Monday, January 28, 2008

I pick up hitchhikers.  I have a couple of reasons.  One is that I have this fear that one day I'll stand in front of Jesus, and he'll say, "Remember that hitchhiker you blew by that day when it was raining and 40 degrees*?  Well that was me.  Get over there on the left with the goats!"  The other reason is this fascination I have with stories.  Hitchhikers often have fantastic stories.   I mean "fantastic" in both senses of the word.

I've encountered some hitchhikers who were truly delightful traveling companions.  Quite a few seem to be sincere brothers in Christ.  (It's not always easy to tell though.  Apparently, they get preached at a lot, so some of them have a strategy of avoiding the sermon by striking first with some stock Christian phrases.)

Quite a few are drug addicts or alcoholics of course; and a significant percentage are certifiably loony.  Those are the ones with the best stories.  I picked up one like that in Meridian last Saturday.   He claimed,to have brought about, pretty much single-handedly, the downfall of the Soviet Union.  He once found that he was on a KGB hit list, so he obtained his own list of their top 100 assasins and disposed of every single one of them within a week's time.  Jason Bourne would be envious!

Every time we passed a church he told me that it was built on property stolen from him.  He said that he had a degree in theology.  He went to Bible school for a week he said, and all they talked about was how to steal money from people.  So after a week he got Ronald Reagan to call the school and persuade them to let him go ahead and take the final exam for his degree, which he passed with flying colors.  Whenever he talked about preachers he strung together every expletive I'd ever heard.  (And I used to work the oil fields, so I've probably heard most of them.)

At some point in the conversation, he mentioned Angola, pausing to explain to me that it was the Louisiana State penitentiary and that it had a really rough reputation.  

I interrupted him. "I know.  I've been there.  I was on death row,"  I said being deliberately vague.

For the first time on the journey he interrupted his monologue and turned to look at me.  "You were on death row in Angola?" he asked.  There was undisguised respect in in his voice.

I thought it was time to drop the bomb.  "Yes, but not as a prisoner.  As a preacher."   I waited for a reaction.  

There was none, other than maybe disappointment.  "Oh.  You're a preacher."  Then he picked up where he had left off.

Here are some of the other highlights:
  • Hillary Clinton wanted to have sex with him to get Bill back.  He nobly refused.
  • He had killed more than 6,000 people, but they were all murderers and deserved it.
  • The FBI had paid him 39 million dollars for his work, but he couldn't collect his money till he retired, which was one month away.
  • He didn't claim to be a Christian, but from his study of scripture, he had concluded that Jehovah is Jesus' Father, and the Holy Spirit is Jehovah's parents.
I didn't say much, other than an occasional "Hmmm,"  or, "Is that right?"  After a couple of hours like this, he finally said, "You think I'm totally crazy don't you?"

I smiled and said, "I haven't decided whether you're crazy or just a good storyteller."   He briefly protested that it was all true then resumed the monologue.

I offered him some food, but he said he had some already.  He asked if I could pay for him to get a motel room.  I declined.  I figured I was safe; by this point I was pretty sure he wasn't Jesus.

*A note to my European friends:  We're talking about fahrenheit here. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ray Janway
Originally uploaded by kosova cajun

I meet a lot of fascinating people on my travels -- preachers and atheists, hunters and vegetarians, hitchhikers and cab drivers, war-lords and peace activists, Albanians and Serbs, Christians and Muslims... I'm enchanted by the stories of these people, and one of the things I hope to do with this blog is to share some of those stories.

In that spirit, I'll start with a story told to me by this man, Ray Janway. Ray and his wife Betty recently opened their home to me for a few days while I was on business in North Louisiana. The hospitality they showed to me was truly amazing! Anyway, here's the story:

When Ray and his older brother Cecil were young children in southern Arkansas, their mother was a churchgoer, but not their father. He worked hard all week and fished all day Saturday and Sunday. He said that he didn't want to go to church because he figured that he couldn't be held responsible for what he didn't know. He would always take his boys fishing with him on Saturdays, but on Sundays he made them go to church with their mother.

One Saturday Ray and Cecil and their mom and dad were out in the boat fishing. They had fished for hours without so much as a nibble. Ray's father jokingly taunted the fish: "That's ok, don't bite. I'll just come back and catch you tomorrow. You won't get away!"

"If we caught a mess of fish, would you come with us to church tomorrow?" Ray's mom asked.

"Yes, if we caught a mess of fish, I'd come to church," he answered.

No sooner than were the words out of Mr. Janway's mouth than Mrs. Janway's rod bent double.  She shouted,  "Hallelujah!  Thank you Jesus!", as she landed a large blue channel catfish. After that the fish were practically jumping into the boat. They caught one after the other and many different kinds -- catfish, bluegill, bass, crappie.

The next day Mr. Janway was dressed for church before any of the rest of the family. He attended that week and the next and the week after that. After a month he asked to be baptized.

Cecil, the older brother, grew up to be a beloved pastor and eventually a denominational official in his organization, the Assemblies of God. Ray became an electrical engineer but was always active in church. Today he is retired, but he is a volunteer with the Gideons and helps to lead a ministry to the local parish lockup.  (Louisiana has parishes rather than counties.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Here's a cool link on MLK (a day late).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Holy Ground
Originally uploaded by kosova cajun

Twenty years ago I attended a Chi Alpha conference at Grambling State University. Chi Alpha is a Christian student organization. At that conference I met the lady who was to become my wife. Mary was a junior at what was then known as USL -- the University of Southwestern Louisiana, but I prefer to think of it as the University of Super Ladies! I was a senior at USM... (USL is now ULL, which also works well -- the University of Lovely Ladies or Oo-La-La!)

I recently had the honor of speaking to the Chi Alpha chapter at Grambling. I thoroghly enjoyed hanging out with the campus pastor Nate and a wonderful group of students who love Jesus and are committed to His work in the world. It was also wonderful to revisit the place where I met the love of my life.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

golden morning
Originally uploaded by kosova cajun

I like to go walking in the woods and praying in the morning. I always bring my camera with me just in case. I want to cultivate photography as an expression of worship, an outlet for expressing awe of and intimacy with the Creator

Friday, January 11, 2008

Oak Mountain State Park
Originally uploaded by kosova cajun

I went to out taking pictures early this morning. The mist on the lake was really nice. This was turned out a bit like an impressionist painting.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I was always lousy in math, but lately I've been collecting some humorous definitions that can be expressed as mathematical equations. Here's how it works.  Anytime you hear the word "with" it can be translated "plus" and the word "without" can be translated "minus". Here are some examples. If you can come up with any more, feel free to contribute!

  • Communism = Fascism - the ability to make the trains run on time
I came across this one in Robert Kaplan's book Balkan Ghosts. The original quote was something to the effect that in the end Communism was exposed for what it was: Fascism without the ability to make the trains run on time. Having lived mostly in the Balkans since '95, this one really hits home.
  • Singapore = Disneyland + the death penalty
I wish I could remember where I heard this one.

  • Emergent Christians = Calvinists + tattoos

If I remember right I came across this one on a blog post by Earl Creps. The point is that the Emergent movement/conversation/or whatever may not be as radical/innovative/heretical as everyone usually supposes, i.e. that the differences may be more stylistic than substantive.

  • Missouri Synod Lutherans = fundamentalists + cigars
I think I heard this one from a professor at Vanguard U. who was married to a lady from a Missourri Synod background. I doubt his wife smoked cigars though. She's an opera singer, so it would probably have messed up her voice.

As I was thinking about all this, it occurred to me that part of the famous poem about love in 1 Corinthians 13 could be made into a series of equations.  I know, it's really ugly to reduce poetry to mere math.  But in this case, I wonder whether we're so familiar with the poetry that we've be've built up immunity.  Maybe we could better appreciate the power of the poetry if we came at it for once from a little different angle.  So here goes:  (Quotes are from NIV.)

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."
tongues of men  + tongues of angels - love = noise

"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."
prophecy + total insight + knowledge + faith to the tenth power - love = 0, 
or (spiritual gifts * infinity) - love = 0

"If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."
(act of charity * 1,000,000) + (act of self sacrifice * 1,000,000) - love = 0