Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Beast Mode

by Dan Jones

I attended a local parade this weekend where there was a young man seated next to me wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a drawing of a gorilla’s face in full roar. The gorilla was wearing sunglasses and a hat. Written in large letters on the underside of the visor of the hat were the words, “BEAST MODE.”

Now, the young man wearing the shirt wasn’t acting like a beast, as he thanked those passing out candy on a regular basis, but it got me to pondering recent events.

Last week, a two-year old boy playing in the water at a Walt Disney World hotel near Orlando was attacked and killed by an alligator. The boy’s father ran into the water and fought with the reptile in an effort to free his son, sustaining injuries to his arms and hands as he tried to force the alligator’s jaws open and free his child.

It was a horrific, terrible, awful incident and one can only imagine the incredible grief these parents must feel.  I pray God will comfort them and help them to heal from this.

Now, there was considerable “parent-shaming” on the internet after this incident as people apparently sought to defend the alligator from what alligators naturally do.

The area where the boy was playing was a white sand beach on “Seven Seas Lagoon” right next to the hotel with a patio nearby. True, Disney had put up signs saying “No Swimming” but it did allow and even encourage fishing, power boating, and even paddle boating in the area. Even though it was called a “lagoon” it is a man-made lake. Numerous others who have visited this area were never warned, nor was there any hint, that alligators posed a danger in this body of water, even though authorities caught and “euthanized” five alligators from Seven Seas Lagoon right after the incident.

But it is the irony of this event that I cannot escape.

For almost 90 years now, Walt Disney and Walt Disney Productions have popularized cartoon portrayals of animals as people who are kinder, gentler, and more lovable than actual people.

This is called “anthropomorphism” and we are very, very fond of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. Like almost every American of my generation and generations before me and after me, I grew up watching Walt Disney cartoons. And yes, Walt Disney had always been synonymous with wholesomeness—as were characters like Mickey Mouse, Bambi, Thumper, etc.

And our culture took that concept of the wholesome, altruistic, happy and carefree (and sometimes it even seemed “sinless”) animal and ran with it.

Coupled with various nature films throughout the years, and the shift in our society from a rural to an urban culture, we have become a society that is apparently fonder of animals than we are of each other. A 2015 Gallup Poll found 32% of Americans felt animals should have the same rights as people.

Public outrage over a dentist shooting a lion last year in Africa and the shooting of Harambe the gorilla just recently were epic—even tsunamic. 

Meanwhile, there is virtually no comparable outrage over the 44 people who are murdered each day in this country.

In point of fact, we as a society find the murder of other human beings to be our preferred form of entertainment, as about half of the top shows on television are about that very subject.

At one time, humanity sought to differentiate itself from “animalistic behavior” by practicing things like chastity, altruism, self-restraint, and even self-denial. These were seen as uniquely human traits, expressing the best in our humanity. Indeed, the word “humanity” has at its essence the idea of denying “the self” in favor of the good of others first.

Not coincidentally, as we have come to admire the behavior of animals above that of the human race, the human race has become increasingly animalistic to the point where we now believe that it is not possible to restrain ourselves from the behaviors we previously considered “primitive” and harmful to society as a whole.

Is this all Walt Disney’s fault?

Certainly not.

One would have to have the morals of a baboon to write that kind of thing about “The Happiest Place on Earth®.”

Today’s Praise
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NIV)



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Prayer

by Dan Jones

Father in heaven, it’s happened again.

By now, we are almost numb to it. It’s becoming a regular occurrence.
Lord, we are heartbroken not just at the events and the loss of life in Orlando, but at how our hearts are becoming calloused to it.  We are calloused by the media’s constant, persistent, unrelenting coverage of it. 

We are calloused by the politicians and the lobbyists and the “advocates” all vying to take center stage and persuade us what should be done to “fix this” once and for all. We are calloused to how much we hate those on “the other side” of the political spectrum.

The enemy is so crafty, Lord. He knows just which buttons to push to get us to bite and devour each other. He knows we will become emotional and lash out at each other. He knows we will do things motivated by hate or anger or fear or all of the above.

And meanwhile, the real enemy plots his next move, knowing he can move us little by little to even greater anger and hate and fear.

Or apathy.

The enemy knows with each evil act, he can claim that the evil in the hearts of men is because there is no god—and certainly no One True God.  

He knows there will be people on his side who will claim that such evil proves You do not exist.

And at the same time, he will laugh because if people believe You do not exist, they certainly will not give the real enemy of our souls a second thought.

But the mistake the enemy always makes is underestimating Jesus.

He made the same mistake when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He made the same mistake when he convinced Judas that Jesus wasn’t really the Messiah. He made the same mistake when he got the crowd to yell, “CRUCIFY! CRUCIFY!”

And that is that what is intended for evil, Father, you can use for good.

Lord, we don’t see it now. What we see now looks like evil and nothing but evil. We cannot imagine what good will possibly come of this, but we trust in You and You alone.

Perhaps you have allowed this that your children would finally come together and pray for those who are deceived.  We know more Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus Christ right now than in all of the history of Islam. 

We know there has been a tremendous increase in Muslims coming to Christ since a group of your people began to pray for them during their month of Ramadan, which is right now.

So, Father, as you have told us to do, we will pray that those who call themselves enemies of the cross and those who walk in darkness will not be cursed but that they will be blessed with salvation.
  • We pray that Muslims who are questioning their faith will meet others who have walked that journey and found it led them to Christ.
  • We pray your Holy Spirit will send dreams and visions of Jesus to Muslims which they can neither forget nor ignore.
  • We pray that Muslims who decide to follow Jesus will find fellowship with believers who will love them and support them and guide them in the faith.
  • We pray that the millions leaving their homelands in search of a new life may find new life in Christ at their destinations.
  • We pray for peace in areas where people are having to flee their homeland.
  • We pray that if any of us should encounter anyone who shows any signs of anger or hatred with Jesus or with those called by His name, that we would have the courage to reach out to them and witness to the love of Jesus Christ.
  • We pray for new Muslim believers to grow in unity, encourage one another in fellowship and love and to be lights for others.
  • We praise you, Father for the movements of Muslims to Christ in this century and pray that the pace of these movements would heighten and expand.
  • We pray for fellow Christians to resist the temptation to exchange hatred for hatred, hostility for hostility.
  • We pray we would speak and act with hearts of flesh and, no matter how outrageous or provocative the news might become, we would not allow our hearts to grow calloused and cold.
  • We pray, Father, that you will lead individual believers in Christ to Muslim individuals whom they can and will love in Jesus’ name.
  • We pray provision and protection and guidance over all who are bringing the true gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslims all over the world.
  • We pray you would make us willing to forgive those who would kill us, even to the point of washing their feet, that they would be saved.
  • We pray that in all things, in all ways, in all we do and say, your will would be done and that the kingdom and the power and the glory would be yours and your alone.
AMEN!

Today’s Praise
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
Psalm 40: 1-3

Portions of the above prayer were taken from 30daysprayer.com website.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Pony Express

by Dan Jones



The Pony Express operated for only 19 months in 1860-1861 but became an American legend, epitomizing the American spirit of bravery and getting the job done no matter what adversity one faced.

Prior to the start of the Pony Express, getting a letter from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, in only ten days was considered an impossible feat.
But three businessmen-- William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell, had an idea.

They established 184 individual Pony Express stations between St. Joseph and Sacramento that averaged about 10 miles apart because that was the distance a fast, light horse could travel at a gallop before tiring.

Those horses were specifically chosen for speed and endurance and the Pony Express paid $200 each for them—this when a pack horse sold for $25 and an average riding horse was $75.

They hired about 200 riders for the task and paid them $100 per month. At the time, an average wage would have been about 75 cents per day, so $100 a month was a fine wage indeed. The ad above is alleged to have been what the company advertised for in its riders.

Those riders averaged about 100 miles per day each, changing horses an average of eight to ten times before they rested and were replaced by the next rider. In an emergency, the rider sometimes took a double shift—meaning 20 hours in the saddle of a fast-moving horse.

A Pony Express rider could weigh no more than 125 pounds and had a reputation for being one tough hombre. More than one was killed in an attack. Robert Haslam is credited with the fastest Pony Express ride on record, covering 120 miles in eight hours and 20 minutes—while wounded. He lost three teeth when he was struck in the jaw by an arrow.

William “Buffalo Bill” Cody is another famous Pony Express Rider.

As tough as they were, Alexander Majors was a man of faith and required that Pony Express riders carry a company-provided Bible and sign the following oath:

"I, ________, do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God."

In truth, carrying the Bible was eventually eliminated to save weight and the reputation of Pony Express riders that has survived to this day has made it abundantly clear that not all adhered to the oath they had sworn.

And this speedy mail delivery did not come cheap. Russell, Majors, and Waddell had some pretty high overhead costs in this venture. When it started, the Pony Express charged $5 to deliver a half-ounce letter from St. Joseph to Sacramento. That’s equivalent to about $130 in today’s dollars.

That’s a lot of money, and rates did go down to $1 per half-ounce (equivalent to about $26 today) toward the end of the Pony Express era, but during that short time just before the Civil War, 35,000 letters or about 60 letters per day did make the journey on horseback halfway across the continent and over the Rocky Mountains to their destinations.

By the grace of God, mailing a letter these days isn’t nearly so dramatic. For a measly 47 cents (yes, that’s 47 cents in today’s dollars) you can send a letter to your local Kinship Christian Radio Station telling them anything you want.  You can share a family tradition, write about programs or songs you love or don’t love, ask for prayer for yourself or a loved one, or even complain bitterly about the sneaky way the blog-writer worked this whole June Letter Month thing into what you thought was an interesting historical narrative about faith and the history of the American West.

Or, you can submit your letter electronically by clicking here: https://www.kinshipradio.org/kjly/jlm.php?station=kjly

And, if you include a gift of any size with your letter, you can choose from one of eight wonderful gifts!

And, I will personally promise you that the odds are over a million zillion to one that anyone involved in delivering your letter will ever be shot in the jaw with an arrow and lose three teeth.

Honest.

AND, I am absolutely certain that Kinship Christian Radio will never, ever, eliminate the Bible to save weight in its delivery of the Word to you every day.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! (Galatians 6:10-11 NIV)


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Virtue

by Dan Jones

I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone use the word “virtue.”

I think some years ago I remember somebody saying, “Patience is a virtue.”

Which, if we were to ponder it at all, would tend to make us think that a virtue is any one of a number of positive character traits.  But the true definition of the word goes far beyond that.

Various dictionaries all have slightly different definitions, but the one thing they have in common is the concept of morality. Some dictionaries refer to good moral behavior, while many others actually use the words, “moral excellence” to define “virtue.”

When was the last time you heard a public debate where there was even a hint of someone advocating for moral excellence?

In Ancient Philosophy there were four Cardinal Virtues: Justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude.

Prudence? Temperance?

Those are attributes about as popular these days as something like, oh say, “chastity.” Which, not coincidentally, is one of the synonyms for “virtue.”

Actually, in the time when the word “prudence” was used, it meant “wisdom” instead of our modern connotation of being a “prude.” Again, not coincidentally, that “wisdom” in the ancient definition did mean the wisdom to abstain from sexually inappropriate behavior.

And, then we come to “temperance.” For me, that carries the message of abstention from alcohol, as in the Victorian era.  But that’s not the definition in the original. “Temperance” is also known as restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, discretion, and moderation tempering the appetition; especially sexually, hence the meaning chastity.

Undoubtedly, in our modern “enlightened” era, any thinking person would be bound to object to such obviously repressive, intolerant, and judgmental Christian views.  But the thing is, they are not. The “Cardinal Virtues” did not originate in Christianity. They are generally credited to Plato and are also associated with such familiar names as Cicero, Aristotle, and Socrates.

The word “cardinal” in this sense has nothing to do with Catholicism. “Cardinal” means “hinge” and it was used to mean that all other virtues are hinged on these four.

Now while these men certainly could have known of Judaism, their advocacy of virtuous living is not associated with religion, but with philosophical thought.

Yes, the Cardinal Virtues do indeed coincide with much of, at the time and to this day, was the Jewish moral code—which became the Christian moral code.  And, Christianity would come along after these classic Greco-Roman philosophers and add “faith, hope, and charity” to the list.

In fact, the Bible even says that God will write His laws upon the hearts of men, so it is really no surprise that thinking people who did not even know about the One True God would come up with many of the same moral truths that God told to the children of Israel.

For example, Plato is credited with the quote in the picture above sometime in the fifth century B.C., while Proverbs 16:16 was written some 500 years earlier: 

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver.

The point is, our society’s fascination and fixation with our human sexuality is not a new and enlightened way of thinking.  It’s a regression to an incorrect and harmful way of thinking that intelligent people corrected and changed thousands and thousands of years ago, not just in one culture but in multiple cultures in multiples places across multiple eras of time.

The Asherah Pole mentioned in the Bible was associated with pagan worship of sexuality. Pagan temples mentioned in the Bible had temple prostitutes. The worship of Molech included throwing live babies into a furnace shaped like a golden calf.

Yes, our God is quite specific about what and what is not allowed sexually and it is because the behaviors He told us to abstain from are harmful to us, to our families, and to our children.

The law was given in love, brothers and sisters.

Because when we forget what virtue is, we end up arguing about which bathroom a man in a dress should use.

Today’s Praise

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 KJV


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mysterious Ways

by Dan Jones

We’ve all heard that “God works in mysterious ways,” but this is another one of those phrases we’re all sure is in our Bibles somewhere-- but it’s not.

The phrase is actually a misquote of a line in an English hymn written in 1773 by William Cowper. The actual lyric is, “God moves in mysterious ways.”

Cowper was correct, though. God does indeed move in mysterious ways, and he was probably thinking of Isaiah 55: 8-9 as he penned those words:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Just this past weekend, I was at the center of God’s mysterious ways and I’m still amazed and smiling about the whole thing even though it was a long string of events that didn’t work out anything like I planned.

I had planned to be fishing in the Brainerd area, but that didn’t work out. So, since the weather was going to be gorgeous and I had not gone fishing opening weekend (shocking in itself) I decided to hook up the boat and head up to the Willmar area where I had “discovered” a beautiful little lake hardly anyone fished. (It has a very tiny and difficult public access.)

And since I didn’t want to drive almost three hours one way, fish for a partial day, and drive back another three hours, that meant I would “camp out” Friday and Saturday night.  (My “camping out” means I sleep in the back of the pickup.)

While I still appreciate a certain degree of wilderness “adventure,” I’ve also become somewhat lazy in my advanced age.  So, part of the plan was to buy a cheap electric fry pan to avoid lugging along the small charcoal grill, the charcoal, and the lighter fluid I normally use in these situations.

You can cook a fine breakfast in an electric fry pan and they work very well for frying fish, I reasoned.

Almost all the sites in public campgrounds are wired and I was going to want electricity anyway to run the heater I put inside the pickup where I slept.  (Yes, I take an electric heater when it’s going to be 50 degrees at night. The name is “Dan Jones,” not “Daniel Boone.”)

I had done some research and found Sibley State Park was less than 10 miles from the lake. I had never been there before, but our Minnesota State Parks have been good to me before.

So, after spending all day Thursday getting stuff done around the yard (Can’t go fishing until the tomatoes are in, right?) and getting the boat, motor, and trailer ready (Oh yeah, I have to fix the trolling motor hold-down that broke last fall.) I was ready to leave first thing Friday morning.

Of course, I would pray before I left on such a journey for my safety and the safety of my family—and I prayed, as I often do, that I would be a witness and a light to everyone I met.

I remember thinking the “witness” thing was pretty unlikely since I was going to be fishing alone.

I left home right on schedule at 8:00 Friday morning, stopped and got the electric fry pan, and all went well. Kinship Christian Radio was playing some wonderful praise songs as I drove along and I arrived at the lake, launched the boat without any major drama, and started the motor to find all was working well.

The fish, however, were not working at all. I could actually see some of them up near shore and they were not at all interested in biting. I did catch one small bass by accident but it most assuredly was not destined for my brand-new $18.96 electric frying pan.

After several hours of beating the fishing equivalent of a dead horse, I decided I should probably get registered at the campground before there were no sites left.

Upon arrival at Sibley State Park, the lady checking me in (Marge) was very nice but the State’s computer kept insisting that I was from Hamby, Texas instead of Amboy, Minnesota. Finally someone came to her aid, sternly rebuked the computer, and I was allowed to select my campsite.

My choices were sites 14, 15, 47, or 48. None of this meant anything to me as I had never been in the campground before, but since my lovely wife will often answer “14” whenever she has no idea of the correct answer, (or sometimes just to be a smartyboots) I said, “14, Marge. I’m sure 14 will be lovely.”

Marge confirmed 14 was a great site and off I went.

As I was backing the truck in, I noticed there was a lady setting up a tent in the adjoining site. She immediately struck up a conversation and turned out to be a very nice person, even offering to “spot me” as I backed the boat into the campsite.

She told me she had been coming to Sibley State Park since she was a little girl and was a wealth of knowledge as to the location of the various amenities at the park.  I remember thinking it odd that she seemed to be alone, but so was I, so who am I to judge?

We talked for a bit, and she offered me a beer, for which I thanked her kindly but explained that I had been sober for over 30 years. That often makes people uncomfortable, so I also explained that I don’t have a problem with people who can responsibly enjoy adult beverages and she shouldn’t feel bad.

(Jesus didn’t turn water into Grape Nehi, boys and girls.)

She was intrigued by my sobriety and asked several questions including, “What was the hardest part?”

She caught me off guard with that because I hadn’t really thought about it in 30 years, so I answered, “I suppose resisting the temptation, but that’s a pretty easy answer.”

She made it clear she recognized that as a non-answer.

So, I decided to just shoot it to her straight.

“The hardest part was realizing I couldn’t do it myself. I could not do it in my own strength. It was God. Jesus saved me.”

I could tell that shocked her. People don’t bring up Jesus ten minutes after having just met. But hey, she asked and it was the truth.

We continued to talk and she revealed that she had just lost her job the day before. She had spent quite a while crying and then decided to come to the park and camp for reasons not entirely known to her.  

Perhaps she needed some quiet time. Perhaps being in a place of pleasant and safe memories from her childhood was what she craved.

Perhaps the Lord moves in mysterious ways.

It was growing later in the afternoon, and I still did not have any fish for that frying pan. Plus, there was another lake I wanted to explore.

At the second lake, I caught eleven northern pike and one bass—all of which were also too small to end up in that frying pan.

Well, being a seasoned fisherman, I had also brought along some pork chops and some potatoes. One does not count one’s fish before they are caught. That’s like making sure you have a camera and a net in the boat—a virtual guarantee you will catch nothing.

So, I went back to the campground fishless.

The lady (whom I will call “Ruth” to protect her anonymity) was still there and had been joined by another lady (whom I shall call “Naomi”) and Naomi’s son, Brian. (Yes, I know that’s not the name of Naomi’s son in the Bible, but “Mahlon” and “Chilion” are hard to type. It’s not a direct analogy anyway.) Naomi had been Ruth’s best friend for a dozen years and had come to support her and be with her.

Ruth and I were talking as I removed the frying pan from its box and I admitted my utter failure as a fisherman, but I had a back-up plan involving pork chops. She explained that she had been to a pizza place and they had mistakenly omitted green olives on her pizza and so they had made her a second one with the correct ingredients. This meant she had two pizzas instead of one, and she invited me to share in this unexpected and fortuitous abundance.

Now, I like pizza, and I enjoy just about any kind of pizza (other than plain cheese) but I have this “issue” with cold pizza. Yes, I know, many of you think cold pizza is better than hot pizza and I’m some kind of weirdo for not liking cold pizza. That’s why I said it’s an “issue.”

So, I readily agreed and even offered to heat up the pizza…yes, in my brand-spanky-new electric fry pan.

It was a fine plan and I was quite pleased with myself.

I proceeded to drag out the extension cord and prepare to turn creepy cold pizza into a gourmet delight when Ruth just had to ask me something and interrupted my plans.

She wanted to know more about this God thing. She wanted to know how Jesus had saved me. She wanted to hear my testimony.

And so, there I was sitting in Sibley State Park telling Ruth how I had strayed from the Lord as a young man and, one summer night in 1983 in a campground in Murdo, South Dakota, a tornado had passed over my pup tent and I had promised the LORD God that if He would save my miserable life, I would quit living this sinful life I had chosen for myself.

I told her when I left that campground I was sure there was no way I could keep those promises I made to God when I feared for my very life, but God saw to it that I did. I told her that within two years of making those promises, He had set my feet on the path of a new and so much better life.

And since then, He has blessed me beyond measure and I know for a very certain fact that Jesus loves me and that He always will.

I told Ruth that God loves her too. That He always has and He always will. I told Ruth that it was no accident she had come to Sibley State Park at this time nor was it any accident that I had chosen campsite 14 and showed up at the exact time she was pitching her tent.  I told her that the still, small voice that told her to come to this place at this time was the voice of the Holy Spirit and that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is our guarantee that Jesus will save us. I told her that even though she thought she was without faith, listening to that voice and obeying it was indeed faith and that she would be saved. I told her that God does not believe in coincidence.

And Ruth was in tears.

And then, I understood why all of these plans I had made and how they actually turned out were not my plan at all, but His plan.

And His plan was greater and more glorious and more wonderful than anything I could have planned.

And part of that plan was that many months before, somewhere in an electric frying pan factory in some distant corner of China, someone forgot to pack the cord in the box with the pan that I would buy on that day.

And I would enjoy the best-tasting cold pizza I had ever had in my life, knowing that I was put here on this earth, at this place and at this time, not for my purposes, but for His.

God bless you, Ruth.

Today’s Praise

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fire and Brimstone

by Dan Jones

Almost 40 years ago or so, I was sitting in my grandmother’s living room when the WCCO TV News played the song, “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll” as part of a news story. Yes, this is when Dave Moore and Bud Kraehling did the evening news and weather.

My dear, saintly grandmother (God rest her soul) wondered aloud why God had tarried so long in sending fiery wrath and judgement upon this errant nation of ours.

I guess the answer is that God is merciful and kind, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

By the way, that phrase occurs in Exodus 34:6, Psalm 103:8, Numbers 14:18, Joel 2:13, Psalm 86:15, Nehemiah 9:17, Jonah 4:2, and Psalm 145:8. The Bible doesn’t repeat stuff because the prophets sometimes run out of material.

And surely, that whole Sodom and Gomorrah rain of fire and brimstone thing ended when Jesus died on the cross and God’s wrath was satisfied once and for all, right?

But still, as the evening news grows worse and worse each passing day, don’t we need something to turn us around? Don’t we need God to do something dramatic and drastic and earth-shattering to get people’s attention and bring them back to faith and righteous living?

We are obsessed with sin of all kinds.

We are lustful and prideful. We brag and we kill and destroy. We neglect what is important and chase after silly things that won’t last past tomorrow. We focus our lives on me, me, me and we crush and put down anyone who would stand between us and our “happiness.”

As if we knew what would make us truly happy.

You can sit in front of your TV on any given night and press the button as the channels alternate between various combinations and permutations of murder and sex and greed.  Take your pick. They’re all pretty much variations on the same theme.

But, here and there, God’s people still exist.

There are still moms and dads who teach their children right from wrong. There are still people who love justice, seek mercy, and walk humbly with their God.

They just don’t end up on the evening news.

Well, actually, they do.

The evening news does occasionally run a “human interest” story where someone is doing something good and kind and righteous.

And it’s considered “newsworthy” because it’s portrayed as unusual.

But when they interview the man or the woman who is feeding the hungry or clothing the poor or who pulled the helpless baby out of the sinking car, they invariably say it’s “no big deal” or “I’m just doing what needs to be done” because self-denial does not seek self-glorification.

Love does not envy. Love is not boastful or proud.

Yes, that’s in the Bible. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

The thing is, it’s not unusual. Love and goodness are not abnormal in America.

They just don’t have press agents.

All around you, there are people doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing. There are people who love God and honor Him with their lives.

I know some of them.  Some of them are my co-workers. Some of them are pastors. Some of them are ordinary people doing ordinary jobs. Some of them work at a radio station. Some of them are "retired."

They’re not flashy and people with cameras don’t follow them around, but they are out there—and they are not giving up.

They see the same things you see, and they mourn for those who are lost and have gone astray. They continue to love them even when they don’t deserve it.

Because none of us deserve it.

They continue to pray for those whose lives are mired in the muck of sin and self-loathing.

Because we’ve all been in that muck at some point.

And sometimes, they despair too because it seems they are so outnumbered it seems like they are having no effect.

But they also know a lie when they hear it. And, they know who is called the father of lies.

They know who the real enemy is.

And they know that the love and mercy of the Lord is so vast that He agreed to spare the overwhelmingly evil population of Sodom and Gomorrah if only ten righteous people could be found.

So, even if it seems like evil vastly outnumbers righteousness, the Lord’s promise that there is great power in the prayers of the righteous is true.

And even a small amount of salt can preserve much from destruction and decay.

And so, while we all have our peaks and our valleys, we know that we can walk through the valley of the shadow and fear no evil.

Because even a very, very small light cannot be extinguished by the even the deepest shadows of darkness—especially when that light comes from the One True Light.

Today’s Praise
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12 NIV




Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Fishing



by Dan Jones


This Saturday marks the most revered, most treasured, most sacrosanct of all Minnesota’s secular high holy days: Fishing Opener. (Cue choir of walleyes singing in the background.)

It’s so important that, since 1948, both the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Minnesota are required to fish on that day, under penalty of moral outrage and public indignation from now until the day after eternity.

The Governor and an entourage of hundreds (often including members of both political parties) are shepherded to a specially-chosen lake where professional guides put them on fish that even politicians can catch.

Mostly. 

But not always. 

More than one Governor has been skunked on Opener (walleye choir again please) but it’s very embarrassing for the entire state--like being beaten by the Packers at a home game.

In the snow.

On Thanksgiving Day.

I know of what I speak on this subject because fishing used to be a very big deal to me. (If I had a therapist, that last sentence would have been considered a “breakthrough.”)  

Kinship Announcer Allen Jones wrote some very kind things about me and about this blog in a recent piece in the Kinship Journal, for which I graciously and humbly thank him. The Other Mr. Jones mentioned in those comments that at one time, I had plans to be a fishing journalist.

That is true. But more precisely, I wanted to be a writer for In-Fisherman magazine. At the time (and I believe still to this day) In-Fisherman was and is regarded as the best freshwater fishing magazine in the world. Their focus was on the science of catching fish and they pioneered many breakthroughs in angling. It was the magazine Minnesota fishing legend Al Linder built and it forever changed how people catch fish not just here in the Land of 10,000 lakes, but all around the world.

My efforts to achieve this goal included five years at Mankato State University (Yes, four-year college.) with a major in English, Concentration in Writing, and a minor in Biology, Concentration in Freshwater Ecosystems.

I loved fishing. Even as a poor college student with very limited funds, a part-time job, and no boat, (I think I did get a canoe my junior year…err…fourth year, which I then traded for a leaky 12-footer with an ancient 5hp Johnson in my fifth year) I managed to go fishing 3-6 days a week.

I studied fish. I lived fish. I had a fish-related job. I ate fish. I had a pet fish living in the Biology Lab. I dreamed of fish.

And then, it happened.

Before I had even finished college, In-Fisherman accepted one of my proposals for an article.

I spent two years researching what sunfish ate and, in February of 1992, Dan Jones was published in In-Fisherman magazine with a 12-page article entitled “Bluegills Eat Bugs.”  (One more time with the walleye choir, maestro.)

Okay, so the title’s not War and Peace, but it was a big deal back then.

(For those of you who are just dying to know, the primary food of the bluegill sunfish is chironomids, the larval stage of those pesky gnats that bother you at the lake --and I’ll have you know I looked inside a lot of sunfish stomachs to ascertain that information.)

In fact, I was kind of a big deal. I was asked to public places to talk about fishing. Tackle companies sent me so much free tackle to mention in the article I still have a LOT of it to this day.  I was on speaking terms with Doug Stange, Editor-In-Chief of In-Fisherman publications. There was even a picture of Al Lindner in the article I wrote holding a massive bluegill.

And, I was paid the princely sum of five hundred green cash American dollars for that article, which I promptly went out and spent on a 1972 Herter’s Yukon boat ($50), a trailer for the boat ($300), and a 9.5hp Johnson motor ($160).

Yes, all was going just according to my little plan. I was going to be rich. I was going to be famous. Doug Stange had already asked me to write another article for the magazine. I was on my way.

But that wasn’t God’s plan.

Through a number of events too long and too painful to go into in a blog this size, I came to realize traveling all over the country and possibly the world catching scads of enormous fish using the newest and the best tackle given to me for free wasn’t the most important thing in the world.

Fishing is not the most important thing in the world.

Love is.
And today, almost a quarter of a century later, I would not trade the love of Jesus and the love of family with which I have been so richly blessed for all the fame and fortune and riches and fish in the world.

Yes, I gave up a dream I had back then, but it turns out God had a better plan for me when I couldn’t see it or even begin to dream how good it would be.  I have learned to love and trust in Him and Him alone and I am confident that wherever He leads me from here is exactly where He wants me to be.

Thank you, Lord. (Cue angel choir.)

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Today’s Praise
 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. John 21:11 NIV