Friday, June 30, 2006

Did you know that "if" is the middle word in life?

I'm a rather introspective person and I tend to dwell on what was, what is, and what might be. But, I'm also prone to ponder the notion of what might have been.

When I was a kid I remember reading Ray Bradbury's short story, "A Sound of Thunder," which details the ramifications of going back in time to a "prehistoric" era and accidentally killing a butterfly. I picked up on the idea that changing the past, in even a small way, could have big consequences.

I assume that Bradbury was picking up on chaos theory:
It has been said something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world. -Chaos Theory

The idea is that a tiny change (cause) could produce a huge change (effect). Change one thing, change everything.

This concept is seen in the movie "The Butterfly Effect," taking its name from the chaos theory speculation above, commonly known as the butterfly effect.

In the movie the main character discovers the ability to relive the past, but in such a way that he can make changes in the past. These changes, of course, affect the events that transpire afterward, thereby giving a different present.

Several times I have watched the movie and each time I wondered about the implications.

Actually, if you haven't seen the movie, I won't ruin it for you, but it's something along the lines of "It's a Wonderful Life," but with a twist.

We have so many decisions in our lives, which may or may not seem big at the time. Who should you marry? Where should you go to school? What job should you take?

It's likely that where your parents lived when you grew up impacted where you went to school, which impacted who you would meet, which impacted who you married, which impacted who your kids are, etc.

My theological perspective is such that I don't believe in accidents when considering the scope of God's providential plan, but it is intriguing to wonder what might have happened had one done B instead of A at various different forks in the road.

Remember the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books? In essence, one choice subsequently gives different choices than if the other choice was chosen and so on.

In the same way, your life is a matter of making choices, choices that dictate future options from which to choose via the effects of those earlier choices and so on.

What if I went to a different university? What if I married someone else? What if I didn't go to (that) seminary? What if I didn't take this job? What are the ramifications for my kids (and subsequent generations) based on the choices I make?

We're talking about decisions we make where Scripture is typically silent. In other words, we lack objective biblical counsel in such areas. That can be frustrating and folks will often misrepresent the subjective with objective terminology (e.g., "God told me to ..." or "It's God's will that I ..."), but at the end of the day this is merely an attempt to pin the blame on God.

The reality is that we live in a world whereby we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). That means you're probably not going to have divine guidance of an objective nature for the vast majority of the decisions you will make, recognizing that the mark of spirituality is not necessarily greater certainty, but a willingness to live with the ambiguity, trusting God nonetheless.
I hear men praying everywhere for more faith, but when I listen to them carefully, and get to the real heart of their prayer, very often it is not more faith at all that they are wanting, but a change from faith to sight.

Faith says not, "I see that it is good for me, so God must have sent it," but, "God sent it, and so it must be good for me." Faith, walking in the dark with God, only prays Him to clasp its hand more closely. -Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

Before making any decision it would not be inappropriate to prayerfully ask, "What if ...?" before acting. Sometimes we ask, "What if ...?" with regard to the past, but it's too late at that point. But it's not too late for the present or future, though your past choices have brought you to this present and limited your possible futures.
they flutter behind you your possible pasts
some brighteyed and crazy some frightened and lost
a warning to anyone still in command
of their possible future to take care
-Pink Floyd, "Possible Pasts" from The Final Cut

Today is June 30, 2006, a special day, with at least an "if" or two built in. Today's "if" impacts tomorrow and the subsequent "if" therein. Lord willing, you will have many more days of life ahead of you.

Life is comprised of many choices, many "if"s. In fact, "if" is the middle word in life.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

You see these letters by the city? That's called a state. What else you got, Wonder Boy?

This is interesting, you can map the states you have been to. I'd like to see this whole map red before I die, Deo volente.

(click map to enlarge)

I've been to 24 states (even counting D.C.), so I apparently have my work cut out for me. What about you?

create your own visited states map

Monday, June 26, 2006

Now that's what I call high quality H2O.

A freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High won first prize at the greater Idaho Falls Science Fair, April 26, 1997. He was attempting to show how conditioned we have become to alarmist practicing junk science and spreading fear of everything in our environment.

In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical “dihydrogen monoxide.”

He gave the following reasons:

* It can cause excessive sweating and vomiting.
* It is a major component in acid rain.
* It can cause severe burns in its gaseous state.
* Accidental inhalation can kill you.
* It decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes.
* It has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients.

He asked 50 people if they supported a ban of the chemical. Forty-three said yes, six were undecided, and only one knew that the chemical was H20 (i.e., water).

The title of his prize winning project was, “How Gullible Are We?” It would seem that the answer is obvious.

Friday, June 23, 2006

what kind of difference have I made? What in the world is better because of me?

The tide had thrown thousands of starfish onto the beach.

Unable to return to the ocean, they were dying. Then a young beachcomber saw their plight and began picking up starfish one by one and throwing them back into the water.

One watching his seemingly futile effort observed: "There are thousands of starfish here. You can't possibly throw enough of them back to make a difference."

Ignoring the criticism, the young man picked up another starfish and tossed it back into the waves.

"It made a difference to that one," he said.

After preaching on Proverbs 22:6 last week, I've thought further about the awesome responsibility and privilege it is to invest in the life of another, especially a/your child.

It's easy to examine the current generation of youth and lament the apparent negatives, just as it's easy to sit on the beach and watch starfish die, even being counterproductive in the process.

Yet, what's hard and what makes a difference is investing in the life of another, particularly a young person. It will at least make a difference to that one, but likely more as that person affects others, for what we do in life echoes in eternity.
I know we're all pretty small in the big scheme of things, and I suppose the most you can hope for is to make some kind of difference, but what kind of difference have I made? What in the world is better because of me? -Jack Nicholson as Warren Schmidt in "About Schmidt"
Rightly we should ask, "What kind of difference have I made?" But perhaps the follow up question is not so much what but "Who in the world is better because of me?"

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.

I've noted before the importance of prayer, our need for it and reliance upon God through it. However, it's not enough just to pray; when praying we must relate appropriately to our triune God.

The trinity is certainly not the easiest thing to comprehend, but I've heard prayers in which trinitarian confusion is rampant. I've heard people thanking the Father for dying on the cross and thanking the Son for sending Himself and so forth.

Does it matter to whom prayer is addressed? Are the roles described in the Bible about trinitarian activity, particularly with regard to prayer, important? Prayer is serious business and we must take it seriously, especially with regard to how we as His subjects approach the King of the universe.
“Prayer is only possible to the revealed Father through the mediating Son by the inspiring Spirit.” - G. Campbell Morgan

As Christians we are to pray:

. . . to the Father
When help is sought in prayer, Jesus teaches that prayer should be to the Father (Matthew 6:6, 8, 9). Plus, Jesus prayed to the Father as our example (John 17).

. . . through the Son
We have our access to God through Jesus, the Christ (John 14:6; Eph 2:18). Our access is through His blood (Hebrews 10:19). We are to ask the Father, in Jesus’ name (John 14:13; 15:16 (& v.7); 16:23).

Q: What does it mean to ask for something in Jesus’ name?
Certainly it is much more than the mere putting of His name at the end of our prayers, or simply saying, “Hear me for Jesus’ sake.” First, it means that we pray in His person, that is, as standing in His place, as fully identified with Him, asking by virtue of our very union with Himself. When we truly ask in the name of Christ, He is the real petitioner. Second, it means, therefore, that we plead before God the merits of His blessed Son. When men use another’s name as the authority of their approach or the ground of their appeal, the one of whom the request is made looks beyond him who presented the petition to the one for whose sake he granted the request. So, in all reverence we may say, when we truly ask in the name of Christ, the Father looks past us, and sees the Son as the real suppliant. Third, it means that we pray only for that which is according to His perfections and what will be for His glory. When we do anything in another’s name, it is for Him we do it. To pray in Christ’s name is to seek what He seeks, to promote what He has at heart! - A.W. Pink

. . . by (or in the power of) the Holy Spirit
Our access to God is through the Spirit (Eph 2:18). We are to pray in the power and sphere of the Spirit, prayer guided and inspired by Spirit (Eph 6:18). Prayer is two-way communication where the Holy Spirit teaches us (John 16:13) and helps us to pray (Rom 8:26-27).

When we pray, we need to get our mind right. That entails praying as God has instructed. Otherwise, we may have failure to communicate.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I'll take poor assumptions for $800, Alex.

This is interesting/discouraging.

Apparently, there is a new movie coming out, Facing the Giants. The MPAA has rated the movie PG, whereby Parental Guidance is suggested.

The makers were not too happy about such a rating since it's intended to be a Christian movie about a football team at a Christian school.

Why the PG rating? It seems there are "thematic elements" that some parents might not be comfortable having their children see. What are those questionable elements? Christianity and the Gospel, it seems.

Christian film rated PG to warn of ‘thematic elements’
"It is kind of interesting that faith has joined that list of deadly sins that the MPAA board wants to warn parents to worry about."

One wonders about one of my all time favorites, 1959's Ben Hur, which won 11 academy awards. Would it still receive the G rating today? The subtitle probably gives it away, "A Tale of the Christ."

I guess the assumption is that movies dealing with the Christian faith can be detrimental to children, but I certainly think that's a poor assumption, for the opposite is true.

Monday, June 19, 2006

There has to be a more dignified mode of transportation.

This blog entry has been a long time in the making and its conception began on the way home from Gunny & Brian's trip to White Castle.

First, I'm not a fan of flying on an airplane. Each time I do so, I anticipate I will die. Oddly enough, this borderline phobia only reared its ugly head the past few years or so, really since it dawned on me that I have kids who need a dad and it might really derail their world if I died in a plane crash.

I said all that to say this, it's only fair to say that I'm biased against the whole flying experience before I even get to the airport.

So, let me start with some observations based on my experience this past February when I flew back from Minneapolis. When boarding the plane a flight attendant informed me that my bag was a sport bag. Now, I don't check any luggage, for fear they might lose it. So, I just had the same black Drakkar duffel bag that I carried on the plane going to MN, the one I got free about ten years ago with purchase of some overpriced cologne.

Again she said, "That's a sport bag." I gave her a blank stare and said, actually there's nothing sporting about it, just my clothes and a few books. I got, "Yeah, it's a sport bag; it will have to go underneath." I explained to her that it met the size restrictions (I checked ahead of time) and it didn't weigh much of anything. I even opened it up and showed her that I could take out a few books and collapse it down to just about nothing.

She was not impressed.

At this point, those behind me are getting restless, and rightly so. I'd seen folks with bigger bags board and I'm just dumbfounded at this point as to why my bag fit the category of such an offense.

To make a long story short, my bag had to be checked. By God's grace, it was not lost on the other end. But, I'm already a bit miffed at this point.

I sit down, noting that I would have easily been able to fit my bag under the seat in front of me, space that was not used.

I start making some observations on the flight.

First, they check that my seatbelt is fastened and that my seatback is up and that my tray table is put away. Clearly, these are important things. Yet, nobody checks my mobile phone. Apparently, this is important, but it is not checked. Mine was off, but it seemed to me that it could have just as easily been left on and nobody would have known. I'm inclined to think that it's (a) really not that big of a deal to have mobile phones on while in flight or during take off or landing or (b) airline priorities are out of whack whereby they make a concerted effort to check things inconsequential, but assume that which is of consequence.

Second, I wonder the point of the seatbelt and keeping it fastened during the flight. I can only deduce that such (a) limits mobility to keep people nice and orderly and (b) makes identification of the bodies easier since you're sitting in the assigned seat and most of the body would be in close proximity (expect on Southwest where seating is "general admission"). I feel good in that I have my wallet with identification and my Aggie ring contains my name. I wonder if it might not have been a good idea to put a business card in my shoe just in case my feet get detached somehow.

On a side note, I was reading a book and was reminded of just how much of a beating it is to read a book with endnotes as opposed to footnotes. I have to turn to the back each time where it's hit or miss as to whether or not it was worth it. Plus, the particular book I was reading didn't have the chapter number on each page, but the title of the chapter at the top of each left page. How are the endnotes arranged? By chapter number, of course. I'd already mentioned this in my list of pet peeves, but had to vent about again here.

So, back to the flight ... the whole drink distribution was interesting as well. This has also been discussed in my entry regarding germs, but what's up with the whole bit of using the plastic cup to scoop ice into my cup? I watch the flight attendant (oh yeah, that flight attendant) as she touches cans of questionable cleanliness, takes trash from customers, and pushes the cart before touching the ice cup so her hands don't have to touch my ice. However, she paws are infected with all manner of germs which contaminate the ice cup's exterior, which comes in contact with our ice, resting there and scooping as well.

Next flight, Louisville, Kentucky for another conference. I only have two comments from this trip.

First, I had forgotten just how much of a beating it is to have to sit between two grown men, especially when the plane has missed its turn to take off and has to wait on the runway while everyone on board sweats together. Sitting between two sweat hogs took me back to Mr. Kotter's class and made me think, "There has to be a more dignified mode of transportation."

Second, I thought to myself ... just flying first class doesn't make one a better human than us spares in coach. Some flying in first class seemed to give off a contrary impression, however.

On Wednesday of last week I had to catch a flight from Springfield to Dallas to New Orleans for a conference where I had to give a presentation regarding church desegregation. We were having a family vacation in Branson and I got zero sleep the night before and left for the airport at 0330. My 0545 flight reminded me that I envy those who can sleep on the plane, for I cannot. In fact, I could not on the way home either, but more about that shortly.

Some questions from this trip (where my only luggage was my laptop) ...

First, why is it that folks can't stow their cag in the bins above their respective seats? The whole thing gets out of whack when folks put their belongings in bins above the seats of others which necessitates others do the same.

Second, why is it that folks have to hang on their mobile phones like teenagers right up until the time when the flight attendant gently reminds them of what everyone else on the plane already knows, the phones are to be off? As we touch down, they immediately have to get on the phone to call someone. The guy next to me going from Dallas to New Orleans was particularly heinous. It was like he was such a stud getting to fly to New Orleans or something. Three people he had to call to tell them that would be unreachable for the next hour or so since he was on a plane to New Orleans about to lift off. He assured them he would call when he arrived. He did.

Third, why is it that folks have to all stand up as soon as the fasten seatbelts sign is off? This holds true for those in the 8th or 32nd rows. They jockey for position to get out and stand in the aisle or crouched over with their heads touching the ceiling above their seats.

Fourth, why do airlines overbook their flights? We got delayed going from Dallas to Springfield for quite some time as three volunteers were sought to give up their tickets due to an overbooked flight. They were promised $250 vouchers, meals (dinner & breakfast), and a night at a hotel if they would give up with spots. Well, one guy had to be volunteered by the airline and he was not happy about it.

Fifth, why would the airline allow a person to take her dog to Corpus Christi on the plane, but not allow the dog to return because the temperature was/is too hot to transport the dog? This lady was so whipped and was really at a loss as to how to get her dog home. Of course, I had to hear all about it and I was really not interested in conversation at this point.

Sixth, why is it that folks can't read the subtle hint of body language that one intends to communicate that one would rather try to sleep or rest than hear about one's dog fiasco? Why is it that me turning off my light, covering up with a blanket, and closing my eyes after stowing my glasses did not deter either the lady on my left (with the dog scenario) or the lady on my right (with the fiasco of getting from Vancouver to Springfield via Dallas and belated flights)? Ordinarily, I would have been more than happy to converse, but I was whipped beyond all measure and really just wanted to close out the day with a little rest.

I have no anticipated flights on the horizon, which is good. But still, there has to be a more dignified mode of transportation.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

a man that doesn't spend time with his family, can never be a real man.

In honor of Father's Day and as an overflow of my research for my sermon on Proverbs 22:6, the following are some interesting quotes regarding that adventure known as "Parenting" ...

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
- Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

Children are natural mimics: they act like their parents in spite of every attempt to teach them good manners.
- Unknown

Children seldom misquote you. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn't have said.
- Unknown

To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.
- Josh Billings

Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
- Robert Fulghum

Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.
- Charles R. Swindoll

Teenagers are people who act like babies if they're not treated like adults.
- MAD Magazine

A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.
- Billy Graham

Most American children suffer too much mother and too little father.
- Gloria Steinem

The guys who fear becoming fathers don't understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of child raising is not the child but the parent.
- Frank Pittman

Good, honest, hardheaded character is a function of the home. If the proper seed is sown there and properly nourished for a few years, it will not be easy for that plant to be uprooted.
- George A. Dorsey

When you teach your son, you teach your son's son.
- The Talmud

If your parents didn't have any children, there's a good chance that you won't have any.
- Clarence Day

A child, like your stomach, doesn't need all you can afford to give it.
- Frank A. Clark

The trouble with being a parent is that by the time you are experienced, you are unemployed.
- Unknown

In bringing up children, spend on them half as much money and twice as much time.
- Unknown

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You're tearing up the grass." "We're not raising grass," Dad would reply. "We're raising boys."
- Harmon Killebrew

Do you spend time with your family? Good. Because a man that doesn't spend time with his family, can never be a real man.
- Vito Corrleone

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I'm picking up your sarcasm.

I came across these and thought you might appreciate a sarcasm injected into the church culture.

Top Ten LEAST likely things you'll hear at church this Sunday:

10. "Hey! It's my turn to sit on the front pew!"

9. "I was so enthralled, I never noticed your sermon went 25 minutes overtime."

8. "Personally, I find witnessing MUCH more enjoyable than golf" (or fishing).

7. "I've decided to give our church the $500 a month I've been sending to TV evangelists."

6. "I volunteer to be the permanent teacher for the junior high Sunday school class."

5. "Forget the denominational minimum for salary - let's pay our pastor so he and his family can live like we do."

4. "I love it when we sing songs I've never heard before!"

3. "Since we're all here, let's begin the service early."

2. "Pastor, we'd like to send you to this Bible seminar in the Bahamas..."

And the #1 thing you never hear in church:

1. "Nothing inspires me and strengthens my commitment like our annual stewardship campaign!"

Friday, June 09, 2006

For it is the doom of men that they forget.

This week has been Vacation Bible School. The theme has been "Treasure Cove: Discover the Riches of Christ" and we've had a good group of kids and a lot of fun learning about the riches we have in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

The kids have (re)learned that "Jesus IS our greatest treasure" (emphasis mine) as they have been taught Christ-centered stories regarding Christ's person and work and His worthiness of trust, worship, and obedience.

It's a simple message, but it's easy to forget that God gave us His Son, not merely so we could avoid hell, but so we could have Him. Christ died that we might have life through Him, eternal life that is, which is knowing God.
"The Gospel is not a way to get people to Heaven; it is a way to get people to God." -John Piper

What more could God give? He gave His Son, that which was His most treasured, that we could have that which is our greatest treasure, fellowship with our Creator.

In essence, God gave Himself to save us from Himself for Himself that we might enjoy and glorify Himself.

God gave Christ (the second person of the Trinity) out of love for us. Jesus Christ made atonement for those who would believe to appease the wrath of God, saving us from the penalty due our sin and sinfulness. His sacrifice provides justification for those who believe. He saves us so that we would be able to love & worship Him, the reason we were created. The end result is that we get to have an intimate & familial relationship with God through Christ by grace through faith. As we trust, worship, and obey, God is glorified.

God is our greatest treasure and He is pleased, honored, and glorified when we value Him in that way. To do so means we delight in Him, not what He can do for us or give us, all of which is secondary in value.
God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. -John Piper

So remember ... God gave us His Son not merely so we don't have to not get hell, but so that we could get God. Remember, for it is the doom of men that they forget.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

All because you wanna save a couple extra pennies.

We all know our money is not worth as much as it used to be, but did you know that your pennies and nickels are actually worth less than their metal content?

In other words, those coins now cost more to make than their face value.
"The Mint estimates it will cost 1.23 cents per penny and 5.73 cents per nickel this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The cost of producing a penny has risen 27% in the last year, while nickel manufacturing costs have risen 19%."

This is historic, my friends. We could have a mini-crisis on our hands.
"For the first time in U.S. history, the cost of manufacturing both a penny and a nickel is more than the 1-cent and 5-cent values of the coins themselves. Skyrocketing metals prices are behind the increase, the U.S. Mint said in a letter to members of Congress last week."

So, if pennies and nickels cost more than their value, everything else, obviously, is worth more than it's production costs. So, would I be better off having 25 pennies instead of one quarter?

Okay, now this I'm not sure I understand. Why does the mint want to make money? No, wait, that's what the mint does. Scratch that. Why does the mint need to make a profit?
"Last year, the Mint's coin-making profit was $730 million. Mint officials estimate the added penny and nickel expenses will reduce the Mint's profit this year by $45 million."

I said all that to say this ... all that loose change in your pockets or dresser drawer or couch cushions. Save it. It just might be worth something some day. Your pennies won't be worth pennies, but worth more than pennies.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere.

For the third time in the playoffs the Little Mavericks have quieted the crowd by closing out the series on the road.

First, they handily put away the Memphis Grizzlies in a four game sweep, winning the clincher in Memphis.

Second, they weathered the storm of the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs who had come back from being down 3 games to 1 and being down by 20 points in Game 7. In overtime, Dallas shocked many, including the crowd who were silenced as Dallas said hasta la vista, baby, winning the clincher in San Antonio.

Tonight, they defeated the back to back MVP Steve Nash & the Phoenix suns as the Mavs overcame a 18 point deficit to win 102-93, ensuring that another crowd would become deadly silent as this Cinderella story progressed.

Congratulations to the Little Mavericks. During the playoffs they've won 6 road games; that's 6 of 12 that have come on the road. In other words, 6 times they've quieted the crowd. Though they have home court advantage against Shaq & the Miami Heat, Dallas has proven it can win on the road and can clinch there, if necessary.

Tonight's win was the first Western Conference title for the Little Mavericks in their 26 year history. They need four more wins to complete the Cinderella story, going from the laughingstock of the NBA to the champs.

Go Mavericks!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?

I came across this and found it rather ... interesting.

A soldier's family wants to have a Wiccan symbol on his tombstone. He died fighting in Afghanistan last year and was a follower of the Wiccan religion. However, Wicca is not a religion recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs. So, officials of the state of Nevada are having to lobby to get the family's wishes fulfilled.
"The Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration allows only approved emblems of religious beliefs on government headstones. Over the years, it has approved more than 30, including symbols for the Tenrikyo Church, United Moravian Church and Sikhs. There's also an emblem for atheists — but none for Wiccans."

Should there be? It would seem only a matter of time before Wicca is recognized if they aleady have recognition for the atheist. This is, of course, one of those church & state issues. If they do it for one they have to do it for everyone, whatever the it is. Or they can do it for nobody.

From the Christian standpoint this seems almost un-American. Yet, America has changed. I'm confident that the founders of our country would not have been on board with policies such as this, but the way the country's policies are set up ensure them. Freedom of religion in the 18th Century was not the same as it is now. Back then, they really didn't want discrimination based on a particular flavor of Christian thought. But if the principle is applied across the board, this is/was inevitable. If it's unlawful to discriminate based on religion, it's unlawful to discriminate based on any and all religions, even atheists.
"Stewart's widow, Roberta Stewart, said she's hopeful she'll receive permission to add the Wiccan pentacle — a circle around a five-pointed star — to her late husband's government-issued memorial plaque."

I'm sure she will get her wish. In short, and as odd as it sounds, this action is quite American. It's not at all Christian, but it's just another reminder that we're NOT a "Christian" nation. But, then again, we never really were.

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