What a Day

In the middle of the snowpacolypse, I had a rather nteresting morning. After chiseling my car out from under over 1/2″ of ice, I made it to work (~24 miles) in heavy snow and sleet in decent time. However, before the morning was done I made that trip two more times, still in heavy snow. I’ll let my wife tell you why:

We’ve had a bit of excitement here. Twitch (Jessica’s black and white kitten) managed to get locked in the freezer. We think he was in there for about 14 hours. I knew something was up when he didn’t come for treats. He ALWAYS comes running when I whistle. I had thought that he may have gotten outside and was calling and calling for him. We searched the whole house and finally Jessica prayed that God would give her sign where he was. Just then, I heard him howling from the basement. Imagine my shock and dismay when I opened the freezer door and there he was barely conscious and curled up in the door of the freezer. I brought him upstairs and we called the vet right away. Unfortunately, my car was completely frozen and Doug was at work. He left right away and came to pick us up. The vet told us to get a heating pad on him and use a hair dryer to warm up his skin. He drifted in and out of consciousness until Doug got her and we all loaded up in Doug’s car and left for the Animal ER (our vet was closed because of the weather). As soon as they saw us coming, they whisked him away to the back. They could not get a reading on his body temp since it was so low and feared that he may have a lot of damage to his back leg as it was not responding neurologically. Before we got to the vet, Emily told us, “God told me he’s not going to die.” We were all praying fervently for that to be the case, but Emily was very confident.
At the ER, the vet told us he was in pretty serious condition, but that because we had warmed him up, he was in better shape than they had feared after my call. By the time we had left, his legs were responding to stimulus and he was comfortable (he was in a lot of pain as he regained consciousness). They let us all go back and see him and he responded to our touch much like he always would. They were able to take the heating pads off around noon and he ate rather heartily. If he continues to improve, we may even get to take him home tonight! [He came home around 8PM.] All in all, he has made a surprising and miraculous recovery.
We know that God answers prayers because I don’t think I would have heard him otherwise. Especially since we hadn’t heard him all night. How he managed to survive 14 hours in the freezer can only be God. He has definitely used up one or two of his lives. 😀
To sum up a long story, we know that God really does take care of the little things in life – in the grand scheme of things, a cat’s life may not be as important as some other things going on, but God knows how much he means to us.

Twitch isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and he’s extraordinarily curious. He’s been known to try to crawl into the dishwasher while you’re loading it. That’s him there in the Wii box at Chrstmas time. Why? Because it was there. We figure he crawled up into our stand up freezer to see what was there while Maria was putting something away and she didn’t see him.
I’ve got to say as well, the folks at Capital Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center were great. They took good care of him, were very friendly and professional and the cost wasn’t as bad as I expected.

Galatians 2 – Law vs. Freedom

Galatians 2:2 – Paul went up to Jerusalem to meet privately with the leaders to present what he had been teaching. To show them the way? No, “to make sure [he] was not running or had not run in vain” I like that he went privately, to not stir up controversy but to find unity, and that he went not to teach but to learn.
Galatians 2:8-9 – The ESV speaks of ‘Peter’ in verse 8 and ‘Cephas’ in verse 9 (also in verse 11, and in chapter 1). NIV uses ‘Peter’ in both places.
Galatians 2:14 – He went originally in private and reached an agreement, but when he saw Peter acting publicly contrary to that agreement, he challenged him publicly.
Paul sets himself up here as one who has championed the Gospel of freedom over the slavery of the law. Galatians 1:1-2:14 seems to be establishing who he is and what he has stood for as back ground to what he’s about to lay out.
Galatians 2:15-16 – Paul contrasts Jew with ‘Gentile sinners’ in verse 15, which might be offensive if he didn’t essentially lump them both in the same group in verse 16 saying that “by works of the law no one will be justified”.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

I wonder if we really understand the implications of this. Romans 6 describes how we die with Christ in baptism, do we really understand it? Do we live as if the death that comes to all has already come and gone for us? That which most men dread and attempt to put off, death, we have willingly embraced with Jesus. We are already dead and are only now truly alive in Christ.
I think if we really understood this concept, that we are already dead, we’ve already passed from death to life, we’d live differently. (Check out my study of Romans 6 from 2 years ago where I elaborated on this powerful idea more.)

Galatians 1 – Standing for the Gospel

My study of Ecclesiastes was very productive. I decided that i needed to return to the New Testament, but since I had spent a lot of time in the gospels before Ecclesiastes, I decided to return to one of the epistles. Galatians kept popping in my head, so here I am.
Galatians 1:6 – After a short greeting, Paul dives right in, challenging them on “deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ”. No sensitive consideration of their viewpoint or feelings.
Galatians 1:9 – Paul does not mince words – if anyone is preaching a different gospel, let him be cursed. We tolerate a lot of different gospels, don’t we? By ‘tolerate’ I don’t necessarily mean accept, but we treat them as if they are valid gospels. We accept them as alternate teachings too easily, I think. We don’t have to berate and rebuke at every turn, but there is a way to stand firm when we see a ‘gospel’ that is not the gospel. I don’t get the impression that Paul was much concerned about who might be offended here by calling their teachings false.
Galatians 1:15-19 – Paul seems to go out of his way to drive home the point that the gospel he preaches is not his own nor that of the other apostles. He received it directly from God (see verse 1 as well). He wasn’t claiming to have a different teaching than the others, only to say that it was from God. If you refuse it, you are refusing not Paul or ‘the church’ but God. He seems to be nailing this down to make it clear that what he was about to write was not debatable or a matter of opinion.
In our age of so many churches and denominations, on one hand there is a lot of legitimate value in the vast variety of understandings. Still, there is a need to stand for the one and only gospel of Christ. The challenge is how to do both. When we claim to have all understanding, as my family of churches, and the larger CoC tribe before them once did (and sometime still do), we block out any knowledge but our own. We not only prevent our own growth, we alienate others who need to be taught by what we do understand.
However, the other extreme is to never confront anyone when they are clearly far away from the gospel. I think I tend to fall into this trap, it’s the easy way, and it sounds and feels righteous. No confrontation, being nice and ‘respectful’. But respect does not demand silence, but to speak firmly demands respect and discernment.

Ford Model A Sink

Sorry for the silence of late. Life happens sometimes. Anyway, I’ve got a few fluff posts lined up, here’s the first one.
Ford Sink 2.jpg
Check out this cool bathroom vanity made from a Ford Model A pickup bed that I saw on the Hemmings Blog a while ago. The guy who owns it lives in Toledo, OH (where my parents live) and he bought the truck bed parts from a Ford parts place in Moberly, MO (where Maria’s parents live). Weird, huh?
I wonder if Maria would let me build something like this in our master bath?

Ecclesiastes 11-12 – Fear and Follow

He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

Ecclesiastes 11:4

Interesting observation. I am frequently caught in the ‘paralysis of analysis’, ever searching for the right or best answer. This weekend, I put up a new closet shelving system in my middle daughter’s room. I wasn’t planning to, but circumstances presented themselves last week which made this weekend the right time to do it. I planned it, bought the stuff adn installed it in less than a week, a record of sorts for me. My wife commented – “What, you’re not going to spend days exploring every option?”
Solomon seems to be commenting on folks like me – ever planning, but never getting things done.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – In the end it comes down to this – Fear God and keep his commandments. I was telling some folks on Sunday regarding my study of Ecclesiastes that the recurring theme was “Enjoy what you’ve got, work hard and be happy.” While I still find this true, the end of chapter 12 gives the context in which that is possible – fearing God and keeping His commands. Solomon says this is the whole duty of man. Not that there aren’t other duties that need done, work that we must accomplish in our lives, but that any work we do is to be done in the context of following God.
The conclusion is that there’s nothing worth doing on Earth that is done outside that context.
I’ve learned a lot from Solomon in Ecclesiastes. Mostly, I learned to not worry about the meaning of it all and just be content. Enjoy what God’s given me, work hard and be happy. There’s a lot of freedom in that.

Ecclesiastes 10 – Wisdom and Folly

Like a chapter that would be at home in Proverbs, Solomon here notes the benefits of wisdom and the power of folly.

Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench;
so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.

Ecclesiastes 10:1

Sounds a little hopeless, doesn’t it? A little folly outweighs wisdom. Take it not as a lament but as a warning – it doesn’t take a lot of foolishness to cause a lot of trouble. How many tragedies have you heard that began with just a little folly?

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were an error proceeding from the ruler: folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves.

Ecclesiastes 10:5-7

Anyone who’s watched government in action can attest to the first part of that, but what of the second? Salves on horses, princes on the ground? What prince walks when he can ride or be driven, what slave can get a place on a horse?
The prince that doesn’t know he’s a prince and the slave who doesn’t understand that he’s imprisoned. I see many who think they are something when in reality they are slaves – slaves to their image, to their lifestyle, to their sin, to peer pressure. Others, who live in freedom and who are princes, sons of the king, live as if they were nothing, slaves, trapped, imprisoned. the have no confidence, no faith in their worth, even though they were bought at a price. Neither understands who they are.
Of course, I’m talking about those who are Christians and who are not. So many outside the church think of themselves as something when they are not and many inside have been given everything including Jesus and can’t see it. When the world beats you down, and everything around you points to your worthlessness, it can be hard to see the invisible God who bought you at such a high price. I think we can all do more to lift each other’s head to Jesus when the world beats us down.
There is a lot of wisdom in the remaining verses. Most have a practical application as well as layers of deeper meaning if you meditate on them for a while. Frankly, it can be easy to skim over them and miss the deeper meaning. Some of my favorites from Ecclesiastes 10:

10 If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge,
he must use more strength,
but wisdom helps one to succeed.

Work smarter, not harder. Solomon thought of that one first too.

11 If the serpent bites before it is charmed,
there is no advantage to the charmer.

That one made em smile, but then I thought about how many people get bitten by the metaphorical snakes they try to charm.

18 Through sloth the roof sinks in,
and through indolence the house leaks.

Ah, the joys of home ownership.

20 Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king,
nor in your bedroom curse the rich,
for a bird of the air will carry your voice,
or some winged creature tell the matter.

“Even in your thoughts …” That’s a high standard, but the truth is we cannot think that we can curse someone in our thoughts and have it not come through in our actions and attitudes. Besides, God judges us on our hearts, and the way you are in private is a better reflection of who you are inside than what you do in public. Think about that the next time you’re alone in the car, in a hurry and in slow traffic.

Good News for Parents of Teens

You may have heard of a study last month on the effectiveness of abstinence pledges. it was widely reported on, this article in the Washington Post covers the gist of the reporting:

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

That’s what was heard over and over. Abstinence programs don’t work, we were told, why are we doing them?

As a Christian parent of one teen age girl and two others approaching puberty at light speed, I had two reactions.

First was a sigh of resignation of the state of the world we live in. Teen sex is a fact of life, almost celebrated in TV & movies. It stinks, but you’ve gotta live somewhere and Mars isn’t open for business yet.

Second was to carry on with what I had already been doing, namely a full on assault against the world’s full court press on my girls’ values. I have taught them that waiting is God’s way, it’s the best way and that all around them their friends and the media will be acting otherwise. The odds may be stacked against me, but there’s absolutely no way that I’m going to sit by and let it happen. It’s inevitable, the studies say, but I follow a God who says otherwise.

Imagine my (lack of) surprise when yesterday I read a Wall Street Journal opinion piece debunking the reporting on this study:

[T]he only way the study’s author, Janet Elise Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins University, could reach such results was by comparing teens who take a virginity pledge with a very small subset of other teens: those who are just as religious and conservative as the pledge-takers

In other words, the study compared conservative, religious teens inclined toward waiting until marriage with conservative, religious teens inclined toward waiting until marriage who had actually taken a pledge to do so and found no difference between the groups.

Well, duh.

Dr. Bernadine Healy, health editor for U.S. News & World Report, examined the results and found “virginity pledging teens were considerably more conservative in their overall sexual behaviors than teens in general — a fact that many media reports have missed cold.” And there’s more:

What Dr. Healy was getting at is that the pledge itself is not what distinguishes these kids from most other teenagers. The real difference is their more conservative and religious home and social environment. As she notes, when you compare both groups in this study with teens at large, the behavioral differences are striking. Here are just a few:

– These teens generally have less risky sex, i.e., fewer sexual partners.

– These teens are less likely to have a teenage pregnancy, or to have friends who use drugs.

– These teens have less premarital vaginal sex.

– When these teens lose their virginity they tend to do so at age 21 — compared to 17 for the typical American teen.

– And very much overlooked, one out of four of these teens do in fact keep the pledge to remain chaste — amid much cheap ridicule and just about zero support outside their homes or churches.

So teen parents rejoice, it turns out that God knows what He’s talking about after all.

HT: Brant Hansen

Ecclesiastes 9 – Life Is Short

Ecclesiastes 9:2-6 – Solomon recognizes the problem of the earth that many lament. Good thing and bad things happen to everyone, there is no rhyme or reason. The good have evil befall them and the evil have good events. It’s random, not related to our own behavior. The rain falls on the righteous and the sinner and the sun shines on them both as well. Solomon says it’s “an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all.
But he recognizes that the unfair, random acts of the Earth is better than the alternative. life may be unfair and tragic, but in death there is no more opportunity for joy, happiness or good fortune. “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.”
Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 – So what’s the answer that Solomon has to this? Life is short, so enjoy it. Give it your all, love those you have near and be happy. All those cliches – “Don’t worry, be happy”, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”, “Life comes at you fast.” – Solomon thought of it first.
Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 – In verse 11 he says “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.” but right after, he extols the virtues of wisdom over folly, including a vague story about a poor, wise man who saved a small town from a King’s onslaught. I don’t think anyone would argue about the benefits of wisdom, but it seems at odds with his prior statements.
I guess it’s more of a continuation of his rant on the unfair nature of life. The wise man isn’t remembered, because he was poor. Though wisdom is superior, sin can still do a lot of damage.

Ecclesiastes 8 – Authority & Joy

Ecclesiastes 8:4 – “For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?”” Solomon, as king would know. I wonder if this is only part sound advice on dealing with those in authority, particularly absolute authority. I wonder if it is part a lament that no one wold approach him as king and challenge him honestly on his sin. I know I appreciate those who confront me when I need it and frankly I’m certain that I need it more than I get it. How much Solomon must have felt alone as king when very few felt comfortable saying what needed to be said.
Ecclesiastes 8:10-13 – Solomon saw that in life when a sentence against evil is not delivered quickly, the people have no fear of authority and are inclined to evil and applied it to man’s relationship with God. If men fear God, they obey Him and ultimately it goes well with them. Fear of those in power, be it the King or God, produces respect which delivers the people under them. It’s tempting to be the nice, unoffensive leader, but acting with authority and conviction is good for those being led.
Ecclesiastes 8:15 – “… man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful…” Why is this so hard? We eat and drink, but we even are frequently unhappy about that. Solomon says just be joyful, period. But we listen to the world that tells us we need a newer car, a bigger house, a faster computer, more stylish clothes, or to be thinner or stronger or less gray haired or have more hair or whatever and we buy it and are never happy, let alone joyful. Solomon had everything that could be had in his day and his response was there was nothing better than to eat, drink and be joyful.
Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 – No matter how much we learn about the world, there are more and more mysteries as to how it works – or rather, how God is working in it. I remember when I was in High School physics, protons, neutrons and electrons were the smallest building blocks of matter. Then bigger microscopes came along, and quarks and I don’t know what else were discovered. Science knows exponentially more than in Solomon’s day, but we still can’t explain where we came from or where we’re going or how life really works after all.

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