Monday, March 30, 2009

Neil Cavuto just seems like a nice guy. And he says what I wanted to say with so much more depth and so much less ranting.

I wanted to address the dangerous manipulation of class envy that is empowering our government to near the point of tyranny.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Please permit this beaming parent to brag on his kids for just a moment.

We, as a family are striving toward - and hoping to maintain - a simple lifestyle.

I have referred before to what Dave Ramsey calls keeping life in "big chunks" so it is more easily managed.

Because of this, our kids are busy but they are not involved in a bunch of things at one time (over the past couple of months it seems that this activity/involvement level has been ratcheted up a couple of notches too high but we are working on reducing it back down again).

AA missed little league this year and I feel sufficiently guilty, however I did not think it wise to carve out two to three more nights during the week that we would be obligated to be some place.

Now I say all that in order to tell you about something in which they both are involved.

This Friday, we drove to Kennesaw, Georgia for the ACSI (the accreditation association for our school) Spelling Bee. It was AA's first time to be in the Spelling Bee and he worked pretty hard at representing (along with 3 others) his first grade class.

Ab, on the other hand, is something of a veteran, having participated in Spelling Bees in the 2nd and 3rd grade and having won both the local Independent Schools spelling bee and the ACSI Bee last year.

We didn't get to watch this competition. The parents just sit in another room ... waiting until it's over. . . then watching for some sign on the face of your child as they re-enter the room.

AA was back in the room with us first. He had survived 8 rounds but had gotten busted on a word he knew... pint. Apparently he strayed from the "say it- spell it - say it" format and as the judges waited for him to say it after spelling it - AA assumed they were waiting for more letters. So he added the obligatory "e".

He was fairly devastated. I think because his sister has been so successful in this arena - he set his sights too high. I also hear in him a desire to just be recognized... maybe he senses that he is in the shadow of his big sister.

Ab, again, won for her age group. We were very proud. If you read this blog much, you know something of this girl's diligence. She literally amazes me.

She and her Mom have worked on these words on a regular basis since around Christmas. She excels because she is intelligent, but also because she works hard and I am very proud of her.

So how do you properly celebrate the success of one child, while at the same time, being sufficiently conciliatory toward the other child that did not win?

On our way home we stopped to eat lunch at a restaurant and something happened that was so perfect in it's timing that it had to have originated in the heart of a kind God. . . and it had to be played out in the obedience of a very considerate person.

As we sat at lunch, a woman stopped by our table and told us she had seen us at the Spelling Bee where she had been one of the judges. She singled out AA and said the he was in the group she adjudicated and she pointed out what a nice job he had done. But then she went on to tell him, and us how that he had just brought joy to the judges.

That's what my boy does. He brings joy and a smile. He loves to make people laugh and many times without even trying - he just evokes joy.

I couldn't tell for sure if her words had any immediate effect on that boy; but since I believe they originated with God and His words do not return void - I must believe that they did some good.

The woman then spent a moment or two congratulating Ab as well.

Let me tell you - I am so proud to be my children's Dad!
I hope you feel the same way about your kids!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Like, WOW!

I ran across a line a couple of weeks ago while reading Crazy Love, by Francis Chan.

He said something about all parents wanting their children to like them. That just sort of struck me as something that I hadn't really thought about. I guess I thought most kids wanted their parents to like them - not the other way around. But as I thought on it, I realized that that statement is VERY true for me.

I really, really want my children to like me.

We inherit that desire from our heavenly Father. I think that pretty much any good thing around here on earth is a facsimile of the real thing in heaven.

And God wants His kids to like Him!

...not in some neurotic, co-dependent way ... He just wants us to like Him.

I think that is amazing. . . remarkable . . .

and I'm glad, cause I really do like Him!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In the Catbird Seat

The following post had to be embargoed until it could be determined that the outcome would be pleasant. Frankly, it was just too tense around our house to even begin to write about it ... too tense - and I was the target of all that tension!

I am getting it out now because my wife over at God's Design Not Mine will probably write her version and I want to influence history by putting my side out first!

Here is my story...

The weather was beautiful at our house last weekend. Temperatures rose to a very congenial level, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and tender plants were beginning to emerge from the ground and the limbs of trees. I was off, my wife was off, our children were riding high on a week of off days as spring break came to a close.
It was a wonderful spring weekend.
Yet some time Friday night, a pall engulfed our once happy home as tragedy stalked the house.
What horrific event had ensued, that would be vast and dark enough so as to distract our attention from the beauties God had flourished upon us?
Our cat got stuck in a tree.

Now there are, in this world, "cat-people" and "dog-people".
Personally I am just plain people but I tend to lean ever so slightly toward the canine persuasion. My wife, on the other hand - is a "cat-person" and she has managed to align the affections of both our children toward cats - and against dogs. This leaves Tanner - our old chocolate Lab, and me on the "outs" at times with the rest of the family.

When R. approached me about getting the kids a kitten this past Christmas, it soon became a point of contention.

I was against it.

Now I was against it, mainly because I feel that it is my obligation as a Dad to be against things.
It just seems natural for my first response to be "no". It was how my Dad did things and I am sure it was the way his father before him, did things.

Now, I have mentioned the idea of husbands and wives coming into agreement over things. This is the practice of agreeing to wait until both sides can agree on an issue - and honoring your spouse enough to sacrifice the issue if you can't reach a place of agreement.

Well, we didn't exactly come into agreement on the kitten. I gave in. After all, I don't mind a cat and there are probably some very helpful services they can provide. So I gave in.

Anyway, we got "Angel" and the kids love her and Mom loves her and even Tanner - tolerated her.

But before long -because it was widely known that I had not been completely in favor of getting a kitten- everyone began to view me as "the enemy of the cat". And no one misses an opportunity to go on and on about the superiority of cats to dogs... and possibly even to dads!

"Look how sweet! She's cuddling with the kids!"

"Oh isn't that precious! Look how she's cleaning her paws - cats are so clean - not like dogs who leave their markings in the play area!"

"It's okay if she eats out of your plate - cats are clean!"

On the other hand, it is constantly pointed out that dogs smell bad, they shed, they tend to stick their noses in embarrassing places at inopportune times, they are not considerate as to the timing or location in which they relieve themselves and the list goes on.

So late last Saturday morning, when I discovered that the latest addition to our happily family had somehow gotten herself stuck some 60+ feet up a Georgia Pine Tree, it was with delicious pleasure that I began to sarcastically point out all of those "supposed" advantages that the feline holds over man's best friend.

After all, my dog never did get stuck up a tree; and if he had - I think he would know how to get down.

As the weekend progressed, the mood turned ugly. My solution was simple, when she got hungry, she would come down.

A fairly constant vigil was maintained. I am pretty sure that I saw either a hawk or a buzzard circling overhead.

She stayed up the tree all night Saturday night. I had promised Ab I would do something if she didn't come down by Sunday. So on Sunday, after waking up to muse about at around 4:00AM, I arose determined to cut down the tree.

However, R. believed that cutting down the tree was not a good idea. After enduring about all the disapproval I could, I went to the nearest fire station and asked if they still got cat's out of trees. For those of you keeping score at home... they do not.

Oh and I prayed, I prayed alone, I prayed with each child, we prayed as a family. I really wanted the cat down.

She spent Sunday night up the tree as well.

By Monday, my Father-in-law had made a connection with someone with a bucket truck and Monday morning... Angel was rescued. The guy didn't even charge us!
I would love to attach some deep spiritual meaning to all this, but honestly I can find none. God did answer our prayer, though not at all as I expected. I really thought He would come through - the cat would climb down and everyone would say, "Dad - you were RIGHT all along... right not to get all panicky... right to pray ... right in your preference of dogs over cats..."

Instead God came through (Oh I pray about these kinds of things and make no mistake - it was Him) but in a way that didn't make me look good at all.

He does that sometimes.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Busy Hands

I just want to record this:

Right now, as I sit here typing, my kids are busily cleaning up the kitchen.
And its a happy sound.

I do not hear the beeps, buzzes and incessantly pulsating music of their handheld electronic games. Instead I hear water running and feet scampering back and forth, and happy conversations. . . also the occasional clinking of a dish or two.

How did we -as parents - finally figure out how to harness that childish energy and channel into a force for good, you may ask?

And when will our picture be appearing on the cover of "Parenting" magazines across the nation?

Actually I don't know the answer.

And I don't why my kids were suddenly "smart" (that's what my Mom used to call it when I would suddenly become a thrifty worker).

But, I like it.

Maybe it's because they are on Spring Break this week.

One night Ab decided she wanted to help in the kitchen and she got on a roll (not literally, I think we had toast that night) and did a thorough job of cleaning.

Maybe it was because they had a good bit of free time this week - time that wasn't packed tightly with activity - flitting about from destination to destination.

Maybe it was just the general attitude of Spring's new start that caused them to take on the challenge of doing some cleaning themselves.

Maybe they made the connection between my lectures about the intrinsic value of hard work and reality. Perhaps the light finally came on as they realized that there really is a strong sense of self-worth that accompanies a job well done.

Or maybe it is because that Ab got to avoid taking a bath the other night because she spent so much time cleaning up the kitchen...

Or perhaps it is because we are planning to go to Walmart this morning so that Ab can spend some of her savings on a major purchase and we couldn't leave until the kitchen was clean...

Woe! There is a major lesson there about how people acting in their own self-interest will often-times accomplish much good for themselves and for those around them - even if it is not done for all the right reasons.

That is something akin to what economist, Adam Smith referred to as "the invisible hand".

And if God is glorified when we are happily working to bless others - then maybe Brother Lawrence had something there when he talked about experiencing God's tranquility while in the "noise and clatter" of his busy kitchen.

We've got to teach them this stuff at home... it is not prevalent in our society.

Lord, teach us to teach them!

"Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith
"Practice the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hilarious Casablanca Clip

Congress this week demonstrated hypocrisy rising to the level of Captain Renault, as they erected a facade of fake drama and outrage surrounding the AIG Bonuses.

Their ridiculous antics bent on fomenting the fervor of class envy would be laughable were they not so dangerous.

When did it become okay for elected officials from congress to the president, to go after and bemean ordinary citizens?

All the time turning the focus off of their own incompetence and graft.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


As referenced in a previous post, I am reading Francis Chan's, Crazy Love. R. and I are also going through the book in a Sunday School class we're attending.

I am not sure what I was expecting but with a title like Crazy Love - I guess I was maybe thinking we would get M &M's and Sweet-Tarts and instead we get turnip greens and large Lima's. . . okay, I may have lost you with that analogy. . .

The book is heavier than I thought it would be (how's that?).

The book is challenging me and making me ask myself some uncomfortable questions; it's making me re-examine the way that I approach my time with God; it has caused me to begin to take a hard look at my priorities.

Today, in a chapter that challenges the reader to become "obsessed" with Christ, he hit me hard with a note about being safe.

The point of the section was that people that are "obsessed" with following Christ aren't consumed by their own comfort or well-being. He started by reciting a very familiar prayer...

not "Now I lay me down to sleep..." or even "The Lord's Prayer" ... it was the prayer we pray before we take a trip. The prayer for "traveling mercies".

Now most times when all four members of our family are in one vehicle and going in one direction (and those times are too rare lately), we will have a prayer before we start. In recent years, R. and I have delegated that duty to the kids. So someone leads us.

It was Ab that first inserted the line and then later AA started including it at the beginning of the prayer he leads. It goes like this:

"Lord Jesus we thank you for this day.

We pray that no one will get hurt...."

Did you hear that cry for safety... that was something like the prayer that the Fran-Chan-man talked about in the book. How it seems that our greatest desire is for safety.

I think God has already been dealing with me about this in recent years. I have felt His nudging as I prayed earnestly for Him to surround and protect my children. I wonder, is safety God's highest goal for them?

What if we prayed instead - that He might be glorified - even if there was some pain in that process?

Frankly, I know that is what we should do, but it scares me.

Today I thought about the Puritans gathered in the harbor Europe in the 1600's. They were preparing to leave their homeland and sail to an unknown land - the New World. I don't know for sure, but I doubt that safety was their highest priority. In fact there was an underlying sadness as they said good-bye to loved ones because they knew that many would never meet again on earth.

Their trip to establish Plymouth colony and to found many of the "first principles" that came to define America was a grand adventure and if you want to partake in adventure - you can't concentrate solely on safety. Otherwise you'd best just stay at home.

You know, people that are more concerned about being safe... undisturbed. . . than they are about participating in the adventure Jesus would create for them, will give up all kinds of things in the name of safety. Do you ever look around at all the freedoms we have given up in the name of safety?

I have a very fond memory of riding part of the way home from one Florida vacation, on the top of the back seat, warming in the sun filtering through that back window....

I remember other times when I could catch a neat catnap snuggling in the floor of the car's back seat while my older sister stretched out on the seat... these practices are unheard of today.

It is with some regret that I make AA pull his bicycle back into the garage so he can put on that hot helmet, when I know there is a special wonder that comes from coasting down a hill on a bicycle with the wind blowing through your hair.

Once my cousins and I found an old skateboard under my grandparent's house. It was probably left behind from some of my older cousins. It had those skinny metal wheels with ball-bearings in them, and the wheels were pretty much rusted out.

My cousin and I said good-bye after that visit and we each took home with us some pretty impressive scars and road-rash, because we had ridden the wheels off that skateboard.

It hurt, but we had a great time and we drained that old combination of wood and rust of all the speed and adventure she could provide.

When the apostle Paul was heading back to Jerusalem for his last visit, people who were in positions to know kept warning him not to go. There was trouble ahead, it was common knowledge that he would likely be imprisoned. Yet he continued on.

Do you think Paul's biggest concern was safety?

No, he was allowing God to squeeze all the usefulness out of him that he could muster. He was not playing it safe, he was all about delivering the gospel. He would deliver it in the way he lived or in the way he died - it seemed to make no difference to him - just so long as God was glorified.

That trip to Jerusalem did end bad. Paul wound up in jail and eventually was transferred to Rome where he would die for the cause of Christ. Yet he wrote to Timothy just before he died:

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7 NKJV

I don't hear any regrets in that statement.

I will confess to you: I'm not where I think I should be on this issue. I hope God is taking me there.

I'm not saying we shouldn't pray for our children's safety or perhaps even our own.

But I am wondering if there shouldn't also be an even greater desire for God's will to be done -

for His adventure to unfold in our own lives and the lives of our children.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Brother: On a Mission from God

Yesterday I was able to return to my parent's home for a Saturday visit.

Since Dad's heart surgery last year our perspective has changed toward my parents. They suddenly have become vulnerable. . . needy, at times. Dad has improved greatly since coming home in November but he is nowhere near where he was two years ago.

Our weekends have been overly busy for the past month so I haven't been able to get by on Saturdays as much.

This past Saturday, my sister, her husband, my brother and Ab, AA and me all happened to be there at the same time and I heard a little story that I want to pass along to you.

This past week, my brother found himself with a little time to kill and he was near Mom and Dad's house one afternoon so he decided to drop in.

For a time, it was pretty necessary that someone drop in on them pretty often, but Dad's condition has improved to the point that they are much more independent. So it was unusual for my brother to drop in.

What he didn't know, was that as he was arriving at the idea of stopping by - Mom and Dad were praying.

Mom and Dad had locked themselves out of the house. They had no cell phone with them, Mom did not feel comfortable at all with leaving Dad sitting on the steps while she went to a neighbor's house to get help.

So in a sort of desperation they plopped down there in the carport and someone said -let's pray.

Pray they did.

Within moments, my brother drove up.

I am not clear on how they actually got into the house - I think they found a spare key - but the points are these:

  • Of Plopping - God came through when His people called on Him. Now they may have come up with some other solution - they might have survived sleeping in their vehicles - but at the point that they plopped down and said "We need help , let's pray" - it was as if God was standing ready to send in resources.

  • Of Popping - Secondly, my brother did not have a revelation (though I think he was claiming that he might have had a revelation later, in order to appear more holy) - it was just an idea that popped in his head. Pursuing the idea allowed him to be on God's Mission.

What are you struggling with?

What problem are you trying to wrestle down to the ground before seeking help from God?

Maybe it is time to stop, and plop down somewhere and just pray. If you are married, invite your spouse to join you and pray together.


How many little ideas pop into your head throughout the day?

How many notions get pushed aside because you are too busy or think you might not be able to afford to stop and pursue the idea?

How many opportunities do we pass up daily - to be on a Mission from God?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Motivation, Silent and Steadfast

The lighthouse stands as a beacon of hope and a warning of danger. In its constant glow is found motivation - to move toward the harbor or to escape the rocky crags of the shore.

Today, I have been thinking about that silent motivation.

I have been running - okay I always have to add this qualifier: you wouldn't really call what I do running, but it is cardiovascular and aerobic in nature - since last Fall.

I hate running.

My daughter was my first motivation. Having recently joined the "Running Club" at school and in preparation for the upcoming "Pumpkin Run", she had taken to running some on her own at home.

I decided to join her . . . as is typical, I learned from Ab.

She told me about how you should run at a rate that allows you to carry on a conversation, and she told me how her teacher prays when she runs.

We had a good time. AA even joined in at times.

We do not live in a "neighborhood" instead we live in what we in the South refer to as "the country". There is a small patch of woods and half a stone path that separates our home from our closest neighbor - my wife's brother and his family.

Since the track that Ab and I had mapped out included his driveway, he noticed our running.
So around November he started running as well.

Now my brother-in-law and I are alike in some ways but on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to timing: he loves to run in the morning - and at least during daylight - I find that I prefer to run after dark and as a means of winding down from the day.

So we run at different times.

Now lately it has been cold, and my breathing has been hampered by the lingering remains of an earlier cold. That coupled with the fact that I can't seem to get anyone to join me anymore and I have grown tired of running the same course - has all left me discouraged with running (which I don't really like anyway).

But every day or so, I see my brother-in-law, making his run.

He stands as a silent motivator. . . a sight that quietly holds me accountable.

Last Sunday, our Sunday School teacher focused the study on the disciples of Jesus, known as the "inner circle". The four that seemed to be closer to Jesus than the others: Peter, Andrew, James and John. He pointed out how that among them, Andrew seemed to be the one content to let someone else get the glory. He didn't seem to care who got the credit.

Andrew stands as one of those silent and steadfast motivators who leads by example. Unlike his brother, Peter, who would sometimes display a sort of "holy hubris", Andrew would just steadily do the right thing without fanfare.

Among some, he is known as the disciple of small things ... indeed it was a small boy with a small lunch that Andrew brought to Jesus that day of the miraculous feeding of five thousand. He was always bringing people to Jesus. In fact when we first meet him, he is running to get his brother, Peter, to tell him he has found "the Christ".

Much has been made about the negative connotations of being a "silent witness" for Christ. In many Christian circles, this is observed to be a cop-out.
But there is something about a silent motivator - one that - like my brother-in-law - compels others to do the right thing simply by regularly doing the right things.

Do you remember the story of Daniel, how that even his enemies were keenly aware of the consistent nature of his prayer-life?

I think God is calling us to become consistent. Look around, is there anything in the world today that people can trust to stay the same? How brightly would one stand out if they chose to do the right things daily - not to be seen, but to honor God?

Oh that I can become a silent and steadfast motivation for others.

And by the way, I learned something else about Andrew. According to tradition, while he was not boisterous and did his service to God without fanfare - he was not silent.

When Andrew was hung on the "Saint Andrew's Cross", tradition says he did not cease preaching Jesus to all who passed by.

Consistent in bringing people to Christ to the end.

"...let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus . . . " Hebrews 12 1b & 2a KJV

Loving the Patient - Hating the Flu

My wife is a health care professional. This means that she has a great deal of knowledge about providing for one's health; this also means that when she is the one that is sick - she is not exactly the "queen of compliance".
Though I love her dearly, I must say that my wife is not the best of patients. She just has a way of sort of clamming up when she gets sick so you don't know how to help and there is more than a little bit of denial going on.

In fact I would venture to say that R. is a rotten patient.

Our whole family has been on the "verge of something" most all winter this year. I think we each had our own episode of cold or virus and then whatever it was seemed to linger on, never quite releasing its grip.

This week it returned with a vengeance and R. bore the brunt of its fury.

"It's positive. You have the flu" - R. said the nurse had told her shortly after her test.
Immediately the nurse slipped on a pair of latex gloves and set a plan in motion to get R. out of that examination room before she contaminated someone.

This set up something of a pattern of resentment for my ailing wife, toward any form of quarantine.
I have had to sneak out of the bedroom and wash my hands in private so as not to offend her. I also thought it best to close her door so she could not hear me fogging the room with Lysol after she passed through.

Last night she seemed somewhat put out when I suggested the kids stand outside the bedroom doorway in order for her to get a look at them. This followed my first attempt at appeasing her desire to see them of just bringing in a photograph.

When I discovered that she was pretty much utilizing the entire bed - including my side and my pillow, I decided to be chivalrous and opt to sleep in the living room so as "not to disturb her".

Incidentally, I still have something of a yen for what Opie called "adventure sleeping". For Opie on that particular episode of "The Andy Griffith Show" - Adventure sleeping meant sleeping on the ironing board between two chairs. For me, adventure sleeping meant an attempt at "operation air mattress". First, I tried two different blow driers to inflate it, finally I went into the attic and found the official pump. When all was settled and I attempted to lie down, I heard the s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s of air escaping. There was a leak.
Despite a makeshift patch of Scotch Tape (from Ab's stash, of course) and a second inflation, I was sleeping on the floor by 4:30 this morning.

Today it dawned on me that the idea of loving the patient and hating the flu is a lot like the concept of loving the sinner yet hating the sin.

Sometimes those that are suffering the ravages of sin are put off by our regarding it as undesirable. They feel that it is they themselves that we regard as undesirable.

Perhaps we act that way at times. We seem to have such difficulty with trying to show love while at the same time, not endorsing their choices.

So often times we keep our distance.

We are afraid to get too close; afraid that they may encroach upon our space, or require more than we want to give, or perhaps they will drag us down.

When the Puritans were on their way to America to establish what would later be known as Plymouth Colony, the members of the crew made life difficult for them.

But when the tables were turned and many of those same crewmen took sick, it was the very saints they had previously slandered and persecuted - that came in to help them.
Some marvelled that their former friends were nowhere to be found when the fever struck; yet these brave, loving souls, risked their own health in order to save these men.

Greater love has no man than this.... that a man lay down his life for his friends....

That is true love.

Get well soon, R.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Great America Series: Liberty

I am wondering these days - do the concepts that have long defined our nation have spiritual significance? Those "first principles" that our founding fathers prescribed, are there Biblical parallels?

The burning question that I really want to get to but am not yet prepared to answer is: Is Capitalism a spiritual tenant?

Perhaps we'll tackle that question another day.

For today let's look at the simple idea of liberty. Many would say that it defines our nation, certainly no other nation has enjoyed its fruits as long as ours. It is the thing that drew the teeming masses to this distant shore.

We find "liberty" in our founding documents:

" ... We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ... "

self-evident truths - my brother and I once were in business together in a retail store, the woman from whom we purchased the store would tell us "these are things you just know..." in other words there were things we should have naturally just known about the products we were selling. The truths the founders expound upon in the statement are things that all people "just know" though many throughout the world have numbed themselves to that knowledge, having no hope of ever drinking from the liberty cup.

unalienable rights - these are rights that we cannot be alienated from! They beat in the breast of every man.

endowed by their Creator - God. He is the One Who grants us these rights - rights that cannot be taken away.

among them are...Liberty... - every man and every woman in every nation under heaven has a right to be free! That's an amazing thought! Stop right here and read that last statement again, speaking every word to yourself slowly and deliberately. Why is it that only a few nations have indulged in this wonderful God-given right?

Liberty is a right that all sides (Right, Left and "moderate") seem to be able to agree upon - though we can't seem to agree upon what that right looks like.

Is liberty a spiritual concept?

I think so. In fact, I think that true liberty can only be found in Jesus Christ... "whom the Son sets free is free indeed!"

When Jesus embraced His own Mission Statement in Luke 4 He said that He was to proclaim liberty. Galatians 5 declares that we are "called to liberty"; Romans 8 proclaims the "glorious liberty of the children of God".

No better is the concept of biblical liberty illustrated to me than in the story of the demon-possessed man from Gadara.

I imagine his legend graced the lips of many a story-teller around a dark night and an Autumn camp fire ... adolescent boys probably achieved notoriety among their peers by racing through graveyards where this man was known to frequent.

The man was a literal wild man, he could not be tamed. Oh sure, from time to time some band of townspeople would get aggravated at this threat to their women and decide to do something about it. Perhaps at times they had even enjoyed a level of success: capturing him and chaining him up. But the success was only temporary, for no fetters were made that could hold him!

He wandered about in the mountains and among the tombs, cutting himself with sharp stones and wailing in eery tones.

He was a fixture that terrorized the town.

It has been said that given his way, Satan will always go too far. He will invariably drive his victims straight to the feet of Jesus. That is just what happened with this pitiful soul.

When Jesus arrived at the nearby shore, the demons that controlled this poor man drove him toward these visitors. But I suspect that by the time the demons realized that they were headed straight toward the Means of their destruction, they tried an immediate about-face. However, at that point, some sort of spiritual inertia had occurred: the momentum was just not in their favor; they couldn't get him turned around in time.

The man collapsed at the feet of Jesus.

Jesus brought him liberty that day and when the townspeople came around, they saw a much different figure from the ghost that had formerly haunted their village. He was sitting, all peaceful, clothed and had his right mind.

Here are displayed two forms of liberty:
Some would contend that prior to Jesus' visit, this man was truly free! No chains could hold him, he was not constrained by the social norms of proper attire and manners, he went where he wanted, when he wanted. Everyone yielded a wide berth to him.

After he encountered Jesus his liberty looks different; he was free yet he took on a submissive role to his Liberator. He was quiet, sober, and later when he truly wanted to accompany Jesus, he acquiesced when Jesus said no.

My imagination really kicks in when I get to the next part of the story. Jesus told him to go back to his old friends and to his own house! What kind of bitterness would the family of a man like that, build up over the years. No financial support for his wife... perhaps people often had eyed his children warily - wondering if they, too, would inherit their father's nature.
For the man who had been set free, the easier thing would have been to go somewhere else and make a clean start.

But Jesus wouldn't let him. True liberty often requires that we do the hard thing.

Jesus told him to proclaim to his family and friends what He had done.

And the King James translation paints in my mind, the picture of a noble entrepreneurial journalist (something we know very little about these days) that sets up his own newspaper - when it says he "published throughout the city" the great things Christ had done.

So one type of liberty is what we call "license" - a hedonistic sort of freedom; the other type of liberty requires something of the recipients.

Yes. I think there is a spiritual basis for the liberty that still graces this nation (though I fear it is diminishing fast);

The trouble is, too many people define that liberty incorrectly.

The story of the Demon-possessed Man of the Gadarenes can be found in the Bible: Mark 5 & Luke 8.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fool Me Again

To paraphrase a familiar adage:

"fool me once, shame on you;

...fool me twice - shame on ME...

... fool me over and over and over again and you may just be ready for a seat in congress"

I don't know about you but when I read the news these days... I just get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Two big headliners today ... Our president said he would sign the new budget despite an estimated 8000+ earmarks - or "pet" projects: spending attached to a bill specifically to garner votes from select constituents or gain favor in some other way. . . and despite a campaign pledge to do otherwise. That along with the "no lobbyist in my administration" pledge, makes two broken pledges in the first 100 days.

The second story, the stock market tanked again. Lowest Dow since 1997. And who is to blame? Well the conventional wisdom is that the blame belongs to AIG. I contend that AIG is not to blame.

AIG was the recipient of a fourth bail out. . . this time its for $30 billion. The first bail out came last September. Let's see, I think that's about the time congress and even the former president was telling us that something had to be done...

had to be done right then! ... it couldn't wait until the weekend... why the world would end!!!

Of course the fact that we survived that dreaded weekend without that Giant Leap into the quagmire of Socialism - meant nothing . . . they just picked up the mantra again on Monday... it has to be done now! (remember that?).

So now this former world's largest insurer posts a world record loss of $61.7 billion ... and the stock market tanks.

And conventional wisdom says it's AIG's fault.

Would someone PLEASE look just a little deeper?

Who is it that keeps throwing good money after bad... this time to the tune of $30 Billion?

And whose money are they throwing into this abyss?

And how did they get that money?

The answers to these burning questions are:

It's congress and this president that keeps doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results. . . they think they are shielded from ridicule because the country seems to believe this is George W. Bush's failed economy. . .

It's your money and mine that they keep throwing away- these so-called guardians of the public trust - it is the money of Americans that are still working.

And how did they get the money? Did they ask you for it? Did they seek permission to invest your money?

If you are like me, they took it from you... with the threat of imprisonment - took it before you ever even got to touch it.

Remember last year when congressional leaders started using this double-speak about Americans "investing" in these failing companies they were bailing out? I remember some ridiculous talk about how we might even receive returns on our "investments".

I'm no stock trader. But I do know that when a stock's price goes from $49.50 per share to fifty-one cents per share . . . that's probably not a very promising investment.

No thank you, Senator, I can do better with my money stuffing it in a mattress.

AIG is a perfect example of what happens when the government tries to "help".

Remember "Baby Huey" of cartoon fame... the fat duck that would come bounding on the scene where all the little ducks were playing and break all the playground equipment?

Government programs are huge, out of control, they leave destruction in their path .... look at the welfare state, look at public education. . . nothing corrupts like a give away program.

Since at least the 1930's it has been tried incrementally - but over and over... the New Deal...the Great Society.... Hope and Change ... different names but the same old ruse...
"We can do better with your money..."

"You can't trust people with their money... they are greedy, they will try and make more..."

"You can't trust people to help out their neighbors.... they may not help everybody... may be intolerant"

"you can't trust fathers to provide for their families ... "

"you can't trust families to make the right decisions about educating their children..."

"you can't trust the churches... you can't trust people..."

"trust us instead..."

Oh please, fool me again. . .

Sources: Fox "AIG Posts Record Loss, U.S. Pumps $30 B More"
Fox, "Obama Will Sign Spending Bill Despite Earmarks"

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Reading Trendy Books

Prior to jumping into this new endeavor of revealing the intimate details of my life to any of the four people who choose to read this blog, there were a couple of fairly regular practices in which I participated. They have suffered.

One was journaling.

The other is reading.

With journaling, I had decided prior to starting this blog, that I might have become too legalistic in that area. So I would not require myself to journal on a regular basis - but rather, only when I felt I had something worth saying.

I still journal on occasions and usually it is about things I don't care to share on the blog. I have been journaling since 1995. In several instances, I can go back now and actually trace elements of the Holy Spirit's work in my life - leading me to changes.

With reading, I thought that my loss of momentum that occurred last year was because I had to return the book "Boundaries" to the library before finishing it. It seemed that after that I just couldn't finish a book.

At the beginning of the third month of this year - my consistency is astounding! But I have recently begun one of those books that you see popping up everywhere so hopefully my pace will turn around.

R. got me Francis Chan's "Crazy Love" for Valentine's Day and I have jumped into it with both feet. I first heard of the book last Fall from Pete Wilson's Without Wax blog, since then, the book keeps coming up in conversations.

Hopefully I will stay with it until the end, but Francis isn't helping.

This is one of those books in which the author frequently tells you to stop reading and do something else. . . that's not a great practice for people with short attention spans - or for people with young children.

In the first chapter, the reader is directed to a couple of web-sites to view a couple of videos and this was very effective! In a later chapter, he directs the reader to stop and to "read the Gospels".... I am assuming he means read portions of the Gospels.

Those of you familiar with my practice of reading the Bible ve-e-e-e-e-r-r-r-r-y slowly, will know that it could 2011 before I get through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John!

Seriously, the book is really challenging and thought provoking and I am looking forward to continuing. But what is odd about me reading this book, is that a lot of people are reading it and it is new. Usually I do not get in on these things until the "wave" has well passed.

A book has to "click" with me or else I have to put it down until another time. There have been some books that I started over and over again, then one day I pick them up and the time is right - I just flow through it.

What this means is even if I start a book that everyone is reading ... it still may be a couple of years before I actually read it.

A few years back, everyone was reading Rick Warren's monumental "The Purpose Driven Life". I got in on that wave fairly early, even though I had been seeing banners at numerous churches announcing the book and subsequent sermon series long before I began the book.

R. and I read the "Left Behind" series (Jenkins and LaHaye) but we didn't until three or four books were out.

I have yet to finish Stephen Covey's, "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (though I have listened to it on tape) and it's been out about twenty years now.

Another reason that I do not get in the wave with everyone else is that I like to buy used books. For a number of years now, I have attended the local library used book sales. I love old books. And I often see something that I meant to get when it was popular... only now it costs a quarter. That makes me feel good too.

R. and I are planning to attend a Sunday School class in the near future that will be going through Chan's book. The book is really challenging me to take a different view of God and to gain a better understanding of His love ... and our lack of love.

If this book doesn't get me out of my reading doldrums I will be forced to go back to my earlier practice of reading "Bob the Builder" and "Veggie-tales" books.

Speaking Intimately in Public

As I mentioned in my last post, R. and I attended the "Focus on Marriage" satellite simulcast yesterday. This is the third "marriage enriching" event we have attended this year. With a decade with children now under our belts and our attention being pulled in every direction except toward our marriage relationship - this time of drinking in some sound teaching has been very refreshing.

In all three instances, however, there has been a common element which makes me quite uncomfortable: Speaking Intimately in Public.

This is that inevitable portion of the service, in which the speaker makes you look each other in the eyes and say something intimate. Sometimes the speaker will supply the words, at other times, they make you come up with your own.

R. is uncomfortable with it, too. I know this because if she is uncomfortable doing something she won't do it; at one event, I had to do some of my intimate speaking in public to the back of her head.

When I was a kid, there was an evangelistic family that would come through the areas in which we lived from time to time. And they had a practice for several years of ending their services by making husbands and wives look at each other and repeat their marriage vows. My Dad did not like these exercises: he never has been one to be very verbal about his love and though he seems a little hard on the outside, he cries very easily.

We kids loved it because we didn't have to do anything and Mom and Dad would be on the spot... Dad with tears trickling down would repeat the vows. Eventually we started visiting my grandparents when these folks came to town.

R. and I are - in many respects - a quiet couple. Most mornings we barely speak before coffee. Early in our marriage, I thought she was angry. Finally I learned that she just doesn't want to talk in the mornings, and not being naturally energetic in the mornings myself - I've adjusted.

While I do believe it is important that we assure each other of our mutual love often. I do not like it when we are pushed through a prescribed pattern, all in an effort to force communications.

I don't like it, but I will do it.

R. will - on the other hand - boycott something if she doesn't want to do it. That leaves me in the unenviable position of trying to participate -alone.

Now let me confess something: As much as I would like for you to think otherwise - I care about what people think. In fact, I spend an inordinate amount of energy at times trying to behave in a certain manner because I think people are watching.

This is a problem because - in my neurotic fashion - I figure that if people are all watching me and I am speaking intimately to my wife in public and she is ignoring me ... then they must think that we have a rotten relationship.

I am learning- with God's help - that most folks don't really exert that much concern on me. In other words, they really don't think about me all that much.

Recently, I have further discovered that when I follow the dictates of the speaker in such instances, I am saying those intimate words - not because I mean them - but because I do not want people to think that I don't mean them or that R. and I have a rotten relationship.

So while it would be nice if she participated - it might also be nice if I participated with the right motives. It appears that she is the one with the problem, but alas - it is me. In the words of Pogo: " We have met the enemy and he is us."

Oh by the way, here's an important tidbit that I have picked up on as it relates to my marriage (and this post illustrates the point). When I complain to God about my wife and ask Him to fix her... invariably it will turn out that I am the cause of the problem.

When I think R. should change - when I think she has a problem, I have pretty much learned now to just go ahead and ask God what it is that I am doing wrong.