Thursday, May 31, 2007

Protecting Intruders

Dalkeith High School in Midlothian, Scotland hasn’t been used in years, but the lights still burn. The local citizens burn too. The lights are on to protect potential intruders from injury on the property and the residents foot the bill. (You can read the story here.)

This reminds me of some of the absurd laws being passed in America. Expecting a burglar? Be sure to set out coke and cookies, so he doesn’t die of starvation, should he become stranded in the vent or lock himself in the vault. On second thought, better make that a healthy snack of skim milk and fresh veggies.

Exaggerating? Just a wee bit. But there are some mighty strange laws being passed that protect the lawbreaker more than the victim.

It used to be that if a person trespassed or broke into someone’s home or business, the one committing the criminal act was not coddled. If he tripped over the sleeping watchdog and broke his ankle, he was arrested, received medical treatment, and served jail time. Today, he might never spend a day in jail, and there would be any number of attorneys chasing after him to file a lawsuit against the home or business owner because the injury interferes with the criminal’s ability to earn a living as a burglar.

Sometimes a person just needs to learn a lesson the hard way. Breaking the law carries consequences. Thus, a man breaking into a building assumes whatever hazards he stumbles across. Lighting his way and making it easier for him to commit a crime is the wrong way to “teach him a lesson” so he will cease breaking the law.

Breaking God’s law also carries consequences. Unlike the school in Scotland, God does not light the way to make it easier for a man to sin. Rather, he sent Christ to light the way that a man might find his way out of sin.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Origin of Buddy Poppy

With Memorial Day approaching, I decided to research the origin of the Buddy Poppy, the red flower which is distributed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and was surprised to learn it has a long history,

The red poppy was immortalized as a symbol of the sacrifice of battle through a poem written in Ypres (now known as Ieper), Belgium by a Canadian Army physician.

In Flanders Fields
by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The red poppy, the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, was first distributed in 1922. A year later the VFW decided to have the poppies assembled by disabled and needy veterans to provide them some financial assistance. When assembly began the following year, the “Buddy Poppy” was born. To this day, the assembly of the Buddy Poppy is done by disabled and needy veterans, and the distribution of the poppy provides assistance to various VFW programs, as well as to orphans and widows of American veterans.

Memorial Day is Monday, May 28, in the United States, and the VFW is once again distributing Buddy Poppies. I hope you will make a donation and wear your Buddy Poppy with pride.

Friday, May 11, 2007

More or Less

Some companies think their customers, or potential customers, are completely clueless. If you believe otherwise, consider the following story, and, remember, just about anyone you or I know could rattle off at least one similar example.

I switched from dial-up to DSL two years ago and the contract price has been reasonable, based on local and long distance service with the company. My DSL contract will expire in two weeks, so I called the phone company today and asked what deals they have available in this area.

I can renew for one year for $10 more per month. Or I can renew for a mere $5 more per month – if I bundle my local and long distance phone service with an additional $16 worth of features. This option appears to be “more or less” confusing.

Finances are squeaky tight. I was thinking more along the lines of, at most, a $5 a month increase. I don’t need or want additional services or charges.

I know I can’t afford cable, but I called the local cable company’s toll free number anyway.

The man spoke solemnly, telling me Internet without TV cable service would cost $10 more per month and there would be no discounts or specials. Of course, if a customer should order cable TV, there would be an automatic $10 discount.

He asked for my complete address and then announced, “I have no service there.”

“I know you have no service here,” I replied. “Do you mean you don’t have any service at this address or you can’t give me service at this address?”

“I can’t give you service at that address. I see several other homes are listed on your street, but they are all marked ‘not serviceable.’ But we might have service there soon. I see we are building in that area.”

I hung up without telling him I know otherwise. The county, or at least much of it, has Internet cable. This small city has Internet cable. I send messages to several local cable email addresses. One of them is a block and a half away. My next door neighbor used to have cable Internet. Also, the TV reception in this area is poor and I am one of the few diehards who do not have cable TV service.

After talking with a representative of both companies, I realize that two weeks from today, my Internet days might end. On the other hand, they might not. God has opened doors before and hopefully he will again.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Hijacked Story

Imagine a scene where you stop to help a stranded motorist. You would not ordinarily stop for a stranger but this man is wearing a familiar uniform and you recognize him from a photo in the local newspaper. Without a word, he roughly pushes you out of the way, tosses your groceries onto the highway and quickly transfers his own groceries from his car into yours. He then yanks the keys out of your hand and drives away in your car, leaving you standing beside the road in disbelief and shock.

Your car has just been hijacked – seized in transit to divert it to an alternate destination. What would you do if this happened to you? Yes, it is a facetious story, but, seriously, what would you do? Christian or not, you are not going to just shrug your shoulders and walk home. You are going to call the police, the Sheriff, the FBI, the CIA or any other official group that has jurisdiction and can help recover your car. What you will not do is shrug your shoulders and let him keep the car.

You will not reward a thief who hijacks your car!

A few months ago, I volunteered to write stories for an organization that trains a type of work dogs and their handlers. I was nervous about interviewing strangers but enjoyed the challenge of taking bits and pieces from different sources and turning them into a story. Each person involved in a story would receive a rough draft to check the contents for accuracy.

The last story I was to weave together from written material – no interview necessary. Before I could read the material, the assignment was changed. Call right away for an update!

Now, doing an interview requires more than picking up a phone and dialing. I have to clear a small space on the desk, dig out the phone with the long cord and move it across the room, grab a notebook and pen, try to remember where I put the phone card for safekeeping, and then dial, dial, dial. I repeated these steps five times within two days, and since my time zone is three hours ahead of the subject’s, the last call was made at 11:30 p.m.

Eventually, he returned my call and late that night I emailed him a rough draft. His response was unprecedented.

I pasted your article into a word document and made some suggestions. Please add the stuff in red, and remove the stuff in blue strikethrough.

You guessed it. The story was all blue strikethrough and red type. He rewrote everything, including the information supplied by another source and his own spoken words from the interview. I was so flabbergasted at his audacity it was late the next night before I noticed he had not only rewritten the story – clearly identified as a rough draft – he had also submitted it.

I will not reward a thief who wastes my time and hijacks my story!

Someone else will have to write the story from scratch. The organization can not use his rewrite of my rough draft, since it was submitted without my knowledge or permission.

And my enthusiasm for this volunteer writing has died. I don’t know if it will revive.

The next time you assume you are more competent and can do a better job than someone else is doing, think twice about the possible repercussions of butting in and usurping control.

This story started with a fictional story of a car hijacking, but there is a spiritual analogy. Many believe God is a bumbling Barney Fife character, impotent and syrupy sweet. They think they can, without consequence, throw out God’s word and replace it with their own interpretations.

God will not reward those who distort, pervert, or hijack his gospel!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jeremy and Connor

A recent newspaper article told the story of a special bond between Jeremy and his 195-pound Great Dane, Connor. Jeremy has two other dogs, but what makes the story of Jeremy and Connor newsworthy is that Jeremy was born with one handicapped arm and Connor is deaf – possibly born that way.

Jeremy communicates with Connor through sign language. The dog knows approximately ten signed commands.

Dogs love to play tug of war. One of my dogs is so overzealous in playing tug, he thinks growling is happy talk. With Buddy, losing the toy to the other player is not an option, which is why the other dogs enjoy the game with him. He’s a formidable and determined opponent. I won’t play tug with him because I don’t want to encourage him to play that way with any human, especially a child. He is so into the game – the words “zoned out” come to mind – it takes something to startle him to get his attention. He weighs about forty-five pounds.

As I read the article, I envisioned Connor, who is nearly four times my dog’s weight, getting too aggressive in a tug with Jeremy, who has only one “normal” arm. This does happen. How does Jeremy resolve this? He waves two fingers and Connor backs off.

For a while the only way to get Buddy’s attention was to cup his nose with one hand and yell (yes, I said yell) over his excited growling before he heard me. So I am impressed with Jeremy and Connor, who are able to work so well together that Connor can “hear” Jeremy in the midst of energized play.

The question of the day is, in your relationship with God, are you a Buddy or a Connor? Are you so “zoned out” in some area of your life God would need to grab you by the nose and yell to get your attention? Or would he need to merely wave two fingers in your direction for you to hear him?