Monday, August 30, 2010

Genealogy 101

Dear Readers,

Do you have someone in your family that loves genealogy? I was at my Uncle Levi’s funeral last fall and my cousin Verna's eyes lit up as she began talking about family connections that I, a novice in genealogy, had very much difficulty following. Her sisters at the dinner table just rolled their eyes and laughed lovingly at her as she showed her genealogical acumen.

The Gospels also show a love of genealogy. Matthew, Chapter 1 traces the birth of Jesus forward from Abraham to David, then from David to the Babylonian captivity, then to “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.” Verse 16

Luke, the doctor, on the other hand tracks Jesus’ genealogy backward. The family tree he pictures goes back through David, to Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham. Then it reverses on to Methuselah, the oldest man who ever lived, through Seth, Adam, and finally God.

The Old Testament also has numerous genealogical listings that that a person like me tends to skim. I wonder sometimes at the rationale of the writers to include such mundane tidbits.

Then I think of Verna, who treasures such listings. She would never think of the history of a family as mundane. To her a genealogical listing tells a very important story of how one person, or a group of persons become who they are.

Finally, an all important genealogical fact exists. It is found in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. It is a simple genealogical tracing that is the root of a Christian’s family tree that mirrors Jesus lineage to the ultimate end.

"Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come--all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." (NKJV)

See you next time,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I May Be Old, But I'm Not Dead Yet

Dear Readers,

Several years ago I told my wife that I cannot wait until I reach retirement age in about ten years so that I can begin a regular routine of “having coffee with the boys”.

In the town of Ashland where I work the hangout place for retired men is the Hawkins grocery store bakery/coffee bar. In Hayesville they meet at the Olde 30 Restaurant. Close to my home the elder statesmen congregate at the local McDonalds.

In my busy work life I sometimes envy these gentlemen. They seem to have no deadlines or appointments to keep. They just gather to talk politics, the local economy with business successes and failures, stories of the past, and perhaps even tidbits of gossip.

In recent months I have been rethinking this position about the nature of my retirement activities. I still might want to have friends that I meet on a regular basis to share fellowship over a cup of coffee. But I want even these meetings to have some purpose.

Perhaps I can meet to inspire a colleague. Or mentor a young “up and comer”. Or comfort someone with the recent pain of losing a loved one.

I recently happened on a Bible passage in Psalm 92:12-15 that confirms my changed position:

12 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like cedar in Lebanon.
13 Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing,
15 To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

See you next time,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Aspergers's Syndrome - Leveling the Playing Field

Dear Readers,

How many of you cringed in school when teams were picked to play softball?  Although the game was played on a smooth, level ball field, the act of choosing sides seemed very rough and not level.

God answered my prayers in 1996 when after living a long life of singleness I met and married my wife. Her son was four years old. Her late husband and her son’s father died from cancer the previous year when their son was three years old.

Being a person almost obsessed with sports, I eagerly anticipated spending life with my new son watching and attending sporting events. But it didn't take very long for me to learn that our son did not share my love of sports.

There were some signs of differences our son had to other children. He was observed frequently holding his ears and rushing madly to the living room picture window to see every airplane en route over our home toward the local airport. He jumped up and shook his hands excitedly when encountering movements on a computer game and he had to be reminded repeatedly to greet and say goodbye to people.

We learned our son had Asperger’s Syndrome an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.

Some persons scrutinized our parenting skills and questioned why our son was different and not normal like other children. We got lectures about "socialization" and questions about our son's future.

I'm very glad our son lives in his own non-judgmental world so he doesn't have to be subject to questions and criticisms. I'm glad we are protective of him because I'm not sure what purpose it would serve to subject him to the meanness of some in the name of becoming "tough" and getting a "thick skin".

I still don't understand everything about Asperger's and how to be a good father to our son. But I want his father to greet me in heaven someday and thank me for trying to level the playing field for our son.

“The path of the righteous is level; O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth." Isaiah 26:7 (NIV).

See you next time,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Smoldering Wick

Dear Readers,

Sometimes I feel very dry and purposeless. I feel a lack of effectiveness in my home life, my work life, my church life, and my Christian life.

I see other people and they seem to be “on their way” to somewhere. It seems like they have the answers to the questions in their lives. But I just sit here, stuck in my rut.

Does anyone else feel this same way? Or am I in this boat alone? Also, is this boat we are paddling going to sink?

When I begin to feel this way a Bible passage often comes to mind that gives me both comfort and hope. It is a fairly obscure passage not often preached or talked about. It is a prophecy prophesied in Isaiah 42:1-4 and fulfilled in Matthew 12:18-21. The Matthew passage (NIV) is as follows:

18 Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope.

The verse about the smoldering wick (v. 20) especially has helped me in times of discouragement. It tells me that Jesus understands me and my dry times. And He is extremely willing, able, and ready to fan the smoldering wick back into a flame.

See you next time,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Not Tame, But Good

Dear Readers,

At a family reunion this weekend my oldest nephew was polishing his sword that he uses in Medieval Faires. My youngest nephew graduated from ranger school with the goal of becoming a forest ranger in a national park. My son crafts computer graphics images and spends hours developing them, and has the goal of becoming a computer graphics designer.

Each one is so different, but also so alike in their quest of adventure and meaning. I sometimes would like to get into each of their heads to gain some perspective what drives them toward adventure.

Where does the passion for adventure come from? Why do guys like to watch and read adventure stories? Does it come from within a person, or is learned?

The Bible does not use the word “adventure” much, but is there adventure within its pages? A saying that keeps coming to my mind is one from C.S Lewis’s “Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” book and movie. It goes as follows:

Mr Tumnus: "Don't worry. We'll see him again."

Lucy: "When?"

Mr Tumnus: "In time. One day he'll be here and the next he won't. But you must not press him. After all, he's not a tame lion."

Lucy: "No... but he is good."

They are speaking of Aslan the Lion which writer Lewis allegorically equates to Jesus. Mr. Tumnus says to Lucy that Aslan is “not a tame lion”. Then Lucy says, “No… but he is good.”

Is Jesus tame? I would propose to you that he is not. The Bible is an adventure story full of plots, twists, and intrigue. Jesus is the main character to which every story line in the Bible leads us. Jesus is the “good” hero of the story, as Aslan, that came in and saved the day, made the wrongs right, and that leads to a celebration of victory.

So sharpen your swords. Get ready to take the land. Design the tools to seize the day. The adventure is at hand!

See you next time,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pacing for Our Loved Ones

Felix the Cat Pacing
Dear Readers,

I have always had trouble understanding persons when they state that a loved one “will never change”, or “they will never give their heart to the Lord”. I guess I have always been an eternal optimist. Just ask my wife about my opinion of the Cleveland Indians. They ought to call them the Cleveland Rebuilders because it seems they are always in rebuilding mode. But I love the new young talent and dream of a time they will finally get to the promised land of a World Series and win the championship.

I am the same way with my loved ones when it comes to salvation. Some of them have not given their hearts to the Lord, but I am anxiously anticipating that day when they do. I cannot let it rest. The consequences are too serious. I know that my heart will almost leap out of my chest when it finally happens.
I am a pacer, so when I am excited about something I pace. I pace when I finish a project that I am proud of. I pace back and forth and look at it over and over again to admire my accomplishment. Some persons might call it pride, but somehow I think that God is smiling because he knows my habits better than I know them myself.

I can really identify with Mordecai in the book of Esther. Mordecai was Esther’s cousin, but he raised her because her parents died somewhere during the exile to Babylon. King Xerxes had banished Vashti the queen when she had not come at his beckoning. So Esther was one of the potential queens taken into the palace to replace Vashti.

Mordecai was so concerned about his loved one that in Esther 2:11 that it stated the following: “And every day Mordecai paced in front of the court of the women’s quarters, to learn of Esther’s welfare and what was happening to her.”

Perhaps pacing for our loved ones and praying for them and learning of their welfare will be the key in changing their lives like Mordecai praying for and learning of the welfare of Esther that changed her life and the lives of all the Jews in Babylon.

See you next time,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Meeting of the Minds

Dear Readers,

Musicians gather to jam. Harley riders talk Harleys, ride, and work on their bikes. Truck drivers like my Dad share truck stories, Quilters laugh and talk as they stitch. Fishermen and coon hunters sometimes join clubs to find out secrets to catching or getting the “big one”. College and seminary students banter back and forth with intellectual debates. The list of gatherings of like-minded people goes on and on.

What is the magnet that pulls people together? Do you long, as I do, to gather with persons that share our same interests?

Paul in the last couple years of his life had an open door policy in his rented home in Rome. (Acts 28:30, 31). The persons entering that door were in for a treat. In that home resided a man who had seen Jesus face to face on the road to Damascus. He had traveled the seas, entered many ports, and suffered much persecution.

I think Paul with his intellectual ability would be able to persuade most persons with atheistic tendencies to see the logic of his argument. His story-telling ability I think would allow people to almost visualize his encounter with Jesus.

I believe Paul’s home was a meeting of like minds that many of us long for.

See you next time,

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Do Angels Stand By You Today?

Dear Readers,

Do angels stand by you today? Also, do we as Christians really have “guardian angels” assigned to protect us?

I remember when Frank Peretti wrote his two books “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness” I was enthralled by the spiritual realm he portrayed. He characterized human existence as a battle “of the air” on this earth. (Ephesians 2:2) Was he “shooting in the dark” (forgive the pun)? Were his characters of angels, demons, and Satan allegorical? Or were his books closer to reality than we care to admit, and have we as humans become immune to the spiritual realm?

In Acts 27:23-24 Paul on the verge of shipwreck made the following pronouncement: “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ ”

Paul gives just one example of angel intervention with humans. You are all familiar with the many passages in the Old and New Testaments where angels came on the scene to wrestle with men, perform miraculous acts, inform of pending doom, to help rejoice in heaven when one person becomes saved, and best of all, to tell the wonderful news of Jesus’ birth.

To Paul and his shipwrecked companions God sent an angel who “stood beside” them to protect those humans assigned to his charge.

The evidence is clear. As a Christian you have an angel, or perhaps many angels, to protect you.

See you next time,