Thursday, January 29, 2009

Grudging Admiration and a strange question

I don't generally like the media, and still believe (in spite of several disagreements with son, who is one of them) that most of the media leans leans left--and no, I don't want to discuss it--I have to admire one portion which does something noble. This is the group that films, produces and aires the likes of chronicling the Duggar family.

First, my hat is off to the Duggars for living the life that they do, and having the willingness to let the world see it. They are a shining example for all to see. Though I watch them only infrequently, and I'll admit somewhat grudgingly, they are totally uplifting. They might not have it all, but they have all they need and are quite happy that way.

They are presented as people of Christian faith, and not mocked for it. It's a great thing to see a functional family, shown as being normal in a world where disfunction is more the norm.

As one of the many in this country who is in what I believe to be a functional family--my parents still married after 65 years, my wife and I nearing 35, all my children married...--we have begun to see a nation taken over by those who are not so raised. Do you think if there were more of likes of Jim Bob and his family we might not be in the national crisis we're in? Just asking.

You can use the same set up to ask many more questions. Figure that out for yourself.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monster Truck Control

I just read that "another" person was killed today in a monster truck event. It was only a week or so ago that someone else was similarly killed or injured. So why should we allow monster trucks if people are killed and injured?
The same could be asked on an international level concerning soccer games. These things incite riots; stadiums have collapsed and crushed fans...and we won't even talk about parents assaulting other parents at their kids' games. People have been killed and injured.
Even in auto racing cars, or part of them, have flown into the stands and killed or injured.
And for that matter, let's look at amusement parks. How many people, mostly children, are injured in rides each year?
All of these injuries and deaths are tragedies; but do we call for Monster Truck Control? Race Car Registration? Roller Coaster Bans? NO! Of course not. But Gun Control is always a hot topic.
I don't have numbers to support the thoughts I've just written, but think about it. If even a few people are killed or injured each year at motor events, sporting events or amusement parks; based on the number of those events, the percentage of injuries/event must be higher than the percentage of injuries/lawfully owned guns in the US.
I'm not suggesting that those things be regulated any more tightly than they are. I'm just trying to paint the picture to show the idiocy of many, if not most, if not all, gun control proposals.
I firmly believe that felons should not have guns, and have arrested many for that, and caused the seizure and destruction of many guns that way. I also believe that anyone using a gun in a crime should be put away for a long time; which seems to rarely happen in spite of mandatory sentencing. I believe that kids should not take guns to school--in the classroom that is. In the country, kids still go rabbit hunting before and after classes or tend their trap lines. One local school district (as I've been told) used to have a whole corner of the Principal's office stacked with rifles and shotguns through the fall and winter. The boys (and maybe a few girls) would bring them in when they came in, and pick them up when they left. Now, parents who stop to see a child's program get arrested because they've just come from a morning of turkey hunting and have a shotgun in the car. That's just plain DUMB, as are most current gun laws.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

New Politician

Since Senator Hillary was appointed and confirmed as Sec. of State, her position had to be filled by appointment of the Gov. Paterson. He had a long list of folks hopeful for the seat, but after a weeks of drama chose the most unimposing of the group. Kirsten Gillibrand--whose name I might have just misspelled.
First, I have to thank the good Gov. Paterson for picking an upstate candidate. Though she's still a democrat, she has a history of working for any person of her district who needed her help, and was supported across party lines. From what I've seen and heard, she's really a pretty altruistic politician! She also was endorsed by the NRA, though that might have been a "lessor of evils" choice, I really didn't study the issues at the time.
When she was in the House, I didn't pay that much attention to her, as it was not my district and the guy she beat got himself in bad spot and seemingly needed to be put out of office by the voters. Now that she's in a statewide office, I guess I'll have to pay more atttention to all her politics when the next election comes around.
DARN! That means I've got to pay attention again.

True Love

Tolls from upstate NY to New Jersey: Who knows, EZ pass just takes it out of my account.
Fillup of the gas tank (at least it was .30/gal. cheaper in NJ): Don't know that either, it just comes out of the account.
Watching your 8 year old granddaughter play a game of basketball, and giving her a pat on her sweaty little head afterwards: Priceless!
I guess what I really want to say here is that if you have to stop to count the cost, it probably isn't love. There area probably any number of directions I could go with that though, but I'll leave it at that for today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


My wife got a bit upset with me last night as I fumed over all the fuss being generated in Washington. I probably did have more "humph"s, snorts and sighs than normal, but I'm just sick of it. I'll be working tonight, so don't have to worry about watching the news, either at 6 or 11, so she won't have to hear my distaste for all that's gone on.
I've been on Earth and concious of about 10 innaugurations, I'd guess, and have never seen so much fuss over one as this. Any elected president deserves a party. No problem with that, but this whole thing is absurd. Yes, Barak Obama is the first person of color ever to take office. That in itself is historic, and deserves some celebration I suppose. But give me a break! This isn't celebration, it's worship.
Barak Obama is a man. He is NOT, as has been said (by a noted Muslim), the messiah. He is not the one anwer to all our problems. He can't be. We're not in a national problem, it's a global problem. There's never been a time, except during the two world wars, when the world is so filled with problems.
I wish the new president well, however we can already see some of the direction he is pushing us in: the left. It will be an interesting time, no question about that.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No consequences

This evening, one of our deacons was doing the prayer meeting. His lesson was out of the book of James, chap. 1, but probably could have used any of a couple dozen other chapters of about half the books of the Bible and had the same effect. He was talking about the verbs, the action--do it--words. Every one of the actions has a result, and each of the "don't do it" verbs have a consequence. As you might guess the consequence of the don't do its are not that pleasant.

It got me to thinking that we have a society today that lives without consequences, and I believe that some, if not much of our current financial meltdown are the result of living without consequences for too long.

When we first got a mortgage we got sucked into an adjustable rate situation which threatened to eat us up in about three years. We recognized that we would not be able to keep it up, and re-financed. Problems solved, but soon we'd been caught up in a situation with a bad furnace, a leaking garagge roof and the need for a new car....and we were over our heads again. Well, we had to cut back, and with another change in mortgage rates refinanced again. This time we learned our lesson and stayed withing our means.

Now people of all levels--and I do feel sorry for those who are losing or have lost their homes--are caught short because they'd never recognized that they were over their head in debt and dealt with it.

And then there are those who have been bailed out by the credit counselors and been able to repay only a portion of their debt, though in reality they'd probably already paid back more than what they'd ever charged by making minimum payments on a bunch or credit cards. But the point of it is that they've gotten away with not fulfulling their obligations. All too often, in a couple of years they're right back to the same position they were in before.

Our nation is in a bad financial spot, no two ways about it, but I fear that the national and global situation are either the natural result of the many small problems, or the small problems are end result of following the pattern set by the larger entities.

I hope this has made some sense.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Inflating numbers

I had a nice chat with a friend last night about some mission work we'd done together several years back. He's become discouraged that the results of our work hadn't really taken root, and has changed the focus of his ministry to something entirely different.
I have to agree with him on a lot of what he said. We saw dramatic results of "our" work. Hundreds, if not thousands of men and women responded to the prestentation of the Gospel. The problem is that the Bible clearly teaches that if a person is in Christ, he is a "new creature" and therefor will not continue his life along the same pattern it was running before that.
In the years of the ministry he was in, the thousands of converts would have had something of a ripple effect in the nations of the work.
Now, I fully understand that we don't know what really went on in those hearts, and the stresses and cultural pressures that are involved in the lives of those men and women today; but we should expect to see some visible result. But we see little if any.
That's one part of the problem. The other part is the practice of those in that ministry (myself included) to claim for Christ the full number of decisions for Christ without at least qualifying it with commentary as to the cultural issues. The people in 3rd world nations like to please the visitors. If you ask, they'll respond the way they think you want them to.
Another problem in the ministry we were in was that there was no follow up for most of the folks with whom we dealt. If we saw 500 converts, maybe a few would trickle into local churches in the next month or so. Maybe some would sit down and really read the Bibles we gave them. But if 10 out of the 500 were growing Christians by the end of the year, I'd be surprised.
My friend has re-directed his ministry to young children. He believes, and I must agree, that if you change the children, you will change the nation.
The scary part of that is that it's working in this country, but going in the wrong direction!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Middle C

This morning in church I was marveling at some of the music: the hymns, the choir's anthem, the pianist's offertory.... As my mind wandered a bit during the offertory, I got thinking about the thing that all of them have in common: Middle C. That's a common reference point for all western music. You can ask virtually any musician to give a middle C and he or she can produce it, provided that the instrument is capable of it.
Middle C is a note that is known to be a certain frequency, and though it's approximated, it's about 261 hertz. and some decimals. (A above middle C is 440 hertz). Whatever it is, it's a standard. Anything in western music, tuned to concert pitch is the same.
We now live in a society with few, if any absolute standards. It started with the "do your own thing" of my early years and has become more noticeable since. When our nation was founded, it was designed with certain absolutes; they came out of the Bible. Though the men who fashioned our republic had many and varied viewpoints on how they practiced their religion, they all had the same source of authority: The Holy Scripture.
The "Do your own thing" mentality was becoming popular in the same time frame that the Bible was being thrown out of the schools. Families ceased to worship together if at all. Colleges which had been founded with the teachings of the Scripture were starting to question, if not throw out, all it said.
Now, our society was in chaos. It's as though someone went through a major symphonic orchestra and tuned all the instruments to a slightly different standard.

Friday, January 9, 2009

End of the Obama jokes

Confession time: The Obama jokes were fun while the race was on; actually some of the McCain jokes were pretty good, too. Barak Obama won, John McCain lost, the race is now over. For many days I continued to get emails which were jokes or rants about our soon to be president.
Even good Christian folks continued to send them and one day a responded rather tersley to one of them that it was time to end it.
As Christians, we above all are required--are you ready for this--PRAY for Obama, for Biden, and all of the appointments which are being or will be made in the short time between now and the election.
We don't have to like them. We certainly don't have to support their policies and politics, but we do have to pray for them.
At a point in time where the idiology of our nation seems to be at a crossroad, where "one nation under God" seems to be intersecting with "some nation under many gods," we need to pray all the more.
Makes you wonder if we as Christians have been praying hard enough, long enough, doesn't it?

Preaching to the choir

I get at least a dozen emails every day, somethimes 20 or more, not counting those which go directly to my junk file. Some come from like minded and very well meaning friends and acquaintance who send me information about something on which we agree. Most often, the information is already old, probably sent to me from another source days or even weeks ago. Sometimes it's nothing more that a news clip I've already seen somewhere myself.

Of course many of them are political, and lately many of them are issues about gun control and what's going to happen under the new US liberal government and the new NY state Democratic controlled government.

It's not fun to imagine how things can go, I've already got at least two copies of the pre-filed gun control bills, filed before the legislature was even in place if I understand the process correctly, and they're scarey, really scarey.

I used to get concerned more than I do now. First of all, I have to believe that God is in control, in spite of what appears to be a government which appears to be spinning out of control and gaining momentum as it goes. Also, I no longer look at the people proposing and supporting these laws as either inherently evil or just blithering fools, they are neither (hopefully), just out of touch with reality in that they only see what their narrow minds and their political cohorts want them to see.

Additionally, I've started to put gun control into perspective. Yes, it's been a tool of totalitarian governments in both recent (Germany and Russia come to mind) and not so recent (ancient Japan is good example) history. The human race has survived none the less, though there has been much suffering which might well have been averted had the populace not been disarmed. But gun control is not in and of itself evil. It can even be sold as a noble endeavor. If guns could be dis-invented I might even support it myself, but then would there be knife control (surely there would be), baseball bat licensing? Would we start to legislate control over anything that could be used to injure someone? A host of martial art weapons developed were nothing more than common tools pressed into service as effective weapons.

But I digress from the point. Gun control is not evil in itself. There are greater things out there which are truly evil in and of them selves. We have abortion. Though I don't have the stats in front of me, there is no denial that millions of babies are killed each year. Partial birth abortion is particularly disturbing as it kills--that's right KILLS a viable human being. And our taxes fund this horror! That's evil. When placed alongside gun control, gun control sort of pales by comparison, doesn't it.

And then there's euthanasia, the killing of the old and infirm. My dad is 89 years old. He's somewhat infirm, suffering from some dementia, and he drives my mom nuts with some of his behaviors. It's even tough for the family to be around him for extended periods of time. We used to take him and my mom out for lunch once a month or so, but his behavior is no longer acceptable in public, or at least so unpredictable we worry about it, so now we pick up good take out that he likes and we take them to lunch at their house.

There's a DNR order hanging on the refriderator in case he has another heart attack, with instructions to make him comfortable, but not to take any heroic actions to safe him. That is his wish, with the consent and advice of all his kids, myself included. However, the thought that he could call his doctor and say "I've had it, give me a shot and end this nonsense" is outlandish. Worse yet is the possibility that my siblings and I could say, "Dad is just a drain on everyone..." You can finish that for yourself. The same would be my mom saying "I've had it with Dad..." and you can finish that one yourself also.

Though the above scenarios seem ludicrous, we have assisted suicide laws in some states now, how soon will we have euthanasia by committee decision? Now THAT's evil. We still call that homicide here. I pray we always will.

All that said, I do understand suicide, and think it's generally a long term solution to a short term problem, as a good friend calls it. I understand it, but it's still wrong. People are taken to the end of their own resources, either physical, emotional, spiritual, or even financial, and see it as the only way out.

Taking a life is aways wrong. The Bible is clear on that. There are certain exceptions for society exacting the death penalty, for self defense, but that's about it. The willful, intentional taking of life is murder.

And in spite of all these things, and laws leading to allow them, God is still in control. If I could not trust that, maybe I'd be calling the doctor myself.

More on map reading

My wife and I love to travel. Generally I do most of the driving, I guess it's a guy thing, and she's the navigator. I've often been confused by her instructions even though she gives clear and simple directions.
A few months ago I rode my motorcycle from our home in upstate NY to a meeting of what's called the Christian Game Warden Support Group, held in hunting camp about 40 miles west of Nashville, TN. I did the entire trip withough her giving me directions! Never got lost even once! Didn't even get too confused!

How did I do that? Simple, I spent time studying the map myself. I looked at the hard copy of the map, checked out confusing areas with some of the tools available on the computer, had good written directions.... In short, I put time into it myself and didn't rely on a navigator.

I have a pastor, two actually, I think the world of of. They're both Godly men, good teachers and preachers, and I trust what they tell me, that's it's the true way, the proper directions, by which to live my life. However, I still need to get a look at the map myself. The map I speak of, of coures is the Bible.

Even thought I trust my wife's directions, it's no replacement for studying the map myself. Even thought I trust the teaching of my pastors, it's no substitute for sitting down with the Bible myself.

On map and compass

Finally got out on snowshoes today. I had a call yesterday from a friend I'd not seen in a long time and he came over to go do some shoeing and get a quick lesson in map and compass.
He'd picked up a new GPS based device that worked as an electric compass and a way to always get you home, but he'd never learned how to use the simple compass and map. We spent about an hour or so doing basic skills in the treefarm and then went into the woods and used the compass and map to get us out. Amazing, simple little thing.

After a cup of coffee, and discussions about kids, education, and a host of other things, the discussion turned to religion. He'd left his Roman Catholic faith after returning from serivce in Viet Nam. He felt like it just wasnt' what it had been when he'd left. Though not Catholic, I'm sure he's right. The problem is that in spite of absolute dedication to what he thought he'd been doing all those years of faithfully attending services and practicing his faith, he didn't have a clue what had been said.

From what I've heard of Catholic Mass(es), mostly the Mass of Christian Burial, the plan of salvation is there. It may be hidden by all the smoke and mirrors, but it's there. As a matter of fact, the saddest part of attending a MCB is the thought that the person being buried probably missed the point of the whole thing because of all the ritual surrounding it.

Just as my friend had never learned the simplicity of a map and compass--despite having the compass a long time, but had learned to rely on an electronic gadget, he had never caught the simplicity of the Gospel, but instead had learned to rely on what he thought had been the point.

Someday, the batteries will fail in his gadget, or he'll be in such heavy cover that it will lose its signal. He will at least then be able to find his way back with the simple yet trusty old compass.
Unfortunately, he's not grasped the importance of trusting on the other simple compass: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the only thing that will get him to his destination.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Failed plans

I'd had grand plans of getting on snow shoes and stomping around the Christmas tree farm in back of the house today, and might yet if the weather changes. Right now, however, the snow is falling and blowing a bit too hard for "recreation" and sitting in the recliner with the computer on my lap seems like a better thing to do. Maybe the lake effect will pass in a while, the sun come out and I'll get those shoes on at that.
I've had a lot of plans fail over the years, some of them were the fault of the weather, some due to actions of others; there have been mechanical failures, heath issues, emergencies with the kids and a host of other reasons--and some were my own fault--but many have failed.
But as think back on it all, God has never changed HIS plan. He's had His hand on my life, and my plans, all these years. Never has there been a day when He wasn't looking out for my well being and my future.
That's not to say that I've always followed along in His plans. I'm certain that there were points in time when He said "OH! I wish he wouldn't do that!" or "No, go that way!"
Now that I've been a parent for about 34 years, I understand what the Bible means when it tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. My wife and I have often agonized over decisions our children made, paths that they chose. However, it was, and is, their own lives to live and paths to travel. When they were young we had more control over what they did; when, where and how they did it. As they got older, the control lessened and they took on more responsibility for their own actions. Now, as adults, we have virtually no control, only the ability to offer advice and present to the the pattern we believe is the proper one.

I'm not sure exactly how that works with God. I've heard it said that there is His perfect will and His permissive will. Essentially that He will bring us to certain places somehow, but let us bounce off the guardrails with our own mistakes along the way. I think that this is our poor way of explaining His great plan. He lays out the path for us and, according to Scripture if we trust in him he will make our path straight. That model works pretty well looking at my own life. It seems as though when I've let myself follow my own plans I started heading off on those crooked ways and begin to bang into the edges.

Hindsight here is a great thing. I am very contented and fulfilled at this point in my life. I can look back and see the path by which I got here, and also the places I tried to get off that straight path, and how I ended up back on it. Only the hand of a mighty God could have done that.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sunday School Class

I once thought the idea of an adult Sunday School class was somewhat of an oxymoron. Over the years I've seen the errors of my ways and truly love the class I'm now a part of. We're doing the book of Revelation, and it does get interesting looking at prophecy in light of current world and national politics. It's a mens' class, and pretty much gloves off. On top of that, when it gets too slow, someone--often me--will make a statement, or answer a question in a way sure to get it wound up again.

Yesterday's class was a bit more intense than normal, we actually never got to the text, but went into issues of world religion such as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, and how the founding fathers of this nation would have dealt with them. What are their rights, anyway? If the constitution grants a freedom of religion as we believe the Bill of Rights does, should a Buddhist display be allowed along side a nativity scene in a public park?

And what do Muslims really believe? Should we distrust all of them? Any of them? Why? That led into a discussion of the Crusdades. Was it right to have a Christian Army pushing to take back what the armies of Allah had taken? Maybe the war was just, but to make it a almost a turn around from the Muslim conversions at the point of a sword, to a Christian conversion by the same means.