Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Top 25 North American Travel Experiences I Wish Everyone Should Have, Part 2 (the second ten are in this post)
(hint: click the pic for a more inspiring size photo)
11. Take a boat ride under the falls at Niagara
12. Enjoy Ghirardelli Square and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran
13. Watch Tennessee Vols Football in Neyland Stadium (with the Vol Navy)
14. Watch Native American Indian dancers and a Pow Wow in Cherokee, North Carolina
15. See a live blues show at Blue Chicago on Clark
16. An uninterrupted afternoon at the National Gallery, Washington
17. Experience the Rose Parade, Live in Pasadena
18. Read a significant work of literature in the Library of Congress Reading Room
19. Witness the wonder of Puccini in the Civic Opera House, Chicago
20. Ride horses on the floor of Monument Valley, UT
21. Camp in either the Lost Sea (Sweetwater, TN) or Spelunk in Carlsbad Caverns, NM .
At Lost Sea, you get to spelunk by land AND by sea on this 8 acre underground lake-- in a boat with a glass bottom. Amazing. One of my favorite events ever-- I've been 3-4 times on the wild tour.
Here, at Carlsbad, you can see the unbelievable and spooky batflight before daybreak or at sundown. There are 250,000 bats that exit and re-enter the cave's mouth as seen. I've never seen anything more like it.
22. Take in an afternoon at the Hotel Galvez (the Queen of the Gulf) in Galveston, TX
23. Do a romantic evening in San Antonio's Riverwalk
24. Hike Pike's Peak, CO
25. Trek through the Great Sand Dunes National Monument
Monday, April 20, 2009
Top 25 North American Travel Experiences I Wish Everyone Should Have, Part 1 (the first ten are in this post)
(hint: click the pic for a more inspiring size photo)
1. Take in an afternoon game at Wrigley in the summertime
2. Be in Detroit during the height of Red Wings Hockey
3. Taste of Chicago festivities, early July in Chicago
4. Experience Canada Day in Montreal or Ottawa
5. Stay in Old Quebec City near the Parc des Champs-de Bataille and Chateau Frontenac (wow!)
6. See the cliff divers, from the water, in Acapulco
7. Tour and climb the City of the Gods at Teotihuacan, Mexico
8. Do New Year's Eve in Times Square (2x, 1999 and 2001)
9. Visit the museum and memorial and comemmorate the victims of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City (the Gates of Time, shown)
10. Spend Independence Day in Washington, D.C.
As soon as possible, I'll post my remaining 15 of the top 25 of my favorite North American travel experiences. For now, I hope you enjoyed the trip.
Monday, April 13, 2009
A friend of mine sent me a list of 20 "I'll never" statements today. I liked it so much, I thought it would be a good exercise to do myself. Thanks Beth!
1. I will never fail to realize how dangerous it is to say "I will never." Even so, these are convictions I resolve to uphold and won't shrink from committing to.
2. I will never desert my convictions, nor fail to contend earnestly for the faith, once for all delivered to the saints. If that doesn't mean something, then nothing means anything. Convictionless living is a meaningless existence because it plants nothing and harvests nothing, making the net gain 'zero.' If life means nothing, then cut me a big, long line of coke and get out of my way (that's my translation of the book of Ecclesiastes).
3. I will never shirk the responsibilities I have to my family, my wife, and children. Those commitments were a free-will decision made by myself to myself and to God.
4. I will never live in fear or regret. I must live in fearless abandon, feverishly pursuing ultimate reality and absolute truth, without holding anything back. Why 'save' my vitality? What would I save it for, anyway?
5. I will never secretly wish I could 'trade places' with anyone else, known or unknown. I live the life I dream about... and if I wanted someone else's life, I would simply change mine.
6. I will never want to live "way out" with lots of land. That's just not how I think. I like to visit those places, but have no interest in living there. Most people feel exactly the opposite, and that's cool.
7. I will never fail to be grateful that I can see, hear, and walk-- things important for gaining the fullness of the human experience
8. I will never want to own a cat, a llama, a monkey, a large dog that sheds, a hamster, mouse, gerbil, or other vermin-turned pet.
9. I will never accept status quo. I'd rather unquo the status. The status quo is for people who don't mind being in the 'heap.' I'd rather be on top of the heap-- it's a better view.
10. I will never own a car with a bad stereo system or buy an automobile I hate because it gets good mileage. Life's too short to drive a car you despise.
11. I will never stop celebrating life and existence. However, wild and wooly, life is the most amazing adventure and enterprise ever imagined. People who have a problem with life suffer from an errant perspective; usually their error is in thinking that pain and suffering makes life bad or unbearable. The truth is that we can always handle the "what" if we know the "why." If a person doesn't 'get' the "why," he or she should go on an unmitigated search to discover why or life will always confuse them.
12. I will never stop loving my favorite music: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eddie Money, CDB, Kansas, Fleetwood Mac, Journey, and all manner of Arena Rock.
13. I will never stop making excuses for writing a book until I make or find time to write them. Hopefully I'll get my ducks in a row soon. I've been unable to make it a priority up until now. Frustrating.
14. I will never, ever, ever, ever stop feeling the pain of losing my mother at the age of 58, my dear beloved grandmother at 83, and others I have loved and lost.
15. I will never fail to have a profound, nearly irrational love for my twin brother Teddy (Nashville, TN) and my brother and sister (Kevin Windle/Kelli Hinkle).
16. I will never stop celebrating the virtues of the good men and women in uniform, serving the United States with distinction, in places known and unknown, to the four corners of the earth.
17. I will never fully understand why or how God can forgive each of us from our dastardly deeds and how, after being forgiven, any Christian can actually withhold forgiveness from another human being. Withholding forgiveness places us, not necessarily the offender, in terrific bondage.
18. I will never forget where I came from. I'll always let it shape me as I count my blessings, one by one.
19. I will never forget, nor fail to honor, those who have benefited me in ways big and small. I won't ever fail to appreciate those who have, in any way, shown me kindness, grace, and mercy.
20. I will never tire of traveling to amazing places, doing amazing things with incredible people, and having new, novel experiences. One of the greatest ways to be impoverished is by failing to meet interesting people, to go to interesting places, or to read about them.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
What Pastor Fred Winter's Murder Taught Us on March 9, 2009
Only three weeks ago, my friend, Pastor Fred Winters of Maryville, Illinois was speaking in his pulpit, when a man walked into the church, down the aisle, brandished two weapons and began shooting, slashing, and stabbing members of First Baptist Church and its pastor.
That story hit home, because Fred Winters was my friend.
What happened that day was an act of evil.
A man, Terry Sedlacek, committed a premeditated act of murder against a pastor. This was someone the man had never met, at a church he had never attended— That same killer had to pass by dozens of other congregations on the way to Fred’s church. And what’s more, he didn’t have to kill a man. He could have done anything else (he could taken his angst and “jumped rope”… flown a kite, or gone bowling)— but instead, he walked into the house of God on a Sunday morning and killed a pastor, the father of two, in cold blood, in full view of his wife and church family, in a sanctuary consecrated for the worship of God. And then tried to take his own life (the attempted suicide wounds were still visible on his throat, in his police arrest photo).
What happened to Fred Winters that day was EVIL. Wickedness. Sin.
So evil exists. Sin and wickedness are realities that must be acknowledged. And though I’ve never committed murder, each and every day, I commit other sins. So I have to wrestle with the issue of sin “out there” and “in here”—my own heart… just like you.
Our Vulnerability To Sin
WHY are we Vulnerable to Sin? WHY we are vulnerable to sin is answered by three primary theological concepts: Original Sin; The Fall; and Depravity.
1. Original Sin
Fundamentally, we are vulnerable to practicing evil and wickedness because of what theologians call “Original Sin.” Original Sin is one of the fundamental teachings of the Bible—and it is first mentioned just after Creation, in the third chapter of the Bible, Genesis 3:1-6. And this theme continues to develop until the final chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22:1-3a.
So the Reality of Evil is one of the primary theological themes that spans nearly every page of the Bible. That explains why wickedness has constantly been one of the most powerful forces throughout human history. It plagues us, it wrecks our lives and the lives of others.
And “what is” Original Sin? Simply stated, Original Sin was the first act of human disobedience in the Garden of Eden. It was the violation of innocence and the corruption of righteousness. And after Eve was deceived, Adam then took the next fatal step by actively entering into rebellion against God’s authority.
THAT was Original Sin— the initial rebellion against God.
2. The Fall
And when Original Sin occurred, that immediately resulted in what theologians call “The Fall.” See Genesis 3:7-10. So Original Sin (the initial act of deliberate disobedience by Adam, brought on by the satanic deception of Eve) resulted in The Fall.
The Fall of Humanity was and is the condition of being estranged from God—and alienated from eternal life. It resulted in our spiritual divorce from God— a condition where we are disconnected from God; where we know that something between He and us has gone wrong.
Though Adam was originally blameless and morally innocent— his rebellion against God’s authority made him “morally culpable,” or responsible, for his actions: This meant that he was no longer innocent, but guilty.
Romans 5:12 says that “sin entered the world through one man (Adam’s Original Sin), and death (separation from God in this life and the next) through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” SO WHEN ADAM sinned, he acted on behalf of the entire human race—just as a representative in the state or nation’s capital represents and votes for you. And whatever vote they cast, you are symbolically casting it with them. And as the Federal Head of the Human Race, Adam rebelled and, in doing so, passed on that sin nature to every one of us.
And when Adam “fell,” we all fell with him.
And though some people have a hard time interpreting this phenomena… it is this biblical reality of Fallenness that explains our search for meaning and our profound existential need as humans. It also explains that sense of spiritual desperation that all people feel. It is “why” we feel far from God. It is “why” people feel anxious, lonely, afraid, insecure, and lost.
So Original Sin led to the Fall of Humanity, and the Fall resulted in AND manifests itself by Depravity.
What is Depravity? Depravity is the degree of corruption in our human nature. It means that there is EMBEDDED WITHIN US a penchant to sin; that there is a natural propensity, a proclivity, or a predisposition to do things that which is unseemly. It means that none of us need “coached” to do what is wrong, but that, OFTEN, we quite naturally gravitate toward it. As a result, each of us is, to a greater or lesser degree, corrupt.
The Apostle Paul recognized his own depravity in Romans 7:14-25:
14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So BECAUSE we have Original Sin and are Fallen, we are Depraved.
And this “depravity” results in bad character, moral weakness, and an overall lack of resolve that includes IN US a natural tendency to be inexplicably drawn to evil. And even though we are not as BAD as we COULD BE, none of us are as GOOD as we SHOULD BE.
That’s Depravity: It means we are totally incapable of saving ourselves FROM OURSELVES, and it places us in need of a Savior— That’s why we need Christ, who alone has the power to help us overcome the power and penalty of sin.