Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve, A Meaningful Time

This is New Year’s Eve, the day before New Year’s Day. Congratulations, you made it!

Make this day (and the next) meaningful by taking time for personal reflection. Someone once likened our lives to be like a stirred-up pond--murky, cloudy. When the sediment settles, the bottom can be clearly seen. Perhaps you need to get to the bottom of something with God or with someone else. There is no better time than the present to take care of business, to work toward peace and reconciliation with someone. If you need peace with God, no work is required as He's already made the way by the cross of Christ if you will repent.

  • New Years 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted. What freedoms do you need in your life?
  • While fireworks are a common feature of New Years, some magazine and newspaper publishers burn publications of the past year, really putting behind everything that happened the previous year. What do you need to finally put behind you on the cusp of a new year?
  • Ancient Romans worshiping “Janus” (from which we get the name “January”) gave us our New Year’s celebrations as a time of new beginnings. Some observed by closing and opening doors. The Lord Jesus Christ reminds us that He alone is the one who opens and shuts doors (Revelation 3:8). What open doors can He alone close and open for you?
Celebrate by making change with God’s help.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Gift

The most memorable Christmas I can recall was the year we covered the Christmas tree with small gold-colored clips that held tiny red (unlit) candles. This was the year we discovered frosting in a can that permitted us to decorate our gingerbread men with particular fineness. This was the year I got a John Deere tractor, a gas station, Lincoln Logs and this may have been the same Christmas I got a small plastic case that folded out presenting a Western scene with a teepee on one side and a fort on the other. The scene was populated by tiny plastic cowboys and Indians and the hours of play turned into years of play.

I can’t say there is one particular gift that stands out as my favorite. I’ve had a few “screamers;” you know, those gifts you open and the only reaction is to scream and dance. “The Complete Works of Jonathan Edwards” was a screamer a few short years back, and while those two volumes hold a special place on my shelf, in my mind, to my walk and for my life, they are not my favorite Christmas gifts.

A significant gift was the guitar--brand new, and I got to pick it out. Truthfully, I had no clue “then” how I would be using it “now.” Still love it.

Three gifts stand out as favorites, but in no specific order. I can’t rank them in order because each gift performs a unique task and makes a certain contribution--and not just to me.

The most recent gift was my Cello, “Elizabeth.” I’ve already described in another place the circumstance of her arrival, so I’ll not rehearse that here. I will merely say that every time I think of playing, my world begins to shift through the ritual of preparation: I have to set up the music stand, select the music, pull up a chair, uncover then rosin then tune, warm up. Something strange happens to time itself because I sit on a chair and to my listening ear, time is translated into deep tones and high pitches, chords, melodies and harmonies by means of whole, half, quarter and multitudinous subdivisions. An hour has metamorphosed into a Suite, and not just to me, but to anyone who sits to hear. There is a different world where there is music, a different state of mind.

The Microscope and the Telescope appeared the same year, when I was much younger. The gift here was not the tool, but what they exposed. My eyes have personally witnessed cellular and celestial bodies, paramecium and planets. This never gets old, viewing these ancient bodies. Breath-taking to imagine how our Creator must have held his breath for the day when one of the men made in His image figured out how to magnify. Not sure who giggled with most delight.

Then there was the typewriter. Not sure why it is so special except that I can’t stop writing. I feel all blocked up when I don’t. There is something so inexplicably mysterious about a typewriter, punching a key, watching that arm rise up and stamp the page with a pop. Every mistake an indelible mark.

I do have a favorite gift: Jesus. He is my Lord and my Savior, but He is more than music (“what our ears have heard”) and both subject and source of all that science confirms (“what we have seen with our eyes” and “what our hands have handled”).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Randoms

Mayan pyramids damaged by Apocolyptic Tourists. Didn't see that one coming.

John Piper's "Still Not Professionals" is available as free e-pub online.

2012: A Record-breaking year

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Take It All Away!

Over the weekend I came across yet another controversy regarding Christmas decorations which was rather unusual. The controversy concerned a woman who used Christmas lights to decorate her home, only the lights were arranged in the outline of a certain crude hand gesture. While I disagree with that particular arrangement, I find myself taking her point. Consider for a moment those who are offended at traditional decorations (to use an over-generalization to include biblical forms or otherwise)--what’s the big deal? I believe this woman turned the whole thing over on its’ head by being blatantly offensive.

Biblical imagery is slowly disappearing from public view and the outcry is heard the loudest during the Christmas season. The truth is that removal of biblical imagery is impossible. The world as we know it would not exist--but what would happen if it were possible? 

Let’s wake in the twilight zone where biblical imagery does not exist:

There is no such thing as Michelangelo's David. The Sistine Chapel does not exist. Bach, Handel, even Mozart would have written--what? Even the piece affectionately known as “that Halloween Organ music” does not exist. Halloween does not happen exist because there are no saints, nothing hallowed. No devil.

Don't look for William Faulker's “Absolom! Absolom!” in the library. Moby Dick would roam the seas unmolested by an Ahab or an Ishmael.The Hunchback has no sanctuary. Neither does The Daredevil. Every book that contains even a mere quote must be re-written: "The Old Man and the Sea" has a boat with no mast, "Les Miserables" would be just that. No "Apocalypse Now."


The vocabulary of curse words is fracking small.
A savior is unheard of, so the Matrix shuts down. Kal-El died on Krypton. The Engineers have no argument against the crew of the Prometheus. The Galactica has no journey.

Football games never culminate in David and Goliath-like battles.

No "good samaritans" help those in need. Charity has a new name.


No one hears Johnny Cash cry and Rush has a new introduction to 2112. James Taylor sings no New Hymn, but John Lennon would have to imagine a "heaven." Marilyn Manson and Iron Maiden are nice bands.

Islam has no root without biblical imagery. Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses and countless cults would not exist. Satanism would be of no regard. Atheists would have to find a new name and something else to do.


Take a moment to view this video by HumanLight and ask what they, too, would need to change (for example, could they properly refer to the "proverbial candle in the dark?":



What would the world be like with all biblical imagery removed? Arthur C. Clarke came very close, by Ford.

Since we can't do away with it, what should we be doing to "clean it up" and make certain the imagery is correctly understood?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lessons Learned at the End of the World

Douglas Adams four-part trilogy, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, includes a curious setting where at the edge of the universe, one is able to sit down to a nice restaurant meal and watch the oscillating beginning and end of all things. Reflecting on this last year leaves me with the impression that we’ve had the appetizer and salad, now awaiting the arrival of the main course (or at least one of its features). Take a moment and think through the headlines: how many times has the world ended?

There is the first lesson I’ve learned: think. Think about the source of the information. Some may quickly say, “ religion and religious fanatics are the source.”

The second lesson I’ve learned is this: God can be trusted.

Now, let’s process this. It takes not much thought to agree there will be an end to the world and it will happen in two ways: our personal death and the leaving of it; and, the actual cessation of all things as we know it. One will happen before the other, and should the latter occur first while we yet live, the first would still be in order. This takes no philosophical, theological or scientific thought. This is simply thinking.

Certainly the loudest voices are of those religious, but what connection is there between religious voice and what God has said? The difference is that “religion” does not mean that one actually represents God. God has made it clear that 1) many will speak in His name that will prove themselves to be untrue; and 2) no man knows the day when all things will come to an end. Let’s consider the record:

Jehovah’s Witnesses have proclaimed the end of the world and Jesus’ return in 1878, 1879, 1880, 1886, 1888, 1889, 1894, 1897, 1902, 1903, 1914 (when it was declared that 1874 was the year), 1915, 1916 (when it was declared that Oct. 1914 was the year), 1922, 1923, 1925, 1931, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1966 (be ready for Oct. 1975), 1968 (be ready for 1985), 1980 (the world would not see 2000), just to name a few. I quote from the April 15, 1990 Watchtower, “Some set their hope on a date when they were sure Armageddon would come. When nothing happened on that day, they felt let down.” (p. 27)

"Does this admission of making mistakes stamp them [Watchtower] as false prophets? Not at all, for false prophets do not admit to making mistakes." (Watchtower, Nov. 1, 1972, p. 644)

The Mayans were much less specific. The non-thinking that has driven the most recent hype is just that: non-thinking. The hype also demonstrates the danger of blind open-mindedness.

Who has proven to be true, so far? The one who says that only He knows, or the one who presumes to speak in His name? Personally, the more people talk, the more I understand the wisdom of God in not revealing the last hour. Either He will be trusted, or He will not. The record stand, that everything that has been predicted as recorded in scripture has come true, so we can expect that when He says it is time, it will happen just as He says.

Interestingly, scientists and certain philosophers are waiting for the end, only with less enthusiasm. Scientific law confirms the function of the created order: everything is winding down-- they simply cannot circle the date on the calendar.

This morning, I did not roll out of bed and shout that the The Doctor delivered the world (once again--although it would have been fun). Instead I give thanks that I have a brain, use it and live in expectation for the day the world does in fact end, for me.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Randoms

Here are some amazing facts about McDonald's McRib sandwiches.

Send your children to school with body armor. Maybe there was a reason this child did not want to go--but spray him with mace?

These Texas teachers pack more than just a lunch box.

Will the President take Joe Biden's Baretta?

Oh, how we need The Prince of Peace!

Books I'm reading (with my journal):


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tragedy, Evolution and Christmas

Someone posted photographs of the school children lost in Sandy Hook. The pictures were unexpectedly difficult to view. The difficulty came when a seemingly random thought reappeared--a thought I had the other day, then forgot as it wandered off to wherever it is wandering thoughts go when they wander. Well, this particular thought decided it was time to return home, and it slammed the door upon arrival.

The thought was this: if we are a the outcome of evolution process, a mass of tissue responding to chemical reactions and impulses, then why does tragedy matter? If evolution were true, then those who cause destruction on others are demonstrating strength and the power necessary for survival. Yes the question remains: how can this be survival when the assertive ones destroy themselves? Ernest Hemingway was a man who lived powerfully, strongly, assertively then took his own life because he was convinced that even in death, he was still in control, living life to the final moment. The difficulty is that life did not really matter, which is why death was no threat to him. Then.

There must be another option where people do matter, and the evidence of this option is seen in the reaction of those behind left in the wake of tragedy. I am not making light of events like Sandy Hook, nor am I making light of the nearly 107 deaths per minute, worldwide. The point is that we mourn when people are lost because we are living souls. We seek justice because we are living souls. If we were not, then tragedy and those who cause them must be shrugged off. Evolution sees no tragedy. Evolution sees process.

Here’s another thought: over 2000 years ago, a king named Herod ordered the execution of babies. Not unborn children, but living children. This was not the first time such an order was carried out, nor would it be the last. Herod was after one specific child, born and receiving worship as King of Kings.

The Sandy Hook event suddenly becomes more important because the world Jesus was born was no better than today. It may have been worse, actually.

Jesus was born because people matter to God and those who see people as God sees them, then other people are significant. People are not merely “matter” but living souls facing an eternity. This is why we can see that God did not permit Sandy Hook. A man did not obey God nor see others as God sees. Any love that remained in him flipped itself over to apathy toward fellow human beings and hatred toward God.


Christmas has a new light this year and events such as this should drive us to the Savior, the Prince of Peace.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Thing of Beauty

The approaching Christmas day has me thinking about one nearly overlooked facet of God’s attributes: His Beauty. The dark of night is twinking bright with colored lights of stars above and homes below. Whatever Christmas may be, we all agree this is a time of beauty so as creatures made in God’s image, we creatively add attractiveness to that which would otherwise be dreary with light and color and sounds and smells and warmth and laughter. Consciously or otherwise, this time of year we reflect outward that which draws us to Him: beauty. Attractiveness.

There is another side to beauty but before we quickly say, “oh, that would ‘ugliness,’” let us first discover where beauty resides and then the source of un-beauty (whatever that is).

I turn to an experiment that recently took place on the streets of New York. If I had not seen this with my own eyes, I, too, would think I had made this up. A small group of “someones” rolled an old upright piano out onto a sidewalk then pointed a camera from the window of a nearby building to capture what happened. The camera recorded people walking by the piano, looking at the piano, looking around, touching the piano, playing the piano. Some plinked with fingers, others found entire tunes. Music filled the air, smiles grew on faces and people left the piano changed people. Some people pushed the piano, tried to move the piano. A car pulled up along the curb and the driver tried to push the piano into the backseat.

The beat up piano sat on the sidewalk all day, drawing people near with their bags and carts, cameras and pets, then sending them away with smiles and laughter and wonder. A few brief moments on the keyboard drove away the chilly weather. Car horns and engine noises were dressed with Chop Sticks and perhaps a Sonata.

All day, all night. People coming. People touching. People going.

The next day, something happened. Some men appeared with sledge hammers. They destroyed the piano, right there in broad daylight. Nobody stopped them, not even the photographer. The photographer was not even there. We know this because later, after the piano was reduced to toothpicks and swept away--yes, the men who destroyed the piano actually swept pieces into a pile and put them in a bin while other larger pieces were thrown over a fence--two other men came with a piano dolly to collect. They found an empty sidewalk, empty except for other trash that sat unmolested on the curb from the day before. What happened to the piano? The camera recorded it all, including the discovery of the owner.

Some people are not attracted. They are blind to beauty. Beauty simply is, but some will not recognize it for what it is. This is why, for reasons unknown, a man will turn a gun on school children. This is not beautiful, and when beauty is destroyed, it is nearly indescribable un-beauty.

God, the source of Beauty, laid aside His glory and in being born a man on this earth, still attracted shepherds and so many others who came to him in all their unbeauty and left changed. Scripture says that he was not one of physical attraction, but people were drawn to Him. Then men came along with hammers, to wreck Him and sweep Him aside . . .

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Landfillharmonic

I can't wait to see the documentary in its entirety:

La Vega Christian School Would Like Your Help!

Randoms

Ralphie and George. James E. White explores the great divide between "It's A Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Story."

Pioneers released a short film narrated by Columbia International University alumnus Steve Richardson, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the gospel among the Sawi, originally captured in the book, Peace Child. Steve and his family revisit the Sawi and see how God is transforming their culture.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a neat graphing tool charting unemployment rates since 1948.

Could Texas REALLY secede from the Union?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Photoblog: Mystery photo

Can you guess what this is, what it does or how it's used? Everyone at Calvary Chapel Blythewood knows!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Randoms

Here's a compelling reason to skip the "Christmas Season" !

One state seceded where the others failed.

This writer suggests "Four Reasons Men Don't Read Books (with a practical suggestion)."  What would be your thoughts on the matter?

Bomb the moon for bragging rights. Yeah.

Here's a fun one! State and local law enforcement want wireless providers to store your text messages for at least two years. You know, for evidence.

This brilliant person assigned each number of Pi to a musical note. Here is the result (in the right hand):



The video just goes to show that "All Creation moves in a cosmic danse before the Lord her King . . ." (Kemper Crabb, "The Danse")  

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

17 Reasons Why God Never Received a PhD

Someone thought up 17 reasons as to “Why God Never Received a PhD.” While my initial thought was “who would award it to Him?” here are my responses to each point. One can easily see how well the objector did his research--and most likely will not get a PhD, either:

1. “He had only one major publication.” This is like saying a Library only has one book. There are sixty-six books of the Bible, each “published” over the course of time.

2. “It was in Hebrew.” There are doctoral students who do publish dissertations in languages other than English. (I can’t believe I actually had to mention this).

3. “It had no references.” What is one to do with Ancient Near Eastern law code (such as “the goring ox” law) and the other books mentioned in the books of Kings and Chronicles?

4. “It wasn’t published in a refereed journal.” The quotations of scripture in the works of early Christian writers alone are so extensive that the New Testament can be reconstructed without use of any actual manuscripts (over 32,000 citations of the New Testament are recorded before the Council of Nicea, in 325 A.D.)

5. “Some doubt he even wrote it himself.” The burden of proof lies on the objector in light of the internal evidence alone.

6. “It may be true that he created the world, but what has he done since then?” Do you mean aside from holding everything together and ordering everything by His direct and permissive will?

7. “His cooperative efforts have been quite limited.” How, and compared to whom?

8. “The scientific community has had a hard time replicating his results.” Perhaps is unfair that nature does not have flasks of pure ingredients to pour out each in each step of process; that a real primeval pond has no screen to protect fragile amino acids from destructive wavelengths of sunlight; that nature is not equipped with traps to protect compounds from others. All that’s left for Science is to provide positive evidence that the origins of life requires a personal creator.

9. “He never applied to the ethics board for permission to use human subjects.” The question of ethics is answered by the human subjects themselves.

10. “When one experiment won’t went awry he tried to cover it by drowning his subjects.” If by definition an experiment is the verification of validity, then outcome confirmed the hypothesis--the soul that sins will die.

11. “When subjects didn’t behave as predicted, he deleted them from the sample.” The subjects were given a choice and by that choice the subjects deleted themselves from the sample. God’s will is that subjects remain in the sample.

12. “He rarely came to class, just told students to read the book.” Perhaps if the objector had actually read the book, he would learn the proximity of the teaching professor. Must he always be in the room for learning to take place?

13. “Some say he had his son teach the class.” What’s the point? Team teaching, guest lecturers and teachers aids are a feature of higher education.

14. “”He expelled his first two students for learning.” What was the lesson?

15. “Although there were only 10 requirements, most of his students failed his tests.” What grade did you get?

16. “His office hours were infrequent and usually held on a mountain top.” Wow. Sure you had the right office?

17. “No record of working well with colleagues.” It’s the other way around, actually. Take this list, for example . . .

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Rethinking The Cat

Never been fond of cats. Never. Never had a reason to. Then I stumbled across a poem titled “Jubilate Agno,” by Christopher Smart penned between 1759 and 1763 that caused me to rethink this animal. The title, by the way, means “celebrate the Lamb.”

Here is a summation of this unusual poem and three points that spoke most loudly to me:

1. He considers God:

My cat is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving Him, worshipping in His way. Having done duty and received blessings, he begins to consider himself by inspecting, washing, stretching and extending; he fleas and rubs himself; he looks up for instruction; he goes in quest for food.

2. Having considered God and himself, he considers his neighbor:

If he meets another cat, he will kiss her in kindness; when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.

3. When his day’s work is done, his business properly begins:

He keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary, counteracting the powers of darkness, the devil, by brisking about the life. He purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he is a good cat.

[Perhaps the cat is a better Christian than I.]

Monday, December 03, 2012

Photoblog: Garden of Reading

Another pic from inside our local library.

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