Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Superfood!

Last week, in Clearwater, Florida, an older man got up and made his weekly visit to the Religious Community Services Food Bank. This was a regular trip for Frank Viscido, since his Social Security check doesn’t seem to cover all of his expenses. Any little bit he can save helps.

This time, however, he asked the worker at the food bank for something a little healthier than his usual fare. The worker looked over the items on the shelves, and spotted what seemed to be the perfect can of food. The label read, “Senior Holistic Superfood.” The worker commented that since Frank was a senior adult, that this was made just for him. He even commented, “You’re a senior, this ought to be good for you.”

Mr. Viscido looked over the can and commented on the rest of the label. It went on to indicate that it contained glucosamine, beta carotene, vitamins and anti-oxidants for "sharp vision, strong immune system and joint health." Frank said it looked good to him, so he was about to take the can when he turned it around and got a look at the front of the label for the first time.

Dog food website
When Mr. Viscido read it there was a bit of a shock. It read, “Healthy skin...and coat." "Superfoods every dog needs." The food bank had handed out dog food. Had Mr. Viscido not been so astute, he might have been dining on Fido fare that evening.

Of course, the food bank was very apologetic about the incident. They attributed the oversight to a well meaning food donor, who probably just swept out a pantry and made the donation without noticing the dog food. Mr. Viscido took the whole thing in stride, even to the point of making jokes about it.

I saw a funny Christian video recently, where a man comes out from behind a tree wearing a karate gi. He has a Bible in his hand and is about to fight two ninja. The voice over says “The Bible is a sword…” Then the two ninja cut off both arms of the man. (This was all comical, so there was no blood or anything.) The voice over continues, “…of the spirit.” The man is now standing there with no arms and says, “I guess I should have kept reading after the word sword.”
video
How many times do we simply halfway read our Bibles? We like to stick to certain stories or verses that we like, but ignore the rest. The Bible is an exciting, wonderful book. It is both entertaining reading and a guide for our life. The great director and producer, Cecil B. DeMille, who was known for his religious epic movies, once said, “Give me a couple of pages of the Bible and I’ll give you a picture [movie].”

However, if you only take a few pages or a few lines from the Bible, you can become misguided very easily. When you read the scripture, read the passage as a whole. You cannot take the parts you like and ignore the parts you do not. God gave us the wonderful gift of His word. Let’s honor Him by using it daily.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (Psalm 119:9-16 NIV)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Lesson of Cynthia Ann Parker


I recently heard an interview with author, S. C. Gwynne, on National Public Radio. Gwynne has a new book titled, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. It is a historical account of the struggle between the Comanche and white settlers.

The book’s main focus is Quanah Parker, who was the last and greatest chief of the Comanche tribe. Quanah never lost any battle that he fought. He was a fierce warrior and an imposing presence. Later in life, he decided to “walk the white man’s way” by surrendering and assimilating himself into society.

Quanah was the son of chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker. Cynthia Ann Parker was part of the large Parker family that settled in Texas in the 1830’s. She was captured by the Comanche tribe in a raid in 1836. Cynthia Ann was nine at the time.

Due to her young age, she completely forgot her former life, and became one of the Comanche tribe. She stayed with them for 25 years, and actually married their chief. With him, they had three children, of which Quanah was one. She was perfectly content with her life as a Native American.

In December of 1860, she and her two year-old daughter were captured by Texas Rangers in a battle that took the life of her husband, Chief Nocona. When the Rangers began to question her, they noticed that she had blue eyes. It was then that they realized who she was. The story of Cynthia Ann Parker had been in all of the newspapers years before, so she was something of a celebrity. She could not speak English, but recounted what she could remember of her capture. They knew they had finally rescued Cynthia Ann Parker. She was returned to some of her family, the government gave her over 4,000 acres, and she was given a pension of $100 per year for the next five years. She was finally home.

There was one problem. She did not want to be there. She tried, for the final ten years of her life, to escape back to the Comanche tribe. She wanted nothing of the land, family or pension. She only wanted to be with the people who raised her. She died in 1870, never seeing her sons or the Comanche people again.

We tend to be very innocent in our young lives. However, at some point, we are captured by the temptations of the enemy. For some, the temptations to sin come very early, for some they come later, but they always come. At first, we may resist and fight the sin that tears us away from the God who created us and loves us. Unfortunately, many times we become like Cynthia Ann Parker. We simply assimilate ourselves into the enemy camp.

When God, through His grace, pulls us back into fellowship with Him, by the shed blood of Jesus, many times we surrender. Many times we resist. However, when we do finally surrender, we tend to fondly view our time spent in sin. We long for the days when we did certain things, or we crave the company of the people who were enablers to our temptations. You can hear it sometimes, in the testimony of a Christian, as they recount the “bad things” they did when they were without Christ. Sometimes, you can almost hear a longing for those times in their voice before they catch themselves and talk about how much “happier” they are now.

When Moses was leading the Hebrews out of Egypt, they were eating manna and drinking water. They began to get disgusted with the same things over and over, so they complained. Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Numbers 11:4-6 NKJV)

The Hebrews were slaves in Egypt. It is very likely that they never had such luxurious things to eat while in slavery. In fact, Egyptian records from the era have been found and no such items were listed as slave rations. They were remembering their past bondage more fondly than their present experience.

If Cynthia Ann Parker had given herself over to her true family, she might have been reunited with her sons, and perhaps Quanah may not have taken so long to surrender to the “white man’s ways.” Give up your past and your present to God. Thinking we were having more fun in sin, is simply a lie of the enemy. God gives us a life full of joy that is not dependant on our circumstances. He created us and simply wants the best for us.

You have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry… If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:3,11)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lemonade

This past Saturday, I was driving from Edgefield to my parents home near Easley, SC. I was going there for their annual July 4th celebration. This has been a tradition in our family since I was a very young kid. There’s a lot of family, friends, food and fireworks and we always have a great time. My wife and kids were driving in from the beach to meet me there, so I was trying to arrive near the time they would.

I left my house, turned onto Buncombe Street and headed toward Greenwood. Before I could get out of town, I noticed several little girls holding signs in front of a table. Can you guess what was written on the signs? If you guessed “Lemonade,” you are correct.

The signs were very well done. The letters were large and readable, the cost for a cup of lemonade was displayed prominently, and the girls were really holding them high. They were situated right along the sidewalk so access was easy. The whole thing was a great lesson in marketing.

I drove by and thought, “How cute. I really should stop and buy some lemonade. No, I can’t. I have a two-hour drive ahead of me, and I need to get there as soon as I can.” I made it all the way to the DOT office before I turned around to go back. I realized if I’m too busy to stop and buy lemonade from a kid on the side of the road, then I really am “too busy!”

I went back to the lemonade stand. As I drove up, I noticed another sign that read, “Ice Cold Lemonade.” I thought, “Yeah, right! On a day like today, I’ll be lucky to get lukewarm lemonade.” I walked up to the girls, one already had a cup in her hand and asked, “How many?” I replied that I only wanted one. She went right to work, filling the cup, while another told me the price was 25 cents. I gave her 50 cents and told her to keep the other quarter.

When I got my cup, I was impressed. It was filled to the top, had lots of ice in it, and was garnished with a lemon slice. I thanked them as I walked back to the truck and took a drink. Wow! The lemonade was wonderful! It was ice cold, just as they had advertised. However, I got so much more than I expected. I received great service, happy smiles and a warm feeling that the world may not be so bad after all.

I took two things away from this encounter that I want to share with you. First of all, sometimes we simply need to slow down. How much of the things around us do we miss because we are in a hurry to get somewhere or do something? I arrived at my parent’s house in plenty of time to enjoy the festivities. In fact, I was there before my wife and kids were.

Secondly, be sure that whatever you are advertising is what you are actually producing. Those girls advertised, “Ice Cold Lemonade” and that is exactly what I was served. Make sure that if you are going to wave the banner of being a Christian over your life, that you are showing the fruits of the spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Life on this earth is too short to miss opportunities to buy lemonade from some kids, look for shapes and pictures in the clouds, catch lightning bugs and count stars. Life is also too short to live in contrast to the person we claim to be. It is stressful and very difficult to live a dual life, yet many of us are doing it daily. Give it all to God and allow Him to make the advertisement of your life match your actions.

I want to thank those girls on Buncombe Street for the lemonade, the smile and the lessons that I learned from you. May God richly bless you!

Tell me to slow down, If you think that the road that I'm on is going nowhere. Tell me to slow down, If you know that I'm going too fast for my own good. Tell me to slow down, If the way is leading to a dead end. Tell me to slow down, Turn around, let me change the way I'm going. Oh, I don't want to let go, Of all the things that I know, Are keeping me away from my life. Oh, I don't want to slow down. No, I don't want to look around. But I can't seem to work it out. So help me, God (Slow Down by Third Day. Essential Records. 2008)

We know that we have come to know Him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know Him," but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.  (1 John 2:3-6 NIV)