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Three Transformations For a US Marine

imagejpeg_0The stern-faced magistrate stared at eighteen-year old Josh Lee in his closed- quarters room. With all the charges the young man faced, the Texarkana, Texas judge could have put him in prison for several years.

The future looked bleak. Of course, the past hadn’t been pretty either.

His mother married the man who became his stepfather when Josh was two. The man was an alcoholic and used drugs.

“The only way my dad knew how to act was physical. It went from a spanking here and there, to every day when I was little.” Later the abuse came from blows from broomsticks and electrical cords. Josh still carries some of those scars today.

It left him with a lot of questions. “Why would someone adopt me and treat me this way? Why doesn’t my mother stop this?”

As he got older his anger erupted in drugs, violence and crime. “By the time I was 15, I was on the streets and started doing drugs really bad,” he says.

Although his grades had been excellent, he lost all motivation in that direction. At the beginning of the 10th grade he was arrested for the first time on drug charges. He was kicked out of school in Texas, but allowed to go back his senior year.

At home the situation worsened. He wasn’t there often and when he was the violence level of the fights with his father escalated. “My dad, he was a rough guy,” he says simply.

But the judge offered an alternative that day in court: he could enlist in the US Marines. The choice was easy. Best of all, his record was erased.

Transformation #1—The Marines

He left home with the insult of his father stinging him. “The last words I heard my dad say to me were, ‘I’ll see you in a few weeks because you always screw everything up.’”

Once in the Marines, he could have continued in the direction he was going, but strangely they revolutionized his life. He excelled. Continue reading

You Won’t Believe What This Star of the 1960’s Looks Like Now


Don’t you just love those hooks on internet articles: “What This Former Beauty Queen Looks Like Now Is Incredible,” or “You Won’t Believe How This Star Looks Now!”?

(Scroll to the bottom of the page to see what this star looks like today!)


If you click on the picture of the young star you’ll find it’s more of a commercial than a news story. And when you see the picture, you get a jolt when you realize they’re not 25 anymore. (And it reminds us that most of us aren’t either).

Let’s face it. If you’re better looking now than you were forty years ago, you were probably really homely forty years ago. (“Homely” = “ugly” for my British readers).

Are You Going Forward Or Backward?

And still … still. I hope I’m better looking inside than I was when I started out with the Lord. The inside beauty I’m talking about can’t be located by an x-ray or a cat scan. I’m talking about my character, my heart, the core of who I am.

It’s possible to get better looking as we go forward.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:16-18, NASB

How Can I Do This?

Now if I were to lift weights, run marathons, color my hair, get a facelift and put on (man) make-up, I might look a little better on the outside. But, if I stopped doing that one moment, everything would start to sag again.

Gravity is rough on aging bodies.

Let’s do the best we can but trying to look young again is like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon.

Can we make some permanent improvements on the inside, though? Yes!

Practically How?

–We can change our way of looking at things. Constantly remember that these battles

—when we fight them in faith—produce an eternal glory. We’ll have heavenly rewards. Yes, it’s true. We send over deposits in the bank of Heaven. Our inside man is getting better looking each day and all the while we’re storing up eternal benefits.

–We keep our eyes on what we can’t see with our physical eyes. Our time on this world world passes like the shadow of a cloud that hurries between us and the sun. Then it’s gone. When you’re twenty and full of dreams, that’s hard to realize. But, you need to start working on the inside while the outside is still good-looking. Continue reading

Is God Mean, Indulgent … Or What?


I’ve decided to declare a universal decree for the world. Are you ready for it?

Here it is: if you are 60 years old or more, you can repeat yourself and no one can say anything about it.

Today, I’m going to invoke my universal rule and repeat a statement that I read which comes from one of the darlings of the new atheists, Richard Dawkins. It’s already been in Coffee Stains once.

Dawkins in his book, God Delusion tries to mock God: “Such a bandwidth! God, who may not have a brain made of neurons, or a CPU made of silicon, but if he has the powers attributed to him he must have something far more elaborately and non-randomly constructed than the largest brain or the largest computer we know.”

You know, if you’re going to make fun of someone you’ve got to do better than that. God fills the universe but He’s there when the smallest baby screams, “hello,” to the world.

Mr. Dawkins, God is so much more than that.

What is God like anyway? We say, “all-powerful, everywhere present, all-knowing and eternal.” That’s a good start but it’s not enough. Imagine someone like that with the personality of Adolph Hitler. We’d be in big trouble.

So there’s something else about Him that’s vital to our well-being: He’s good, completely good.

I’m not sure we preachers clear things up for people either. Some read parts of the Bible and preach a scary God. It’s true we must fear (respect) the Lord, but He’s more than simply a far away God waiting to zap your slightest failing that some would have you believe in.

Others major on God’s mercy but the God they come up with is more like an over-year indulgent parent: “Now, you should stop that sweetheart or I’ll have to tell your dad and he might try to make you eat your green beans.”

Honestly, I’ve read so many opinions of God that I’m sometimes a bit confused. It’s impossible to reduce humans to one single characteristic and in a sense it’s the same with God. Continue reading

God Comes Running When You Cry


Wise mothers learn to speak “kid-ese, or is it kid-lish?”–the language of their little ones.

For instance, not all yells and tears convey the same meaning. Sometimes, the little one cries out and it means, “Mama, come here and beat the sap out of my brother. He’s picking on me and I’m not big enough to whip him myself.”

Then there are whimpers and sniffles, which mean, “I’ve got the blues and I want you to cuddle me.”

Other yelps mean, “I’ve had enough friend and this means war.” Mama becomes a referee in those cases.

When our son, Charles, was four or five he was prone to see bears in the dark. One day he and his little sister Christi tore around the corner of the house yelling, “Snake!”

Charles felt obliged to add, “And this time we really did see a snake.” I suppose that was an admission that some of those bears he saw weren’t as real as all that.

But, then there is the cry that cuts to every parent’s heart and sets them sprinting to help. You know something is wrong. What’s the difference? Fear inspires this cry and a parent feels it to the core of his being. Continue reading

How To Go From Sourpuss To Joy


sun-151763_640Once my friend Scott and I were standing in a long line in a brand-new building supply store in Luxembourg. A grand-opening sale and great publicity worked to perfection and people scurried everywhere like ants on an anthill that someone had just kicked.

We watched the young lady at the front of our interminable line robotically checking everyone out. I’m sure she was a bit overwhelmed with the crowd, but a machine would have displayed more personality.

So I said to my friend Scott, “Do you think we can make her laugh?”

He was pretty sure we could and when we got our turn we teased and laughed with her. Before we left she was a jolly old soul.

Cheerfullness Isn’t Far Away

Which makes me think that joy isn’t far away for most of us. All we have to do is dig away a little sand and cheerfullness bubbles up like a hudden stream in the desert.

Christians have a reputation of being a sour lot and let’s admit it—often it’s true. But why? If anyone has a reason to be glad it’s those who have an inheritance like ours.

We’re even commanded by our joyful God to be joyful. Now I know that when we say that joy is a commandment, that’s often just something else to feel guilty about.

“I’m supposed to be joyful but here I am sad. I’m just not what I ought to be.” Continue reading