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.