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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Really... 'finger rings, nose rings?'

What’s YOUR Favorite Verse???

Have you ever noticed that the verses in the Bible don’t always make sense in terms of how they were divided?  (You do realize, don’t you, that the verse numbers aren’t original….they were added in much later, right?)  The placement is odd enough, that one of my friends and I used to share our favorite verses when asked as, “And the second” Luke 20:30 (that was his) and “finger rings, nose rings” Isaiah 3:21 as mine.  (Don’t believe me?  Look them up!)  The silly old story is that the guy who put in the verses was riding in a carriage at the time, and the wheel must have hit a bump or hole in the road at the moment he read that verse, leaving the ink smear that became the verse marker there.

Well, lots of people know where to point when you ask them their favorite verse of the Bible.  Others use the concept of a “life verse” instead.  I do have a verse that especially means a lot to me that I would tell you is my favorite if you asked (besides the Isaiah verse), but the truth is, there are many verses that really speak to me.  Because it is true that specific phrases and verses can have tremendous impact in our lives at certain times. 

However, like me, perhaps you have heard people quoting verses, and then later, when you looked them up, found out when you read around it, the verse didn’t mean at ALL what the people had indicated.  It is so important to check out the context of a verse, not merely the apparent meaning of a verse itself.  I think a good example is in Malachi 2:16, part of which is often quoted when people say, “God hates divorce.”  But the context implies there is a whole lot more going on than just that God hates divorce.  (I’m going to let YOU look it up yourself, just for practice in examining context if nothing else!) 

People say that P.T. Barnum once said, “There is a sucker born every minute.”  And the people who say that, are some of the suckers!   Because Barnum didn’t say it.  Look it up.  Someone could possibly say that there is a Bible verse misused out of context every day.  And they’d be right.  Just don’t let yourself be the sucker taken in by it, okay?

TL:dr  Biblical context is EVERYTHING when understanding biblical quotes.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Just a few more weeks!!!

The excitement is building for us!

Today Richard emailed me at school to tell me that the Fedex man had dropped off the box from the publisher!!  In it was the first copy of the book, we needed to approve it before they can make the official run.  So it is official.. the book is published.  We are looking at two weeks to have our first shipment.  We should have details next week about the exact price (trust me, it's very complicated!) and then will have a special for all the faithful readers of the blog and those that like the facebook page!!   Just had to share a picture of it!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

...and we think we have it all figured out...

God IS Awesome!

My dad told an interesting story the other day.  It was about the day when he was in Jr. College, back before World War II, when the physics teacher walked into class and told them the world had changed.  The teacher then told the students that the news reported that the atom had just been split out in Berkeley.  That was the first time I had ever heard him tell that story.  The foresightedness of that small town professor was pretty impressive, I thought. 

He told me that about the same time the news was announcing the evidence discovery of the “God particle,” the Higgs Boson particle.  It is all pretty interesting, I think.  The scientists talk about string theory, dark matter, wormholes in space…..so many things not even imagined a few years back.  I find it really fascinating that the Voyager crafts are soon to leave the solar system, and that there are plans to land an exploratory craft on a comet as it circles the sun.  

There was a time scientists announced firmly that they had discovered the smallest particle in the universe:  the atom.  Then they discovered the sub-atomic particles called protons, neutrons and electrons.  Then came neutrinos.  Now there are so many I don’t even have a clue what they call all of them.  The same kind of ongoing discovery is what is experienced in the realm of medical care, as well.  And ocean exploration.  And the way the earth works in terms of volcanoes, storms, earthquakes, etc. 

In fact, pretty much everything ends up being bigger and more complicated than we imagine….even things like mathematics.  Mathematics in the Roman world only advanced to a certain point, because they had no concept of the number zero.  Math had reached its limits until the day Newton came up with calculus.  Newtonian physics dominated until Einstein theorized relativity.  Then quantum mechanics came along, and well, you get the idea. 

I hope you are figuring out the point of this yourself.  God has invested creation with far more than we can comprehend.  And when we comprehend something fresh, we are foolish if we think it is the last word.  God is so much more than we can even begin to imagine.  And so are the plans he has for your life.  He can use you for more, make you become more, and do more for you than you would even be able to dream of….and he will do it in ways you will not even expect.  If you don’t believe me, go read Isaiah 40, or Isaiah 55:8-9, or Ephesians 3:20, or better yet, just go read the whole volume….that old Bible has a lot to teach us.  More than you or I know.

TL:dr  God, as revealed in creation, is more vast than we realize.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

And the billboard called it a quick and easy divorce...

...Not so quick and easy...

While there is a certain degree of commonality that exists for all of us who go through the divorce process, there are lots of factors that mean there is also a great deal of variety and divergence.  When I write my blog postings, I do so from the perspective of a U.S. citizen.  Not only, that, but a resident of Kansas.  That cultural viewpoint impacts the writings regarding divorce.  For instance, I recently learned that a certain eastern state has something like a 2 year process for a divorce.  Here, it is a 60 day waiting period.  Everything from child support, child placement, alimony, “visitation” and a host of other details seem to vary pretty widely from state to state and nation to nation.  If divorce has entered your life somehow, it can be critical that you know what the ins and outs are for the state in which you reside, and that is where the attorney can be pretty helpful.

Other countries have different ways of doing things as well.  At least in some of the Muslim countries, the laws don’t allow a woman to get a divorce, she has to ask the husband for it.  And if he grants it, the children of a certain age always go to the father.  I have heard that in some places, a divorce is accomplished merely by one telling the other that he/she divorces him or her.  In some Catholic countries I have heard about, divorce is not an acceptable part of the legal structure.  Apparently, the bad marriages are handled in other ways….some of which don’t sound very good. 

These things are part of what make divorce such a difficult process.  The waters are very murky.  And what is helpful or effective in one locale may be counterproductive or irrelevant in another.  To make it more complicated, people don’t generally pay attention to divorce laws, until they are being applied to their own situation.  The person who files may have explored the topic prior to filing, and the filed upon may have to play legal catch-up, but  they both often discover that there are an incredible number of unknowns.  Friends who have gone through the process and attorneys can become critical aids in making it through the upheavals of divorce.  Friends who haven’t been through the process can be more effectively encouraging when they understand a bit how complicated it all can become.  And, of course, the most important support of all is God, who understands far better than any human ever can.

TL:dr  The variety of laws and processes can make divorce surprisingly confusing and complicated.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Marriage Illusion?

Great Expectations—But Not Dickens

Cinderella, Beauty, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty…they all lived Happily Ever After once they met their handsome prince, who also all lived Happily Ever After with their newfound wives.  While that sounds wonderful, somehow, I don’t think it is actually found in reality.  Reality operates a bit differently. 

Reality goes more like this:  “Honey, the budget is really tight right now, we are going to have to cut back somehow.”  “But we celebrated Thanksgiving at your parents’ home last year!”  “I know you just got home, but I have this huge allergy thing going on….I have to lay down for a while….can you please take the kids to the park for an hour or two?”  “But my mom always said that the socks are supposed to be folded together, not rolled up into balls!”  “Yes, I have to leave again tonight, there is a huge project at the office and it has to be done next week.  We’ll have to find time to get away some other month.”  “What has happened to us?  We never seem to talk anymore.”

I wonder how many divorces occur simply because of unrealistic expectations?  I know a lot of people leave churches because of them.  They go in thinking they’ve found the perfect church, and then discover it has faults just like every other church.  The same is true in marriages, too.  That “perfect” person isn’t perfect after all.  And no individual is going to live up to all your expectations and dreams.  It just is unrealistic.  However, you aren’t going to live up to your spouse’s either, because you aren’t perfect either.  (Hopefully, that isn’t a shock for you to hear!) 

If you’re married, and it isn’t perfect, don’t think it’s merely because you have the wrong partner and the perfect marriage partner awaits you out there somewhere.   At the same time, that dream marriage isn’t going to make you the perfect partner either.  We are all broken one way or another, and sin has left its mark upon our hearts and upon our world.  It is by the grace of God that we are forgiven and grow to what God desires for us.  And it is by the grace of God that we learn how to love and forgive as God takes our imperfections and weaves them together in marriage that we can grow with our partners in God’s plans for our lives.  

Marriage is hard enough, without having entered it based upon fairy tales and illusions.  Marriages work better when THEY aren’t based on fairy tales and illusions, either!  And, if you are dating, it doesn’t hurt to be realistic then, as well.  The truth is, reality can be a pretty good thing.  But not if we refuse to live in it.  Could it be time for a reality check in YOUR life? 

TL:dr  Fantasy thinking helps neither divorce nor marriage.

Friday, September 14, 2012

I believe in God....do you mean it?

What do you mean, when you say; "I believe in God."

So, to follow up on the issue of believing in God.  When going through those extremely tough times, such as a divorce, we all find ourselves having to make choices.  Choices about time, about money, character issues, friends, and how we handle stress….you know, choices!  We make the same choices when things are going well, perhaps in a different way, but still the same kinds of choices.  Whether we are self sufficient, or dependent on God.   Whether we set aside time for worship, or make leisure and work or things a priority instead. 

  Our proof that we believe in God is demonstrated in these kinds of things.  Do we simply mean that we acknowledge God exists?  Pilate was willing to do that much with Jesus….acknowledge that He existed!  Do we mean that we believe that He exists, and that He will take care of us after we die?  Those who came to Jesus with that notion back in those days found that he usually expected more than that, he expected a lifestyle of following Him.  If we say we believe in God, and demonstrate it every Sunday (or Saturday if that’s when you worship) of our lives, but not on weekdays, does that mean we believe that all God cares about is what we do with worship time? 

My wife says that at one church she used to attend, the minister would cut short his messages if there was a noon kickoff time for the local NFL team.  What in your life is so important that you will let it cut short your time worshipping or serving God? I wonder how my wife or your loved one would feel if we told them we couldn’t spend our usual date time with them today, because kickoff is in 10 minutes.  Probably won’t earn us very many points, huh?  So, what do you mean when you say you believe in God?  When the verse in James says that the demons believe and tremble; I suspect the idea is that they believe that God exists and that God is going to hold them accountable for everything they have done.  Is that what you mean when you say you believe in God?

Is there not a difference between a person saying that he believes in marriage and a person BEING married?  Could that be the distinction God desires of us?  I like the old illustration that it is one thing to say that you believe an elevator can carry you to the 99th floor of the building.  It is another to get on the elevator and trust it to get you there.  My point is this:  are you believing from a distance, in a non-committed observational sort of way, or are you on board for the full experience in a committed relational sort of way?  As near as I can tell, the last one is really the only one the Bible endorses, even if our culture and a lot of our church folks endorse something less. 

For those of you going through a divorce, I just want to urge you NOT to fall prey to those pressures that can cause you to lose track of what is important.  Don’t let yourself end up like those demons, trembling when you realize God is going to expect you to give account for all the choices you are making now.  Just thinking out loud, so to speak.


TL:dr  Discussion of the question, “What does believing in God really mean?”

Picture information:

The actual image is of a nebula surrounding a small pulsar – a stellar remnant, a neutron star – the crushed core of a massive star, spinning and channelling electrons along its magnetic field. Pulsars produce regular radio wave pulses as their polar regions point to us and blast emissions from accelerated electrons in our direction. Radio signals tell us where they are, space telescopes point and check them out in other wavelengths to see what they do. The pulsar doing all this is estimated at a diameter of 12 miles, with the nebula 150 light years across. The entire system is 17,000 light years from us and estimated to be 1,700 years old. The pulsar is called PSR B1509-58, but is known to its friends as B1509.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Power of Remembering 9/11

The Deep Power of  Memories

  When JFK was assassinated, I was in Miss Fish’s third grade class, and I remember her face and tears when the news came over the intercom.  When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, I was in front of the television set watching the moment with my family.  I don’t remember where I was when MLK and RFK were killed, but remember the events.  But when Nixon resigned, I was on my way to the local radio station, and upon arriving, read it over the AP teletype alert.  When the Challenger exploded, I was on Highway 59 north of Moran, Kansas, headed back home, and heard the announcement on the radio.  When the first Gulf War began, I was involved with a small group outside of Kansas City…don’t remember exactly where I was when the second one started.  When the planes flew into the WTC, I was at my home finishing breakfast with the woman I was dating, who is now my wife, and a friend called and told us to turn on the television.  We saw the second plane fly in.  I don’t remember where I was when the Columbia was shattered, or when Reagan was shot, or when Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina devastated the coasts, or when Mt. St. Helen erupted. 

 I didn’t watch the whole memorial ceremony, but do remember one of the participants promise that we would never forget.  That is much like the Jewish call to never forget the Holocaust….an obscenity of history that far too many today have already forgotten, or are denying.  I recall, right after 9/11, the churches and synagogues were filled, U.S. citizens were united and aware that we are in danger from those who despise us.  Today, those churches and synagogues are back to “normal” and people live as if there is no impending danger out there.  It’s kind of funny, isn’t it, how certain events and moments freeze frame in our heads, and others just as significant are fuzzy, while still others pass into oblivion. 

  I am glad that somebody has finally been able to link the cancers and illnesses of those heroic workers to their experiences that day.  We owe those individuals a great debt….what great people they were.  I was reminded of the debt we owe those individuals when I, with my father, was able to stand near the field in Pennsylvania of Flight 93.  At that point there was no memorial, just a chain link filled with mementos from loved ones.  May God help all those families who lost loved ones that day of national tragedy. 

  Memories are powerful things in our lives.  Like many of my blog readers, I remember lots of events and moments tied in with my divorce, and that was before 9/11.  It is important to remember, and to let the memories of our past shape the actions of our present and future. I hope I have learned something from what I have experienced, don’t you?  But the most precious memory of all for me, happened in the Mark Twain Room of Maginnes Hall at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  That is the memory of the night I reaffirmed my childhood commitment to Christ in such a way that I settled the choice of where I would stand in my relationship with God in the direction of my life. 

  If, among all your memories today, you don’t have THAT memory between you and Christ, then I would encourage you to use this day of memorial to make that critical memory.  Let today be the day you define for all time your commitment to following Christ in your life.  The real battle in life is not with evil people who tear down buildings and destroy earthly lives.  The real battle is with the evil that inspires those people.  The evil that seeks to tear down our opportunities to have a relationship with God, and to destroy our lives for all eternity.  The evil that spreads hatred and rebellion throughout the earth and its history.  Don’t win the wrong battle. 

TL:dr  Things we can learn from the memory of 9/11.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Awareness of God..

It IS a big deal!

Well, blog readers, owe you a bit of an apology, I suppose.  Haven’t posted much at all lately.  Have been in kind of a whirlwind of activity, primarily book related.  As we near the production stage, have been reviewing cover proofs and text proofs, and book format.  Anyway, without getting into the nuts and bolts of it, have been doing some significant revamping to make things come together in the best way possible, making various extremely time-consuming adjustments along the way.  However, just sent in one of the last major pieces of email, so should be turning a big corner.  Although, there were more steps than I knew, all of which have taken more time than expect, the indication is I should be able to tell you within just a few weeks that copies are available.  You will be able to get some directly from me, but they will be able to be ordered through your local bookstores as well, or the publisher.  Will provide details at the appropriate time.

So how about a thought for the day?  Am reading a really good book I’ll tell you about later, but one of the issues it raises is how much we take for granted the freedoms and benefits those of us who live here in America have automatically because we are here.  Education, a generally benign government, infrastructure…that sort of thing.  Sometimes, I think it wouldn’t hurt to ask the same question of us Christians.  That is, do we take things for granted in our faith?  I believe absolutely we do.  I want to share one with you just to get you started thinking about it a bit.

Here’s the deal.  In visiting with folks who aren’t particularly religious, sometimes I will ask them what they believe in terms of God and so forth.  Nine times out of ten, the answer I’ll get is that they believe in God, and often, not much else.  I raise the issue with them that the book of James tells us that the demons also believe…..but they tremble.  Then I point out that the individuals pretty glibly said they believe in God, but the demons tremble when they say they believe in God.  Is that not a disconnect?  Do they (we) REALLY believe?  How is it that we, mere humans, can so flatly state we believe in God, but have so lost the awe, the reverence, the understanding of God that we don’t know enough to say so with a degree of trembling?  

Okay, sure, Jesus came and taught us God loves us and opened the way to the throne, so there is a different relationship set up.  But even so, it is still a THRONE, and the one who loves us is still GOD.  Have we reduced God down to merely a nice old guy who loves us from there in heaven somewhere?  Have we eliminated expectations from him?  Do we forget what the word omnipotent really implies?  I’m going to stop right here.  I want to invite you to really think about what I am asking.  And examine yourself.  Are you caught up in the reduction of the awesome?  We’ll talk again.

The photo was taken by the Hubble Telescope and is an image of gas and dust inside the Carina Nebula...pretty awesome, made by God!

TL:dr  Have we lost track of the awesomeness of God?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Being Divorced on Labor Day

Labor Day...

So this is Labor Day, the last day of a long weekend.  For many people it is the weekend that represents the end of summer, the last chance at summer fun.  For a person recently divorced, it can mean lots of other things, so I want to address them specifically this blog.  If you aren’t divorced, read on, you might understand some friends better, and find it isn’t too late to include into your plans a friend who is struggling. 
First, I want to reflect on those who have younger children.  If your children are young, may be feeling the extra emptiness of a house without the sound of children at play.  Or you may feel the loss of that annual trip to the zoo or theme park.  Other weekends aren’t so bad, since by now you’d be back at work.  But if you are used to spending Labor Day with your kids, the change can be hard.
          On the other hand, you may have the children this weekend (in which case, why are you reading this now?  Go spend the time with your kids!!)  In the case of the parents WITH the kids for the weekend, it can be just the opposite.  You can overdo because you don’t see them as often, and want to make the most of the time you have.  But the kids most need you to be YOU, to provide the consistency of who YOU are, not some “manufactured for the weekend party person.”  Though your emotions may be overwhelmed, maintain a relatively normal time with your kids, but taking into account the fact that your time opportunities with them has been altered, and opportunities should be used while you can. 
          Or, you may have the kids, and be struggling with the “at mom’s house we always…” syndrome.  Don’t let yourself get caught up in the competition and blackmail.  It’s okay NOT to be what “dad’s house” is, to not have the same finances, to be faithful to your own set of values (assuming God approves).  Again, it is about who YOU are, and having a genuine relationship with your kids based on that.
          Finally, those without kids (or whose kids are elsewhere) who may feel lost because old traditions no longer fit.  As for you, remember, divorce gives you the opportunity to create your own traditions that fit with who YOU are, and the things YOU want YOUR life to reflect.  Maybe this year you don’t HAVE to go on that annual camping trip, and so can do the yard work for fall you always wished you could.  Or, maybe you don’t HAVE to stay home and work, so might go to a movie or the lake with some friends.
          For me, Labor Day weekend is not a big deal, and I just do what I do.  Maybe this is the year for YOU to decide what it is to you, and to do whatever it is that best represents you.  Even if it means working, because you can’t afford the getaway, because that, too, is an honest response to the changes you have experienced in your life.  As you look back over the weekend, or maybe at the beginning of this last day, I hope you find something of meaning in how you have spent your time.