Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Scam

After my family Thanksgiving get-together, Katie & I decided to stop at church to get my laptop. When I got into the office, the dreaded answering machine light was blinking. The message was very hard to make out. At first I thought it was a Doctor leaving a death notice (weird). But each time I listened I understood it a bit better. It was a guy named Scott asking for a pastor to call him in regards to a death. I figured I better check into it.

It was extremely difficult to make out the number. I tried 3 numbers, but finally did get an answer from this 'Scott.' He explained, with a southern accent, that his mother had been killed by a drunk driver a few days previous in Florida. He and his family had driven down for the funeral and to take care of her belongings. He also explained that he was struggling with the big 'Why' question. He quoted a few passages (God works all things out for good, God won't allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle). He seemed to just want some counsel. But then the conversation changed gears.

Apparently, on their way back home, the family car had broken down on the Florida turnpike. Scott wondered how things could get any worse! He wanted to send his family home via a Greyhound bus, but he was short on cash (no credit card?). Why was he calling our church, you may wonder? Scott suggested that his family had visited our church a few weeks previous. I had met him, his wife, and their two little girls.

Now, I find these to be difficult situations. There is always the chance that I did meet such a couple and simply forgot. There's always the chance that this is a true story and helping out would be a very Christ-like thing to do. Of course, that's exactly why a con-artist would use such a story! I told Scott that he should contact a local church down there and that we wouldn't be be able to just 'wire' him some money. As soon as I indicated that I wouldn't be helping, Scott hung up.

Now, if my recent history has anything to do with it, it'll turn out that Scott was legit and I blew a chance to help a family in need. If, on the other hand Scott is a con-artist (as I suspect) then I have a few tips for him. First, if you want to succeed in the scam business, you have to leave clearer messages. I almost gave up trying to call you because I could not tell the difference between your 5's and your 9's. Second, be more persistent. Never hang up. Force the pastor to hang up on you. Work harder to live your lazy life.

I also have some tips for churches. Never send or give cash to strangers unless God audibly tells you to (though I'm sure that suggestion will give the con-artists a whole new strategy). Maybe I've just gone cold, but I think churches need policies against giving cash in such situations. At least in our area, there is just too much scamming going on. We get this sort of junk on an almost weekly basis (calls and actual visits). The story is always desperate, the cash needed immediately, and they're always eager to pay you back within the next few days. It's a scam.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Jesus said that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart... and maybe every man present (and every future man) felt a good bit uneasy. If adulterers have no part in the kingdom and lustful thoughts qualify as adultery, won't the kingdom be lacking the important ingredient of citizenry?

However we answer that question, we must admit the problem of lust (apparently real even before the invention of the internet) has only gotten worse. As I type this I've just been looking at a long list of terrible statistics about the American addiction to pornography. I won't share the stats because we all know they're bad. Will Willimon states that "lust is an ancient malady, but one could argue that technology enables this sin to be worse for us... the Web is peculiarly well-suited for the exercise of, and encouragement of, lust, which tends to be one of the most secretive of the seven."

I'm not sure, though, that the problem is much worse now than it used to be (after all, the NT addresses the problem of lust and sexual immorality often, seemingly because it was indeed a problem). But certainly the secret is out. Our culture wants us to lust (for sex and for sales) and we find it difficult not to oblige.

I'll make an embarrassing admission. Though I've personally never struggled with pornography, I did, into my early 20's, keep a computer file full of pictures of pretty actresses. It was pretty innocent by most standards (they were all fully clothed, these weren't even swimsuit type pics). But what did God think of that file on my laptop? Why did I have it? In the end, I realized that it was keeping my focus on surface level beauty and could have become, were it not for repentance, a first step toward pornography.

If we are going to learn not to lust, we will have to identify and defeat dangers in their introductory forms. Sexually immoral people don't wake up after 20 years of faithfulness to their spouse and decide to commit adultery. More often, adultery comes after a series of decisions that tolerate a little 'yes' and a little 'no' to love.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Super Psoriasis!

I have another medical theory that is almost certainly not true (but I pretend it is so as to gain a neat conversation piece). I have mild-plaque-psoriasis. This means that at certain times of year I get patches of silvery-white scaly skin the back of my lower leg and around the elbows. It is so mild that I never seek treatment and it's hardly noticeable to me (let alone others).

But in doing some research on psoriasis I discovered that it is a non-contagious auto-immune disease. Let's take the 2nd half of that first. What 'auto-immune' means is that my body loves fighting invaders so much, that when it can't find any it turns on its own cells. Now, the theoretical upside to this is that my body is very good at protecting against bad invaders. This may be why I almost never get sick. In doing some (read... I know 1 other person with psoriasis) polling, I discovered that nobody with psoriasis gets sick very often!

Now in this season of the year where everyone is getting sick, I wish I could change the 'non-contagious' aspect of psoriasis. I feel like if I could spread my psoriasis, it'd help others not to get sick. Maybe medical experts think it is non-contagious because they simply haven't tried to spread it hard enough!

And so I'm about to end this post with the strangest line in the history of my blog. I invite people to rub my psoriasis plaques.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Medical Question #2

I just had a thought. I've always been interested in multiple personality disorder. How does that really happen? I just heard someone use the common phrase, "I've lost my mind." What if sometimes we literally loose our minds and other people stumble upon them and, therefore, pick up an extra mind/personality?

Check back tomorrow for another medical theory

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Do I Eat Bugs?

Sometimes I wake up in the morning with a tickle in my throat and a need to cough. The tickle pretty much doesn't go away for about half an hour. This just started happening in the past 3 years. It seems to come in spurts (like 4 times in a week, then not at all for months). Anyways, those are the symptoms.

So, am I eating bugs? Please tell me I'm not eating bugs.

I also wonder if it has something to do with my eating habits. I could start keeping stats on what I eat and how late I eat and whether or not it corresponds to the coughing. Last night, for instance, I ate 6 mini-butterfinger bars just before bed. I also wonder if it has to do with laying on my back longer than usual (I usually sleep on my stomach). I will investigate, but maybe some readers have had common experiences :)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Delayed Thoughts

A couple Sunday's ago I had the opportunity to teach the 3rd-5th Grade Sunday School Class for one of my teachers who would be out of town. This year, they are going through the Old Testament with the Bible Story Cards, and the lesson was on Abraham offering Issac as a sacrifice.

With the teens we just wrapped up a couple weeks talking about different Bible Study Methods, and apparently I wasn't paying enough attention when I was teaching it..... or I was underestimating the 3rd-5th graders comprehension!!

Back to the Sunday School Class...we reviewed the previous lessons, memory verses, prayer, etc, and then I shared the "story" of Abraham and Issac. As we were discussing it, I got a couple questions that helped me stop and reevaluate a  little bit my own understanding of the story. The one that stuck out with me the most was "Was it hard for Issac to forgive his dad for almost killing him?"

So often we read Scripture and just read the words that are there, not reading between the lines to think about how the characters may have felt or what it would have been like to be there. Some things are hard to comprehend because we don't understand the cultures, etc, but a lot of stuff is common to human nature and reactions! Every time we read Scripture we can pull something new from it.