For ‘Christian’

To Christian:
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment on my blog. Unfortunately, I had to remove it. It was pleasant, did not contain any rude offers to enhance my anatomy or it’s performance, links to unpleasant images, offers to get me neat drugs at unbelievable prices, link to Texas Hold ’em or offer me unbelievable stock deals. I even visited your ‘Christian’ web site, which seemed nice enough, although I don’t understand it’s purpose other than generating AdSense revenue.
I removed you comment because, despite its pleasantries and wishes for God’s blessings, it had nothing to do with the post it was made on. In fact,. it had nothing to do with my site at all. Its only purpose seemed to be to get a link to your site on mine. In fact, I’ve seen your nearly identical comment on another blog, equally out of context. Sorry, but my comment form doesn’t exist to give you an opportunity to link your site and build traffic. It’s there to foster dialog and build relationships.
I doubt that you’ll be back, so you probably won’t read this. If you do come back, you’re welcome to join in the discussion on the topic at hand, but not to place an ad for your web page.
That’s called ‘spam’ and it’s not a very Christian thing to do.

Ezekiel – Chapter 43-44

Ezekiel 43:5 – The Spirit carries him into the inner court, a place where he likely has never been in real life. A place that only a few men have gone and only a few times. Imagine how that would have felt to have God bring you into his most private place. (After reading further (Ezekiel 44:15-27), I don’t think this is the most holy place, behind the curtain, where the high priest would only go once a year. Still, it’s the inner court, a special holy place, with special rules and only the Levites are to go there.)
Ezekiel 43:10-12 – Now I know why there was 3 chapters on the design of the temple.
Ezekiel 43:18-27 – As I read this ritual for cleansing the alter, it struck me how rediculous and scandalous Jesus would have seemed. God is Holy, He reequired elaborate steps from us to purify us that we may approach His holines. It is not a simple thing, it requires a lot of specific, sacred steps to be in the right condition to approach God.
But along comes this Jesus, and He talks as if God can be your best buddy in comparison. He brings all sort of unholy folks around him and doesn’t even attempt to cleanse them. It would seem as though he’s triffling with God, treating him with contempt. It would seem that Jesus is mocking the rituals that remind them of God’s holiness. He’s not, of course, but I can imagine how hard that would be to see.
Ezekiel 44:9 – God demands holiness and purity.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters – Chapter 2

My reading of Meg Meeker’s Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters stalled, but I’m picking it back up. My posting on it just flat died, so I’m going to try to catch up.
Chapter 2 – She needs a hero.
What does a hero do? A hero has strong convictions. Unwavering convictions. A hero stands firm. A hero will step in, even when it’s uncomfortable, unpopular or even dangerous. A hero puts others’ needs before their own.
Firemen. Paramedics. Soldiers. Doctors. Knights. Things every kids wants to be at some point. Why? They’re all heroes and we want to be the hero.
Meg points out “I have news for you. Your daughter wants a hero – and she has chosen you. (pg. 29)” I don’t know about the rest of you Dads, but that puts a lump in my throat.
One of the powerful things about the way this book is written is how Dr. Meeker intertwines her words with examples from her practice and experience that back them up. This chapter includes several stories of men who were heroes to their girls and how it strengthened them, and one of a man who failed to rush to his daughter’s side and how it devastated her.
Your daughter needs and wants you to lead. Lead with determination, conviction and authority. She gets security from your authority. You’re big, strong, tough and she leans on that. Dr. Meeker says:

The only way you will alienate your daughter in the long term is by loosing her respect, failing to lead, or failing to protect her. If you don’t provide for her needs, she will find someone else who will – and that’s when the trouble starts. Don’t let that happen. (pg. 30)

She may test you, push back, challenging your authority.

… remember that when she pushes hard against your rules, flailing, crying that you are mean or unfair, she is really asking you a question: Am I worth the fight, Dad? Are you strong enough to handle me? (pg. 32)

At every stage of life, she’s going to be looking to you for guidance. Tell her what you believe, don’t be afraid to jump in with your opinions. This seems obvious to me, that’s what parents are to do. But I can find myself getting shy about forcing my way on her. Is it really the right thing to do? Yep, absolutely says Dr. Meeker. She needs to find her way, yes, but my experience and wisdom need to light the path as she does. Otherwise, she’ll be groping in the dark and who knows what she might find. I need to act with authority.

Dad, that’s what your daughter wants from you. Your daughter doesn’t have to like your mannerisms, your rules, your clothes or your political views, but you never what to loose her respect. And you won’t if you live your moral beliefs and act with authority. If you d that, you’ll be a hero in her eyes. (pg. 39)

One of the toughest things about this, is keeping at it. We get tired and our girls are relentless. I know that I wear down quickly when the choruses of “Please! Pretty, please!” start up. As they get older it can be tempting to let our guard down more, but the dangers are even greater. We have to persevere.

If only you had to fight for her once, twice or even ten times, the process wouldn’t be so tough. But you might have to fight for her two hundred times. You only have eighteen short years before she is on her own. If you don’t show her the high road now, she won’t find it later. Perseverance in setting her on that road isn’t easy. She might appear embarrassed by your interventions. She might sulk. She might even say that she hates you. But you can see what she can’t. You know how sixteen year old boys react when they see her in a halter top. you know how even one beer can make her unsafe to drive. You know a lot more than she does, and however hard it is to persevere in leading her the right way, you have to do it. (pg. 42)

She ends with some tips (pg. 47-48):

  1. Make a plan. Your vision for her life will be clearer when she’s younger. Write it down and stick to it.
  2. Have courage under fire. You’ll be fired upon from all sides, keep your cool and lead by your convictions.
  3. Be the Leader. This is the hardest for me. I’m a softy, but I can see things she can’t. “She’s still a kid. So you lead; don’t let her.”
  4. Don’t cave, persevere. “Heroes see a battle through to the end, they never run away.”

This seems daunting to me. I’m too soft, I cave too quickly. But Dr. Meeker ends with hope:

This is a tall order, but I have seen enough heroic fathers to know that it’s an order that every good man can fill if he sets himself to it. … You were made a man for a reason. … So listen to your instincts, and do what’s right. Be a hero. (pg. 48)

For My Friends on Word Press

Jessie Gardner of Plastic Mind Design posts Ten Reasons Why You Should Upgrade to MT 4 Instead of WP 2.3. Or, if you count funny, maybe it’s seven reasons. Or eleven.
Whatever. Now’s the time for you WP’ers to come over to the MT world with MT4. Still free for personal use, a revitalized community, nifty new features, modular templates, MT Open Source on the horizon. Come on in, the water’s fine.
If you do make the jump, let me know how you like MT4. I’m waiting (less and less patiently) for some of my must have plugins (Photogallery, Rightfields, MTBlogroll, MT-Notifier to name a few) to get upgraded before I can make the jump. 🙁

The World Without Us

This past week or two on NPR, I twice heard mention of this book, The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. I’m not sure what the first one was (perhaps Marketplace or Weekend Edition), but the second was on a short program called Earth and Sky (broadcast the week of Sept. 13th).
The premise of the book is actually interesting, to a point. What if the entire human race suddenly disappeared? What would happen to the Earth? I haven’t read the book, but it’s interesting to consider how all that we have built would start to crumble pretty quickly. The NYC subways would flood, buildings collapse and cities would be overrun by plant and animal life.
Of course, there’s more to the book than just the intellectual exercise of what the Earth would become without us. There’s the implication that the Earth would be better off without us. More than that, Weisman seems almost giddy when talking about it in the Earth and Sky interview:

it turns out our planet would do really, really well. It would really flourish without us around.

Referring to visiting a remote jungle area to experience it, he says:

It didn’t feel exotic to me. It somehow felt complete, when I went in there my body just sort of responded and said, yes! We have a memory within us of what this world was when it was fresh and new, and it was extraordinarily exciting to feel what it’s like to be in something that pristine.

I find the notion that man is somehow a curse on this pristine planet rather condescending. That we do nothing but harm to an otherwise ‘complete’ ecosystem is rather presumptuous, even a bit arrogant. There’s something ironic in a scholarly sentiment, which taken to it’s logical conclusion, means the death of the human race, including the scholars.
What’s really missing here, of course, is the truth that man is not simply a part of creation, but the focus of it. Read the Genesis creation account and you see man at the focus of the work of God. Man is the last thing created, the climax of God’s creation energies. God pronounces each act of creation as ‘good’, but man makes it ‘very good’. It is man that is created in God’s image. Most importantly, it is man that is given dominion over the planet, and the only creature given a charge by God:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 1:28

God created the Earth and gave it to us. We were charged with making it ours, to rule it, to subdue it. I do not think that gives us license to pollute and destroy, nor to I believe that we have taken that responsibility seriously. We’ve been careless and selfish with what God has given us. Much as we do on an individual level with our own possessions, we have done with the Earth. Nonetheless, this planet is ours, given to us by a loving God who set it in just the right place in space for us to thrive.
So, yes, perhaps the Earth in some ways would be better without us. But it would be devoid of it’s purpose. It was made for man to inhabit. That’s why it is here, to remove us would be to remove its meaning. Imagine a home with no family to occupy it. It’s meaning is gone, it’s reason for existence removed. It’s a sad, soulless shell, merely a collection wood, bricks and paint, nothing more. An Earth without man might be less polluted and greener, but it would be empty and soulless. Just another ball of dirt and gas floating through space, missing it’s reason for being.

Not All Email Forwards Are Evil

Monday I get the following email from a co-worker:

Hi everyone! Do you know this person????? I found his camera at the Ohio State / Youngstown State game and am trying to return it to him…
Please send along to anyone who might know other OSU fans !! Not only is this a good deed but it is a social experiment to see if we really are all connected! If you know him please tell him to contact me via email at [email address].
Please help!!!!!!!!! Thank you!!!!!!!! Michelle Montgomery.

The picture above was attached to the email. By the time it had reached me, it had been forwarded at least 4 times, to dozens of recipients. It seemed legit, so I was going to post about it here at some point.
It turns out it was too late anyway. According to the Columbus Dispatch today:

John’s lost camera was picked up by a Clintonville woman, Michelle Montgomery, and her husband on their way to the game. Not confident that the university’s lost-and-found service would be able to locate the rightful owner, Montgomery decided to try a social experiment by searching for him using the Internet.

Montgomery, 32, who works for a Columbus human-resources consulting firm, uploaded a picture showing the man she assumed to be the camera owner, a young boy and Brutus Buckeye. She attached it to an e-mail and sent it to 14 friends.

Less than 48 hours later, Montgomery was talking with John, who learned from two unrelated e-mail sources that someone in Columbus had found his camera.

I love the fact that she didn’t trust the lost and found department, so she decided to find him herself. I don’t think I would have thought of that.
Just a few yeas ago, the camera would have had film in it and the pictures could not have been accessed. Even if the film had been developed, there would have been no way that one individual could possibly find an unnamed stranger. It would likely end up in a lost and found bin, gathering dust.

Ezekiel – Chapter 40 – 42

Ezekiel 40-42 – Three entire chapters of measurements and descriptions of a temple. Cubits, cubits, cubits! It’s hard for me to follow, yet in Ezekiel 40:4 God tell Ezekiel to “set your heart upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I might show it to you. Declare all that you see to the house of Israel.” Perhaps the detailed description is because Ezekiel took that charge seriously and wanted to bring back an accurate description of what he had seen.
I have to admit, I only skimmed these chapters. I always wonder if I’m missing the point of passages like this. I suspect it had more meaning to Israel than it does for us today.

Training Wheels, Part 2

I’ve been thinking, off and on, about Audrey and her training wheels. How she simply decided that she was done with them and that she could now ride with out them.
And then she did.
No longer slowed down by those little wheels or constrained to take corners straight up, off she went, grinning with freedom. I stood there, honestly, in awe.
It occurs to me that I’ve been riding on spiritual training wheels. Not wanting to go too fast until I’ve got it all figured out. Like Audrey the day before, I cry “Not yet! I’m not ready! I can’t do it!Wait!”
What’s holding me back is uncertainty. I want to know exactly what the right way to proceed and think is before moving forward. I’m not yet certain about many things, so I take it slow and cautious, not wanting to fall. As soon as I have the answers I need, I can take those little wheels off, knowing I’ll sail off without falling. Without the answers, if I remove the training wheels I might mess up, fall and get hurt.
The problem with certainty is that I’ve tried it. I took off, certain of what to do and fell flat on my face. So, I feel that I need certainty, but I understand that it’s really a lie, only God has certainty.
The truth is that I can’t sort it all out. Intellectually, I know that. I know that I’m not supposed to have all the answers. I understand that within the uncertainty is God building faith. I know that while I look for certainty, answers and perfection, life passes by and the work of the gospel sits waiting. I know that acting in spite of the uncertainty is one of the purest expressions of faith. I now know that it’s the way God intended it. He has the answers, we don’t, but we do have Him, and that’s enough.
I know.
But I can’t take the training wheels off. I want to be free of this burden of seeking perfection. I want to fly on the wings of faith. But I can’t. Not yet anyway.
Hopefully, one day soon, like Audrey, I’ll wake up one morning knowing that it’s time. I’ll be able to turn to my Father and say, “Dad, while I’m sleeping, could you secretly take my training wheels off, because I know I can do it now!”
And I’ll leave the little wheels behind, not looking back.

Contribution Lesson

Why do we give our contribution? We all know the reasons given over the years of why we should give. God commands us to give and give generously, the church needs money to pay salaries, rent and other bills etc. Those reasons are all true and valid, and each at times may prompt us or encourage us to give when we might not otherwise want to.
Sometimes we give out of habit. We give because we give. It’s what we do. Christians give money to the church.
But God told Samuel that he looks at a man’s heart, not what man looks at. He’s not as interested in how often you give, how much you give or how consistently you give. He want’s to know why.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:7

God says here that wants us to decide what to give and that He loves it when we give cheerfully. He wants it to be on our hearts, not to be compelled to give by someone else or by fine sounding reasons.
So what should prompt us to give? I think the answer lies in one simple, perhaps too familiar, verse:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

The reason this verse is so familiar is the powerful, awesome truth that it contains. God loves us enough to sacrifice His Son. We give to God’s church because of what God has given us – His son.
I was reminded this week of the old Hymn, How Great Thou Art. After 2 verses of talking about the majesty of God as seem in creation, verse 3 says:

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

He bled and died to take away my sin.” That’s why we give.

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