty today.

In DeKalb County.

Where I no longer live.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Not so much . . . no . . .

Our realtor called to let us know the buyer for our house could not get financed. Seems the mortgage underwriters want you to have a job before they loan you $93,500. Go figure.

So we're back on the market.

Please pray that our home will sell. And, if you provide the lead for the person who buys it, I'll personally give you a sloppy wet kiss, or cook you a steak dinner with all the trimmings - your choice.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christmas eve

Our church is planning an amazing Christmas Eve service for December 24th. At 11 p.m. 600 folks will gather at South Lansing Christian Church to celebrate the coming of light into the dark world.

We'll be answering the question: "Why Bethlehem?" Jesus could have been born anywhere. Rome makes sense. It was the political center of the known world at the time. The most powerful nation in existence, Rome was a logical choice.

Perhaps Greece. As the intellectual center of mankind it would have made sense for the "word to be made flesh" in a culture where words were so highly prized.

Maybe even in central America with its ancient Mayan culture. As they looked to the sun god, it would have made sense for the Son of God to illuminate their darkened thinking.

But Bethlehem?

How does that make sense?

Come on December 24th. Bring the kids in their jammies. Be surrounded by family and friends. Bask in the soft low of candles and Christmas carols. "Come to Bethlehem and see Christ the Lord the newborn King."

He'll be there.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Outside my window . . .

It is 8:00 a.m. in Lansing. Just beyond the pane of glass that separates me from 26 degrees of cold the world is beginning to hum. When I left the house this morning it was still dark, and yet there were a lot of people up and at it. The interstate was bumper to bumper for some reason.

I listened to Mad Dog in the Morning arguing with morning show callers about Mike Martz and his job as head coach of the Detroit Lions and who should replace Michigan coach Lloyd Carr. The quiet of my office, and the soft whooshing of the heat duct is a welcome reprieve from the hectic pace of the drive in.

As the sun peeks over the horizon it casts shadows across the field that I can see just above my computer screen. Drab, lifeless brown weeds change their hue in the morning light. They look almost golden. In the background the steam rises from the Board of Water and Light smokestacks, silhouetted by a blue sky that is punctuated with a few low-hanging clouds off in the distance. Pink when I sat down to type, the colorful sunrise palette is fading to a more sedate wintry blue and gray.

Maybe I'll see a deer or two today.

Last week a young buck scampered into the field about thirty yards from where I sit. He stopped to dine on the pumpkins my sons threw out for him to eat. I walked into the office and flipped on the light. His head shot up and he looked my way, a hunk of orange hanging from his mouth. He gnawed on his Thanksgiving snack, walked over to the salt lick for some after dinner seasoning, and then ambled toward a thicket.

Perhaps I'll see that gimpy doe again with her two young ones. She has a limp in a hind leg - probably the result of being a city dweller who dodges cars if not bullets. At least she doesn't have to worry about hunters, just how to get from food to water and back. She too stops by to nibble on the salt block. She never says "thank you," but she hangs around long enough for me to feel as though some quid pro quo has taken place.

There is a light dusting of snow on the ground. Soon I have to head back out into the bluster. I hate the cold, but the trip will be worth it. I'm headed a few miles up the road to Michigan State University, and its fields full of Hereford cows grazing on corn stubble and the leavings of this year's harvest.

All things considered, God has blessed me with a great start today.

I hope he has blessed you, too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The power of words

Some time ago, a fellow preacher and I were talking about the power of words. In addition to preaching, my friend is an accomplished wordsmith and bibliophile. As we talked, he stunned me when, by way of illustrating his point he said, "For example, the word f--- is incredibly powerful." I agree with him and, in the conext in which he used it, the word was neither profane or offensive. Just, well, powerful.

Something I read today in Eugene Peterson's The Jesus Way reminded me of that conversation:
Everywhere and always as Christians follow Jesus we use words that were first used by God in bringing us and the world around us into being. Our language is derivative (as everything about us is!) from the language of God. Our common speech is in continuity with the language of God. Words are essential and words are holy wherever and whenever we used them. Words are inherently holy regardless of their employment, whether we are making up a shopping list, making conversation with an acquaintance on a street corner, praying in the name of Jesus, asking for directions to the bus station, reading the prophet Isaiah, or writing a letter to our congresswoman. We do well to reverence them, to be careful in our use of them, to be alarmed in their desecration, to take responsibility for using them accurately, and prayerfully. Christian followers of Jesus have an urgent mandate to care for language - spoken, heard, or written - as a means by which God reveals himself to us, by which we express the truth and allegiance of our lives, and by which we give witness to the Word made flesh. . . .

But by and large reverence for language is not conspicuous among us, in or out of the Christian community . . . . The consequence of that is that much of the talk in our time has become, well, just talk - not much theological content to it, not much personal relationship involved, no spirit, no Holy Spirit.
If Peterson is right, what are the implications for me as a parent? As a pastor? As a preacher?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Finally . . .

We're finally getting Wi-Fi at our home. We had Comcast for 60 days, and it only worked about half the time. It was a horrible experience, so much so that I contacted the Better Business Bureau for the first time in my life.

Now Arialink has come to Grand Ledge, so we're hopeful that, when they hook it up later this morning, we can surf and email without complication. Yes!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Eternal life? Not so much, really . . .

Dick Novello, one of our elders at South, shared this devotional at last night's elder's meeting:
I recently read an article on high tech things to watch over the next couple of years. Under the heading of "Creamation Technology" (yes there really was such a heading) there were four companies listed:
  1. Eternal Reefs of Decatur, Georgia will mix your ashes with concrete to make an artificial coral reef that is then dropped into the sea. Creatures are then attracted to and swim around these reefs.
  2. Celebrate Life of Lakeside, California will scatter your remains in a fireworks display. It brings new meaning to "going out with a bang."
  3. Celestis of Houston, Texas has already blasted the remains of about 100 people into space. The most famous of these was Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, and James Doohan the actor who played Scottie on the series. You float in space forever.
  4. LifeGem of Chicago, Illinois has patented a process to manipulate the oxygen level during cremation to allow only carbon to remain. The carbon is then collected and heated in a vacuum until it becomes pure graphite. The graphite is sent to a lab to be compressed. In six to eight weeks, a gem is created. Grandma or grandpa then becomes a ring or a necklace. Mark Bouffard, a LifeGem spokesman says, "Each person has enough carbon to make 50 to 100 life gems. We'll store the remaining carbon just in case."
Now while this is interesting, there is a strong implication that these companies can create an e-t-e-r-n-a-l setting as your final resting place. But the Christian knows that isn't the case. We're told in Revelation 21 that this heaven and earth we know will pass away and there will no longer be a sea.

Paul writes these words in Philippians 3:18-21: "For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."

Christ's physical body . . . was sacrificed for us and we look forward to His return and the transformation we'll all experience.
Good stuff, Mr. Novello!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Food as a delivery system

Let's face it: all food is one of a handful of delivery systems.

Popcorn - Classic salt and butter delivery system. (The same as lobster, by the way.) The whole point of movie popcorn is the butter and the salt. That is why air-popped corn stinks. No butter. No way for the salt to adhere. An exception - a couple of ladies here at South made chocolate covered popcorn the other day. Not salt and butter but a delivery system none-the-less.

Turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes - Simply put, a gravy delivery system. It's all about the drippings, mixed with heavy cream (or 2% milk if you're a Weller), a dash of corn starch, and simmered until thick. For better delivery, chop up the giblets and include.

Dessert - Cake. Pie. Ice cream. The vehicle is irrelevant. What we're basically talking about here is a sugar delivery system. Granulated, powdered, brown - it doesn't really matter so long as it is sweet.

Anything fried - Is a grease delivery system. That is what makes popcorn so tasty. When cooked in peanut oil it is a dual purpose delivery system combining grease with butter. French fries, fish, battered deep fried twinkies (another dual delivery system). Tasty, tasty, tasty.

Salad (including fresh veggies) - A salad dressing delivery system that serves as an alternative oil delivery system for those who are concerned about the DC (delectable correctness) of eating fried foods. Try serving a veggie tray this Thuersday without that Marzetti stuff in the middle and see how far you get.

Meat - Sauce delivery systems. My preference is barbecue for pork and Heinz 57 (with a twinge of guilt regarding John Kerry's wife) for beef. The less mature palates among our family settle for ketchup. Chicago's Wrigley field recognizes this immutable axiom and delegates to the lowly hot dog the exclusive mustard delivery system rights.

All food is a delivery system. Think about that this Thursday as you sleep off your tryptophanic overdose

Random thoughts on leaving Butler . . .

The realtor called today and told us that we have an offer on our home in Butler - one that we have accepted. We're praying (spiritual-speak for keeping our fingers crossed) that the buyer's financing will all work out and that we'll close in mid-December.

Selling 205 W. Oak Street fills me with random thoughts. . .

First, it really is an end. While I'm certain we were supposed to move from Indiana, selling the house means we really have "burned the ships."

Second, I feel that I've not yet developed a these-are-my-people sense. That is not the case here at South Lansing Christian Church, of course. I already feel a strong connection to the congregation, staff and leadership. They're "my people," and I am theirs.

But in Grand Ledge that is a different story. Butler is a small enough town that I knew most folks by name and they knew me. I knew their kids - where they hung out, what their activities were, who was dating who - that sort of thing. A victory for one person in Butler was shared by all. When one felt a loss, I felt it with them. The struggles and triumphs that the people in Butler shared were my struggles and triumphs, too. In short, they were my people.

I don't have that yet in Grand Ledge. I suppose it takes time to develop that sense. Selling our house leaves me feeling like I don't have any "my people" anymore. Time will change that.

I hope.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lloyd Knowles was right

Earlier this evening I had a great conversation with a guy who plans to be immersed this coming Sunday. I asked him what drew him to South Lansing Christian Church. He told me that he travels down Aurelius Road all the time and decided to stop in because he saw the building and the sign that said, "Christian Church."

What is so special about the name "Christian Church?"

Some time ago this fellow asked his mother, "What are we? Are we Baptist or Lutheran or what? Because I've always just thought of myself as a plain old Christian." He's right. We're just plain old Christians at South. A Christian Church for those who claim to be "Christians only, but not the only Christians."

I like it that the stuff I learned in Lloyd Knowles Restoration Movement History class in Bible college is true still today. There are still men and women who desire to be known simply by the name of Christ.

Where's my stinking Rolls Royce?

The Charlotte Observer is detailing a new Senate probe into the finances of a handful of "word of faith" pastors who have reported incomes in the high seven figure range. Chief among these is Creflo Dollar, the preacher at an Atlanta megachurch that took down $69 million last year. Creflo's church gave him a Rolls Royce last year, which he uses only on special occasions.

There are plenty of people who take exception to the aptly named brother Dollar. As my co-minister Wally observed, "When did Jesus get his Rolls Royce? The only disciple to get any money was Judas - and a fat lot of good that did him."

In fairness to Creflo, he's not all about money. According to Wikipedia, he's also about his "two Rolls Royces, three private jets, a million-dollar home in Fayetteville, and a US$2.5 million apartment in Manhattan. " And a partridge in a pear tree. (I made that last one up.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Emma Jean Wagglesworth 1998 - 2007

Nearly a decade ago my wife, Tracy, went to Edon, Ohio to have some curriculum translated into Spanish. She came back with a dog. We were preparing to fly to Tijuana for a mission trip when our friend, Nancy, told us that she knew a woman from her home school group who could translate for us. Tracy took her lessons with her and they were dutifully translated. While there, however, she fell in love with a litter of fluffy golden retriever puppies. One – the runt as it turned out – stole her heart.

Tracy came to my office begging to buy the dog. The $200 was more than we could afford, but I love my wife and wanted her to have this small joy. We paid a deposit, tied a ribbon around the pup’s neck, and waited for her to be weaned. “Adoption day” finally arrived, and we eagerly gathered in our energetic ball of fur with her non-stop tongue. As we wrote the check to pay for her, the breeder told us, “I could have sold this one five times over. Everyone seems to want her.”

We took her home and gave her a name: Emma Jean Wagglesworth.

For 9 ½ years Emma has been a part of our family. We dressed her up at Christmas as a reindeer and took her to the nursing home. She wore Colts gear along with the rest of the family during last season’s Superbowl. Quiet and obedient, Emma Jean understood her place in our family: companion, foot warmer, fetch player and entertainer.

When, four years ago, Maggie Sue came to live with us, Emma finally had a canine companion – someone to tussle with when the humans were away. Emma and Maggie went everywhere together. On one occasion, when the backyard gate was left open and the pair had the opportunity to get into mischief, they instead walked around to the front of the house, plopped down on the porch, and waited for someone to open the door and let them in.

We noticed Emma slowing down this last year. Before our move to Michigan, she looked like she was losing weight. When the dogs received their “pre-move checkup” we discovered Emma had diabetes. She lost weight rapidly, began losing fur, struggled to swallow her food. With her prognosis grim and her condition worsening, we determined to make her death merciful and asked my veterinarian cousin to help us to ease her passing.

Our dear friend Emma died today. She passed on surrounded by her family, sleeping on her dog bed, wrapped in Tracy’s arms.

I am going to miss her more than I can express.

I grew up on a farm – the son of a farmer, the grandson and great-grandson of farmers – so the living and dying of animals is nothing new to me. I supposed that I would take today’s passing of our pet in stride like I did when I used to sell my 4-H animals at the county fair.

I was wrong.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Deer camp

The boys and I are headed north to deer camp next week. My son's blog describes the experience to perfection.

Me and the Mrs.

Mrs. Frankly and I recently had our portrait taken by Andrew at Canfield Jenkins Photography in St. Johns, Michigan. Andrew and his partner, Jacqueline, are artists. They are amazing with a camera. We're settling on portraits, and I think the leading candidate is this one:

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dudes with scarves

What is it with guys who wear scarves? Saw Sugar Ray Leonard on the tube today wearing a black velvet suit coat with a white (angora?) scarf draped around his neck. He reminded me of Pepe Le Pew.

Since when do dudes wear scarves absent a winter coat?

Financial Fallacy

I saw about three minutes of ESPN's The Contender earlier today while sitting in a pizza joint during a meeting. The sound was turned off, so I read the subtitles. They were interviewing who I can only assume was one of the contenders. Speaking of winning the competition he said something like, "If I win the $750,000, I can get a good education for my son; I can get a beautiful house; and I can be happy for the rest of my life."

Man, is that guy going to be disappointed. Happiness for the rest of your life? If $750,000 is the cost of happiness, then why don't I see a lot more happier people here and there? No, happiness costs everything you've got. In fact, if you want to be truly happy (living a life that is eternal), a first century rabbi names Yeshua taught, "go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor."

750K. Not even close.

Greg Stauffer told me to read . . .

I'm reading Eugene Peterson's book, The Jesus Way, right now. It is top-notch stuff. The sort of reading that challenges my thinking and my acting. Check out some of these yanked-from-their-context quotes:
"We can't proclaim the Jesus truth but then do it any old way we like. Nor can we follow the Jesus way without speaking the Jesus truth." (p. 4)

"The North American church at present is conspicuous for replacing the Jesus way with the American way." (p. 5)

"A consumer church is an anti-Christ church." (p. 6)
You can see, I imagine, why I was so taken with the book after just a few pages. Peterson contends that the Jesus Way is the culmination, or better put perhaps, ultimate expression of the faith that is exhibited in the Patriarchs. In writing about Abraham, for example, Peterson shares the "way of faith":
A sacrificial life is the means, and the only means by which a life of faith matures. By increments a sacrificial life - an altar here, and altar there - comes to permeate every detail of life: parenthood, marriage, friendship, work, gardening, reading a book, climbing a mountain, receiving strangers, circumcision, and getting circumcised. Abraham did not become our exemplar in faith by having it explained to him but by engaging in a lifetime of travel, life on the road, daily leaving something of himself behind him (self-sovereignty) and entering something new (God-sovereignty).

Sacrifice is to faith what eating is to nutrition . . .
Good stuff!

Monday, October 29, 2007

New this week . . . from the church that cancelled Christmas

Last year Southland Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky ignited a storm of controversy when the church decided to cancel church services on Christmas day - a Sunday as it turned out. Church leaders from across the spectrum weighed in on the decision with opinions as wide ranging as their respective theologies.

Now Southland is in the news again. The only thing the church has in common with its previous "infamy" might be its reluctance to be the media "target of the day." The cause of their move to the latest media milieu? Why, Britney Spears, of course. More specifically, the church's effort to reach out to "love Britney the way Jesus loves her."

In a September blog posting, Pastor Jon Weece wrote:

Sometimes it’s easy to see celebrities and the mistakes they make and think they are less deserving of our care and compassion—and our prayers. They have it all—money, beauty, success—but really, they only “have it all” according to a worldly definition.

Take Britney Spears. In the world’s eyes, she’s young, beautiful, talented, successful, yet her life is in shambles filled with bad relationships and devastating life choices. If she were your next-door neighbor in the same situation without the money and success, wouldn’t you care about her problems? Wouldn’t you pray for her and offer her support and encouragement?

Take a few minutes and write a note to Britney Spears, and bring it to the front of the stage between worship services this weekend this week. No preaching. No criticizing. Just love. As a church, let’s love Britney the way Jesus loves her.

A month ago is a long time in cyberspace, of course. But the story took on new life after catching the attention of late last week. When Fark picked up the scent and attached a "dumba**" tag, I suspect brother Weece began flashing back to last December.

That's life on the cutting edge, I suppose.

Jon and Southland took a lot of heat over last Christmas. In Frankly Speaking's opinion, most of it was deserved, some of it was not. Certainly the tone of much of the criticism was uncalled for. By comparison, this latest media mess is much ado about nothing. What is the worst Weece is guilty of? Maybe naivety. Maybe. At best, though, Weece is teaching his people to love those who've messed up their lives so thoroughly that the rest of the world (including many Christians) seem happy to sit idly by and watch them receive their comeuppance.

I suspect that, if Britney receives the well wishes of the faithful at Southland, they'll point her to a God of love and not one of condemnation and irreversible judgment.

She needs that God.

But then again, so do I.

What happens when The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe meets Friedrich Nietzsche

Any flick with Nicole Kidman, Sam Elliot and Daniel Craig sounds like a pretty nice piece of celluloid. Not so according to an email I received from a fellow Southie earlier today. It seems The Catholic League is mounting a protest against the upcoming film, The Golden Compass.

The fuss is not so much over the film itself, but in regard to the book on which it is based, The Northern Lights. Written by "militant atheist" Philip Pullman, The Northern Lights (released in the US as The Golden Compass) is a subtle refutation of the spirituality in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. The two books that follow The Golden Compass, however, fairly drip with anti-God sentiment and, at least from The Catholic League's perspective, anti-Catholic drivel as well.

I checked out the trailer and, frankly speaking, it is amazing. I felt an instant pang of guilt for wanting to see a film that has already earned such negative reviews form Christian folks. What to do, what to do? Should I protest. Should I acquiesce? Should I give up and just remain silent?

How about this. What would happen if myself and other Christians co-opted the film as an opportunity to talk about good versus evil. Perhaps by discussing the very existence of good and evil we confirm that there is a God. In The Problem of Pain, for instance, Lewis discusses the presence of evil as a confirmation of God's existence.

I suspect I will go and see the movie. I certainly will read Pullman's book. If I want to be able to engage our world where our world is at, then, like Paul, I'm going to have to climb the steps to the Areopagus and sit among the thinkers who influence the direction of our culture.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

No mas problemas

Thanks to all who've contacted me about problems with Frankly Speaking. I think I've got the bugs ironed out in my blogger template now. And as soon as blogger lets me post pictures I'll be putting up a new post from the Lansing State Journal.

Keep the faith!

Lots of jokes . . . can't use a one of 'em

This article appeared in the Lansing State Journal the other day. If you click on the image, it should come up in your browser so you can read it . . .

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Anti-perspirant inspiration

I love opening a new bar of antiperspirant! The nice curved arch. No white residue down the side of the plastic case. No stray armpit hairs stuck to the top. The whole experience screams, "today is going to be a good day!"

When I opened up my new stick of Degree deodorant this morning and pulled the little plastic doohickey off to throw away I discovered that the folks at Unilever printed an inspirational message on the top of the white bar.

This morning's encouragement: "Take the Risk!"

Okay I will. No deodorant for me. . .

Check out this dude's take on his degree deodorant.

Monday, October 08, 2007

God said that?

Saw this inspirational billboard on the way home from work the other night. Tell that to King Saul. Or to Eli's sons Phineas and Hophni. The fact is, there are times when God fires his apprentices.

I suspect the billboard's sponsor was trying to point out that God said he will "never leave us or forsake us," and he is right in doing so. Nevertheless, the Bible is pretty clear that we can reject Him. And when we do, God will write Ichabod over our ministry and find someone else to do the work of the Kingdom.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


My son Caleb joined the Grand Ledge High School band when we moved to Michigan this fall. This 195 person ensemble is amazing. Under the direction of 32 year veteran band director Michael Kaufman, the Marching Comets have become one of the premier bands in Michigan. Here they are performing the Grand Ledge Fight Song at last Friday night's football game. Turn up the volume!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Crazy busy . . .

This week has been incredibly busy! Tonight Caleb's band is in exhibition with several other mid-Michigan bands AND the Michigan State Marching Spartans! I'll write more about it later.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Spider Web Apologetics

I wonder if Cheryl Hayashi’s mother taught her, “The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout”? If she did, it was an investment that paid off. Hayashi, an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of California / Riverside, received a MacArthur genius award this week. Along with the prestige of being named a MacArthur Fellow, Hyashi received a $500,000 grant that will enable her to continue her research.

The subject of her studies? Spider silk. According to the foundation’s website, Hyashi is “a spider silk biologist revealing the architecture, properties, and function of spider silks and the possibilities of developing new synthetic materials.” What she teaches about spiders is simply amazing.

For instance, Hayashi has concluded that “Some species of spiders produce as many as six different silks, each with specific mechanical properties and functions . . .” Some of these compounds have tensile strength and elasticity greater than that of modern steel cables. Other spider silks are more durable than carbon fiber.

Her research is increasing our understanding of spiders and has “. . . the potential to influence the development of biomimetic material for a variety of applications, from biodegradable fishing lines to medical sutures to protective armor cloth.”

All from the posterior end of an arachnid.

There’s something else I wonder. I wonder if Cheryl Hayashi believes God created spiders, or that they are the result of evolution. If she is like the vast majority of biology professors that teach at our major universities, she has staked her tent firmly in the evolution camp. I don’t pretend to know anything about biology. Frankly, I struggle to handle theology, and it is my field. But for the life of me I can’t figure out how someone, anyone really, can look at a creature so complex that it can create six different types of silk based on the mix of chemicals secreted from it’s backside, and not think, “This creature is divinely designed!”

A spider web played a faith-building role in the life of Nien Cheng, a Chinese woman jailed in 1966 during Mao Zedong’s “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” Locked in a small damp cell, Cheng shared her space with a tiny web-spinner. Huddled in the corner of her cage, she watched as the spider “swung out on a silken thread, attached the strand to the base of the bar, and swung another, then another. It worked with purpose and confidence weaving a web of intricate beauty.”

Cheng later wrote,
I had just watched an architectural feat by an extremely skilled artist . . . My mind was full of questions. Who had taught this spider to make a web? Could it really have acquired the skill through evolution, or did God create the spider and endow it with the ability to make a web so that it could catch food and perpetuate its species? . . . I knew I had just witnessed something that was extraordinarily beautiful and uplifting. Whether God had made the spider or not, I thanked Him for what I had just seen. It helped me to see that God was in control. [Charles Colson, The God of Stones and Spiders, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), pp. 18-19]
Maybe I’ll think of Hayashi and Cheng next time I see something with eight legs rappelling from the ceiling on its self-made silk rope. Instead of swatting, perhaps I’ll stare and ponder the amazing God who created such a complex and wonderful creature. Until my wife sees it, that is. Then I’m afraid the itsy bitsy spider will have to go after all.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A year's worth of rules

New York author, A.J. Jacobs just invested an entire year trying to keep every command in the Bible. MSNBC details his rule-keeping regimen. Following regulations included the simple - not cutting hair - to the difficult - not coveting his neighbor's flat screen.

Grace is a much preferred path, I think.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Stretch run

The Cubs are 1.5 games up with eight to go. If we can get past the Pirates we have the cellar dwelling Florida Marlins followed by Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, the Brew crew faces must-win St. Louis and wild-card hopeful San Diego. God is good.

Sam, Scott, did I just jinx the whole thing?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nine games left!

With nine games left, the Cubs are one game up on the Brewers. I've never prayed for a baseball team before, and I'm not going to start now. I can't help hoping, though, that God is a Cub fan!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Response to Freeganism

Southie Rod Bisher was moved to eloquence by my freegan post. His inspiring response, abbreviated here, is well worth the reading. To read his complete response, email Frankly Speaking at the link to the right of this page.

People have the right in this country to make choices and our people, in military, and government fight for those freedoms. However, in this internet age of information, when people who are citizens of the United States, promote this type of socialism, these incidences stir me to my core.

Many of you know my son Patrick is in training as a Navy S.E.A.L. We have a number of people here at SLCC who have either served their country in the military or have loved ones serving currently. Also, we have people who have served in positions at the state or federal level,
as owners of companies and small businesses or CEOs in the corporate sector, all kinds of professionals and people who work for an honest day's wage. All of whom understand some basic tenants that people like these "freegans" refuse to recognize. They were given a birthright of freedom, but because they refuse to take ownership, do the work, and take up the mantel of responsibility, they, like Esau, they have sold it for bread and a bowl of stew.

The last line of the Navy S.E.A.L creed reads,
"Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail."
Charles Colson wrote, "The root of duty is the gratitude for what others have done." But these "freegans" seem to have given up on the ideal which is America, and do not recognize the duty that others have done. They choose a life of escapism instead of participation in life. They haven't chosen to study the great successes of our country or the people in it, people who started with nothing, and because the cared about others first, became great influences and had much prosperity.

Contrary to a lot of advice they may have heard out there on how to live successfully, or perhaps build a prosperous business, integrating compassion for your fellow man with lucrative opportunities is the real secret to security and happiness. It's the knowledge that what you're doing is making a difference that makes you feel worthy of the privilege as a U.S. citizen and even the comfort of wealth. But even long before the wealth comes, having a compassionate attitude along with sound business acumen (which can be learned) goes a long way towards increasing your chances of attaining dreams, and/or wealth, and influence. . . .

The ideals held by people who are bent on living socialist values are the ideals that continue to plague any free society. Not only here at home, but all over the world, the United States is constantly fighting for social freedoms, economic freedoms, property and ownership freedoms, and religious freedoms.

If one searches the scriptures, one can see that capitalism is a Godly system, socialism is man's corruption of it and Satan's twisting of the truth. Capitalism and free enterprise are the opportunities that are carried on the winds of freedom. . . [In] the free wind of freedom, the Stars and Stripes still wave, and by the grace of Almighty God 'we will not fail'.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

You can say "no"

Wally turned me on to a news story about a German man who is turning down his recent $4 million lottery winnings.

The idea blows me away. Of course, there are plenty of folks who reject a far greater gift - salvation. We can say "no" to God. Unless you're a Calvinist. In which case you can't say "no," or you can't say "yes." Apparently the whole thing is out of your hands. I think. Maybe.

The cat lady

I learned that our Administrative Assistant, Micki, has ten cats. Cool. Her "secret sister" gave her this nifty "Crazy Cat Lady" action figure today.

A freegan by any other name . . .

My buddy Erick gave me the 411 about a group of folks who have taken vegetarianism to a whole new level. They call themselves "freegans."

What is a freegan? Glad you asked. According to their website,
Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.
Sounds reasonable, right? Unpack their nice little definition, though, and you will find folks dumpster diving for food and freeloading off hard-working folks.

They practice "eco-friendly transportation" (hitch-hiking), "rent-free housing" (squatting), and "voluntary joblessness" (unemployment). My father's generation called them "bums." You can call them whatever you want, as long as you don't call them late for supper. And its free. And doesn't contain meat. Good luck with that.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

South Pole (barn)

South is finishing up a new pole barn. Just outside my window, a dedicated crew of Southie volunteers have been working for about two (or is it three) weeks to build it. We'll be using it for storage, mostly. Rod asked me to post it here so fellow "Southies" can check it out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rutgers fans shame on you

My blood is boiling after reading Mark Diiono's column about the Rutger - Navy football game last Saturday. After you read it yours will too. Apparently, the future white-collar workers of America got all liquored up and, from the safety of the stands, harrassed the Navy players. Okay. Fine. That is football.

But Saturday they crossed the line from fan to fanatic by personally attacking men who, following graduation, will be protecting their right to be jackasses at football games.

I sent an email to NCAA President Miles Brand asking him what he intends to do about it, and I urge readers of Frankly Speaking to do the same.

Progress at GLCC

It is ironic that, on a day devoted to remembering the destruction of two iconic American symbols and those who perished in New York, Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania field, steel began being hung for Great Lakes Christian College's Doty Center.

Those who perpetrated the hateful acts of six years ago cannot withstand the onslaught of the Church of Jesus Christ, and those being prepared for ministry at GLCC.

Thank God for the work of Great Lakes and for this new tool in the education of student leaders for the church of today and tomorrow.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Colts roll . . .

The Colts absolutely dismantled the New Orleans Saints last night. I told my buddy Fred that this is the finest team to take the field in the 21st century. He says its early in the season. He's right, I guess. But then again, his Michigan Wolverines just got beat by. . . well, let's not talk about that.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

My cultured ear

So it turns out I like classical music. It surprised me, actually. I never saw it coming.

As I anticipated my move to Lansing, I looked forward to listening to Lansing's Christian radio station. WBCL was what we listened to back in Butler, and I wanted to continue a steady diet of CCM. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy listening to Smile FM. I especially enjoy hearing Rob Dale's weather forecast. (Shameless plug for a fellow "Southie.")

Nevertheless, I find myself listening to more and more classical music on WKAR. There is just something . . . soothing about their music. Their announcer (it seems wrong to call him a "DJ") exudes calmness as he intones:
And now the 23rd symphony by Italian composer Aldente Rotini. The prime number symphony. Rotini composed this symphony during his dissipation years, and for that reason the 23rd is sometimes referred to as the Baccardi overture. Here performed by the Prague National Symphonic Orchestra under the direction of Marco Polo.

The announcers on WKAR don't even try to "hit the post." DJs make "hitting the post" - trying to fit as many words as they can in before a song's lyrics kick in - an art form. A good platter spinner can give you the time, weather, traffic, stock tips, relative position of the moon to the earth and the solunar table before Garth or Carly or Bono ever spits out a word. Its all so hurried. Contemporary radio, including CCM is rushed, intense even.

Not classical radio. To talk over the music is unthinkable. Its not real time.

So I'll order my Taco Bell and hurry back to the office, careful to avoid exceeding 35 mph on Miller Road. I may even make a call on my cell if I have to. But by the time I get back to 6300 Aurelius, I'll be feeling pretty good. Because whatever I'm having for lunch, I know I'm dining on Rotini (or Haydn or Mozart).
Who knows. Maybe I'll even contribute a few bucks to WKAR's annual fund drive. Now if I could just get past that thing with NPR.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Commitment versus Surrender

Going through my journal entries from May of this year, I came across something Larry Carter preached at South: "Commitment means I am still in charge. Surrender means letting God be in control."

I preach commitment all the time. Larry is right, though, and that means I need to refine my vocabulary a bit. And while I'm at it, perhaps I need to refine my thinking and my acting some, too.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Mrs. Frankly brought home a giant chocolate bar from our bank earlier today. There was a mix-up with our checking account and, after straightening it out, our "personal banker" told Tracy, "You need this." It's nice to have a banker that understands our needs.

The whole chocolate thing reminded me of something that my buddy Erick Riddle wrote to me yesterday:
A good piece of chocolate has about 200 calories. As I enjoy two servings per night, and a few more on weekends, I consume 3,500 calories of chocolate in a week, which equals one pound of weight per week.


In the last 3 1/2 years, I have had a chocolate caloric intake of about 180 pounds. I weigh only 165 pounds, so without chocolate, I would have wasted away to nothing about three months ago!

I owe my life to chocolate.
Erick, I can completely relate.

Monday, September 03, 2007

My favorite month

September is here - my favorite month. For my DeKalb County, Indiana friends, the reasons are obvious:
  • The Auburn-Cord-Dusenberg Festival. 100,000 people descend on my home county to buy and sell classic cars. Since my cousin married into the Kruse auctioneering family, I've been blessed to have some free tickets to the festival come my way over the years. They've been worth every penny someone else paid for them. (And much appreciated.)
  • High School Football. The Eastside Blazers opened play and I wasn't there to see their collision with the mighty Garrett Railroaders. I did see the Grand Ledge Comets play and it was a ton of fun. Still, I miss Chuck cheering "First down! Move those sticks!"
  • The National Football League. The Colts open Thursday night against the Saints. Back to back? I think so.
  • The DeKalb County Free Fall Fair. My home county's fair is the last in the State of Indiana. This year, for the first time in many years, I won't be working the morning grill at the Bar None Saddle Club. I plan to stop in on Friday, though, and enjoy the great food and fine company.
  • Deer season. The quest for a big buck begins with the Michigan youth hunt later this month. Perhaps we'll bring home a wall-hanger this year. But even if we don't, we'll bring home plenty of good memories.
  • Color. The leaves, they are a changin'. I'm actually looking forward to the drive to and from work each day as I enjoy the splash of autumn hues that dot the roadside.
Yep. September is my favorite month. Sure glad it's here again!