Sunday, April 28, 2013


I was pretty silent all last week.  Last Monday, I got a call from a cousin telling me that his brother had died earlier that morning, alone in a hospital in Newport RI. That loss occupied many of my thoughts.   Yesterday, I gave a eulogy at his funeral.  If I'd been able to keep all my thoughts together, this is how it would have come out.

Memories of Cliff
They were my “Summer Siblings;” I really can’t recall a summer without the Wilson family showing up at our family home in East Chatham.  It seemed that it was supposed to be that way.  They were also our “fall family.” Seems like every fall, around Thanksgiving, we ended up in Virginia with them.  So, Cliff was my big brother.  Just 11 months older than I was, it was a lot of fun as little kids, and there is the source of most of my great memories. 
When news of his passing hit our family, my brother shared a couple of his memories with me.  The first was of the Turtles, the 1960’s musical group, and their signature song Happy Together.   There were two parts of the memory: the first being that one of the musicians had a remarkable resemblance to Cliff; the other being that we were always happy when we were together.  I can recall not a single meeting when the greeting was not accompanied by a chuckle. 
And we were happy.  I recall countess card games in which Cliff won by such a margin we always sure he cheated.  That brought about the rhyme of “Cliff’s the smarty, what the heck; he always plays with an extra deck.”   
My brother recalls riding down “Uncle Bob’s Mountain” in an old Ford wagon, Cliff at the wheel and no brakes.  He also recalls taking that same car, with the same driver, into town for groceries….  My recollection of being with Cliff on the The Mountain include trying to figure out how to skin frog legs for dinner and something about a can of beans being left on the stove to heat. 
I also recall him trying—unsuccessfully—to get me to drink Moxie, a vile drink created somewhere in Massachusetts and him trying—also without success—to get me “up” on a surf board. 
One of the most meaningful things about Cliff is that he was the family ambassador.  Whatever the event, he’d pull out all the stops to be there.  Whether a wedding, a birthday, or other special event, he’d do his best to be there.  He was happy to be together with his family. 
The theme of the 60’s runs strong in my memories of Cliff.  Another song from the era was Turn, Turn, Turn, by the Byrds, the words of which were taken from the book of Ecclesiastes of the Bible.  Two verses best describe why we’re here today:
Ec 3:1 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
  4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

We will weep and mourn—we lost a friend, father, sibling, child…, and that’s part of the normal grieving process; but we have the memories of man who gave each of us a measure of joy.  For that and on account of that, we laugh—and oh, there has been no small amount of laughter here today.   One measure of a life well lived, and a man well loved, is laughter at the funeral home.  Thought we’ll probably not dance today, at some time in the future, we can recall him with joy even as we dance.

Goodbye Cliff

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Let the Truth be Know

I'm very happy that the second of the Boston bombers has been captured and thankful for the brave men and women who worked tirelessly and selflessly to bring about the capture.  I have avoided watching much news about it, however, and completely avoid any of the social media posts because the facts are not yet fully know.
I'm disgusted with those in the media and those who seem to be in the business of inventing news spreading what they think, guess or make up from thin air, and calling it news.  In doing this, confusion results.
"There has been an explosion." "...two."  "...three."   "oops, only two."
"Subject in custody." "...ooops...."  
You get my thinking here?
Everybody is an expert, so who can be believed?  Please folks, before you start disseminating news, make sure it's news--not conjecture.  Tossing out speculation in a form indistinguishable from fact might make you fell important, but it does no one any good.

The Attributes of God--Holy, Holy, Holy

Quite possibly the least discussed attribute is God's holiness.  Yes, we sing "Holy, Holy, Holy" and similar songs, but what do we mean by it?  Do we understand it?  Believe it? Live by it?

Simply put, God is set apart from us; there is no other like Him.  Interestingly, as He is set apart from man, He calls His people to be set apart from the rest of the world.  He gives us patterns--the sinless life of Jesus being one--to follow to do this.

He can't look on sin, yet sent His Son Jesus to die so that man could be forgiven for it.  That's a mighty God

The song HOLY HOLY HOLY also allows us a look at some of His other attributes:

LORD God Almighty--

  • LORD is the way the Jewish writers of the Old Testament recorded the proper name of God--Yaweh, or Jehovah as we write it today.  
  • God is an entity to be worshiped, followed and obeyed
  • Almighty reflects his attribute of omnipotence--all power is His

Merciful--He gives mercy which is withholding a punishment that is justly due.  He will withhold that from those who trust in Christ

Trinity--God is a God of three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  All are God; all are equal; together they are God.  It's not an easy concept to grasp and anyone who says he has it all figured out is most likely a heretic--or at best he is in well-intentioned error.

...all the saints adore thee...A picture of Heaven, when the saints will be glad to give to God all the rewards which they have earned in His service.  This clearly shows God to be worthy of all our worship and praise.

Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee--Another picture of Heaven.  Here are two types of angelic beings, both engaged in acts of selfless worship.

Was, is and evermore shall be--Here's a statement of God's eternal nature, without beginning or ending.

Though the darkness hide thee--Our sinful world has clouded our ability to see God clearly as He is.  Adam and Eve walked with God, apparently in a literal sense; but since they sinned, mankind was no longer able to do that.  We cannot know, and I suspect even in eternity will never fully know, the full extent of God for we are limited beings and God is limitless.

Perfect in power, love and purity.  He is perfect, that is complete in all of these things:

  • He is all powerful--omnipotent.  There is nothing that the LORD God Jehovah cannot do! 
  • Love--He loved the world so much that He gave his only son....  That's perfect love
  • Purity--there is no guile in God.  He defines truth, it's recorded in His Word, and acts according to it

All Thy works shall praise Thy name...--there will come a time when every knee will bow to God's power and sovereignty.  There will be no more disputing of His claim to authority, his right to rule.  It will be over.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!

  1. Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
    Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
    God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
  2. Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
    Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
    Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
    Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.
  3. Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
    Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
    Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
    Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.
  4. Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
    All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
    Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
    God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

This has not been an exhaustive exploration of the Attributes, merely an introduction.  For a further and deeper study, I'd suggest biting the bullet and investing in a good book of systematic theology (I like Grudem's).  Along with a good study Bible, it will guide you to a better understanding of who God is and what He says about Himself.  He is NOT the god of pop-culture, He is Jehovah God, the LORD.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Game Warden Files--Brooklyn, early cases

In the middle of all that, I had to go to work.  I reported to the Trade Center and soon found myself sitting around the table where I'd first been interviewed.  We had a bunch of young and eager officers.   A couple of the guys had been there before going to the academy, but a few of us were really new to it.  We were given good maps of the city and told to go find our way around for a few days.

Dennis O'Reilly, the captain, and Jay Molinelli, the lieutenant told us what was expected of us, and what was NOT expected of us.  They did not believe in writing a bunch of tickets for the sake of writing a bunch of tickets.  They wanted quality cases.  For the most part, I was able to do that.
Part of the Brooklyn assignment was that I had a boat assigned to me.  It was a 31 foot twin 350 horsepower cruiser.  Having that put me into contact with the US Coast Guard at Rockaway, and the the US Park Police Marine Unit, based out of the Coast Guard Station.  Those guys and gals became a great resource as I became a boat operator and as I attempted to make those quality cases that Dennis wanted.

My first good case was a surf clam case.  Surf clams are the largest of the clams harvested in New York waters.  They're sold to be cut into strips or used for chowder stock.  Like all shellfish, surf clams must be taken from water that is certified to a certain standard in order to be harvested or sold for food.  They're harvested with big boats using dredges, and a day's catch for one boat can be well in excess of 100 bushels.  The boats engaged in this fishery are licensed either as food or bait boats.  A bait boat can harvest anywhere, a food boat only could work in the certified area.
One afternoon not too long after I'd begun working in the city, I was watching the activity on the ocean when I realized that I had a surf clam boat working not far from where I was near the Rockaway Jetty.  The water there is uncertified for food clams and the boat I was watching was a food clam boat.  I had my case!  But how to properly document it and make the apprehension?  I went to the Coast Guard station and got one of their senior-most Chief Petty Officers who joined me and with a decent compass and a chart we documented his position.  Then, the US Park Police offered the services of their boat--which was faster than anything the Coast Guard had running that day.  We stopped the surf clam boat, documented who the captain and crew were as well as the location, and had them dump about 150 bushels of clams back overboard.  Our legal department then took the case and worked out a settlement that, as I recall, wasn't cheap.  One of the best things I'll ever recall hearing is my captain's voice on the radio; "OUTSTANDING WORK, BILLY!"  With that, I figured I had truly come into my own.

We also spent a lot of time chasing the guys who harvested the normal variety of clams.  The clams we know from the supermarket or fish store all must come from certified waters also. All of the inland water within New York City is uncertified.  In the 1980's much of the water was really pretty bad.  Emptying into Jamaica Bay there were five sewage treatment plants, there were also several landfills which leached into the waters continually, countless storm get the picture.  Yet, people dug clams from Jamaica Bay.  There were some who were what we called "mess diggers;" those who went out and dug a "mess" for dinner.   There were some who looked like mess diggers; but their idea of a mess was several bags--enough to sell to a restaurant that didn't care too much about the source of their shellfish.  Last were the high end diggers. They went out with boats and rakes or stick dredges, usually under cover of darkness, and dug a lot of clams.  The pollution of the water allowed for wonderful clam production, and they could dig a boatload in a really short time if conditions were right.
The captain decided it was time to do a major operation and catch a couple of these clammers.  We worked tirelessly for just about a month before it finally happened.  For all practical purposes, we didn't take days off, we were going to catch some clammers!.  Two of our guys were out one night and saw a small dark boat leave its dock with what looked like all the right equipment.  They called out the rest of the region's officers and we assembled in the area of Howard Beach, Queens.  The boat came back in just about daylight with about a dozen tubs of clams.  The two men, father and son climbed the ladder from the dock up to the back yard and we took them down at the top of the ladder.  We had them lying on the ground, cuffed, when the door to the house opened and a woman, dressed as a professional business woman, came out, looked over our way, never said a word; but  turned and walked steadily toward the bus stop.  I suspect that was not a happy household after that.
We made the paper with that arrest and pretty well shut the problem down for a while, though not for long.
Chasing the clammers was a continual part of my work the entire time there and after I moved to Staten Island.

The Game Warden Files--Brooklyn, part 1

We had found a suitable apartment in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn and made an affordable deal to rent it as of the 1st of September.  I needed to report to work before then, so I moved with my necessary items to Brooklyn a couple weeks before we really moved.  It ended up that I spent the first 10 days or so in a guest apartment owned by a missionary organization and overseen by some family friends.  Being alone in a strange place for a few days allowed me to get my feet on the ground a bit before my family joined me.
I sold all my duty gear from Chatham PD to rent the U-Hall to get us to Brooklyn.  Revolver, cuffs and gun-belt all went to one of the guys who had been recently hired and was attending a basic school.  (As I write this, I'm in the process of trying to reconnect with that officer to see if he still might have that Model 19 S&W, and if so, would he like to sell it back to me.)  On the appointed moving day, a couple local officers showed up to help us load the truck and the next day we were on the way.
After unloading the truck, I parked it around the corner on a dead end street and Peggy came walking out to meet me.  It was one of those "What have we done?" moments.  Here we were, two country kids with two little boys, moving to one of the largest cities in our country.  As we walked, somewhat shell-shocked, back to the apartment--in which she'd locked the kids, if memory serves correctly--an older gentleman leaned over his fence, introduced himself and said "All the kids call me Uncle Frank. Welcome to the neighborhood."  We came to be very close to Uncle Frank and the extended family that shared the four-family house he was in.  One component of that family had three girls whose ages were spread around those of our two boys.  They became good friends and playmates in that little corner of what would be our home form the next 18 months or so.
One morning a car problem found me in a neighborhood gas station getting some work done.  The owner, Moe Blum, and his family got a chuckle out of having a game warden in their place.  Their little girl didn't know quite what to make of me; but kept up a steady dialogue with me the entire time her dad worked on my car.  They, too would become friends over the time we were there.  They come to mind often yet today, though we've lost track of all them.
We chose to go to King's Highway Baptist Church with the friends who worked with the ministry where I stayed, and developed a pretty good friendship with quite a few folks from there also.  We were quite comfortable.
One of the funniest things was a snowstorm that happened in February of our first winter there.  It was a great storm and shut everything down.  Coming from areas where snow was no big deal, we found our landlord's snowshovels and started digging out.  We dug out the sidewalk, an elderly neighbor's sidewalk--she wanted to pay Peggy for doing it--and started working on clearing out cars.  It seemed like we started something.  It became something of a party-like event with everyone helping everyone and things starting to look pretty good.  Suddenly a gate across the street opened up, and a guy hollered "YOU ALL LAUGHED AT ME!"  We stopped, not knowing what he was talking about and wondering if we had a madman on in the neighborhood.  There was the sound of an engine and then a Jeep with a plow appeared.  He joined the party and by nightfall we had a clear block.  Of course, we had the only clear block in quite a distance and pretty well had to guard our parking places to ensure we'd be able to get back into them.
Our landlady was a sweetheart.  She was a bit coarse; but underneath it all she was great.  She brought me pasta fagioli when I was sick, brought us stuffed peppers "just because...."  She even offered to take one of cats to the vet and use her credit card to pay for it to help us out one time.  Yeah, she was great.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

And the Basket Descends

The expression "going to Hell in a hand basket" is, at best, of uncertain origin--though it seems to be distinctly a product of the US; but there's not much doubt about its meaning.  It indicates a continuous and seemingly unalterable decline in the state of affairs, be it the state of a person, a business, a government entity or anything else.   The general direction of our culture fits that pattern.  It's not the economy, it's not the decline in the military; it's the general decline of the morality of the nation.  That is what is pulling our nation downward.
When our country was founded, it was founded upon a moral code that was specifically Bible based.  In fact, John Adams stated  "Our constitution was made only for a a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Yes, that's right, contrary to what's been taught in our history classes in the last 80 or so years, our founding fathers--those who wrote the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution were largely Christian men.  By that, I mean men who held to what would be considered today to be evangelical or even fundamental Christian faith.  This is born out by exploring the writings of the founders and by reading what others wrote and spoke about them.
Now that we've driven religion, as it was know to the founders, from our culture, is it any wonder why this nation flounders?  Certainly not.  With the decline of a religion of absolutes, we have become an immoral people.  We have declared wrong to be right, legalized the unthinkable; marginalized those who object.....
Maybe our progressive thinkers have managed to destroy us.  If our constitution will only work for religious and moral people and they've destroyed religion and morality, maybe our constitution is no longer the document by which we can be governed.
And the basket descends....

Not a Fan, by Kyle Idleman, a book review

One of my many pastor friends strongly recommended this book some time ago.  He was thinking about using it for a small group study.  Sadly, I didn't get around to it (yeah--I was too lazy) in a timely enough fashion to give him my input before he started to use it; but now having read it, I'm thinking the group will have great success if they really pay attention to the underlying Biblical principles that Idleman uses as he develops his theme.

The whole idea of the book is a common one: Jesus asked for followers, not for fans.  Idleman builds the thought in three parts: Fan or Follower? an honest diagnosis; An Invitation to Follow (the unedited version) and finally Following Jesus--wherever, whenever, whatever.   He does this in fourteen simple, short chapters; each one just about long enough to digest while downing that last cup of coffee, or during a the morning break at work.  Doing that, you'll be done in a couple weeks or so.  (Or you might get hooked, and just sit and read the whole thing in an evening.)

His writing style is simple, personal, sometimes humorous and often quite pointed.  Any reader who does not put up his defenses (I defy you to teach me anything!!!) will get jabbed quite often by God's Word reaching out from the text and touching him.   The book is dotted with "Not a Fan" stories.  These are from folks who have come to the point of making the choice to follow or not, and have chosen to follow; all of them go right to the heart.

Not a Fan is available at your local Christian bookstore or any of the major on-line outlets.  The retail is about 15 dollars.  Buy it, interact with it and pass it on.  Unless you put your defenses on, you will be changed by the way it puts God's Word into the common experience.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Game Warden Files--The Academy Days

It was actually called the FOURTH BASIC SCHOOL FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION OFFICERS, but the common term is "going to the academy."   Strictly speaking, an academy is a building where training takes place.  DEC has held basic schools in many buildings over the years, but mine was truly at an academy--back to the New York State Police Academy, in Albany, where I had done my Basic School for municipal officers several years before.
At the time, DEC hired officers to fill openings as they came up.  They put a lot of folks into the field without having gone through a Basic School.  When they had enough people to train, they'd hold the school, usually adding a few more officers to start in the school to fill vacancies that they'd not yet filled.  I was one of those late hires.  I arrived on Sunday night, April 18, 1982 and was met by a squared away lieutenant who extended his hand, said "Hi, I'm Dave Wayman, and who might you be?"  I introduced myself and reminded him that we had met some years back over a cup of coffee.  He welcomed me and got me hustled off to my quarters.
The first 48 hours or so was pretty much a blur.  However, I well recall PT at 5:00 AM that first morning.  Never having been a runner, and having no time to get trained up to doing it, that was exceptionally tough on me.  The half-mile run that first morning almost killed me!  I did struggle with PT throughout the program and had to fight past a couple injuries, but by Memorial Day was able to run the three miles that was the morning requirement.  At the end of the program, part of the graduation requirement was a timed mile and a half run.  I finished it with a whopping 2 seconds to spare.  If memory serves correctly it was 12:13 and the requirement for my age was 12:15.  I'd love to say that I was able to become a runner and that all the good health training stayed with me through the years; but it would be a big lie.  I did, however gain a lot of strength and fitness, and took off a bunch of weight, though I'd fight, and continue yet to fight, a battle with my weight and the health issues it brings.
The school soon settled into a routine that was pretty livable. I was in a quad with three other guys.  We shared a bathroom with 1 shower, two sinks and one toilet--room for everyone, but any modesty one might have had was pretty much lost.
My roommate was, and still is, a unique character.  Even before we were given liberty (the opportunity to sign out, leave the campus and return before a set time), he'd sometimes disappear in the evening, coming home in the wee hours of the morning.  I don't know how he handled it, because I needed my sleep; but he managed to make it through.  After one of his first such excursions, he came quietly into the room, in the dark, tripped over the end of his bed and about landed across the foot of my bed.  After that, I left his desk light on so he'd come in safely.  It put a whole new spin on the commercial "We'll leave the light on for ya,." and became a running gag throughout our careers.  When he retired, I have him a pair of night-lights as a gift.  He knew what the gift would be before he even opened it.
As the program progressed I did well in everything but the PT.  I was good in law--frustrating some because I'd be done with the exams and gone in such a short time; did very well in firearms; was OK in the driving ; overall, I had a pretty easy and uneventful time.
When we did our EVOC, as we called the driver training portion of the program, we ran a well-designed track with an instructor in the car.  The training was very well done and it produced some good drives and taught a lot of techniques which have kept me from accidents at least a few times both on and off duty.  1982 was before the advent of seat belt laws.  Our instructors, however, insisted on our wearing them.  Some of us made known our regular lack of use and my instructor decided to teach me a lesson.  In a decreasing radius turn, he reached over and popped my belt latch.  I about flew into his lap, and momentarily lost control of the car.  That momentary loss of control cost me a few seconds of time on what was stacking up to be a near-perfect run on the track.  It taught me that I can drive  better when belted in and I've been a firm believer in seat belts ever since.  EVOC was also my first experience in high-speed driving under controlled circumstances.  I-88 had been completed from Schenectady to Oneonta, but was not yet open.  We used that for high-speed pursuit practice--We learned a lot out there, and had a lot of fun doing it.  We had great instructors.
Our law classes were interesting.  The basic legal issues I'd already had in my first basic school; but in this basic school we had to learn the Fish and Wildlife Law, and the rest of the Environmental Conservation Law.  That was pretty intense some times.  Fortunately, we had some great instructors for that, also.  One of them could come up with the most ridiculous scenarios and make us work through them with the law, coming to a proper conclusion.  It was a good lesson in logic as well as the law.
Most of the Fish and Wildlife was pretty good.  Some of the wildlife ID suffered from bad pictures and slides--I never did see the difference in the three fish in one picture that was used on the final--but most of it was pretty good.  We even took a trip to the NY State Museum and had the chance to handle hundreds, if not thousands of preserved hides of everything from ducks to exotic species.
The only event of note from the firing range was that the agency had just been equipped with model 681 Smith and Wesson revolvers which were billed as "the magnum of the 80's."  The production run of guns we had was so bad that we several S&W technicians on-site, along with our own armorers.  They were constantly working through problems on the guns.  Some guys would have three guns break down in a day of shooting.  We got through it, but it added to frustration and lessened the amount of shooting we got to do. That said, we turned out some excellent shooters.  DEC historically has turned out some of the best pistol shots in the state, and our class was no exception.  Several guys, and I think one of our gals, went on to do well in competitions.
By late summer, it was time to get break out of there.  Many of my classmates went on to higher ranks.  As of this writing, two of them have served as Division Director of the agency.  We graduation early in August and headed off to our assignments.  About a week after graduation, I assumed my duties as the Game Warden of Brooklyn!  Yet another adventure.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Game Warden Files--Chatham PD years

If there was one defining moment in the decision to become a police officer, it was watching the movie Serpico, that turned me to wanting to be a police officer.  I'd already given up on the dream of being an EnCon Officer, but as Peggy and I sat watching Serpico, something stirred within me.  I can't really put my finger on what it was. While working at Blue Seal feeds I had become friends with Johnny Bell from Chatham PD. Charlie Brown--yeah, that's really his name--was another old-timer on the department, and two of my high school classmates were members of the force and yet another had been and gone.  So, I put in an application there and began the wait.  That was sometime right about the time we were married, June, 1974.
In 1975, there was a sudden shakeup in the department and I was offered an interview.  Peggy and I had a vacation planned to Mystic Seaport and had to cut our plans short by a day so I could attend the interview, but I got back in plenty of time and along with four others, was appointed to a part-time position on the force.  Of those five, three of us have done well.  One is retired from the State Attorney General's Office, one is the (now) semi-retired police chief in Chatham who has made a name for himself in the training field, and I've been successful in many ways myself.
I started working the "D line." on the nights before my day off driving truck.  The D-line went from 8 PM to 4 AM and was there to provide a second officer during the hours of the night when more violent incidents might take place.  As I grew into the job, Sunday afternoon solo shifts were offered and then ultimately I was allowed to work all alone on days or evenings during the week and then even the busiest nights: Friday and Saturdays.  I even picked up a few of the mythical A-line tours--midnight to 8 AM.  That was the shift of the "real cops" or so it seemed.  Generally the greatest problem an A-line brought was staying awake.  Something that's still not all that easy when I work them.
Those were good days.  We helped a lot of people with problems, made a lot of good arrests and had a lot of fun.  All work should be fun--at least in retrospect--even when you're caked in mud or soaked in sweat, and the job was fun.  Police officers and others engaged in high stress jobs often find humor in weird things and I was no different.  I might recall some of those humorous moments in later posts.  There were also some dangerous moments, some crazy ones and some "WHAT WAS I THINKING?" segments that might get written also.
If I have two regrets from those years it would be that handling domestic violence incidents was not a priority within society and I fear that some who could have been helped were not.  Even thought we tried our best, the support services were not there and families continued in their dysfunction.  The other regret would be the lack of skills in handling child sex abuse cases.  I still have one that bothers me.  The defendant's attorney's face told me all I needed to know; I never developed enough information to make an arrest, though.
When I started in Chatham, it was pretty much "Here's a badge, gun and law book--now go to work."  Though I rode with another officer for several months before working alone, there was no real training--there were no opportunities for part-time officers to go to a basic police school.   Then came an incident in which an untrained police officer used excessive force and a lawsuit developed.  Two part-time schools became available almost immediately.  I was given the chance to attend the one held at the New York State Police Academy.  It was the only municipal basic school ever to be held at that facility and, to the best of my knowledge, still has been the only one there.  At the time of the training, I was working only part-time jobs as I'd left my job with Blue Seal Feeds (a story in itself) and was scratching for any work I could, with Peggy doing a few things too.  School occupied my time, but it was all MY time, I wasn't paid for any of it.
That training paid off though, when it opened up the opportunity for me to be hired by the Taconic Region, New York State Park Police in July of 1997.  That put me back to work full-time for most of the time until I was picked up full-time by Chatham in 1980.  The Park Police, in the summer, was a great job.  Lots of people, a sufficient number of complaints to  keep me occupied, and the chance to travel between parks and see a bit of countryside.  Next to the job with DEC, it's the best I ever had.
In April of 1980, I was appointed full time to Chatham and stayed there until I was called to work for DEC. From 80-82, I also did some work part-time for the Sheriff's Office, under the newly elected Paul Proper, and Undersheriff Jim Bertram.  Interestingly, it had been Jim Bertram who had issued me my one and only speeding ticket the summer after my senior year in high school, and it was Jim who had been Acting Chief when I was hired part-time by Chatham.  He almost ended up as Assistant Commissioner in DEC and would have again been my boss had so politics not gotten in the way (or at least that's the way I understand it).
In April 1982, I took a few days off to do some work on a kitchen for a friend and take a quick couple days away with Peggy and the boys.  The day before we were to leave, our car started acting up.  In those pre-cell phone days, it was only because I was home to get the phone call that got the call which would take me into the job as an ECO.  It's often said the "The Devil's in the details," but here was a case where it was certainly God who in the details.  The thing that kept us home to get that call was a $2.00 fuel filter, plugged by some bad gas.

The Attributes of God (Unchangeable and Eternal)

Ps 102:25-27:  In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.

This passage which, incidentally is quoted in Hebrews 1:11-12, talks about the unchangeable nature of God.  He is, was, and always will be the same.   In following the Bible’s account of creation, through the fall of man, the flood, the choosing of Abram, the birth of the nation of Israel, continuing through the Exodus and going through the years of the judges, kings, captivity and even to the time of Christ and the first century church He did not change.  He has not changed in the 2000 years since the church began and He’s not going to change in our lifetime or that of our children. 

When written in the Psalms, this statement was directed toward the Father, when quoted in Hebrews, it was directed at the Son.  This clearly puts Christ as God, debunking any belief that “Jesus might have been a good man or a great prophet, but certainly not God.” 
This passage also mentions His eternal nature “…years will never end.”  This begs the question of when did God begin.  Psalms 90:2 tells us “…from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.”  That is the span of eternity. 

So, the God of whom we speak, God Jehovah, the LORD, “I AM WHO I AM,” existed before time, will exist beyond the end of time, and will not change.  This is the short version of what the Bible tells us. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Attributes of God (What God are we Talking About?)

As we start looking at the attributes of God, let’s start with this one passage.  It’s the well-known account of Moses returning to the mountain to get the second copy the commandments:

Ex 34:5-7   Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD.   And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

First we must determine just who it is we’re talking about.  God has many names throughout Scripture, but the first we need to look at is the LORD.  In our English translations, when we see it written with all capital letters, it is the following the Jewish tradition of never speaking the name by which God referred to himself when He spoke to Moses in the burning bush.  It means “I am who I am” and today we use the word Jehovah to indicate that same proper name.  In that we see that He defines himself.  We do not, we cannot—and, might I add, we dare not—define God according to what we wish Him to be.  It was He who spoke the Earth into being, and breathed life into all creatures, ending with man, and then said “It is very good.” 
He is compassionate and gracious.  The image that compassion should bring to mind is like that of cuddling a much loved child.  Among my favorite memories are those of my kids cuddled up with me in my chair or on the couch while I’ve read them stories, comforted them when they’ve been upset, or maybe just snuggled with them as they drifted off to sleep.  To grasp the concept of gracious, imagine again a child, this one struggling with some kind of problem.  You stop, bend over or kneel down to help.  There’s no obligation to do so, you do it only because it’s a child and it’s in your nature to enjoy helping children.  Such is the nature of God.  We are His children; it’s His nature to help us.  We could probably follow up on that last picture by thinking of trying to help a child put a square peg in a round hole.  We know it won’t work, but he just keeps trying to do it his way.  (NOTE: I raised boys—I’m sure it’s the same for girls!)
God is slow to anger, at least as we see it.  In Biblical history He waited generations, giving ample time for His people, the Nation of Israel, to repent and return to Him.  When they repented and returned, He forgave them…and then they rebelled again.  He waited and waited forgiving years of repeated rebellion; but ultimately he acted.  He did so justly.  He punished the guilty.  Without punishment for the guilty, there is no justice.  We’ll deal with that another time.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Children of Designer Gods (final)

That's final as in the last, not that this is a test.
I've been examining some misconceptions that I often see and hear among my friends.  That's enough looking at error.  Since I'm of the belief that the best defense against error is truth,  I'm going to move into a quick look at the attributes of God.  I should have my thought on the matter, and more importantly my Scripture on the matter, lined up in a couple days and will try to get it started by the weekend.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Game Warden Files (the Faith Factor)

The chronicle of my life would be incomplete, and leaning toward valueless without this portion of my life being examined as some length.  Indeed, much of what I have become professionally is a result of following what was clearly laid out before me as the will of God.
The Pitcher family has a long history of the Christian Faith.  There have been full-time clergy and other dedicated, though not full-time, servants in our past for many generations.  Most of my generation, and our offspring are following the same path.
Growing up in East Chatham, our family had long been been part of the East Chatham Methodist Church.  Though part of the United Methodists, we often referred to ourselves as "Untied" Methodists, as we didn't have much association with any other UM churches in the area, due to the trend in the first half of the 20th century in which the denomination had begun a slide into liberalism and loss of doctrinal stability.   That little church would serve me well all my growing years and into the early years of my marriage, up until we moved to Brooklyn.
It was not, of course, about a church; it was about having personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ, that mattered.  Through good background training in East Chatham, strong family teaching, and ultimately a message by Jack Wyrtzen, the founder of Word of Life, I came to that relationship with Christ at age 9.  Life was pretty stable with regular church attendance, summer camp at New England Keswick, and other appropriate, though unremarkable activity.
That's not to say there were not a few rough spots.  In my late teens, I often found excuses to stay out of church when I could get away with it and avoided anything other than Sunday Morning services; but starting a relationship with Peggy put an end to that and we settled into regular attendance, though often going to her home church.  The other bump in the road was after I'd started work for Chatham Police Department.  The first solo shifts any newcomer was allowed to work were day shifts on Sunday--the perfect excuse to not go to church.  Even after that settled out and I was working other times and days, late nights on Saturdays made it tough to get up for Church on Sunday AM.  Peggy would leave for Sunday School with the boys and would have a firm promise from me to meet her in can guess how that worked out.   I'd hit the kill button on the alarm, roll over and she'd wake me up when she got home from church.  Then our pastor and good friend, Noel Williams got into the equation.  He jokingly--so I thought--told me that he'd call me to "help" me get out of bed.  He did!  Up until those late shifts ended, he dutifully called me every Sunday morning so that I could get to church on time.  The lesson here is that sometimes it takes a bit of a forceful friend to make a person do the right thing.  I'll be ever grateful to Noel for his diligence and good humor to do what he did, the way he did it and for keeping at it long enough to get me past what could have been a rough time.
Moving to Brooklyn after becoming and ECO, we joined long-time family friends worshiping at King's Highway Baptist Church.  We tried a couple others but there was nothing there for us: no doctrine, no sense of community--nothing,  It would be King's Highway for us; we'd be well taught for our time in Brooklyn.  Our last Sunday evening service there upon transfer to Staten Island was special for us.  I have no specific memory of what the pastor said or the text of his message; but at the end of the evening Peggy and I both recommitted our lives to the Lord and we moved to Staten Island the next week no knowing what that would bring.
The following Sunday morning, a collection of events and thoughts took us to Bethel Evangelical Free Church.  We were immediately welcomed and plugged into an adult Sunday School class while our kids were escorted to the age appropriate classes for them.  By nightfall, we were having coffee with the Pastor Bob DeRitter and his wife Nancy--two of the most transparent Christians we'd ever met--our kids were playing with their kids and our church home for our years in Staten Island was well established.  The preaching, teaching and other ministries of Bethel perfectly fit us where we were at that point in our lives.  We joined the church in due time and one evening the pastor told me that my name had come during a nomination committee meeting and anything I would be asked to do had his complete agreement.  It was only a short time afterwards that one of the deacons, Bob Carey, came up me and told me that they'd like me to join them on the board.  I replied that I'd need a while to think about it so, he took a step back, then stepped back up to me, raised his eyebrows and said "Well?"  I assumed the empty spot and took my responsibility seriously.  For the first time ever I sat down and read the Bible cover to cover, doing it in about a couple of weeks.  I was helped along in that because, for the first time in my life, I'd been really exposed to something other than the King James translation.  Though Peggy had long used an New American Standard, something had kept me from getting into it.  I started reading the Old Testament with the NASB, and shortly bought my first New International Version, the translation that (in its older form) is still my favorite as of this writing.  My spiritual adventure had begun to take off.  Life would never be the same again.  We were ripe to learn and in the perfect environment for us to do so.  It was in Bethel where I first preached and thought I could really get used to doing that.
We left Staten Island in 1986, heading to Fulton County and first tried to establish ourselves in a church in Johnstown.  That didn't work well--about drove me into another time of failure to attend--and we soon found ourselves in the Cranberry Creek Community Church.  We were there for 17 years.  I again served as deacon, taught an adult Sunday School Class for quite a while and even had a few more chances to preach.
It was also in that time that I uttered what a friend calls a "self-satisfied prayer."  Though it was heart-felt and  I surely don't regret it, it was a true life changer.  I was praising the Lord for His grace and goodness especially about what he had made me into: I was approaching the top of my career, had acquired some special skills and was just so happy with my family, professional, and spiritual life I didn't really know how to properly express it.  It was in closing that prayer that I added something like "...and if you need a police firearms instructor, you'll know where to find one."  Oh, how that changed my life.
We'd started supporting a family doing ministry with Peace Officers for Christ some time before that and were getting the organization's newsletter.  Shortly after that prayer, I opened the newsletter and read "HI, BILL, YOU'RE GOING TO VENEZUELA."   Actually it said "POFCI goes to Venezuela." but that's not how I'd seen it.  I'd seen it as God calling in the IOU. As a matter of fact, there was a need for a police firearms instructor!  We raised our support, obtained passports and a few months later my wife, our youngest son and I packed up and spent two weeks on a trip ministering to police, their families and some neighborhood kids in and around Caracas Venezuela.  It was the beginning of a long-term commitment to ministry.  There have been many trips to Latin America.  We're still involved with POFCI and have a great heart for the police of the region.  Our pastor at the time we got involved with that first trip made the observation that  no matter what what we did among the people we went to serve, we would come home changed.  He was so right.
In my last 10 years or so as an ECO I started to become far more vocal in my faith while in the workplace.  Though I took some good-natured harassment over it, I was pretty well respected and so my faith was accepted as part of what and who I was.  I was also frequently asked to offer invocations and benedictions at graduation and award ceremonies.  That opened the door for some conversations and I found that I had a gift for smoking out the closet Christians within the department. Now, in my semi-retirement work in other agencies, the Lord is still doing that same thing with me.  He's also allowed me the opportunities to open conversations that would bring people to the saving knowledge of Christ.
As of this writing, we're members of the Baptist Church of Northville NY, where I am a deacon and Peggy sings in the choir and helps with several youth programs.  I'm also a lay-preacher and preach often in local churches when they need pulpit supply.  It's a great thrill to be able to do that.
God has been so good.  He's blessed me all along the way giving me successes in personal, professional and spiritual realms.  He promises that if we trust Him, He will give us the desires of our heart.  He's gave me the love of my life who has given me three great children.  He's supplied a profession I love, within that was my career as an ECO that I had wanted so badly.  He gave me the opportunities to train police internationally while proclaiming His Gospel.  Finally, He's given me the chance to proclaim His Word as a preacher.
God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good!  I've seen it proven.

Children of Designer Gods (part 5)

Moving along yet further into the making God in our own pattern concept, we'll now look briefly at the idea of why Jesus came to Earth.  If we were to ask that questions, many would say things like "to teach us how to live good lives," "to heal sick people," and a host of other things, all of which He did, but none of which are the reason He came.  It's specifically stated once.  In Luke's Gospel, chapter 19, verse 10:  "For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost."
What was lost?  Man was lost--unable, on his own power to come to God.  All of us have sinned and fall short (daily, I might add) of God's Glory.  The penalty for that sin is death--eternal death, Hell, horrible punishment. The single way to escape that is by trust in Christ and His work on the cross.  It was on the cross that He died for our sins and that is how he saved us.
So, Jesus came to provide a way for us to be reconciled to God.  He came to seek and save us.  Along the way, he did some great things.  He healed many, fed lots of people, performed all kinds of many things that John's gospel tells us that there were not enough books to record all His actions within those three short years of ministry; but those things were not the reasons He came.   He came to seek and save the lost--I was among the lost, you were among the lost (hopefully, the past tense is correct, if not the time to correct that is now).
We can't be fooled by those who take bits and pieces of the Bible and use them out of context to prove something which is contrary to the book actually says.  Jesus did NOT come just to do good things, or teach us how to live good lives.  He came to seek and save the lost.  That's the whole story.  Tho think He did less, is to sell Him short, to design him as we want Him to be.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Children of Designer Gods (part 4)

How much can I get away with and still go to Heaven?
That's the question asked on a bumper sticker seen on and off over the years.  The fact that the questions has been asked should make us wonder what's going on in the mind of the person asking.  Does the questioner think that there's a certain sin limit that can be approached, but not exceeded, before God's wrath is incurred?  The whole question there is just wrong in so many ways; we'll look at the practical and the theological only.
First, we never "get away" with sin.  Sin can be forgiven--and made of no eternal consequence--by merely confessing it asking God to forgive it.  That provided that a person has made a commitment to Christ, taking Him as personal Savior.  However, the sin will just about always bring some measure of consequence in this life.  Stealing, for instance will put the thief at odds with the person from whom he steals and might very well be dealt with by the courts and land him in jail.  Adultery, though confessed and forgiven will often put stresses and strains on a marriage, wrecking forever the trust that should be between a man and wife.  Lying will make a person unlikely to ever trust the liar again.  So how much did a person really "get away with?" On the theological side, the Apostle Paul deals with this in Romans, Chap. 6.  "...should we continue in sin that grace may abound?  God forbid!"  Some were saying that since God is a loving God (starting to sound familiar?), and gives grace freely, is it not better to take more grace by sinning more?  That is that statement to which Paul objects in such strong terms.
If you push God for his grace, are you really a child of His?  It's certainly fair to ask that question.
This should have been put to rest by the writings of Augustine of Hippo, many centuries ago--long before bumper stickers.  His statement, often written as "Love God and do as you please," on the surface might be misconstrued to think that we might live according the "how much....?" question above.  However, Augustine understood that if we love God we do what He wants, what His will is.  In context of how and what he wrote, that's very clear.
If you're asking how much you can get away with, I doubt that you poorly understand the nature of God.  The answer is NOTHING.

John 14:15
1 John 5:3
Psalms 119:167

The Game Warden Files (career in brief)

Over the years, many times I've made halfhearted attempts to write down some of my experiences as a Game Warden--a New York State Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO), to be exact.  I'll start again here and see if it actually turns into something this time.  It may or may not run in order---we'll see how...or progresses.

This career in law enforcement all started when I was very young, probably four or five, and my interest in law and order took form.  It probably started from watching westerns and such things as Tales of the RCMP, and progressing through the years to The Everglades...lots of that type of TV influence.  That interest was encouraged--or at least humored by parents and even more so by my grandfather who let me spend Sunday afternoons at his house "hunting bad guys."  With the bolt out of his old single shot .22, I'd prowl the house and make arrests (generally in the dark reaches of the root-cellar) of imaginary people for all manner of evils committed in that little burg of East Chatham, NY.
I took a lot of interest in the outdoors and when my grandfather became the Justice of the Peace in the mid-1960's, each year he'd give me his outdated copy of the NY Fish and Wildlife Law which I would devour.  Many years later (1978) when I took the test that would lead me to my career as an ECO, some of that old text was still in the law and I had to read and answer questions on it during the test.  I'm sure that those memories helped.
When I was about 13, I received a scholarship to attend the New York State Conservation Camp DeBruce in Livingston Manor, NY.  My folks delivered me there on a Sunday afternoon and picked me up the following Saturday.  During that week we learned to tie trout flies--never did master that; were shown how to trap fur-bearers--didn't do much for me either; had some lessons in forest management--interesting, but not career-setting; and got to meet a couple larger than life Game Protectors, as they were then called.  That seemed to set the path in motion.
In the 60's and 70's there was not much information out there for following a career choice like mine.  My high school guidance counselor found the closest thing he knew about and hooked me up for a forestry curriculum at Columbia Greene Community College, then in Athens, NY.  It wasn't sending me down the right track, and college wasn't really for me anyway at that point in life, so I left after a year to pursue other fields, seeming to abandon the dream of becoming a Game Warden.  The major thing I did gain from college was that I met the girl who would become my wife and partner on the journey.  Though we were "just friends" then, the friendship stayed alive with an occasional phone call and letter and, on June 29, 1974 we were married.  As I type this Peggy Lester Pitcher and I have been married for nearly 39 years, and are more in love than when we said "I do."
After leaving college, I worked on furnaces and drove an oil truck, then drove a truck delivering dairy feed for Blue Seal Feed.  It was during the feed truck days I really reconnected with my "friend" Peggy and the relationship turned serious and led to our marriage.  It was also during this time I connected with a local legend, Johnny Bell.  He was another truck driver for Blue Seal, and was also a part-time patrolman for Chatham Police Department.where he had acquired the status of a legend.  For all he was and wasn't, he was a good friend and mentor to me, and got me started as a part-time officer with Chatham PD.  I started my career in law enforcement on June 5, 1975.  I became full time with CPD in 1978.  That job got me into a basic police school which got me into a seasonal job with the NY State Park Police, Taconic Region.  Along the way I did some time also with the Columbia Co. Sheriff's Office also.  
In 1978, all the police work I'd been doing plus my year in college qualified me to take the Civil Service test for my dream job.  Though the job had been titled Game Protector when I had first encountered it, then become Conservation Officer, it was now Environmental Conservation Officer, a job with all the same authority as the New York State Police.
Thought I'd done alright on the exam, there'd been no contact about jobs so I had pretty well given up on ever wearing that green suit; but one day in 1981 I was called for an interview.  I got on a train in Hudson, NY, rode to NY City and soon found myself sitting across from Capt. Dennis O'Reilly, a long-time friend who had recently been promoted to Chief ECO in the NY City Region, and Lt. James (Jay) Molinelli.  I'll never forget being almost speechless as I looked out the windows of the conference room in the south west corner of #2 World Trade Center on that clear summer morning. NY Harbor was busy, there was blue sky and puffy white clouds as far as I could see--which was quite far that morning.  I thought, "Gee...I could like it here."   Though I did OK on the interview, they opted to hire right down the list, taking the top four or five from the 10 or so they'd interviewed.  I was number 7, so my dreams went back in the box.  However, I stayed in touch with Dennis O'Reilly, who had been a friend before either he or I was in the law enforcement business, and he kept telling me that I needed to come to NY City for a visit to "check things out," so it should have been no surprise when I got a call asking me to come to Albany, DEC Headquarters, for another interview in April of 1982.  There was going to be a Basic School for ECOs starting soon and they were filling a few more positions before it began.  Was I interested?   I asked for a physical before the interview because I'd had a life-long problem with my eyes, and didn't want to get my hopes shot down after I'd been offered a job.  I got through the eye exam--barely, I might add--and got an appointment for an interview the next day.  In the morning, my wife left for a conference before I headed for my interview.  As she was getting in the car, we looked around at our mobile home on rented land and thought "what have we got to lose?"  She called me that night and asked "Well?" I replied "Dennis is sitting on the couch, what does that tell you?"  Her response: "GO FOR IT!"
The die was cast, we were on the way to a new adventure.  She got home from her conference Sunday evening, I dumped her clothes out of the suitcase, packed mine, and headed to  Albany to be part of the Fourth Basic School for Environmental Conservation Officers.  I was sworn in the next morning, April 19, 1982, and settled in for sixteen long weeks of basic training.  The position to which I'd been appointed was in New York City.
About a month before graduating, we took a weekend and headed to New York to have a look-see.  I was going to be assigned to Brooklyn and would have to live somewhere in that borough--Kings County.  We found an apartment we could handle in a pretty decent looking neighborhood, made an agreement with our perfectly stereotypical Brooklyn land-lady, and shortly, with two little boys moved to 6517 Ave. N, Brooklyn.  We were now "CITY PEOPLE!"  I had the dubious distinction of being the "Game Warden of Brooklyn.
We stayed in Brooklyn from Sept. 1982 until February 1984, when we moved to Sharrotts Rd., Staten Island.  In September of 1985 we had our third child.  We stayed until June of 1986, when there were a few openings in upstate areas that we liked the looks of.  It was down to either Saratoga or Fulton Counties and we'd have taken either.  The choice was taken out of our hands when an officer with more seniority chose Saratoga.  That left us with Fulton.  On Peggy's birthday, 1886, we closed on our first house, on Rosewood Ave., Johnstown, and on our anniversary had a truck packed and were northbound.  We settled in and on by the Fourth of July Weekend that year I was finally a country game warden.
Johnstown was a great place to raise kids.  We had a good neighborhood, decent school system and lots to do.
We were there about 17 years.  After our youngest was out of high school we sold that house and moved to the quiet little hamlet of Meco.  I retired from DEC in 2008 after nearly 27 years of service.  I now work as a part-time deputy for a sheriff's office nearby and as a part-time patrolman for a small PD a short distance away.  Almost like I've run full circle.  That's the short version of the career.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Children of Designer Gods (part 3)

Another fallacy of today's so-called Christians is their acceptance of others' beliefs as equal to their own.  Usually it's expressed something like "as long as they're sincere in their belief," or something similar.  Sorry folks; you cannot be a true Christian and think that a good Buddhist , good Muslim or good anything else will be going to Heaven--their fate is a one-way trip to Hell.  If you believe that, you're not trusting in the Christ of the Bible. The fault for holding this kind of belief lies squarely in the teachings of many churches.  They're not holding fast to God's Word!
After preaching in a local church one Sunday morning, I shared coffee with an interesting fellow who had only recently started attending there. He'd grown up in a main-line denomination in which some churches teach the Bible properly and others teach whatever they want, or so it seems. My new friend was commenting on the large number of Buddhists that had been moving into the area and mentioned that they were "good people" and made some other comments that put his theology squarely in my sights.  I commented that, thought they were good people: helpful, hard working, industrious..., their beliefs were taking them straight to Hell.  My new friend stopped and looked at me strangely.  "I've never heard that before," was his reply.  He'd never heard that, though he'd been brought up in and around a church.  The church had failed him.
Jesus clearly said that He is the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Him.  That's pretty plain, pretty exclusive.  It completely contradicts any statement about "as long as they're sincere...."  Some other religions even give credence to Jesus as a great prophet, though saying he's not divine.  He clearly said "I and the Father are one," so if He is a great prophet He should be believed; therefor, His statements are to be believed; they therefore condemn themselves by what they say.
The second half of this is that the churches have failed to teach the reality of Hell--the penalty for sin.  There was a time when preachers preached "Hell-fire and damnation messages," and that time is gone--replace largely by the God is Love message. God is certainly Love; but love without truth is valueless--not really love at all.  Maybe we need at least a bit of that fire and brimstone preaching again.
When churches ceased to preach the Bible theology began to drift; people's knowledge and understanding of God went by way of the wind and they started making it up as they went along--thus the designer gods however you want it.  The fix for that is to return to the Bible.  Read it, study it, memorize it; get into a church where it is taught reliably and regularly; surround yourself with folks who attempt to live it and apply it to their lives.  Then you will better understand God as He is, not as each might design Him to be.

Johns 14:6
John 10:30

Monday, April 1, 2013

I Must Be a Menace

After noticing that the image I had been using for this blog was actually the website logo for a gunshop--my apologies, and thanks, by the way; it's a great picture--I decided I'd make one of my own, though it's surely not as good nor as eye-catching.  So, I started sorting out stuff with which to make a new photo.  DARN! I've got a bunch of stuff.  If someone were to come in and count my rounds, I'd probably be declared a menace to society.  The fact that I have many rounds of many types of ammo surely makes me dangerous.
I've owned guns all my adult life.  There's a .22 in my collection that dates back to the 1930s.  My grandfather bought it from Sears and Roebuck, through the mail for about $14.  With that rifle, my grandfather taught all the boys in the little community of East Chatham, NY to shoot--with them earning NRA marksmanship awards along the way.  Those young men, by the way, all went on to serve their country.  As part of the Greatest Generation, they showed up in all corners of the globe, and thankfully all returned home safely.   
I bought my first gun at 17, or more accurately, my mother bought it for me.  The Gun Control Act of 1968 had come into force by then, and since I was under 18, she had to make the purchase.  That single shot Winchester is now long gone, but it provided me with many great memories and put a pheasant or two on the table.  Many rifles, shotguns, pistols and revolvers have come and gone over the years, but I still have a handful, and a bunch of ammo.  Whenever I found a good deal, I bought some. This means I can do a lot of target shooting with about anything I own and still have plenty to spare.  
As I look over my pile of stuff, I realize how horrid it is for me to have it.  I'm obviously a mentally deranged, dangerous criminal.  My old--long pre-1994--magazines for my semi-auto .22 has caused so much crime; same with my 10 round magazine for a .22 pistol that's even older.  We won't even discuss the magazines for my center fire pistols, those guns that have been carried for thousands of days without ever hurting anyone.  
So, remember, if laws progress the way they are going, at some point in time just by the possession of what I have, I'll be declared a menace.   

Children of Designer Gods (part 2)

One of the great fallacies of the day among professing Christians is that they can, as one friend said years ago, "worship God better sitting out there on my rock," without the need for regularly attending a church.
We can and will agree that to worship the Creator in the midst of His creation can be a valid and valuable thing.  However, we're directed to meet together regularly in worship; to do otherwise is another part of designing God after our pattern, not conforming to His.
The concept of a church is first mentioned by Jesus when he said "upon this rock I will build my church."  That rock mentioned here, by the way, was not Peter himself, but more accurately understood as the truth of what Peter had just stated: "You are the Christ, the son of the Living God."  The church is further pictured in the New Testament as the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ.  Common sense will tell us that brides want to be in close contact with their grooms and body parts when separated from one another are not of much value.  Jesus envisioned the Church as a group, not a bunch of individuals.  There are two general concepts of the church.  One is the church at large: all believers of all times, world-wide; the other is the local church: local gatherings, whether small or large of believers.
The whole concept of a church is not a building, but rather a gathering together of like-minded people.  It exists for several purposes.  One of them is for the building up and encouraging of other believers.  That's among the reasons that the writer of the book of Hebrews warned about neglecting meeting together.  When you're running around solo, it's easy to become discouraged, when discouraged easy to fall away.  Using the imagery of the sheep and shepherd, it was the solo sheep that were caught by the wolves.  Of course, it's also the place to be taught, corrected, nourished, comforted, protected and a host of other things; but we're specifically warned that to be without fellowship and encouragement is a dangerous thing.
Most of us recall that Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd.  It's wise to consider that since we are His sheep, we should be in close contact to the rest of His flock.
I will never say that any local church is perfect, none are.  All are composed of imperfect people.  One pastor friend even has commentary on the imperfect nature of his church by calling the church's website
So, thought we might occasionally be upset or disappointed in any church; we cannot escape the fact that we belong there--regularly.  I know few, if any Christians who have not had periods of running solo.  As a lone sheep, I could easily have been plucked off by a marauding wolf a couple of times.  God has faithfully brought me back each time.
If you're trying to worship on your rock, isn't it about time to get back to the flock?

Matt: 16:16-18
Heb. 10:25
1 Cor. 12:27
Rev. 21:2