Sunday, November 26, 2017

Giving Thanks in America

Giving Thanks in America

Our daughter recently took a job (something to be thankful for) in a different town, so now she has her own place away from "the nest". Good. That means holidays like Thanksgiving are all that much more special. She came home for Thanksgiving. We've had a great visit.

It's a uniquely American holiday. There are other festivities which go by the same name. My knowledge is limited; I can't speak about them. I hope those celebrations are as meaningful as ours in the US. Historically, those we call the Pilgrims arrived on these shores, and had a really difficult time at first. After enduring hardship and heartbreak, they made it to a second year. With help from the locals, they began to prosper.

It's a fundamentally Christian holiday. These people gave credit to the Creator for all of it: food, family, and friends. They planned and prepared a meal to formally thank God for their blessings, and invited their new friends to join the party. Enshrinement of Thanksgiving by US federal and state government is obligated to be "non-sectarian", but the roots remain.

They were Puritans and their legacy became a major pillar in what would become the United States.

Give Thanks to God

Not to belabor the point about faith, if you're not a Beliiever, to whom are you giving thanks? Go ahead and have fun with family, make it a nice turkey day, but think about this.The natives were not (at least originally) Christian. Those early thanks-givers didn't beat their new neighbors over the head with the Bible. They simply invited everyone to come along. And so it is with us.

I'm not talking about a random diety of choice. What would be the point? See James chapter 1 verses 17 and 18.

I thank God for salvation, my wife, children, parents, in-laws, extended family. I also thank him for my job, which is truly amazing. (I should elaborate on God's hand in the job. That would make another blog post.) I thank God that I live in the US of A, where I can thank God without someone lopping off my head.

The day after Thanksgiving, we put up the outdoor nativity scene.
I thank Jesus for taking on flesh, living among us, and enduring the Cross.

-- R; <><



Thursday, November 2, 2017

God's Perspective

God's Perspective


I woke up early. Couldn't sleep, so I got up. As I stepped out of the bedroom I saw a neighbor's car drive past outside. It was about 6:30, so this was nothing unusual.


Something happened as a result of my carelessness which affected a number of people, one friend in particular. There is also stuff at work and stuff with family. I found myself anxious about those and other things. As I stepped onto the landing, I wondered why I was up so early, then realized that things can be seen at this hour which one doesn't usually see. God reminded me that I need to see things from HIS perspective, which I don't usually see.


It struck me that the Lord is patiently nudging His children to see things from His perspective, to look at things as He does, to see others as He sees them.


-- R; <><



I Sam 16:7, John 4:35 and 36, I Cor 2:9






Friday, September 8, 2017

Conservative != Christian

Conservative != Christian

I was talking with a friend about some "liberal" ideals he holds. The man grew up as a Christian. How did he come to such a position? But I realized, as I have for a long time, that "conservative" is not what we as Christians are called to be.

More important than your political view is your life in view of Christ. Life is precious. Yes, the life of the unborn is precious, and you do well as a Christian to value that, to defend that. And yes, "pro-life" is the conservative stance, but the politics don't matter as much as the people. Jesus died for the "pro-choice" employee at the abortion clinic no less than He died for you.

Straight != Hate

Several months ago, I learned about the child of a friend making a dramatic lifestyle change. The kid was raised as a Believer but wants to change from one gender to the other. I cannot imagine how the parents feel. It hurts. (But why does it hurt? I'm not affected. Or am I?) I haven't seen these people for years and live hundreds of miles away, so what difference should it make? But everything we do has an impact on other people. I feel angst over this.

Anger is a struggle. It's easier to rage against the imorality, even shut such a person out of your life. But James says that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. This is an impossible position. How can you love the sinner unless you accept their sin? (Matt 19:24-26)

Salvation vs Celebrity

I heard about a famous actress who came to faith in Christ. Wow! Great! For anyone to get saved is cause for celebration. (Luke 15:8-10) People on the screen or on stage or in the news become significant to us. It's weird, but real. And this woman's story is intriguing. She was known to be in-your-face offensive to many while a hero to others. We presumed she'd change her public posture, take on only "family friendly" roles, perhaps denounce previous misdeeds. Not necessarily.

I hope this lady is surrounded by Believers who continue to accept her as God does, in spite of her past, forgiving her failings, and not laying legalistic burdens on her. She doesn't have to prove anything to us. Our job is to know Christ, to love Him, obey Him, follow Him, not dictate the direction of His other children.

Monuments

There has been a lot of public protest both for and against the removal of confederate symbols throughout the US. (It's September of 2017 as I write this.) I have not resolved the matter, don't know quite what to say or endorse. There was a terrible war and a lot of twisted argument more than 100 years ago. In the end, the right side won. But hearts are not changed by military might.

The "left" and "right" are a jumble. Monuments were set-up to honor men who's most prominent actions offend me. Yet our judgement escalates to Numemberg status which offends me even more. How should I respond? Everything we do has an impact on other people, and I know that these monuments and memories have caused pain for people I will never meet. 

Dear God, please change my heart. Let me be known as a Christian whether I'm labeled conservative or liberal. 

-- R; <><



Monday, September 19, 2016

Dallas Sunset

Dallas [ish] Sunset
 
I turned the blinds in the bedroom for more light. Was looking for something after a long day. Sunset flooded in. 
 
The further I get from my formative years the more I treasure them. This sunset reminds me of Dallas. These days Dallas is for me where IBM runs a computer we use, where my brother-in-law and his wife live, where several friends are. But it's no longer home. 
 
Dallas sunsets when I was in high school were warm. Climaticly, sure, but I mean figuratively. They heralded closure for the day without diminishing hope for tomorrow. 
 
I opened the blinds even further to let this particular sunset bathe the far wall. it felt good to take advantage of this end-of-day show God has provided, to drink in every ray of it. 
 
On the dresser, we have pictures of the kids when they were very young. The light shown on a photo of my son. My daughter's picture is there too. 
 
And then it angles down (or up, depending on your stance) and the sun drops below the horizon, looping around for another day. It's only 7:30! I was supposed to cut the grass. Shucks. 
 
click FF on the remote, time goes by
 
That was a week ago already. I left this in "Drafts". (Gotta quit doing that!) 
 
Certain recent news from Dallas reminds me to take advantage of these cycles. Each sunet in this life is followed by a sunrise, and that means a do-over. If the day was good, take note and rejoice. If it wasn't so good, just start over. God has given you an allotment of these do-overs. Use them well. 
 
I finally got the grass cut. 
 
-- R; <><



Sunday, September 4, 2016

one small step for a man

one small step for a man

Sometimes one small misstep can cascade into profound angst. Sometimes the day starts out great and then you literally wish you could turn back time and change one little thing.

By the way, Neil Armstrong famously said "for a man", but there was static on the transmission so we don’t remember it that way. Other than that, a lot of things went right on that day, including some software most people know nothing about. It's the small things that go right that get so little notice.

But for me, God why?
Why do these missteps continue to get center stage?
Dear Lord, please help. We're on this foreign soil on a mission. Please bring us home soon.

-- R: <><

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Extemporaneous Eulogy

Extemporaneous Eulogy

I started this journal entry October 18 while driving back from the funeral. Had to put it aside, and then got swamped. (mostly work stuff)

We said goodbye to Mom that Saturday (the 17th). It was expected, but sudden. Mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's maybe four years ago. The illness proceeded slowly, but then seemed to speed up this past April or May. At the end, her heart gave out. That's what made it sudden.

Hospice advised Dad to solicit prepared comments from friends and family, and he did. There were a dozen brief letters and all were read with tears, some by those who wrote them. (Those who were able to attend.) My sister and I were last up. I didn't write my comments word-for-word, but did have notes. So I called it an "extemporaneous eulogy". 

From my notes and from memory:

I woke up that morning thinking about things parents give their children which the children cannot repay. On balance, there are things children give their parents which the parents cannot repay.

I in working up what I would say, the following points came to mind:
  + closure
  + resurrection
  + reward
  + legacy

closure

She's done. She can now not fail.
Hebrews ch 11 has the Faith Hall of Fame. Then in 12:1 it admonishes us to, "run with endurance the race that is set before us".

Mom loved the Lord more than anyone I know. And she loved us without reservation. I spoke with her briefly Tuesday night just before she passed. She was having a rough evening and all she could muster was "love ya, love ya, love ya". I replied with the same "love ya, love ya, love ya".
Those were our last words in this life.

resurrection

I Thesalonians 4:16 says, "the dead in Christ shall rise first".
At the service, I told Dad, there before the group, "When the trumpet sounds, if you're still here, she'll get to go first.".

reward

Someone had said Mom "made her world small". I'd say it was more that she chose her focus. She put her energy into knowing the Lord plain and simple.

Consider Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus. All three were close friends of Jesus. At one time, there was a gathering at their house; Martha was handling preparations but Mary was just sitting there listening to Jesus. She was just hangin out. Martha complained,"Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.". But Jesus said, "Martha, Martha,you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:42)

So ... Mom chose the better part, hangin out with Jesus, and it won't be taken from her.
Well done.

legacy

The best we do in life is leave a legacy.

I spoke with Barbara Hantel (cousin) the night before the funeral. Mom's passing hit Barbara particularly hard. She told me, "You know, she wasn't always a goodie two-shoes.", and then shared a glimpse from their childhood. Barbara would be at Helene's house and Helene would say, "Come on, let's go see Grammy.", and then
proceed to work the latch using a broom handle.
Mischief like that makes a treasured memory.

Her impact on my own life is profound and eternal. She and Dad came to Christ in their 30s. Naturally, they wanted my sister and me to have the same saving faith. One thing to that end was a weekly Bible club held at the home of Larry and Carol Graham. Being the pre-teen with attitude that I was, I didn't want to go. One Friday I was giving Mom a hard time about it.

"You don't have to accept Jesus Christ,
but you will understand. Now get in the car!"

I went, heard, believed, and was saved and changed. I can't in any way pay that back nor even return the favor. I can, however, pay it forward by getting the Gospel to my friends and family, even when they don't want to hear it. In other words "not shrink from declaring". (Acts 20:20)

Trying to finish this, the emotions return.
As I type, it's just past midnight, so it's already December 1st.
Where does time go?

looking back

It's interesting to see God's hand in all this.

My boss offered to take me from contract to permanent. That went into effect the week before Mom's passing. That meant that I was not dinged for the time off.

The kids had no classes on Thursday or Friday the week of the funeral, the exact two days we needed.

I had gone to Chicago to train new recruits at a business partner and stopped overnight in South Bend. Saw Mom. (And Dad, of course.) She was "with it" that day and knew me and introduced me, "This is our son.".

We had some good time with Mom and Dad this past summer. At first I was angry (at the disease). She was usually all there, but more frequently disconnecting (always brief). But I resolved to treasure what time we had.

The four of us went to South Bend, partly to help prep the house for sale. Marilyn stayed an extra 10 days and helped with arranging care. Then she drove them to Grove City while Scott and Diane moved furniture into the new apartment.

Aunt Carolyn (sister) visited them in September. I got to see her and also spend the night at Mom's and Dad's apartment.

There were countless other things, most I don't even know. We are blessed.

Then came October. We gathered again in South Bend. At the end of the day, I hugged Dad. He said, "Today was a good day."
We are blessed: sad, but thankful.

Other than the funeral, I did not yet publicly say goodbye. So that's the purpose of this post. Mom consistently ended a visit with, "Here, there, or in the air!". Since she's done with the "here" venue, I'll quote what I heard from a 1970s Christian comedy troupe, "See ya there, or in the air!". 

-- R; <><



Friday, June 26, 2015

The Real Meaning of Hate

The Real Meaning of Hate

Today is June 26, 2015. The news is all abuzz about a SCOTUS decision. Many of my friends (that are verbalizing an opinion) are sad. Others (of my friends, and the rest of the world) are elated.

I'm a very emotional person. When I was younger, I threw fits, not knowing what to do with the feelings. As an adult, it's not easy to control the responses, but that's what it means to be an adult. Today I really wanted to break something. But I didn't.

I don't have many friends who are homosexual, but I really care about those who are. They probably don't know that I care. They probably don't know that their lifestyle causes me pain. I do not hate them.

Anger

Angry? Yes. Hell yes. I felt like throwing something.
Hate? Sure, of the actions, which *do* have an impact on me. (Though they deny it.) But not of the individuals. I've made wrong choices too. I'm a sinner too. I don't hate them.

I'm a very unstructured person, but I have come to value structure. I used to say, of programming, that it should be "like breathing": The best coding decisions should be intuitively obvious. The best programs should arise from the software development culture. I butted heads with a Project Management person who became a mentor. Eventually I realized that not all right decisions are obvious, not all right choices are intuitive, and my PM friend simply wanted to document "the right way". Then later generations of programmers could come along and get it right ... or not, as they chose to read ... or not.

Culture

Culture.
We thrive on it.
It has structure.
We don't always like the constraints.

It's the magical 21st Century. Where are the flying cars? We were supposed to have flying cars! Well ... at least we have self-driving cars.

It's the "progressive" 21st Century. You can do whatever you want. Translation: You can do whatever you feel like doing. And damn those who tell you not to.

It's a lie.
Freedom does not mean you can do whatever you feel like. We're so proud of freedom in the US of A but we've forgotten what it means. We've forgotten what it cost. We've abandoned the culture that spawned it, so over time more and more bits are lost. We lost a lot of freedom today because we discarded a "constraint".

Marriage

Why would two men (or two women) want to marry?
They're erotically attracted and want to indulge? They already had that.
They want a monogamous relationship? They already had that.
They want a shared household? They already had that.

I found out one thing they want: health benefits. Learned this from a friend whose cousin is a (married) lesbian. The condition of health coverage in this country is miserable. Oh ... wait ... SCOTUS upheld another ACA pillar this week, so that's all good now. But seriously (backing down from the sarcasm) discussing insurance is beyond a simple blog post.

What do they want?
Maybe they want to force the baker to bake them a wedding cake.

Hate

I don't hate them. I hate that they hijacked the word "gay".

Wish I had more gay friends.
But wait, I also wish I had more alcoholic friends, more crippled friends, more impoverished friends. I wish I had more friends, gay or straight. But I don't wish for my friends to stay in harmful conditions.

Everything we do has impact on others. Everything.
Lifestyle choices of friends, family, neighbors have an effect. That was true yesterday and it will be true tomorrow. Doesn't mean I'm banging down anyone's door to make sure they behave. But things were less corrosive when alternative lifestyles weren't thrown in my face.

I just wish my friends who are homosexual didn't hate me so much.

-- R; <><