Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Capt. Dave & his First Mate

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Looking toward retirement...

I turned 50 this year, so I'm still several years away from retirement. But from everything I've heard and everything I've read, it's never too late to start planning. So...

Monday, October 14, 2013

"The Show Must Go On!"

A few years back we visited one of those “mega-churches” in Southern California. The Sunday morning experience was quite a production – at times impressive, at times manipulative.

As it turned out, my sister-in-law ran into someone she knew – she does this wherever she goes! – and he gave us the “low-down” on this particular church. Turns out that since so many people are involved in the hospitality aspects of the ministry on Sunday mornings, the regular members get their dose of Jesus on Wednesday nights. They call Sunday morning “The Show” – a performance designed to attract and thrill visitors to the church.

Christians are warned in 2nd Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (4:3-4)


There is a “Show” going on in Washington, D.C., right now that is also designed to “tickle ears”. The ears being tickled are the various factions of the American public, the “ticklers” being our elected politicians.

Last month, Democrats and Republicans could not come to agreement on a spending bill that would continue to fund our government. Since the country is deep into deficit spending and struggling out of a recession, raising the debt ceiling (the country’s borrowing limit) is necessary to keep things running.

Without such an agreement, some 250,000 “non-essential” government workers were sent home.

Oddly, Congress continues to get paid.

Their private gymnasium was also deemed "essential".

The problem is, the Republican Party so hell-bent on getting rid of the Affordable Care Act (which they derisively call “Obamacare”) that the Republican majority in the House of Representatives refuses to send to the Senate a continuing resolution that doesn’t include the de-funding of the ACA.

In fact, the Republicans have tried to get rid of the ACA 44 times since it was made law in 2010 and each attempt has failed.

And why wouldn’t it fail? The Democrat-controlled Senate must also pass it, and President Obama himself has final say.

And yet they continue to try!

Albert Einstein said it best: 


Of course, it’s all for show. The Republicans are putting on a show for their constituents and donors. The Democrats are putting on a show for their constituents and donors. And everybody is so busy making everybody happy that nothing is getting done and a lot of people are getting screwed!

And, ironically, the ACA enrollment still went on as planned despite the forced shutdown.

But as with the recent budget sequester (again, enacted because Congress couldn’t agree), people suddenly realized that shutting down the government inevitably affects something they like. 

No, not the government jobs. And not food inspections. And not medical research.

People are getting upset about the national parks. All national parks are closed now because of the government shutdown.

This necessarily includes the monuments on the National Mall. Unfortunately, a group of WWII vets had a scheduled visit to the WWII Memorial the day following the shutdown. And who is going to deny a rapidly-declining group of elderly veterans the right to see the monument erected in their honor?

And suddenly, that monument has become part of “The Show”. Republican legislators have discovered that the press is paying attention now, so they are showing up in busloads to defy the closing of the WWII memorial.

A Sarah Palin 'photo-bomb'?

One march organizer tickled ears with this beauty:
“In a mean-spirited fit of selfish anger, Barack Obama has shut down our nation’s war memorials. And he has declared open war on our honored veterans. The World War II memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Obama has shut them all down to force his will on the House of Representatives and, frankly, to get revenge on the American people who oppose ObamaCare and his other naked power grabs.”

It seems unconscionable to me. The very same people who forced the government shutdown are now mugging for photos and leading protest marches at the National Mall!

And yet, all they have to do to end this “injustice”, put government employees back to work, and open the parks to the public again is to vote in favor of a “clean” funding bill.

 Congressman Ted Cruz (R-Texas), is one of the lead “ear ticklers”. In the waning hours before the shutdown, he staged a quasi-filibuster for his fans, talking about random and meaningless things for some 20 hours. Although a pointless demonstration – we already knew he didn’t like “Obamacare”, but we didn’t know of his love for Dr. Seuss – Cruz has now risen to prominence in the party.

In fact, at last week’s “Value Voters Summit”, another "Show" put on by the Family Research Council and other conservative Christian Republican organizations, a straw-poll was taken in which Cruz received 42% of the vote as the favored presidential candidate for 2016.

It doesn’t seem to matter that Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada - to a Cuban father and American mother - and that those same “Value Voters” have howled for the last six years that President Obama isn’t the legitimate president because he is not a natural-born citizen - his father is Kenyan, his mother American - as the Constitution requires.

Sadly, President Obama has had to prove time and again that he was, in fact, born in Hawaii, USA.

But “The Show” must go on.

And now we are three days away from our government defaulting on its indebtedness – which people smarter than I say is a bad thing.

A very bad thing!

And yet, realizing they won’t be able to completely repeal the ACA, the House Republicans have changed the terms of the deal. Their counter offer: delay the implementation of the ACA for one year. This would take them past the next election, in which they still hope they can win enough Senate seats to repeal the ACA.

That was rejected.

Their next tact was to try to remove portions of the ACA – like the tax on medical devices which will help provide revenue to sustain the ACA but will affect some of their corporate campaign donors.

That, too, failed.

Once it became clear that the Democrats and the President were not going to budge on the ACA, the Republicans turned and looked straight into the TV cameras and shout, “See! They’re unwilling to negotiate!”

In truth, all this drama could end if the House Republicans would simply send to the Senate a “clean” bill, free from extraneous attachments of unrelated issues.

But they won’t, because “The Show must go on!”

I just pray that there is some other “come to Jesus” meeting going on somewhere behind the scenes, away from the cameras.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of “non-essential” workers – Americans – are not drawing a paycheck.

Does anyone in Washington care?  

The Captain does!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What Is the Church?

A member of my congregation asked me to read a book she found inspiring. I have been putting it off for more than a month now, but she asked about it the other day, so I figured I better give it a try.

This afternoon I read the preface.

Just the preface.

And now I am writing this blog!

I’m afraid this is not going to go well.

Note: I am intentionally posting this on the Captain’s blog instead of the Reverend’s blog because I want the Captain’s audience to hear what I have to say. Please keep reading, dear friends.

The book is called “America’s Churches: through the eyes of a bum”, by Richard W. Headrick. It purportedly recounts the real-life experiences of Richard (“Rhino”) and his wife (“Sunshine”) as they spent several weekends pretending to be “bums”.

Okay, so here’s the first problem. I detest that word! “Bums” are people too and deserve the same respect as any other Child of God.

And you can’t just “pretend’ to be a “bum”. So what if you dress up in dirty, smelly clothes and sleep outside on Saturday nights? 

"Rhino" and "Sunshine" doing their "Bum Thing".

Until you actually experience the hopelessness and despair of poverty, until you honestly don’t know where your next meal is coming from, until you dig through a dumpster for a half-chewed sandwich or a pair of cast-off shoes (because someone stole yours off of your feet while you were sleeping) – then you’re just playing a mean-spirited game.

The "bums" on their private jet.

But wait. That’s not why they do it. They’re not trying to be empathetic. They don’t really care about homeless people at all! Their self-proclaimed mission is “to check the spiritual condition” of church folk.

Let me stop here. I’m not sure who made Richard Headrick the judge of anyone else’s spiritual condition. I’m pretty sure the state of my spirit is between me and my Savior.

And yet, he has the gall to write, “…what I believe is happening in America’s churches is this: the truly Born Again Believers are dying off and are being replaced with the ‘think-so, maybe so, hope so, wannabe Christians’ of tomorrow.”

Ah! I’m beginning to understand now. His generation – the old folks! – are the “truly Born Again Believers”... which gives him the right to judge others.


So based on a single encounter (during which this couple pretends to be something they’re not) Headrick claims to have the ability to judge another person’s – no, an entire church’s – spiritual condition.

My head is spinning!

And I haven’t even had any rum yet!

But wait, it gets better. This is not about random acts of judgment. “Rhino” and “Sunshine” do their “Bum Thing” (as they call it) at the invitation of the church’s pastor.

This means that instead of being the spiritual leader of the congregation, the church’s pastor becomes a co-conspirator in perpetrating a fraud against his flock!

And nothing inspires confidence in one’s pastor like being tricked.

No, let’s call it what it is: being lied to!

Here’s how it all goes down: The couple would camp out on church property on Saturday nights and wait for the reactions of church members the next morning. Headrick reports, “We’ve been stepped over, stepped on, run off, discouraged and rejected by tens of thousands of church-goers…”

And then, once the worship service begins, “Rhino” is invited into the pulpit to give the morning message. Can you imagine what that would be about?

"Rhino" always preaches on Matthew 25:31-46.

Guilt. It’s such a great motivator!

And he’s not so concerned because the church people won’t give a “bum” a sandwich. He’s upset because the good church members never try to evangelize them! Of the “tens of thousands” of people who have passed them by, only 22 stopped to share the gospel with them.

But the Bible also says,If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? It seems that at least James thought that was important too – maybe even spiritual!

Nonetheless, Headrick’s experiences have led him to agree with some unnamed evangelist from the past, who once said, “Seventy-five percent of America’s church members are lost.”

Have I mentioned yet what Jesus said about judging others? It went something like, “Judge not, lest you be likewise judged.” 

The final straw came in the final sentence of the preface: “I hope the next time a stranger crosses your path, whether a bum or a king, you will pass the Rhino test and one more name will be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life because of you!”

Addendum: The "Rhino Test" is found in the first chapter of his book. Here are the five questions Headrick considers your pathway to Heaven:

  1. How many of you want to do something great for God?
  2. How many of you know how many books are in the Bible?
  3. How many of you can name the 66 books of the Bible?
  4. How many of you can quote three passages of Scripture, excluding John 3:16 and "Jesus wept"?
  5. How many of you have prayed or read your Bible an hour a day since last Sunday? 

Now, I have looked throughout my Bible and nowhere do I find this “Rhino test” he speaks of. In fact, rhinos are not even mentioned in the Bible! Lambs are mentioned however. And the Lamb referred to in the phrase “the Lamb’s Book of Life” is Jesus. The names appearing in that book are up to him.

I suspect you have already figured this out on your own, dear reader, but let me share with you where I am coming from about this so-called ministry.

Contrary to popular opinion, a Church is not a gathering of saints. None of us is perfect, and we shouldn’t claim to be. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

A more fitting image of a Church would be a hospital for sinners. Even the best of Christians are sinners in need of the healing grace that only Jesus Christ provides. Thus, that person who stepped over “Rhino” was most likely a sinner. So was the one who stepped “on” him. And the one who ignored him.

But unlike “Rhino” and “Sunshine”, these people are the real deal. They have very real problems in their lives – perhaps even sins – for which they are coming to Church to find a word of hope, peace, forgiveness, and possibly answers.

This doesn’t exempt them from being courteous to strangers – especially strangers in apparent need – but it may explain why that single mother with three small children clinging to her skirt didn’t have time to walk you down “the Roman Road.” Or why the seemingly well-dressed man (who actually just lost his job and his home) doesn't stop and offer to you a dollar he doesn’t have for lunch.

“Hey, buddy, can you spare a dollar for a sandwich?”
“Lemme see the sandwich!”

[Ba-dump bump!]

Sometimes I crack myself up!


Not coincidentally, these people that the self-righteous “Rhino” so easily condemns are the very same people Jesus chose to hang out with – sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers… even well-meaning Church members.

Apparently “Rhino” didn’t read that part of the Bible.

Alas, I am obligated to make an effort to read the rest of this book. Perhaps I will discover that I have completely misinterpreted the ministry of Richard W. Headrick. Perhaps I, too, am being unfair and judgmental.

I hope so.

But I kinda doubt it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Tired of wading your way through rows and rows of bottles at your local wine merchant, not knowing what to buy? 

Not knowing the different between a Pinot Grigio and a Pinot Noir?

Okay, that one's easy - the Pinot Grigio is a white wine, Pinot Noir is red.

But how about a Cabernet Sauvignon versus a Cabernet Franc? Those are both red!

And then, do you get the one with the picture of the moose on the label or the kangaroo? The penguin is awfully cute!

And is a $50 bottle of wine better than a $5 bottle of wine? Will the cheaper wine still get my date drunk enough to kiss me?

Buying wine can be confusing. Daunting even. I've seen some shoppers give up, picking up a case of Bud Light instead, and simply walking away. 

Obviously a conni-sewer!

But on a recent trip to my favorite wine merchant, I found the solution to all of your wine-drinking problems...

...except perhaps the problem of you drinking too much!

Yes, now there's "Wine for Dummies"!

And no, I'm not making this up!

Each label gives you the name of the wine - as well as a cue on how to pronounce it! 

The bottles are color-coded so you know what you're buying - a red stripe on the label for red wine, a green stripe for white wine. 

And on the back label it suggests with what foods you should drink this particular type of wine.

And the really good news is that all of them are priced at $9.99 per bottle so you don't have to fret about whether you bought the good stuff or not.

Because you didn't!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013