Friday, September 28, 2007


We’re staying in a little one bedroom flat, third floor, no elevator, 34 steps down and 150 additional steps to Kuhio Beach, of Waikiki surfing fame, count ‘em. This is the center of everything, Hyatt Regency, Moana Surf Rider, Duke’s Canoe Club and, on the beach, the bigger-than-life statue of Duke Kahanamoku, himself – the patron saint of surfing. Surfer wannabe worshipers flock to the shrine endlessly, bedecking it with colorful leis.

Ah yes, a bit of heaven on earth. Or is it? Could this image, perhaps, be an artificially created façade, one purposely designed to cover a darker, seamier side? Is it possible that heaven and hell can coexist together in these islands?

To illustrate the point, we never know what new experience our evening constitutional stroll down Kalakaua Avenue will bring. It may be a pusher peddling “Maui Wowie” (Marijuana) or a prostitute (male/female/who knows?) propositioning a John (a Joe on those occasions when Doris isn’t with me) or someone stoned out of their mind, lying unconscious spread-eagle on the sidewalk, tourists delicately stepping around him or her. Ah yes, a bit of heaven on earth.

Walking past the International Marketplace, street performers are out in force: A clown sculpting balloons; living statues, painted silver or gold from head to toe, standing for hours immobile; cartoon caricaturists, street message therapists and musicians of every color and stripe, all performing with evangelistic fervor. The crowds gather continuously, intrigued by their offerings.

On Sundays, strolling past Duke’s shrine, a hyper, elderly man sits on the grass, frantically striking guitar strings and singing (more like screaming) at the top of his lungs. Listening closely, you can decipher the lyrics – Scripture verses – bellowing forth with wild-like ferocity. The sound is unpleasant and grating to the ear. No crowds gather.


My church used to do that kind of thing, “Open-airs” and Street-Corner Meetings” they were called. There were some strange ones for sure, Ah, I remember them well. Early on in one of my congregations, an overzealous worshipper used to shout “Hallelujah” and “Amen” at the most inappropriate times.


Every once-in-a-while at special events, you will hear the following words to an old song proudly sung:

How many queer folk in the Army we see, good old Army… though our methods are strange and oft misunderstood, we do it all for the best you know, telling poor sinners wherever we go, they can be made as white as snow in Jesus blood.

It’s cute looking back, but embarrassing now, so we don’t do them anymore. We’ve matured over the years, you see, climbed far up the social ladder, a much more sophisticated church today. We’ve attended Church Growth Conferences and mimicked those who have become popular and more respected, in look and worship style – but not statistically for some strange reason. Go figure? None-the-less, we’re much more sophisticated now, thank God!

Continuing on our walk through Kapiolani Park, we see a gal high-stepping backwards at a fast clip, and all the while balancing a bottle on top of her head. Passer bys fasten on to her with fascination, a sight peculiar to the eye. My first thought is, What a great witness this would be if she were wearing a T-shirt or holding a sign that read, ‘ANYTHING FOR JESUS!’

On second thought, that would be…


An open-air cable car on wheels, filled with tourists, drives by. The sign on the side reads, “Waikiki shuttle, Free ride.” My fertile imagination starts to run wild. If I were The Salvation Army’s spiritual guru in Hawaii again, I would buy one of those cable cars, offer free rides wherever, hand out creatively designed tracts saying, “This ride is free, but it will soon end. We can also offer you the ride of your life, one that will last forever. Heaven is a free gift,” or something to that effect, you get the drift. We would have clown balloon sculptors, Christian magicians, cartoon caricaturists, message therapists and musicians on board performing at varying times – and with evangelistic fervor, I might add.

Then again, maybe not…

Embarrassing! (Besides, what would our donors think?)

Other than that strange, elderly man, we have seen no other spiritual outreach expressions during our constitutionals. The need is there, no question about it. Sin and degradation abound. The people are there, coming by the planeloads – “the good, the bad and the ugly.” We’re not there, however, and understandably so. You see, the modern church growth movement has taught us a better way, a more popular way, an unembarrassed way. Mimic its model and the Church will never have to face persecution or ridicule again.


If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels (Mark 8:28 NIV).

Thursday, September 20, 2007


The internet has really complicated this pesky “temptation” thing, as if it wasn’t bad enough to begin with. I don’t know about you, but temptation’s lure entices me on a consistent basis, albeit taking different shapes and forms at my age. Some lures have lost their power, you get the drift, as does the tempter, believe me. A whole new arsenal is now at his disposal – the internet. It’s like “omnipresent temptation.”

For example, I ordered a text book through for a class I’m taking over the internet, as a prerequisite to becoming an online college instructor. The book was shipped two weeks in advance and, as of this writing (class starts today), no book. In anticipation, I sent an inquiry to the Amazon subcontractor and received a very terse response back, lecturing me on poor decision making when ordering items for shipment to Hawaii.

Hackles up! Snare set. Tempter pounces. I will spare you the details, except to say that Samuel Logan Brengle (Salvation Army Holiness Teacher) would have been disappointed with my Email response. It was brief; no swear words, but lacking in compassion. Guess what? Her return, return response was not only angry, but extremely threatening. Dear reader, this enraged soul accused me of calling her a moron, to which I plead, “Not Guilty!” As God is my witness! Unless, “…do business with a more reputable dealer,” can be construed the same.

Granted, my note wasn’t “sanctified,” in tone, but it was far from vitriolic. Instead of responding again, I swallowed hard and uttered a prayer of repentance, thereby resisting a powerful, compelling and less than sanctimonious urge to do otherwise. I must confess that the tempter is still messing with my thoughts, though. “Get thee behind me, Satan,” doesn’t work; it only increases the volume, like one of those “suped up,” “boom box” laden roadsters pulling up behind you on the highway.

Here’s what I have discovered. Even the most timid amongst us can become like roaring lions when communicating impersonally, like over the internet. In fact, the book I referred to earlier, The Online Teaching Guide: A Handbook of Attitudes, Strategies, and techniques for the Virtual Classroom (White & Weight), makes this very point. The word, coined by onliners, describing this phenomenon is, flaming. To put it in perspective, that heretofore mentioned book dealer was flaming. And I suspect speaking eyeball-to-eyeball with her would have produced dramatically different responses, on both our parts.

As a young officer (pastor), prehistorically (BI: “Before Internet”), I would periodically receive a haughty, dictatorial sounding missal through the mail from the “powers that be,” causing my blood pressure to sky-rocket. This set off an immediate, visceral response, resulting in a flaming chain reaction. What began explosively, ended up implosively. Guess at what end? Fellow travelers, I have self-destructed more times than I care to remember.

I learned early on how to count to ten before responding. Actually, it was to 86,400, figuratively (number of seconds in 24 hours). I would write the letter as prompted by the tempter (for cathartic purposes), then lay it aside for a cooling off period. That’s when the Sanctifier took over and continued His progressive work –In me, anyway.

But remember this-the wrong desires that come into your life aren't anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says. He will show you how to escape temptation's power so that you can bear up patiently against it (1 Corinthians 10:13 TLB).

“…bear up patiently” is the operative phrase in this Scripture for me. It’s been 48 hours since receiving that acerbic response from the book dealer and I still feel like punching her lights out, although I must say the feeling is fading. After all, admittedly, I’m not entirely guiltless in this process. Is there any such thing as being “less guilty?”

I still faintly hear the echo of the Boom Box behind me when thinking back to some of those “powers that be” letters received (20-40 years ago). Especially when something occurs to trigger those memories, as it does occasionally through an Email posting or, vicariously, through my kids involvement in ministry. I also keep a “temptation file” that is pulled out once-in-a-while to view copies of those once-upon-a-time trophies within it. I’m reminded how silly it all was… and is (some things never change).

The file is thick, but can you imagine its thickness had the internet been around? You ought to read some of the responses I get to this blog. By some counts, there are 200 million blogs in existence. Think about the amount of omnipresent flaming taking place at this very moment? Mind-boggling! But it’s not nearly as mind-boggling as the “delete (escape) key” promised in First Corinthians 10.

Whoops! Got to go now, more Emails coming in…

Delete… delete… delete!

Friday, September 14, 2007


We’re in Hawaii for two reasons. Twins! They arrived this week, Parker Tai Kuanalu first, with Hayden Sheridan Kaipo’i following close behind. The first-born’s Hawaiian name means “cresting wave” and the other, “breaking wave.” Pretty creative, huh? My son is a surfer, obviously. The twins have three older sisters, two of them (7 and 9) already “Hanging 10.” By comparison, when I surf everything hangs!

They were born at Queens Hospital (as in Hawaiian royalty). Coincidentally, while looking through the “Book of Hawaiian Names,” I discovered that the translated name for Noland is “Kaulana,” meaning “famous, celebrated, renowned.” Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the hospital personnel.

I will spare you the gory detail, except to say that the parking was horrendous, five dollars every time you entered and exited, including the father. And that price required a special stamp. The “keeper of the stamp” was obviously a descendent of some Gestapo Chieftain or Chief Secretary, take your pick. You know the type. Dear ones, the Chief Secretary is second-in-command, “keeper of the regulations,” in my denomination – title may vary, but is common to all.

Here’s the long of it, abbreviated. Time for discharge and it’s my responsibility to bring the car around. Wallet empty, I go to the hospital ATM machine. Out of order! Back to “keeper of the stamp,” hat in hand, begging for compassion. “Sorry,” she said, “The rules.” “But I’m Commissioner (VIP) Kaulana (Renowned), pleaded I (not revealing my retired status, mind you). She gave me that wrinkled brow, question mark kind of look, obviously thinking to herself, What kind of nut-case is this?

Dear reader, please understand that “Commissioner” is “The Man!” in my denomination. Lest I get into trouble with some, let me change that to “The Person!” Our Founder once exclaimed, “Some of my best men are women!” I believe that, because I’m married to a Commissioner. And she is “The Man!”

Nonplussed, I go whimpering to the concierge desk hoping to find a person full of love and grace sitting behind it, wisely leaving off the “Commissioner” bit this time. Voila! This tiny, kind, flexible Mother Theresa, non-Chief Secretary Type took mercy on my soul saying, “Bless you my son. Discharging patients receive special dispensation and, thus, I give you absolution. The parking price has been paid for you.”

She then took my hand and gently led me to the Admissions Office, whereupon “the keeper of the stamp” reluctantly pressed, “Pardoned,” on my parking ticket. “Hallelujah, set free!” sang my liberated soul. Well, this is how I vaguely remember it anyway.

Embellished, you say? Perhaps it is a wee bit in word, but not in spirit. Listen up! My daughter-in-law required an expensive apparatus in order to care for the twins. She was directed to a government office, indicating it would be free for the asking. Calling for an appointment, she was told to bring the babies (1 week old) with her, the only instructions given.

She sat in the waiting room for one solid hour, juggling two crying babies, when finally summoned by the official in charge, asking her for proof of birth. “Here they are,” she said, proudly, holding the twins forth. “Not sufficient,” stated the “Keeper of the Stamp, officiously. “How do we know they’re yours?” My daughter-in-law sat there dumbfounded. The stamp was affixed, “Request Denied.” “Next!” cried the official, dispassionately.

“Keepers of the stamp” are proliferating in our society, look around you. The law has become institutionally deified and almost always takes precedence over compassion.

Ah, but that’s why Jesus came, isn’t it?

A new commandment I give to you … that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).

That one phrase, “love one another,” is repeated three times in this ultimate principle to live by. I call it the Commandment of Compassion...The religious leaders of that day deified the law, whilst Jesus came with a new overriding commandment. This new “law of love” was given precedence over all the other existing laws, rules and regulations.

Thank God we live in a new dispensation and His Church, through Jesus Christ, has been absolved from this kind of deification. Hmmm. Does that include my church too, I wonder? And yes, I would send this article to one of our denominational papers (The War Cry, New Frontier, Officer or Good News) for publication, but I don’t think it would get the obligatory “Stamp of Approval.”

By the way, in Hawaii, the “Aloha Spirit” captures the essence of this “new commandment.” I hope the twins become infected with it. In fact, I hope all Christians catch it, Chief Secretaries included (I can say it because I were one once). Now where did I put that darn stamp? Oh, there it is…


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Heaven Bound!

Well, so much for the routine. Hawaii beckons, so we pull up roots again and suffer our way across the Pacific to “a little bit of heaven on earth.” In fact, Magic Johnson, of Los Angeles Lakers basketball fame, was once quoted as saying, “If you don’t think you’re going to go to heaven when you die, you had better come to Hawaii and experience a little bit of what you will be missing” (or something to that effect).

I agree wholeheartedly. It’s the “getting there” part that really sucks, though. For us, a 120 mile trek across the desert, airport hotel, up early, little sleep, crammed onto an overfilled airporter bus, luggage tossed to and fro, long check-in lines, dodging carts, pushing, shoving, x-ray machines, computers out, shoes off, metal detector sounds, keys disposed, makeup confiscated (hers, not mine), computers in, shoes on, shoes back off, wands waved, shoes on again, curses exchanged. “Phew!” and this is only the beginning of our journey.

The seats are all taken in the waiting area, ah, well, not quite. People hoarding seats filled with luggage and packages, not bodies. Finally spot two vacant seats, rushing over to find out that their “saved.” Sure! Of Course! Muttering indecipherably, you stand impatiently waiting for the flight to be called. Eventually, a voice comes over the PA system with gargled instructions you can’t understand. “Wait a minute!” Is this our flight or another one nearby? Who’s boarding now? What’d she say? Man, this is nerve racking!” Meanwhile, the mob inches forward, elbows ready, each mobster determined to be first on board. Tension fills the air. “On your mark! Get set!”

Family with children first, taking forever, followed by the aged and infirmed, even longer. One old gimpy guy boards with cane in hand, and I swear to God (and Doris, in that order) that he was strutting across the terminal earlier with nary a limp. Why didn’t I think of that? And I can’t stand it when the First-Class passengers begin boarding, that smug, haughty, holier-than-thou look of superiority as they go swaggering by. Want to reach out and smack ‘em across the head, or somewhere.

Father, forgive me!

“Go!” The mob breaks, elbows flailing, shoved through the First-Class cabin, past its passengers sitting there snugly and smugly with a glass of wine or orange juice in hand. “Hope they spill it on themselves,” “old nature” resurfacing again, momentarily.

Father, forgive me!

We’re pushed, frantically, into coach looking for an empty storage bin, eventually cramming our whatever’s, wherever. Then squeeze into the seats, scrunched into a space obviously designed by Lilliputian engineers. And to make matters worse, when the flight takes off, the passenger in front reclines to the max, his head in my lap. Desire the destination, dread the journey.

We always pray and have our devotions when taking off, for all the obvious reasons. Sitting on the plane, Bible in hand, I turn to today’s devotional, “The Gateway to the Kingdom.” The two bookend Beatitude verses are the Biblical references, I kid you not:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:3 NIV).

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (5:10).

The devotional thought concludes with (16:24-25). If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

I take note of the spiritual parabolic similarities. Jesus doesn’t pull any punches when delivering His “Sermon on the Mount.” He’s instructing us on the Heavenly journey and would never put it crudely like I did to begin with, but, paraphrased, He is saying, “The ‘getting there’ part requires sacrifice.” My apologies dear reader, but the word, “sucks,” really does communicate it so much better, don’t you think?

Father, forgive me!

Devotions completed, we settle in for the long, laborious flight. The food is bad, the movie boring, the ride bumpy and the lavatory lines maddening. After a hard landing, we deplane to balmy breezes, breath-taking panoramas, water clear as crystal, life-giving coconut, papaya and mango trees swaying, yielding its fruit every month, Heaven on earth… I feel born again.

Momentarily, I try not to think of the next journey when we will suffer off to a Church Growth Conference at the Hyatt Regency, “on the beach,” in “Someplace,” Florida or California, room with a view, I hope – king-size bed preferred, upgraded rental car and... Dread the flight!

Oh, and looking forward to the Bible Conference at “Beach/Lake Whatever” this year, see you there. Sure hope I don’t have to share a bathroom with anyone. Wouldn’t that be the pits? Dread the drive!

“Sign me up for the journey, Lord, no sacrifice too great...”

“Go where?!#*@!...”

Father, forgive me!