Wednesday, December 28, 2011

That ONE special Christmas gift that left me so disappointed....

What did you get for Christmas? What was that ONE gift that you really wanted and deep down inside, your heart skipped a beat when you unwrapped it on Christmas morning?

All I wanted for Christmas was one small item, something that I felt would enhance my life and make it more meaningful and worthwhile. I'm talking about a tablet--a 9.7 inch wonder that you can hold in your hands or place on your lap and surf the net, or watch movies or read a book.

Now I'm not going to tell you what brand of tablet I received, but suffice to say, it's NOT an iPad 2. Why? Because the iPad 2 is  1) too expensive; 2) too proprietary; 3) I'm still not ready to join the Apple cult (even though I greatly admire Steve Jobs and have his book on my list of "must reads.").

Also, I did NOT get a Kindle Fire which measures 7" and relies on cloud storage which, if you don't know what I'm talking about, I won't bother to explain. For the time being, I prefer to remain "cloudless"--not a cloud in the sky or among my computers.

Here's what I like about my tablet, aside from brilliant high-def images and movies, I love all the apps that are available in the Google store. Apps for Pandora, ESPN, NFL, watching your favorite TV shows. There are apps for checking your caloric intake, dictionary, lie detector, survival manual, Super Mario Bros, Pac-Man, Sims, Pin Ball, and of course, Angry Birds...the list goes on and on.

But, with all this, I'm somewhat disappointed.      

I was hoping to find an app that exercises for me; or one that goes to work for me; or goes on a diet for me and instantly drops 50 lbs off  my body weight? What about an app that will give me legal representation in court; or an app that will help me find the perfect gift for my wife; or an app that will input a lifetime of Bible study into my brain (how cool would that be?). I've always wanted to run a triathlon, but can't find a single app that does the swimming, biking and running for me.

As much as I love my tablet, it can only do so much. In the end, I realize that I still have to go to the gym and put in all that sweat & pain to exercise 4 or 5x a week, and if I'm ever going to get a handle on the Bible, it will be up to me to apply due diligence to regular study and meditation of the Word.

Finally, if my wife is going to get that perfect gift, I will have to pray and ask for wisdom from the Lord, or ask her what she really wants. I haven't found an app that will do this either. And I haven't found an app that will pray to the Lord, or worship and praise the Lord. If this is going to happen, I will have to do it MYSELF, and that's the way God designed it. He purposely created us so that everything that's really meaningful in our lives has to be done in real-time by you and me, and we can't take a shortcut with apps, or text messages or tweets. We have to have to put in time, effort, sweat and energy to get what's really meaningful out of life. Like the saying, "No pain, no gain." That about sums it up. No apps have been created to endure pain or suffering. That's part of our humanness and that's also what makes us special.

What about you? What was the gift you received this Christmas that put a smile on your face? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What we can learn from Tim Tebow: "Occupy Your Beliefs"

Tim Tebow is God's early Christmas present to the city of Denver and the Broncos. He has been nicknamed, "God's Quarterback." He has become a lightning rod and is the most discussed phenomenon of the NFL season. Many NFL analysts have picked him apart and dismissed him as an inexperienced passer with an awkward throwing arm who likes to run over defensive players. Even Tebow's boss, John Elway has been critical and less than enthusiastic toward Tebow.

Prior to this week, if the Broncos had been on a team bus with Elway as the driver, they would have made a stop at a rest area. Then, as the bus is pulling away, someone yells, "Where's Tebow? He's not on the bus!" At that moment, Elway accelerates, guns the engine, putting the pedal to the metal and drives off leaving Tim Tebow behind in a cloud of exhaust. Elway may even be delighted that Tebow lost Sunday's game, although he didn't really--it was the Denver defense that lost that game. But as Rush Limbaugh has pointed out, the media is now excited because they think this proves there's no God.
Some think he's too "in your face" with his faith.
Tim Tebow's story
Why does Tim Tebow generate such a visceral reaction from the media and fans? Because he takes his faith seriously. He "occupies" his beliefs and walks the talk. Early on, the leftist media attacked him for making an anti-abortion ad for Focus on the Family where he stood beside his mom as she talked about how she had been advised to abort Tim in the womb. That ad generated controversy and was considered a litmus test of Tim's conservative political and social identity. It also served up "red meat" for the leftist media, who made it their goal to bring him down or mock his faith as was displayed last week in a tasteless SNL skit.

Tim Tebow has defied his critics, leading the Broncos on a winning streak of six games in a row. He continues to kneel and give God the glory, and verbally thanks Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Some think he's too "in your face" with his faith. But Tim Tebow is who he is. He's the real deal. In off season, he can be found helping the poor and needy in the Philippines, or speaking in prisons. In college, he used his fame to raise money for an orphanage that his family runs. So when Tim Tebow takes a knee and "tebows" ("tebowing" has now become an internet  phenomenon) he is not doing it to be seen by men. He competes hard and win or lose, he will thank God and remind us that it's just a game.

As you watch Tebow, you can't deny that God is working in and through him. God is with Tim Tebow and he is a living example of what God intended for mankind when He made his plans known to Mary and Joseph two thousand years ago.

Joseph who was engaged to Mary but when he discovered that she was pregnant with child, he decided to divorce Mary in a quiet manner to protect her dignity. But God had other plans: One night while asleep, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and set him straight. Joseph was to take Mary as his wife wherein she would give birth to a son whose name would be Immanuel which means "God with us."
We would prefer to climb up to God through argument, experience and good works....

This is the Christmas story, the Incarnation which doesn't just contradict all human reasoning but transcends it--God becoming a man, one of us. We would prefer to climb up to God through argument, experience, and good works. but God has climbed down to us, meeting us not in the "high places" that we erect but in the lowest of places, in the midst of our sinful brokenness and destructive behavior. The Good News of Christmas is that God is with us: abiding, saving, healing, delivering, restoring, empowering, and loving us daily.

That's what Tim Tebow is doing--enjoying his Creator and serving the Lord because he knows that God is with him, working through him. Mr. Tebow is "occupying his faith." That's what Jesus wants to do with each one of us. He wants to be in you and with you in such a way that others around you sit up and take notice. He wants you to "occupy your beliefs." Start living them out, start putting them into practice. Start "walking the talk." 

You don't have to start "tebowing" but you could begin by just acknowledging that you need Jesus to save you, forgive your sins and bring you into a relationship with God, the Father. Then, like Tebow, let others know through your words and actions that you give all glory to God--that it's not about you, but about the One who made you and saved you. In whatever way God shows you, let those around you know that Jesus is the "reason for the season." Occupy your beliefs, until He comes again.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gullibility: Swallowing Three Cups of Bitter Tea

Today, on the subject of gullibility, I offer up exhibit A: Greg Mortenson and "Three Cups of Tea."

In "Three Cups of Tea," Mortenson writes of being kidnapped in the Waziristan region of Pakistan in 1996. In his second book, "Stones into Schools," Mortenson publishes a photograph of his alleged captors. In T.V. appearances, he has said he was kidnapped for eight days by the Taliban.

"60 Minutes" located three of the men in the photo, all of whom denied that they were Taliban and denied that they had kidnapped Mortenson. One the men in the photo is the research director of a respected think tank in Islamabad, Mansur Khan Mahsud. (To view the 60 Minutes story on Greg Mortenson, click here). "60 Minutes" also checked on schools that CAI claims to have built in Pakistan and Afghanistan and found that some of them were empty, built by somebody else, or simply didn't exist at all. The principals of a number of schools said they had not received any money from CAI in years. 

Best-selling author, Jon Krakauer (Into The Wild, Where Men Win Glory) writes that he was one of Mortenson's earliest backers, donating $75,000 to his non-profit organization. But after a few years, Krakauer says he withdrew his support over concerns that the charity was being mismanaged, and he later learned that the Korphe tale that launched Mortenson into prominence was simply not true. Krakauer says a former board member of CAI told him he should stop giving money to Mortenson's charity years ago. "In 2002, [Mortenson's] board treasurer quit, resigned, along with the board president and two other board members...he said, in so many words, that Greg uses Central Asia Institute as his private ATM machine. That there's no accounting. He has no receipts," says Krakauer. 

Mortenson says the charity took in $23 million in contributions last year - some it from thousands of school children who emptied their piggy banks to help its "Pennies for Peace" program, and some of it from large fundraisers.

What was missing in Greg Mortenson's life and charity (CAI) is accountability. Everyone wanted to believe the story without checking the facts, or auditing his books, or actually investigating the work itself to see if it schools really existed and what, if any impact, they were having on the children of that locale. While CAI is not a Christian charity, we as Christians have been "hoodwinked" time and again by evangelists and their efforts to raise money for overseas' works. If you want to make sure that your charitable donation is getting to the intended work or need, check to see if the organization is a member of the ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability). They have a rigorous process which churches and ministries have to meet in order to be approved as a member. Charter members include: 
  • The Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc., 
  • Child Evangelism Fellowship, 
  • Food for the Hungry, 
  • Jews for Jesus, 
  • Missionary Aviation Fellowship, 
  • Prison Fellowship, 
  • Teen Challenge, 
  • World Vision, 
  • Wycliffe Bible Translators
---just to name a few. 
Jeremiah 6:13 (NIV) 13 "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.
 Proverbs 12:17 (NIV) 17 A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gullibility: How a book of lies resulted in the needless deaths of millions worldwide!

gul lible (gul e bal) adj,  1. easily cheated or tricked.

For your consideration, one of the biggest lies of the 20th century which has resulted in the needless deaths of millions of people. I am talking about Rachel Carson's 1962 book, "Silent Spring" which poisoned the world against DDT and other pesticides. According to Dr. J. Gordon Edwards, writing in Science & Technology Magazine, Carson's best-selling book is full of lies (follow the link to read Dr. Edwards' critique for yourself).

“To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT. In little more than two decades DDThas prevented 500 million human deaths due to malaria that would otherwise have been inevitable.”  – National Academy of Sciences, 1970

Spraying DDT in houses and on mosquito breeding grounds was the primary reason that rates of malaria around the world declined dramatically after the Second World War. Nearly one million Indians died from malaria in 1945, but DDT spraying reduced this to a few thousand by 1960. However, concerns about the environmental harm of DDT led to a decline in spraying, and likewise, a resurgence of malaria.

Today there are once again millions of cases of malaria in India, and over 300 million cases worldwide—most in sub-Saharan Africa. Cases of malaria in South Africa have risen by over 1000 percent in the past five years. Only those countries that have continued to use DDT, such as Ecuador, have contained or reduced malaria.

What or Who is Preventing the Use of DDT?
Environmental "whackos" who insist on maintaining the ban on DDT in the face of human suffering. Around the time of the DDT ban, Dr. Charles Wurster, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, may have revealed how some environmentalists really feel about human beings when he was asked if people might die as a result of the DDT ban: " what? People are the causes of all the problems; we have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them, and this is as good a way as any."

While the World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences, and UNICEF have recommended continued DDT use, influential organizations such as the Sierra Club, the National Audubon Society, Greenpeace and others continue to push for the ban in spite of overwhelming evidence that DDT does not harm the environment and is the most effective answer to the eradication of malaria. 

Help a child, buy a mosquito net
In 2007, 2008 & 2010, American Idol helped raise awareness about malaria ("Malaria No More") and millions of Americans donated 1.6 million life-saving mosquito nets to families across Africa.

As I watched this, I thought "what a waste!" American Idol has been duped and is duping Americans into believing that they are really making a difference in the fight against malaria in Africa. Instead of buying nets, had that money gone for the purchase of DDT, malaria would NOW be eradicated from Africa. History! End of story! But, as least you can feel that you are doing something by purchasing a mosquito net for some poor suffering African child, even if it's only a band-aid solution to the problem. BTW, US Agency for Int. Development USAID only distributes one mosquito net per family which usually goes to the youngest child, leaving all the other family members in a typical African household at risk for malaria.

After South Africa suffered its worst ever malaria outbreak, it decided to risk Western displeasure and revert to the old methods. In one year, incidence of malaria was reduced by 80 percent. Uganda is currently considering a return to DDT but is being threatened by the European Union (EU) with sanctions against agricultural products. The EU claims that DDT bought for public health protection could be corruptly sold to farmers and that residues would end up in produce.

We pay a heavy price for our gullibility. It's easy to believe a lie or a book full of lies when you don't have to live with your family in a hut in Africa trying to fend off deadly malaria with the good intentions of one mosquito net provided by American Idol, the U.S. govt. or the UN. It's easy to ignore the truth and the facts about DDT when your life is not at stake. We are a people who like to pat ourselves on the back and wear lapel ribbons and think we're doing so much and then we stand in the way of real solutions to problems like malaria.

Pray that the eyes of the world leaders would be opened, even as the eyes of South Africa and some 22 other nations have been opened to once again use DDT in combating malaria. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Did I drink the kool-aid regarding Son of Hamas? Is he a fraud?

I had originally planned to write this 2nd post as a "mea culpa," (my fault, my fault, my grievous fault) asking your forgiveness for having exposed you to a fraud when I reviewed and recommended the book, "Son of Hamas." Here's where you can take a deep breath and relax.

After doing further research, I'm still not sure about Yousef's sincerity. At this point, IMHO, the jury is still out, and I will leave it up to you to make up your own mind. I cannot say with certainty that I have been deceived and beguiled; therefore, I can't say that I misled you.

Walid Shoebat, a former radical Muslim and member of the PLO, converted to Christianity in 1994, and questions the sincerity of Mosab Hassan Yousef. You can visit his website and view a video interview with Mosab Hasan Yousef on Arab television where he seems to display Palestinian sympathies.

Walid Shoebat

However, in a more recent speech given before Jewish Congress in Frankfurt, Germany on Oct. 23, 2011, Mosab Hasan Yousef says that he doesn't just like Israel, he loves Israel. That's a tough statement for someone who is alleged to still be a supporter of Hamas since Hamas doesn't believe that Israel should even exist as a nation state. Here is his message in its entirety.

My thoughts on Mosab Hasan Yousef at this point in time: I believe he is a Christian, a young believer who needs our prayers daily. He is under tremendous pressure, and even as I write this, the Obama administration is seeking to deport Yousef back to Israel. If you haven't yet done so, read Son of Hamas and decide for yourself, then pray for Mosab Hasan Yousef. Pray for him to grow in his faith as a one of Yeshua's disciples.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gullibility (Drinking the Kool-Aid): "Exposing a False Prophet"

gullible (adjective): easily tricked or deceived.

About ten minutes into his rambling speech, the anger within me boiled over to the point where I could not longer remain seated. Jumping to my feet, I  pointed at the man behind the podium and looking around the auditorium, yelled: "This man is a false prophet! He's a liar and a deceiver! Don't listen to him! I then proceeded to quote John 14:6 where Jesus says "I am the way, the truth and the life, and that no man comes to the Father except by me."  It was then that the police came and carried me out of the ballroom.

Rev. Moon's 32-city tour began in Portland, Maine
with Burlington,Vermont as his 2nd stop.
I begin a 4-post series on gullibility. My next post will be a confession to having been gullible and being deceived as well as having exposed you to this deception in a recent blog.

Today, however, I want to take you back to February 1974 when Rev. Moon, founder of the Unification Church came to Burlington, Vermont as part of his first tour of America.

As you will see in some of these news clippings, Rev. Moon and his followers, known as "Moonies" were received in New England with open arms. Moon received state proclamations from most New England states as well as a letter of welcome from President Nixon which was read at every stop. Rev. Moon wanted those in his audience to know that he had the endorsement of their political leaders, and was highly regarded by those in the seats of power--so how for a second could you even think to question his integrity or message? Well, what if he's lying? Duh? What if he's hoping that we were gullible enough to buy what he's selling.

And what was Rev. Moon selling? Just the fact that he was the Messiah, come to earth--that Jesus had failed in his initial attempt to redeem mankind and that Rev. Moon and his wife were the True Parents who would now bring us back to the Garden of Eden and complete the unfinished work of Christ, which he had failed to do on the cross. This was at the core of his message but sorry to say, most of those giving Moon their seal of approval had no way of knowing this information because they had not read his manifest, the Divine Principle of Rev. Moon. Still, they evidenced a gullibility in wanting to believe that he was well-intentioned. Because many did not know the Scriptures, they had no way of testing his message. My friends and I came to the conclusion almost from the outset that he was a false prophet. We were on to him, so to speak while he was pulling the wool over everyone's eyes, and some Americans were drinking his kool-aid.

About 3 months before Rev. Moon came to Burlington, Vermont in Feb. 1974, there were huge posters plastered all over the city: "Rev Moon: The New Future of Christianity." At the time, I was living in a Christian commune on College St. in downtown Burlington, Upon seeing these posters, my first thought was: "How can Christianity be new? Why is a "new future" needed for Christianity?" In other words, I was suspicious from the start because I knew that the finished work was done by Jesus on the cross. Period.

We had several talks with Jeffrey Tallakson, the leader of the Unification Church in Burlington, Vermont. Jeffrey was from Berkeley, CA., and he was very bright and presented such well-reasoned arguments for why Rev. Moon was needed in America as a great moral leader. Jeffrey claimed to be a Christian, converted to Christ while at U.C. Berkeley, but when he met up with Rev. Moon and the Unification Church and really listened to Moon's message, he believed that Moon was sent by God to continue the work of Christ here on earth. But those of us who lived at His Church commune weren't buying Jeffrey's persuasive, reasoned arguments.

A few days before Rev. Moon was to make his grand appearance in Burlington at the Ramada Inn, we asked Jeffrey if we could borrow Moon's Divine Principle manual, which was basically under lock and key and not to be seen by the unwashed masses of Vermont. We feigned a keen interest in Moon and acted as thought we were starting to come around to seeing the "light." Jeffrey let us borrow the Divine Principle for one day. That night, myself and another brother, Bob Hatfield, who was way smarter than I, stayed up all night in our basement reading this secret manual. In a sense, we were trying to "decode" Moon's message, and get the inside "dope" on who he really was and what he was teaching his followers. About halfway into the book, Moon proclaimed himself to be the Messiah who had come to finish the work that Jesus left undone. He basically said that Jesus' death on the cross was not the will of God and it kept Jesus from starting the perfect family and bringing peace and salvation to the earth. 

We immediately created a half-sheet flyer which read: Rev. Moon--False Truth, False Hope, False Prophet. Then we had two columns: One which read: Rev. Moon says (followed by several of his outrageous statements which we had copied from the Divine Principle) and the other column, Jesus says which countered every statement of Rev. Moon. We had the flyers printed at a local copy shop. Those were the days when it was cheaper to print several hundred flyers on a printing press than a copy machine, and you had to do typesetting, paste-up and have "camera-ready" artwork.

Our actions to alert everyone are mentioned in paragraphs 2 & 8 in the Burlington Free Press.
We then organized a meeting with about 40 people associated with our commune, some lived in the community, some were students at the Univ. of Vermont. Word was out that we might be planning something and the Unification Church had alerted the police to be on the lookout for any  "trouble-makers" especially those "Jesus Freaks" from His Church. We planned for everyone in our group to attend Rev. Moon's rally, and to stagger our arrival, and show up as couples, individuals, groups of 3 or 4. We varied our dress and our arrival times. The only constant was that there was one of us seated on the end of the row on the aisle seat.

About ten minutes into Rev. Moon's speech, we stood up and quietly passed out the flyers in each row so that the audience could compare what Moon was saying with the scripture from the Bible. Shortly after that, different ones in our group stood up to quote scripture and warn those in attendance that this man was a liar and a false prophet. This had not been planned. It was totally spontaneous, and finally, I found myself standing to declare Moon as a false prophet and warn everyone not to listen to him but instead read the flyer and compare what Moon was saying to the words of Jesus. Then the Burlington Police came and carried me and others out of the auditorium. We were not arrested, but we were told that we had to remain outside at the entrance of the Ramada Inn. It was here that we encountered resistance from other Christian students who told us that what we had done was shameful and a reproach to Christ and we hadn't done it "in love." These Christians told us that we were not being good witnesses for Christ by standing up and interrupting Rev. Moon and calling him names like "false prophet, liar, deceiver!" These naive Christian students kept saying, "Where's the love?" I told them you don't show love to a false prophet or deceiver. We were showing love to all the people in attendance by trying to warn them and trying to awaken them to the truth--I thought to myself that this is the last place that I expected opposition, coming from my own brothers and sisters, from other believers?!!

Many Christians in Burlington and New England were beguiled by Rev. Moon. In time, their eyes would be opened to the words of our warning, and they would finally realize that he was a "wolf in sheep's clothing" and his goal was to supplant Christianity with the Unification Church. From that time forward, Rev. Moon has sought respectability in America by purchasing various businesses including fishing and canning operations in New England, the Washington Times newspaper, United Press International, etc. He held forums and retreats where he would invite influential leaders and politicians to attend, with all expenses paid. Many would attend and would be used as part of his propaganda machine to declare to the world that he was accepted by those who were "in the know" and that you should accept him as well. But we know better. On this one, we were not drinking the kool-aid. We were not gullible.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm a contestant in the greatest reality game of all!

My remaining favorites for reality shows are as follows (again, click on the link for more info):

The Amazing Race.This may be my favorite reality show of all time. It began in 2001 and is currently in its 17th season. 

The typical format of the game features eleven teams of two or four people each who compete with each other to race around the world for a grand prize of $1,000,000. The eleven teams that feature on the show come from a wide mix of ages, races and orientations. There are siblings, couples, parent and child, friends and colleagues. The show also focuses on the emotions and stress that the relationship comes under during the competition. 

Competing teams in the competition use a variety of transportation and travel modes for their travel within and through countries, including trucks, bicycles, taxis, trains, buses, boats, planes, hot air balloons, helicopters, etc. The race usually begins in a US city. 

Teams receive clues in each leg of the race that leads them to perform a task or directs them to the next destination. Challenges are related sometimes to the country or culture they visit and good knowledge of local customs, places and vital details provide the difference between winning and losing. The last team to arrive at a given leg of the competition is sent away. Elimination of teams progresses through until there are only three teams left; in the final leg the team that arrives first at the destination ends up with a purse of $1 Million.

The Amazing Race will test any marriage or relationship-it will either draw you closer or expose weaknesses. I've thought that maybe my daughter, Sarah, and I could enter TAR since she is in great shape and I'm in fairly good shape as well. But, on second thought, we'd probably be at each other's throats. In the Amazing Race, if you have poor communication skills, that's one of the first things to throw a wrench in your performance. Renee and I are avid fans because we like seeing the rest of the world and the ways that Americans handle themselves in other countries and cultures. 

Question: What show is about to make it's big return to television on Dec. 12. It starts off like this: "The stunts you are about to see were all designed and supervised by trained professionals. They are extremely dangerous and should not be attempted by anyone, anywhere, anytime!"
We're talking FEAR FACTOR, hosted by Joe Rogan (who else could do this show justice?).
The normal format involves three men and three women, or four teams of two people with a pre-existing relationship, who had to complete three professional stunts to win $50,000.

If a contestant/team is too scared to attempt a stunt, fails to complete a stunt, or (in some cases) has the worst performance on a stunt, they are eliminated from the competition.

If only one contestant/team successfully completes the first or the second stunt, they automatically win $25,000, and the other contestants eliminated in the stunt along with the winner of the stunt return for the next stunt to compete for the remaining $25,000. 

Fear Factor is all about conquering your fears of heights, water, speed, falling, scaling down a Las Vegas hotel, creepy crawling things, cow's intestines, everything you thought was inedible can become a shake that you have to down as quickly as possible, etc.

I love this show. It's a total gross-out, but NO, I would never want to be a contestant on FF. I think I would attempt most of the stunts, but I would bail when it came to drinking a milkshake of cow's intestines and other such gross stuff!

The Apprentice is a truly "American" reality television show hosted by real estate magnate, businessman and television personality Donald Trump and created by Survivor's Mark Burnett.

Billed as "The Ultimate Job Interview", the show stars sixteen to eighteen business people competing in an elimination-style competition for a one-year, $250,000 starting contract of running one of business magnate Trump's companies. The show typically ends with Trump eliminating one of the contestants with the words, "You're Fired".

The show first aired in January 2004 and has run for eleven seasons, with the seventh, eighth, ninth, eleventh and twelfth seasons featuring celebrities competing for charity.

I love the Apprentice and it's fun watching the various teams compete to create ad campaigns and sell various products. This show celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit which has helped make the U.S. so strong as an innovator of new businesses.

CMT's Next Country Superstar. Each episode will be one hour-long episode. Contestants, mainly undiscovered singer-songwriters in the country genre compete while living together in a Nashville mansion. 

Celebrity guests guide them each week and on each episode, one finalist is eliminated with the viewing audience voting to determine who will win the title. 

I happen to have acquired a taste for country music in recent years so for me, this is a fun outing each week, and I trying to figure out early on if I can pick the next CMT Superstar. On the first season's outing, I did pick the winner, Matt Mason. For me, it was so obvious. One other thing about CMT's Next Country Superstar--it's not as commercial and jaded as American Idol or the X-Factor. There's something "grounded" and "down-to-earth" about this show, and it's not full of all the phony hype and commercialized glamor that other shows like AI and X-Factor display to the nth degree.

For now, I will be content with the greatest reality show of all--living life as a child of God. There are days when it's full of surprises. There are days when it's full of pain and uncertainty. There are days when it's a mystery and I don't know what's up or down, but at least I know the One who has created me has everything under control. I know what the rules are, since they've been set down in God's Word and they are unchanging as is God Himself. That becomes my anchor in this game of life. 

The future unfolds before me daily and it's full of unknowns, but the Good News is that in this game, I am not alone and God is at work to assure that I come through as a winner. I'm not always good at games...but this is one game where I will prevail, thanks to Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of my faith. He will bring me victoriously across the finish line of LIFE. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Confessions of a Reality Show Junkie

I confess. I am a reality show junkie. What does that mean? It means that I'd rather watch someone climb Mt. Everest than do it myself. I'd rather watch Laird Hamilton surf down a 30-ft wave at Waimea Bay than be out there myself. Are you kidding me? That would be suicidal! I guess that means I would rather live life vicariously. Yes and no. I like to watch others push themselves to the limit and it amazes me at their athleticism and ability to do whatever it is that they are doing. But I'm content to sit and watch them on my flat-screen TV. Having said that, there are a few reality shows that I would consider signing-up as a contestant--you'll find out which ones as I go through my list. Don't think for a second that I am a total "couch potato."

Reality television is a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors, sometimes in a contest or other situation where a prize is awarded.

Here are my favorite reality shows. I've also linked to their respective websites so you can check them out with photos and videos from recent episodes. Who knows, you might get hooked on one of these reality shows. You could be addicted to things far worse. Since my list includes 9 shows, I'll continue this post on Thursday.
Survivor. This is the granddaddy of all reality shows. Survivor  premiered on May 31, 2000 on CBS. It is hosted by veteran television personality, reporter and one-time game show emcee Jeff Probst who has one of the best jobs in the world. 
Survivor maroons a group of strangers (as one or more tribes) in a desolate locale, where they must provide food, water, fire, and shelter for themselves, while competing in challenges to earn either a reward, or an immunity from expulsion from the game in the next of the successive votes for elimination. While much rarer than elimination by vote, medical conditions, such as injury or infection, have eliminated several contestants. The last two or three survivors face a jury composed of the last seven, eight, or nine players voted off. That jury interrogates the final few, and then votes for the winner of the game, the title of Sole Survivor and a million dollar prize.
 I've seen almost seen almost every one of the 23 seasons of Survivor. I don't think I could ever be on Survivor because I'd probably be voted off early on. But you never know, maybe I would be a stealth contestant "under the radar." 

Ozzy Lusth and Benjamin "Coach" Wade
At my physical exam 3 wks ago, my doctor said I was in excellent shape but  my cholesterol level would be better if I lost just five more pounds. Survivor is an excellent way to burn off some calories--you're usually guaranteed of losing 10-30 lbs. of weight depending on how long you "survive."

In the current season, my favorite is Ozzy who is a Survivor-veteran from Venice, California. Ozzy's game changer this season has been to voluntarily allow himself to be voted off twice, and sent packing to Redemption Island. If Ozzy doesn't win Survivor South Pacific, he could play Jesus in an upcoming Christian film.
Expedition Impossible aired this past summer to tepid ratings. Why it didn't catch on with the viewing audience is a puzzle to me. Renee and I thought it was a unique and interesting reality series. Produced by Survivor's Mark Burnett, Expedition Impossible followed thirteen teams of three competitors as they "solved problems while racing across deserts, over mountains and through rivers" across the nation of Morocco. 
Team "No Limits": Erik, Ike and Jeff
One of the most fascinating teams was "No Limits" with friends Erik, Jeff and Ike. What made this team unique is Erik who became blind at an early age and has climbed Mt. Everest. Jeff serves as Erik's "eyes in the field." Ike is a combat engineer officer in the military, earning two Bronze Star Medals and a Purple Heart. "No Limits" came in second and crowned the Gypsies from San Diego, the winners of Expedition Impossible. All the other 12 teams kept measuring themselves against the team with the blind guy and they always came up short. Erik truly is an inspiration and you realize that even with eyesight, we often put such needless limits on ourselves. I doubt that there will be a second season of Expedition Impossible, but if there were, I'd do it.

There were some challenging obstacles, but I think I could do most of them. Also, the chance to see so many facets of a country like Morocco would make it all worthwhile.

America Ninja Warrior. Here's the opening to this show which airs on the G4 Network (I can hear some of you saying, "G4 Network?? What's that?" which goes to show that you are not a "gamer." Neither am I, but I still know where G4 is on my satellite system): "Japan's ultimate test of speed, strength, and stamina has finally come to America. Now the nation's toughest athletes battle in a series of grueling physical challenges. Only ten will survive and head to Japan to face the legendary Mt. Midoryama. Who has what it takes to become the first...American Ninja Warrior?"
The tryouts are held at Venice Beach, CA. where entrants are tested for strength, speed, endurance, and agility. It's an open competition and anyone can tryout. You have olympic athletes, K-1 fighters, gymnasts, physical therapists, IT engineers, soldiers, etc. competing for a chance at the world's ultimate obstacle course.
Renee and I love this show. These guys push their bodies to the limit, and what you discover is that it's not about muscle but rather overall fitness and mental toughness. Guaranteed I wouldn't even make it through the first obstacle. This is one reality show where youth prevails every time!

MasterChef hosted by Gordon Ramsey along with two other judges: Joe Bastianich and Chef Graham Elliot. Each judge takes a taste of the dish and gives his opinion before voting a "yes" or a "no." At least two "yes" votes are required to earn a white apron to be in the competition. A few years ago, if you would've told me that I could get hooked on a cooking show, I would've said "No way." But Renee and I really enjoyed this show which features a softer, gentler Gordon Ramsey. Some of the challenges are grueling, especially with amount of time given to prepare the dish. Too much stress and pressure for me, but fun to watch.
The contestants who advanced out of the preliminary round next compete in two challenges. In the first, contestants complete a certain task, to the specification of the chefs, such as cutting and dicing onions or slicing apples. The chefs who are not eliminated while performing the task immediately proceed to an "invention test". A theme is given to the remaining contestants, who have thirty minutes to create and cook a dish relevant to this theme. The contestants can cook with any ingredient they want, as long as the theme is prevalent in the dish. Once the dishes are cooked, they are all presented to the judges for tasting —presentation, taste and the prevalence of the theme ingredient is considered.
In the Mystery Box challenge, contestants receive a number of ingredients of which they are to make a dish of their choice. The contestants are allowed to use any number of the ingredients they wish, and are free to leave any ingredients out. Once the dishes are finished, the judges choose three of the dishes to taste. The winner receives an advantage in the following elimination challenge.
I'll continue this post on Thursday with the remainder of my favorite reality shows--including an "oldie but goodie" which is making a comeback this December. Care to guess? You'll find out on Thursday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Thanksgiving tale: The Death of Common Sense in Morristown, NJ

Let me begin my Thanksgiving post with another example of the "Death of Common Sense." This appeared in yesterday's William McGurn's Wall Street Journal column:
This Thursday, in a parish hall not far from the New Jersey town green where George Washington once made his winter headquarters, as many as 300 people will gather for their Thanksgiving meal. Some will be homeless, some will be mentally ill, some will be old, and some will be folks and families who have just hit a hard patch. For all of them, Morristown's Community Soup Kitchen and Outreach Center is one of the few blessings they can count on.
In many ways, this soup kitchen illustrates Tocqueville's point about the American genius for voluntary association. Having started out in a local Episcopal church, it has grown into a network that links restaurants, corporate sponsors and community groups with volunteers from nearly three dozen church congregations, including this reporter's. The result is a hot meal to anyone who comes to the door each noon, no questions asked.
This the men and women of the Community Soup Kitchen have provided for 26 years, not once missing a day. 
Now comes a challenge greater than any snowstorm or power outage. Earlier this year, the Morristown Division of Health ruled that henceforth the soup kitchen would be considered a "retail" food establishment under New Jersey law.
From that single word far-reaching consequences have flowed. In a column for a local blog, Ray Friant, a volunteer from the Morristown United Methodist Church, called the rule "crazy." 
Most obvious is the higher cost: at least $150,000 more a year. To meet this increase, the kitchen is asking each participating church to up its own contribution. Some congregations don't have the money. For those that do, it will mean less for some other need.
Much of this cost results from a new prohibition on people donating food they've prepared at home. For those on the giving end, often this was the only way they could participate, so eliminating their contributions means eliminating volunteers. For those on the receiving end, it means no more homemade meat loaf, lasagna, cakes and so forth.
All, of course, in the name of food safety. Still, one suspects that when a co-worker brings a tin of Christmas cookies to a friend inside Morristown's Division of Health, those cookies are not forbidden because they do not come wrapped from a supermarket or approved restaurant. Yet this is precisely the restriction these officials have imposed on men, women and children whose only hope for a home-baked cookie might be at the
soup kitchen.
How can the soup kitchen be considered retail when there is no monetary exchange? When is it a free service? Maybe the real issue is that the people preparing the food are not union members. How soon will it be before we have to have government inspectors going through our kitchens looking for e.coli bacteria and making sure that you are using latex gloves.

I often wonder if liberals insist on regulations and social programs because they lack the common sense and integrity that makes those regulations unnecessary for the rest of us. 
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."    - C.S. Lewis
"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help." - attributed to Ronald Reagan
  • I am thankful for my family, for my health, for a home that's warm and has electricity and clean water. 
  • I'm thankful for friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord.
  • I'm thankful to live in America, and I'm thankful for God's goodness and mercy. 
  • I'm thankful that God found me and saved me. 
  • I'm thankful that He revealed Himself to me through His Son, Jesus the Messiah.
  • I'm thankful for God's daily provision and for presence in my life. 
  • I'm thankful that He has been faithful to me throughout all my years.

Take time this Thanksgiving to let others know that you are thankful. Get specific. Thanksgiving Day should be more than a time to pig-out on good food--Take some time to reflect on how God has blessed you and provided for you. Then, let those around you know that you are thankful!! 

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!
Psalm 107:1
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Ephesians 5:20
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Death of Common Sense: Europe bans claim that water can prevent dehydration

If you've ever run in a 10-k race or marathon, you know that hydrating is really important. That's why they have water stations at various stages of the race. We've also been told that you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day, right?

I've been talking about the "Death of CommonSense" and you can file this one under Ripley's Believe It Or Not cause I'm not making this up.

While Greece and Italy are about to flush the EU down the toilet, here's what the EU is really concerned about. This story ran in yesterday's London Telegraph: The European Union which consists of 27 countries has BANNED a statement that water can prevent hydration. Brussels bureaucrats were ridiculed yesterday after banning drink manufacturers from claiming that water can prevent dehydration.

EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact. Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.

Last night, critics claimed the EU was at odds with both science and common sense. Conservative MEP Roger Helmer said: “This is stupidity writ large. “The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true. “If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project then this is it.” 

The British NHS health guidelines state clearly that drinking water helps avoid dehydration, and that Britons should drink at least 1.2 litres per day. The Department for Health disputed the wisdom of the new law. A spokesman said: “Of course water hydrates. While we support the EU in preventing false claims about products, we need to exercise common sense as far as possible."

This is not the first time that the EU has issued a stupid ruling which defies "common sense." In 2008, rules banning bent bananas and curved cucumbers were scrapped after causing international ridicule.