Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fish Chunks

As a loving and devoted father, I am always trying to get my daughter to experience new things, new food dishes, different traditions, art and architecture of foreign places. A necessary experience to foster worldliness, appreciation for other cultures, an introduction to new ideas, and an opportunity to embrace the differences among us. Sounds like I should be up for a father of the year award, right? Well, hold up just a minute. I feel compelled to tell you something before the big award presentation. I have been rethinking my position about all this culture crap. Why? Well it all started when I began to think that if I am going to make my daughter try new things, then I should be willing (and, yes, eager) to try new things myself. O.K., picture the scene, I am in the Netherlands walking about through quaint villages with some friends. The greatest delicacy known to these people is fresh herring, caught right out of the myriad streams that interlace the country side. They are then served up immediately to the drooling throngs. So, I step up to the plate (hah). I am not a big lover of seafood (or food that stares back at me either for that matter), but I agree to try the local favorite. I am going to be brave. Yes for once in my life, I am going to be a man. I place my order, the vendor hands me my, err, treat, and I am ready to put my money where my mouth is. I take a bite and chew. Three, two, one, ... wait for it ..., I blow chunks everywhere. The side of the vendor's cart, the vendor's shoes, in short, all over the blessed quaint village. Funny, the locals did not act upset. In fact, the entire episode seemed to be a great source of mirth for them. I am beginning to suspect that, perhaps, this raw fish isn't really a local delicacy, but a huge joke perpetrated by the cursed Netherland-ians on unsuspecting and gullible tourists. But my point is, forget about all this openness to cultures and other's traditions, if it smells or looks in the least bit funny, run like the wind Bullseye.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Beware - I Have Gas

Sometimes something silly enters into my brain that resonates within my cerebral humoritoral lobe (that portion of the brain that controls hilarity). The result is a good chuckle. I wanted to share one item that I really enjoyed. Here at the laboratory where I work, we often use bottles of compressed gas, i.e. cylinders containing gas at incredible pressures. You can think of them as bombs in a convenient package adorned with pretty stickers, but of course there are other dangers present too. One of which is that in a confined space, if the bottles leak, they can quickly displace the available oxygen, which could kill you in a couple of minutes (and maybe, if you are lucky, cause you to foam at the mouth). Anyway, safety is a big deal at the lab, and we have safety personnel "up the wazoo" (which means, as far as I can tell, up the butt or with great abundance -- I will let you choose your preference) who are charged with making at least one new safety regulation per hour per person or armed goons with kill their house pets in a most extreme manner. Anyway, I digress. The safety folks have posted signage in all elevators on site that states emphatically: "Personnel are not to accompany gas cylinders on the elevators". I came across a handwritten note in one elevator that was meant as a reply (or challenge) that said "How will they know which button to push for their floor?". I liked this. Silly, inane, and with a touch of anarchy (due to the graffiti element).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Big Reveal

God does not need to shout, a whisper will suffice. Neither does he need to speak as if to children, Christians must learn to understand the parables. He does not need to perform miracles one upon the other for all to see, his infinite power is obvious in the world around us and the stars above. It should be clear that the unbeliever, the agnostic, the self-absorbed, the self-righteous, the egoist, the lazy, the hate-filled could see every miracle in his arsenal and still find a way to turn away from his truth, his gospel. They will not open their hands for gifts, their mouths for food, or their eyes to see. Watching the reactions of these types goes against all logic, all rational thinking. How could anyone witness all of his glory and still turn from him, denying themselves the opportunity of finding eternal peace, eternal love, and eternal joy? This is an opportunity to have a never-ending relationship with the maker of the universe, the king of kings, and the lord of lords.

I have just finished reading the book The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. While the book is over 50 years old, it is an amazing read - not an iota of the work is dated or out of touch with "modern" thinking. While is it fiction, the allegory of a Christian's life after death is a tool that Lewis uses to literary perfection. The message is clear, focus your attention on what matters, leave the unimportant, erroneous, and petty ways behind, and follow the Lord without distraction. However, in the end, not all can be saved from themselves.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Good News, Bad News

A dose of good news is needed to offset a dose of bad news. I need to focus on things sometimes, not just give them a cursory glance. Sometimes when I read something important, I go back and read it again out loud or write it down and go over it a couple of times. This can really help me to better grasp an idea or to wrestle with something in a way that can give me the upper hand (at least intellectually). Passages from Galatians 5:19-24. (These ideas were inspired from Charles Swindoll's book, So You Want to be Like Christ?.)

The raw realities of sin (aka The Bad News):

... repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods, magic show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-comsuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.

The sweet fruit of the Spirit (aka The Good News):

... affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Remember the Monkey

I have noticed an annoying and hypocritical tendency of mine. I have had a number of bad habits through the years (thanks for asking, but I hardly think this is any of your business), which I have worked hard on extricating from my life. Of course this is the good news. The annoying and hypocritical aspect of today's discussion is that I find myself rashly judging others who are still slaves to these exact same habits. I look down on these folks with a totally haughty (now there's a good word) attitude, as if I am so much better than them. How disgusting they are, how petty, how common, how lower class.

I often pray that the Lord will reveal areas in my life that I need to work on, and this is one area that rises to the top. When I catch myself in one of my mental diatribes against those people, I need to chill (an expression used by some hip youngsters I saw on T.V.). I need to realize that I was once afflicted by the same problems, I had the same monkeys on my back. I need to search my memories and remember how the habits arose in my own life and controlled me and give some space and some understanding.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Brain Smell

The brain is an amazing hunk of matter, isn't it? It has the incredible ability to encounter something and then to store it away for days or weeks or even sometimes for countless years. Subconsciously, and at times unexpectedly, it can be triggered to pull out these memories and then flood the body with an exquisite and palpable recreation of a past experience. I am reminded of a specific instance of this in my life. A long time ago, I was courting (now that's an old-fashioned word!) this wonderful girl. In the evening, she would take a shower. During this time, I would anxiously wait downstairs for her to finish. The anticipation of seeing her again, holding her hand, and talking with her into the night was electric. One of the things I remember clearly is the smell of her shampoo when she first opened the bathroom door. It was the smell of clean, of renewal, of anticipation. Every now and again, I will encounter this same smell as I am walking along and I am transported back to this place, this situation, and this time from so long ago. I feel like I am lifted out of my dreary present world, even if only for a moment. Of course I have to come back, albeit resistantly, but I always return with a memory that connects me again to myself and to the past. Indeed, an amazing hunk of matter.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

WEC Journey

When I came back to VA two years ago, I was a broken man. The kind of broken that couldn't be undone by any cure except the passage of time. One thing that I left behind in OH was a wonderful church -- Central Methodist. In VA, I ached to find a new church home. I needed that connection with God and that special, unique brand of Christian fellowship. I had never "church shopped" before and I was totally out of my element. I had no clue as to how I should begin. What I found were congregations with about 50 folks whose mean age was at least 125, music that was lifeless, sermons that were white noise to my ears (and yes, I realize this sounds like a harsh assessment, but it was my perception). Lost, defeated, and adrift I gave up after several months and a half dozen churches.

Fast forward to Feb. 2008. I was looking for a cabinet for my home. After a search that had consumed countless online hours, I found what I wanted. I made a beeline to the furniture store and inspected a floor model - it was stunning. I made my purchase and arranged for delivery. Two days later I get a call and am told that the piece was closed out and no more are in stock. In fact, the floor model that I looked at was already gone. They set up to refund my money. This episode lingered in my mind and ate at me. I didn't know why, but it was somehow more than the furniture. After a couple of days, I was moved to go back to the store, I don't know, maybe a trust but verify kind of thing. In retrospect, this was quite unlike me. Walking into the showroom, I was surprised to see that the floor model that I had studied just a few days earlier was right where I had left it. I talked to a very nice salesperson and just for the heck of it, she checked on its availability. Curiously, this piece had not been set aside for anyone. She told me that it was mine if I wanted it.

As I was arranging for delivery, I told the salesperson that I live on Waters Edge Dr. Her face lit up as she set about telling me about Waters Edge Church. She told me over the course of the next 30 minutes (in no uncertain terms) that I would definitely not be disappointed if I showed up. Attending to other customers was definitely not forefront in her mind as she told me about the people, the pastor, the music, the messages, and the laughter. She even went out to her car and gave me her program from earlier in the day (it was a Sunday). Her enthusiasm and generosity were wonderfully received and much needed in my life. I left the store with an entirely new attitude and spirit. Somehow I knew that my search was over.

It may seem silly, but I definitely feel that God's hand was on me, leading me to Waters Edge. Ten months after my first visit, I feel totally at home and am finding my place. This is where I am supposed to be. My beautiful cabinet sits in a prominent place in my home, and is a constant reminder of the watchful oversight of the great Shepherd.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Road Rage!!

I have a problem with road rage. Now before you edge away from me, note for the record that my nostrils are not flaring. I'm not the sort to go so far as to get out of my car and engage in fisticuffs, to yell out my window, or to employ an uplifted middle finger (i.e. the "bird"). However, I am the sort who can carry a negative encounter with me for hours. Typical symptoms include headache, tightness across the chest, and upset stomach. People just seem so selfish when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Their me-first attitudes are so freakin' obvious. I would guess that only about 20% of people actually even attempt to use their danged turn indicators. How about those ninnies that pull into your lane at the last second as you are slowing down at a red light or Johnny lane-changer who thinks that his car will explode if he stays in one lane for more than 2 blasted seconds? What about those jerks who poke along, holding everyone up, but when they see the yellow light they floor it through the intersection, leaving the rest of us to boil in our skins for the next two minutes. Man I hate that. When will people realize that how they operate a motor vehicle is really more than just common courtesy, their actions are directly related to safety, my safety! What about the fact that we are supposed to live in a community? Just thinking about this whole topic just gets my blood boiling and my glasses all steamed up!! It fills me with such rage and venom that I just want to spit!!! Oh crap, so many exclamation points have infected my thoughts that I just ran through a stop sign. Look what they made me go and do. Now that makes me really mad.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Confession

Where do I start? I need to share a very personal thing about myself, but I am afraid of how you will judge me. You may not say anything, but I can see the look in your eyes, I can hear the whispers in clipped and hushed tones that stop as I approach. I have tried to keep this buried for so long that my insides ache. But I guess that you already know this about me, for you can see it in my face, it envelops me like a thick fog. It is an area of immeasurable shame and failure in my life, one that I worked so hard on and took such pride in. Now it's gone and I fear that I will never be the same again, for better or for worse. Funny, that phrase was the start of it all. It was the basis of a vow sealed in the purest gold that dissolved before my eyes. My words useless, my rationality unravelled. My whole life changed, and still now, two years later, I have so much healing to do. There are times when I don't think I am ever going to get back to right or trust again, that I will never again find my smile. Even now, from time to time, I still call out, half expecting an answer, but there is only silence. Money, communication, touch, time. I learned some vital life lessons in the ordeal, but it hardly seems a fair exchange. Anyway, now you understand that I wasn't always this way, and who knows, maybe some day the fog will clear.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I have been thinking for some time about temptation, particularly the sin of temptation in my own life. This is an area that I struggle to contain and a trap that I frequently fall into. I came across some thoughts by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his work Temptation that captures my thoughts and feelings on this topic to perfection.

In our members there is a slumbering inclination towards desire which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power desire seizes mastery over the flesh. All at once a secret, smouldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames. It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money, or, finally, that strange desire for the beauty of the world, of nature. Joy in God is extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real; the only reality is the devil. Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God. The lust thus aroused envelops the mind and will of man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us.

This is an area of my life where progress is slow, but I am trying to do my best to move in the right direction. I proceed in fits and starts, often fall down, curse my weaknesses, cry, and seek help. What's cool is that sometimes, every once in a while, I look in the rearview mirror and see places that I have not visited for a long time, and have no desire or need to visit again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lukewarm Me

I recently completed reading the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. This book challenged me, not that it was a difficult read, but in that it kind of left me feeling exposed, as if I was not all I was supposed to be, as if I didn't fully measure up. One chapter in particular was the root of my uneasiness; it focussed on the characteristics of a lukewarm Christian. After reading the material closely, I did not want to just press on to the next chapter. I felt some immediacy to face these issues in my life head on. Frankly, I wanted to see where I really stood, at least from my own biased point of view. I kind of think that this is a good exercise for all of us. This should definitely not be seen as keeping a running tally, a scorecard of us. It should be approached as an opportunity to make course corrections in your life. I don't know about you, but oftentimes I am completely blind to my own failings and shortcomings until I sit down and think about them. To give you an example of how you could consider thinking about this, I have prepared a document that lists Chan's traits of the lukewarm Christian and how I feel about my position in the different areas. Now I have more work to do. (Thanks to Rob Shepherd and Brian Miller for recommending this book to me.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Celebrate Love

A week or so ago I posted an entry entitled True Love about the wonderful blessing that my daughter is to me. I wanted to share another brief episode. My daughter had just completed making a drawing for me, one that had taken her some extra time and effort. Her face beamed when she presented it to me. I thanked her and hugged her. For a moment I considered hanging it in my office, as I have done with countless others of her masterpieces over the years. However, this time I suggested that we frame it and hang it up at home. This idea thrilled her to no end. The office gallery is nice, but in her mind, hanging it up on the wall at home somehow elevated her picture to true art. My hope is that you will celebrate the work and effort of your little ones with genuine attention. Whether it is a scribble on a piece of scrap paper or a Michelangelo-ian effort, celebrate their gifts of love.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Blasphemous Questions

The more I read and think about things, it seems the more questions that rattle around my brain. Here is a brief list.
  1. If God is ultimate perfection, how could he create or even conceive of the imperfect?  Not just man, but the rebel angels.
  2. If God uses miracles to lead men to him, why does he act in a (seemingly) haphazard manner?  Why not just force the issue in a major way?
  3. Why has God not been as present on the earth as he was 2000 years ago?
  4. Extensive studies of hospital patients who either did or didn't have folks praying for them have shown no differences in their survival levels. I know "you should not put the Lord your God to the test", but shouldn't prayer make a difference?
  5. What is the role of God's angels in the world today? What is the role of Lucifer's angels in the world today?
  6. How will our physical bodies be remade or reborn in heaven?  What about male and female roles? What happens to sex?
  7. What will there be to do in heaven?  An eternity with nothing to 'do', even in paradise, could get old fast.
  8. Will we know everybody in heaven or just those we knew on earth?  What about coming across those that wronged us on earth?
  9. What emotions will we have in heaven? Will there be laughter?
  10. Would Christian doctrine be forced to change if intelligent life was discovered elsewhere in the universe? What about unintelligent life?
  11. Why are King David and King Solomon so revered in the bible? It seems that when they were left to their own devices (as opposed to instances where God took control), they sinned with great regularity.
  12. What was so special about Israel that God made this nation his chosen people?  This group turned its back on God at every opportunity. What made them set apart? God could have worked his plan through any group of people.
  13. When Israel entered the promised land, God told them to slaughter everything. Men, women, children, animals.  Believers or not, does this make any sense given God's laws and commandments?  It is not "thou shalt not kill a fellow Christian, but killeth heathens ye may".
  14. Christianity is a minor religion in the world. Millions of people follow other religions. What about their fates? A majority of these folks know nothing about Christ. If their fate is damnation, this doesn't seem fair at all. The religion they know is mainly due to where they were born.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Defining Your Limits

I recently read a true story that occurred in early 19th century Russia during a period of severe religious persecution. Groups of Christians would secretly meet to read scripture and worship. They went to great lengths to avoid detection, with carefully crafted plans for gathering without arousing suspicion. Despite their best efforts, a group meeting was sniffed out by several KGB agents. The agents stormed the hidden sanctuary and threatened to kill everyone for disobeying the standing orders of the government on unsanctioned religious activity. They told the gathering that if they denounced their God, they would be spared. A sizable fraction of the congregate immediately followed these orders and hastily made a path for the shadows. However, a core group held strong. The agents became even more agitated and began more direct death threats and physical pressure. Another fraction ultimately relented and scurried away. When it was clear that no further members of the remnant would give in, come penalty of imprisonment, beatings, or death, the KGB agents stated that they had recently received the gospel and could tell only those who would protect their identity at all costs. So, what group are you in? Those who immediately betrayed their faith and their Lord or those who held out until the fire was turned up and then slinked away to save themselves. What about the group who would face their demise without yielding? Are you in it to the end no matter the cost? What defines your limits?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Potty Regulations

This just came across my desk at work. This is what happens when you hire too many administrators!

To: All Personnel, Subj. Restroom Privileges

In the past, employees have been permitted to make trips to the restroom under informal guidelines. As a result of increased budgetary controls, a Restroom Trip Policy (RTP) has been established. When it becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2009, the RTP will provide a consistent method of accounting for each employee's restroom time. Under this policy, a "RESTROOM TRIP BANK" will be established for each employee. The first day of each month, employees will be given a Restroom Trip Credit of 20. Restroom Trip Credits may be accumulated from month to month up to a total of 40. On Jan. 15, the entrances to all restrooms will be equipped with personnel identification stations and computer linked with voice print recognition devices. Before the end of February, each employee must provide two copies of voice prints (one normal and one under stress) to the Records Section of Personnel. The voice print recognition will be operational, but not restrictive, for the month of February, so employees may acquaint themselves with the stations during that period. If an employee's RESTROOM TRIP BANK balance reaches zero, the doors to the restroom will not unlock for that employee's voice until the first day of the next month. All restroom systems on site will be computer connected. In addition, all restroom stalls are being equipped with timed paper roll retractors. If the stall is occupied for more than three minutes, an alarm will sound. Ten seconds after the alarm sounds, the roll of tissue in the stall will retract, the toilet will flush, and the stall door will open. If the stall remains occupied for more than an additional 5 seconds, your picture will be taken. Please direct all inquiries and comments to your Department Director.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Invincibility Lost

I remember the exact instant that I had to pack up my cape and retire my bullet-proof tights. The moment that my mask was laid aside. The evidence was revealed in a deep crimson, there was no mistaking it. There would be no reprieve, no second chance. There are few declarations that can stop a man dead in his tracks and alter his life course forever. Cancer. They must be mistaken, not me. This is not part of the plan. Surgery. I can't, I have too much to do. Malignant. No I'm not ready to go. I have a new bride and a new baby on the way. Chemical cocktails. My power is gone, only shadows remain. I used to think that this diagnosis was the sound of the final bell. Invincibility lost. Game, set, match. Wholly mortal. This prognosis redefined who and what I thought I was. It's gone for now, perhaps in hiding, but it will surface again, it is an all too frequent boarder. The fear never subsides, the song never fades. Each new ache or pain raises worries of a possible new assault. The ultimate reality has only been realized in my heart after a decade of searching. I am not alone. My heavenly Father will decide my fate, and you know what, at last I am totally fine with that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Life Balloons

As the end of the year is hastily approaching, I wanted to share a method that I learned in my small group back in Ohio for taking stock of my life. Regular self inspection of all areas of our life is a sensible and necessary process to carefully consider in our journey toward the Father. This process can be at any number of levels, but it is perhaps most valuable if one takes this work seriously, with contemplation and openness. I perform this evaluation on an annual basis.

There are 10 areas that I consider (your list could have more or less). These include family, career, friendship, primary relationship, hobbies, mental, financial, physical health, adventure, and education. I have prepared a "mission statement" for each area indicating how I believe it should be approached in my life to most honor God. Looking back over the year, I give myself a rating on a scale of 1 to 10 (for how high in the air my balloon is flying) and list a few noteworthy plusses and minuses for each category. I continue by listing a few ways in which God fits into each area of my life and how God is honored by my "work" in each area.

The point of taking stock is not to see how you rate against your friends or neighbors. It is an opportunity for self improvement, to make course corrections and adjustments in all of the areas of your life. It is time to look at yourself in a brutally honest manner, to see without blinders or bias, without retribution or blame. I have prepared a template for such work that you may find useful to consider as you prepare to see how high your life balloons are flying.

Monday, November 10, 2008

True Love

My friends (no this is not John McCain talking), I know the source of true love. However, I cannot bottle this magic, it is just for me. This wellspring is pure, unquestioning, innocent, and eternal. It is a gift of unspeakable value that I would not trade for any treasure. This past week I completed another trip around the sun. My daughter Maddie, without my knowledge, made me a wonderful cake and presented it to me. The love that I received was totally overwhelming and brought me instantly to tears.

The good news is that this gift is available for all of you from within your own family, just open your eyes and your heart.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Crazy Love Question

I have just started reading a book called Crazy Love by Francis Chan that was recommended to me by both Brian Miller and Rob Shepherd. I am about a third of the way into this book. What struck me immediately was a question posed in the foreword to the book. A statement from the book of Acts (chapter 11) in the New Testament -- The disciples were called Christians. The question posed is if somebody observed me, would they come to the same conclusion? Interesting. I go to church every Sunday and give an offering. We all know that this is a poor metric. I volunteer at my church as often as I can. At face value, this doesn't prove anything. Grace is received through faith, not by works. Perhaps my attitude toward others is a better clue. I'd like to think that the light that shines through me is a reflection of my heavenly father. However, I am certain that very few would notice this. I don't tend to walk around in burlap and sandals, chanting and intoning, swinging a censer before me. However, in these modern times, this is not necessarily a sign of a mature Christian but a nutbag. Can I quote lots of scripture at opportune times? No, certainly not (although I do have a few personal favorites). Maybe what sets me apart as a Christ follower is a personal recognition that this world is not about me (man, I have come a long way baby). I recognize at once how insignificant I am compared to the most high God, while appreciating (at least sometimes) how unique and valuable I am in his service. I try to give what I have and do so willingly and humbly.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ode to the Potato

I am totally blown away by the versatility of the common spud. In France it is called the pomme de terre, the ground apple. Did you know that the potato is the world's fourth largest food crop after corn, rice, and wheat? You knew this? Hmmm. O.K., well did you know its genus and species is solanum tuberosum? Not feeling so smart now are you? (Actually don't feel so bad, I just copied this information from the web). Now back to the potato. The main point of my post today is to honor the potato in all its delicious glory. What other food item can be prepared in so many different manners? Boiled, fried, baked, braised, roasted, broiled, sauteed, mashed, raw (really?). Oh I could go on. I get the feeling that butter and salt would be quite lonely if the potato had not been invented. So, give thanks to your friend, the potato, today (and then commence to munching).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Voodoo Religion IV

I was having a hallway conversation with some physics colleagues of mine. We were kicking around the merits of some highly debated data results just presented to us. I made the statement that scientific results should not be approached like a religion (I believe they are true or I have faith they are correct) nor should they be open for democratic debate (how many people believe these results are correct?). This statement led one of my colleagues to paraphrase the opinions of Bob Park (see Voodoo Religion I for details -- see how this series all ties together?). Park's viewpoint is that religion and faith are mere superstition, the desperate clingings of the misguided, the uneducated, the weak-minded. The laws of nature categorically rule out supernatural "interference" at every point of space and time in the entire history of the universe. There is simply no possible role or place for a god or gods. My colleague then went beyond Park's opinions and made a statement that amounted to saying that religion is a fraud. My problem is, that at that moment, I was totally unequipped to say anything. I felt as if two big goons (hey, Moose, Rocko) were holding me down. Looking back in hindsight, I still do not know what I could have said to express my point of view, to defend my beliefs. Did my lack of ability to stand up and do something at that moment expose me as an immature Christian or show some chink in my armor? Should I have stood up to these disparaging remarks on my faith and my God (or somehow engaged them in conversation)? With the movies and books and other munitions coming at me, shouldn't I be able to listen to other points of view and always have clear, consistent, and coherent answers -- at least for myself? This whole four-part diatribe has been meant, in part, to get some of my self-anger and self-disgust off of my chest, to give it to God, and to seek some answers. I feel like I should be able to defend my Lord (to myself and others) and all I can do, at times, is stand there, helpless and meek. I don't have all the answers that I want or need. I often feel castrated and defenseless. What does it mean when I start to see the points of view of the other side? What does this say about me? What does this say about my faith, my salvation, and my true relationship with God? What is the answer, what can I do?

Epilogue: The only approach that makes sense to me is to practice patience and perseverance. Seek wisdom and truth, wherever they lie. Ask questions and pray for the answers to be revealed in God's perfect timing. A true heart and soul will ultimately find its way. (Fin)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Voodoo Religion III

O.K., so where am I going here? What started me on this bent? Well it began a few weeks ago in small group where I raised some of these issues, but I don't think that I fully articulated what was really eating at me. In short, I need to expose the gist of my nub (it's O.K., this is an expression from Monty Python). I wanted to explore some things in these postings, hoping that some of my more learned and spiritually mature friends could help me out. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think that a learned sherpa is what I need sometimes (Paul I really miss you in this area). Perhaps I also need to clarify my background for those that don't know me. I am a research scientist, and in this world of the intelligentsia, nothing can be taken at face value or "on faith". Everything needs to be studied carefully, precisely, from multiple points of view. Totally quantifiable and objective at every turn. If "it" can't be measured or derived in a rigorous mathematical framework, then "it" is not real or not true. In my circles, faith and religion are (mostly) looked upon as the prattle of fools. I once told a colleague that I was a Christian, and he said to me "Oh no, don't let them get you" as if I had been brain-washed by some wacky Kool-Aid drinking, white bathrobe and sneaker wearing cult. (Wow Dan, you sure like to bloviate, get to the point already). O.K., my point is how do I defend myself and my religion and my beliefs from this onslaught? Christianity is not locking ourselves and our beliefs in a closet. We can't just walk away, avoid the issues, stick our head in the sand. It must be about confronting false beliefs and spreading the word and the truth. This is a skill that I am lacking, and this is shaking me to my core, causing me to edge toward very dark places (and also causing me to lose my hair). The finale is coming.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voodoo Religion II

Consider the mainstream movie called Religulous released in theaters in October starring the popular comedian Bill Maher. The movie's title is a combination of the words "religion" and "ridiculous". I have seen commercials for this movie where Maher is just dripping with the attitude that every religious person is a kook and belongs in the funny farm. Folks are saying things like:
  • This movie will show religion for the opiate crutch that it is;
  • If people didn't take themselves and religion so seriously the world would be a much safer and calmer place to live;
  • Religion. It's funny in that incredibly scary kind of way;
  • Many people believe that a world without belief in god(s) would be a significantly better place.
Now having read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, I firmly and unabashedly believe, in agreement with Bell, that asking tough questions and questioning everything is not only a reasonable approach, but is the only sensible and responsible course of action. Just simply believing because our parent's believed or believing because this is the culture that we happen to be in, is not making religion personal. In this condition, your religion is wrapped more around your outside than your inside. However, movies like Maher's are not a debate, they are a one-sided attact directly from the enemy. This is not like Archie Bunker, the uber-bigot, whose attitudes showed just how ridiculous bigotry really was. The truth is that I have always thought that Bill Maher was a funny and quick-witted comedian and commentator. Over the years, I have taken pleasures in seeing him rip apart the self-righteous, phoney-baloney, self-important prigs that feel that they must speak for the stupid, unwashed masses. The further truth is that watching the trailers for Maher's movie indeed makes Christianity look like an over-the-top, wacky fish story that is just too bizarre and silly to be true. His words cause something sinister to stir within me, something that I would much rather not face. However, I must face it as my soul is at stake. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Voodoo Religion I

Consider an overview for the new book from author Robert Park, Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science:   From uttering a prayer before boarding a plane, to exploring past lives through hypnosis, has superstition become pervasive in contemporary culture? Robert Park, the best-selling author of Voodoo Science, argues that it has. In his new book Superstition, Park asks why people persist in superstitious convictions long after science has shown them to be ill-founded. He takes on supernatural beliefs from religion and the afterlife to New Age spiritualism and faith-based medical claims. He examines recent controversies and concludes that science is the only way we have of understanding the world.

I never thought that as a Christian I would be lumped in with the crowd who wear makeshift tinfoil tuques (nice tuque eh!) on their heads to keep the aliens from reading their minds. What's worse, Park, a distinguished physics professor at the University of Maryland with a rather wide following, is basically labeling religion a fraud and believers as fools. These accusations stir something deep inside of me that must be explored. More to come in this four part series.

The Innocence of Youth

When my daughter was just a li'l sprout (maybe 4 or 5), I remember her walking up to another child on the playground and saying "Hi, I'm Maddie will you play with me and be my friend?". If you have children, you can probably guess what happened. The two of them trundled off together and were immediately fast friends. It is amazing how this adventurous and open spirit is completely absent (or perhaps extinguished) in adults. I was thinking to myself how our adult worlds would be so much different if we still had this ability to openly share ourselves with others. No reluctance, no embarrassment, no complications, no separations, no socio-economic divisions. My daughter's question has stuck with me over the years. Every now and then it drifts through my mind and tickles me and it starts me pondering ...