Monday, June 29, 2009


HAVE YOU EVER been to that bend in the road when the load is just too heavy to carry? When the cares of life and limb have worn you down to a nub? When your problems are too real to hide? When certain deeds were too deep to try and undo?

Such a time as this, when our hearts can no longer bear it another day, that we need to simply force our lips to ask Jesus for a little light; not a lot, just a little to help us at the moment. Bridges are not built in a day, neither are we re-newed so instantly as some proclaim.

We cannot change our past, but Jesus can set us free from its chains. He can then give us just enough light to make out a future -- not an eternity -- but a better view of where we are.

I must make my prayer daily that as He sets me free, changes what I cannot change, that with His forgiveness, in flows grace to grow more and more in His likeness and image.

May I really mean it when I sing: Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my will and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine; take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal Throne.

Our prayer through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Can you help me find my father"

It is so easy for people from other countries to view Americans in a different way we see ourselves. Our country has been so involved with sorry dictators, coups that were not good for the country (Take Iran in 1953 for example).

Soon after moving to Pingtung, Taiwan, to begin a church (which began 50 years ago last month and is still going, thank God) our landlord ask once if I were with the CIA or FBI? I said no, and wondered why she ask. She thought I might be able to help her find what had happened to her father?

As a teenager in Taipei when the China mainland Nationalist government took over Taiwan from the defeated Japanese, she saw lots of trauma. The Chinese sent a ignorant leader to Taiwan and she saw a communist under every leaf of grass. They took the well educated and leadership of the Taiwanese first. Her father was one of them In the dark of night the police came and took him. When they went to the police station the next day they ignored the family, telling them there was no such person picked up. Our landlord, now a mother of teens and wife of a doctor, never saw her father again.

This was why she thought I might could help as an American government agent help her find the truth of what happened to him. This happened all over Taiwan in the late 1940s. If a professor at college was suspected, all his students were put under arrest and when released told to check every week with their local police station.

It is happening in Iran today. The lovely young woman who was shot on the streets there last week is the same. The government denies it happened. Then blamed the demonstrators. Then would not allow the family to have a memorial service. Sad, the insecurity of so many incompetent leaders of so many lands today.


Monday, June 22, 2009

USA administration's sin come home to roost

If nothing else, the Iran USA treated shamelessly proves any nation's crimes come back to haunt them.

A few years back a cab driver in Taipei, Taiwan, ask us where we were from. When we said Waco, he immediately knew the city and the Branch Davidians massacre that had recently occurred there.

Seems Waco will forever be linked with the extremist semi-Christian sect of David Koresh. Unfortunately for Waco all the news media used Waco in the by-lines when the event was in a village ten miles from Waco.

Now, 16 years after the burning of the Davidians' compound, Iran’s leader (not "supreme leader" in Farci language, just "leader") Ayatollah Ali Khamene is throwing it back in America's face. The Ayatollah has backed the impulsive President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran's recent elections. He refuses to consider the evident election fraud, even when thousands of voters peacefully fill the streets and squares seeking justice. After days of protests the leader admitted to a few mistakes in counting votes in a few places. But the killing continues.

Ayatolla Khamenei blames the Western governments and media outlets for the political disturbances since the election. Even a simple-minded person can see fraud when millions of paper ballots from all over the country are counted in just three hours. The result had the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winning by a landslide.

Khamenei made a special point of mocking America's concern for human rights issues in Iran. He made a big deal of the fact that America's secretary of State Hillary Clinton's husband was president when the federal forces stormed the Branch Davidian compound in Waco.

Khamenei could have gone back to 1953 when Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of Teddy Roosevelt; Norman Schwarzkopf, father of the Gulf War general; pre-CIA OSS chief Allen Dulles and his brother, secretary of State John Foster Dulles, encouraged by the British, led a coup that deposed the legally elected Prime Minister Mossadegh and re-installed Mohammad Reza Shah. The tyrant Shah ruled Iran harshly (to put it mildly) for 25 years. It was swept under the rug in American for years, but such stupidity of American foreign policy has not been forgotten nor forgiven for the people of Iran.

When such covert actions, taken through the years by Democratic and Republican administrations, come to light, there is the devil to pay. Over and over in the Good Book we are reminded that our sins will find us out. As my Uncle Louis, the corner grocery store owner, would say, chickens come home to roost.

The United States government leaders have backed so many rotten dictators, the world can wonder if American democracy is good for them.
President Obama is wise to not use terms like G. W. Bush (Axis of evil) or others in congress who want to go on the warpath.) America's past foibles (Chile, Philippines, Vietnam, Central America, Greece and Israel) make it difficult for true democratic ideals to be heard when we do get it right.

Playing the blame game, the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei said the Western media was ruled by Zionist, evil men who do not want to see Iran be free. His opinion of "free" does not seem to include the masses of citizens that have clogged Tehran's streets since the fraud of an election. He bragged, “The Islamic Republic of Iran would not cheat and would not betray the vote of the people.”

With every day the fear of a "TianAnMen-like massacre" could break out. Foreign news outlets are shut down just as in Beijing in 1989. There is one huge difference today. The evolving electronic gadgets being used informs the world in a way never known in history. (A hope of mine is that Iranians will not shoot Iranians. At TianAnMen, Deng Xiaoping had a devil of a time finding one of his armies that would go into the Square and face the students. Several refused his command and some came to Beijing and returned to base, not willing to kill their own people. Deng finally got an army far from Beijing that agreed to go in.)

As of this writing the Iranian government has shown no readiness to even listen to the people's demands. It would be a loss of face now to declare another election or even consider annulling the election. The "supreme" leader declares the election results are "the free wishes of the people."

What the 69-year old leader of Iran (who is not a real Ayatollah) is really saying is: I alone know what is best and the people be damned. His words and attitude are not that different from the Branch Davidians' leader in 1993. Will he end up the same way as David Koresh and his miss-led followers? Will this be another slaughter of the innocents?


Wednesday, June 17, 2009


In the hills of life there are two trails. One lies along the higher sunlit fields where those who journey see afar, and the light lingers even when the sun is down; and one leads to the lower ground, where those who travel as they go, look always over their shoulders with eyes of dread, and gloomy shadows gather long before the day is done.

You just read the opening paragraph of Harold Bell Wright's classic novel, "The Shepherd of the Hills." (I could only covet such a talent in writing!) It is an old story of the two possible roads people can take can take on the journey of life. A timeless story as true today as when Wright wrote it over a hundred years ago.

Last weekend, I found a 1907 edition of the novel in my late brother-in-law's library. It reminded me of visits with the best brother-in-law anyone could have. Jimmy Whitaker. He was from near the Ozarks and regaled me with stories of growing up in that part of Missouri. Walking muddy roads to school; working hard at harvest time; crossing fields and creeks to visit his grandmother. He was a man of the soil, rich in honest values and down to earth morals. And he could tell a story as rich and colorful as any of Harold Bell Wright's. He worked his way through John Brown University. The school began in 1919 in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. (Not the revolutionary John Brown who helped start the Civil War.)

(A little research found that at one time San Angelo had three to graduate from John Brown: Mrs. Leona G. Benson, '41; Robert Benson, '40 and Mrs. Harriette K. Lester, '29. Brownwood: Mrs. Lillian Webb, '33 and O. Jack Webb, '36.)

For many years Jimmy's Cello Wrap Printing Corporation printed the lettering and art work on Mrs. Baird's Bread and other such products. (But, I digress.)

The novel is set in the Ozarks of Arkansas. Finding the old copy at Jimmy's house made for a meaningful re-reading.

Some readers may have seen the 1941 movie of the same name with John Wayne (young Grant Matthews), Betty Field (Sammy Lane) and Harry Carey (Daniel Howitt). As beautiful as the hills in the movie are, they do not compare to Wright's descriptions and his apt dialect of the hills. (Other movie versions of the novel were in 1919, 1928 and 1964. It was also a stage play and a television production.)

"Preachin' Bill" who ran the ferry in the story would not care much for San Angelo or West Texas or what he called flat land. He said, "A man jest naturally wear hisself plumb out a walkin' on a level 'thout ary down hill t' spell him. And then look how much more there is of it! Take forty acres o' flat now an' hit's jest a forty, but you take forty acres o' this here Orzak country and God 'lmighty only knows how much 'twould be if hit war rolled out flat."

The two trails facing every person does not mean to simplify all the in's and out's, up's and down's of life's choices, but in a broad way it illustrates how much our destiny depends on the roads we take.

Yogi Berra is as famous for things he never said as things he actually said. One he is supposed to have said, when you come to a fork in the road, take it! is of little help in steering us to the higher road.

Wise is the one whose choice is the high road from the beginning. But next best is to make the choice around the early years of maturity, making for a fuller life into middle age.

But for those whose wanderings have brought little joy or a lot of poor decisions, there is still hope that even in old age, choices can be made to make the days brighter and nights restful.

So don't give up the ship. At anytime in life, it can be renewed and enriched if we set our sails toward higher ground. (Mixed metaphors sometimes work.)



Sat down to study and a huge 18-wheeler stopped just outside our gate with a stuck horn you could hear across the Keelung harbor. In Taiwan you can drive a car or a truck without many things -- but not without a horn.

As the noise continued, it was apparent the driver could not fix it. My afternoon study time ceased. I have an aversion to loud noises and talkative people. The words on the pages ran together as I set my mind to get some work done in spite of the interruption.

As I approached the gate of our house to help stop the noise, it dawned on me. Here was an opportunity to share my faith with the small crowd that gathered around the truck. Grabbed a few gospel tracts and headed out to do battle.

What I first saw as a very noisy interruption became an opportunity. Shift through the New Testament and you will be amazed how many times Jesus was interrupted.

Interruptions are always with us, and when we see them as an opportunity, they make the whole situation better.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

TianAnMen Incident 20 years after


Twenty years ago today, I was awakened by the dreadful news that the Chinese government chose to use force in stopping the non-violent student demonstrations, June 4, 1989. I had just left Beijing and was in Hong Kong when the BBC announced that tanks and armed forces were sent into the TianAnMen (Heavenly Gate) Square on Chang'An Road (Road of Eternal Peace).

I had walked among the students there and later at Nanjing and never heard a word about overthrowing the government. All the students wanted was less corruption and more democracy in their People's Republic of China. There was extreme joy in the crowds. Seminary students in Nanjing marched too. They set up a table and served water for all with the sign: "Living Water." As they walked through the streets in huge numbers, storekeepers, workers and shoppers all stopped to applaud them. Huge banners hung from skyscraper windows that once had streamers saying, "Long live Chairman Mao," now said, "Long live the students."

It all began months earlier when students were not allowed into the memorial service of Hu Yaobang, a well-liked Communist party leader. Not allowed to express their grief they camped in the Square. The Premier at the time, Zhao Zhiyang, was sympathetic to the students and was demoted and put under house arrest.

The impulsive nature of the young radicals clouded their ability to realize they were winning, They pushed too hard and fast. Chairman Deng Xiaoping finally ordered the troops in.

Now another generation has grown up, with little experience, other than what they have been told by parents and loved ones, of those days. There was no mention of it in public in China. It never happened as far as the government goes. Only in Hong Kong was there allowed a demonstration marking the 20th anniversary of one of China's darkest days. (see BBC Hong Kong photo of crowd.)

But the lid on the jar of China's expanding freedom is not secure and in time justice will prevail and a really new China will emerge -- not as our enemy, but friend.