Life's a dance

"Life's a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don't worry about what you don't know
Life's a dance you learn as you go"
-John Michael Montgomery Life's a Dance

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Same Sex Marriage

I was doing some thinking about the SCOTUS ruling on same sex marriage and I was doing some research on the causes of homosexuality.  There is no real consensus and all kinds of speculation and theory’s as to the cause.  One of the articles I read by Mark Joseph Stern in Slate magazine Born This Way? talked about some new research that suggested that men that had older biological brothers were more likely to be gay.  Stern was highly concerned with this research as the findings if proven would suggest that homosexuality at least in men was a birth defect.
            But if it’s a birth defect, as Blanchard’s work tacitly suggests, then being gay is something that can—and presumably should—be fixed.
            That’s a toxic view, and one that must be abandoned. We might not yet understand the exact biological mechanisms underlying sexual orientation, but we will one day soon. And if, at that point, homosexuality is seen as a disorder, the next step will be a search for a cure. That would be a tragedy—for society and for science. There’s nothing wrong with being gay: You know it; I know it; the Supreme Court knows it. But so long as large swaths of the country believe otherwise—places where homophobic families still ostracize their gay sons and brothers—any research into its biological origins is fraught with peril for the cause of gay rights.
What if it is discovered that homosexuality is indeed a birth defect?  The mere fact that he believes pursing this research further is wrong shows that at least Stern isn’t really concerned with understanding what homosexuality is and what may or may not cause it.  The main problem as I see it is that no one really wants to have an open and honest discussion about homosexuality or sin in general for that matter.  I believe that people are born with same sex attraction.  Just as people are born predisposed to all kinds of sin.  What differentiates us from the animals is that we can restrain ourselves from acting upon our desires.  No one excuses thieves, liars, rapists, or murders or pedophiles, for acting upon their urges.  Of course the argument is that homosexuality doesn’t hurt anyone.
I base my belief that acting upon homosexuality is a sin from Genesis 2:18-24
            18 The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
            19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
            But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
            23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man."
            24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (NIV)
There was no suitable helper found for Adam until God created woman.  Men and woman are designed by God to compliment each other and they have a unique relationship bond that they may form called marriage.  No other type of relationship has this bond nor can be considered to have this bond.

Of course there are those that will then argue about David and Abraham and many others who had multiple wives. And then they will bring in all kinds of other scripter blah, blah, blah, blah.  However they neglect one key scripture passage prior to all the other passages.

It too comes from Genesis, right after the creation account Genesis 3:1-5 records the fall of men and women.
            Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

            2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'"

            4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (NIV)

There is the promise and the temptation, “…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  And as soon as Adam and Eve ate they realized the huge mistake they had made.  But of course by then it was too late the damage was done, sin had entered into the world and we knew good and evil, or had a somewhat vague sense of what it was.  The only problem is we were unable to choose good over evil.

After the fall every aspect of human kind is suspect.  Even our ability to judge what is right and wrong is suspect.  Of course no one likes to hear this.  No one likes to hear that we are evil, that we are on the, “Highway to hell” to borrow a phrase from AC/DC.  No one wants to hear how we are all sinners and all have fallen short of the glory of God.

No what we want to hear is that there is no sin, there is only that which is right for each of us.  Live and let live.  We want to hear that God loves everyone and that He won’t send anyone to Hell or we want to hear that there is no God and so we can eat drink and be merry.  The truth though, is that we are sinful broken creatures, incapable of choosing what is right.  That is why God sent His Son Jesus to die for us so that we could exit off the “Highway to Hell” and take the narrow road that leads to life.

Now does this mean that if you are homosexual you are going to hell?  No just like lying doesn’t send you to hell either.  (I knew and older guy once who whenever he thought you were lying would say, “Don’t lie or you’ll go to hell.”)  What sends you to hell is a refusal to believe in Jesus Christ as your lord and savior and follow Him.

Lord is a key concept in our faith ad belief.  Paul uses the word slave to Christ.  Another word we don’t like because of the negative connotations.  But slave is really a good word to use if we are going to follow Christ on the narrow path that leads to life.  Once we surrender to Jesus we belong to Him just as a slave belongs to his or her master.  Our will is no longer our own, we no longer have a choice in our destiny.  Paul also writes that we die to our old sinful self and become a new creation.

The argument for same sex marriage is all about selfish interests, “it’s about what I want, what makes me happy, I deserve to be happy, I deserve to have what I want.”  People will argue biology and point to the animal kingdom and how primates practice homosexuality and some other animals.  I’ve been to the zoo primates throw their excrement at people too, that doesn’t seem like a ringing endorsement to me.  There are also many animals that mate heterosexually once for life but those who defend same sex marriage always conveniently forget to mention that.

There are a lot of studies going on trying to figure out homosexuality and a great many of our other  behaviors.  Science loves complicated answers and theories and they reject the simplest explanation as irrational but I’ve found that often times the simplest explanation turns out to be the correct one.  Much of our behavior occurs because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

So I will continue to consider myself a sinner saved by Grace and strive to follow and obey my Master Jesus to the best of my ability.  I will continue to consider acting upon homosexual desires a sin just as I consider infidelity and sex outside of marriage a sin, and pornography a sin and every other activity that does not bring glory and honor to God a sin.  I will also continue to do my best to demonstrate the love of God through His Son Jesus.  It won’t be easy in the new landscape because I know that my position will be labeled as hate speech and I will be labeled as an intolerant bigot.  And the day is probably approaching when they will try and send me to be reeducated by calling it some kind of sensitivity training because I am insensitive to the feelings of others. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I took the Chromebook Plunge...and I'm glad I did.

A couple of weeks ago I took the plunge and purchased a Chromebook.  I had been contemplating it for some months.  Part of the problem I had is that I view computers like many young men view cars.  The bigger and the faster the better.  Well maybe not bigger but I like as much ram, cores, and gigs as I can get for my money.  With few exceptions, Chromebooks are not known for any of that.  Sure there are a few i3 and I think even an i5 quad core Chromebooks but for the most part they are dual core at most some are even single core affairs with 2 gigs of ram and occasionally 4 gigs.

So I began researching Chromebooks and I came to the revelation that most of their processing happens in the cloud, I also came across the Google desktop app that allows you to remotely connect to any computer via the World Wide Web.  Then I realized what a Chromebook really was, it is a remote terminal.  With that in mind, I realized that I didn’t need Porsche specs and performance, performance was primarily based upon my internet connection speed.

Still I’m a performance minded guy and I wanted the biggest bang for my buck.  First, I decided I wanted to spend under $200.  In addition, I don’t consider $199 to be under $200.  I figured if I was going to spend over $200, I should just get another laptop, which is what I didn’t want.  Therefore, I limited my search to under $200.

In that price range, there are quite a few choices.  However, you are limited to 2gig of ram, and 16gig hard drive and really no iCore chips.  As I looked, the Asus C300MA-DB01 came to the surface.  It has 2 gig of ram, 16 gig hard drive and one of the faster dual core Intel Celeron chips at 2.16 GHz.  It also has a 13.3” screen it is the only non refurbished Chromebook with that large of a screen I could find.  It also has gigabyte wifi, and with a computer terminal it's usefulness all boils down to it's connection speed and reliability. The fact that we aren't at gigabyte internet connections also makes it relevant for sometime in the futures.

In the end that is the one, I went with the larger screen and faster wireless adapter along with being the least expensive at the time sealed the deal.

Am I glad that I purchased a Chromebook?  The answer is yes.  Aside from a few form factor issues, like the stupid Mac style touchpad that doesn’t have separate buttons and no separate number pad I am very happy with the experience and the particular Chromebook I purchased.

The main reason I purchased a Chromebook is twofold.  First, I have started driving bus full time on Wednesday’s, which keeps me out of the office and cuts down on my ability to do paper and office work.  Second, I have decided to not be in the office as much and do more visiting of shut-ins.  However, the nature of North East Iowa is that I spend a lot of time on the road.  The Chromebook is lightweight and a lot more portable then my laptop and allows me to do working lunches.  I also have taken to bringing it with me on shopping excursions with my wife.

I have one great advantage over others who may be considering purchasing a Chromebook.  I have an Android phone with unlimited data.  What that means is that I can create a wireless hotspot without incurring extra charges on my phone plan and so in places I cannot get free wireless I can create my own hotspot, which is a lot faster most of the time anyway.

Since I can connect remotely to my desktop I can still used any of my desktop programs such as my Bible software and even word.  In fact, I began this blog on my Chromebook in MS Word on my laptop.

Should you get a Chromebook?  That depends.  If all you do is check email, surf the internet, write letters, and have no need to run any Windows or even Apple based programs then I would suggest that a Chromebook is all you need.  Now I haven’t tired the Google cloud print yet so I don’t know how easy that it is but it is probably fairly straight forward as setting up the remote desktop app was.

If you still need to run Windows or Apple based programs but need to be out in the field quite often then I would highly recommend a Chromebook over the Ultrabooks.  Mainly because of price.  Let’s face it if you damage your sub $200 computer sure you will be miffed and annoyed but if you damage your $1000+ Ultrabooks your really going to be upset and if you are going to drop that kind of cash on a computer and you want portability look at a high end laptop you will get a whole lot more bang for your buck.  Ultrabooks are Chevy Aveos at Porsche prices.  If you are going to pay for a Porsche, you might as well get one.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Audacity of the Extrovert

I’ve mentioned it before but just in case you have forgoten I’m an introvert.  And one thing that introverts enjoy is quiet.  We are often content to sit quietly even in the company of a friend or loved one.  It is enough for us to be in your presence we don’t necessarily need conversation. 

I came in to drive bus this morning like I always do and I exchanged the pleasantries, listened to some of the conversation and joined in when I wanted to and thought I had something to add to the conversation.  As the drivers trickled out I continued to sit there as I am one of the last ones to leave.  Finally it was just two of us.

I was perfectly content to sit quietly gazing out the window and contemplating the deep mysteries of life.  Okay so I was more likely day dreaming but still I was content to sit there quietly.  I enjoy the quiet time before getting on the bus with noisy kids and frankly why do we encourage kids to be extroverts?  But that is a rant er blog for another day. 

So I’m sitting quietly in the break room and I did think I should leave because this last bus driver is an extrovert and apparently an extrovert that cannot stand silence all thought that seems to be the case with most of them.  But then I thought I don’t want to appear rude.  Then the conversation began.

“What do you think of my moose boots?”  at least that’s what I think she said as I was not waiting with baited breath for her to speak but in serious contemplation of life, the universe and everything.

I replied, “Huh?  What?”

She then pulled her leg out from under the table and said, “How do you like my genuine something something Minnesota Moose and Beaver boot.”  I think again I wasn't really listening and can't say for sure but then I some how got drug into a long one sided conversation about her socks that don’t fit, and a missing glove and someone disappearing that can repair Moose and Beaver boots, I think. 

Finally it was time to depart and I was able to extricate myself from this conversation because it was time to leave.  As I was walking out to my bus and on my route it occurred to me that I need a shirt that reads, “Don’t talk to me!  I’m not rude just an introvert.”

Then I thought why are all our social norms and general courtesies based upon extrovert’s preferences?   Why is it considered rude if I don’t respond to a greeting from a stranger?  Why am I considered anti-social if I don’t want to talk to you?  Why would it have been rude to get up and leave while the last bus driver was talking to me?

Then it hit me that most of our social customs are dictated by extroverts, foisted upon us introverts.  Probably because we are pretty good at pretending to greet, listen and acknowledge you while completely ignoring you.

I remember seeing a video of a woman out walking in New York and being spoken to all day long.  Some of the greetings where just hello, good day ect.  Some where inappropriate.  I remember that there were many comments berating the woman for ignoring the pleasant normal social greetings and lots of people complaining about the article complaining that a woman couldn’t walk down the street without being harassed.  I thought about that and I thought to myself why shouldn’t I be able to walk down any street without feeling obligated to engage in any kind of social interaction with people.  Why should anyone feel obligated to respond to a greeting especially one from a stranger?  The reason is because the extroverts have foisted our system of social norms and courtesies upon us.

Now what would be rude is if you greeted me on the street and I told you to get lost or something to that effect.  But to ignore you is to be true to my self.  So extroverts if you are hurt, offended, or just think it’s wrong when someone ignores your greeting, perhaps you need to seek professional help to deal with your low self esteem issues or something.

So if you see me and wave and I don’t wave back and say hi or acknowledge you in some way, it’s not because I don’t like you.  It’s because I was deep in thought contemplating the mysteries of the universe and almost had all the world’s problems solved but your intrusion caused me to loose the answer, or I was trying to remember what my wife told me to pick up at the store.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Case for Acquaintances on Facebook or Why I only have 89 Facebook friends.

You might not realize it but I’m an introvert.  You might wonder why I’m pastor then if I’m an introvert?  Because I was called and that is a discussion for another day. 

Many people assume that introverts don’t like people.  This is not true.  Introverts just don’t like a large group of people all at once.  We like people but only a few at a time.  After all how many people can you give your attention to at once?  I find more then a couple taxes my concentration skills.  Perhaps some of this has to do with my ADD.  I will let the professionals ponder and research that one.

As an introvert friendship is a highly prized gift.  It is not something given and received on a lark.  Now don’t get me wrong I don’t think you need to be a friend of someone to like that person.  I know lots of people that I like that I don’t really consider a friend.

I can hear your audible gasps of shock and abhorrence at that last statement.  I think the age of Facebook has diluted our understanding of the word friend and even the idea of what a friend is.

This blog was sparked by a friend request that I got recently.  I get them rather frequently.  It’s usually a request from someone I have never heard from before.  This particular person had over 300 Facebook friends.  Most of these types of requests that I receive the person has several 100 “friends.”  I often think, “Seriously you have that many friends?”  I wouldn’t know what to do with that many friends how can a person have any kind of meaningful interaction with that many friends?

Facebook says I have 89 friends but the truth is that correcting for family that number is probably closer to 9 or 10.  Now don’t get me wrong I like all the people that I’m “friends” with but be honest if you are “friends” with me on Facebook it’s highly unlikely that you know my birthday, my wedding anniversary, my first job, my high school.  We’ve probably never done anything socially and probably the only reason that we are friends on Facebook is because of one two reasons.  One you are a Facebook friend collector and send a friend request to ever suggestion that Facebook offers you or two because I happen to be the pastor at FBC.

Now don’t misconstrue what I write here to believe that I dislike you or don’t want to be your friend.  Don’t take offense, let your emotions go for a minute take a deep breath and let the logic kick in and answer this question?  Would you invite me to your birthday party?  Now before you answer know this, if you invite me the only gift you might receive from me is the pleasure of my company.  Knowing that, would you still invite me to your birthday party?

Probably not, and here is a list of 10 reasons why:
One is because you may be a kid in our youth group and that would just be creepy. 
Two you may be a friend of my children’s and have “friend requested” me because of that fact and then it would just be creepy to invite me to your birthday party. 
Three the idea of having a pastor attend your birthday party would really put a damper on your party. 
Four you just “friend requested” me out of politeness and really can’t stand me.  If you "unfriend" me it won't hurt my feelings. 
Five you don’t really know me and so you are unsure of weather or not you would be able to stand me let alone like me. 
Six you don’t really know me and are afraid I would suck all the fun out of your party.  
Seven you don’t know me and are secretly afraid I would purloin all your well deserved attention.  Okay maybe this one is only in my dreams but you never know.
Eight looking at my Facebook page you realize that the only thing we have in common is that we are both homo sapiens .
Nine you are afraid that I might reciprocate and invite you to my birthday party and then you would feel obligated to attend, after I had attended yours, and then we would be involved in this reciprocal friendship that you really didn’t want because the truth is you were just trying to rack up Facebook friends so you could have more friends then your friends have.
Ten we are not really friends but acquaintances. 

This is by no means an unabridged list and feel free to come up with your own reasons for not inviting me to a birthday party or any party.  Oh and for the record I don’t really like parties, because I’m an introvert and I don’t like large crowds not because I don’t like you, but I do like white wedding cake and Minsky’s pizza.

So the next time Facebook suggests a friend, STOP take a breathe and count to ten.  Then think, then answer the following questions and take the appropriate action.

Have you ever met this person in the real world?  No?  Don’t send them a request.  Yes? Read on
How have you met this person?
            It’s my friend’s parents.  You can ask your friend’s parents they like to keep tabs on their children and their children’s friends.
            It’s my boss.  Yes?  Probably no your boss puts up with you because you make him money they don’t want to see your 3000 selfies with you and the dog, cat, hamster or your 300 best buddies.
            It’s a coworker.
                        Do you like said coworker? No? Don’t send them a request. Yes? Send them a    request.
            It’s a classmate.  See coworker above.
            It’s my teacher.  Do you really want your teacher to know that the reason you didn’t get your assignment done is that you were too busy taking selfies with you and the dog?
            It’s a friend of a friend.  But have you ever met this person?
            Do you like this person.  No?  Don’t send them a request.  Yes?  Send them a request.
Do you talk to this person outside of Facebook?  Yes?  Send them a request.  No?  Read on.
            Why do you not talk to this person outside of Facebook?
                        We were really close friends and they moved to Albuquerque. Send them a request pronto.
                        They are mean to me.  Do I really need to tell you not to send them a request?
                        We don’t have any classes together and eat at different lunches and we don’t drive.  Send a  request.

Hopefully this will help you in understanding the difference between an acquaintance and a friend and will stop your excessive friend requests on Facebook.  It might also explain to you why you have sent me a request but I haven’t responded.  I like you, I think you are a nice person but we just aren’t friends you don’t really want to see all my selfies with my aunt Agnes and her poodle and I don’t want to see all your weird face selfies.  And that’s okay this way we don’t have to get each other birthday cards or pay for the extra food the other would eat at our parties.

Oh and one more thing this isn’t some secret way to get invited to more birthday parties or parties in general.  I really truly don’t care for parties one or two a year is plenty I don't think I could handle 89 parties.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lord, If You Had Been Here

FBC 9-15-13 John 11:17-35 “Lord, If You Had Been Here…”
As many of you are aware our community suffered a terrible tragedy last Tuesday, when Alex Potratz died of injuries he sustained when he lost control of his truck.  For many of us this has been a tragedy that has struck too close to home.  We have children close to Alex’s age, we knew Alex or his parents or even his grandparents and other relatives.  But one overarching thing that we know for sure is that a parent burying their child is wrong.  It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.  The death of a loved one is hard enough when that person has lived a long life, and sometimes it is made easier when the person has suffered for awhile.  When my grandfather died in March of this year that was and still is a difficult memory.  But my grandfather was almost 92 years old, he had lived a rich full life and been able to serve the Lord for many, many years.  While his death was sudden and no less tragic it was not as traumatic as the death of a 17 year-old young man.
When someone dies there are always lots of scriptures that come to mind.  Psalm 23, as Pastor Lundala shared Tuesday night at the candlelight vigil, 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.”  I Corinthians 15 vs. 12 through the end of the chapter Paul’s elegant description of the resurrection and there are many more.  But in situations such as these, in times when someone so young has died, especially suddenly and under such tragic conditions, I often think of this passage in John.
I didn’t read all of the passage this morning but I want to refresh your memory.  In the first part of chapter 11 we are told several things first that Lazarus is sick, that his sister Mary was the one that poured the perfume on Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair and that Jesus loved Lazarus.  Now Lazarus is sick enough that his sisters send word to Jesus about Lazarus and how sick he is.  But Jesus waits 2 days after he gets the news before he goes to see Lazarus.  When Jesus finally arrives Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days.  I’m not quite sure exactly where Jesus was when he got the news but it does seem clear that Jesus probably couldn’t have arrived before Lazarus died even if He left immediately upon hearing the news.  However, Jesus doesn’t leave immediately, He waits.
Martha greets Jesus first and what are the first words out of Martha’s mouth?  “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”  This scripture came to mind when I first heard the news of Alex’s tragic death.  It’s words that I have thought myself years ago when a 9 year old girl was abducted in front of her house in the community that Armourdale Baptist, the church that Yolanda and I grew up in, is located.  The vehicle and license plate were immediately known as a neighbor chased the vehicle down for several blocks, unfortunately the perpetrator escaped and Pamela Butler was tragically killed.
Some people are hesitant to view Martha and later Mary’s utterance of the same words as a complaint.  But when they come to my mind they are a complaint.  True they are also an expression of regret and faith in Jesus and God, but they are also a complaint.  I know that many people were praying for Alex, I know from what coach Jazz said at the candlelight vigil and a brief visit with Alex’s aunt before the home coming game Friday, that Alex had made a decision to follow Jesus.  So I know that Alex was a child of God, precious and beloved by Him.  I know that the people praying for him were praying for his recovery.  And so I know that at least for me there is a complaint in those words. “Lord, if You had been there… or my complaint is a slight modification, “Lord, if You had intervened, if You had healed Alex, then he would not have died and we would not be grieving but praising.”  Now before you gasp thinking I’m in danger of being struck down by lightening.  My expression of that complaint just as Martha and Mary’s expression of that complaint does not negate my faith, it doesn’t mean that I don’t believe or somehow no longer believe.  In fact it is exactly the opposite, it is a sign of my deep faith.  Just as it is a sign of Martha and Mary’s deep faith.
If you have a complaint that you want answered, that you want to be rectified, who do you complain too?  You complain to the person who can satisfy your complaint.  There are those who mean well who will say in regards to this tragedy, “God has a plan,” or it’s, “God’s will we just don’t see and understand it.”  They may say something like this to Alex’s family, “God won’t give you more then you can handle.”  And I know that they mean well but sometimes when I hear that I just want to smack them upside the face and say, “God won’t give you more then you can handle.”  And just so you know that saying is a perversion of 1 Corinthians 10:13 which actually reads, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  So Paul is talking about temptation not talking about the tragedies and hardships that we might face in life.
So Martha and Mary are lodging a complaint with Jesus when they say, “Lord, if you had been here…”  And you notice what is Jesus’ response?  Does He rebuke them?  Does He say, “It’s God’s will, it is for God’s purpose that I delayed”?  No Jesus cries.  Jesus, the Son of God, God in the flesh, the one who has come to save us, who will defeat death once and for all, Jesus the one who will return with the Army of heaven to destroy Satan and put an end to evil once and for all, Jesus the one who knows what He will do, who is going to bring Lazarus back from the dead, in answer to Martha and Mary’s complaint, He weeps.
Jesus empathizes with Martha and Mary, He feels what they feel, He loved and knew Lazarus too, He understands what Lazarus’ death means for Martha and Mary and He enters into their pain fully and completely, experiencing it with them and offering them the comfort of heaven.  All of that He does before He brings Lazarus back to life.
I want you also to consider that Martha has faith in Jesus, she believes even as she complains that God will do whatever Jesus’ asks she also knows that she will see Lazarus again.  However, that knowledge, faith and belief does nothing to stop her feelings, to keep her from expressing her grief and complaint of how things have turned out thus far.
I know that in times like this we want to know why?  Why did God let this happen?  Why didn’t God heal Alex?  Why, why, why, Lord, if you had healed him, Lord, if you hadn’t let him get in an accident, Lord, if, if, if…”  I don’t know why this tragedy occurred, I’m not even sure that when it is all said and done that there is a reason.  That doesn’t mean God isn’t in control, it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t have a plan, what it means is that we are fallen creations, and we live in a fallen world that has refused to accept and follow God’s plan and as a result, painful and terrible things happen still.
This is what I do know.  Alex had a strong Christian faith and because of that his absence from us means his presence with the Lord.  I know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  I know that God is faithful and compassionate and even now He is pouring His spirit upon and wrapping His love and compassion around those who are mourning the death of Alex.  And I know that in Christ Jesus there is hope, even in death there is hope for Jesus has conquered death.  Jesus died and was raised to life and we have the promise of God Himself that whoever believes in Jesus will not die but have everlasting life and so while we can voice our complaint and grief over the death of Alex, we can be confident knowing that for everyone who believes in Jesus death is not the end but only the dark tunnel we pass through to spend eternity with Jesus.  My prayer and hope is that each of you know Jesus and that you will not grieve for Alex as people who have no hope but simply grieve that it will be a while before you can see Him again.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Saying see you later to my Grandpa

To some of you he was Charles or Charlie or Mr. Neece or dad but to me he was grandpa.  I liked to think that since I was the first grandchild and the only grandson for 20 some years, that he was especially fond of me, and that was more true then you might think because he was especially fond of all of us grand kids and great grand kids and as I grew older I bore witness to that fact as I watched him with you younger grandchildren and great grandchildren.

My mom has been haranguing me a few days now about how long I will speak, I will try to be brief.  I know that grandpa didn’t like church to be long, well he didn’t like it to go past 11:45 the stated time I think in the by-laws.  We never got out at 11:45 we always got out at noon I once asked why he didn’t just plan for noon and he said, “We’re supposed to get out at 11:45.” And I thought why don’t we just vote to change the time but then I think he was fearful the pastor would keep us till 12:15.

One of the greatest gifts that my grandfather gave me, gave his family and anyone that was willing to accept it was himself.  If you knew my grandpa you might think he growled a lot and talked loud, which he did, but if that’s all you thought then you never knew him. 

When I think back through my life one of the most common memories I have is worshiping with my grandfather at church every Sunday.  Then later out to eat with them and then a visit at grandpa and grandma’s house pretty much every Sunday.  That alone I am thankful for but another enjoyable memory was our summer vacations. Almost every family vacation that I can recall grandpa was there with the boat.  Loaded with skis and inner tubes and fishing gear and we got to fish and ski as much as we wanted.  There were bigger boats and fancier ski equipment but none of them had my grandpa driving.  I never realized how hot and tiring it must have been for him until I had kids of my own and he gave me the treat of taking them out in the boat alone.

It was rare that grandpa skied himself, most of the time he just drove and was content to drive around in circles until some of us were so tired we puked, I won’t mention any names but it’s the aunt who lives out of state.  And even though it was vacation he would get up at the crack of dawn to take my mom and sometimes I would tag along and we would go skiing at first light when the lake was as smooth as glass.  There was something spiritual about the boat gliding over the water and the skis cutting through the glass surface of the lake.  And when we were done he was ready and willing to take the next batch out again.  And he would let us kids use his fishing polls as long as they were the closed reels, and clean all those blue gills that we would catch, I never once cleaned a fish I caught.  I remember a certain uncle asking once while they were cleaning the fish, “Why doesn’t he clean them?” and in a typical grandpa growl he asked, “you want to teach him?”  Like I said I never cleaned a fish.

I’ve had the opportunity to ski behind other drivers but they all pale in comparison to grandpa.  First, I have yet to experience anyone who could and would bring the rope right to you so you didn’t have to struggle and swim to it.  And I’ve never experienced anyone who good run the boat just so to get you lined up, help you keep your position and ease you up out of the water.

These are wonderful memories that I cherish but they are more then that.  They speak to my grandpa’s character and tell what kind of a man that he was.  My grandpa was a generous servant.  Now some might be chuckling thinking that grandpa was more of a penny pincher and miser then a generous man.  But the truth is the two are not mutually exclusive.  He was an extremely generous with his time and his money.  He just never wasted it and always sought the best bargain that he could get.  That doesn’t make you stingy it just makes your frugal and smart.

If you had an opportunity to look at some of the pictures online of my grandpa there are two pictures of him with mop in hand in the church basement.  And if your car or A/C or refrigerator ever needed Freon he was the man to see only charging for the Freon, for family at least, and he was meticulous about it always weighing the cylinder before and after never charging you for more then you got.  I remember all the work he did around the church too, fixing the A/C and the furnace, running the sound system, changing light bulbs and putting other odds and ends.  He fixed washers and dryers for us and even put a set of used tires on some rims for me once and helped with putting new a/c hoses on our van once.

He served the church and others with the gifts that he had been given.  Pastor Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11-12 ‘It was he (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up .”  We might be tempted to think that Paul’s list is an all inclusive and complete list but it’s not really for some he gave to be fixers of the A/C and handy men, and boat drivers and all manner of servants.

My grandpa wasn’t an evangelist or pastor or teacher, he never sang in the choir, he never sang at all, but he was always ready and willing to serve the Lord and others with the gifts and talents that the Lord had blessed him with.  And the life he lived out was a picture of servant hood.

I weep and mourn this morning because I loved my grandpa and I miss him.  But I don’t weep as one who has no hope because I know that grandpa had a relationship with Jesus Christ and so I know that today He stands at the side of the risen one Jesus Christ.  I know that because I too have a relationship with Jesus Christ that this separation is only temporary that one day I too will see Jesus face to face and my grandpa again and so I weep for joy for him, and longing for me.  So I won’t say goodbye I’ll say see you soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Girl's engineering toy

I read an interesting article today about a new toy designed to get girls interested in engineering.  Now before you begin reading any farther if you are feminist, if you get easily offended, please don’t read this, because you will probably get offended, and then you will be all mad and the truth is I don’t care so please save us both trouble and find something else to read.  If however you have an open mind are really interested in hearing other people’s opinions then please keep reading.

As I was reading this I was reminded of what my son said the day he came home from his first introduction to engineering class.  “our instructor said that he was going to grade the girls easier so as to encourage them to continue in engineering.”  Now first I’m not against girls in engineering or math or science or whatever they want to do, except soldiering, police officering and firefighting, so yes I’m a sexist pig if you want to think that.  For the record I don’t think men should be bearing children either, and I don’t think we are too far off from the tech that might allow that but that is for another blog.

You see I believe that men and woman are different, and I think this is a good thing.  Now I’m not opposed to a toy that is designed for girls that deals with engineering, whatever to make a buck is fine with me.  But what if these efforts don’t lead to more girls in science and engineering and mathematics classes and programs?  Then do we adopt some Title 9 program designed to make sure that there is an equitable number of women in these fields?

I read an article awhile back on Title 9 sports requirements in colleges.  This article claimed that the female participation rate in co-ed colleges was about 25% of the women who attended any particular college.  I forget what the male participation rate was but it was much higher.  Apparently though there has to be some equitable balance between woman and men’s sports and so in some places men’s sports programs were being canceled because there wasn’t enough female participation to get the right balance.  The article then went on to look at all girls colleges.  It stated the participation rate in athletics among women at all female schools was about 25%.  Now I’m sure there will be some that will say that’s because men discourage woman from playing sports and discourage them from exploring science yada, yada, yada.

But maybe the real truth is that men and woman are different, and instead of trying to do away with that difference we should celebrate and learn to value it.  Or maybe we should start making the m4 and bazookas and stuff in pastel colors to encourage more girls to play army.  For the record I take my daughter paint balling when she wants to go and some of her girl friends come to.  But a lot of them just don’t like being hit because it hurts and leaves bruises.  Maybe we should start shooting them with paint balls at a younger age.

Oh and here's the link to the article