Saturday, June 30, 2007

For Real?

Headline:

Romney Defends Strapping Dog in Kennel on Station Wagon in 1983

Yes, this is an actual, serious(?) news story. Now, we are not only investigating candidate's closets for skeletons, but the doghouse too.

Is it bad that I laughed out loud for several minutes after reading this story? I couldn't decide what was funnier, the prospect of a future president hosing dog diarrhea off of his station wagon, or the fact that people are really freaking out about it in the context of an election.

Let's just hope that he doesn't have any pets if he makes it to the White House. I don't think a dog would fare as well on top of Air Force One.

Uncertainty

There's a pit in my stomach.

In only two more months, both of my boys will be in elementary school. The Rationalist will be in second grade and Intuitive Monkey will be starting kindergarten. We will have reached a milestone.

So much of our lives, over the past seven years, has revolved around finding ways for me to be able to stay at home to care for our young children. We have always managed to just squeak by and financially make it. It was an important goal for us. To meet it, I operated a home day-care for about three years. I also began creating and selling handcrafted jewelry online and at local arts and crafts shows. There were a few times we thought we wouldn't make it, but God would always came through with some unexpected raise, opportunity, or gift. We are thankful to Him for it.

Now, as that goal is almost reached, I am left wondering what's next.

It's a little scary. I am filled with all kinds of doubts about finding a job. Seven years outside of the traditional workforce is a long time. Employers look down on such long absences and inconsistent work history. My English degree was pretty useless when it was new, let alone now that it's ten years old. What if having been my own boss, not having to conform to someone else's expectations and schedule, has ruined me for future employment?

Lots of swirling thoughts.

Part of me looks forward to venturing past the walls of our home. While being at home has been worth it for our kids, and the family that we are nourishing, it has also been very difficult and isolating for me sometimes. Having another outlet, and something to which I can contribute, is very appealing.

But, I'm still scared. It's like the first day you walk onto campus in college. It's exciting, nerve-wracking, and uncertain all at the same time.

There's a pit in my stomach.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Bill Nye, The Scaring Guy

I am a geek.

I love science, documentaries, and PBS. I can't help but pass along my natural tendencies to my children. The kids have come to love watching old Bill Nye, The Science Guy DVD's from the library. Each one is about a half an hour long and covers a specific science subject.

Fast forward...

While in the kitchen, we noticed a rather large fly had gotten into the house and was stuck between the blinds and the window. We watched our dog, Tink, desperately try to attack and eat the buzzing invader. Eventually, the fly got out and the boys began flinching as it flew around them.

"Don't worry. It's just a fly. It won't bite you."

It flew closer.

"Aahhh!...No!...GET IT AWAY!!!...I DON'T WANT IT IN MY EAR!!!"--shrill, piercing screams.

"Honey...I told you....flies don't bite."

"But they're dangerous!"

"Who told you that?"

"Bill Nye said that flies have dangerous germs on their legs! KEEP IT AWAY FROM ME!!!"

He ran out of the room screaming.

Thanks, Bill Nye. There's nothing like a five-year-old with an irrational phobia of fly germs.

Our Next Door Neighbor

Our next door neighbor doesn't really like us. It isn't an intense hate, with lots of angry words, more like a cool dislike with silent, disdainful looks.

It's silly, really. We are the kind of neighbors that most people would want. No wild parties. No loud fights at 2:00 am. We do a reasonable job in keeping up with mowing our lawn.

But still, they don't like us.

It could be because when we first moved in, almost seven years ago, our son was still a baby. At the time, they had one of their grown children living at home. He would pull up in his car, at midnight, with the stereo blaring, go inside the house--stereo still blaring--and forget about going back out and turning off his car. The houses in our neighborhood are very close together. There might be 10 feet between our two houses. So, a car, which is sitting on the neighbor's front lawn, is really almost inside your house. It's not conducive to sleeping babies.

Several times we went over and asked...quite nicely...if they would mind turning the music down. Apparently, this was an unforgivable offense in their eyes, and they have disliked us ever since. At one point, when we were replacing our fence, I had to get them to sign a release that they were OK with the fence company tearing down the old, falling-apart fence that we shared, so that we could replace it. When I knocked on the door, before I had said anything, the lady opened the door and said, "What's wrong now!" Shocked, because we hadn't asked them to turn the music down for almost a year, I hesitatingly explained about the fence. She signed the papers and I left.

Years passed and one day the dog ran after the boys, because they had forgotten to close the front door when they went to check the mail. Tink eagerly followed them and upon seeing people next door, pranced over and began sniffing them. I heard the boys call that Tink was out and I retrieved her. The whole incident was about 10 seconds long. It might as well have been an hour to our next door neighbor, who quickly began shouting and reacting as if we had turned a vicious pit bull loose on her family. Never mind the fact, that out of the two and a half years we have had our dog, that was the only time she got loose.

Today, as I looked out my kitchen window, I saw someone walking their black lab off-leash. They non-chalantly watched their dog go into my neighbor's yard and poop right in the middle of the lawn. After it had done its business, they continued walking. That's really rude and disgusting, but not the point.

As I stared at the messy pile, I wondered, "Do I go and clean up dog poop, that doesn't belong to our dog, just to keep my wacky neighbor from thinking that our dog did it out of some sort weird vendetta that she thinks we have?"

I left it there. Hopefully, she'll see it before she steps in it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How Do I Look?

I had learned through PBS a few years back that there had been a female Pharaoh in Egypt. Her name was Queen Hatshepsut. She reigned for 21 years. Once she died, great efforts were made to erase her from history by destroying anything that mentioned her. Hieroglyphs were chiseled clean of her name.

Egypt has just confirmed that they have identified a mummy as being Queen Hatshepsut. There was great excitement and intrigue about this unique person in Egyptian history.

Do you know what ABC used as their quote from Dr. Zahi Hawass in their nightly news program?

"Well, she wasn't a pretty woman.."

um...OK...thanks for that scientific and cultural insight

Uncharacteristic Rant

I do it so seldomly...I should be allowed one once in awhile.

So, I'm surfing through a blog, which I had first commented on a few days ago, and come across a post about how a godly wife is supposed to act and react to disagreement.

I knew from the title that it's not my kind of thing, but hey..what's life without a little danger? I read it. I barely kept my head from exploding.

First of all, why do men think that they are the ones who should be giving women advice on how to be godly wives? They have no experience at it. They have no time-tested tips to pass along. They have no understanding of the emotion attached to such statements. Plus, it seems a little self-serving to make sure that your wife is lining up with your opinions by playing the "God" card and reminding women on how they "ought" to behave.

Secondly, it has been my experience that churches that spend so much time focused on delineating specific gender roles are usually missing the bigger picture. It becomes such a heated and drawn-out issue that seeking Jesus tends to get lost in the fray. Or worse yet, a picture of what a "godly" wife looks like takes on a life of its own and begins to determine clothing, hairstyles, and hobbies.

How about we teach people how to love one another and forgive each other, harboring no ill will towards others. Better yet, how about we teach people how to follow Jesus with all of their being. Even better, why don't we focus on evangelism and reaching others for Christ?

Then, once we get some of the basics down, let's revisit the topic of submission.

That's my contribution to off-the-cuff ranting in the blogosphere. Enjoy.

Backyard Drama

There it was.

Another weed poking up into the new grass. I pinched it near the base of its stalk and gently pulled up one more invader. Little clumps of dirt fell out of the thin, white roots as I tossed it aside to a growing pile of defeated plants

I recognized the weeds from any vantage point in the yard now, even compiling a mental Most Wanted list for crimes against nature.

First on the list was a duo that seemed to work together--The Creepers. They liked to find a small bare spot and gently put down a few shallow roots at the base. They didn't disturb the soil very much, but once they set up a base of operations, they began the takeover of the neighborhood. Slowly they would snake their way in between blades of grass and roots. After a few weeks, they would triple in size, choking out the moisture and sun needed by the grass until they had established a monoply in the area.

Eliminating them was rather easy. I'd trace the massive system back to the single source of power, usually initiated by one seed, and rip out the entire organization. The only problem was the damage to the surrounding neighborhood. It was barren and empty now; all the good had been choked out of it. I could only hope the rightful tenants would return and rebuild in the wide, open spaces.

Another criminal was a little more subtle. He went by the name Ice. His aspirations weren't quite as high as The Creepers; he merely wanted to find a nice spot to hide and grow--ignored by those who were on the lookout for him. He got his name by the clever disguise he liked to use. While growing with the neighboring grass, he'd blend in: his shade of green matched the surroundings perfectly; his leaves were narrow enough to look like grass as he started to grow; he let the grass tower over him. Secretly, his plans to secure a permanent place in the system were being put into place.

When I found him, he seemed like a two-bit criminal, hardly worth my time. As I reached down to get him, I was surprised at his firepower. He wasn't budging. After a standoff, I was finally able to secure the area. When all was said and done, his underground operation was exposed. Although Ice seemed harmless, only poking out about an inch above the soil, his hidden roots were seven inches long, straight into the underbelly of the grass community---an iceberg waiting to crash an unsuspecting ship.

My crackdown hasn't seemed to scare off new offenders. They like to try and fill the void left by the old crime bosses, hoping for a piece of the soil pie.

That's OK. I'll still be here, fighting the good fight against the evil weeds.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Unfulfilled Wishes

While out visiting my dad this past weekend, I was once again visited by the spectre of a regretful childhood.

I was really sick Saturday night. I developed a migraine and then had to vomit because the pain was so severe. I was alone with my kids at my dad's house. Earlier, he had suggested watching a movie--one that my kids could actually watch. I was lucky that they watched it, because I couldn't have managed if they hadn't. While I lay there, feeling sicker than I had in many years, my dad sat oblivious on the couch. No offer of help, no question of concern, no wondering if I needed something. It was depressing.

It's nothing new. I know my dad. I even know his inability to connect with others in meaningful ways isn't completely his fault. A tyrant of a father and a ruthlessly sarcastic family helped mold his lonely life.

But, it still sucked.

It reminded me once again about the pain of having parents that aren't really parents. I have worked past it, and accepted God as my only true parent, but every now and then an event like this will sweep over me, drowning me in the familiar feelings of loss for something I never really had.

I have many unfulfilled wishes.

1. I wish I had someone to call when I needed wise advice.
2. I wish I wasn't the parent in my relationship with my mom and dad.
3. I wish I had a parent I could admire.
4. I wish I knew that I could rely on my parents if something bad happened.
5. I wish my parents called to check on me, instead of me calling to check on them.
6. I wish that my parents were complete and whole people.
7. I wish that I got together with my parents because I like to, not because I think I should.
8. I wish that I could trust one of my parents to take care of my boys if something happened to us.(I can't.)
9. I wish that my parents were happy people.
10. I wish that I didn't feel this way about my parents.

Housework of Mythic Proportions

How is it I can clean our enitre house for hours, have it sparkling and shiny, and see it disintegrate in a matter of minutes?

I feel like Sisyphus, cursed to push a rock up a hill, only to watch it tumble down and have to start all over again.....for all eternity....except my rock is smelly, grungy, and has small handprints all over it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Adam 2.0--Cosmic Reboot

Temptation.

Popular culture represents it with two figures on our shoulders; one angel urging us to do the right thing, and one devil luring us toward the wrong thing. We are just the helpless pawns who must choose between these two opposing forces. We're neutral like Switzerland, and these warring factions keep trying to turn us to their cause.

It makes for a good cartoon, but is off theologically.

When Adam and Eve were created, they were sinless, perfect, and innocent. No evil inclinations were at work in them, no toying with evil thoughts distracted them. Their only negative directive (in the sense of something they should not do), was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They complied...for a while.

The popular picture of the tempting devil probably has its origins in the story of the Garden of Eden; innocent Adam and Eve being enticed and convinced to do that which they shouldn't. Satan made a house call to accomplish his goal. Adam and Eve succumbed. Once they partook of the fruit, evil no longer resided as a force outside of themselves. It had come to live within them. They, and all their descendants, no longer needed a serpent to lead them astray. The human race had become corrupted.

While Christians will say that they are involved in spiritual warfare, fighting suggestions from the devil and demons, they fail to realize that the greatest temptations come from the spark of evil within ourselves. Outside forces may fan the flames, but the fire starts with us.

James puts it this way:

James 1:14-15
"but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."
There is no mention of Satan and his minions, which is not to say that they are not at work, but simply that they are not required for evil to exist in the world. We are our own worst enemies, spiritually speaking.

Never again in scripture do we see Satan tempting humans face to face, that is, until Jesus enters the wilderness to be tempted for forty days. Once again he graces scripture in a direct interaction with another human.

Matthew 4:1
"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit in to the desert to be tempted by the devil."

Jesus had to be tempted in the wilderness because he had no inner inclination to sin. As a perfect and sinless human, original sin was not present in him to urge him towards evil. Temptation had to come from outside of himself. He was the second Adam, facing the new litmus test for humanity. Satan had a chance, once again, to try and corrupt God's plan.

Hebrews 2:17-18
"For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted."

Jesus became the first human to remain pure. He was Adam 2.0...Cosmic Reboot.

More coming later........

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Still Alive

Well, we made it to the Atlantic and lived to tell about it.

Although, while there, we were told to get out of the water because schools of bait fish were swirling close to the beach...bait fish...AKA...yummy snacks for sharks. I actually did see some dark fins poking up out of the water. I told myself they were dolphins.

They probably were. I didn't want to swim out and verify my theory.

We stayed near the shore and waves, managing to become sufficiently weighted down with sand in every possible place.

It was a fun day.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Road Trip

Today I get the singular adventure of taking a road trip with the two boys, sans husband. It's OK. He has to work this weekend. Plus, because he'll be at home, we don't have to take the dog in our little Corolla. Last time she traveled with the family, being crammed into the car and nervous for a great length of time led to an unpleasant throwing up incident. It'll be nice to skip that part.

We're heading to the east coast of Florida to see my dad; a sort of belated Father's Day thing.

The boys just know they get to play in the Atlantic. That's the big time when it comes to wave action, when compared to the gentle rolling of the Gulf. Last time we were there, I had the shocking privilege to see Intuitive Monkey being picked up by a wave and tossed head over heels toward the shore. It was a slow motion moment as I watched his little body, with a bright green inner tube around his belly, forcefully inverted by a monster wave. I envisioned a broken back, neck, and a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He got by with only a few scrapes and a story to tell.

Hopefully, we'll all survive.

See you later.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Satan: Bit Player

While working on a post about Jesus as the Second Adam, I realized something that I never had before; Satan has only had direct contact with three people, as recorded in Scripture. Adam and Eve, who are really one unit representing all of humanity, and Jesus are the only ones to come face to face with the Adversary.

Isn't that interesting?

I have some reasons that I think it's so and will include them in my next post:

Adam 2.0....Cosmic Reboot

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Evolution Has Some 'Splaining To Do

Evolution is always presented as a long, tedious process that takes many aeons to create current life forms. Things don't change overnight or have any sort of design or intelligence directing them. Or do they?

This article about Columbine Flowers and their nectar spurs has some intriguing implications.
Here's a a quote that summarizes the basics:

"In Darwin's race, plants with the longest spurs and pollinators with the
longest tongues [to tap the flowers' nectar] would be favored by natural
selection, and--in a never-ending process--continually drive the plants'
spurs and the pollinator tongues to exceptionally long lengths."
--Scott Hodges
The flower wants to be pollinated in order to reproduce. To lure potential pollinators, it provides food in the form of nectar. As the pollinator drinks the nectar, its body is dusted with pollen and fertilizes the flower. Thus, in order to be pollinated, the nectar spur has to match the body type of its pollinator. Small tongue, small spur. Long tongue, long spur.

Theoretically, the flowers with a specific length of spur would continue to flourish and grow their spurs. The pollinators accustomed to them would continue to grow longer tongues to feed on them. Evolution doesn't allow for the plant to say to itself, "I am perfectly comfortable as is. I think I'll stop changing now."

It seems that the Columbine Flower doesn't want to listen to Darwin. According to the study, the flowers stop "evolving" once they have a set of consistent pollinators. If the pollinators change suddenly, then the flowers change rapidly to adapt to the new pollinators.

How cool is that? It's almost as if they were designed to know what they needed to do. :-)

"Hey what happened to those bumblebees?.......Well, maybe I'll court that Hummingbird over there. He's kind of cute. I know just the thing....a longer nectar spur. He'll never be able to resist it."

This same sort of rapid change within a species has also been noticed in a study of foxes in Siberia. Since 1959, researchers have bred silver foxes for tameness and non-aggression toward humans. They definitely got what they were aiming for, but several other things began to happen. The foxes began to behave more like dogs than foxes. Breeding for tameness produced foxes that could vocalize like dogs, show the same type of social intelligence as dogs, have drastic color changes in fur, and even some cute floppy ears. All of these physical changes came from breeding for one behavioral trait. I recommend reading the entire article. It's fascinating.

Over the course of almost 50 years, a species has been changed drastically--physically and cognitively.

It has implications for how we view the development of animals. Instead of thinking that dogs evolved over hundreds of thousands of years as offshoots of wolves, it is quite possible that the changes necessary to produce what we would call a dog, could have begun to happen in hundreds of years--a blink of an eye in evolutionary thought. Watch Dogs That Changed the World from Nova. Besides showing lots of cute dogs, it delves into the devlopment of dogs as a whole, offering new theories about when and how they came from wolves.

Although flowers and foxes are completely unrelated species and fields of study, these studies have one thing in common; they are counter-intuitive to traditional evolutionary thought. We can see in both of these instances that drastic changes can happen quickly within a species. It is important to note this when being confronted with the certainty with which evolutionists seem to date specific developments of species and traits.

***UPDATE***

Through another website, I found out that "rapidly" may mean 1 million years! :-0 (in regard to the flowers)

So, take that part in stride. However, that is less than half the time normally thought to develop a species such as the Columbine. My point still is that there is a lot of uncertainty in the dating of evolutionary events. I just think it's interesting the way that pops up in science news.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day

I didn't post a Father's Day tribute yesterday, because we were actually doing Father's Day stuff all day.

The boys decided that the best way to wake their father on Father's Day was to entice him out of bed with a dozen donuts. Hard to tell if that idea was completely selfless on their part, but he does like donuts. After ingesting many carbs and loads of sugar, we made it to church.

The later part of the day we spent at Busch Gardens, riding roller coasters and water rides. I had dressed in a light yellow T-shirt and light blue linen capris, thin fabric to stay cool on a 93 degree day. Bad Idea. After being drenched with millions of gallons of water on the river rapids ride, I emerged in clothing that was akin to something worn in a wet T-shirt contest. Thanks hon' for suggesting that ride! As I walked along, fully clothed, yet at the same time feeling completely naked, I reminded myself that I will never see anyone there again. That's what I tell myself when I am embarrassed beyond reason. I pretend that everyone else is from an alien dimension. They're just visiting--no need to worry about the ridicule of strangers from another galaxy.

All in all, it was a good day.

Thanks hubby for being a great dad to our kids!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Coffee--The Beverage of Marital Discord

When you have been married for more than a year, it becomes obvious that there are really only two or three fights that continually occur. The setting changes, the lines are tweaked a bit, but really, it's the same old fight you had two weeks ago, refreshed and brought out for another go at it.



For example:

"Should I make spaghetti or tacos tonight?"

"Spaghetti sounds good."

"Yeah...but I have those tortillas I need to use."

"We could have them tomorrow."

"No, I think I'll make tacos."


This is not the actual fight, merely the prelude to "The Fight About Why You Ask My Opinion, Then Don't Use It."


Two weeks later it will go something like this:


"I was thinking of painting the bedroom. Do you think this beige color or the blue color would look better?"

"I like the blue. It seems crisp and soothing."

"Yes...but beige is so neutral. It will go with everything. "

"Yeah...but it's kind of boring."

"Still, I think I'm going to go with the beige. Thanks, hon.' "


And...we're back to "The Fight About Why You Ask My Opinion, Then Don't Use It."


One of my oft-recycled arguments is "The Fight About Not Wanting Your Help Unless I Specifically Ask For It." This one pops up quite frequently for me. Maybe it's my Puritan work ethic, or a slight streak of feminism, but please don't try and take over a task that I am working on in an effort to "help" me. I am not a two-year-old. I am a capable, smart, problem-solver. Please, don't insult me by thinking I can't handle things on my own. Yes, I realize this may seem to others, specifically my husband, to be a silly personality quirk. It's my quirk, d@#! it. Accept it already and don't help me! (I realize this is crazy.)


Of course, married life doesn't work that way. One would think that after ten years, or more, of marriage that a couple would understand one another so completely that they would avoid irritating each other in those irrationally annoying aspects of their lives. Nope. Not At All.


A few weeks ago, I woke up tired and feeling a little out of it. I made breakfast for the boys and started a pot of coffee. I hoped a caffeine injection would lift my grumpy spirits. Trying to avoid human contact, I went into the bedroom and began to read while patiently waiting for my coffee to finish its slow brewing, anticipating it with great delight. After about two minutes, in walks my husband with a mug of coffee. For me. Because he loves me. Because he wanted to do something nice.


I sighed and put my head down on the pillow, dreading what was to come. I don't like my husband's coffee. It's too sweet and has more milk than I like in my coffee. He had ruined my expectation of a perfect cup of coffee on this trying morning. I had two choices. I could say nothing, and drink the yucky coffee that I didn't want on this depressing morning, or I could try to secretly pour out the coffee and make my own without him knowing--an impossibility in our small house. I was too impatient for my coffee to wait twenty minutes for him to get in the shower, allowing me to finally get what I wanted and avoid a fight at the same time. While I pondered my options, I grew angry--Who asked him to bring me coffee anyway? Doesn't he know I don't want him to do things for me unless I ask him? He never listens to a thing I say!


I was ramping up for "The Fight About Why You Never Listen To Me."

Familiarity in marriage never prevents the fight. It does, however, greatly decrease the time spent fighting. Once the fight begins it goes something like this:

"Oh, we're having 'The Fight About Why Do You Move My Stuff Without Telling Me.' Let me get out the playbook."

"I say, 'Please, don't move my things.' You say, ' I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do it on purpose.' Then, we go back and forth a few more times explaining why we feel the way we do. Voila. Fight ends."

"OK."

"Let's go rent a movie."

Half the time, you're just phoning it in. After a while, a fight that once took two excruciating hours of emotional turmoil can be reduced to a two minute conversation during commercial breaks. Of course that is assuming that PMS, a really bad day at work, or plain old craziness doesn't enter the picture. That can sort of derail the process.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Last Word

The last word is not always the best word, yet it lingers on the mental palette.

Sarcasm was handed out at birth in my family, with a healthy dose of argumentativeness on the side, and a little dash of stubbornness just to bring the flavors all together. Discussions and debates could erupt over whether a word was permissible in Scrabble, or which route was the shortest to the grocery store. These were important battles that needed to be won at all costs. They usually ended with a rush to find the dictionary, or a stopwatch for the next errand run.

I should not be surprised to find some of these things emerging from the gene pool in my two children.

"What time is it?" the Rationalist will ask.
"It's 2:00."
He looks at the clock and says, "No, it's not. It's 1:59."
30 seconds later,"Now, it's 2:00!"
To a 7-year-old, preciseness and accuracy are everything. They must not have covered estimation in the first grade.

Intuitive Monkey will ask,"How many more bites do I need to eat of these green beans?"
"A few more bites."
"How much is a few?"
"Three or four."
"Well, which is it? Three or four?"
"It can be either."
"Yes, but which is it?"
"JUST EAT THREE!"
"OK."

In my home, everything must be proved and wrestled into fact before being accepted by these sometimes exasperating boys. Everything is doubted until they have seen it with their very own eyes. Every mistake must be pointed out and corrected, because otherwise, it's just not the truth. Some days, I just repetitively hit my head against the wall to make the voices stop.

I have left behind some of my family ways. About the time I entered college, I realized that I didn't really have to point out errors to other people. When others would mispronounce a word, or use the wrong one, I would mentally note it and say nothing. Unproductive and pointless arguments lost most of their power over me. I still retained the desire to prove my point if faced with egregious fallacies that morally outraged me, but even those would only go so far. I learned to let the other person have the last word, even if they felt that meant they had won the argument. I would leave the discussion after making my best points, feeling that there was little left to say.

I have had an entire lifetime to restrain and refine those inherited family traits.

I live with two boys; curious, smart, and enthusiastic, yet devastatingly interested in being right ...about everything....especially things they have no idea about.

I know it's payback from my mom.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Blogger....aarghh!

I have many typos sometimes. I don't always catch them right away, but try to see them once they've posted.

I keep fixing the ones in my last post, but Blogger refuses to update. I am starting to take it personally! They're out to get me, they are!

Between the annoying autosave that keeps interrupting me if I work offline, and the inability to simultaneously work on two different google accounts without one of them being logged out, I am about to write them a nice letter thanking them for these wonderous "improvements."

They're about as helpful as Word's auto-underlining grammar-check.

..........

Self-Evident

So my little conversation with Mr. Cline got me thinking.

I wrote my posts on atheism as a way to express, in writing, thoughts I was having during a week of having viewed Nightline's "Proof of God" debate, Jonathan Miller's A Brief History Of Disbelief, and having listened to Christopher Hitchens plug his book, god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, on Charlie Rose. All in one week. It was as if the atheist planets had aligned--not on purpose, of course, but merely by random processes, over long periods of time, with no intention of any sort.

I have no illusions that a dyed-in-the-wool atheist will come across my posts and in a burst of light from Heaven, accompanied by the Hallelujah chorus, suddenly convert to Christianity. It doesn't work that way for most people. Apologetics(a defense for a belief system) does little to sway the masses. So, why engage in intellectual discussions with people from opposing viewpoints? What purpose does it serve?

It is important, not as an evangelistic tool aimed at the opposition, but as a way to give a thought-out defense for those who are making up their minds, or those who are left wondering about their faith when confronted with what seems like a good argument from the other side.

They can seem so daunting; these scientists, writers, and philosophers. They can clothe their arguments in fine words and turns of phrases, very articulately. It can seem intimidating to the average person. But there is really no need to fear.


"We hold these truths to be self-evident"

Most Christians trying to give a semi-intelligent response to atheism, are pressed on every side to provide evidence for God. Some will respond that they don't need evidence; that's why it's called "faith"in God. Others will flounder about to try and glean what they can from science to defend their position.

In truth, many of the standards imposed by atheism are arbitrary. It implies that belief in something should only exist if there is measurable proof of it. This might work for math, physics and many of the hard sciences, but begin to move into biology, neuroscience, and sociological studies and there is a lot of grey uncertainty. That is the realm of Human existence.

Certain truths are self-evident. Perhaps they can be proved, perhaps not, but lack of proof does not necessarily negate them. Our country was founded on beliefs considered to be self-evident; that men were created equally and that they should not be tyrannically oppressed. Can we prove that every man is equal? Can we prove that tyranny is bad? No, we can't, but we still know it's true.

About a year ago, leafing through my newspaper, I came across a brief article. The headline read: Scientists Conclude Fish Feel Pain. I laughed as I thought about scientists hovering over aquariums in white lab coats, examining fish hooked up to electrodes and all manner of equipment. I thought it was funny simply because of the silliness of supposing that fish wouldn't feel pain for some reason. It was self-evident to me that of fish would feel pain. They have flesh, nervous systems, and flee certain death. Why wouldn't they feel pain? I had no scientific study to prove they feel pain. Should I have refused to form an opinion on something so obvious because scientists hadn't yet stamped their seal of approval on my assumption? That would be ridiculous.

Over the past few decades, we have learned more about animals and their level of intelligence and social interaction. We have discovered that primates behave much like people in certain situations; Ravens are quite intelligent and cunning; and animals can remember things for many years. It is really quite amazing.

Many years ago, scientists would have said we were reading into these behaviors, anthropomorphizing animals. Anyone with a pet, or who works with animals, knows differently. It is self-evident that animals have a certain level of intelligence, and even feelings. They may not be exactly like ours, but you can see it in the faithful dog that follows its master, in the chimpanzee that mourns the death of one of its group. Countless anecdotes are found among friends, relatives, and even mythological sources. Would those who claimed to believe such things have had no basis for their thoughts simply because science hadn't proved it? No.

There is a point at which discounting belief for lack of evidence becomes outlandish and lacking all sense.

Some might say that I am trying to use science to prove that we don't need science to support our beliefs. That is not the case. I am only using science to show that many beliefs can be held dear and be true long before any scientific evidence comes along to support it.

I am not calling for a rejection of using reason and understanding to examine our beliefs. Without some self-reflection and questioning, we can easily be led into bizarre beliefs and actions. However, we must throw off the self-imposed chains of meeting some extreme from of evidence before forming our opinions. It really isn't necessary, despite what atheism might claim.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Distrusting God

I am a distrustful person.

I try not to let people catch on to this cynical trait that lurks within me, lest I offend their sensibilities. I'm not mean or rude about it, but you can be sure I am secretly evaluating your trustworthiness as a person, especially if you have some sort of control or influence in my life. You're going to interact with my kids? Evaluation mode kicks into high gear. I'm going to join your church? Not until I have attended for many months and seen it from the inside out. You have a great investment opportunity for me? Let's see what Google has to say about you and your company.

Being suspicious has served me well at times. We live in a messed-up world in which people will shake your hand, reassure you, and blatantly lie to your face. A little distrust can go a long way in avoiding the most obvious charlatans.

Secretly, I wish I was a little less apprehensive about people and their motives. It's not easy always looking for the chink in the armor of others, especially if you find it. I would rather be suspicious and discover I am wrong, having to throw out my cynicism, than actually be right.

While discussing this with a friend, I remarked how innocent she was. She was kind, open, and gentle in her heart, seemingly non-judgemental about things. I meant it as a compliment, tinged with longing to possess some of those qualities. She took it as an insult. She didn't express her annoyance in any outward way, but the long hesitation, and the halting tone in her voice as she asked me what I meant, was clue enough. She had taken my description of innocence and trust as meaning simple and unsophisticated.

The suspicion that serves me so well in the everyday world does nothing for my spiritual life. In fact, it is antithetical to true faith in God.

In our earthly realm, we have good reason to mistrust our fellow wanderers. People can be a miserable lot; weak, selfish, and disloyal. Sifting through my own motivations has often exposed things I would rather bury under the sandy soil, hoping they would stay there like some forgotten pirate's treasure. It's disconcerting to realize that not only is the rest of the world off-kilter, but so are you.

Born into this crooked, impure world, we struggle with our hidden disability, a crippling skepticism about the goodness of others. Without intent, we are spiritually hindered by our handicap when approaching God. It seems, that after expressing belief in the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus, that we should be able to trust God as having only good things in store for us. Yet, over and over again some us go back to the well of wondering about his motivations. Does He really care about me, as an individual, and not as some tiny cog in the great churning machine of life? Does the evil that proliferates here on this planet bother Him? Why doesn't He do something about it already? We give more weight to the things before our eyes than to the character of our Creator.

It is Eve's first sin. Disbelief and distrust of what God said and of His very character.



You can't have faith and trust in a dubious God. Not only is it insulting to Him, but it is counterproductive to our spiritual life. Many sins and traps along our path begin with false beliefs about the nature of God. Thinking Him vindictive produces fear. Thinking Him uncaring produces apathy. Thinking Him ineffective and weak produces doubt.

Hebrews 11:6

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."

We are to believe not merely in His existence, but in His goodness. We must believe that He isn't a con man selling us a little snake oil, marketed as the Balm of Gilead, sure to cure our aches and pains for only $19.95. Assenting to His existence is great, but without belief in his goodness the company we keep is less than desirable:

James 2:19

You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.

It's hard sometimes, isn't it? When things go awry and we're scraping through our emotions to find the faith that can so easily flit away from our grasp, trusting in God's ultimate goodness and purity can seem daunting. However, it is at these moments that we need to align our thinking to the reliability and unchanging nature of God. He is good. Always. In every way. At every time. Without fail.

Chuck your suspicion and mistrust at the door. He really isn't out to get you.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Petty Pet Peeve

Pet peeve: People who don't return shopping carts to the front of the store, or in one of the MANY shopping cart return corrals.

true story:

The other day the kids and I were unloading some things from Wal-Mart into the car. I finished filling the trunk of the car, and we walked to the row of cars behind us, putting the cart into the return corral. At the same time, a family of four grown-ups finished loading their car and looked around for a place to put the empty cart. Their SUV was parked right next to the empty cart return. It was literally 12 inches from the side of their car. I watched in wonder as the man looked around, intensely searching for a place to put the cart. Seeing a grassy median between parking rows, already overflowing with abandoned carts which were randomly shoved onto it, the man walks 20 feet from where he is, rather than use the cart return that is in the SPACE RIGHT NEXT TO HIM!

Was he confused? Did he think the unlabeled, grassy area was the real cart return, and the one with all the bars and the giant sign with a picture of a cart on it was some sort of government trick? When he saw me put our cart in the cart return RIGHT NEXT TO HIM, did he think that I was an idiot for putting it there?.....because obviously there only 3 carts in the cart return, whereas the median had about 20. Was I some sort of anarchist going against the current of popular culture in his eyes?

Obviously, everyone else who was too lazy to walk 20 feet to the VERY CLOSE BY cart return, had left their carts on the grassy median, but I am assuming that it was at least closer to them. Although, what do I know? Maybe there is a whole class of people out there who is more interested in working harder to do things the wrong way, than in seizing the opportunity to do the right thing with ease.

I worry for our future! :-

God Is Not The President

I realized that a few months before my conversion.

Raindrops slid down the window, in a haphazard journey to the windowsill, as I contemplated The Meaning Of Life one day. It was cold and grey outside. I don't remember what was churning in my thoughts as that insight swept over me, but I remember it with great clarity.

Insights like these peppered the months before I came to Christ. They were laying the ground-work for the beginning of my faith. Startling moments of unbidden perception would break into my mind at the strangest moments. Looking back, I can pick them out, bright sunflowers in fields of grass, popping up above the green, shouting, "Look over here! Notice me!"

It seems self-evident now. Of course God is not the president. We didn't get to install Him in the Heavenlies with a two-thirds vote, or even an electoral vote of 270. He just was. And is. And is to come.

And yet, I'm not sure that Americans apprehend this concept. Perhaps it's our rebellious, democratic nature. We have created a nation built on the principles of self-reliance, self-determination, and the pursuit of happiness. Making our image of God into a Sovereign King rubs us against the grain, bringing back visions of tea floating in the Boston Harbor, steeping in cold sea-water. We'd rather obliterate His rule over us by tossing our cargo away, than give him one penny of "taxation without representation." Never mind that we have a very good representative, that's for another post.

Much fist-shaking and shouting at the heavens is rooted in our spirits, scandalized by a lack of inclusion in the planning process. God can do as He pleases and we, poor saps that we are, have no recourse. He gets to do what He wants and we have to go along one way or the other.

Exactly.

Rebelling against such a repugnant idea, says less about God and more about us. First, it lays bare our fear of God's control of the Universe. We don't want to lack control, because then we are helpless to defend ourselves. Bad things might happen--the secret worry of everyone. Second, it implies that we would make much better choices than this Creator who's always butting into our business. He expects too much of us and makes unreasonable demands upon us, like some crazy, tyrant king sending his subject on a quest for some rose, that only blooms at midnight, on the sixth day of spring, at the top of a treacherous mountain in some distant land, 2,000 miles away. Third, it reveals our fear of being unimportant. If God doesn't need or want my input, then I must be like a fly buzzing about His head; small, irrelevant, and slightly annoying.

Not exactly.

Accepting God as Supreme Ruler, and not as Guy-Who-Least-Irritated-Us-And-Got-Our-Vote, aka The President, is not the fearful prospect it might seem. It hinges on the simple but profound acknowledgement of God's goodness, His unchanging nature of purity. It is a necessary component of our faith; one that impacts us in every aspect of our spiritual life.

to be continued tomorrow

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

too much free time

These are links my hubby sent me from his co-workers. It's amazing how frequently work cuts into your internet usage.

PETA's favorite flash game: penguin game.

A close second: bloody penguin (a little twisted...don't view this with kids by your side)
--yuck--

My Blog Title and Deeper Meanings

Two years ago, our family suffered a huge loss. We left the church that we had come to love and cherish. I had been a part of the worship team, our kids loved participating in Awana, my husband and I had grown to care deeply about our fellow members. I can honestly say that it was the best church experience that I had ever had. Everyone was genuine, authentic, and really loved God. We felt welcome and very at home, a family of believers.

The last two years we spent in this church consisted of a slow, gradual questioning. The pastor, who was an excellent teacher, probably one of the best I have ever heard, had been exposed to some new teaching on deliverance. He had felt greatly impacted by this ministry and methodically began to try and integrate some of his new beliefs into the church. It didn't begin with a lightning bolt or a thundering voice; it merely crept into things in the same way that water slowly seeps into every empty crevice it finds.

As a result of the teaching, the congregation was split into several groups: those who agreed with all of it, those who disagreed and felt there was no biblical basis for it, and those who were of a non-confrontational nature, unwilling to think too much about it either way.

Through a series of congregational meetings, that were set up as Q&A sessions, the church was informed that any new elders would be required to assent to this new doctrinal twist in order to be accepted as elders. Agreement on this teaching was compulsory. This agreement was also compulsory for those who wished to "officially" be a part of the prayer team that would be praying for people on Sunday mornings and during Wednesday night intercessory prayer meetings. All of this was couched in lengthy reassurances that anybody could pray for anyone else, and those who were in disagreement would not be looked down upon in any way. Whenever the pastor was questioned about the biblical basis for these new beliefs, he would avoid answering the questions, and instead suggest that the questioner stop by his office to go over it in more detail. He responded that way at least three or four times, refusing to give an answer in front of everybody.

Unease spread through the congregation as people began to watch what they said and to whom they said it, unsure if those they spoke with were in the "accepting" or "rejecting" group. Those who were non-confrontational made coffee and chatted about the weather.

Such tense, unspoken currents could only last so long before erupting.

Things culminated in the "discipline" of a church member who was asked to leave and not come back. He and the pastor had had many run-ins over the years. Most could be chalked up to completely opposite personalities and lack of insight into the other person's motivations. J. had been a vocal opponent to this new teaching, but he had not been rude or outwardly hostile.

We found out about his "ex-communication" the Saturday before it was to happen from other church members. Uncertain if something so outrageous could be true, I called the elder I knew best, who led the worship team I was a part of, and asked him if it was true.

"Yes," he said. "It is."

After a beat of shock and surprise swept over me, I went into full questioning mode. Why? How? What did this mean?

If he had said, J. is an adulterer....an embezzler...an abuser, or anything else that would allow for the biblical steps of church discipline, there could have been a chance that we might still be at our old church. The Bible allows for casting out a member who is in unrepentant sin, with the qualification that they would be welcomed back if they chose to repent. However, there was no sin that they could provide for justification. He and the pastor simply did not get along, and the pastor had become so focused on his love for this new teaching, that he was willing to take this drastic step to remove J. as an obstacle. He was never offered any return of reconciliation.

I asked my elder friend, in a very frustrated, panicked voice, "Do you realize that families will leave over this?" I thought, "Surely, they just haven't thought this through. They'll change their minds if they think about it."

His response was that they were OK with that. WHAT??!! They were OK with splitting the church over the unbiblical removal of a member.

We knew we couldn't stay. We got up the next morning and somberly dressed and ate breakfast. We prayed that by the time the service was over, they would have realized the folly of this decision and decided against removing him. They didn't.

At the end of the service, one of the elders stood up and read a prepared statement from our pastor. It was very diplomatic and went on and on about how the relationship between these two men was beyond repair, and yet they wished him well....yada, yada, yada. It was disingenuous and untruthful. We stood up and walked out the doors, never to pass through them again.

It was like a brutal divorce, one you didn't want, but couldn't prevent. I cried for months as we visited churches, singing songs with strangers that I once sang in worship with people we knew and loved. I went over and over everything in my mind, wondering if we made the right choice. Time and time again I would come to the same depressing conclusion, that we couldn't have made any other.

The church had veered into some dubious teachings, but we could have worked through that. After all, no church has a congregation that is in 100% agreement about every doctrinal tenet. But this decision to remove a man with no defense, no just cause, and the willingness to sacrifice the loss of many other people for it, was more than we could bear. We had lost trust in the leadership; these men who we knew so well. If they were willing to assent to our pastor's wish on this issue--to further his agenda--then where would it stop?

The church split. Many of the members who left wound up at another church, simply by chance. It was larger and easy to hide in as we licked the wounds of our heart.

I turned inward and withdrew from God; not really God, so much as trying to discern His hand in the mess we had landed in. I was having difficulty understanding how someone I had known and trusted, someone who was an incredible teacher, could have deviated so far from God's Word and taken such drastic action to achieve the effect that he wanted. It messed with my head.

All I could remember was the parable of the wheat and the tares.

God sowed good seed. His adversary sowed bad seed. They grew together until it became evident what had happened, but it was too late to fix. The good and bad were intertwined. Removing one would kill the other. The fate of the wheat was bound up with the tares; intricately tangled roots, offering a loving embrace from one, a death grip from the other.

more later.



Tuesday, June 05, 2007

messing with my template again.

I really am not satisfied with it, but hey, it's free.

waddyagunnado?

Time-Waster

I came across this "crazy ladybug" game at dooce, and have since wasted a lot of time!

Check it out. You might want to turn the volume down if you're at work, trying to pretend that you're actually being productive.

There are no instructions...you're smart...you'll figure out how it works.

Crazy Ladybugs

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Rebuttal, Defense, And A Hornet's Nest...that sort of rhymes

Recipe for Surprise:

1 long stick
1 big hornet's next
1000 angry hornets

While approaching nest, be sure to carry the long stick properly.
After choosing a sufficiently large nest, whack it a few times. Once the
nest is well-shaken...RUN! ....or you can stand your ground
and try to reason with them.....good luck with that!



I have a slightly obsessive streak to my personality, so I check my sitemeter quite often to see how people get to my blog; what search terms they used; if they run screaming in the other direction, bored by my rather mundane life, etc. Imagine my surprise when I found someone being referred to my site from atheism.about.com. Hmm, I thought to myself, that's odd. Clicking on the link led me to Mr. Cline's portion of About.com which is a detailed section on atheism and various atheist issues and questions. And there, in this large compilation of information, was my name and blog site. Apparently, he had come across my blog and decided to quote it in his own blog-like article. That's OK. This is the internet after all, and it is posted for all to read.

I responded briefly to him, simply because I was so surprised that I wasn't really thinking too much about what to say. Here's the article he wrote if you'd like to check it out, and the comment I left, before I launch into a more lengthy response. The posts he references are all in my May Archive. You can open the May folder and each should be easily accessible. I recommend reading them in entirety if you are really interested in that sort of thing.

In the very first paragraph Mr. Cline writes:

"A popular argument for Christians is known as the "first cause" argument: it purports to prove the existence of a god by insisting that the universe could not exist or have been caused by any other means. A common retort from atheists is to ask what caused this god — after all, if the universe requires a cause and explanation, then surely this alleged god does as well; if not, then why say that the universe does?"(emphasis mine)

The first sentence is not exactly true. First Cause does not purport to prove the existence of God. It can be used as an argument to assert God's existence, but does not in and of itself, claim to prove anything. It is a question to be pondered.

The last sentence is double talk. This does nothing to prove or disprove God. Basically, this sentence merely says,"If you don't have to explain where God came from, then we don't have to explain where the Universe came from." While perhaps feeling that this statement somehow levels the playing field, it still does not answer First Cause. The reason that atheists have to explain it is because those are the requirements that they, themselves, have chosen. Christians have never said that they require scientific proof of God's existence. However, if an atheist declares that there must be evidence for belief, then they should be required to supply it for their own belief/disbelief. Their rules, not mine. I am only asking them to be consistent. It is silly to dismiss God's existence for lack of scientific evidence, and then in the next breath, declare that you don't require a scientific explanation for the lack in your own belief/disbelief system.

The next quote:

"For one thing, we don't need to have a final answer to something in order to know that something else definitely isn't the answer. "

Really?

So, we don't need to know that 2+x=4 in order to say that "x" is not 6? If 2 +x=? then how can we definitively tell ourselves that "x" is, most assuredly, not 6?

I don't think that approach would work in math. In order to rule something out, you must know what everything else is, except for the one unknown.

In his quote from my post, he links to his own articles.


"By the time a person boldly declares themselves an atheist, they usually have their minds made up; otherwise, they would simply call themselves agnostic or say that they don't "think" that there is a God. "

What's so funny about this is that he inserted links to pages about the terms agnostic/atheist, seeming to try and disprove my opinion. If you go to the links and read through them, they don't contradict this statement, and can even support it. So, I'm not sure what his intent was.


He did the same thing here by linking my text to another article about Meaning.


"But, of course, atheists would deny that there is any meaning to humanity's journey. Meaning implies purpose. Purpose implies intention. "

Once again, the link leads to an article that explains that meaning for an atheist can be found in an individual's life, but it doesn't disprove what I am claiming about atheists and a lack of meaning for humanity's journey. I may find a book very meaningful, but what has that to do with all of Humanity? Nothing, because we are talking about two different concepts. Atheists do deny that there is any inherent meaning to Humanity's journey. At no point does he say differently, so why the link to an irrelevant article?

Here's a good one. I wrote in one of my original posts:

What bugs me most about atheists' thinking is that it is so often illogical and hypocritical in its application...and later on...What smug atheists often fail to do is to use their own logic on their beliefs.

His response:

"according to Terri here, all atheists are often illogical and hypocritical. That's as bigoted and suggesting that all blacks are often criminal, or all Jews are often greedy. " (typo is his)


Wow. I've never been called a bigot before. Preposterous. Saying that Atheists can be illogical and hypocritical in their thinking, when approaching the existence of God, is not even close to the other two comparisons--one is simply about intellectual arguments that are made, and the others are about the character of an individual. The criticism is of the "thinking" not the person. Perhaps, I shouldn't have used the word "smug." Not all atheists are smug. I was responding to some snarky comments by the Rational Response Squad, not trying to say that all atheists are smug.

Mr. Cline concludes with:


"but ultimately, people who presume to post about and criticize others like this have an ethical and an intellectual obligation to do at least a little work checking facts and their assumptions before proceeding."

Well, you can go to my last post about atheism and read what I have to say about obligations, be they ethical or moral. Why do I have an obligation in a Universe that has no inherent meaning, purpose, right, or wrong?

Once again, my criticism is aimed at the thoughts and arguments of atheists, not the character of atheists. Also, I read through many of Mr. Cline's articles and still have yet to find a single answer to any of the themes proposed in my posts. What I did find was a lot of post-modern thinking that consisted largely of the rejection of ideas based on an inability to be certain of any truth. OK. Well if that is the modus operandus of atheism, than how can an atheist be sure of their version of truth? If nothing can be verified, and all belief systems stem from confirmation bias and misconceptions, what is it that sets an atheist above the scope of such influence? Did they swallow a magic pill, a la Matrix, and now they can see clearly and are free of this dastardly influence, yet everyone else is woefully subject to its deceptions?

Further, Mr. Cline criticizes my post as being pure assumption. He claims that I should do research and check facts before posting my opinions on the subject. What is so intriguing about this claim is that as I read through many of Mr. Cline's articles, none of them are based on facts. There are lots of opinions, intellectual ideas, and in-depth thoughts about atheism and theism, but those are not the same as "facts." I did not come across a single reference or link within his writings to any source, other than his own ideas, in all of the articles through which I waded. I, on my personal blog, must check my facts, but he, contributor to a widely used internet resource, is not required to list any? That is not only a double standard, but shows a misunderstanding for the level of research required for very different types of writing--one being personal, the other being academic.

There is much more that I have to say, but I will save it for another post. This one is already quite lengthy.