Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Game Warden Files--Staten Island, part 4

By nature, I gather, process and store information in a unique way.  Occasionally, all of that information will gel into something good and I will have one of those "AHAH!" moments.  Such was the case one day when Lt. Jay Molinelli stopped by the house.  It was early, I'd not yet gone to work because a plan was forming in my mind, and as we sat sipping coffee he asked just what I had in mind for the day.  I told him that I thought it was the day that I'd be able to catch a certain outlaw--we'll call him "Jack"--who often gill-netted in Jamaica Bay. Nets longer than 40 feet were prohibited in the bay, and the normal gill nets were several hundred feet in length.  Even though it was no longer my sector, I had the small boat and knowledge of the bay that would make it possible to make the case.  After listening to my rationale about why it was the right night (phase of moon, tide cycle, what fish were in the local waters...) he told me to put the operation together using whatever resources I needed.  He also told me to keep him posted on what was happening.
We assembled a crew to watch the shoreline, I got another boat operator to join me in the boat and we got ourselves into position about dark.  We did not have to wait long.  Jack left the creek with a boatload of nets and headed out into the bay.  We had enough watchers posted around the bay to be sure that he didn't leave for the open ocean, and if memory serves me correctly we had the Coast Guard cutter at Station Rockaway power up radar to watch also.  My partner and I also made a tour around the bay, catching sight of him a couple times.
The boat came back to dock with no nets in a couple hours, so we knew we had him.  Some hours later, Jack again left the dock to haul his nets and we were ready and waiting when he came back loaded with fish just as the sun was starting to come up. We made an approach to the boat while it was still in the canal and had the rest of our team meet us on on shore to help off-load the illegal catch, transferring it all to our boat. Jack offered all kinds of protests as to his innocence; we shot all of them down pretty easily as we'd had the entire bay covered for the entire time. We got the good LT out of bed and told him what we had.  He offered Jack an administrative settlement, to which he agreed; we left the nets, took the fish and headed out of the canal.
Jack payed his agreed penalty later that day.  We pointed the boat back toward Staten Island and we called it a day.  It had been a very productive day.

At What Point Are You?

On a mission trip some years ago, while bemoaning the behavior of some acquaintances (other missionaries we knew), a good friend, himself a second generation missionary, made that observation about all of us: "we're all at different points in our Christian process."  Though not excusing improper behavior, it's a valid comment on Christian maturity.  I know few mature Christians who are fully satisfied with their Christian walk. Those who claim to be satisfied make me quite suspicious, actually; so I'm skeptical of anyone who claims to be. The Christian life is indeed a process.  We come to a saving knowledge of Christ and then should begin to grow in that relationship; becoming more like Him as we go—at least that's the way it should be working.  In that respect, we're truly all at different points in our process and that process can be frustrating. 

I'm most often frustrated with my own point in point in the process.  When I start getting one part right, another seems to slip.  I get that back to looking something like it should and something else falls behind...it's a never ending job trying to keep it all together—and I work pretty hard at it.  It's only by God's grace that I keep together what does stay together. 

Another of my frustrations is that I didn't get serious about my spiritual life until I was a bit over 30—my life was pretty much unremarkable, nothing to take note of.  When I see young men aggressively pursuing the things of the Lord, I'm thrilled; though regret my own sluggishness in getting real about my own life until I was older—so much time lost.  I’m also frustrated by the other young men who are doing what I did—not that they’re bad; they’re just ho-hum.  I regret that ho-hum time.

As frustrated as I get with myself, at least I recognize a few my own failings.  It is yet more frustrating to see those who think that they have "arrived" cease to learn, grow, or be obedient to the Word.  These are often among my friends who are vocal about their beliefs, but live and behave in ways highly contrary—and often very visibly so—to it.  My statement to them is that God will not honor you if you fly in the face of His laws.  Some have heeded the advice, others have not.  Some of these friends boldly profess their faith, pointing out the error they see in others (possibly valid criticisms), while openly living wrongly—often arguably more in the wrong than those they criticize.    

Some of these are dear friends who have not recognized that faith and obedience are linked (Romans 1).  Though salvation comes by grace through faith alone, growth comes through obedience; obedience through knowledge; knowledge through teaching and diligent study.  When that part of the process is neglected the point in the process is a fixed point.  At what point are you?  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Random Observations on a Sunday Morning

As I was headed to church this morning I had to stop to allow for pedestrian traffic as another church emptied out and its congregants crossed to the parking lot.  I observed that there were many gray heads; but there were no kids, no teens and no young adults.  Contrast that to the Sunday morning service at our church ( the Baptist Church of Northville--yeah, I am promoting it   here:  http://www.baptistchurchofnorthville.org/) where there are families with infants, preschool, and all school-aged kids and older teens as well as a significant number of young adults, a few newlyweds, and a few soon-to-be-weds. We have the full spectrum of ages covered.  
We also cover a broad range in music, as was commented on this morning by our Music Director. This morning we had a special that was done to a Jamaican beat and in an island vernacular.  It was well done and well received. Our Sunday morning worship is graced by all types of music from a contemporary praise band with a variety of instruments, a great sounding choir of adult voices, kids choirs, bells choirs and endless specials. Any music that brings praise and honor to our Lord is used.  It's priceless to see senior citizens clapping to a modern song and youngsters singing the timeless and traditional hymns of the faith. 
I was also struck this morning by the commitment to service among some of our folks. One older gentleman--long a loyal servant within our church, having served in a variety of positions--now needs a cane to safely navigate from the parking lot, across open ground and into the sanctuary. However, he takes his place among the ushers when the time comes for the morning offering, though he may grasp a pew for support here and there. That's faithful service!  
Finally, over the last couple of weeks I've been in a position to notice the preparation that goes into worship. Our musicians practice beforehand, our sound people make sure everything is working, our maintenance man is standing by, ready to deal with the little needs that pop up with a high degree of regularity...yes, worship does take preparation. This begs the question:  Are we prepared to worship?  Are we already thinking on things of the Lord, or about the picnic this afternoon? Have we looked at the sermon outline that's usually available on-line and read the Scripture? Have we asked God's blessing on the hour? Hmmmm.


Friday, August 9, 2013


In the days before facebook; before Bing; before Google, there was email.  In those early email days, there might have been an excuse for passing on garbage by means of that novel mode of communication.  After all, who among us doesn't want to be the first to pass on a helpful hint, a warning of danger or maybe a juicy tidbit about a public figure?
But now, rarely does a day go by without a message from someone that is totally--or at least largely--bogus; and the facts of the matter are readily available with but a "copy-paste-enter."
A troubling part of this is that it's not just dopey people who do this. It's as likely as not to be the professionals.  As a disclaimer, everyone gets stung occasionally.  I too have passed on information which had come by way of folks who should have known better, and then been chided for not checking the facts. So much for trusting those who should have known better.   Mea Culpa!
I am particularly disturbed by those who value the same things as I do and pass on nonsense.  It kills their credibility and that of the causes they (we) hold dear.
So folks, check the facts--YOU OUGHT TO KNOW BETTER!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Some Things Just "Stick In My Craw"

Facebook has allowed me to connect with a lot of folks.  Some are friends from years past, some are quite distant geographically, some I might never have met; but through mutual "friends" we've connected and developed a dialogue.  Some post things that I can't wait to see--pictures of their kids, that kind of things; others post words of wisdom, whether just good sense or something of solid theology.  Some have postings that are a mixed bag of information and enough interesting things to keep me reading them, and then there are those who post drivel.  Yeah, that's right, drivel.
I might have ranted about this before; but this time I have a specific bit of drivel that has got me fired up.  I'm often seeing posts (generally passed on from others so far removed that the original source is totally occluded) that read something like "Say this prayer and in two hours God will do...." You've seen them, I'm sure.  They're the 21st century version of the chain letter.
I take a couple issues with this:

  • First of all, I believe that God answers prayers of those who are His.  That's straight from the Bible.  He is under no obligation to answer those of a random person who passes on what another has written, often with not a thought, let alone a real prayer. 
  • A prayer is something heartfelt.  Though they may be read from written material, those are all too often words from a page, nothing more.  There is no heart connection to God.
  • Most egregiously, the person posting is invoking God's name and reputation; promising, on His behalf, that He will do some specific thing.  That is, I believe, a form of taking God's name in vain, which--in case you've forgotten--is part of the 10 commandments.  

Some of these folks come from backgrounds about which I have no idea.  Maybe they were not taught any better; in this day, that's certainly understandable. Others, and these bother me more, were raised where the truth was taught.  They are without excuse.
I have thought about responding to these things with an all capitalized "YOU OUGHT TO KNOW BETTER;" but as of yet have not done so.  It gets more tempting all the time.
So folks, if you are one to post such things, think about what you're doing.  Don't presume to speak for God unless you've truly studied His word and have a grasp of what prayer and answered prayer is all about (hint--it's not about what you want; it's about what He wants for you).  If you make a statement based on Scripture, good for you.  If you're posting because you like passing on nice-sounding things, think about what you're doing.