Manuel Manrique and the Luis Guzmán family

On Friday, I mentioned that there were several big events that happened last week(s), one being the passing of Wanda Martin. Two other big things happened while I was on my Cuba trip.

The first was the passing of Manuel Manrique. I’ve written about him a couple of times before. Back in 2011, I described a visit to Manrique’s house and the joy that was. Then I shared a video back in 2015 when Manrique had fallen, and I thought he was going to pass.

This time it was for real. Manrique passed away on the morning of October 21, the day I arrived in Cuba. As is their custom, they buried him that same afternoon. I was blessed to arrive in time to be at his funeral and was even asked to say some words at the graveside ceremony. That was a privilege for me; as I said then, Manrique is one of the few heroes I have.

On Monday, I got some bad news about my dear friends Luis and Lido Guzmán. They are from Mexico and have been living legally in Abilene for the past 6 years. Their temporary status was coming to an end, and they had applied for permanent residency. They found out that their application had been denied and that they had to leave the country within a week. How awful! They had bought a home in Abilene, their daughter is a freshman at ACU, and they were building a life here.

I’m sad for them and especially sad for our church. As I told someone, I can think of many problems that the Guzmáns helped solve, and I can’t think of any that they were the cause of.

Later this week I’ll share more about the trip itself. But I needed to share those major happenings first.

Losing a friend from my youth

Family picture from Wanda’s Facebook

I was in Cuba earlier this week; I’ll post more about that soon. Several significant things happened while I was on that trip. Somehow my traveling seems to coincide with major happenings. Like the death of my good friend Wanda Martin.

I met Wanda while we were both studying at Abilene Christian University. In 1983, I convinced her to go on a Spring Break campaign I was leading to Long Beach, California. Then a group of us returned and spent the summer there in Long Beach. That summer group formed strong ties of friendship among ourselves and with some of the young people in the church there. Wanda ended up moving to Long Beach.

I, on the other hand, went south to Argentina. My most faithful correspondents from the States were my Long Beach friends. In one letter, Wanda confided that she had gotten to be good friends with Bruce Martin, but that she was afraid he was interested in being more than just friends. She said she was going to have a talk with him. In her next letter she said, “The talk backfired…”, and I guess that’s an understatement, since they got married in 1987. One of the first things I did upon returning to the States that year was to drive down to Baytown for their wedding.

Wanda passed away unexpectedly this past Sunday morning. I hurt so for Bruce and their kids (Daniel and Amanda). I hurt for the church in Long Beach who lost a special person. And I hurt for me, for losing a friend. I’m glad I got to have lunch with Bruce and Wanda when I was out at the Pepperdine Lectures this past May. I’m sorry we won’t get to do it again.

Upon learning the news there in Cuba, I told Tony Fernández, “You think the friends of your youth will always stay young.” But that’s not how it works.

Prayers for the Martin family.

Links To Go (October 18, 2017)

Students Walk Out After Teacher Orders: Speak ‘American’

Students staged a walkout on Monday after a cellphone video appeared to show a New Jersey high school English teacher reprimanding three students for speaking Spanish and telling them to speak “American.”


A growing share of Americans say it’s not necessary to believe in God to be moral

Most U.S. adults now say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values (56%), up from about half (49%) who expressed this view in 2011. This increase reflects the continued growth in the share of the population that has no religious affiliation, but it also is the result of changing attitudes among those who do identify with a religion, including white evangelical Protestants.


Idolatry at the Office

During these years, I worked so feverishly, not to serve God, but to relish the approval it brought me — and because I feared the implications for my identity should the praise fall silent.
Our world, it seems, condones such idolatry, and even trains us in it. Modern professionalism demands an impeccable standard of performance from its adherents. Amid the pressure, many of us depend on labels such as thorough, hardworking, diligent, tireless, and strong to substantiate our worth.


Steps to Opening Your Door to Your Neighbors

So how do we overcome our fears? Here are some practical pointers that may help.

  • Pray and ask God to help you overcome any fear you may have and replace it with love. Fear of the other person is overcome by love for the other person.
  • Hang out where you can meet others. Jesus was in the marketplace, at the temple, in the village…places where he could see people and get to know them.
  • Give invitations. Jesus did. He said, “Follow me.” “Come and see.” He opened up his life to others. Learn to invite people to your house. You might just start with one neighbor. Like Matthew, they might open the door to others.
  • Accept invitations. Jesus did. To weddings. To houses. To parties. If you get invited, go!

Bivocational Ministry as an Evangelism Opportunity

Through engaging co-workers on family, entertainment, politics, and culture, pastors can trade in their own tired stereotypes for a more robust and nuanced understanding of people outside their church. No longer present solely to solve their co-workers crises before quickly moving on, pastors can better understand and dedicate the necessary time to be true missionaries in their secular vocation.


The Five Choices of Declining Churches

At its basic levels, declining churches really have one of five choices. And if a church makes no choice, it has really decided to choose the “do nothing” option, the worst of the five choices.


Is it really God speaking to you?

This is why I’m really shy to say “God told me” unless it’s something that I can clearly back up with Scripture. That’s not saying that God only speaks to us by His Word. But it is saying that the only certain guide that we have is God’s Word. That voice in my head must submit to the ancient words and ultimately to the Lord Himself.


Mobile phone companies appear to be providing your number and location to anyone who pays

Without rigorous consent standards, mobile companies may as well be selling the data indiscriminately the same way they were before advocacy groups took them to task for it. For now there doesn’t appear to be a way to officially opt out — but there also doesn’t appear to be a clear and present danger, such as an obvious scammer or wholesaler using this technique.


Gardener, 62, got so fed up with his wife’s nagging he went to live in the woods for TEN YEARS

A gardener got so fed up with his wife’s nagging he ran away from home and lived in the woods for ten years.
Malcolm Applegate, 62, was married to his wife for three years before upping sticks after the relationship reached breaking point.


Hilariously Unphotogenic Animals That You Will Feel Guilty For Laughing At

Guess what? Animals can be those guys too. No matter how hard they try to be photogenic, they just can’t quite pull it off. Bored Panda has compiled a list of otherwise majestic and graceful animals, captured in less than flattering moments. If there were an animal Facebook (Snoutbook?) these clumsy creatures would be bugging their buddies to untag them NOW!


#MeToo must be #WeToo

I think the #MeToo hashtag campaign is healthy. If you’re not familiar with the movement, it arose in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, with Alyssa Milano asking women to share the hashtag #metoo if they’d been victims of sexual harassment or abuse.* I think it’s healthy for society in general to be made aware of this problem.

Beyond society in general, I think the church needs to increase efforts to make church a safe haven and a refuge for those who have been abused. To do such, I think that we need to:

  • Condemn any and all abuse of power in the church. We have to communicate that not only is such abuse anti-Christian, but it is something that will be actively opposed in the church.
  • Condemn any and all sexual abuse in the church. It will not be covered up. It will not be hushed for “the good of the church” nor “the reputation of the offender.” It will be denounced.
  • Stop the ridicule of safety measures. I’m talking about things like the Billy Graham rule. Like it or not, allowing men and women to meet behind closed doors opens up a world of problems. I’ll admit that it shouldn’t be like that as long as you admit that it is like that. We live in a fallen world. Christians of all people should be able to accept that.
  • Reject all questioning of a victim’s complicity in the abuse. I’m not saying that we encourage false accusations against church leaders. I am saying that we offer unconditional love and support to those who have been abused. We don’t ask whether they invited or encouraged the abuse. We offer compassion.

Those are some initial steps that I can think of. What else would you suggest?


Something I wasn’t aware of: Nick Gill pointed out this article that describes how the #metoo hashtag movement actually started 10 years ago.

When God spoke to Samuel

In the bilingual group at the University Church of Christ in Abilene, we’ve started using the Narrative Lectionary to guide our preaching. This lectionary provides a text for each week, which helps those preaching guide their thoughts. This week’s text was 1 Samuel 3, when God calls to young Samuel during the night. I was preaching this Sunday, and some unusual thoughts jumped out at me as I worked with the text.

  • Eli’s physical blindness mirrored his spiritual blindness. As high priest, he led a religious system that allowed corruption and abuse to have a full-time seat at the table. Because of this, he had lost the ability to receive messages from God.
  • Eli had failed largely because he loved his sons more than he loved God. He failed to correct them. He failed to protect the people that they abused.
  • As often happens, a younger person could hear what the older person had lost the ability to hear.
  • As often happens, the younger person needed the guidance of someone with more experience in the faith in order to be able to make sense of God’s words.
  • And as often happens, the message the younger person received wasn’t a new message; the same prophecy had been proclaimed in chapter 2 in even more detail. What was significant was that God was showing how the prophetic voice was passing from one generation to another.

Those were some thoughts that struck me, though I confess that some could be because of where I find myself in my life’s journey. What thoughts strike you when reading 1 Samuel 3?