Sunday, June 28, 2009

Distressed? Receive Comfort In Christ, Instead Of Just Worryin' About It!

Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to Your Word to Your servant. ~Psalm 119:76

Perhaps you've been feeling worried about all the changes that have been happening around you lately. Maybe you've lost a job. Does everything seem to be happening so much faster these days with all the communications technology--are you on info-overload? does it seem like hardly anyone has enough margin built into their cram-packed lives anymore? How can people even begin to process it all?

Do you remember Noah? He didn't have a 3G cell phone, but he was exposed to really huge and tragic circumstances in his day that might have made him feel overwhelmed at times. Who knows? But Noah could have opted to worry about things and stop his arch building. He could have literally worried himself to death if he wanted to.

After all, he went through a gargantuanly massive catastrophe with killer flood results ..far worse than any Tsunamis tidal wave destruction that we've seen. And he sure tried his best to warn the people back then ..in love, but they just wouldn't listen to the truth.

We know that Noah was a pretty strong and courageous man of character. After the fact, he could have been so beyond "traumatized" by that most violent catastrophe in all of history. I sure don't know how I could have made it through all those deep waters, seeing his floating friends who disregarded all his warnings. How sad! How could he handle all that distress?

Surely Noah must have known a bit about the paralysis that can come via fear or the rad-paranoia feelings that come to humans via worry during basic trauma. But he also knew by first-hand experience that the God of the storm ..is also the God of all comfort, the One who can be merciful and bring good to people after all the bad has arrived. He surely knew that God was able to calm his own fears, as he kept his focus firmly dead-bolted on God his stable loving Maker.

Today some of my friends are justifiably so tired of being overwhelmed by the media regarding the passing of Michael Jackson and Farrah ..in how they deal with it. They are passing right by other way important things happening too. Neither of those individuals were anything like Noah, but stuff like that can feel huge to many strangers to it (and of course is HUGE to family). You know how the biased media always hype everything that's Hollywoodesque ..into a monumental mountain for ratings and block other important stuff. How come the media didn't mention anything here about how Congress passed the Cap and Trade deal here this week, that Wall Street will probably clean up with? I personally haven't been watching the news reports and it's actually been better for me, but it is sad for me to see how hard some people around me are taking it. Whole lots..gobs.. going on these days.

It seems like high, low, and medium profile people are getting hurt, blown about.. and bothered by so many different things going on all around the world. Man, when will it all end? God knows.

Jesus feels for them in their pain, we can be sure of that. It was interesting to hear how Actress, Elizabeth Taylor, spoke of her love for MJ saying, "I can't imagine life without him... I'm going to miss him… I was packing up my clothes to go to London for his opening when I heard the news. I still can't believe it. I don't want to believe it… He will live in my heart forever but it's not enough. My life feels so empty."

And just think about all those quickly-forgotten-by-many ..that got killed in the Iran protesting. Man, that really bugs me. We haven't even been able to see most of what is happening there ..due to the government's info-black-out.

Has something uber-rough in this life left you feeling worried, troubled, or majorly beat up, or simply worn out.. worn down, or even like Ms. Taylor feels.. left you recognizing how radically empty you really are inside?

Jesus Christ is still the only One who is meant to fill up that emptiness inside you! You were created for a warmhearted great friendship with Him with no sin-blockages.. and He longs to comfort you when you are hurting! Is He living on the inside of you? Are you allowing Christ to heal and minister to you? Let's refuse to be tossed about! Need Solace? The Bible says…

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.. who comforts us in all our tribulation." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4

"Therefore comfort one another with these words." 1 Thessalonians 4:18

"You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side." Psalm 71:21

I'm far from being a doctor who knows about this stuff, but recent medical studies have shown us that worry actually attacks people's central nervous system, attacks their circulatory system, and even their digestive system in their bodies. Charles Mayo, of the Mayo Clinic, said, "You can worry yourself to death, but you cannot worry yourself to a longer life."

We must stay focused on the Lord when we feel like being distracted... I mean really knowing the Lord when we feel like being too busy for Him. We can receive His comfort and choose not to worry as we trust Him today.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Show Em While You Can!

You are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God's holy nation, His very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9, nlt

Do you remember when young Stephan was killed? What a no compromise bright and shining light! What a chosen and effective witness for Christ he was. Man, he seemed to make every day count for the Lord ..while he could. Who really knows (saint or sinner) when their gunna be done with it all early?

I bet it really shook the people up of that day when he was stoned in his youth; especially religious Saul the onlooker.

While the rocks where flying at Stephen, and the blood splattered upwards, he wasn't showing badness and vindictive anger towards his attackers trapped in darkness. No, he was showing them the goodness and love of God 'til the very end. He wanted them all forgiven so much it hurt. Hadn't his Lord do the very same thing? He had a good Example to follow like we do.

You remember the story and how he called out, "'Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!' Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not charge them with this sin.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep" (Acts 7:56-60).

The Scriptures don't say that he "died" 'cause we all know exactly where Stephen went—his soul and spirit went straight to be with his loving heavenly Father. God says "he fell asleep" for he knew that one day Stephen's physical body in the grave would explode outta there with resurrection life. Will yours? Who really needs to experience the second death--not Stephen?

Stephen is in Heaven today, he's going to live forever and we can one day meet and join him by getting right with the Lord today ..on His terms!

You know it doesn't always play out like it did with Stephen. People reach room temperature in a myriad of different ways ..unexpectedly. We're certainly not sure where some people end up (and they themselves are often not sure where they will go before they enter eternity, even though they could be if they wanted to.. beforehand. See 1 Jn. 5:13). But what an honor! Stephen took a stand for Jesus ..with his life and words and all, and then Jesus took a stand for Stephen. Will you do the same?

High profile people, low profile people, and many other people in the middle with equal value physically died this week—even today on the streets of Iran and here in the States. SAD! You know, I was standing only ten feet away from the same location today where I encountered Michael Jackson and his mom ..who was dressed all in white. It was back in the '80s. Michael was wearing a black fedora hat, sunglasses and no glove that warm sunny day. Yeah, but here's what's kinda weird, I was standing only eight feet away today from that spot when I heard that this same king of pop died ..the same age as I am now ..in a Los Angeles hospital.

I ever remember later that day giving him a hand written non-pushy, non-condemning Gospel tract that I wrote for him with key verses I felt were just for him.

Of course we didn't become buds or have some long conversation about spiritual matters. He was pretty much to himself, but a nice guy just the same. It didn't appear to "take" with him though (ya know, my tract), because he later joined up with some JW cult members here in Dallas to go out witnessing with them and with their false religious message. SAD!

Hey, this nobody (me), doesn't know about all the details of his controversial life and I'm not his Judge. Don't really care to know that much. Only God sees the inner heart of man, but I pray for his heart-broken family today. They must really be hurting like never before.

Way too many precious people died this week and they all seemed way too young to me. Man, when that happens, it just makes me want to shine the light of the Lord all the brighter. It makes me want to walk close with Jesus in holy fear, rather than with some kinda cheap grace mentality doin' my own thang in His Name. Too many people out doin't that!

Another man.. a homeless classmate of mine from Dana Hills High named Neil who sleeps under the stars.. and under a bench some 1500 miles west of me now is about to die. He and I were real party-animals through the '70s but now all that has sadly caught up with Neil. Neil thinks he's fine believing he's one heaven-bound Christian now, but he still likes to get drunk daily (See 1 Cor. 6:9-10 to see why I feel concerned). Sad; so much to do.. to say.. and so little time. I ain't no Messiah, but I need Him and want him to work through this ordinary run-of-the-mill Joe like me. Who will listen? Probably no one if I don't get down on my knees early!

I SO want Neil to go to heaven! My parents have even talked with him this week and really tried to help him, but he just turns em down. SAD!

That's the really hard part! We can show drunks and other needy folk the goodness of God repeatedly and lovingly share the Gospel with them, but it does them no good at all if they aren't open for this. Do you have a readiness about you. Are you sick and tired of bein' sick and tired? Some never seem to hit a bottom til they hit the bottom of that dug out hole, but then it's too late. There's no salvation beyond sucking air ..alive while here.. but if you live 100% for Jesus now, your impact and ministry influence can go beyond your short time spent here.

The Bible says, "By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did… and by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead" (Heb. 11:4, niv). Abel's life, although cut short, was not wasted at all. It was because of his faith in the one and only living God, as was expressed through his daily verbal and non-verbal witness. Yup, that made the difference!

Perhaps there have been times when you felt afraid of rejection and couldn't open your mouth to tell someone the truth. You could have, but you felt paralized in a way. Maybe you've felt under-prepared before to witness for Christ out loud? Perhaps you've wondered at times what people might think of you if you "wax bold" and get right to the point about God's benevolent grace. Ever wonder what your legacy will be like, or what they'll say about you when you're gone? I don't mean to be macabre or anything heavy like that here, but have you ever considered what you want others to truthfully inscribe on your tombstone? I've got one friend who wants his to read: Jesus never fails (just like it reads on his Christian mom's ..and grandmother's tombstones)!

Ever prayed about, or thought about what your grandchildren would know about you? Liney and I so look forward to the time when we can meet our granddaughter, Abrianna, for the first time and we pray that we can be good consistent on-fire witnesses for her and our boys too.

Wouldn't it be amazing if, like Abel or Stephen in the book of Acts, you would be remembered throughout all the generations to follow as one who was a close friend of God.. one who lived by faith in Christ no matter the cost ..one who not only believed and spoke about Christ affectiontely and what the Bible says, but actually lived it? You and I aren't promised old age or a death bed. Many people aren't afforded such, but in a sin-cursed world ..that we made that way through disobedience.. even that kinda pain of illness and death.. doesn't make the Lord any less Good. Are you seriously hurting today or confused? He alone can bring good outta all the bad.

Abel probably didn't get it all in his day, but he passed the baton of truth that leads people to salvation ..on to the next generation.. which was represented by his younger brother, Seth. And it would appear that Stephen's obedience was also a factor in lost Saul later getting saved.

No matter your situation or weaknesses, you too can be instrumental in winning lost sinners to Christ and relaying the baton of faith firmly into their hands. Get close to Christ now! We all have our part to do as we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (See Matt. 6:33)! Wisely relay it to your own children if you have some, and if not ..just rejoice (and I don't mean to say that in some cavalier way)! Many feel acute pain because they've wanted children for so long.

You and I can simply relay it to someone else's children as well as to all those around us. Choose to be inclusive rather than exclusive. What a joy! That's how caring Jesus was (even though He never accepted their sins that hurt them). The possibilities are limitless ..though our time down here for this type of rescue-activity is not. People of all shapes and sizes depart from us without notice. Let's show em while we can!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summers at the Harris House In Laguna Beach

Gotta question.. what have your summer’s been like over the years? I bet it all comes back to ya pretty quickly, especially as things warm up and we all are about to kiss Spring good bye. But are there any memories that really stand out in your mind?

Were summers typically good times for your family or.. were there some moments filled with pain, strife or awkward communication among you. I hope they were great times. Perhaps you can describe some of the memories that you’ve had a little bit ..wherever your summers and all took place?

Yup, summer seems like it is fully here now in North Texas with all this warm weather that we’ve been experiencing. I don’t know about you, but I get missing the cool balmy evenings this time of year, with the comfortable salty air, the palm trees, the eucalyptus smell, and the pleasant breezes off of the Pacific. I get missing the sounds of the waves on the rocks as well.

I feel so grateful to have been privileged to grow up enjoying the best summers ever. We had lots of beach bonfires and weenie roasts on the sand with friends and relatives.

Day after day, after day, after day.. was always filled with adventures too. There was always something interesting and novel popping up in the O.C. New music styles, new surfing flicks at surfing theaters, plaid shorts, different flip flops etc. Some of those pop culture nuances and trappings were all around the country at the same time, but unlike the fairly stable society and culture we see here in Texas, there was a vast uniqueness to the West Coast trends and happenings that seemed to change more radically and often ..about every three months or so where I grew up.

It was amazing—O the beautiness (new word) and creativity with a lot of it! Even some of the churches were very creative. I knew of one that met for years on Sundays at a lifeguard tower on the beach. Yes, and the awesomeness of God’s creation especially at sunset time, was overwhelming for a kid that loved nature, the wilderness, surfing, sailing and general rowdiness with ma buds ..along with other mountain and water sports! Me and my friends were pretty bad at times and we would just constantly challenge each other to go farther in some of our adventures, but not all of it went bad on us or others.

You know, I just didn’t deserve all the good of it.. or any of it. Cuz me at my best wasn't all that well behaved.

I think I told you before how my family during my early years were committed in a very traditional church. Yup, on Sundays we would say our prayers, but in reality we didn’t know how to pray. What could we do well? Well, we knew how to play!


My mom’s parents, the Becks, lived up in Newport Beach some thirty minutes up the Coast Highway from us (later on my grandfather, John Beck, moved much closer to us from there to San Clemente).

And then there was my sweet little English aunt on my dad’s side, Ida Harris (a noted journalist with the LA Times), who lived about fifteen to twenty minutes north of us in Laguna Beach only one block away from Wood’s Cove. We spent gobs of time in both towns. My dad's mom; my grandmother from England was Stella but we called her "Amie" and her sister was Ida Harris. They were both smaller, proper, and petite ladies.

Man, between all the body surfin’ trips to Main Beach and Wood’s Cove in that European-looking town of the artists where Ida lived.. the place of notable volleyball players of the area.. between the motorboat trips from the Newport Harbor to Catalina Island and those sailing and ferry-boat rides out on the Newport bay, my brothers Kevin, Kyle, and my ’lil sister Kathy ..and I (Kurt. Yup, four of us kids with K-names.. can you believe that?) never ever felt bored or bumbed out. We all loved our family and visiting them. We've got some good history in them parts.

Did I ever tell you about the history of Tom Sawyer Camp that was established by my born again Christian grandfather, Bill, back in 1926? Pretty interesting stuff! He and my dad, Kim, worked real hard for decades running it and they just loved all the families involved (both got right with the Lord later in life). Anyways, the camp benefited literally hundreds of kids from all over the place all year long ..including my brothers and I. We served as "junior counselors" for a couple years and got away with all kinds of pranks. You can read about some of that stuff later on! But this camp biz was first established in that very same town, Laguna Beach, and I can't describe how radically fun it was to go to! It has since moved but is still functioning better than ever today under the great leadership of a businessman named Mike Horner (with his capable son, Tom)--super nice, creative guys. Perhaps in the future you'll run into some families that have been looking for just such a top notch children/young adult camp like Tom Saywer? They've got multiple locations ..even on Catalina Island now. Check it out!

Anyways, with the Harris House in Laguna only a stone's throw from the water's edge, we as kids always had a loving place to hang our hats and stay in the summer time. I always enjoyed grilling in the back and hearing the gulls. I also loved hearing about my family's history there and I could hardly imagine how this place looked when they first settled next to the PCH dirt road back in the day. Yup, this was one of the first homes in the entire town! What started out as a one room beach cottage for the Harris clan in 1925 soon expanded into a two bedroom, two bath, very pleasant eclectic Tudor style home. My brothers and I had the custom of being lifted up by an adult to the rafters just to turn on the old lantern lights when it grew dark.

Who did the labor and actually built this place?

Good question! My grandfather Beck was always an accomplished builder who learned how up in the city of Angels and built his first home in Indo with full date groves, but this particular house was originally erected slowly by my dad's enate grandfather, William Harris. You see Mr. Harris was an interior decorator at the time, British by birth, and he commuted from the Los Angeles area to get it done. By 1926, when the bulk of his expansion on the small abode was complete, Mr. WH went and installed a weather vane on top of the pointed turret and then this quaint little shack became known by locals as that “weather vane house.”

The Harris clan was pretty excited about it too. Yes, after it was totally completed, the entire Harris family packed up all their modest belongings and they permanently relocated down there to Laguna Beach to become locals themselves. Daughter Ida Harris later joined her parents in Laguna in 1929 when she was only 23 years old. But it was before Ida returned to Laguna to begin her life-long residence in this home.. that she landed job and went full time as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times newspaper.

Her time at the paper also gave her some other interesting stories to tell. One day her boss, the paper's editor, sent her off to capture a story in a small fledgling town down south located some eight minutes inland from Dana Point (where my own father later on moved our family to).

The place the editor sent her to was called, San Juan Capistrano, and it was her duty to interview and produce a short story on the poor struggling church monks at the ole adobe mission. So shortly after arriving and talking with them, she started pointing to one of the near by trees and aunt Ida asked the men "What kind of bird is that?"

And one of the priests replied, "Oh that's a swallow. They're migratory birds, you know, and the interesting thing about our swallows is that they always come back here, every year, on St. Joseph's Day on the dot, like clockwork."

Hummm... Interesting fact! And fascinated by this bit of info, my aunt Ida basically jotted down a simple but creative side bar to her main article and was now fully intending on thinking all this through to figure out what would be best and which story was really worth polishing up to run in her big city paper.

Apparently, upon Ida's return there was an exchange of ideas with her boss and as the story goes.. it was because of my aunt Ida's little LAT piece about these quick little birds that darted about yearly and made their mud homes on the sides of buildings—the swallows—and how they would annually return to the ole mission in San Juan Capistrano (which maintained on its campus literally the second oldest building in the entire golden state..), that the famous song about the swallows was written and sung. And subsequent to the song, the Swallows Day Festival was then started, (as well as all of the other swallows-related fiesta activities)!

Now my wife, Liney, and I were just out there in San Juan a couple months ago visiting and we were really amazed at how large this city-wide event has grown. We laughed to hear about some of the past trouble with it too. But I remember when it didn't even exist and now my own fun-loving mom has set up her beautiful art gallery right there downtown next to the old mission itself. And she often makes beautiful paintings of the mission complex along with all he plant life and birds.


We all had a fun time meeting lots of people in the Swallow's Day Parade decked out in costumes. There were people dressed as pirates, southern bells, cowboys, and even as Halloween characters (they and no one else really seem to give much of a flip about the look ’cause it was simply time to celebrate the day the birds returned). I don’t know how many people really know that the swallows actually return to the entire area for about an entire month. I specifically remember how they used to build nets on our Dana Point home during that month each year as well.

I don't know about all that's involved with the mission and the drinking that goes on, but there is indeed a time for us to celebrate life and rejoice in in the Lord. Listen, if your town has some good history, why not?

Jesus who never got drunk, wants us to be joy-filled all of the time not just one day a year.. being filled with His Spirit. Sure, in Him we can be that way daily! He once said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Do you have overflowing joy in your life? Is your life abundant, free and blessed? It can be! Can you find reasons around your hometown to celebrate life?

People seem to get tired of the dry ole dog-eat-dog, cut throat mundane routine of life—they have always typically looked for any reason to party, but in the end the wrong kind of partying will just leave people feeling more empty, lonely and guilty. Hey, I can relate. I used to party like that every chance I could get.

I hear that some of the revelry coupled with saloon brawls in San Juan Capistrano used to get way out of hand. Several people would sadly end up in jail, but now the local police department who ride horses around town, have got a much better handle on things there and the folk music and country styled bands now make the town kind of an interesting and lively place to visit ..when the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano. All those towns.. Laguna, San Juan, Newport, Dana Point in the summer time. Ya oughta go visit!

Fish4Souls.org

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Date Night With Liney

Liney and I were super blessed again last night. It was our date night with five star treatment downtown.

What can I say; how do I rate? Dunno! Some kind-hearted friends of ours named, Enam Chowdry with Executive Chef Scott Romano, invited us to his very high-end restaurant to try out the upscale cuisine etc. Liney and I don't normally go dine at the Charlie Palmer at the Joule boutique hotel.

It's like this; we were poor missionaries for years overseas (inject an "awww" here..) and it's just radically different for us. And yet, for the last three decades (whenever we've been in the Dallas area) Liney and I keep getting invited out multiple times per month to literally the very best restaurants in the city.. so much so in fact, that a lot of times we simply can't make it.

What do these guys want? Well, they simply want me to recommend them to others that we meet. So if they are good we do, and if they are not so good we just thank them anyways.

Hey, some people live to eat and others eat to live. We've never lived for food, but we can also appreciate the artistry and skill involved in putting a great meal together that's for sure. These guys and girls have incredible talent and training.

But how could we be dining out in style all dressed up on the pier so to speak.. when so many are sinking down in the oceans of sin all around us? This is what goes through our minds each time. Now, we've had some wonderful times to share our faith and build friendship with some of the managers, owners etc.

We always have a good time ..living. Our dog, Roxy loves the rib bones and leftovers too. Hey, it's the Lord who has given us all good things to enjoy! He blesses us and then we want to be a blessing to others. Do we bless others as much as we would like to, or should? I don't think so, but we want to keep trying here in the States and over seas on missions trips again (we'll see in time where He leads us).

We feel so grateful to Christ too. The Bible says, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

We don't drink, but that is exactly what Liney and I really want to do all our days--glorify the Lord! Please pray for us as we trust Him to use us and we will pray for you too. That's what gives purpose and excitement to our lives. It will for you as well. Anyways, here's what we ordered last night…

RICOTTA AND MASCARPONE AGNOLOTTI
SHIITAKE VELOUTÉ / BROWN BUTTER HAZELNUTS / FIORE SARDO

A corn dog (that is really a lobster c-dog)

HEN OF THE WOODS BROWN BUTTER

TRUMPET ROYALE TOASTED GARLIC

CREMINI OXTAIL RAGOUT

BRUSSELS SPROUTS RISSOLE (these were much bette than we thought. Normally never have em)

FILET MIGNON BLUE CHEESE CRUST / ARMAGNAC SAUCE

DRY-AGED NY SIRLOIN w/ BONE MARROW FLAN / CABERNET REDUCTION

(D Magazine rates this dry aged steak at the restaurant, the very best in Dallas).

Then we had some really exotic desert thing with truffles and coffee.

I know that you and I have a whole lot to say "thanks Lord" for! Do you live in the Western world? Go try this place out if you really want a nice place to go on a Saturday night, for your date night. We do recommend it!

Now, what matters far more to Liney and I than all the blessings that we have ever enjoyed on earth? Let me tell you.

Glad you asked! Can I Tell Ya About The Potent Cross of Christ?

Mighty is the power of the cross. It's a huge miracle to me; wood n tomb so empty now--such a high cost! Mighty, awesome, wonderful is the holy Cross for all. It's where the Lamb laid down His life to lift us from the fall.

Jesus Christ always satisfies our inner hunger as well as our physical hunger. He can do the same for you. Would you like to know the Blesser, or just seek after His blessings all of your life?