Friday, May 28, 2010

Long Distance

Just this morning I have checked out some area codes found on my cell phone. I discovered that I've received several phone calls lately from persons in SC, MI, NH, and even BC. They do not leave a message. What do we do with these? It goes against my grain not to answer the telephone. Somehow it seems I am being disrespectful. It feels like someone coming to the door of my house and I refuse to answer the door without knowing who is even knocking. It is not the way I was raised. I think: What if it's someone I've met along my life's journey and they are trying to get in touch? Since I've passed out my professional card to hundreds of people from all walks of life while traveling over a million miles, what if it's someone who wants me to come to their area and share the gospel with them? What if...??? a "thousand" questions arise. So why not answer? Because I've had a few calls which were nothing but a machine playing a recorded voice trying to get me to buy something I'm not the least interested in. I've also answered when a persistent salesman/saleswoman on the other end of the line could not understand the meaning of "No!" I've had to get rude, raise my voice, and finally hang up in their mid-sentence. That leaves me feeling as badly as if the person were standing in my living room. I don't know why - but it does.

Vodafone's Picture Messaging Attracts 2.5 Million Extra Subscribers

Technology! I love it. But with it comes it's own set of unique problems. Now you can buy a plan which allows you to place un-limited calls anywhere in the 50 states for a very cheap rate. That's wonderful if you are the person doing the calling. But if it makes us victims of rude and difficult people - it is not so good. Another thought I've picked up somewhere - maybe read in a magazine - how rude the phone has made the normally nice person to be. Go to an office and sit at a desk with someone in business. Or sit in a pastor's office telling him your problems. Right in the middle of an important message you are trying to convey - the phone rings. The person behind the desk (tho he/she may have an answering machine) will turn, pick up the phone, say quietly to you "Excuse me"...and take care of the problem or request of the person calling in. Then they turn back to you with the smile of a Cheshire cat and say "Mmmm... You were saying?" Well now - it's un-fair to say that ALL people behave that way - but FAR TOO MANY do.

So what am I gonna do? Answer the phone even if I don't know who is calling? Or wait and let them leave a message on my answering machine? Or wait until they call back from the same number half a dozen times before answering the phone? Or should I answer at all if I do not recognize the numbers?

Correct me if I'm wrong - but I plan to continue with present policy. I'll look at the phone to see who is calling and if I don't recognize the number or see a familiar name, I will let them leave a message. If they leave a message I may call back.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Immigration Questions - Again!

Mexican President Calderon Makes State Visit To White House

We have a horrendous task before us if we settle the question of "Border Control"! Since I last blogged on this subject, I have had some facebook friends who took exception to some of my statements about keeping the law. It's o.k. with me for them to take exception. We shall remain friends and shall continue to discuss our feelings frankly and without malice towards one another. (At least that's my desire.) For me - the debate over the Arizona law is about law and not about race-relations. As I see it the Bible calls on the followers of Christ to pray for those in authority and to support the officer of the law as we would a minister of Christ. Some who read my thoughts immediately jump to the conclusion that I must not love the aliens. So I must write a few things more in hopes it will clarify my position.

First, Loving the alien is one thing I do. We Christians must love all men, regardless of race, creed or color. Christ taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves. However, This discussion is not about "Apartheid" (a word out of South Africa that means "Apart Life"). My contention is that this is not about "being kind to the Samaritans". It is about breaking the immigration law. Crossing the borders into the USA without a passport and visa... is a crime. It is not a matter of racial prejudice.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned within his own country. He had a right to fight against being treated unjustly. However – my feeling is that for us to illegally cross into the borders of South Africa and try to overturn the laws of that country is wrong. I do not feel that we have the right to go into Mexico and try to change the laws that we do not agree with. As a missionary working in Africa for many years I saw many laws I considered unjust and unfair but I had better understanding than to become involved in trying to change those laws. If missionaries attempt to get involved in political change they will most likely be dealt with harshly and rapidly. In the same manner, I feel that aliens who come here should not get involved politically until they become nationalized citizens.

Someone said, "The Christian conscience is always in a dialectical tension between laws of the land and the commandments of God." I know of no law/s here in America that makes you and me unable to keep the commandments of God. I do not see “dialectical tension” but I do see signs of "dialectical materialism".

I liked this statememt that someone wrote, "We are obligated to peacefully and prophetically live out our conscience. I liked their emphasis on PEACEFULLY and PROPHETICALLY! Someone lifted up Martin Luther King's strong move against some un-fair laws in the '60s. I like MLK’s position of non-violence but again, we are not dealing with apartheid or racial issues here. We are dealing with immigration and law violators. We are talking about obeying or violating the laws of the land which require a person to have a passport and visa.

I read the National Association of Evangelicals statement advocating immigration reform and some of the Council of Bishops of the Catholic Church supporting an "open door" policy. It seems to me the NAE and Catholic Council support people of any and every economic and social background, saying that they have the right to cross our borders in violation of the law and take jobs so they can send money home to their families while American workers are un-employed. In these arguments I find the issue of economics. Tithing is also a matter of economics. Pastors can be motivated by the concern for the lost souls of immigrants (from whatever country) and seek to point them to Christ. However, I fear that not all escape the economic motivations.

To reform and to refine is good. To allow persons to cross into our borders and be financed by our social welfare systems to the tune of billions of dollars a year – and neglect our own natural born citizens is not good. As someone said, "To reform is not to over-throw." It is to "re-form" and make better what seems to be broken.

REFORM: I very much liked one of the things that was said in our discussion. “To reform is not to over-throw”. Yet I see reports on TV and the Internet where illegal aliens are getting together to march in our streets. They speak against our right to control our own borders. I do not see how they can be compared with Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela at all. When a person crosses into our borders without legal papers to do so, they immediately become criminals and are subject to the law.

Someone referred to "Shadrack, Meshach, and Abendago as well as Daniel" as examples of those who broke un-just laws and were aliens in a foreign land. These men are great Biblical examples to follow. I suggest that if we followed their example to the letter and allowed God to vindicate us that we might have a testimony worthy of the Church of God Evangel (our official in-house news publication). Or think of the action of the King who had Daniel thrown into the lions den. He had a law and felt obligated to carry out the law. He worried and prayed and anxiously went to the lion's den next morning, lifted ujp his voice and asked, "Oh Daniel, is your God able to deliver you?" Of course Daniel had been protected - but I ask you - would God have protected him if he had lied to the King and denied that he had violated the law?

That said, when we break the law there are always consequences and those aliens who break our laws face consequences when they are caught, whether the laws seem just or not. It is for the law to deal with them in that respect. Our part (in my opinion) is to follow what is put down in the law as much as it does not violate God's law. If I understand the "new" AZ law, it simply requires that anyone must show proof of their right to be in this country when asked by the proper authorities. I have had to "show proof" multiplied times while traveling within foreign countries. I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of feeling that I should be above this law. I also know how easy it is to feel that I should not have to cooperate with every officer who asks for my identification. No matter how inconvenient it was for me - Yet, it was required by the law!

Let me point out that Shadrack, Meshack, Abednego and Daniel all were standing up for a spiritual matter; and not a civil one. There is no stretch of the imagination whereby we can compare those men with the law-breakers of today. I submit that had the law been one that would have brought financial stress to these “poor men”, we would have read a whole different story. They would have quietly trusted God to supply all their needs according to His riches in glory.

Let me close by saying – I will continue to love the souls of all men – criminal or law-abiding - regardless of race or legal status. Their soul is the highest priority. When given the opportunity I will teach them to be men/women of integrity and honesty and not to forever be fugitives from the civil law and to put God's Word to the test.

National Guard Begins To Patrol New Orleans

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Gardens In Tennessee

Frances is proud of her brother Frank's gardening skills!

Fresh onions, lettuce, and cabbage all came from Frank's garden.

What a blessing to have a brother-in-law (Frank Hildreth) who likes to garden! And - it's even better that he likes to share the produce grown with family and friends. Yesterday, since we were getting together with two of Frances' brothers and one sister and all their spouses for an evening meal at the Outback in Chattanooga, he came to our house early and brought a bag full of "the first-fruits" from this year's work and said something like "This is for the preacher who married us last year!." He must have been reading the book of Exodus in his Bible because that's where God laid down the principle of honoring him with these words: Exodus 23:19 "The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God..." Thank you Frank and Jan!

For those that may not know - Frank's first wife died almost two years ago and new wife Jan works for the state of Tennessee and is working in Chattanooga this week. She's a sweet lady and we all love her. We get together with them whenever work brings her down our way.

That paragraph reminded me of the radio preacher I heard once. While preaching on Malachi 3:10 he said, "People's always a askin me wher th storehouse is - I'll tell ya wher it is - It's rat 'cheere in my hip pocket!" Of course we know that the storehouse is in God's house. But then that's another separate blog. lol.

Frank tells us that as a boy he hated gardening with a passion (or anything that would be called work). His Dad, however, would make him help dig up the ground, plant the crops and weed the garden too. Frank told us that his Dad would "whip" him if he acted like he didn't want to garden much. "One day", Frank said, "I asked Daddy how much money he would have to have to sell the lot where we were working. Daddy, brightened up and said, 'Well, son, for you ... uh ... If you had this lot, what would you do with it?'" Frank paused for impact. "If I owned it we wouldn't plant anything on it!" And what did Daddy do? Reached for a limb ... with the words, 'Boy! I'll wear you out!" Now you can see the longing in his eye as he tells that story - then asks in wistful tones, "Reckon Daddy knows how much I love it now?"

Shortly after Frank's arrival, we were joined by Elizabeth (Frances' sister) and her husband Curtis Fritts. We all went to the local Chick-fil-A and had a light lunch...then Curtis and Beth were off to Hamrick's in Ft Oglethorpe, GA to shop. We (Frank, Frances and I) went back to our house where Frank proceeded to give me some pointers about gardening. My five little tomato plants are doing o.k. - and the grapes we transplanted last fall are showing some signs of life. No grapes forming yet, but there are some new branches popping out on 6 of the 10 vines. We discovered that bugs were already hungrily attacking some of the leaves and at Frank's recommendation I applied some Seven-Dust.

Frank, Elizabeth, Curtis at Chick-fil-A

All five of us at Chick-fil-A, courtesy of folks at the table next to us!

We had a wonderful (wonder-full) visit at the house - then drove down to Chattanooga to eat dinner together at the Outback. As usual, I over-ate, and needed some Gaviscon! I don't eat that much...just the 9oz.steak and fries with a salad and sweet tea. No dessert. Honest! Although four others ordered ice-cream and chocolate I did not eat a single bite of it. Oh - and I did have a cup of de-caf coffee while they ate their desserts.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day

Frances cooked a wonderful meal from this venison! In the above picture I had begun cutting the meat from the bone. By adding two small pork roasts, then covering the deer with a pound of bacon it was cooked in the oven for two and a half hours on low heat. It came out sooooo tender and good!

While we were working on the meal on Saturday, this lovely bouquet of roses came from our youngest daughter (Tabitha) who lives in Watertown New York! Wish you all could have seen Frances excitement as she opened them.

Another scene of meat preparation.

I took Mom with me to Church Sunday Morning to the Tellico Plains Church of God. She is always such a blessing and is loved and respected by everyone there. She then joined us at our dining room table for the Mother's Day Meal. Our daughters (Frankie and Ruthie) and their families were also there for the meal in honor of their Mother, Frances.

How's That Working Out For Ya?

I heard our pastor use that phrase from the pulpit recently - and I think it's a quote from Dr. Phil. He said, "How's that working out for ya?" I'm being asked that question a lot lately as it regards my retirement. My response varies - from a simple "thumbs-up" signal and broad smile - to a lengthy speech, talking about the many reasons I am enjoying retirement.

Some things I have learned:
1) I am busier than I have ever been in my life . . . or I have nothing to do that has to be done today! The choice is mine.
2) There are no more off-days, sick leave days, holidays, week-ends or vacations. . . I am permanently on vacation.
3) Social Security helps. . . medi-care helps... having had a good financial planner (my wife) helps. I've sometimes referred to her as my "Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance".
4) Good health is a prerequisite for enjoying retirement ... I'm glad I took some days out of the office and tried to keep all muscles moving.
5) I go hunting and/or fishing whenever the mood strikes me.
6) I love having my children and grand-children drop by to hug on me and their grandmother.
7) God has provided for me. I do not live in opulence - but have sufficient for each day.
8) It's great - I'm still married to the same woman I married 52+ years ago. I'm passionate with love for her! She is the most exciting woman I've ever known.
9) I have a few people who still thank me for performing their marriage ceremony in my role as a Christian minister. One such couple whom I married over thirty years ago called last week.
10) I have a few people who will occasionally call me to say that I made a difference in their understanding of the Bible through my preaching and Bible teaching.
11) I enjoy really good health. Yes, there is the occasional arthritic pain and some few signs of aging - but I take no medicines that I MUST have on a daily basis. Don't mis-understand, I take a baby aspirin daily, a vitamin, an anti-histamine, and an antacid for those times when I over-eat.
12) I am ready if Jesus should come today. My sins have been forgiven by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ Jesus at Calvary!

So - I say - That's working out FINE for me!

About Me

My photo
Cleveland, TN, United States
I am Fred Alton Brannen, the son of Louis A. Brannen (deceased) and Bonnie Jones Brannen, Louis was an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God. Bonnie is an Ordained Licensed Minister and at 89 years of age is still actively engaged in speaking and singing engagements. I am married to the former Frances Hildreth. We celebrated 53 years of marriage this past June and we are the parents of 3, grand-parents of 10, and great-grandparents of 10. I pastored in Tennessee for 24 years and served the Church in some capacity in missions for over 23 years. I retired from full-time ministry in August of 2008 but remain active, speaking and singing and teaching whenever opportunity affords itself. In January of 2010 I received a letter of commendation for having been credentialed as a minister in the Church of God for 50 years! My family is very important to me. Our get togethers are always noisy affairs and most times will include family sing-alongs. The children love their Mom's cooking so we have the privilege of seeing them regularly! WE LOVE having them over.

TheCabin on Day One

TheCabin on Day One
Fred Alton