Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Breath Of Satan

Here is a little timely and relevant, Southern California, local history lesson.

In 2014 we experienced something that occurs seasonally almost every year - strong wind storms that blow in from the desert east of Riverside and Orange counties.  But that year they were especially fierce.  Hundreds of huge, mature trees blew down all over our town.  Many roofs were destroyed.  It looked like a tornado swept through the area.

Well, it is that time of year again and now these winds are fanning the flames that are burning us the hills in Orange County.

But these terrible winds, in Southern California, are not (and I repeat "ARE NOT") "Santa Ana Winds."

Prior to the 1980s, almost every Southern California resident knew that.  It is odd that so few even remember that now.  Most locals, then, were quick to correct visitors who improperly identified them.  I even remember when weather reporters on local television stations made a point to correctly designate them by their proper name.

Now I understand how easy it is to be confused and misname the winds because of our locale; there is a city, here named Santa Ana and a river by the same name, which, by the way, some would say parallels the approximate path of the winds.

Santa Ana is the Spanish name for Saint Anna who was the alleged mother of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The name is a derivative of the Hebrew name, Hanna.  Incidentally, there is a neighboring city, Anaheim, which is a German name meaning Ana’s home.  The Ana of Anaheim is purported to be the same Ste. Anna. 

But these winds were not named for her.
Neither are the winds named after the historic Mexican General who led the attack on the Alamo.  He might have been a blowhard but if the winds were named after him, they would have been spelled "Santa ANNA Winds."

The proper, historic name is "SANTANA WINDS."  If you lived in So. Cal. In the 1970s, you may remember Dr. George Fischbeck who was one of the first and most popular T.V. weathermen. He used the name, "Santana Winds," which was based on the "vientos de Satanas," or devil's breath.

These devilishly hot and dry winds blow off the desert which was thought to be the home of the devil in early Southern California folklore.

So there you have it.  For the sake of the preservation of our local folk history, let’s try to be accurate.  The proper name is "SANTANA WINDS."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

***Only God Is Awesome

Not long ago a friend and I were discussing how words degenerate.  Words mean things but when words begin to mean everything or anything, then they really don’t mean anything.

There is a word that I have been trying to erase from my casual vocabulary. That word is “awesome” and it is one of the most misused words in our culture.  These days, anything vaguely exciting is described as awesome.  We use it as a synonym for “cool” or “impressive.”

But the biblical definition of the word means worthy of awe.  It implies an element of such great fear that it causes someone to fall flat on his face and worship. 

Movies are not awesome.  Cars are not awesome. My grandchildren are not awesome.  In and Out triple cheeseburgers with grilled onions?  Well maybe? Nope – Not awesome.  Not even my rhino collection is awesome.

The Bible tells us that awe is something reserved for God, and God alone:  Job 25:2 says, “Dominion and awe belong to God.”

In the English Standard version of the Scriptures, nearly every use of the word "awesome" is in reference to either God Himself, an aspect of His character, or something He has done.  God, in His Word clearly describes Himself as awesome because He is unique.  He is the ONLY One who is awesome. Scripture declares in many places, “There is none like Him.”

"There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides You; there is no rock like our God"
(1 Samuel 2:2).
"There is none like You, O LORD, and there is no God besides You, 
 (1 Chronicles 17:20).
"There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and Your name is great in might"
(Jeremiah 10:6).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Horror Stories From Missionaries

My wife and I have some missionary friends in a remote part of South America. Years ago, when their five children were very young and unfamiliar with life in “civilized” Southern California, they were home on furlough. They told us about an incident that occurred during their first week here in town.

The day they arrived, they stopped at a supermarket for some groceries. They parked their rented car in the lot and the kids, as most kids are inclined to do, started piling out. One of the kid’s door bumped the car in the next stall. The owners were in the car and immediately flew into a tirade.

There was no visible damage - just a bump.  Our friends graciously tried to apologize, explaining that their children were unfamiliar with parking lot etiquette, but the other couple would not accept their apologies. They just continued their vulgar criticism of the wild, undisciplined kids, and the couple's irresponsibility in procreating too many of them.  Our friends were humiliated and embarrassed at the rude behavior their children had just witnessed.

The following Sunday in church, the pastor announced the presence of the visiting missionaries and introduced the family to the congregation. They stood with their children and turned around to face the people. Right there in the pew behind them was the couple they had encountered in the parking lot. They smiled politely at them; the couple sank back with embarrassment.

Sometimes we think we can get away with our rudeness. We act as though we will never see that person again, but sometimes we do. We would do better to choose compassion and understanding rather than crankiness. Your heart cannot hold contempt and kindness at the same time so choose the one that can serve you best.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

Monday, September 22, 2014

?Grapefruit Or Sour Grapes?

What impressions do we make on others?  What opinions do they form when they observe what we do or hear what we say?  Are we crude and nasty or do we speak to others with decency and respect?  Do we yell at waitresses when our order isn’t quite right or are we kind and gentle?  Do we masticate the sales clerk when the customer in front of us takes too long or do we demonstrate patience and understanding? Do we blow up at service people when we have a problem or do we practice self-control?  You only get one opportunity to make a first impression and the one you make is the one that will most likely stick. 

When I was first hired to manage a non-profit Christian ministry about twenty years ago, I formed my opinion of an employee I met the first time she walked into my office.  Her language was filthy.  Later, when I learned that she “professed” to be a Christian, I was shocked; and then I was disappointed. You see her speech was not consistent with her profession.

I know there are lots of you who would jump to her defense and caution me, that I should not be “judgmental” but this is simply a matter of understanding the nature of things.  I once had a grapefruit tree in my yard. Every year it prominently displayed its fruit. Everyone who saw the tree knew what it was and every time I picked fruit from it, I got grapefruit; not cherries, not avocados, just grapefruit.  I was never surprised or disappointed by its fruit. Why?  Because (pay attention now) grapefruit trees always produce grapefruits.  That is the nature of the tree.

When God saves us, He gives us a new nature. Therefore, it is not judgmental but it is reasonable to expect that certain characteristics will be evident in our lives. The apostle, Paul, referred to those collective characteristics as the “fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control.” Gal. 5:22-23.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Constitution Day Letter To The President

September 17, 2014

Dear Mr. President

I read a disturbing headline this morning; It said that one of our constitutional rights may soon be taken away.  Actually there have been several similar postulations and threats over the past few months and, frankly, they are believable because it is no secret that you and your administration are vigorously at work to trash our constitution and strip us of most of our rights.  In fact, you and I both know very well that you have blatantly ignored the rule of law and thumbed your nose at several of the amendments in our Bill of Rights.

So I just thought I would take this opportunity, on the birthday of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, to inform you of some facts.  Our rights do not derive from you or our government.  They derive from God and, regardless what you might think, you sir, are not Him.  They are inalienable; that means they cannot be taken away.  I’m sure you know that because you claim to have been a Constitutional professor (although there is substantial doubt about that). 

You swore an oath to protect and uphold that document when you were inaugurated.  Did you forget about that or was that just another of your many deliberate lies?

But I digress so let me get back on point.  You, sir, with a stroke of your pen or a phone call, may just declare our rights null and void or you may even mandate new laws by executive order. But I say to you, an illegal law is not a law and there are plenty of us out here in the Real America, who will not obey your illegal laws.  And many of us are inspired, instructed, and dutifully motivated by the preamble to our Declaration of Independence which I have paraphrased here for your convenience:
There are some things that are just absolutely and fundamentally true. In fact, they are so universally evident and understood that they don’t even need to be argued or defended. One of those absolute truths is that we are all created by God. And because He is the creator and the giver of life, no one, and no government has the right to arbitrarily take the life of another. Nor does anyone have the right to own, control or hold another person hostage. And, no one has the right to deny any other person the opportunity to pursue his dreams or ambitions. The right to life, the right to be free and the right to pursue happiness are all rights that are granted to men by God-not by government.

In order to secure and protect their God-given rights, it is the responsibility of men to organize governments for themselves whose ONLY powers are those that are granted to them by the willing consent of the people. And, with those powers, they must act righteously for the good of those they govern. 

Whenever any government becomes so destructive or oppressive that it threatens or diminishes these basic rights of its people, it is the responsibility of the people to change or abolish that government and create a new one that will most effectively secure their safety, freedom, well-being and happiness.

Governments that have been well-established and that have served well over long periods of time must be wise and very careful to remember their fundamental purpose and not substantively deviate from it for frivolous or fleeting causes. History has shown that most men will endure a lot of abuse and persecution and even evil at the hands of their governments as long as they think the abuses are tolerable because, over time, they become accustomed to it. Resistance is hard work and, frankly, it is much easier to just endure government encroachment as much as possible.

But when any government becomes so abusive and oppressive; when it systematically erodes the freedoms of the very people who established it and empowered it in the first place, to the point that it becomes tyrannical or dictatorial, it is the right, - no, it is the duty of men to overthrow that government and to organize a new system to guard their future security.

Mr. President, your administration already has and no doubt will continue to make our lives increasingly more miserable.  We have no reasonable assurance that you will not continue to dispatch federal thugs and goons to harass us and intimidate us.  And you might seize our property, incarcerate us, or even kill us.  That’s what tyrants do and you have shown us no good reason to expect less from you.  Nevertheless, understand this; there is a great, patriotic resistance out here across our country who value liberty more than safety and comfort and, if necessary, many of us are willing to bleed or even make ultimate sacrifices for our freedom.
So in closing, Mr. President, I hope you have a nice day and I look forward to the day when you no longer occupy the People’s House.  God bless America.

Respectfully Yours,


Ralph M. Petersen

(mailed on 9-17-2014)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Christian Schools

“When schools prosper, the Church remains righteous and her doctrine pure…. Young pupils and students are the seed and source of the Church. If we were dead, whence would come our successors, if not from the schools? For the sake of the Church, we must have and maintain Christian schools.” Martin Luther