This is what we do for the joy of the King,
For His peaceable Kingdom,
For a world in despair.
And this is why we bring any hope we can give,
Any bread from the table,
Any touch of His hand.
This is what we do.
This is where we go.
This is why we sing.
This is how we live.
This is who we are.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

My apologies to Senator McCain

I have to confess, I've been like lots of other folks and have made some pretty snide remarks about John McCain.  You know, those mean-spirited "moves like a robot" or "walks like a machine" comments. Then that stupid rap by Ludacris hit the air waves.  The "song" stated, among other things, that the only "chair" the Senator deserves is the paralytic's wheelchair.  After hearing that, I realized that I've been considerably less than respectful of this man.

Then I found his autobiographical essay from US News and World Report about his years as a POW in the Vietnam War. Oh, boy, did I feel "ludicrous."  If you want to read the whole article, you can click on the above link.

I want to quote a little of it here--particularly as it relates to the injuries that he experienced after his plane was shot down over Hanoi and the torture he lived through over the course of his 5 1/2 year imprisonment.

All I know is, I'll never say another word about his stiff arms and legs.  

Here are his own words:
In those days--still in 1968--we were allowed to bathe every other day, supposedly.  But in the camp they had a water problem and sometimes we'd go for two or three weeks, a month without a bath. . . . The bath was a sort of a stall-like affair that had a concrete tub.  After everyone else had bathed, [my guard let me go, and] there usually was no water left.  So I'd stand there for my allotted five minutes and then he'd take me back to my room.

For toilet facilities, I had a bucket with a lid that didn't fit.  It was emptied daily; they'd have somebody else carry it, because I walked so badly [from the severely broken leg and two broken arms].

Eventually, they wanted to send me home at the same time that my father took over as commander in the Pacific. [In 1968, Admiral John Sidney McCain, Jr. became Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command.] This would have made them look very humane in releasing the injured son of a top U.S. officer.  It would also have given them a great lever against my fellow prisoners, because the North Vietnamese were always putting this "class" business on us. They could have said to the others, "Look, you poor devils, the son of the man who is running the war has gone home and left you here.  No one cares about you ordinary fellows." I was determined at all times to prevent any exploitation of my father and my family.

There was another consideration for me.  Even though I was told I would not have to sign any statements or confessions before I went home, I didn't believe them.  They would have got me right up to that airplane and said, "Now just sign this little statement."  At that point, I doubt that I could have resisted, even though I felt very strong at the time.

But the primary thing I considered was that I had no right to go ahead of men like Alvarez, who had been there three years before I "got killed"--that's what we say instead of "before I got shot down," because in a way becoming a prisoner in North Vietnam was like being killed.

About a month and a half later, when the three men who were selected for release had reached America, I was set up for some very severe treatment which lasted for the next year and a half. They took me out of my room to [the commanding officer] who said, "You have violated all the camp regulations.  You're a black criminal.  You must confess your crimes."  I said I wouldn't do that, and he asked, "Why are you so disrespectful of guards?"  I answered, "Because the guards treat me like an animal."

When I said that, the guards, who were all in the room--about 10 of them--really laid into me.  They bounced me from pillar to post, kicking and laughing and scratching.  After a few hours of that, ropes were put on me and I sat that night bound with ropes. Then I was taken to a small room.  For punishment they would almost always take you to another room where you didn't have a mosquito net or a bed or any clothes.  For the next four days, I was beaten every two or three hours by different guards.  My left arm was broken again and my ribs were cracked.

They wanted a statement saying that I was sorry for the crimes that I had committed against the North Vietnamese people and that I was grateful for the treatment that I had received from them.  This was the paradox--so many guys were so mistreated to get them to say they were grateful.  But this is the Communist way.

I held out for four days.  Finally, I reached the lowest point of my 5 1/2 years in North Vietnam.  I was at the point of suicide, because I saw that I was reaching the end of my rope.

I said, O.K., I'll write for them.

They took me up into one of the interrogation rooms, and for the next 12 hours we wrote and rewrote.  The North Vietnamese interrogator, who was pretty stupid, wrote the final confessional and I signed it.  It was in their language, and spoke about black crimes, and other generalities.  It was was unacceptable to them. But I felt just terrible about it.  I kept saying to myself, "Oh, God, I really didn't have any choice."  I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has a breaking point.  I had reached mine.

Then the "gooks" made a very serious mistake, because they let me go back and rest for a couple of weeks.  They usually didn't do that with guys when they had them really busted.  I think it concerned them that my arm was broken, and they had messed up my leg. I had been reduced to an animal during this period of beating and torture.  My arm was so painful I couldn't get up off the floor.  With the dysentery, it was a very unpleasant time.

Thank God they let me rest for a couple of weeks.  Then they called me up again and wanted something else.  I don't remember what it was now--it was some kind of statement.  This time I was able to resist.  I was able to carry on.  They couldn't "bust" me again.

Senator McCain, I humbly apologize for my cavalier and disrespectful attitude.  You certainly deserve better--from ALL of us.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stupid People

I probably wasn't the greatest parent in the world...I'm sure Kristi and Jennifer will attest to this fact.  However, I never intentionally did stuff that would put their lives in danger.

A couple days ago I was driving to the church.  This young mother was rollerblading in traffic pushing a baby stroller!!!  This should be criminal.  I'm all for exercising--even jogging with one's baby in a stroller.  But said exercise should take place on a sidewalk or along the beach. . . definitely NOT rollerblading in a traffic lane.  Does it take a tragedy to get people to learn that life is fragile??????

The Falun Gong Shop of Horrors

I never heard of Falun Gong before today.  The government of China is planning to censor the internet during the Olympic games--they don't want reporters and athletes tapping in to the "malicious" propaganda of the Falun Gongers.  Falun Gong is a quasi-religion (but not exactly) that emphasizes spiritual, mystical, and metaphysical topics.  

I didn't realize groups other than Christians were facing widespread persecution.  Whatever they believe, they aren't a BIT popular with the powers-that-be in China. These FG folks are being sent to Chinese "gulags" where they're being tortured and are even having their organs harvested on the spot.  (If they are a match to someone with a medical need, they're zapped with potassium to stop their hearts and the required organs or tissues are removed on the spot.  Not cool.)

The Olympics seem less and less appealing with every day's news.  I'm thinking China wasn't such a great choice for the Games this year.  

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Some Brian Regan humor for you . . .

Last week while I was recuperating from my intestinal bug in Venezuela, my missionary host and I spent some time together watching comedian Brian Regan YouTube vids.  (Eric Berry, the missionary, came down with the virus the day after it hit me.  We decided laughter was truly the best medicine.)

Anyway, I thought I'd share one of Regan's routines on flying--since it was fresh on my mind after 4 recent airport experiences.  ENJOY!!!! (If you've EVER flown coach, I know you will!)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

This Pretty Much Seals It

Here is the text of Obama's Berlin speech delivered today. (I haven't even heard it yet--just read it at lunch.) Whether one likes it or not, I think most people, if they're honest with themselves, will be shocked if Barack Obama does not become the next president of our nation.  I can't think of any candidate (or recent president, for that matter), who would be capable of rendering this kind of message--even in print.

It really doesn't seem to matter whether one agrees with his policies or political agenda--when someone of this nature reflects this kind of charisma and intelligence, he rises to the top.  Sure, Obama gets a lot more than his share of lift and hype from the media, but I almost think if they suddenly went mute and blank, he'd win.

That's my humble opinion, anyway.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Adios, Venezuela--It's Good To Be Home

The mission trip to Caracas & Cua, Venezuela was a great success.

It was such a blessing to be there for the week.  The team of missionaries was amazing.  And the people were beautiful and extremely loving.  It was such an incredible blessing to be among them.  One of the "locals" I didn't like very much was the virus that infected about 9 of us on the team.  I spent 3 days out of commission with a N-A-S-T-Y intestinal bug.  Yowzer, it was fierce!!!  It started on Thursday and I'm still not at 100% a week later.  Nevertheless, the week was a big success.

Central to the week was the 3-day crusade on the DNA of Relationships.  Al and Marie Ramirez did an amazing job.  Al preached and the people LOVED his messages.  There probably isn't a more relevant topic in Venezuela than relationships.  Marie was a big hit with the youth as well.  It was so cool to see them in action.

The Venezuelan Flag

The City of Caracas
No, I didn't take the picture, but I love 
the "message" it seems to convey.

Our immediate team.  The three guys in
the center of the 2nd row are the local
team.  (Matt & Sam are members of the
Team Expansion ministry; Dairo is a Colombian 
evangelist.)  The other six of us are from the 
Huntington Beach church.  
(The bird is our Outreach Team mascot;
he goes on all FCC missions trips.)

This is the house where Lee, Lucas, and I stayed.
Also in the house were Matt, Sam, and Dairo.
Much fun together, in spite of water shut-offs on
Monday and Thursday!  Pictured is Lucas Quass,
an amazing young guy from our church.

This little guy was roaming the street in
front of our house.  Iguanas are apparently
everywhere in Venezuela.  I'd never seen
one "in the wild" before.

This is a view from the porch of Eric and
Chris Berry's home.  The Berrys started the 
work in Cua about three years ago.  Its amazing
success is attributable to their vision and
walk with God.  (I wish I had a good picture
of them to post.  The one I have isn't very
flattering to either of them.)

I won't deny's great to be home.  I'm not a big fan of folding toilet paper and putting it in a trash can instead of flushing it (when you have water to flush!).  But, in spite of the "sanitation situation," I'm so very thankful for the Venezuelan experience.  It was a great blessing to see how God is working through His people there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

HOLA from Cua, Venezuela

This is just a quckie from Venezuela.

This is REALLY from me. (The other blog below was written by Kristi somehow or other...I can't wait to hear the story on this.)

Trip was great.

Fellowship is FANTASTIC.

Weather is rainy and thus COOL. Hallelujah!

Our missionaries are incredible. Wish everyone could meet them and watch them in action.

No pictures today. In fact, there won't be any until I get back...sorry! But they'll be worth the wait!

Biggest adjustments: showering with 2 buckets of water and putting used toilet paper in a waste basket instead of flushing. Other than that, all is well in Whoville. (Tomorrow we'll have running water again!)

Please keep praying!


Everyone needs Compassion...

So, I'm at work right now.  Planning Worship Services. Listening to music.  There is a song called 'Mighty to Save' by Hillsong. It's a great song. It starts with this line...

"Everyone needs compassion"

I've listened to this song several times in a row now...while doing so, an email came up from Jen White...she posted on my blog. I knew Jen in college long ago, and she graduated before I did. We didn't know each other well, but we've reconnected through Facebook and blogs.  I was so touched by her email (blog comment) that said she could ask her small group to help us move...I am sitting here in tears.

I am so moved by the church being the church.  I spend so much time hearing comments from people in my own church that are so hurtful and destructive, that is so beautiful to see people really being the church...being like Jesus...showing his love.  Because everyone does need compassion.  Everyone does need forgiveness. Everyone does need a Savior. We need to be people that show his love... and I have felt his love today from Jen.  I have felt his love by so many of you who offered to help us, who have offered us meals, who have offered us their homes, conversation, food, and just their thoughts and prayers.

In the whole scheme of things...this house thing isn't such a big deal.  But what is a big deal is the love from friends.  And for that, I thank you.  It means more than you could ever know. 

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Leavin' On A Jet Plane . . .

I fly to a new continent today...South America.  I'm really looking forward to the mission trip with our church team.  (They all flew ahead on Thursday--another guy and I rendezvous in Houston tonight, and catch a redeye for Caracas.)  We'll be in the Caracas area for most of the week. Florida's heat/humidity were good training for the week ahead--same kind of temps but ZERO air conditioning.  And shorts aren't allowed. YIKES!  

I doubt that I'll be doing any posting while I'm there, so I'll check in when I get back.  If you have a moment or two to say a prayer for our team and the work we'll be doing, that'd be great.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Back from WDW

Well, I tried.  I honestly tried to blog in Florida.  In fact, on at least 3 occasions I tried to post a few day-to-day pics, but we had THE slowest internet connection in our room.  I was so tired at the end of each day that I didn't have the patience to wait it out.  (Catching a cold on Monday didn't help, either.)  So please bear with the blitz below.

We had a great, great time.  Our week went thus:

July 4 - EPCOT
July 5 - Down time & visiting with Lyn's parents; date night for Curtis/Kristi and Brian/Jennifer.  Lyn and I watched the kiddos.
July 6 - Animal Kingdom
July 7 - Off day - Emiril's for Johnsons/Sewells; visiting Grandma Sewell's old house (SAD!); crazy evening at Steak & Shake; visit to Target!
July 8 - The Magic Kingdom (rain in the afternoon - more blessing than curse!)
July 9 - Disney Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM) - hot hot hot
July 10 - Lunch with Lyn's brother (Dan) & family; heading home (WampWamp!)
July 11 - Unexpected trip back to LAX and Sherman Oaks - I picked up somebody's luggage that looked just like mine!  Had to get my bag and rendezvous with the lady whose bag I snatched. (Beats having mold in your house!  Tears for Curtis and Kristi!)

The cousins on the morning of July 4

We're Goin' In!  -- We walked into
every park rather than using trams.  Wise move
when three strollers are involved!

The Johnsons at the American Pavilion in EPCOT -
The show broke down in the middle--on JULY 4!!!!
Not good.  Lexi kept asking, "What happened?"

We ate at Cracker Barrel twice.  Emily loved
this little rocking chair!

Four Generations - Grandma Reid; Lyn;
Kristi, Jennifer; Haley, Lexi, & Emily

Grandma Reid and a very happy, camera-loving Emily!

Emily and her great-grandpa Reid

The LION KING show at Animal Kingdom was
our 2nd "breakdown."  While we waited for the
"fix" to occur, we met up with Minnie Mouse.
Here's Haley and Lexi enjoying her company.

Brian, Emily, and Jennifer with Minnie;  Minnie's 
in her "camping" attire

In addition to "fun," the word to describe our
trip was HOT.  Here was one of the remedies for
beating the heat.  Delicious but messy on a hot Florida day!

While waiting for a ride, the girls ganged up on
Mamaw Lyn.  Of course, she hated it!!!  NOT!

One of the most entertaining parts of the trip.
Haley and Lexi sat by themselves on the front
row of the little Pocohantas show at Animal Kingdom.
What a riot they were!

Above/Below - Enjoying JUNGLE BOOK buddies

I love this picture of Jennifer and Emily on
the African Safari bus.  All the girls were
such troopers--Emily was an amazing first-timer!

Lyn and I on our first anniversary--1973--at
"King Stephan's Court" in Cinderella's Castle

35 years later--MAYBE at the same window

Haley was in little-girl heaven the day we ate
at Cinderella's castle.  Belle made over her so much
because they were wearing "matching" dresses.  
It was beyond precious to see the amazing joy on 
Haley's face!

Lyn and I had lunch with Brian and Jennifer
at Emeril's restaurant on Universal City Walk.

Emily's very first time in the pool.  What a neat 
experience.  We got LOTS of photos and videos of this! 
She wasn't a fan at first, but before the evening was
over, she was "white water rafting" in the pool!

Well, here we are back at the "Tree of Life" - Two more
little girls in our arms.  Life is good!  Truly good.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Safe And Sound In Orlando

Well, the 9 of us arrived in Orlando safely and happily at 6pm today. The flight was fine--even though delayed about an hour.  (We'd all left our house at 6:30 this morning.  The plane didn't depart until nearly 10:30.)

Baby Emily was a fantastic traveler.  Only a couple little crying jags--mainly when she was fighting sleep or impatient in the middle of a meal.  

We enjoyed an excellent dinner at Olive Garden.  All three of the girls were tired, but all were troopers.  Our places at the Cypress Harbor Resort (Marriott) are all great.  Very spacious and comfortable.  Guess where Lyn, Kristi, and Jennifer are . . . SHOPPING!  Surprise, surprise! Well, it's groceries, so that's understandable.  :)

We're set to hit Epcot tomorrow.  Pictures will follow.


All you HB-ers, have fun at the parade.  Think about us for a couple seconds!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A "Cinderella" Wake-Up

Yesterday morning I woke up to the beautiful sound of a singing bird outside our window.  It was so cool.  This is a rare thing--a very rare thing.  Partly, this is due to my lousy hearing--I'm a bit hearing-challenged at mid-to-high frequencies.  (Because this particular birdsong was so clear to me, I'm assuming the little fella was just outside our bedroom window.)  The other reason it was a rare thing is that the only birds we seem to have in our nearby trees are crows--and you know how "beautiful" their song is!

Anyway, it got me all Disney-fied.  I couldn't help but think of Cinderella and all her little bird and mouse friends.  (I tried my best, but I couldn't convince any birds--cute or crow--to fly inside and make the bed for me!  Guess I don't have Miss C's touch.)

If you've seen Kristi's and Jennifer's blogs, you know we're all counting the--HOURS, now!--for our big trip to WDW. It's going to be such fun just to be together for a solid week, watching all the wonder unfold before the eyes of the little ones.

Curtis, Haley, and Kristi at the
 "Tree of Life" at the Animal Kingdom.

One of the few sunny days on our January 2006 trip was at Animal Kingdom.  (Sunny, but VERY cold!  The animals were moving kinda slow that day!)  The "Tree of Life" stands in the middle of that park. It was (and is) a reminder to me that life goes on and changes come. Lexi and Emily are here with us now, for instance.  My mother has left us.  But the Source of all life is still holding us all together, and we celebrate Him as we enjoy each other.  So younger, older, and "newly young" are bound together in the wonder of His love and grace, in this world and the next.

Lyn and me with Haley at the Tree.
This year there will be three little girls in our arms!

Three generations

This (below) is one of my all-time favorite pics, for some reason.   It's really not that great a photo, but it always makes me laugh.  I think that's reason enough to like it.  Kristi and Haley were being silly in the gift shop of the Norwegian Pavilion.

This would be a great idea for Halloween 2008!

One of our warm days!  Haley loved her lemon ice!
(Who ARE these people with my granddaughter?)

Haley and her daddy on the Grand Prix

Father and Daughter

This is such a cool shot.  In light of the recent Curtis/Lexi swimming lesson picture, I thought I should post this one!

In about twenty-five hours from now, our plane is scheduled to take off.  Good times.