boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
free: (adjective) provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.

9/28/05

Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!

9/27/05

family...

"Why don't you want to have a family of your own?"

I tried my best not to contort my face or otherwise express the anger or offense I felt at the question. After all, the doctor who asked it was required to sign off on my fitness to become a foster/adoptive parent. I wanted to say, "That's precisely what we're trying to do. When we take children into our home, they will be part of our family--our own family." But, I refrained and instead I answered the question, "Do you plan to have any biological children." So, I said that yes we do plan and hope to have biological children as part of our family along with adoptive and foster children, but we have decided to pursue the opportunity to become foster parents now.

When people find out we plan to become foster/adoptive parents, they often ask why. And, even when they don't ask, I'd bet they are still wondering but are just too polite to ask. Well, we have 3 main reasons that motivate us to pursue this choice. The first is a practical reason. There are many, many children who need a home and need love, and we have a home and love to give them. That one is pretty simple. The second reason I would categorize as theological. My wife and I are Christians and as such we believe what the Bible explains about the Gospel that God adopts people into his family without regard to whether they deserve such a blessing, but only because they need that place in God's family. To be more accurate, they positively do not deserve to be brought into God's family because all people are sinners at enmity with God. But because He loves people in spite of their sin, and because Jesus sacrificed Himself in the place of those who deserved to be forever barred from God's family, we now have a place in it by receiving God's grace in the Gospel. So now, as children in God's family, my wife and I believe we should learn from and imitate our Father and welcome children into our family. The third reason is a bit of a mix of the practical and the theological. As Christians, my wife and I are pro-life. We would encourage all pregnant women not to end the life of their child through abortion. But, we are not only pro-life before birth. We believe the lives of children should be fostered and developed. If a child is not able to be cared for and nurtured by his biological parents, it would be unjust of society and inconsistent of my wife and I to deny the child what it needs to live. And, the women and parents that we would encourage to give birth to their children, if they find they cannot cope with the subsequent circumstances, ought to have options to ensure that those children aren't simply abandoned.

Now, we know we aren't going to solve the problems of the world ourselves. We cannot help every child who needs a home. But, our Christian faith helps us here too. We don't believe we are called to save the world. Jesus has already done that. Eventually, God will set all things to right and there will be no more mourning nor pain nor injustice nor aborted or abandoned children. In the meantime, however, we are simply called to seek God's grace to power us to live faithfully toward him and loving toward our neighbor. I usually feel that I fail at this more often than I succeed. And, fostering or adopting a child won't make up for numerous unfaithful, unloving acts. But, I am grateful that God has given us a desire and opportunity to be faithful in this circumstance. And, I trust that He will continue to guide, support and grow us as we pursue it.

9/25/05

God and Man at Table Are Sat Down...

My favorite part of Sunday corporate worship (or, "going to church") is not the sermon--even when it's great--but the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. This event is known as Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, and various other names. If you're not familiar with it, I'm not going to give you a theological exposition of what it is; other people have already done a better job than I could do (I'd reccommend Keith Mathison's book, "Given for You"). Most people, I think, are at least vaguely familiar with what I'm talking about. It's the time in a Christian worship service when the congregation eats a little wafer, cracker, or piece of bread and takes a drink of juice or wine. According to the Bible, the Lord's Supper is both something we do and something God does. When we partake, we declare the Lord's death--in other words that Jesus died in the place of His people, of us. But more importantly than what we are doing is what God is doing. Basically, God has promised to work spiritual blessing in us when we take part in the sacrament by faith. That is why it is sometimes referred to as a means of grace. It is a way in which God gives us a gift of blessing that we don't deserve or work for.

When we participate in the Lord's Supper we are in God's presence in a special way. That's one of God's promises too. And, one of my favorite aspects of the sacrament is that it is a unifying event. Not only uniting God with His people, but also His people with one another. That's why it's called Communion. If you are a Christian, then you've experienced--and if you're not, you've surely noticed--that Christians often struggle with infighting. Sometimes this bickering is over very important matters--yet other times over very trivial ones. But, when we meet together to have the Lord's Supper, any other issues are set aside. Whatever God's people may disagree about, when we come together around this sacrament we are united in our total dependance upon Jesus for our life and breath, our salvation and everything we have. Even better, we're not just united amongst the people gathered in our little church sanctuary, our denomination, among Protestants or Catholics, or even among all Christians living in the world today. Rather, all of God's church universal and eternal is communing one with another in a meal presided over by our Savior Jesus. If this sounds cheesy to you, then you haven't experienced it. And, I would invite you to check out a local church that preaches the Gospel and check out what goes on.

At our church, during Communion, the musicians lead in music and the congregation joins in singing. Today, we sang a new song that speaks of these truths, which I totally fell in love with. Part of the beauty of a song, of course, is the music, so just copying down the words won't communicate to you what I experienced. But, I thought the words were good so I'm going to copy them for you anyway.

God and Man at Table Are Sat Down

O, welcome, all ye noble saints of old
As now before your very eyes unfold
The wonders all so long ago foretold.
God and man at table are sat down.

Worship in the presence of the Lord
With joyful songs and hearts in one accord.
And let our Host at table be adored.
God and man at table are sat down.

Elders, martyrs, all are falling down;
Prophets, patriarchs are gath'ring round.
What angels longed to see now man has found:
God and man at table are sat down.

Beggars, lame, and harlots also here;
Repentant publicans are drawing near.
Wayward sons come home without a fear.
God and man at table are sat down.

Who is this who spreads the vic'try feast?
Who is this who makes our warring cease?
Jesus, Risen Savior, Prince of Peace.
God and man at table are sat down.

When at last this earth shall pass away,
When Jesus and his Bride are one to stay,
The feast of love is just begun that day.
God and man at table are sat down.

9/21/05

Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!

9/20/05

memories...

Last weekend we were back at my parents' house for a visit. For the past several visits, my folks have been harrassing me to go through my 20 years of accumulated junk from when their home was my primary residence. I am something of a pack-rat; I hate to throw things away. Not because I delude myself into thinking I will need something again, but because I'm sentimental. For instance, I found a plastic bag that held the torn-in-half stubs from every movie, football game, etc., that I went to during high school. That habit died out soon after going to college, but just seeing that bag of "trash" brought back memories of the new freedom of a first car and venturing out in the city with friends (and without parents).

Most of the stuff, however, was old assignments and papers from K-12. So, most of it ended up in the garbage. But, going through all of that brought back a lot of memories. And, I learned some things about myself in my youth that I had forgotten. 1.)I did not like school. Since I like school so much now, I assumed I always did. But, there were so many comments I had written in various places that my feelings were pretty clear. 2.)I was not a good artist. When I was very small, I remember wanting to be an artist. I don't think that would have worked out. I was pretty proud of my drawing of a Koala bear wearing a Notre Dame hat, though. 3.)I had a disturbing obsession with death, destruction, and violence. I wasn't obsessed with committing the violence. But, in every old story I had written, people were being killed or there was some kind of war or mayhem taking place. That does remind me that there was a long span of time in my youth that I was convinced I was going to be kidnapped. And, while I was quite frightened of the prospect, I remember trying to prepare myself to deal with it. That seems weird to me. 4.) I really, really loved the theme song from the t.v. show, "The Greatest American Hero". My Dad had an old tape recording of me from about age 3. I must have sang that song about 25 times on the tape. All the while, my Mom and Dad were trying their best to get me to say something else. Kids can be super annoying.

Since I'm hoping to do a fair amount of writing this year, I was particularly interested when I found stories or poems I had written. Unfortunately, I was not a prodigy. One story, however, stood head and shoulders above the rest. It has the supremely intriguing title "Attack of the Sominums". It's a sci-fi masterpiece. Actually, I found it to be totally hilarious, though I don't know if anyone else will. If you're interested in reading it, I've transcribed it to a separate page with the link above. That way, this post won't be absurdly long.

Attack of the Sominums...

I wrote the following story when I was in the 4th grade. It is very, very dumb. The benefit for you, however, it that being so dumb it is extremely amusing. Well, it is for me anyway, I don't know if it will be for anyone else. If you stumbled across this page and are wondering why I bothered to post this story, check out this other post. Anyway, I found it in a box in my parents' basement, written in a large, shaky, cursive script and full of spelling and punctuation errors--which I've left in this transcription for your further amusement. When I re-read it for the first time the other day, I laughted my head off. I hope it's nearly as fun for you.

Attack of the Sominums!

I was a Saturday, July 28, 26002 (A.D.) 4:12 (A.M.) and something weird was coming through the atmouspere. Suddenly there was a big crash and a hole right throug Mt Everest, then through the Sierra Nevada Range and it finally landed in St. Paul Minnisota. Fire, panic, and pandemonium spread throughout the city!! Then an eyesplitting light was all over turning evrything within a 34X29 foot radius into stone!

All of a sudden they saw the spaceship, it looked like a big Advil. Suddenly it blasted off, to Winona, to hide. By this time it was 8:34 (A.M. still saturday). A boy named Paul and his mothor we getting ready for a picnic in Winona. (little did they know that the aliens were there).

When they got there they set out the food and the radio-t.v., then Paul said.

"I have to go to the bathroom."

"Okaay let's find a cave or a shelter."

So they went looking and found a old abandoned barn.

"Let's go in here," his mothor said.

"Okay, Paul said
"This sure is spookey, let's investagate."

"Wait a minute hear that noise."

"Yeah!! It's getting louder!

"Look at those broken down doors! All of a sudden I don't have to go to the bathroom anymore. Geese it's all slimy! Paul said.

Then out of nowhere lazer beams were firing from all sides! Now the shooting stopped. It was quiet untill, something came crashing throug the wall!!! It...It looked like a cross between a buffalo, a tomato, earthworm, and spinach!

"Ooooooooo that's disgusting! Paul said.

Paul's mothor just about fainted.

"Come on Mom, get up, pick up a stick or something, we gotta' fight 'em!"

"Yeah...Ahhh right. Okay lets go!"

"Waste 'em Ahhhhh!"

"Bam Oooo Ahhh Bam Bam Bam"

"Son" his mothor said "I'm going to get the armed forces! You hide behind those Hefty garbage-cans we saw at the front door."

"Sure Mom. Just two more hits."

"Bam Slap"

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..."

"Mom I..."

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeee..."

"I got one of them!!"

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..."

"Can you hear it?!"

"Yes I really can!"

"Bye Mom."

"By Son."

"It seemed like years for Paul. Finally he saw them First came the Navy. Then he saw the Army troopers! Next the Marines. Finally flying overhead, the F-14, F-16, Skystreak-2-DA! Then Paul came running out yelling:

"The Air Force, Mommy Mommy you saved the world!!"

"Well Paul a womans got to do what a womans got to do."

"Come on General get the bombs, the missles, the guns, the connons get 'em out! Hurry!!"

"He doesn't belive us Paul," his mothor said.

"Ahhh! The worlds about to be taken over and the Generals gonna' let it! Well I'll prove it! Hey you, you dopes in there! The Nexus of Sominus in a pencil eraser compared to the Milkey Way!!"

Then, the same light that turned everything to stone came shooting out! Luckily they were far enough away not to be turned to stone.

"I'm convinced! the General said. "Let's get going men. We're not going to waste any time today, we're going to use the Atom bomb!"

I'll load it onto an F-16," one of his men said.

"Okay lets hitch up and ship out, the General said

Three minutes later they were in the air.

"Open the hatch," a voice said.

Ten seconds later there was a big explosion. Finally they landed and went home.

The End

9/14/05

Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!

So, it's been a while since I've posted. We've had a hectic couple of weeks. Suzanne's mom is going to be o.k., though she has a long road of rehab and recovery from her accident ahead of her.

So, a couple of years ago, we were at a dinner-party type of situation with a small group of people who were more than acquaintances but not quite good friends. At some point in the evening, I noticed that the host had a peculiar way of talking in which almost every time he began to say something--whether to tell a story or anecdote, or to ask a question--he would begin by saying, "So...". For instance, he might have said, "So, the other day at work I had such and such an experience..." I don't know if I can really convey this manner of speaking in writing, but I'm doing my best. Anyway, I asked him (with whom I was least familiar of anyone present) where he was from and whether this was a colloquial way of conversing. Well, when I asked that, the conversation in the room stopped dead. He sort of nervously answered, "No, I don't know, I guess I've just always done that." Then, someone else said, "I've heard other people do that before." Then, they quickly changed the subject.

I think people thought I was making fun of the way he was speaking. But I wasn't, I was genuinely interested. I'm always interested in peoples' idiosyncrasies. It didn't occur to me that questioning someone about starting their conversation with "So..." might be a touchy subject. Now, when I make a social faux pas that causes me or other people embarrassment, the awkward feeling sticks with me forever and reoccurrs every time I think of it. For instance, when I was in the fifth grade my teacher caught me in a lie about being done with my spelling assignment so I could play the game "Oregon Trail" on the computer. I still cringe at the memory. And, when I was in college, I inappropriately bragged about my tennis skills. I get sick to my stomach when I think about that one.

So, that conversation about conversational patterns has stuck with me. But, more importantly, my ironic punishment for embarrassing everyone at that dinner party is that I've taken up that particular habit. Ever since then, I've noticed that I now often begin speaking, especially when I'm going to tell a story, by using the trigger word, "So...". And lately, it's been increasing in frequency. Weird, huh?

9/1/05

in need of comfort...

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 -- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

On Monday, we got a call that my wife's mother was injured very badly in an accident. For a time, we faced fearful uncertainty about her recovery. Now, it appears that she will recover, although it will be a long, slow, difficult process. It may be many weeks before she can walk or do anything for herself again. We're going to drive 12 hours tomorrow so we can spend a few days with her and my father-in-law. How do we offer them comfort? How do I comfort my wife? How do I find comfort myself?

As you know from my profile, I'm a Christian. What is more, I'm pursuing a career as a theologian. That is, I want to spend my life studying how God's revelation of Truth impacts the way people ought to think and live. So, shouldn't I have a handle on how to respond in a Christian way to whatever life brings? Well, I don't. As much as I love theology, sometimes it doesn't help. What do I mean...? Well, when something awful happens, like my mother-in-law's accident, it's not going to help for someone to remind me, or my wife, that God is sovereign; or that God works all things for the good of those who love him; or that one day Jesus will return and wipe every tear from the eyes of His people. We already knew those things were true. And, we never forgot them. In fact, I would even say that it would be an insult for someone to say those things to us. For, the implication is that we are wrong for experiencing the feelings of sadness that result from such a tragedy.

Some people--both non-Christians and even Christians--mistake Christians for Stoics. They think that Christians are supposed to be steadfast, resolute, and relatively unaffected by brokenness, sadness, and tragedy. Those people must not have faced brokenness, sadness, or tragedy. No amount of theological acuity ought to prevent us from experiencing human emotions; I can prove it. Who is the only human to ever have a perfect theology? Obviously--Jesus. Yet, we see him over and over expressing the full range of human emotions, even the "negative" ones. He weeps when a friend dies; he is angry when he sees injustice; and he experiences anguish at the prospect of physical and emotional pain. So, those who think that people who have strong emotions are less spiritual than those who can "control" themselves are simply wrong. Instead, since God made each person as a body-spirit unity, then whatever we do that expresses real humanity is the height of being "spiritual".

The benefit of the Truth of the Gospel in the face of tragedy might be best expressed in Jesus' parable of the man who built his house on a rock. When the storms came, his house was not swept away. But, I'm willing to bet, that man still spent some anxious, uncomfortable moments while the storm raged. So, if you were planning to rent a plane to pull a banner that says, "Jesus loves you" and fly it over New Orleans and you think that will comfort people--I would advise against it. Not that I have the secret for applying the Scripture cited above. But, I do think it's interesting...the moments when I've felt some nudge of encouragement and comfort since receiving that news on Monday was when friends said very simple things like, "I'm so sorry to hear that news." or "We're praying for you." What those simple sentiments have in common is that they are reassurances of our relationship with those people. They are ways that people let us know they love us and they are there for us even if they don't have a cure for our pain. I suppose that's why, for several hours after hearing the news, my wife and I didn't really say anything to each other, we just sat together and held one another.

Maybe, then, there is a key to the admonition from Paul. After all, how has God comforted us? Certainly it is Good News to God's people that He declares us righteous in Christ. But, even better is what that declaration ensures for us: the assurance of God's loving and committed relationship with us forever. So, if we've been comforted with the promise and reality of a loving and committed relationship, then I suppose we ought to comfort others (and receive the comfort from others) with the the promise and reality of a loving and committed relationship.

G.K. Chesterton...

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."