Friday, June 23, 2017

Rex Review - Fallout 4 Survival Tips

My buddy Major Rex plays Fallout 4 a lot.
When he gets bored, he just makes a new character.
He plays on Survival, the hardest level you can play. In Survival you suffer fatigue, hunger, thirst and pestilence (I might have added that last one).
So I thought I'd give a Survival character a try.
The most annoying aspect is you can't save the game. You get an auto-save each time you rest, and if you ever played FO4, you know that beds just aren't that easy to find.
If you die, you go back to the (only) saved game you have – the last spot you slept. Played for forty minutes and some radroach kills you? Yeah. You'll see that pest again.
Oh, and there's no fast travel. Now when one of my settlements come under attack I have to wonder – is it worth the trek across the countryside to try to help? Or will I die in the attempt?
I have no idea yet what the consequences of failing to help are – and I've failed often.
I finally went to the Major after a couple of false starts. Here's the Major Method
Build a character with the following SPECIAL stats:

  • Strength 5
  • Perception 4
  • Endurance 3
  • Charisma 6
  • Intelligence 6
  • Agility 2
  • Luck 2

When you find the SPECIAL book in Shaun's room in Sanctuary, add that point to Strength.
The FIRST skill you pick up when you level is LOCKPICK. Let's face it. You need to be able to open things in the Wasteland.
When you level again grab the perk for +20 to health.
Then grab the +10 to resistances.
Now maybe you can survive to the next level and not die so much.
The Major added that you want to level your Armorer and Gun Nut, but don't do them separately!
Gain two points and do them both at the same time. Once you upgrade Gun Nut, the enemies become harder.
Don't upgrade them until you have enough materials to enhance your armor and weapons, though. (I find glue is a problem.)
Once the Major can create a good 5.56 mm sniper rifle, that becomes his main weapon.
The Major also believes in strong supply lines.
He builds a recruitment beacon in each settlement. For most of them, once he hits 12 people, he turns it off. (Maybe he said 8 people.) He'll send one person to another settlement, and immediately assign him as a trader. That gives your settlement access to other materials.
Yeah, I've never managed to do this successfully.
I'll be honest. I haven't implemented this strategy yet. I'm struggling to develop a “stealth” character in survival, with 8 Agility and 8 Luck.
I die a lot.
Time to re-roll and try the Major Method.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Safari in the Mist - Part 11

They moved quietly for a number of minutes. "We have a problem, BA." Vic held his lights above his head slightly to illuminate the two passages ahead of him.

BA groaned. "What a load of crap."

"Quit saying that."

"Well, it is."

"We have a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right."

"Or wrong."

Vic frowned. "Yeah, that too. I say left."

BA groaned. "I was going to say right. If we had agreed, I'd feel a lot better about the choice."

"Me too," Vic grunted. "Coin toss?"

"No, we'll just go left and see where we end up."

The stairs traveled downward for another fifteen minutes, ending in a small room with no other visible exits. They sat for a moment and each gulped down water from their full canteens.

"More secret doors, no doubt." Vic muttered. He took the small crank out of his pocket and connected it to his string of lights, winding it for a few minutes. He handed the crank to BA, who did the same.

"Do you hear anything?" BA whispered. They both sat in silence.

"Nothing." Vic stood up, followed by BA. "Guess we try the other path."

BA led the way back up the narrow stairs. After five minutes he stopped and grunted. "We're in trouble." Lifting the lights he showed two passageways, both with stairs leading up.

"Ouch. I didn't notice that on the way down." Vic paused. "We could choose and risk getting lost in this maze or we could go back down to the room and look for the hidden doors."

"Doors we think the room will have? We're betting on that, you know."

"Or choose one of the paths up." Vic shrugged, invisible in the semi-darkness. "I don't remember the tunnel getting wider, so I don't have a clue which one to take back up, BA."

After a moment BA grunted. "Back down it is, then."

Next part, next Wednesday.

Author commentary (if I have one)

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Limerick Castle in Ireland (I think)

Shouldn't there be a hidden meaning - something funny?
There once was a girl from Kazoo
Who walked wearing only one shoe
Said she when I asked
"It's all in the past.
I left my left shoe at the zoo."

Yeah, but can you play with the words?
There once was a girl from Odessa
Who wore a blue and white dressa
Said she with a smirk
"Don't be a jerk.
Without my dress I'm a messa"

Or it can be really personal (this to you, Leba)
I know a lovely librarian
who moonlights as a barbarian
Adept with big words
and slicing with swords
She really is quite contrarian

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Safari in the Mist - Part 10

Neither brother needed much sleep to stay alert; long years and much experience allowed them the luxury of taking deep catnaps when they could. Almost two hours later, to the minute, Vic shook BA's shoulder.

BA packed his blanket and rolled the furs into tight bundles, tying them onto his pack with spare shoelaces. "We might need them," he shrugged as Vic looked at him sideways.

"The secret door was activated by a mechanism behind a stone. That's what we're looking for." Vic handed a short string of lights to BA then connected another string to a small device in his hand, winding it quickly. The whirring sound seemed loud in the night air. The string of lights glowed brightly in the darkness. BA noticed the windows were covered with Vic's furs and nodded grimly.
The lights illuminated the inside of the room enough to see the mortar between the stones. After an hour of searching BA snarled under his breath. "This might be something, Vic."

Vic brought the lights closer and they examined the tight-fitting square stones. "You're right. These stones are cut differently, but it doesn't seem to have controls on this side."

"Which makes sense. They wouldn't lock us in a room with a secret escape door, would they?"

"In fact, according to the book, that's exactly what we have, if we can find it." Vic placed his splayed fingers on the edge of one of the stones. "Start hitting these stones on the wall, BA."

BA and Vic pressed on a dozen stones, when one of them gave way under BA's fist and the rock moved inward, with a space large enough for Vic to reach into it. He pulled, the muscles in his shoulder straining, and a piece of the wall pivoted outward.

The smell of age and mildew assailed them from the dark opening.

BA grunted, pleased. He shouldered his pack and looked at the narrow stairs leading down into darkness. "I honestly don't recall the book describing this tunnel too well. It's supposed to lead to the other side of the pool and under the temple, right?"

"Something like that. I think it was pretty vague." Vic put the string of lights around his neck, shouldering his pack and heading into the narrow passage. "You want to close the door or leave it open?"

BA stepped in behind his brother. "Closed. Let them wonder a bit where we went." He pushed the thick stone door closed. In the darkness, the lights gave off a faint bluish glow as they headed further down.

"I expect we'll get some people looking for us in the morning." Vic moved as rapidly as he could.

"I expect we will, but I'll take care of them." BA carefully walked down the steps behind his brother, avoiding touching the damp walls.

"I'd rather you didn't kill them, BA."

"I know. That would be too easy, I suppose." BA growled, almost to himself.

"They probably know about the tunnels," Vic said, the blue glowing lights bobbing up and down as he moved down the stairs.

"No doubt."

"So they know where we're going. They probably know a shortcut." Vic paused.

"So they'll meet us there. I expect that." Vic didn't even need to look at his brother's face to see the grin spread across it. "I look forward to a little fun with these guys."

Next part, next Wednesday.

Author commentary (if I have one)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Writing Word Counts

Word count is a huge topic in writing circles.
Short answer - Tell the story until you're done. For a standard fiction novel, aim to write 100K words or so and edit it back down to 85K.

Even though there are fabulous guidelines, every beginning author thinks they are the exception. None of us are exceptions.

I love short stories. I love to write them. I love to read them. It's like eating a bag of potato chips. Bag open. Salt, oil and chips consumed with gusto. Bag tossed. All without sitting down.
Here's my word count for my currently published stories:
Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff 5639 - nonfiction
My Mother-in-Law Misadventures 28554 - memoir
The Duel: A Von Crapp Brothers Tale 1364 flash fiction
Safari in the Mist: A Von Crapp Brothers Tale 9226 short story
Psychic Toll Call 841 flash fiction
Print Your Own Booklet Using Microsoft Word 2974 how-to
Seductive Murder 1885 flash fiction
Hunting August Moon 84021 novel

(All these links go to Smashwords, where the short stories are free.)
My word counts above include chapter titles, but don't include the Table of Contents, the required cover page and introduction or the final acknowledgments.
My first book wasn't fiction. Non-fiction should be seventy to eighty thousand words, but we wrote this book to meet a specific need. (The Fiscal Cliff still looms, actually. Shame on the government.)
For my second book, I compiled a list of short pieces I wrote when Darling's mother lived with us (for a decade). Still, the book is too short.
I published The Duel as practice. I don't recommend that method of learning to self-publish, but I left the story for the curious. It is free on Smashwords, though Amazon doesn't give me the same option.
Safari in the Mist was just as long as it needed to be to tell the story. That's okay, but at some future date I will compile all my Von Crapp Brothers stories into a single volume with a better word count.
Psychic Toll Call and Seductive Murder came from my reservoir of short stories written over the years, long before computers became useful for writing. As fun stories, I wanted them published, and I made them free (on Smashwords and on my blog site) so people could see my writing style.
Hunting August Moon took months of writing, and I topped out at over 110,000 words. After numerous edits, it dropped to 84,000. Hunting August Moon hits the sweet spot for novels. It doesn't disappoint.

<This is a copy of my blog post at my Author site.>

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Last Interview

Dr Bailey Smith spoke at Sagemont today.

Most people are familiar with the parable of the wheat and tares. If not, read Matthew 13:24-30 before we begin.
Jesus told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.

 Pastor Smith commented before the heart of his message that the Bible is not only the word of God, but words that came directly from the lips of Jesus, like this parable.

Years ago Pastor Smith asked Rev. Billy Graham why he spoke so often of "the unsaved church member." Rev Graham said because he once was one, and because it is the greatest mission field available to American churches.

After all, a good fake must be indistinguishable from the real thing.

What a great trick of Satan, placing the lost among the saved - and convincing them they are saved!

But commitment to the church is not commitment to Jesus.

Satan doesn't try to convince good people to do bad things.
Good works are not salvation.
Good beliefs are not salvation. You can believe in soap and still stink.
Good people are not automatically saved.

Ninety-nine percent saved is 100% lost.

You might have made a false decision. "I should go forward so I won't go to Hell."
You might have false assurance. "I remember your baptism, son, so you're saved."

You're saved by Jesus, by His grace alone.

When you're standing before God at your last interview, He won't ask your parents, your friends, your family or anyone else how you did. 

In your last interview, God will ask one question.

Do you know my Son, Jesus?

Look at your heart NOW. Is Jesus there, or is it you?

Dear God in Heaven, I acknowledge my sins to you, and I'm sorry for them. Please forgive me of my sin. I want to be saved. Jesus I trust in what you did upon the cross for my salvation. Thank you Jesus for saving me. Please come into my heart and become Lord of my life. Amen.

Follow up with your church and baptism.

Be ready for your last interview.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Safari in the Mist - Part 9

The shadows from the sun were long and the light fading when the door creaked open. BA moved faster than Vic's eyes could follow, but he stopped in his tracks, eyes narrowed. "Clever buggers."

A small dark girl with big eyes stared at him in terror, clutching a heavy tray of food to her chest. Behind her, through the doorway, three guards had spears leveled toward the door. BA ground his teeth; the girl let out a yelp, dropped the tray of food and disappeared back through the doorway. Like the Cheshire cat, the only thing visible as the door closed were the grins of the guards as they tossed sleeping furs into the room.

"We can eat the fruit we know, but I wouldn't touch the rest of it," Vic warned.

BA grabbed a haunch of darkly roasted meat and bit off a chunk. "If I die, it'll be with meat in me. And I'll still kill Kobo and his guards before I go."

Vic shrugged and chose a piece of meat also, tearing a small piece off and chewing. "How much do you remember from Haggard's book?"

"Most of it," BA sniffed at one of the fruits and took a large bite, then spat it out. "Watch out for those yellow ones."

"Weren't they kept in a room with a dais?"

BA looked at the walls. "I think so. The one with the secret door?"

"The very one."

"There was a way to open it from this side, too, wasn't there?" BA splashed cold water on his face and neck, rinsed his mouth and spat a stream of water into the corner drain.

Vic removed a collapsible cup from his vest and handed it to BA, who used it to drink deeply from the tap. As he moved to put the stone cap back in place, Vic stopped him. "Let it run, BA. We'll need to fill the canteens."

The darkness was almost total now in the small room. BA sat down opposite the door. "We can't do anything if we can't see." A cool breeze blew in through the barred window accompanied by small insects flying into the room and buzzing around their heads.

"I know. Our guards are gone. I guess we have to wait until we're sure everyone is asleep." Vic sat next to him, rummaging in his pack.

"We still need light."

"I have lights."

"No. Really?"

"In the collar of my vest. LEDs with a small battery. I have a manual charger in one of the pockets."

"Why don't I have one of those vests?"

"You refused to wear it. Said it made me look like a wimp and you wouldn't be caught dead in it."

"Did not." BA grinned and buttoned a few shirt buttons. "It's getting colder. I guess the glacier makes the nights cold in the city. I'm going to get some shut-eye."

Vic started unfolding a compact silver space blanket from his pack. "Good plan. What do you think? About two hours?"

"Yeah." BA dug in his pack for his thermal blanket. "Why do you think they didn't take our packs?"

"Oh, they figure we can't get out and they'll get it all pretty soon anyway, I guess. Kobo took everything he immediately wanted."

"I suppose so. I wish I had my licorice twists." BA arranged some of the furs and covered himself with the space blanket and topped it with another fur. "Wake me in a few hours, Brother." He stuck his bare foot out from under the blankets and was almost instantly asleep.

Next part, next Wednesday.

Author commentary (if I have one)


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Generational Wisdom

We met Mr. Earl Smith the other day and he shared the wisdom of his father, CE Smith, with us. Here you go.

Link to a father's prayer on Youtube.

Before you complain, think of three blessings you have. Once you get to the third blessing, you should forget your complaint.
If you can't think of three blessings, then you might want to think about your life, and look a little deeper. God blesses those who revere Him and follow Him.

If it's wrong, just don't do it. Don't bother trying to bend the rules or justify what you're doing. 
Just. Don't. Do. It.

If you're praying to God, then you must be willing to wait on him. Pray, then wait for an answer. (Cautionary tale here is Abraham's wife Sara, who took God's plans into her own hands because she couldn't wait.)

Don't take bible verses out of context. Know the whole story. I loved the example CE Smith gave his son.
He opened Little Red Riding Hood and turned to the page where it said "Grandma! What big teeth you have!" Then he closed the book and put it down.
So Grandmas must have big teeth.
See what he means?

Wisdom can be passed down from generation to generation. CE Smith passed wisdom down to Earl Smith, and Earl Smith blessed us with it as well.

And now Earl Smith has blessed you as well, thanks to his father.

To all the fathers out there, Father's Day is coming up. You can leave a legacy like CE did. Think about it.

God bless you all. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Safari in the Mist - Part 8

Vic spread his hands. "Kobo, we are Adventurers, that part is true. But we are not normal Adventurers. What we write is considered fiction, since we are not bound by normal timelines. Our Adventures encompass many places and many times. In essence, we are fiction." Vic pointed at BA. "In his case, fiction and legend."

Kobo frowned. "I am not understanding this."

Vic shook his head. "At this point, I can't really explain further. Suffice to say, the secret of your existence would remain in the realm of fiction. When we write of our Adventures, people see fiction, just as when they read Haggard."

Kobo shrugged. "I have your word that you will write fiction. Yet we do not know if your word is enough, and you admit you came seeking treasure, which is a less than noble reason."

In the blink of an eye BA had his right hand tightly around Kobo's throat, holding him firmly against the wall by the doorway, though he had to stretch to do so. Kobo gripped BA's hand with both of his and tried to pry BA's fingers from his throat. Kobo's eyes widened in shock and surprise.

"Listen, Kobo. I'm generally a peaceful fellow, and I'm fairly patient, but if we tell you that nobody will listen to us and that we will keep your secret in the realm of fiction, that should suffice. Don't insult us more than you have."

"BA…" Vic's voice was a whisper.

A heartbeat later BA was back in the middle of the room, sitting as if nothing happened. Kobo rubbed his throat and stared.

"I will think on this." The smile was entirely gone and Kobo's eyes narrowed. He disappeared through the door, which closed behind him.

"I think he was surprised," said Vic, sitting next to his brother. BA grunted.

"I'm tired of this, Vic. It's time we left. Maybe I should have just snapped his neck." He sighed. "The next time that door opens, I'm making a path and we're leaving."

Next part, next Wednesday.

Author commentary (if I have one)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I Quit Elvenar

I'm a gamer. That used to be something you never said out loud. Gamers were pariahs. A lot has changed in forty years.

Now Gamers are cool.

Are you playing the game or is the game playing you?

A lot of games have perfected the art of sucking you into a free game - then you pay.

To avoid waiting. They hooked us on that one.

To have bigger, better armies. Yup.

To have equipment that others don't. Ouch.

To have special mounts. (Thanks, WoW. Loved you.)

It's psychology, and the game-makers mastered it.

I quit playing Elvenar. The makers of the game hit me in my weak spot. They know I don't like waiting, so a few crystals here, a few crystals there and I'm moving again in the game.

Crystals cost real money. Pretty soon it adds up.

The game is free. Playing it isn't, unless you can resist.

Resistance is futile.

The Plarium games are worse. They know I don't like waiting, and I can pay to skip that (and have). They also know I don't like getting beat up by someone else. For a few bucks I can retaliate. I can show those bullies that I'm tougher than they are.

There's always someone tougher, maybe with a few more dollars invested. I could outspend them.

Now the game is playing me.

That's not what gaming is about.


Life is like that.

We get involved in doing things that cost nothing to join.

They can cost everything to continue.

That porn on the computer. You can access it for free.

And lose yourself. Lose your family.

That little bottle of beer? How about the next one?

What's the real price? That's the question. What are you really paying? 

Do you wonder how you ended up where you are? It's a slippery slope, that downhill slide.

Life can play you. A little lie. Just bend your moral code. It's not broken.



Sex is okay if it isn't lustful.

I don't mean to be angry. It's just the way I am.

Bad language is just words.

Are you playing the game or is the game playing you?

Sometimes you just have to quite playing and look at the bigger picture.

Get a different perspective.

Is this who your mother wanted you to be?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Sagemont Church planted 38,000 flags in remembrance of all the fallen soldiers from Texas.

I helped put a few flags out. It was my honor to do so.

Memorial Day is not a holiday celebrated by those in uniform, as Colonel Allen Orr reminded us during church service yesterday.

It is a day to remember with gratitude the men and women who sacrificed their lives in service to us, their fellow countrymen.

It is a day to honor those among us who still strive to provide the peace our country needs: those in the military, those in the civil uniforms of police and fire, and those who teach the next generation of United States citizens.

For me it is a day to thank most members of my family.
My Great Uncle Jerry, who also served in WWII (and met his bride in England).
My Great Uncle Dwight, who served with him.
My Great Uncle Floyd.
Grandpa Comfort, who was in the Air Force in WWII.
Grandpa Mac and Grandma Jen, who both served in WWII.
Mom, in the Navy when I was born.
Dad, a Navy Corpsman my entire growing life, retiring in 1972. He was in Viet Nam in 1968, the year the Tigers won the pennant.
My brother Barry who served in the Navy, then in the other branches in the Reserves. Also, he served for over twenty years as a teacher for the young minds that will someday (soon) rule this nation.
My brother David, an Air Force officer, both here and abroad.
My baby brother Tim who also served in the Air Force. God rest his soul.
Three of my wife's brothers who served during the Viet Nam conflict, and in country as well. They all came back.
If I forgot anyone, it isn't intentional.

God bless you all.
God bless America.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bad Company Corrupts Good Morals

My Uncle Told Me bad company corrupts good morals.

I didn't believe it when I was young. Other people weren't going to change me.

Yeah, they can, and yes, they did.

I got through college and hardly ever swore. I rarely said "D***" and never used the F word. Ever.

That was something else he told me. Cursing is for the lazy and weak-minded who don't know how to express themselves.

After a few years working in the chemical plant alongside some very rough characters, I changed.

One day I was in an office in the main building and vehemently gave my opinion about some software we used.

I was called in to Personnel, where they told me someone complained about my language. They reprimanded me for it. Rightly so, and shame overwhelmed me.

I thought how disappointed my Mother would be.

I thought how right my Uncle was.

Learning NOT to swear was hard.

Once you learn to do something bad, it is really hard to get back to the straight and narrow. The old story about the nails in the board comes to mind.

You know what else? It's biblical. Joshua is about to die and gives the Israelites the same warning about bad company and the punishments. (They ignore him, eventually.)

A shorter version is 1 Corinthians 15:33 - "Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character."

My Uncle was a smart guy.

I had a favorite Uncle, which seems odd since neither my father or mother had brothers.
He was really my Mother's Uncle - and he told me a lot of good things.
Even if he didn't, I'll attribute the good to him, since that was the kind of man he was. More on him later.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Safari in the Mist - Part 7

BA glared at Vic as they were pushed into a square stone hut at the base of the cliff, the thick wooden door closed tightly behind them. Frenzied dust motes danced in the slanted light from the barred windows. "Well," muttered BA, "this is a load of crap."

It took little time to study the room, which was only ten or twelve feet on each side. A raised stone circle sat in the floor in the middle of the room, square holes spaced evenly at two feet from the center. A small stone stopper at the end of a pipe fed cold, clean water into a narrow trough beneath the window. Another stopper allowed the water to flow into an open drain in the floor near the corner, too small for anything except insects and rodents to use. The room smelled faintly of old sweat and hot stones, though the interior was chilly. The walls echoed slightly when they spoke.

"Indoor plumbing with a sink and toilet, probably fed from the glacier above the city, if Haggard was accurate." Vic was seated on the floor in his underwear, diligently cleaning the stain from his cargo pants with the plant extract. "You know, this stuff works really well."

BA sat in the center of the room on the round platform, staring at the door. "Glad you're pleased, brother, because I'm not. The first guy who pokes his head through that door is going to lose it, and we're out of here." BA's jaw muscles were clenched.

Vic stopped cleaning his pants and looked at BA. "Too many in the city, even for you, BA. We'll think of something else." He scrutinized his pant leg. "There." Vic rinsed the pant leg in the running water and examined it in the fading light. "BA, I think that plant extract worked perfectly." He held the small flask and shook it. "And it only took a few drops."

BA still stared at the door. "Toss it here so I can take a look," he growled. Vic gave the vial an underhanded toss toward BA, who deftly snatched it from the air without moving his eyes from the door. Vic finished putting his pants on while BA smelled the liquid. "Not much of a smell, either." The vial disappeared into a leg pocket of BA's pants.

The door opened and Kobo stood there, unarmed. "Gentlemen!" His deep voice boomed. "We will send food, and furs to sleep on. We were not expecting company." He leaned against the doorway casually. "Of course, we never expect company here. We are isolated, as we prefer it."

Vic moved a step closer to Kobo. "So the issue is isolation, I take it?" He surreptitiously tried to wave BA into a calmer state. BA simply ground his teeth and didn't move.

Kobo's grin widened. "Precisely. We like our lifestyle. We would not have others speak of our city."

"We understand that."

"And yet you are Adventurers, so no doubt feel you must tell others of this place." Kobo's grin was not as broad.

"As you pointed out earlier, Haggard already advertised your existence, so anything we say would add little to the original narrative."

Kobo pondered Vic's statement. "Ah, but Haggard is considered fiction. You two most certainly are not."

BA glanced at Vic and shrugged. "Go ahead," he said. "It doesn't matter at this point. I'll either kill them all or they let us go."

Next part, next Wednesday.

Author commentary (if I have one)

Friday, May 19, 2017

What I Ought, I Don't

It's an age-old struggle. You make a promise to yourself to do better, to do more ... maybe just to do - and you don't.

I've heard people I admire say "I must not be a very good Christian." I guess they think Christians are immune to failure, like Jesus is some shot you get that protects you from doing wrong.

Let's get some perspective on that, shall we?

Can we all agree that the apostle Paul, admittedly a late-comer to the apostle group, was a pretty good Christian?

He was quite likely a pretty good fellow, too. Well-educated, well-traveled, a great speaker - I imagine he had a story for almost any occasion, and was probably pretty great to listen to. There was this one time he spoke for so long that a young fellow hanging out in a window fell asleep, dropped three stories and died. It's okay. Paul raised him back to life (Acts 20:9-10).

So let's agree that Paul had it all together. I can't raise people from sleep who listen to me and Paul raised one from the dead!

Wait a second! When writing to the Romans, Paul says "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." (Rom 7:15 NIV)

Why does this happen? Here's my thoughts on that.

Natural Inclination
It is instinct to do certain things and avoid certain things. We want to have fun. We don't want to work hard (suffer). We like sweets. We don't like salad (maybe that's just me).A dog loves to chase squirrels. Walk a dog down the street, he sees a squirrel and wham! It's off to the races.Maybe you have a well-trained dog. You're walking down the street, he sees the squirrel and you feel a bit of a tug, but he doesn't bolt. He wants to. He almost does. But he catches himself.Maybe you have a dog that is trained to lead the blind. That dog won't bolt. He won't even tug on the leash. But his eyes follow that squirrel just a little bit.You know he wants to run.Yeah, we're dogs.

Sometimes it's less instinct and more habit.You have done it for so long and so often that it becomes natural to do it again.I chew ice. I shouldn't. My teeth can't take the abuse any more and are starting to crack.I still chew ice.Or that one cookie that just calls out to you - along with all its companions. One becomes many.You're bored. You turn on the television instead of reading something worthwhile. You eat some candy instead of get a glass of water.Yeah, those hit some nerves. You get the idea.

You just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.Over and over again.Your buddies are having a drink or two, so you indulge.I just happened to wander down the cookie aisle at the grocery store (again) and cookies jumped in the cart.Or I go grocery shopping when I'm hungry.Or hang around the wrong people when I'm lonely.Or find the wrong pages on the internet.
Combine more than one of those and you're just asking to fail.

And you wonder why?

You can change the environment. Don't hang out in the wrong places, with the wrong people, down the wrong grocery aisle.

You can change bad habits to good - but that's hard work and whoops - that's one of those things we don't do when we know we should, so it's part of our natural inclination.

Oh, there are solutions. I have a few thoughts on those, too, but they aren't comprehensive. 

Vigilance helps - spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally.

Forgiveness helps - when you fail, remember that Paul himself failed also, and I doubt many of  us are better than Paul.

Does it mean you aren't a Christian? Does it mean that somehow when you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, He didn't hear you and passed you by?

By no means! That is one of the BIG lies Satan will toss at you when you fail, so don't buy into that one.

I don't have a lot of other thoughts on this, but this guy does. It's a long sermon, but worth every sentence.

Here's where he ends up. After Romans 7 comes Romans 8.

After our failures comes Jesus and His forgiveness, mercy and strength.

And if you don't know the Jesus I'm talking about, here's His plan of salvation.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Who do men say that I am

"Who do men say that I am?"

Jesus asked this question of his disciples, yet it echoes down to us through the centuries. The question remains relevant to this day.

If you ask most people that are not Christian, they will tell you they think Jesus was a good man, a great teacher - perhaps even a prophet.

Would a good man concoct a lie which ensnared generations of people? Only a devious man would do such a thing.

Would a great teacher tell his followers, and the Jewish people, that He now fulfilled the law and was God incarnate? Only a lunatic would do so.

So, Liar or Lunatic - those are your only options, but certainly not that He was a good man and a great teacher.

There is a third option.

Jesus is exactly who He said He was, the bodily personification of God.

Accept the third option and you're faced with two choices - accept Him as God or not.

Peter answered the question of Jesus with "You are the Christ, the son of the Living God."

I'm studying Josh Mcdowell's book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict. I'll be writing some posts based on the book over the next few weeks.

Safari in the Mist - Part 6

A group of children tried to rush past the guards and failed. One of the children threw a handful of black, sticky material through the air, barely missing one of the guards. Vic wasn't so fast.

A black splotch of sticky residue hit him directly in the thigh, dripping down the length of his leg.

Vic stopped. The guard behind him ran into him and stepped back, leveling his spear. "NO!" shouted Vic. He searched through the pockets of his pants, pulling one small package after another out, finally stopping when he pulled out a blue bandanna. "AND it smells like crap!" He knelt down and scrubbed furiously at the spot. The stain spread.

"So, dirt RESISTANT, but not crap resistant, is that what I'm seeing?" BA tried hard to keep from laughing. The guards and most of the people of the city simply stared as Vic poured water on the stain, trying futilely to scrub it off with the cloth.

"I formulated that stain repelling chemical myself, BA, so don't give me grief. I was SURE I had it."

"Ah, finally. A matter of pride. I understand now." BA patted Vic on the shoulder. "It just doesn't seem to work in the wilds, brother."

A tiny shriveled old woman with short, wiry white hair walked up to Kobo, speaking quickly and gesturing. She handed him a small clay vial and crossed her arms, tapping her foot.

Kobo laughed, deep and reverberating, the guards joining him and most of the people nearby smiled. "My esteemed Mother says that she is also greatly disturbed that your garment is soiled. She dislikes dirt as greatly as Vic von Crapp." He handed the small vial to Vic and pulled him to his feet. "My esteemed Mother says you should wash the stain with this juice. Do not drink it, unless you wish to soil your garments even more!" He laughed again.

Vic slipped the liquid into the pocket at his thigh. "Thanks. I really appreciate this." He smiled at BA. "See? Why would they want to help me keep our clothes clean if they were going to hurt us?"

BA growled back quietly. "So they don't have to clean your clothes after you're dead? I'm just guessing."

Vic shrugged. "You are in a pessimistic frame of mind, BA."

"Surrounded by ten foot tall warriors, on a march to be fattened up for sacrifice. No, Vic, it's just a picnic."

Vic looked up at one of the warriors. "They aren't ten feet tall, BA. At most they are…" BA punched Vic in the shoulder and he shut up.

Next part, next Wednesday.

Author commentary (if I have one)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Christ alone - and only

The message in church on Sunday was clear - you get into heaven by Christ alone, by the price he already paid. You just need to accept the gift.

This is the key difference between Christianity and other religions.

You don't need to give all your money away.

You don't need to follow a set of rules written in other books.

You don't need to kill infidels or martyr yourself (which seems a contradiction to me anyway).

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is all you need. Your ticket is punched. Your seat is reserved.

You just need to get on the train.

There. That summed it up.

Funny, though. The preacher took over twenty minutes to give that same message.

It's like I said during our Ecuador mission trip when they asked me to speak.

Tengo solamente cinco minutos hablar. Pero en el Bautista Iglesia, cinco minutos son todos los tiempos!

Yeah, I don't know if the Spanish was correct, but it got a laugh.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Safari in the Mist - Part 5

As the small group passed through the twenty-foot high gates of the city, they were surrounded by local villagers. They all shouted at Kobo in a language that Vic and BA were not familiar with. Kobo was answering questions, occasionally laughing.

He smiled his wide, white-toothed smile at the two brothers. "They want to know where you're from. I told them the US of A and that you are the famous von Crapp Brothers, Adventurers."

"And what else are they saying?" asked Vic, looking at the crowd.

"They want to know if you are staying for dinner!" Kobo laughed and translated for the crowd, so everyone was laughing.

"I can take the guards and we can escape down the next alley to the left," muttered BA.

"Let's give it a bit more time." Vic studied the natives as they passed among them. Tall, fierce people with beautiful skin and strong figures predominated. None were fat, though occasionally he saw an older person, shriveled with age, sitting on an upper veranda watching the small parade.

BA rolled his shoulders. "Right. Well, as long as we have some sort of plan, I'm good."

"Waiting is a plan," whispered Vic.

"Up to a point," BA growled back, looking at the guards.

The narrow streets were lined with small stone huts, sometimes sharing a wall, and sometimes separated by a thin line of red dirt and dark stone. Plants grew in tiny tended lots of dirt or in clay pots. Each hut was thatched with long grasses or tiled with thin slabs of grey stone; heat waves shimmered from the latter, though the air was noticeably cool. Occasionally during the walk through the town small children would dart past the warriors and touch the two men on their bare arms. At first Vic and BA pulled back, but eventually they just smiled at the children.

"It's the hair," Kobo said after the first dozen children.

"What about hair?" BA asked, looking up at the tall man.

"The hair on your arms. They say you are monkeys."

"We're not monkeys. We're gorillas." BA smiled widely, carefully noting all the alleyways. Kobo translated and everyone erupted in laughter.

"I thought you had other visitors to this place." Vic looked around. "Though I can't say this is the best welcome we've ever had."

"Though it isn't the worst," muttered BA.

Kobo grinned widely. "Oh, we have many visitors, but very few muzungus - white people. Most are people like us, yet seeking treasures written by Haggard." The last word still sounded like a curse. "And, of course, that is why you are here also."

"Well, partly." BA looked at Vic for help, but Vic seemed lost in thought. "Okay, mostly," he growled, his voice low, "though my brother and I make our living as Adventurers, so we often seek out the truth of the novels written by famous men. Haggard is one of those. Jules Verne is one we like well enough. We're thinking about Burroughs quite seriously, but haven't a clue how best to proceed on those except for the Tarzan novels."

Kobo continued grinning. "Ah, Verne we know, and Burroughs also. The Tarzan baffles us. We think he…" Kobo frowned. "What is the word? Ah! Invented Tarzan, though we hear stories from south… It is no matter. We cannot have travelers wander in our city, spoiling our way of life. It would bring badness down upon us."