Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The power of video (good, bad, and ugly)

We sang this hymn tonight...

 But what I heard in my head was this...


 (Note: cartoon violence, but remarkably accurate historically, see the accompanying Who's Killing Who: A Viewer's Guide).  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rejection Fail, Customer Service Win (Super Cool!)

Some Austin, Texas awesomeness!

A comment that I think sums it up:
This employee will succeed where ever she goes. I'd hire her in a heartbeat because she was resourceful, took initiative, and was responsive to the customer. These are traits that can't be "trained." I could tell she really listened to the problem and had a deep understanding of her systems and processes. I would wager that if someone else asked her for it today, she would have a better solution. I bet she thought about a better, more elegant solution all night. So many people would have just said, "No. It's not my job." and then go and complain that they never get promoted and are stuck in a dead-end job. Not her, though. She took ownership of the problem and devised a solution. Great job, girl!
It reminds me of a cashier at a Fort Wayne (Indiana) Meier grocery store, a young pony-tailed Russian immigrant named Igor.  The guy was so good at his job, fast and efficient, such a go-getter, so eager to provide good customer service - I figure he probably owns a few businesses by now and is a millionaire.  It would not surprise me a bit.

Way to go Jackie!  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I, Pencil

HT: Bryan Morton.

I recently heard about this short film based on an idea by Leonard Read mentioned by economist Peter Boettke.  It is an inspiring and yet accessible explanation of the unbridled power of economic liberty and peaceful, voluntary, spontaneous, anarchic, cooperation and collaboration of human action around the world - so powerful that we take its almost miraculous work for granted.


Bonus commentary:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sermon: Thanksgiving Eve – 2012

21 November 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Deut 8:1-10

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“You will eat bread without scarcity.” 

That is a promise of God, dear brothers and sisters.  “Without scarcity.”  For that “scarcity” is our problem.  That is the cause of poverty and competition, of covetousness, of fights over material goods, of wars, of revolutions, of the mighty taking from the weak, and of the majority ganging up on the minority.  This scarcity – which began after the fall in Eden – is what causes the love of money, what leads to jealously, and is why we have police and courts and prisons.  The reason we have hungry children is because bread, unlike the air we breathe, is scarce.

But the Lord reveals a glimpse into our glorious future, an existence without sin and death: “the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing.”

Can you imagine lacking nothing?  Can you imagine a world without want?  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  Can you imagine natural resources being plentiful, like the air we breathe, “in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.”

This plenty over scarcity, this abundance over want, this wealth over poverty is promised to us, dear friends, when the Lord’s plan is brought to the fullness of time, and the wages of our sins have been abolished forever, when we return to the plenteousness of paradise, to an existence before struggle.

“And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.”

And in a sense, the Feast of Thanksgiving is a little foretaste, a fleeting preview, a glimpse however imperfect into this eternal divine abundance.  For this is the time of year of the harvest, when in spite of our sins in the Garden of Eden, our own imperfect gardens nevertheless produce the fruits of their growth, “each according to its kind.”  And crippled as they are by the genetic and environmental effects of sin, this time of produce is still a time of feasting instead of famine, of having instead of having not, a time to share instead of a time to hoard or do without.

And for this gracious promise of abundance, we give thanks to our Lord.  For as “He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna,” so does our Lord continue to provide for us, dear friends.  The Lord provides for us.  And even as He feeds us bodily food, He provides us with much, much more: for “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

God’s Word is a kind of food for us to eat, a bread for us to taste, a nourishing meal to sustain us on our pilgrimage in this land.  And what’s more, the Lord provides us a holy meal, the flesh of the Lamb, a Thanksgiving Feast of liberty, of victory over the tyranny of Pharaoh and of Satan, of conquest over slavery and sadness, a redemption from sin, disease, and the death that our broken world and broken existence ultimately leads us to.  All of this has been swept away, dear friends, and we celebrate this Passover with a meal – a meal we have brought to completion in Christ, in which we partake freely this evening, and will partake of until He comes again.

For the greatest Thanksgiving feast of all is the Eucharistic Feast, a thanksgiving for the Lord’s death on the cross, for His redemption of us by His blood, for His flesh given to us as miraculous manna in the wilderness, as a sacrificial Lamb in which He Himself is at the same time Victim, Priest, Guest, and Host.  We sit at His table at His invitation and we dine with Him and on Him.  And through Him we ascend to the Father, rolling back the corrupting ages of our fallen world and sinful existence.  For He has replaced the scarcity caused by our sin with the abundance brought about by His love.

And so “let us give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and  His mercy endureth forever!”  Let us celebrate with all the faithful and unfaithful alike in the feast of the produce of the harvest, of the blessings of the crops, of the loving labor of productive hands crafting scrumptious meals.  For ultimately, the source of this bounty is the merciful Lord, who in spite of our sins, still provides for us, in spite of the scarcity we deserve, nevertheless, continues to feed us beyond what we can ever imagine or hope for in body and in soul.

Most of all, dear friends, let us give thanks unto the Lord for the eternal thanksgiving feast, the wedding banquet, the body and blood of the Lamb in His kingdom – which has no end.  Let us glory in this bread (prefigured in the manna of old) and in this wine (prophesied as dripping sweetly from the mountains) as we return the thank offering of a grateful heart to Him who saved us by grace through His forgiving sacrifice for us, Him who shares Himself with us, Him who withholds nothing from us, Him whose mercy endures forever, who has come to give us life that we may have it abundantly.

“And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.”


on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sermon: Trinity 26 – 2012

18 November 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 25:31-46 (Dan 7:9-14, 2 Pet 3:3-14)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

We Christians sometimes catch it from all angles.  On the one hand, we have groups of people who have all sorts of crazy predictions of the end of the world.  The latest craze is the ancient Mayan calendar which supposedly informs us that we won’t really need to do any Christmas shopping this year.  Jesus warned us about such attempts to predict the date or the hour of the end of the present age.

On the other hand, there are scoffers out there who say: “Where is the promise of His coming?  For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” as they deny the historical facts of the creation of the world and the worldwide flood described in Genesis.  This group mocks Christians for waiting expectantly for the Lord to return to create a new heaven and a new earth, to destroy all evil once and for all, and to reign forever.

All throughout history, we have charted this middle course against the unbelievers on the one hand, and against various heresies and cults on the other, who twist and distort Scripture into things God never reveals to us.  And we have seen their predictions fall one by one, as the scoffers have been there to mock them and us.

In the face of both, we confess with our fellow believers as we have since the year 325 AD: “And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”

We do not wait in fear, but in joyful expectation.  For we know that our judge is merciful, and that the rightful penalty for our sins has been paid at the cross.  We know that our Judge is also our Advocate, that the one who will hold us in the scales of justice is also the Lamb whose blood has satisfied the law’s righteous demands. 

And we know that because of His bloody sacrifice and by virtue of our being baptized into His blood, owing to His grace, and according to His Word and promise, salvation has been given to us as a free gift.  Having been freed from trying to earn God’s mercy, from attempting to curry God’s favor, from seeking ways to convince God that we are something that we are not, instead, we have been freed up to do good works simply because they need done, with no other motivation than love.  We are not looking for a reward – for there is nothing left to give us, having received everything from the hand of the Son of God Himself!

Indeed, on the day of judgment, the righteous will ask: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you in prison and visit you?”

For such good works should flow out of a changed heart, not out of a desire to get something in return.  Indeed, dear friends, such good works are the life of the redeemed sinner who already has the promise of salvation rather than the struggle of a person hoping not to be cast into hell.  Such works are performed with no thought of being paid back, to the point where such deeds are simply done and forgotten about.

And in response, “Truly, I say to you,” says our Lord, “as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.”

When the Christian does good works for another human being, He is doing it to the God in whose image our neighbors have been created.  We are serving God when we serve our neighbor. 

And the opposite is also true.  Those whose hearts remain unchanged by the Lord’s grace will demonstrate this unconverted disposition by a refusal to do good works, and the Lord will say: “You did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me,” and “these will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life.”

What we do grows out of what (and who) we are.  And this reality has been revealed by our Lord’s love for us.  We cannot make ourselves righteous.  We cannot will ourselves to be good people.  We cannot draw good works out of an evil heart.  We can only get out of the way as the Lord makes us righteous by His miraculous will.  We can surround ourselves with the Word, with the Sacraments, with the Gospel, and with the promises of His grace.  And by that grace, we can carry out the tasks the Lord has given to us, not to earn salvation, but rather to “serve our neighbor and supply the proof that faith is living.”

Dear brothers and sisters, we cling to a living hope and a living faith, for we have a living Savior!  We worship a living God who has given us His living Word, a Spirit that rushes into us body and soul, bringing us into His living kingdom!

And even as these days grow darker, as storm clouds gather, as the times grow ominous, as the future appears gloomier – we do not fall off the horse to either the side of the cults or to the side of the scoffers.  We do not put our hope either in false teachers or unbelievers – but rather in the living Word, our living Savior, whose living Spirit impels us to living works.

We hold onto the vision given to Daniel: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.  And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that al peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

So, dear brothers and sisters, let those who seek glory for themselves continue to make ridiculous predictions.  We shall not be concerned or worried.  Let the scoffer continue to follow their own sinful desires, overlooking the fact that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” 

As for us, let us continue to live in the Lord’s mercy, content to serve our neighbor in His need – even as we serve the Lord through such ministrations.  Let us wait patiently “according to His promise” as “we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

And without fear and with joyful expectation, let us look with joy, hope, expectation, and eagerness to that day “when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him,” when “He will sit on His glorious throne,” forever and ever.  Amen!

on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Living Economics

What a fantastic time we had last night!  The Hollywood family attended a lecture by Dr. Peter Boettke of the Economics Department of George Mason University who held forth at Loyola University (New Orleans).

We were tipped off about the talk by Dr. Walter Block of Loyola, whose enthusiastic endorsement was well-deserved!

Dr. Boettke is engaging, funny, passionate, and has the gift of making his subject come to life.  He had the packed lecture hall thinking and laughing.  He emphasizes that Economics is not a hard science, but rather an evolving and growing social science that is primarily involved with explaining human action.  It is at its heart an inquiry into human motivation through incentive, and it explains how it is that millions of people working in their own self-interest can bring goods and services to market to the benefit of all.

His love for the topic is contagious!

  • He made reference to this video, which demonstrates the effect of political and economic freedom to the well-being of humanity.  
  • He shared with us the remarkable insights and philosophy of the Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala City in which a year of study in free market Economics is a requirement for all students regardless of discipline, and in which the main mural on campus depicts the great tradition of Economics in the free market tradition.
  • He emphasized the changing nature of education in the world due to technology, and pointed to the Acton MBA and iTunes University as examples.  He pointed out Leo in the audience and wondered aloud what his education is going to be like.

A few quotes from his lecture:

On Economics as a Discipline:

  • "Economics is not a catechism, but rather an invitation to inquiry."
  • "Economics is the mystery of the mundane."

On the Fiscal Cliff:
"They're not going to face the fiscal cliff.  They're gonna kick the grenade down the road."

On Greed:
"Greed is like air.  It's always there."

On Curiosity:
"Your curiosity is your greatest asset.  Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it fueled the scholar."

His outstanding book Living Economics ($26 at Amazon) is available for Nook and Kindle for about $12.  And yes, I went home and downloaded it.  I found out that Dr. Boettke wrote an essay in a book called Markets, Morals, & Religion - and put a hold on it at our local library (Dr. Boettke is a Christian as well).

Thanks to Dr. Boettke for coming to New Orleans and thanks to Dr. Block for the heads up!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Little Optimism?

Check out this reality check by Jeffrey Tucker.

'via Blog this'

What Happens When LCMS Churchmen Rap

I'm not sure, but Father Eckardt's hip may have been inspired by Bishop Behnke's hop:
This is what happens when Oktoberfest abandons the oom-pah. You should see what happens in our churches when they ditch the organs! Lor or ord have mer er cy! (Wait a minute, that's in the hymnal, yo!).

Walter Williams on the Morality of Free Markets

This was forwarded to me by the legendary Dr. Walter E. Block, Economics Professor at Loyola University, New Orleans.

I had met Dr. Walter E. Williams in Philadelphia twenty years ago when I presented an award to him from our local camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  Dr. Williams was, and is, the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University.

 Both of these Doctor Walters (who share the middle name "Edward") are giants. Too bad our politicians and leaders in society from across the spectrum have never studied under either of them!

"Is Popcorn Paleo? Who Cares!" (and a Primal Update)

Karen De Coster is a tough-as-nails CPA from Detroit - and is one of those writers who is just plain fun to read.  She pens columns for Lew Rockwell, and tackles matters related to liberty, economics, and politics.  She is also an advocate for eating "paleo" or "primal."  She is also one of the few LRC essayists whom Lew Rockwell has given up on chiding or editing for vulgarity.  Karen is Karen.  And if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  So if R-rated language offends you, don't say you weren't warned if you go trolling around her columns.  I guarantee you this much: you will laugh, you will think, you will get ticked off at the government.  It's good for your brain!

Here is Karen in her own words:

I am a Certified Public Accountant and freelance writer who is devoted to the causes of liberty, individualism, and the free market. I embrace the right to keep and bear arms; recognize the superiority of the Articles of Confederation; subscribe to a motley assortment of minor conspiracy theories; and believe that government is evil, immoral, corrupt, and unnecessary in a free society. I am also an ardent lover and student of Austrian economics, the pro-market, anti-statist school of economics. Additionally, I proudly wear the title “Queen of Political Incorrectness”, given to me by my friend Tom DiLorenzo.

Anyway, I enjoyed her article here about the merits of popcorn - which is generally a huge "no no" when it comes to eating primally.

The bottom line?  "Who cares?"

I can relate to that!  I have not given a Primal Update in a while, and I'll just say this: it is the best thing I have done for my physical health ever!  I am still around 145 pounds (thirty pounds of belly-fat and four inches or more of trouser cloth the lesser).  I do not count calories, deprive myself, or maintain any rigorous discipline with food.  I most certainly do not consume anything "low calorie" or "low fat."  There is a very good side to fat!  Is it possible that all of this low-fat craze is making everybody fat?

Cured of "Dunlop's Disease" - too bad I didn't take a "before" pic
Having said that, I have completely reordered my eating habits.  Stuff I used to absolutely love and imagine I could not live without just doesn't get me too excited any more - things like bread, pizza, cookies, "snack cakes," soft drinks, candy, etc.

My taste buds have changed, and I just don't get wound up about those things any more.  I drink bubbly water now - maybe a bit flavored, maybe not - and consequently, Diet Coke tastes harsh to me now - kind of like something you clean mildew off of the shower with.  Having said that, if I want a soft drink - even a full-blown sugar drink - I'll have one.  And I do every now and then.  Sometimes I jones a bit for a root beer or a ginger ale.  So I have one.  And when we drink coffee (which is often in the Hollywood Residence) - we don't mess around: we use heavy whipping cream - no skim, no chemical powder, no government approved poison.  If we had an Amish "dealer" like Karen De Coster, that would be better than the store-bought cream we use - but when it comes to Paleo, it's like mainstream politics: the art of the possible.

But most of the time, I don't drink Cokes or eat sweets.  It's not because I'm on a "diet."  I simply have retrained my body and taste buds to recognize that this is junk food.  Having one won't kill me, but making a habit of it will make me fat, sickly, and tired.  And I have no desire to eat industrial waste.  If I want a goody, I want it to be a GOODy.  I want to savor it, enjoy it - not slurp it like a pig in a trough.

And this is why we do not skimp on antioxidant-rich dark chocolate in the Hollywood Manse.  We may even eat enough of it to give a calorie-counter or establishment physician or dietitian the vapors (which is always fun).  And on those rare occasions when I feel like some cheap chocolate (we have recently had Halloween, of course), I have one: be it a "fun size" Twix or a Reese's or a Snickers, etc.  I just don't really find myself craving it very often at all.  I can do without it just fine.

The same goes for cake and ice cream (I used to eat it by the ton).  Now, I'm really content with a small goûté.  I might even eat a whole piece for someone's birthday.  We visit CherryBerry for frozen yogurt fairly often - just not every day like our Baskin Robbins runs in a previous life.  Mrs. H. and I had a little taste of gelato a couple days ago, and our reaction was the same: "too sweet!"  We used to eat huge helpings, but now, just a couple spoonfuls was enough.  Still yummy, just not an obsession or outright gluttony.

And yet I am not "starving."  I do miss lunch fairly often, but my system is just fine.  I snack on nuts, fruits, and boiled eggs - and frankly, sometimes I'm just not that hungry at lunchtime.  And if we go out for fast food (which we are curbing not for health reasons so much as for economic austerity), I load up on burgers, bacon, steak, omelets, etc.  Yum!  One wonderful benefit is that we do eat at home a lot more, and we pull no punches: grilled steak, grilled chicken, grilled pork chops, and grilled vegetables (by the ton!).  I mean, how can that be anything but good?

I am still hoping to work in more physical activity.  Time is extremely scarce for me right now.  However, I am on my feet a lot at my secular job, and I try to perambulate around as much as possible - scurrying up and down the stairs whenever I can.  And when the really busy time of year passes, I hope to work in some simple physical muscle-building exercises.  Nevertheless, I wear the same size pants as I did in high school, and my belly is flat - which is not bad for a nearly fifty-something.

So, it's all good!  I like not being fat, not being tired, not being on the insulin roller coaster.  I like taking charge of my health, not visiting doctors, not following the uncritical advice of the Establishment.  I like not being on a diet, not counting calories, not keeping a log of what I eat or how I exercise, and enjoying our God-given freedom to eat and enjoy what I eat!

Bonus: here's a recent Karen De Coster piece on how government has messed up the modern washing machine.  And, by the way, you can subscribe to Karen De Coster's facebook here.

'via Blog this'

Please Pray for Father Pavel

The Rev. Pavel Zayakin is a faithful parish pastor and evangelist in the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church, a sister church body with the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

I wrote about meeting Father Pavel here and here.  He is a heroic worker for the kingdom of God.

Anyway, the Most Rev. Vsevolod Lytkin, bishop of the SELC, wrote this on November 9:

Last Saturday afternoon Fr.Pavel Zayakin drove his car from remote village to Abakan [in the mountainous republic of Khakassia not far from Mongolia - Ed.], but accidentally gone out of road and turned upside down.
As road was empty, and nobody was to help, they walked to a nearest village.  They found a man with excavator who helped to turn the car back to the road.
The passengers and Fr.Pavel are OK but we need to organize medical checkup  for him.We ask you to pray for Fr.Pavel and his passengers.
In Christ,
bishop, SELC

If you would like to help, you can e-mail Bishop Vsevolod at or contact the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society at their website here:

Here are pictures of the accident sent by the bishop.  Lord, have mercy, and thanks be to God for his protection of this faithful servant and priest of the Lord Most High!  Our pastors in Siberia must often navigate treacherous roads as they provide pastoral care to people in remote areas.  Please keep them in your prayers on a regular basis!  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

It's not Caturday, but it is Bathday!

Sermon: Trinity 25 – 2012

11 November 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 17:20-30 (Ex 32:1-20, 1 Thess 4:13-18)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“For behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you,” promises our Lord Jesus.  “In the midst of you.”

This is a startling pronouncement of our Lord.  It undoes thousands of years of sin, and brings to an end millennia of warfare between God and man.  For when our first ancestors Adam and Eve were created and placed in the Garden of Eden, they were given dominion over all that the Lord had created.  And in the midst of that lush paradise was a single and solitary tree that they were instructed to avoid.

For all the trees were given to them to enjoy for food, but in the midst stood the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – a knowledge that was best left alone, a knowledge that brought with it the consequence of sin, of death, and of a broken and fallen universe.

And from that time, man has lived in the midst of sin and corruption, in the midst of decay and degradation, or as we sing in the ancient funeral hymn: “Media vita in morte sumus,” – “In the midst of life we are in death.”

We are in death, dear brothers and sisters, for that cursed tree stands symbolically in our midst, mocking us with our great “knowledge” which is really our desire to “be like God,” our rebellion, our rejection of the eternal life given to us by our all-loving and almighty Father.

And it is in the midst of this stark reality that our Lord Jesus pronounces: “The kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

The reason He can say this is because He has come into our midst.  He, the eternal Word, “Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and merciful Savior,” God the Son, eternally begotten of the Father, took flesh.  He dwelt among us, in our midst.  He walked among us, in our midst.  He preached to us, suffered with us, and died for us – in our midst and on our behalf!

And even in the midst of death, He came once more to life, dear friends.  That is the “kingdom of God in the midst of you.”

Our Lord tells us that we are not to be fooled by false claims, by false teachers, by false Christs.  “And when they say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them.”

For the Kingdom is in our midst, dear friends.  The kingdom is among us, in our hearts that have been converted by the Gospel, in our lives adorned by the forgiving grace of the Lord whose promises never fail, at our baptismal fonts wherein we receive new life, in our pulpits through the Word proclaimed, and at our altars where the Lord is in our midst in His very flesh and blood!

“For behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

But what do we see with our corrupted and fallen eyes?  What do we perceive with our corrupted and fallen reason?  Anything but the kingdom of God, anything but the real presence of Christ, anything but the transforming power of the Lamb and His blood that makes all things new.  While in this fallen existence we see the golden calves that we install on flimsy pedestals and abominable altars.  We see the “stiff-necked people” that we truly are.  We see broken commandments and the bitter waters corrupted with the powder of the curse of our own making.

For “the kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed.”

And thanks be to God, dear brothers and sisters, for God is too clever to be held at bay by our fallen nature.  It is precisely to sinners that He comes, beckoning us to repent, exhorting us to turn away from the gilded idols of our own making, encouraging us to place our faith not in what is seen: in the brokenness of this world and the corruptness of our hearts, but rather to place our trust in the unseen: in His Word and promise that even as He is in our midst, the kingdom is “in the midst of you.”

For when the time comes for the “Son of Man” to be “revealed,” when the veil is removed and the truth is made known in a way that “can be observed,” there will be no secret about it.  “As the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in His day.”

And when the day of the Lord comes, it will happen suddenly, with a shocking rapidity, and there will be nothing anyone can do to stop it – and again, thanks be to God!  For we live for that day, dear friends, holding on to this hope, this promise, this actuality that the kingdom in our midst that is now unseen will, on that day, become seen by all, in all its glory, and in all of His love.

And although this will be a day of judgment for the fallen world, let us remember the Lord’s promise and declaration: “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”  For “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.”

“The kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

That, dear brothers and sisters, is the true power of this kingdom: “the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

“We will always be with the Lord.”  “The kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

We have traded a cursed tree in our midst for the single and solitary blessed cross in our midst.  We have exchanged knowledge of good and evil in our midst for the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, and the kingdom of God in our midst.  We have made the happy exchange of life over death, of righteousness over sin, and of our blessed Lord over the cursed devil.

“Therefore, encourage one another with these words.”

“For behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you,” now and forever.


on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Managing Ignatius!

"Get yer Lucky Dog here!"
A few years ago, I ran across a wonderfully quirky autobiographical book set in New Orleans, written by a New Orleanian, about a side of New Orleans life that can only be experienced from the inside.  The book is called Managing Ignatius: The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in New Orleans by Jerry E. Strahan.

Strahan's reference to "Ignatius" is an oblique nod to a fictional character, the beloved antihero from John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer-winning A Confederacy of Dunces, the megalomaniac Ignatius J. Reilly.  In Confederacy, Ignatius was unable to hold a job, always seeing himself as larger than life and better than everyone around him.  He was filled with drama (and insanity).  One of Ignatius's jobs was selling hot dogs out of a cart in the French Quarter - making reference to the iconic Lucky Dog carts and their colorful vendors.  His mother considered this the height of shame.

In real life, Jerry Strahan began working for Lucky Dogs after dropping out of Tulane's doctoral program in history.  It was a temporary job that he has now held for more than 25 years.  His book is blunt about the shortcomings of many of the vendors who have worked for him these many years, and yet Strahan's treatment is affectionate and non-judgmental.  One gets the impression that if his employees were "normal" he would not really enjoy his job.  He finds a way to make things work out as best he can.

The book is funny, touching, and impossible to put down.  It received 4.3 stars out of 5 in 23 customer reviews on Amazon.

Now here is the cool part: I met Jerry Strahan Friday night!

I was helping set up for the annual Junior Achievement City Stars Soiree, stirring a pot of crab soup and a pot of gumbo - praying fervently not to screw it up (I am no cook!).  I saw two men wheeling a Lucky Dog cart nearby - one dressed in the ubiquitous striped vendor "uniform," the other dressed casually.  The latter man looked familiar.  I suspected he might be Jerry Strahan, but could not be sure.  I walked up and asked him: "Do you know Jerry Strahan?"  He replied in a very low key manner, "I'm Jerry Strahan" and kept up with his work.  I smiled and pumped his hand, thanking him for his book Managing Ignatius.  Strahan was most gracious, taking it in stride, and allowed me take the above picture with him.

We had a wonderful, very brief chat in which we discussed the book - and then I let him get back to work.  Although my meeting with him was short, he struck me as a really good guy, genuine and compassionate, with a sense of humor and joie de vivre.  And that is exactly the impression I got of him when I read the book.

If you enjoy quirky reads, if you like laughing out loud, if you've read A Confederacy of Dunces, or if you have a place in your heart for the City of New Orleans, pick up a copy of Managing Ignatius.

And if you find yourself in the French Quarter (or anywhere else the hotdog-shaped carts may be found), order up "eight inches of fun on a bun."  You might run into Jerry Strahan working with one of the vendors.  And if you do, you will also want to shake his hand and thank him for writing the book.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Happy 90th Birthday, Uncle Buddy!

My beloved parishioner "Uncle Buddy" turned 90 today. Blessings and many happy returns!

Epic Live Phil Collins

Even if you're not a Phil Collins fan, this is an awesome performance. Watch how "casually" he strolls to the drum kit and hits the beats precisely. What a pro! HT: Mrs. Hollywood

Friday, November 09, 2012

Book on War by Marine General

The headquarters of my church body just sent all of the pastors a book.  I was surprised that it's a book about war.  It's a rather long tome, and I have not yet read it.

But related to the topic of warfare, I think the best modern American book on war ever written is this one, and it is a very short work authored by one of the most highly-decorated combat veterans of all time, U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler (2 Medals of Honor, Marine Corps Brevet Medal, Distinguished Service Medals from both the Army and the Navy, and the French Order of the Black Star).

General Butler served in the Marines for 33 years, and fought in the Spanish American War, the Boxer Rebellion, five of the "Banana Wars", the Battle of Vera Cruz, and World War I.  He was also the son and grandson of U.S. congressmen.  He knew war from the inside, from the battlefield, from the top echelon of the military, from the political angle, and why it happens.

A fascinating and quick read!  You can buy the book on Amazon for a whopping $2.99, or if free is more your price, go here.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Today's Walgreen's Musical Selection

From today's trip to Walgreen's: Living Colour's "Cult of Personality" (1988).

George Ought to Help

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Sermon: Wednesday of All Saints – 2012

7 November 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: 1 John 3:1-3

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us,” dear friends, “that we should be called children of God.”

How remarkable that we have been adopted by the Father, by God Almighty, by the Creator and King of the universe to be called by the name of His children: “and so we are.” 

And this is even though we are not eternally begotten of the Father, but rather born of sinful flesh from sinful flesh.  We are not His only begotten Son in whom He is well-pleased, and in fact, we sinful son of men crucified Him who had no sin, having murdered God’s Son in whom the Lord delights.

And so, see indeed “what kind of love” He has for us, a love inconceivable to us, a love that has no limits, makes no claims, holds no wrongs, and overcomes even sin, death, and the devil.  The Lord has a love for us that would even allow His most beloved Son to go to the cross as a ransom, a substitutionary atonement, a sacrifice for us “poor, miserable sinners,” we who have sinned in “thought, word, and deed” and who continue to sin every waking moment of our lives.

The world hears this and mocks. 

What kind of a God allows His Son to be murdered, and rather than vengeance, offers forgiveness?  What kind of hypocrites are there in this church, people who sin and then turn around asking to be forgiven?  What kind of love does the Father offer when the guilty are allowed to go free, when transgressors receive pardon, when justice is permitted to roll over before mercy?  What kind of a God is that?

That, dear brothers and sisters,  is exactly the kind of God we have, exactly the kind of God that liberates us from bondage, that quickens us against death, and that emboldens us against fear.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us.”  For the world doesn’t get it at all, the world doesn’t comprehend us by any means, because the world does not know Him in any way!

But we know Him, dear friends, for we have encountered Him in His Word, in His mercy, in His baptism, and in His most holy Supper.  We have experienced Him in His promises, by His creation, through His care, and in His love – and “we shall be like Him.”  Indeed, for the time being, we are not like Him.  But we have a promise, dear brothers and sisters, for our text says: “we shall.”  For “we shall see Him as He is.”  We shall, we shall indeed! 

This is the ultimate act of love the Father has for us.  He will truly show Himself to us in all His glory.  He will hold nothing back, and He shall make us like Him.  We shall rise from the grave, we shall conquer the universe, and we shall live forever in glory beyond what we can imagine.

But most of all, dear brothers and sisters, we will love as He has loved us: inconceivable to us, a love that has no limits, makes no claims, holds no wrongs, and overcomes even sin, death, and the devil.  No matter what this world offers – this world that does not know Him, no matter what this world demands – this world that would crush us under foot.  We have the love that the Father has given to us, “that we should be called children of God.”

And so we are.  And so we are!

And this is the love that drives out all fear, the love that conquers all things, the love that never ends.  For this is the love grounded in faith and hope. 

“And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.”


on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Do Wars and Natural Disasters Help the Economy?

It is amazing how many mainstream economists, pundits, politicos, and everyday people think that war, hurricanes, public-works programs, inflation, and other forms of stimulus actually help create jobs and build up the middle class. Frédéric Bastiat, a 19th century political philosopher and economist, exposed the logical fallacy of this reasoning (back in 1850!) that seems attractive on first glance. He called it the "Parable of the Broken Window" (original title: "Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas" - "What is seen and what is not seen").

This line of thought was cited (essentially retold in English) as Henry Hazlitt's 1946 work Economics in One Lesson.

The above video sums up the fallacy well.  Nevertheless, how often have we been taught that World War II brought America out of the Great Depression - as if massive destruction and the slaughter of millions of people could actually be economically helpful!  This is the Broken Window Fallacy writ large.  FDR's government works programs, LBJ's Great Society initiative, Richard Nixon's wage and price controls, and the Bush-Obama stimulus and bail-out packages were more of the same.  They are all based on this simple fallacy.

Politicians depend on this kind of smoke and mirrors to enrich themselves and their cronies to our detriment.  This line of reasoning is behind things like government bailouts and "too big to fail."  This is also why we have so many lobbyists and why businessmen who wish to get ahead are virtually forced to bribe politicians - albeit legally under the aegis of "campaign contributions."

We Americans are in dire need of economic education rooted in markets and voluntary trade that is not the Broken Window Fallacy.

By the way, if you are interested in free copies of these authors, click here for Bastiat and here for Hazlitt.

Bonus: A John Stossel video featuring Dr. Walter Williams addressing the Broken Window Fallacy.  And here is another take on it.  Now, can we just get the guys in DC to look at these videos?  After all, we know they don't do a lot of reading there...

Sermon: All Saints – 2012

4 November 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 5:1-12 (Rev 7:2-17, 1 John 3:1-3)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

This week, most people in this church will do something very important with lasting consequences.  In fact, it will be the most important thing you can do.  For you will act on your conviction, and you will participate in an action that will change our future together as a people forever in ways that we may never know.

In fact, by participating in this rite of our people, you will be taking part in something eternal.  The most important thing you will do this week is not happening this Tuesday, but in the next few minutes: for you will partake of the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins and in the mystical communion with the Most Holy Trinity and with all the saints “who from their labors rest.”

The world has different ideas about what is most important and about whose word you should believe.  And it all boils down to this: hope.

Politicians of all stripes make promises of hope, but they cannot speak infallibly.  They cannot speak without error.  They cannot speak knowing the future.  They cannot speak as God in the flesh.  The politician cannot speak as our Master, Redeemer, Savior, nor as one who truly gives hope.

In fact, Holy Scripture cautions us not to put our trust “in princes.”  For they do not offer real hope grounded in an unbreakable promise as God does, dear friends.

For as hard as it may be to believe, there is something God cannot do: He cannot lie, He cannot deceive, He cannot spin reality to get something from us.  Instead, “see what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”

The world puts its hope elsewhere, dear friends.  This is why churches across the land are empty, but political rallies are full.  All over the country this week, people will cram by the thousands into football stadiums.  People will crowd onto highways and subways to get to work.  People gather in multitudes and throngs to be entertained.

In their right place and time, politics and entertainment, work and recreation all have a role to play in our lives.  But do these things bring us hope – especially the kind of hope as from One who cannot lie, who never disappoints, who even overcomes the grave?

The world seeks after vain hopes: riches, happiness in possessions or passing victories, in the good feelings of entertainments and worldly pleasures, in the promises made by politicians.  But the world does not know Him, dear friends.  “But we shall know Him when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.”

For the time being, we see through the glass darkly.  We see a wafer of bread and a sip of wine.  We see frail bodies and minds, imperfect people singing hymns often out of tune.  We see a church outnumbered by those who place their hopes elsewhere.

And yet, dear friends, we still have hope: true hope rooted in the unbreakable promise of our Savior!

This is how Christians express their hope even in the face of death.  Yesterday, I presided over the burial of Cleo Smith, our sister in Christ who lived nearly a century.  She was laid to rest in the family tomb, the 19th person in nearly a hundred years to be placed inside that small space.  It is a stone structure filled with bones.  “Can these bones live, O son of man?” 

We gathered at this tomb with the body of Blessed Cleo.  And while we mourned, we also celebrated.  We read Scripture, prayed, sang, and drank wine.  In hope of the glorious resurrection, we partook of the Lord’s good gifts!  And in this place, dear friends, nowhere near as crowded as a show or game or place of election, we too read Scripture, pray, sing hymns, and drink wine – the wine of Christ’s true blood, even as we partake of the bread that is the very Bread of Life in the flesh!

And though we may see a sparse and aging flock, full of contention and struggle, what is the underlying reality?  “After this, I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne, and worshiped God, saying,  ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’”

There is more to reality than meets the eye, dear friends.  For truly, in this hope, these bones can live, these bones do live, these bones will live forever!

And we do not have to put our trust in princes or place our hopes in money or political parties or winning championships or winning elections, in striving vainly after worldly respect or any of those things that the world, which  does not know Him, hurries and scurries after.

Our Lord has again shared with us His unbreakable promises upon which we hang our hopes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Even if the world looks down on you for your poverty or your lack of position in the community, you, dear friends, you baptized children of God, you forgiven saints, have been promised possession of the kingdom.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Our morning is for a short time, as the fallen world is being recreated anew, providing us with a sure and certain hope of the resurrection and eternal life!  That is our comfort!

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  The new earth will be far better than this old decaying habitation, and it is promised not to the rich and mighty, but to the baptized and forgiven, to those whom the world holds in contempt, because even as they do not know Him, nor do they know His bride.  But we are His bride, dear friends, and our Hope is in our perfect groom who lays down His life for His beloved.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  We hunger and thirst because of our lack.  We are not righteous.  We are sinful.  And yet, dear friends, we are forgiven sinners, and therein lies our hope!  Our desire to be righteous will be satisfied by Him who is righteous.  That is His promise.  That is our Hope!

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”  The world hates mercy.  The world celebrates crushing one’s opponents into the dust.  The world glories in bloodlust and domination.  And yet, we who are so often ground under the heel of the unmerciful have hope in the One who is merciful to us!

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  Dear friends, on those rare occasions when we do act in purity and truth, we often pay for it at the hands of the world.  Purity is mocked and derided by a culture that glories in vulgarity and vileness.  And lest we fall into the temptation to be like the world that does not know God, let us press toward the hope of seeing the God who sees us even as we are, and who saves us by His grace!

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  Peacemakers are considered weak.  But our Lord urges us to turn the other cheek, to forgive, to seek a higher way than the road of payback and revenge.  It is our hope to have such communion with God that we are truly His children, “and so we are.”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  For two millennia, the followers of Jesus Christ, the children of God, have been persecuted, arrested, bullied, tortured, imprisoned, and put to death.  And they endured this faithfully because their hope exceeded their pain.  We have the hope of the Lord’s unbreakable promises which even trumps our breakable bodies and fear of pain, isolation, slander, and death itself.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Dear friends, this is the hope of all the saints, of the martyrs, of those who continue to bear the cross today.  For even when we are attacked, slandered, marginalized, mistreated, or even persecuted for our confession of Christ, for our faith in the One True Hope, for placing our trust in the One Prince in whom we can trust – we have the hope of a heavenly reward, following in the footsteps of those who went before us in glory, winning the “victor’s crown of gold,” and yet marked by the blood of the crown of thorns.

Indeed, let us go about our important works this week, carrying out our activities as conscience dictates.  Let us enjoy our lives, and let us work at our vocations, carrying out what our Lord has created us to do.  But let us place our hope only in our Lord.

For on this most holy occasion of Holy Communion, we join with them who eternally

…enjoy the Sabbath rest,
The heavenly banquet of the blest,
The Lamb, their Lord, at festive board
Himself is Host and Guest.


on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.