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January 2006

Homeland Security

Thanks goes to Father Jim Parker in the Christian Fellowship Forum for posting the following:

I just wanted to let you know that the new Homeland Security Bill has passed. Things will be different now and Internet surfing will be tracked by what the FBI calls a "non-intrusive method."


The FBI says you will not notice anything different. For a demonstration, click on the link below

It's getting pretty scary! <G>

Discussions on Health and Wellness

I have a Health and Wellness folder in the Christian Fellowship Forum with a variety of subjects being discussed. Feel free to take a look and participate.

Here is some news we will be discussing.

LONDON (Agence de Presse Medicale) - The first inhaled insulin (Exubera; Pfizer) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Commission, but is likely to be launched first in the UK, a spokesperson for the company said Monday. Click to read the whole article.

I found this interesting:

Religious groups are getting a big piece of President Bush's 15 million dollar AIDS budget.

In an older news item: Jan. 18, 2006 -- Doctors will soon see easier-to-understand safety labels on prescription drugs, the FDA announced Wednesday.

There is always good, up-to-date health and wellness information at Better Life Institute's site. To get more information on the nutritional recomendations they give or access products from the finest vitamin manufacturers, contact me.

Challenger at 20 Years

It is difficult not to comment on the 20th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster.

Where were you, what were you doing, and how did you feel when you heard the news about the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger 20 years ago?

I'll go first:

I was in my office when I received a call from a school secretary who was a member of our church. She was obviously crying. All the children in the school had been watching on television to see the first teacher in space. I guess the whole school was traumatized. She told me to turn on the television quickly. I did and did not turn it off for the rest of the day.

It was a horrifying experience.

I've asked for some comments in the Fellowship Forum as well as the Religion Forum. Take your pick. One will be from a Christian perspective (Fellowship) and the other (Religion) from an interfaith and secular point of view.


Mozart was born 250 years ago this past week. His was among the  grandest, most emotionally charged, complex, sophisticated, yet simply delightful music of all time.

Lately, I have been fascinated by the role his wife Constanze played in keeping his work alive and accessible.

Mozart's music has a stimulating effect on me. It is difficult to conceive of so much depth in a man who died so young. I suspect that the notes on the page tell more about the inner life of the man than anything else that can be said about his life.

Check out The Mozart Project for quite a few excellent articles in one place. One article in praticular, challenges some of the assumptions of the moview Amadeus about his life. While it was a wonderful movie and responsible for creating new interest in a younger generation in Mozart, it is good to set the record straight historically:  Amadeus and Mozart: Setting the Record Straight" by A. Peter Brown.

We are discussing Mozart's life and legacy in both the Religion and Fellowship Fora.

New Grandson

Without being the tiniest bit biased, I saw the most  perfect baby I have ever met last night at Fresno Community Hospital.  He is an 8.5 pound boy named Kaibian Allan Sims and just happens to be my grandson. The proud parents are Richard and Tasha. Tasha is doing well and so is Kaybien except for an infection that is going to keep him in the hospital on antibiotics until Sunday. Pictures will follow. I mean, this kid is really perfect. You'll see what I mean.

The Book of Daniel

My friend, Richard Waterfield, posted the following about the cancelation of NBC's, "The Book of Daniel" in a Christian Fellowship discussion today. (Click to read the entire discussion or participate.)


"Without so much as a peep from me, the TV show 'Book of Daniel' has parted company with it's Friday night NBC time. Maybe it will run at 3 AM, or on some special interest cable program, or maybe not at all. Devotees are calling for an early DVD release and blaming the fanatical right wingers for the show's demise. The real cause might have been ratings. I donno.

Richard W."

I responded:


">>The real cause might have been ratings. I donno.<<"

"Ya think ? <G>"

"I've never known the networks to be motivated by anything else <g>."

"I was curious and didn't feel right about speaking out against something on the word of others, so I watched most of the first episode and clicked in on some of the others. They were straining very hard to include as many schocking scenarios as they could in an hour."

"It's like the guy who had the bumper sticker that said, "Nuke a gay whale for Jesus."  - designed to offend everyone, but not worth the buck to buy it or the trouble to put it on the bumper. I enjoy being offended as much as the next guy, but the show just didn't have any edge to it, just a lot of dull axes to grind."

"Now - cancelling West Wing is another matter. I was looking forward to either way the wind blew - a  Jimmy Smit presidency or an Alan Alda presidency. I enjoy being offended by a good, thoughtful script <s>."

"And don't get  me started on Seventh Heaven <S> (which has pretty much run out of scripts to be written). Nevertheless, I've been loyal to the family and to Eric Camden, Super Pastor."

"I guess I'll just watch Law and Order or better still, read a book."

"Thus endeth Tom's Media Commentary for the week <g>."

"- Tom"

Networks will forgive almost anything except bad ratings. Viewers will forgive anything except bad stories and scripts. It may be that the boycotters are patting themselves on the back, but if anything, they got a lot of us to check it out. Come to think of it, as an indirect result, they may have precipitated its demise.

Let me quickly add, that I never recomended the show and never would have. I am just very skeptical about and resistant to boycotts. If someone tells me what not to read or watch it sends a little prickly thing crawling up my back.

Any family can be dysfunctional - even ministers' families, but this was a bit much - to be so dysfunctional and yet, functional at the same time!

One thing I never really figured out was what Daniel stood for. He wasn't a bad guy; it's just that, given his lack of any conviction whatsoever, why bother?  I guess we'll never know.

And then, there was the protrayal of Jesus. Some called it blasphemous. I don't know about that - but it certainly didn't look like the Jesus I converse with regularly.

And while we are at it, didn't anyone complain that he was rather ...... WHITE?

And bland ... ?

And exactly what was his message?

Read more at Religion Today.


Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.

Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  – Proverbs 24:13-14, NIV, © 1973, 1975, 1978, International Bible Society

Maybe the problem with some folks who think they are very wise is that they don't eat enough sweets.

I understand the rather obvious problem with that statement, but I wonder if I also might be on to something. Some folks seem to do more snarling than smiling when they encounter great ideas. The lights go on in their minds and out in their countenance. All of the energy that comes from insight is used up in perpetuating their misery.

Sour puss thinking, teaching, and living misses the whole point of wisdom.

Wisdom is sweet. After a long wrestling match with truth - which ought to be as playful as it is dead serious, we emerge with something wonderful, an idea. It rings true with the scriptures and true with the soul and it gathers around it a galaxy of other loose ended ideas which suddenly find an orbit that was there all along, but unnoticed.

Eureka! Serendipity! Spread the honey! How sweet it is!

Do you ever chuckle when you read the bible? If not, I dare say you are missing something.

There you are, pouring over the word of God, brain strain focus is fixed on the meaning of the passage and you turn the page. There in living color is an illustration that rings true. You encounter a mirror of your own emotions, a replay of your own experience, an answer that has eluded you and you get all giggly.

You just got the point. How sweet it is!

The gospel is the wisdom of God and it is good news. There is some bad news mixed in, but only to lead us to the good. Carrots are sweet and corn is really sweet, but a little honey brightens the disposition so much.

No one wants or needs a steady diet of nothing but sugar coating, but blandness is not a characteristic of radical Christianity. I want to be where there is love and life and laughter. That's my honey tree. That is wisdom. That is my faith.

Prescription Drugs

With over half of all women and 40% of all men using prescription drugs, we have become a drug-dependent society. According to a report from Reuters on CNN  and Netscape, government statistics were published Thursday.

" This "snapshot" of information was based on a survey that found that 54 percent of white non-Hispanic women and 43 percent of white non-Hispanic men had used a prescription drug in the past month, the National Center for Health Statistics said in a statement."

Are we less healthy? Are we needier? Or is it just easier to answer our health issues with a prescription?

These are questions for society to ask and answer? What percentage of those taking prescription drugs might be better served by proper nutrition and nutritional supplements? Were they even tried first?

Every drug has side effects. In an effort to cure a specific problem, an artificial chemical introduced into a person's body with known and unknown side effects. The trade off is relief from a physical problem in exchange for potential cumulative toxicity. Often that is necessary and life saving. The question is whether or not it is neccesary as often as it is practiced

In a separate article, on Dr. John Grohol's Psych Central it is noted that 1.3 million Americans abuse prescription drugs.
What alternatives do you see, if any, to this explosion in the use of prescriptions as a first line of defense in the quest for health?

Discuss it here.

Fodder from Fora

My on-line mentor, Georgia Griffith, died in September. For so many years, our e-mail conversations were a daily part of my life and her way with words influenced my thinking. Even this week, I have used some of her unique language to describe forum events. Georgia insisted that the plural form of forum was "fora."

Some of the most interesting discussions I read on a daily basis come from the Religion and Christian Fellowship Fora on CompuServe/Netscape and I want to do my best to highlight some of them here in my Blog.

CflogoChristian Fellowship Forum is an affirming and cozy place for believers where everyone is welcome. Since it is diverse, there is occasional controversy and heat, but we try to keep it friendly. There is a special folder for prayer requests and a real sense of community.

RflogoThe Religion Forum is an interfaith community and many of our members have no faith. The key word is respect and. I am especially sensitive to my fellow believers showing respect for people who do not see eye to eye with them about their faith. There is much controversy and heat, but some pretty definite rules.

You will need to get a free screen name from AOL, Netscape, or CompuServe before being allowed to post, but anyone can read the fora.

An interesting discussion in the Religion Forum is called, "Are You Practicing the Right Religion?" It has a link to a test on Belief that produces some interesting, though limited results.

Have you ever wondered what happened to Larry Norman from the Jesus Movement, famous for "I Wish We'd All Been Ready?" One of our members did a little research on the subject and reported back to us. It seems that Larry has had some health issues and needs our prayers and support.

Christian apologist, Elgin Hushbeck, Jr. was our Author of the Month in the Religion Forum a while back. He generated a number of interesting discussions including: Hebrew Text and LXX  and  What Is Evidence.  His books are worth a read. Energion Publications publishes Elgin's book, Consider Christianity, Volume 1: Evidence for the Bible and is in the process of publishing his second book, Consider Christianity, Volume 2: Evidence for the Christian Faith (still on pre-publication).  There have been a couple of questions here about ordering.  To get more information on orders, see Henry's message in the "Our Sponsors" folder, Apologetics Resources.

Our family saw "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" on Christmas Day. I loved it! Having read the whole Narnia series (some of it read to me by Andrea), I found it faithful and compelling.  We are discussing it in the Fellowship Forum as Narnia. I invite your comments here or there.

Maybe I'll add more tomorrow or the next day.


- Tom

Devotional Thoughts for January 23-29

Something to Think About

Today I am launching a new venture on my blog. As I write devotionals for my own and my churches consumption, I will be posting them here. If they are an encouragement to any of you, I will be grateful and blessed.

The S Factor

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel : and the Holy Ghost was upon him. – Luke 2:25 

Simeon was in the right place, in the right frame of mind, living a righteous life, and doing so in right relationship with God.

He was a ready receptacle for God into which God could deposit a gift. He was also ready to be used to make a great declaration to the world.

The Holy Ghost was upon Him – what a magnificent state in which to be! 

To be in Jerusalem, the city of God was the first of his blessings. That meant that he lived within eyesight of the temple and could go there regularly to worship, pray, and hear the Torah. Proximity to God and His people opens us to blessings beyond our imagination. Stay close.

He was just. When given a choice between doing the right thing and the wrong thing, he chose the right thing. He did not ask, “Which is easier or has a better payoff?” He asked, “What is right?” 

He was devout. His heart was turned in the direction of God and He was an earnest God-seeker. Such a man or woman is ready for God to move. 

He was waiting for the consolation of Israel. He was not a grumbler about the times, but he knew that something better was coming. He lived in anticipation, waiting for a great movement and intervention of God in history. So may we.

The Holy Ghost was upon him. Whatever else might be said of him, there was this invisible, unexplainable, beyond-the-ordinary dimension to his life that nothing could account for but the Holy Spirit. It was the S Factor – S for Spirit. 

The Christian life is a spiritual life. It is to be lived spiritually in the power of the Holy Spirit and under His constant influence. When that is the case, whatever else might be said of us will not be enough to explain the extraordinary hope, confidence, insight, and authority of our lives. 

The S Factor is available to each of us. Are we available to Him?

 When God Whispers in Our Ears

And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.– Luke 2:28 

What has the Holy Spirit shown you? 

Is it audacious to make claims of divine revelation? Is it theologically correct to do so? Might it not be considered presumptuous? 

In the first place, this was not general revelation for all people. It was personal disclosure for Simeon’s personal consumption and encouragement. The Holy Spirit had assured him of the promise and he had embraced it. 

There is no indication that Simeon had gone about bragging on his “special revelation.” He had not used it to elevate his status or to appear hyper spiritual. 

He had not developed and marketed a seminar entitled, “How I Received a Revelation from the Holy Ghost and How You Can Too.” 

He simply received a promise through the still, small voice of God and he clung to it with all his might. He did so in complete trust and confidence that God would bring it to pass. 

Perhaps you believe that the Holy Spirit has shown you something about your future. It is OK to entertain the thought. None of us is a perfect receptacle for words from God, but He does still whisper promises in our ears in the form of assurance, calling, and encouragement. Do not be afraid to receive these words. 

Could you be wrong? You might, but if you are, God will clarify that for you and show you something better in due time. 

You will most likely discover that God was indeed speaking to you, but that you did not fully understand what He was trying to say. It stretched you and challenged you and through the experience, you grew. 

If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, it is most likely about you. It was about Simeon that he would live to see the Lord’s Christ and it was about Christ Himself. There were many ways God could have chosen to fulfill those words, but the way He did turned into a blessing for all who believe. What is He whispering in your ear?

 Hanging On

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation ... – Luke   2:29-30

Sometimes it seems that we are just hanging on, waiting for something big to happen. 

We hang on to money because we know that either a great opportunity or a rainy day is on the way. 

We hang on to an idea because we know that someday, it will be useful. Some day, other people will buy into it and come alongside of us. 

We hang on to life because we know that God is not done with us and that all He has promised has not yet come to pass. We hang on because He is hanging on to us and because to shortcut the process would be to cheat Him and to cheat ourselves. 

We hang on to hope because we believe that God is the God of hope and that everything He promises will come to pass. We know deeply that He is not forgetful, nor is He remiss. He will fulfill His Word. 

Therefore we live on tiptoe. While resting in His promises, we do not entirely relax. We stay alert. We watch. We pray. We actively seek any sign of His coming, any indication of His acting out of His purposes in our time. 

We may not know what our roles may be, but we stand at the ready to play them. If it is only to witness His power and trustworthiness, we will do so with joy and gratitude. 

Simeon could not depart in peace until the moment came and when the moment came, he knew it. 

“Any time now, Lord.  I have seen what you told me I’d see before I died. I’m ready now.” 

There were no regrets in Simeon’s life, no unfinished business, no unfulfilled plans, no lost dreams. God had done the great thing for which he had been “hanging on.” 

Maybe he lived many more years; maybe he died the next day; we don’t know. What we do know is that when the time came for him to make the final departure, he was ready. He was ready from that moment on.


And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. – Luke 2:33

God isn’t calling know-it-alls to play a significant role in His program. 

He is not looking for those whose motto is, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.” 

God is calling men and women who are capable of marveling over that which is marvelous. 

“Business and usual” is not in His order of the day. He is full of surprises. The mundane is not His domain; He shakes things up. 

When God speaks directly through His prophets to us, His Word goes straight to the heart with recognizable veracity and piercing honesty. We are amazed. 

Joseph was a man capable of relishing the marvels of God. He was not jaded by boredom or dulled by cynicism. Joseph was caught completely off guard by the wonder of God’s power and He basked in it. 

To marvel at the spoken word means that we have truly received it – deeply and with a willingness to let it shape us. We have rejected the superficial responses that tend to dismiss the unusual as a something merely strange and we have chosen to let God speak. 

It is no small thing to receive such a word. 

It is no small thing what God wants to do in us, through us, and within proximity of our lives. 

When God sends a Simeon or an Anna into our lives, He has a reason. While no human being is capable of a consistently infallible representation of divine will, God is able to speak through the frailest, most errant person to say what we need to hear. 

And while we are not witnessing the creation of new scriptures in our time, the Lord is still taking His scriptures and placing them on the lips of men and women He chooses to apply them to our lives in ways that cause us to marvel. 

Don’t stop marveling; we serve a marvelous God.

 A Strange Blessing

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Luke 2:34-35

It must have seemed like a strange sort of blessing to Mary and Joseph. Many would rise. Many would fall. As a sign, the babe would be spoken against. He would bring out the best and worst in people as their very heart thoughts and motives were revealed. As parents, they would have their hearts pierced. 

It was a strange blessing indeed. 

When Jesus comes, sweet and unassuming, precious, cute, and giggly as a little baby, it is hard to imagine that the planet has just been invaded by a force to contend with. 

He does not tread lightly. There will be no lasting indifference in His regard. He will not be non-controversial. He defines controversy. He confronts us, shattering our prejudices, exposing our biases, showing us what our religious hypocrisies really look like in the light of His truth. 

And so He comes to you and to me, dear friend, amid the noise of confusion and the beating waves of doubt an anxiety. His words speak truth and courage to our hearts, but it is His touch that is life giving and life affirming, Fear not! 

He threatens our stasis. He shatters our well-formed opinions no matter how many proof-texts we have arranged to support them. He is Lord of all and every notion is subject to His interpretation. 

We are not guaranteed safe passage through the sorting out process. We may well be sifted. Nor are those close to him guaranteed that we will not be broken on the wheel of pain and discomfort. 

And yet, He is blessed and we will be blessed through Him. By being in His circle of relationships, the siftings will be blessings and the piercings blessings too. We need His awful mercy and His harsh healing to be made whole. Strange as the blessing may be, a blessing it is.


peaking to the Right People

And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem – Luke 2:38

Anna showed up at just the right moment. 

It was not all that surprising, because she had devoted the years of her widowhood to prayer and worship. She was in the temple so much, that she might have seemed like an anachronism to some and an annoyance to others. 

She was just “always there.” 

Yet, she could have missed the moment if not for one thing. God wanted her there and arranged for her to be there to see the Baby King. 

She hoped for the redemption of Israel and, once she had seen Him, she told people who were like minded. 

There is always an audience for the message that God entrusts to us. There are always those who share our longing, hope, and dissatisfaction with the status quo. 

God prepared Anna and He prepared her audience. 

Have you been so infused and enthused with redemptive hope that you know you have to share it? He has prepared some people who are ready, willing, and anxious to hear your testimony. 

Do not grow discouraged thinking no one is interested. You just haven’t found them yet. 

Do not expect everyone to be responsive. Some folks have grown cold and indifferent. Others have never thought beyond the present time with all of its thrills and carnal gratifications. They are living for now and are satisfied with their listless lives. 

That very well may change for them, but for the moment, they are at different stages of listening and longing. 

You are looking out for those who are thirsty. Keep your good news handy, because when you are willing to share, they will start appearing.

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