Friday, August 24, 2012

An open letter to my children

To my children,

When I first married your mother, having children was not yet in the front of my mind.  I guess the thought of having a child wasn’t a real thought, but more of a possibility that it could happen some day.  Then one day I received a phone call while at work.  It was your mother calling to tell me that she was pregnant.  

I recall the conversation, or lack thereof, very well.  I was somewhat in shock, not knowing what to say or how to react.  Your mother was very excited and I didn't know what to say.  I sat on the phone in silence while Mom was questioning my happiness with the news!  After assuring her I was happy as well, I hung up and sat down at my work station.
I worked in a department where I was the only guy.  There were about 40 people in my immediate area and I was the only dude!  Not only was I the only guy, I was by far the youngest, with most of the ladies in the department 35 and older.  I was 20.  
After sitting down, the lady behind me asked if everything was OK.  She apparently picked up on my body language while on the phone.  I turned around and told her quietly that your Mom was pregnant.  Not expecting it to go any further, she proceeded to turn around to the entire department and loudly announce that I was going to be a father!  The place erupted in shrieks and howls.  It was then that it hit me.  The happiness of the thought of becoming a father started to sink in.  I was going to be a dad.

So nine months later Emily, you were born.  Standing in the hospital room holding you, marveling in the thought that you were a creation that I was a part of was quite overwhelming.  The amount of love I felt was beyond what I had ever experienced before.  There was also a large amount of pride to have such a beautiful daughter.  And then it was time to take you home...

The drive home was a long one.  You cried the entire time.  I'll admit that this was a bit unnerving!  While going through the pregnancy period, your thoughts of parenthood are all blue sky and puppies!  There are no hard times!!!  So what's up with this? We got home and calmed you down and proceeded to "show you off" to friends and family.  It was a pretty cool time.  

You grew and we adjusted, mostly, and you know what happened when you were 10 months old.  I don't need to go into the details as you know them already, but it was a really trying time for me and your mom.  We had already been under a lot of stress because I had lost my job shortly after you were born and the new job I had was not paying well, so money was pretty tight.  The combination of a low paying job and missing hours because I was at the hospital with you only compounded the issue.  You came through that time beautifully and courageously and soon it was time for a sibling.
Christina, you came into the world in perfect harmony with your personality.  Full of energy and ready to go!  It was only 45 minutes from the time we arrived at the hospital to the time you were born!  And in the fashion typical for you, at 1 day old you were trying to hold your head up!  Already trying to be involved to see what was going on!  

Bringing you home was a little easier than it was for your sister.  Mainly because we had some experience in dealing with a baby.  I've often told your sister that she was the "guinea pig".  It's part of the deal when you are a first born.  The 3 of us adjusted pretty well to having you in the home.  Your sister was very proud to be a big sister.  She was a very protecting and mothering big sister.

You two grew and matured and handled the family changes very well.  Your mother and I were very proud of you two.  You were both very good children.  While there were challenges along the way, there is no father more proud of his children than I am of you two.

A number of years later, we were once again blessed with a child.  Jeremiah, you joined the family on Christmas Day.  Our best Christmas present ever!  While your sisters have both reached adulthood, you are still in your teens, still growing into a man.  You have a wonderful heart and I look forward to watching you grow into that man.

Looking back over the past 26 years of being a father, I can't help to feel an incredibly vast ocean of emotions.  As a parent, you have a vision of how things should be, but life has a way of happening and changing that vision.  While I have no regrets, I do have many disappointments in my own life.  

I find it difficult to put into words, but as a parent, you want to do everything you can for your child.  To give them everything they want, to protect them from all hurts and to never let them experience disappointment.  Now we all know that this is not reality.  We all know that kids need to experience some "bad things" in life as it is part of growing up, but that doesn't mean that is doesn't hurt the parent.  There is no pain that I have ever experienced that is greater than the pain of disappointing your child.  

The problem with life is that there is no "do over" button.  What's been done has been done.  We can only learn from our past.  The problem with making mistakes while bringing up children is that you can't go back and correct it.  I mean, as an adult, if you make a mistake you can move on from that mistake, explain to the people involved etc.  As a child you are in a development mode.  Kind of like a clay pot.  While new and soft, it can be molded and shaped, but if the artist makes a mistake and dents the soft clay, it can forever stay in that pot.  The pot may still be beautiful after the clay hardens, but it will forever have that dent.

I have always tried my best as your father.  I know I have not been perfect and God knows I've made my mistakes.  I only wish my mistakes would not have affected you.  I was not always the most savvy financier and learned late in life how to manage my finances.  This is one area where I have great regret in not being able to help you as much as I have wanted.  Considering life does not have a "do over" button and since I am fresh out of highly modified DeLorean's, I can only say I am sorry.  I wish I could do so much more for you.

I believe that people can continually improve if they choose to.  I am always trying to improve myself and I strive to be a better person.  I am truly thankful that the three of you are so loving and forgiving and I will always try to be there for you.  I will always love the three of you.


Friday, August 3, 2012

I still believe

I am a Christian.  Please don't misunderstand what I mean when I say this.  I am not saying I am perfect.  I am not saying that I know more than those who are not Christians, nor am I saying that you are wrong in your belief.  I am saying that I have chosen to make Jesus Christ the lord of my life by asking Him to come into my life.  For those who don't believe in God, this may seem a bit odd or confusing, and this may make you more confused, but I am more convinced of His existence than I am the chair I am sitting in.  I have had more deep experiences with my savior than I could ever number.  He is very real to me.  I truly believe the only reason my oldest daughter is alive today is because of God intervening in her life at 10 months old.  No one will ever convince me otherwise.

For many years I have taken on many insults and slander because of my beliefs.  It pretty much comes with the territory so you kind of get used to it.  The thing is that it seems lately my faith has come under a much greater attack than I can ever remember.  It's no longer just a mild ribbing at your beliefs, or the old bible thumper jokes, but a much more vile hatred that I see.  It seems people are no longer willing to agree to disagree. 

The funny thing is, many people don't understand what faith is.  Every one has faith in something.  My choice is faith in God.  An atheist has faith as well, it is merely directed at another source.  Take our existence for example.  We came from somewhere!  I choose to believe that we were designed by a supreme being.  Now for those already rolling their eyes, I do not believe that this Earth is only 7000 years old.  I believe no one knows for sure, but I believe it is possible that the Earth is millions of years old, but I also believe that God put man on this Earth sometime in the last 10,000 years.  Prior to that, I don't know what went on here, but I leave that up to God and that's where my faith comes in.  I believe there may have been another race here, but I don't know for sure.  The evolutionist believes that life just started somehow.  That something came from nothing.  This also takes faith to believe in considering that science tells us that something cannot come from nothing. 

So then, since we all have some kind of faith, why are we Christians persecuted for ours? 

I've had some discussions with a few atheists in my life and many are cordial, but what confuses me are the nearly violent ones.  It is like you mention God and they get violently angry!  It is almost as if they are afraid of you!  I am pretty sure I have never purposely hurt anyone having a discussion. 

So where do I go from here?  I guess I just "keep keepin' on" and pray for those that persecute me.  God said in His word that I would be persecuted and hated by all nations because of Him. Matt. 24:9  This is what I have to remember. 

My life verse is Romans 8: 38-39.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This speaks my heart.  I still believe.  No matter what, I still believe.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The beginning of the end?

I've noticed something happening during my lifetime.  There has been a slow moving change in the attitude of people in America.  A change in the attitude of entitlement.  Many people want things given to them.  While this attitude has been around forever, it seems to be growing in intensity lately.

I came to the revelation of this problem recently while surfing the Google App store for my Android phone.  I was looking for a specific app and part of my process in looking for an app is to read the reviews people have left.  This can be very helpful in determining the value of an app, or if the app is buggy, etc.  One thing in the reviews that has become a glaring example of my previous thought is the number of reviews I have read where people are complaining that an app is not free.  There is a recurring attitude in the reviews I have read that people believe they should be able to have all the apps for their phone for free.  I can't help but think "why"?  Why should someone spend their time and effort on something to simply give it to you?

Now don't get me wrong.  I am all about charity and helping the needy, but many with this attitude are not needy, but merely want something without working for it.  I see this as a troubling trend for our country.  This country was built on a strong ethic.  Pioneers who believed they could build their own future.

This attitude falls into the thinking of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement.  People believing that the "1%" people should take care of the other 99%.  A "share the wealth" concept.  This seems nice in theory, but it is not practical.  I recall watching an interview with an OWSer a few weeks ago and it was rather troubling.  This man felt that someone should give him a big screen TV. (Seriously!)  When asked why someone should give him a TV, he answered "Because I want one!"  He went on to explain how utopian society would work.  It's as simple as this.  Some guy has the knowledge of how to build a TV, and he would build a TV for someone, and the receiver of the TV could say, give this guy a chicken, or a belt buckle.  The problem is that the lazy person is still lazy.  He wouldn't have a chicken, because he has an attitude of entitlement.

We have rich people in this country and we have poor people.  The poor don't need handouts, they need assistance.  They need help to be self-sufficient.  It's the entrepreneur that makes this country tick and we need to stop penalizing success.  People also need to stop the attitude of entitlement and remember that you need to work for what you get.

If this country is going to continue to prosper in the future, then we need to stop coveting our neighbor's things and be willing to put forth the effort it takes to succeed.  We live in a great country.  Opportunities still abound...for those willing to work for them.  Let's not forget the pioneering spirit that made this country great.

In 1787, Scottish History Professor Alexander Tyler said the following about Democracies. (Emphasis mine)

"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship."

"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:

1. From bondage to spiritual faith;
2. From spiritual faith to great courage;
3. From courage to liberty;
4. From liberty to abundance;
5. From abundance to complacency;
6. From complacency to apathy;
7. From apathy to dependence;
8. From dependence back into bondage"

Our nation is going on 250 years and from what I can see, we are at stage 7.  I pray we wake up and that this is not the beginning of the end.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Time travel

It's funny how the mind works.  Today the weather is cool and breezy so after I got home from work, I opened all the windows in the house, changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and laid down on my bed to relax for a few minutes.  As soon as the breeze blew over my legs, I was instantly at my Grandma's house, on the day bed on her front porch in the summer of 1975. 

Grandma had a great front porch.  It was enclosed, but fully surrounded with windows.  The porch faced the east so evening sun was on the other end of the house.  It was always cooler on that front porch.  Grandma didn't have air conditioning so you learned to really appreciate that porch. 

Grandma's house circa 2010
In the summer, us kids could go up and spend a week at Grandma's house.  We LOVED this time at Grandma's.  While she lived in an older neighborhood in a small town, there were other kids in the neighborhood that we could play with, as well as some cousins.  On the days when the other kids weren't around, or when I was just wore out, I would relax on that front porch with all the windows open.  The breeze would come through the windows, lightly caressing my body, putting me into a relaxed state.  Like today. 

Laying there relaxing today I started thinking about those times up at Grandma's house.  You see, my Mom was a bit uptight and worried about everything, so to get away for a week was wonderful.  It was a new freedom, albeit temporary.  Grandma was pretty laid back with us grandkids.  As long as we were home for meals and home before dark, we could pretty much be on our own!  Ahh, it was awesome!  Freedom can come sparingly as a child and I really loved those times up at Grandma's. 

Grandma sold her house around 1977 and moved down to the cities, thus ending my summer times away, but I will always cherish those times. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My hope

I took a little road trip this past weekend with Julie and two of our kids.  We went up to see her parents for a quick visit.  They're both getting up there in age so we think it's important to see them when we can, which is not often enough. 

So we were on our way home when Brad Paisley came up on the shuffle of the MP3 player.  The song that came on was "When I Get Where I'm Going".  This song gets me every time.  As a Christian, I believe in an after life and I believe I will get to see those who have left this earth before me.  The part of the song that really hits me hard is when he sings "I'm gonna walk with my grandaddy and he'll match me step for step and I'll tell him how I missed him every minute since he left. Then I'll hug his neck." 

While both of my grandfathers died before I was born so I never knew them, my father died way too young.  I was 33 when he died.  My dad had a stroke about 6 years before he died that left him partially paralyzed on his left side.  This obviously affected his ability to walk.  He walked very slow after his stroke.  Whenever I hear this song at this point, I get choked up remembering how my dad struggled to walk and I think that when I see him again, he'll match me step for step.  And I'll tell him how I missed him every minute since he left and then I'll hug his neck. 

I don't dwell on the past, nor do I wallow in self pity at the loss of my parents and other loved ones.  In fact, I have never gone to any loved ones grave site.  My reason is because they are not there!  The grave only holds their bones.  What I do find is that I miss their company.  The conversations.  The friendship.  My dad and I had a very close relationship.  While he was my father and I was his son, we were also good friends.  It's those times like today when you remember how much you miss someone.  And so I take comfort in the thought of the future I believe in. 

That is my hope.  My hope of a new beginning.  That's what I cling to when I see all the evil in the world.  Like the first line of the last verse, "So much pain and so much darkness in this world we stumble through.  All these questions I can't answer, so much work to do." 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A little bit of yourself.

Relationships are a funny thing.  I was thinking about how we all intermingle with each other to create individual, unique relationships with one another.  It got me to thinking about all the different jobs I've had in my life (I've had a lot!) and all the people I've met in my nearly 47 years and how many relationships I've had/have.  I like making friends and having fun, but I'm the kind of person that trusts almost too easily, and this can be a bad thing. 

Some people are pretty reserved, slow to get into a relationship, some people seem to be a bit wary while others give almost no thought at all about jumping into a relationship.  Me, I may not jump right into a relationship, but I tend to be a "benefit of the doubt" type of person, thinking that the other person would not mean me any harm.  This has gotten me into trouble many times.  I find out too late that the other person was only looking out for themselves. 

The other day I said something to a friend that was meant to help, but my friend took it as insulting, thinking I was being patronizing.  This was the furthest thing from my mind.  I apologized for my comment and tried to explain, but my friend shut me off.  I really felt unjustly convicted of a crime I didn't commit.  I hate that feeling.  I would never purposely hurt anyone.  I like people to like me.  It's my personality!  If someone doesn't like me, I keep thinking, "Why don't they like me?  What can I do to change that?" 

The following morning we were able to talk things out and all is good, but it got me to thinking.  Why did it hurt me so much?  Seriously, I was miserable.  I've known some people that couldn't give two hoots about what others think of them.  Frankly I've never understood how those people do that.  It seems impossible to me.  So what's different? 

I think it boils down to what I mentioned earlier.  It's what we put into the relationship.  If you put yourself into a relationship, you are putting a piece of your character into that relationship.  I look at it in the way it hurts when you stub your toe.  You know how much that hurts and it seems to resonate pain throughout your whole body?  Why?  It's only your little toe!  Much like that, but on the emotional side, you have a part of yourself in that relationship and when it gets struck, it stings.  And it seems, the more you put in, the more it can hurt when it goes wrong. Some people never put much of themselves in while others jump in yelling "CANNONBALL!!!".  It's us cannonballers that are the most susceptible. 

It seems the more you care, the more you give of yourself and the more at risk you are for pain.  But on the flip side, you are much more apt to have a very rewarding friendship.  That's why I treasure long relationships, because there is so much more of me in there!  That may seem self centered, but it's not.  It's the amount of me I'm willing to expose, to engulf in this relationship. 

I believe that God has blessed me with an innate ability to "get along" with people.  If you had to classify me, I would be the proverbial "people person".  There have been times I've questioned whether this is a blessing or a curse, but I know better.  I try to leave a mark wherever I go.  If I can leave a smile on someones face, it makes me happy.  Trying to leave a bit of happiness.  A little bit of myself.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It ain't easy...

Ugh.  That's what's on my mind right now.  Mainly because I have a lot on my heart and mind and what's sitting there is a touchy subject.  So how do I breach this subject?  To anyone reading this, take warning.  This is not an easy note for me to write and may cause offense to those of differing views.  It is downright painful to me, but I see many in the world going to hell and frankly, it scares me.

I read an article where Pastor Rick Warren was interviewed recently and the subject matter was same sex marriage.  Therein lies the touchy subject.  This subject leads to a deeper touchy subject, that being modern Christianity in general.

I'm not here to judge anyone, but as I interpret what I understand as the truth of God's word, there are many "Christians" out there not living a Christian life.  So here is my dilemma.  I believe God's word where it says in Matthew 18:15 that if your brother sins, bring it to their attention so that they will turn from it.  The problem is that in verse 17, it says that if they refuse to listen, treat them as you would a non-Christian.  I read that as losing friends.  It's a tough sell, but I think God was also trying to make a point.  Sin is serious.  Serious enough to warrant losing a friend over.

At the same time, God wants us to be Gentle as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:24-25.  We are to be kind to everyone, not resentful.  Verse 25 states that "opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth..."

This has been on my mind for some time now.  Struggling with the right words to say.  It's especially difficult when it is someone close to you.  Someone you love dearly that you see walking down the wrong path and you know that saying the wrong thing can cause a divide not easily mended.

I struggle for words then I read 2 Timothy 4:1-5.  "1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry"

We as Christians are to "Preach the Word, correct, rebuke and encourage" and we are to do it with great patience and careful instructions.  I believe Paul wrote it this way to say "Don't torque people off".  So how do I tell the ones I love that they need to stop sinning without losing a relationship with them?  At the same time, Paul tells us part of the problem.  They are allowing themselves to be convinced that what they are doing is "OK", finding someone out there to condone their sinful behavior.  All the while, someone like me gets painted as judging.  I guess that puts me in the same category as Rick Warren.  Unpopular.

I have had a number of friends that get in a relationship and start living with their friend.  Not married and living together in my eyes is a sin.  I am not judging anyone, but from what I've read in God's word, sex is for after marriage.  So seeing as how where there's smoke, there's fire, I would assume people living together are also having sex. This falls into the category of gay marriage.  God's design is for a man to leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, to become one.   

I've seen many people claiming to be Christian and at the same time promoting homosexuality and gay marriage.  God called homosexuality detestable in Leviticus 18:22.  In the first chapter of Romans, Paul tells us about God's wrath, stating that God gave them (Sinful Humanity) over to shameful lusts. It says that "even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."  I read this to say that it's wrong and a sin. 

God said in Hosea 4 that His people "perish for their lack of knowledge".  I find that a profound statement.  I read that to mean that people die because they didn't know better, or because they refused to learn.  All through the Bible you will find God telling His people to remember, knowing how easily we would forget Him.  If you've ever studied the Old Testament, you will begin to see how quickly His people forgot what He did for them.  How He has patience with us I will never understand.

So I pray.  Asking God for wisdom and guidance and all the while, it seems all I hear is that I need to stand my ground.  To stand up for what I believe is right.  And at the risk of losing a friend, or alienating a family member, I need to do what's right.  I don't claim to have all the answers.  That's never been my point, but I would feel remiss if I didn't say something.

I know someday I will stand before God in judgment and I need to know that I did what I thought was right in His eyes.  When He asks me what I did with my life, I want to be able to answer Him that I did what I knew how.  And when He asks me where my children are, I want to be able to tell Him, "following You".

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Good Old Days

I have always been a fan of radio.  Since I can remember, I was fascinated with radio.  Not just your normal everyday music station either.  Oh, I love music and listen to it daily, but other types.  I would listen to my dad's shortwave radio, trying to tune in far off stations from around the world when I was merely 9 or 10.  I would try to find a station far away that was speaking English to see just how far away they were.  I got really excited when I would hear stations in Europe or Asia.  I was also a fan of radio theater.

I was introduced to radio theater when I was pretty young, listening to WCCO radio late on Saturday night and they would play the CBS Radio Mystery Theater.  The series ran from 1974 to 1982.  I suppose it was around 1977 or 78 when I found this genre.  If there was a reason for me to go to bed early on a Saturday night, this was it!  I could lay in bed and listen to the theater.  I always enjoyed it while I drifted off to sleep.

To this very day I enjoy listening to the radio.  Still as fascinated as I was back then to hear a station thousands of miles away coming in like it's right next door.  I also still enjoy radio theater.  It is a little harder to come by nowadays though.  Not enough visual stimuli for the modern age to not have 3D, much less no pictures at all!  So how do I feed that need for the stimuli I crave?  I found that the Internet is awash with what is called Old Time Radio (OTR).  So much so that I bought an "Internet Radio" to tune it in!  The Internet radio basically just uses your wifi and has a basic search engine to find Internet radio stations.

One thing that is kind of weird and fascinating all at the same time is that many of the stations playing the OTR programs will play them unedited.  This means that they play the commercials as well.  Most of the commercials are for soap, or cigarettes, or some other odd item, usually for the lone sponsor of the show.  You can probably guess what the Campbell Soup Theater program had for commercials.  It's funny how advertising has changed over the last 75 years.

I was sitting here listening to an old Red Skelton radio program tonight and it got me thinking.  Is today's generation "missing out", or am I just being old fashioned?  I hope we're not losing the ability to fantasize, needing constant visual stimuli.  It seems that every movie coming out today is in 3D.  What about story lines?  What about plots?  What about a screen presence carrying the scene?  Do we need the 3D and computer imaging?  Could you improve on many of the movies of old by 3D or computer imaging? 

We used to be entertained by simple things.  Now it seems we are only satisfied with awesome special effects rather than a good story line. 

I guess I'm getting old.  It's just that I feel I'm too young to long for the Good Old Days...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Treat your wife right. It's more important than you may think!

I've been doing a little studying lately and have come across some information that I will call interesting.  It is in how God created relationships and how He views them, particularly the marriage relationship.  God created the family after his own nature.  God is Triune in nature.  There is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  God is the Head, or in Authority, Jesus said He submits to the Father and the Spirit comes from the Father and Son.  OK, that is a REALLY simplistic view, but stay with me. 

If you look back at creation, there was one phrase that kept getting repeated.  "God saw that it was good".  Several times this is repeated, then in Genesis 2:18, God said "It is not good..."  Interesting!  What was not good?  That man should be alone.  If you think about it, it was the first time there was "alone-ness".  So God created woman and later said that the man and woman would be one flesh.  See a pattern here?  While they are two, they are one.  God's nature is to be in fellowship, as is man's nature.

So God created the man in authority, or the head.  The woman is to submit to the authority of the man and the children come from the man and woman and are to honor the parents.  Just like God is in authority and Jesus submits to the Father and the spirit honors the Father and son.

Unfortunately, the world has made the word "submit" into an ugly word and some men have abused their authority.  Many people today see the word submit and see a very negative attribute, but that is just not the case.  Do you see Jesus submitting to the Father as a bad thing?  Think on that for a while.

And now, allow me to show you what concerned me most in my recent studies.  It is in 1 Peter 3:7.  Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker (physically) partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.  It's those last 7 words that scare me.  "So that nothing will hinder your prayers."  Hinder means to delay, impede or hold back.  I read that as saying that if you don't treat your wife with respect, God may not hear your prayers!  The thought of that is truly frightening to me.  It also tells me that God takes this marriage thing VERY seriously. 

Need further proof about the seriousness of your marriage?  Read Malachi 2:13-17
Here is another thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, weeping and groaning because he pays no attention to your offerings and doesn’t accept them with pleasure. You cry out, “Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows.
Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty," says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”  You have wearied the Lord with your words.

 It is unfortunate that we in the world have changed relationships and marriage into something so trivial and disposable.  It is just so much "easier" to move on to the next one.  I'm not writing this to judge anyone, but it is a frightening thought to me to see people throw a relationship away by being more concerned about self than others.  

So guys, respect your wife.  It's important!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Letter of Anxiety

I have three children.  Two of those children have graduated and moved on.  Our youngest, Jeremiah, is currently in the 8th grade.  Today in the mail we received what I call the "letter of anxiety".  It is the end of the Trimester grade letter from school.  The letter of anxiety can also be a mid-term grade letter.  So why is it the letter of anxiety?  I'm glad you asked!

I was never a "great" student in school.  I believe part of the reason was that I was not all that motivated to learn.  I just didn't really care all that much!  At least not until High School.  During grade school I was also part of what appeared to be an experiment.  We were allowed to "learn at our own pace".  The problem with this method is that my pace was slow.  Painfully slow.  Like I said earlier, I didn't care.  By the end of 5th grade, I was still in a 4th grade math book. (The math books back then all carried a different design on the cover signifying what grade level the book was.)

For the 6th grade, my parents took me out of the private school I had been attending and sent me to a public school.  The first day of school is typically difficult on a new student.  You don't know the school or where anything is.  You many times don't know anyone so you feel like an outsider.  And for me, I was mortified at the thought of the teacher handing out math books and handing me, a 6th grader, a 4th grade math book.  I can still see myself sitting there when the teacher went over to the math books and started handing them out.  He got to me and gave me a 6th grade math book!  I thought, "Don't they know?"  "Did someone not tell them?"  A great wave of relief fell over me.

During the years of 4th and 5th grade, I knew I wasn't doing well and would get scolded by teachers and would get scolded, spanked and grounded at home for poor school work.  Looking back, I recall the scoldings, but I don't recall getting a lot of praise.  I don't blame my parents.  I think they did the best they knew how.  A lot of parents of my generation raised their kids the way they were raised.  With an iron fist.  Kind of a "the beatings will continue until morale improves" mentality.  I knew they loved me, but I think they sincerely didn't know how until after I was an adult.  Praise was not showered on children.

The toughest years for me in school were the Junior High Years.  I was overweight, had a poor self esteem and not a lot of friends.  I struggled to get passing grades.  I found myself imploding as a person.  I was very self conscious about my looks.  My parents would buy me clothes that were not flattering so I would tend to wear the same clothing over and over.  If I found something that I felt OK in, I would continually wear it.  Nike?  Adidas?  Not for me!  I got the Target brand shoes that hurt 5 minutes after putting them on. Pretty much spelled "DORK".

Combine these issues with my timidity and poor learning skills and it spells disaster.  In comes the dreaded "letter of anxiety".  Knowing when the mid-terms would be sent out, I would make sure I was the first one to get to the mailbox every day, looking for that tell tale envelope from the school.  Inevitably, a letter would be there.  I would open it to see which class or teacher it came from.  I would then hide the letter.  I learned it was best to hide the letter so that it would not get crushed in case the teacher asked for it to be signed and returned.  I found that most teachers either didn't care or forgot about them, but every once in a while, a teacher would ask me about it.  Then came the moment of truth.  To bring the letter to my parents.  The letter that said I was failing, or in danger of failing a class.  It was worst when there was more than one.

It was sad that I was afraid of my parents.  Mostly I guess I was afraid of my dad.  He did rule with an iron fist.  He was pretty no nonsense.  Now that I am older, things make a lot more sense than they did back then.  He had a pretty rough life and wasn't afforded a lot of love.  Like I mentioned earlier, I don't blame him.  Nor do I hold a grudge.

I feel like Bill Cosby here when I say, "I told you that story to tell you this one".  I had forgotten about the letter of anxiety until my son got into middle school.  Now the letter of anxiety comes again.  Only this time, the anxiety is not focused on me but rather, my son.  You see, he was diagnosed with Autism near the end of 3rd grade.  He learns things differently than the average person.  He has difficulty processing information.  It's hard to explain, but I will try.  Take your average word problem in math class.  You would read the problem, reason it out and complete the problem.  Jeremiah would read the problem and it would not make any sense.  Then he would just look at, get frustrated and quit.  However, if someone is there and can reword the same problem, he will get it!  He is a smart kid.  He just learns differently.

The other problem is the emotional side of Autism.  Autistic kids have a difficult time dealing with their emotions.  Things get out of sync and they tend to melt down.  Jeremiah has a terrible problem with this for a number of years.  He has gotten much, much better.  Emotions can be a tough thing for any teenager, but is multiplied for a teenager with Autism.

This year has been pretty good, but as always, there is some struggle.  The struggle this year occurred about mid year with one of his friends.  It seems his friend, who also has Autism, liked to push Jeremiah's buttons.  I guess he thought it was funny.  It got to the point where a teacher called me to discuss a plan to figure out what we could do because it was distracting other students.  Thankfully, it looks like Jeremiah has been able to overcome this issue.

So today I walked down to the mailbox and what was there waiting for me?  The letter.  Staring back at me all the way from the mailbox to the kitchen.  All those fears of my youth come flooding back, only this time, hoping that my son is doing well.  Part of me wants to open it on the walk back and another part of me wishes I would never have to open another one these letters as long as I live.  I get in the kitchen and open the letter.  Sure enough, it was the end of Tri 2.  And Jeremiah is doing AWESOME!

I know as parents we are not to compare our children and Julie and I really do our best at that.  I think so far, we have done pretty well, but I can't help the pride and relief I feel when he does well.  Life can be so hard sometimes and as a parent you want so much for your kids that you will do whatever you can to help them.  I never got choked up over the grades my daughters brought home.  I do now.  I am a very proud father.

I guess the next step for me is to get over this anxiety.  So, how do I do that exactly?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

True Love

I know what true love is. I learned it from my Grandma Marie. My Grandma was a great lady. I recall her telling the story of how she knew when she would get married to my Grandpa.

She had told me that Grandpa was off to war somewhere in Europe fighting in WWI. They would write letters back in forth and after a number of letters, he had written to her and stated that he was looking forward to coming home so that she could wash his socks. I find that fascinating to this day! I mean just think of that! Something so simple meant the world to my Grandma. Now granted, laundry was much more difficult 95 years ago, but still, the gesture was so simple, yet had a profound impact on my Grandma.

Many people go through life struggling to "find" true love and never do, while some of us are fortunate to find that true love. So that gets me to thinking, "what made the difference?" Am I perfect? Heck no! Far from it! However I have been blessed with being married to a wonderful woman for over 25 years. I recall that Grandma liked Julie. That meant a lot to me.

Here was a woman that had seen a major depression, 2 world wars and several other wars, all of them with someone she loved fighting in them. She had seen the automobile come to life, radio, TV, the moon landing, microwaves and computers. All the technology of the 20th century and she was born when the horse was the primary mode of transportation.

Grandma was born May 30, 1897, in a much simpler time, but a much tougher time. And she knew that she was loved, because a guy wanted her to wash his socks. I think there is a lesson in there for us today. How much are we chasing after? How much of it is all that important? Isn't Love the most important thing?

I remember this story from time to time, like I did tonight. It always makes me smile, and tear up a bit, to think of something so simple, yet so profound. I thought for hours years ago about how I would ask Julie to be my wife. Grandpa asked Grandma to wash his socks.

Below is a picture of my daughter Emily with my Grandma at age 90 in 1987.

Life is changing

The other day I read an email from someone who kind of put some things into perspective for me.  It was about "social media" and how it is changing us and how we communicate.  It got me to thinking, "so how has it changed me?"

It's kind of funny when I think about it.  I've been a computer geek since way back.  Way back as in a 10 meg hard drive and a monochrome monitor way back.  Ahh, the good ole DOS days...but I digress.  But even back then, I was finding bulletin boards where you could log on, read some posts, write some posts, etc.  It was pre-Internet days.  Now I find myself on Facebook, listening to something called Pandora with REO Speedwagon playing in ears.  So how has it affected me?

Well, for starters, it has helped me reconnect with old friends and relatives.  It also keeps me connected with friends and relatives.  For that I am grateful for Facebook.  It has also provided an outlet for me.  I never kept a diary or journal in my life previous to Facebook, but I have found that this is one venue where I can simply just write what I am thinking.  Some people will read it while others will never know that it's here, and that's OK with me.  I write these notes as a method of therapy.  Facebook also led me to start a blog of my own.

On the flip side, the Internet and technology has a dark side.  In a sense, there is a loss of communication.  Or perhaps a better definition would be a loss of communication skills.  The younger crowd, you know who you are, are truly missing out on some things us older folks had.  Anticipation for one thing.  Patience for another.  Mostly I think we are losing that ability to truly communicate.  Oh, we can carry on a conversation to a degree, but how many times recently have you been able to talk to someone under 25 without being interrupted by a beep or buzz of a cell phone?

I can recall years back when I was going to be getting a phone call and I would race home to wait by the phone, waiting for it to ring.  At the same time hoping nobody would use the phone, because call waiting didn't exist!  If someone was using the phone, the caller would get...a busy signal!!  Really, when was the last time you got a busy signal?  It used to be a norm, now you look at the phone with wonder and amazement when you get a busy signal.  Now we have instant messaging.  Instant.  Shoot, I've heard of some people having a fit because someone didn't respond to their text fast enough.  They had to wait like, 5 minutes?  I suppose it's how things change.  People like my grandparents wrote letters to communicate because they didn't have a phone on the farm until the 50's.

It's a little funny.  A few months ago, Julie and I went out to dinner by ourselves.  Nothing fancy, just a little sit down joint for some Italian.  While we were there, a young couple was seated across the aisle from us.  They were sitting there for about 5 minutes when both of them, still talking to each other, took out their phones and started texting.  What I found fascinating was that they both kept conversing, albeit a bit interrupted, and texting at the same time.  Julie and I both noticed how they would talk a little, then look back down at their phone and tap away.  I couldn't help but wonder, just how much are they really involved in their conversation?  With each other OR with the person on the other end of the phone!

I wonder where we'll be in another 50 years.  Will we even talk face to face anymore?  Sure, that may be a bit far fetched, but think about 1960.  In 1960, who would have thought that you would be carrying around something that fits in your pocket, yet can perform functions that had not even been dreamed up in 1960!  In 1960, most radios still used something called a vacuum tube and were rather large.  Had you told someone in 1960 that someday they would have something that they could easily carry around that would play music, take pictures, play games, record audio and video, make computations, make phone calls and communicate with people around the world, they would have likely said you were nuts.  But the reality is, it happened.  A mere 50 years ago, very few people had a color TV.  Very few had more than 1 car.  50 years may seem a ways off, but it's not really that far off.

So I sit here and think about the Internet and social media and all it's wonders and abilities and what do I end up thinking about?  Conversations with my dad.  I miss his wisdom.  I miss his ability to always have the right words to say.  If I was feeling down, I could call my dad and somehow, someway by the time I hung up, things were OK again.  Now that he's no longer gracing us with his presence, I try to remember the things he did say to me while he was here.  I try to remember his encouraging words that always seemed to be spot on target.  I try to remember what he taught me.  To rely on God, not on man.

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings. 6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23

I try to remember this, it's just that some days are harder than others.  I miss the talks.  I miss the advice.  I really try not to dwell on it, but he was a big part of my life.  All the wonders of technology can't replace this.  I look at my life now and hope that he'd be approve.  God knows I've not been perfect.  I also hope that someday I can be that rock that he was.  I'm working on it, but it's taking longer that I would like.

Life is changing.  I hope for the better, and I hope that I will be a better person as well.

The world as best as I remember it. Or, a lesson in history.

I’m somewhat of a history buff, particularly modern history.  My latest obsession has been digging back into World War 2.  I’m currently reading “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom. If you’re not familiar with the story, Corrie ten Boom and her family were part of the Dutch Resistance assisting Jews from persecution during the German occupation of Holland.  I recommend a quick Wikipedia search if you’re not familiar with the story.

Reading the book is giving me two contradicting emotions.  One emotion is a happy feeling that there are good people in the world.  People who will sacrifice their own lives for others, even people they don’t know!  Corrie lost a number of family members to the Germans.  The second emotion is the disturbing emotion of distress in the knowledge that there are truly evil people in the world.

The amazing thing about Germany in the 30’s and early 40’s is that many of the German people were lured into the belief of infallibility.  Many truly believed that they were the master race.  They were convinced of their superiority.  Reading about the absolute cruelty that one human can show another is very distressing.  I cannot comprehend treating another human in such cruel fashion.  While studying World War 2, I can’t help but think of the world we live in today.

I look at the world today and there are still people that want to destroy others.  I was going to add “for no reason” to that last sentence but it occurred to me, what does it matter?  Can you really have a reason for wanting to destroy another, or feel justified in such manner?  It can be an easy path to take to be “anti-war” or “anti-violence”, however the sad truth is that some people cannot be reasoned with.  For example, many nations tried to “reason” with Hitler.  Holland called themselves “Neutral” during the beginning of WW2, but it didn’t last.  They surrendered to Germany on May 14, 1940.

Many Americans of the day resisted getting into WW2 during this time, stating that it was not “our war”, but freedom is never free, nor is it everlasting as long as evil exists.  We were attacked on December 7, 1941, thrusting us into the war.  I often wonder how the world would look today had we not joined the fight.  I think about the “what ifs”.  I think about how history could have been so different had our Aircraft carriers been in Pearl Harbor when it was attacked.  It is very possible that I could not be sitting here writing this because it is not allowed.

It is easy to sit back and say that we should let the rest of the world fight amongst themselves, but as Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  We must stand up for what is right.  We must stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves.

My concern for our future is the passivity that I see in the world today.  We have become a self absorbed people, only interested in something if we can get something in return.   We need to be a people willing to sacrifice for others, not looking for a reward.  I pray for our future and my children.  I don’t mean to be Johnny Raincloud, but I don’t see a bright future coming and I sincerely hope I’m wrong.  I’ve never been more hopeful to be wrong about anything.

They're in a better place...or are they?

I was reading an article today about a guy that was killed while fleeing police.  A police officer tried pulling him over for failing to signal and he took off.  He eventually hit a concrete barrier and was either ejected from his vehicle, or he jumped from the bridge where he hit the barrier and fell to his death. (He may have thought he could hit the river and missed)  What got me thinking about his eternal fate was one of the comments written below the story by a reader. 

The comment stated that it was a "sad day" and "he's in a better place" and "he will be missed".  While it seems that the commenter knew this person, I can understand their sadness and how he would be missed, but I question the "better place" comment.  Not just in this particular instance have I pondered this thought, but in all instances when people make this reference.

As a Christian, I believe in a "better place" after we die, but it seems to me that many people have this idea that when you die you automatically go to Heaven.  This is just not the case.  We don't go to Heaven just because we died, or because we were nice, or because we had a rough life here.  The Bible tells us that we must accept Jesus as our savior and that we must be "born again".  There is only one way into Heaven. 

I am not judging this person, nor am I judging others in this world, but I do stop and think when I hear people say "They're in a better place", particularly when the person gives the appearance of not living a Godly life.  There is a difference between judgement and observation.  As it is written, "by their fruits you will know them." Matt 7:20.  You can tell a lot about a person by how they live their life.

I fear many people either don't believe in the possibility of hell, or that anyone could go there, but it does exist.  I would pray that the person that died did know Christ so that they could live in peace for eternity, but remember death does not equal eternity in Heaven.  You need to make the choice while here on Earth.  If you don't, you could be too late, and spent eternity suffering in hell.