My Homemade Mother's Day Gift

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Know Before Whom You Stand

Da Lifnei mi atah Omed - Is often inscribed over the Ark in many Synagogues.  Know before whom you stand.  I stumbled on that and it rolled over and over in my mind as I was studying the Bible. It reminded me where Paul tells the Corinthians, we see through a glass darkly, we know in part but a time is coming where we will know as we are known of God.  

All through the bible, God gives us instruction that "they might know that I am the Eternal."  He gave them His Sabbaths, and He held things back from them and He even sent His Son to them so that they would know before whom they stood.  

But they didn't know.  So often we don't know the One before whom we stand.  How many times did Christ ask, Don't you understand?  Do you know who I am?  Do you hear what I'm saying?  Can you hear me?  Are you listening?  

In Psalms 50 there is a chilling reminder that it is not beyond our capacity to assume we know and understand God because we think He is like we are.

"These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes." (Psalms 50:21 KJV)  Or as it is rendered by Samuel Horsley,  "These things ye have done and thought that I AM (Eheyeh) is such an one as thyself."  

The statement is proceeded by pointing out that they hated instruction and ignored His Word, slandered their own brethren and stole and lied and lived contrary to the laws and ways of God.  And yet, these were people who knew his covenant and his law.  People who bore his name and assumed that they were close to God.  People who lived contrary to the ways of God unaware they were falling dreadfully short of the requirements.

One would have to come to that conclusion by making a determination that wickedness does not lie within themselves but only all around them and in their piety of creating a religious aura about themselves, they missed the point of their religion and did not know before whom they stood.  It means they didn't get to Know God on His terms.  They misunderstood because they perceived his intent through a carnal morass of all things finite.  

He is a God of infinity.  He sees all things through to their conclusion from the beginning.  He knows the destination of every path we choose.  He not only sees what we're doing but he knows our intent in our doing it.  We are the ones who fall short in our assessment of God.  We are the ones whose heart is deceitful above all things because we lie to ourselves best and most of all.   We seldom consider the end of a matter, where it will all end up.  We assure ourselves we know what we're doing, We convince ourselves that we're using sound judgment. We rationalize immorality based on circumstances and acceptability.  We create complicated exceptions where God uses simplistic terminology.  

Thou shalt not.  Do Justly.  Love Mercy.  Walk Humbly.  Fear God.  Keep the Commandments.

He pulls back the wrapping and exposes the contents.  He lives in reality but we surround ourselves with exception clauses, postulations, conditions prerequisites, fine print, stipulation and compromise and are shocked to find He wasn't negotiating.  

If we stand on His ground, we take our shoes off.  If we sign the contract, we've made a blood pact.  He was willing to lay it all on the line for us... and did.  

Da Lifnei mi atah Omed 

Know Before Whom You Stand

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Reading Daniel

I've been working on reading the bible.  I figured it should be about a year long project.  But one year has dragged into 2 and according to my Kindle, I'm only 51% into the book.  And, its not that I don't find what I read interesting.  its just that life is hectic and other things get pushed in front of doing it.  Its a matter of prioritizing... and I find that I am somewhat inclined toward a rather imprecise nature in optimizing my daily itinerary.  I'd like to say that I have attention deficit disorder, as distraction does come easily... but then you might say that Pinocchio also suffered the same affliction.  I fear, like the nephew of Uncle Albert, of the Yellow Submarine Album, I'm so easily drawn away... 

Presently I'm reading about Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, brilliant princes of Israel who were captives, carried into the land of Shinar and groomed to be made into counselors for the King's court.  It doesn't give their exact age but refers to them as "children" which seems to indicate they were probably in their later teens.  And as such, they seem remarkably principled for a group of such young men.  

Of course, its not like its the first time I've read the Book of Daniel, nor the first time I've heard the story...  but, recalling my own youth, and that of my children, these boys, really, are incredibly dedicated in their faith.  

The King, the undisputed world ruler of his day, has ordered that these boys are provided with all the necessary fare, schooled in court etiquette, fitted in royal attire, and provided with the same accoutrements as would be necessary for anyone of their status, even fed  the  same food served to the royal court--rich and decadent cuisine presented to these four enslaved young men who declined to eat it, worried for their health, asking instead to be given a vegetarian diet.  

While it doesn't state an exact reason, my summation of their concern was the food might be common or unclean or the clean meats obtained from a pagan sacrifice, and eating such would push against their conscience and damage their systems. Despite being basically slaves and fortunate to be alive, they're bold enough to refuse the food that's offered to them, even when the Prince of the Eunuchs advises it is a command from the King.  During their tête-à-tête with their overseer, they come to an agreement that he would extend them a test period and, as it is so often with God, it works out to their advantage.

In time, and we don't know how long after, the King has a troubling dream that puts the entire advisory board at risk and young Daniel ends up saving all their lives and the lives of the rest of the wise men by not only interpreting a dream by a revelation from God, but he is also able to tell the King what the dream was. 

The King was so excited with the power of Daniel's God and the interpretation of the dream that he promptly built an image, probably the very one he'd dreamed about and then commanded that all in the land, upon hearing the band start up, stop what they're doing and fall down in worship to the image.  

Daniel's (Belteshazzar) three friends, Hananiah, (Shadrach) Mishael (Meshach) and Azariah (Abednego) who were set as overseers of the King's affairs, get caught  by certain Chaldeans, not worshiping the image, who apparently feel a certain "moral" obligation to report it to King Nebuchadnezzar.  

The King commands they be brought into the court and in a display of favor, which seems out of character,  offers them a chance to comply to his decree (at which point he will forgive them of their breech of protocol).  But the lads all refuse.  
In fact as he's giving them the deal, they interrupt him, and I can just imagine them poised in resolute tenacity.  "Let us be perfectly clear, Our God, if He chooses, is able to save us and we will be delivered from your hand, O King.  However, and make no mistake, whatever He will choose to do on our behalf at this time, we will not serve your gods or worship your golden image."

And it says in the old King James Version, "He was full of fury and the form of his visage changed against Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego." 

What pluck.  There they stand in the highest court, before the worlds most powerful man, dressed in the royal garb of his court, it says their coats, their hats, their hosen and their other garments, and these three young princes, stolen from their homes, probably made into eunuchs, and given a peach of a position, especially under the circumstances, inform the King of the whole known world as they knew it, that it ain't gonna happen.  

So the King tells his very best and strongest and bravest, most decorated mighty men of his soldiers to bind them up and cast them into the fire.  Now these soldiers were simply following orders, because if they would refuse, they too would be tossed in along with those idiot kids.  But as they got near the fire, the flames licked up and destroyed the soldiers who tossed them in.  

And as the King looks on, he sees not three but four men in the flames.  And he goes up the edge of whatever contraption they're in and calls to them, "come forth and come hither."  It appears that the only thing that might have been burnt up, besides however many of the King's guard who were dragging the boys to their death, was the binding applied to their arms and legs prior to being thrown in.  

And the story gives me pause at how diminished life's lessons can become over the course of time.  

When Daniel was brought before Nebuchadnezzar, to not only interpret the dream, but to expound in detail the dream and advise him that God was revealing kingdoms well into the future to this king, a feat no magician in the kingdom could perform, Daniel made plain to him that he could not interpret or reveal the dream and that no one other than the God in heaven can reveal this secret.  And Nebuchadnezzar was so impressed, he said that  Daniel's God was a God of gods.  And Daniel requested that his friends be made his advisers in the province of Babylon.  And yet... and yet, he failed to bring all that to mind when the 3 young men declined to bow before his image as they only prostrated themselves before their God... this same God who reveals secret dreams.  The eyewitness of the power of a miracle was completely lost on the King.

But it isn't only pompous Kings who remain oblivious to transformative power of miracles.  The children of Israel every day were shaded by a cloud that went before them.  They woke every morning to manna on the ground and ended every day with a flock of quail presenting itself for their evening meal.  They witnessed the opening of the Red Sea for their passage and the closing of it upon their enemies.  They watched water pour from a rock.  All these miracles they witnessed and yet, just like Nebuchadnezzar, there was no lasting memory of all that had transpired. God never seemed as real to them as the trial they were facing and as they would say, "Is God among us or not?"  

It is stunning how easy it was for them to have witnessed these magnificent miracles and go forward as though it were not a life-changing event.  And almost every other miracle described in the bible was also met with the same suppositional acceptance held by the children of Israel.   The Jews witnessed in-step and without awe, miracles of healings, and the raising of the dead and the many being being fed with the lunch of a boy.  I'm sure they were impressed in the moment but in the end, it was merely a great story to tell but not the fulcrum of reform.

And yet, in every story, all through the books of the bible, it indicates that we must change, to overcome, to repent, to put on the new man, to be holy and righteous and complete and perfect.  Example after example that shows us what to be and what not to be... And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;   We are supposed to be discerning the good from the evil and the clean from the unclean... not in judgment of others but in understanding of being godly and holy and righteous in our own hearts and minds.  

The lesson I get from Daniel isn't that the Babylonians were evil and that Daniel and his friends were good, but that but that despite the obstacles, and despite the consequences, they still strove to behave in a Godly fashion.  They saw life beyond this side of death and they clung onto it and they looked to God and God was there for them.  They looked for a city whose builder and maker is God.  

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Perfectly Contrasting Bookends Spanning Centuries, Cultures and Tongues.

Some years ago, I read a book explaining the typology which runs throughout the book of Genesis of the trek of a converted man, from when the day star first arises in and shines the light of God in your hearts, as indicated by Paul and Peter, that God calls for light to shine upon the dark recesses of a man’s heart and there is light brought forth from God. He shows how each character in Genesis is also a representation of the progress a man makes in his process of conversion, culminating in the rulership of Joseph, as typifying the culmination of becoming a ruler, under Christ, in the Kingdom of God.
I was amazed at the parallels between the different contrasts and comparisons that spanned over millennia. How books written in the first century could corroborate those written over a thousand years before and that they would also lay a foundation for what was to eventually follow and point back to and verify what had been previously written.
I’m always stunned at the precision of the Word of God. More recently, in studying the book of Revelation, (the completion of my plan to read the whole bible), I had read in a transcribed bible study conducted by John Ogwyn of the parallels and contrasts between the beginning of the Bible, Genesis, with the end of the Bible, Revelation.
He points out that just as Genesis begins with the creation of a physical man, that Revelation ends with the completion of spiritual man.
He points out that these two books are written in two completely different languages, in a timeframe spanning 1500 years by two men of completely different societies, cultures and backgrounds.
Genesis begins with the creation of the heaven and the earth and that Revelation ends with the passing away of them both and the introduction of a new heaven and a new earth. In Genesis, death is introduced to mankind, for it is the result of sins but in the Book of Revelation, it is said, that God wipes away every tear and that Death and sorrow are passed away.
Genesis tells of the Garden with the Tree of Life in the midst, from which man was exiled because he chose to go his own way and Revelation tells of the Tree of Life that bears 12 fruits and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations and access to the Garden and the Tree are open to all who keep the Commandments of God.
In the Book of Genesis, we are introduced to Satan, who lies to man and deceives the whole world but it culminates in the Book of Revelation where He is put away,
Revelation 20:1-3, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand yeas were finished…”
where Satan's influence on mankind comes to an end.
Genesis tells a story of how the Government of God is removed from the Earth and mankind elects to build his own society and cities and establish his own government under the sway of Satan, the god of this world, leaving mankind cut off from God. But Revelation shows the restoration of the Government of God with a capital city, Jerusalem, whose Builder and Maker is God and 12 gates open day and night.
And in Genesis, there is an offer of an inheritance, of a promised land made to Abraham, that man, through Abraham’s obedience and faith, would eventually receive the whole earth. In Revelation, that promise is fulfilled.
Genesis tells of curses brought by sin, curses of the ground, curses of sky, curses of weather and curses upon mankind, but in Revelation, a river flows out from the Throne of God and it heals the land wherever it flows and the curses are lifted.
The Book of Revelation tells of the healing of every institution ruined by sin. God eliminates sin from equation. And that eliminates pain and sorrow and tears and suffering and death. It removes the curses brought about by sin.
Two books, written in two different languages, composed fifteen hundred years apart that are the perfect book-ends for the Word of God. The way of sin, reversed by the way of Life. A book that begins with Darkness and confusion and a book that ends in a city that needs no light, day or night because light emanates from the Throne of God. It begins with a people cursed and driven out from the presence of God and ends with a people inheriting Eternity and twelve Open Gates to City of God, and the breach between God and mankind forever healed.
It is the apex of every word written in the Book of Life, the final word on the story of mankind who now stands on the threshold of Eternity and have become members of the Household of God.
What a story…. What a heritage. What a phenomenal ending.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Quotes of Encouragement

As I was going through my daily tasks at work, an email notice floated across my screen from the manager of my department.  It advised that I was being moved to a new location. 

The room I was moved from was full of folks on the phone, all talking at one time and at times a rather raucous environment.  It was a very large enclosed room that leaks during rainstorms and is filled with folks radiating various germs and various scents, spraying cans of anti-bacterial substances, eating varied foods, and the pervasive mustiness of moldy carpets and water damaged dry wall was always present.   

But I was back in a far corner in a fairly solitary location where I was able to steadily get my work done until it was time to clock out and go home.  I’m not anti-social but I am busy and it seems I’m always behind.  So being off in a corner was as close as you could get to having an office with a closed door.  And yet, from time to time some folk who wanted to be friendly would pop their head over the top of my cubical and give me a cheery hello and we'd share a brief conversation.  It was bright room full of folk and I didn’t mind being there.

My new area is much more open.  I’m next to the marketing department and across from all the managers.  Having been moved into a more prestigious venue, gives people the impression that I’ve been promoted.  (Location, location, location.)  It actually gives me the feeling that I’m in a fish bowl and that I mustn’t scratch or make a mess or any comment under my breath.  And every phone conversation I have is out there for any and all to hear.  I feel entirely exposed.

Directly behind my desk is a large chalkboard.  On my first week of arrival at the new desk, one of the managers told me that it would now be my job to write encouraging words of wisdom on the chalkboard above my head daily.  She smiled and said I know you’ve got plenty of that. 

So, I try to spend a part of my evenings on a fairly regular basis looking up some famous quote that is workplace appropriate, and yet morally uncompromising so that I can sit in front of it without fear of reprisal, offense or guilt.  It is rarely my own words that I write.  On occasion I'll edit a quote to what I feel is a better use of the phrase, but usually, it is words from a famous author or statesman or excerpt from a book.  

My desk is on the edge of a heavy traffic aisle, so quite a few people stop by daily to read the quote and make comments on what it means to them.  Several have told me they make it a point to come by and see what words of wisdom I have put up on the chalkboard.  It has been an interesting undertaking,  especially seeing how many people have begun to count on the daily quotation to give them some hope or a smile for the day. 

The company was recently bought out and so there are many changes and upheavals that are creating concerns and shaking people’s confidence in their current career status.  It is just one more unstable layer of gravel on an already tremoring earth, making it a challenge to find sure footing.  

The whole world is in upheaval.  We try and ignore it.  We try and recreate our environment to seem stable by making time to add to our days useful and pleasurable endeavors to afford a bit of meaning to our lives.  But in the back of our minds, we see that the ground of the world around us is anything but firm and unlike the previous generations, we’re encouraged to believe that life is nothing more than a series of ecological happenstances culminating in the existence of the human population and that eventually, all species are destined toward extinction.  Truths have become subjective and defined by the present accepted social mores. 

There is nothing absolute.  There is nothing eternal.  There is nothing constant.  There is nothing inalienable.  It is a hopeless, hapless, aimless, meaningless, and often despairing society.  Like the lithograph created by Escher, it is a society who believes that somehow, we have created ourselves.  We are our own gods.  We're entirely too educated to believe in unseen aberrations.  

And as Mark Twain said, a person who looks to God “is a person who wants to give up great things in a real life for mediocre things in an imaginary one.”  But eventually, things cave in.  Eventually, one of the spinning plates begins to fall.  Eventually, we get old and sick and die.  We dance to the tunes played by the piper until he backs us against the wall demanding payment.  We only see what is before our eyes and our hearts long for what we can no longer envision.

So, they come to my chalkboard and read what I wrote that morning before they arrived, in hopes of hope. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Contemplation

In a world full of tragedy, anger and woe,
And displaced families with nowhere to go,
With no table to sit at and no food to eat,
Just the clothes on their backs and the shoes on their feet,
We look forward to sharing a meal in peace,
To share with our grandchild and nephew and niece,
To eat to our fill of grandest of fares
At our finely clothed tables on the plushest of chairs;
And forget that the reason for the day of abundance;
Did not come of a life full of over indulgence;
But those who before us were seeking asylum
Also set sail toward a better horizon,
And they gathered together in remembrance how the One
Had guided through adversity into the sun.
And they gathered their blessings of victuals and wares
In grateful thanksgiving they offered up prayers.
So let us remember as we sit down together
The blessings God gave us in good and bad weather
And pray we consider and not take for granted
The blessings and trials of a people transplanted.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

There are days...

Some days you get out of bed with a determination that you're going to make the best of the day in front of you, a new beginning to an old life. You get in the car and you drive to work the usual route inspired with your new perspective. You see the straight tall elderly woman that walks up and down her street at seven something every single weekday and you feel a unity with her. You mentally wish her a wonderful day.  You smile and wave but she grimaces.  Probably just the sun in her eyes. I still think we connected.

You smile at the guy in the car opposite you at the stop sign. He returns a cold stare, imagining you're going to challenge his determination to proceed first... so you smile and wave him on and he responds with an accusatory scowl like you've been discovered ingesting heavy doses of Prozac and speeds by until he is ahead of you on a two lane road and he rides the brake in front of you the rest of your way to work.  His stops are more like he's decided to park his car.  

No matter.  Its a beautiful morning.  Pretty sunrise.  I'm in no hurry. I'm a changed woman.  Today is a new day, a new Monday and not only the beginning my week, it is the beginning of a more positive me.

I get to work and walk through the cloud of smoke that hangs at the entrance, billowing from the small group of smokers huddled together behind the parapet, away from the cold wind and I hack out a cheery "good morning" hoping that smell won't hang on me all day. 

Inside I stop in the kitchen to make the coffee that I make every single morning before I even make it to my desk so that I can have a cup ready before the morning begins.  

The man had slowed me down and by now there is a muster of assembled coworkers blocking path to the coffee pot half full of yesterday's brew . So I contort and I stretch to reach through the crowd to obtain a filter, inch over enough to try and pull a bag of coffee from the drawer two people are staunchly stationed against but I refuse to let my smashed fingers impinge on my brighter outlook.

The filters are a new package and difficult to separate.  I step back from the crowd, pull a few from the package and begin to blow on the edges to separate them.  Just as I manage to separate 1 filter from the rest someone makes a huge sweeping gesture and suddenly the air is filled with white floating paper butterflies.  I begin to scramble around grabbing up the filters and realize that I'm running short on time before I have to clock in.  I stuff a filter into the basket and dump in a bag and a half of coffee into the awaiting filter and hit the brew button.

"You're making the coffee too strong"

I smile.  "Well, you can add water to it.  I need a bit of a jump start this morning. Or you can make the next pot any way you like it, yourself."

"You're only supposed to use one bag."  They point to a laminated instruction sheet taped to the cabinet above the coffee maker.

"Do you drink coffee?"


"And your concern is...?"

I check the time as I say this and don't wait for the answer as I have to start up my computer so I can clock in and take care of other necessities before I clock in.  I come back to find that the crowd has now gone and I get out my cream and pour myself a very large cup of dark rich hot java.  I put the cup to my lips to take a sip and verify I have just the right amount of cream.

"What about everyone else?"

I turn around.  She's back.  She's offended about coffee that she doesn't drink.  I feel my new perspective on life draining.  At least the coffee tastes good. "Did you have a good weekend?"

"Someone else might not like it like that."

"Did you see anyone else take a cup but me?"

"Well, I don't think that's the point."

I walk back to my desk mumbling... and wondering exactly what is the point.  

I hate Monday's.  And now that I think about it, I should have never let that guy pass me this morning.  I could have beat the crowd and avoided this whole scene.  There's nothing wrong with me.  Its just Monday's.  I hate Monday's.  

Tomorrow will be terrific Tuesday... and I'll leave a little earlier... and stop by a Starbucks on the way in.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Faith Without Reason?

A few years ago, I stumbled onto a blog criticizing faith.  It inspired a response, which inspired no further response.  I had saved it and ran across it looking for something else on my computer and thought I'd post it here.  The link, while still posted, is no longer valid as they have removed the post, most probably for space.

Faith Without Reason?

By David Mitchell
Guest Columnist
Published: Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The question in our current debate on homosexuality is purely one of which premises you choose to accept. Once your premises are chosen, your opinions flow from them. Mr. Spangler chooses to accept the premise that the Christian Bible is the infallible word of God. It is precisely this premise that I wish to investigate. My goal is in not to argue whether his premise is correct or incorrect, but merely to highlight the ultimate uncertainty in this determination, and this uncertainty’s implications for morality claims.

Mr. Spangler makes a wide range of claims based on his premise that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. What he fails to establish is why this premise is true. There have been many attempts to rationally establish the validity of the Bible with proof. Books I have personally read include “The Case for Christ” and “More Than a Carpenter”. Both of these pieces present coherent, logic-based arguments for belief in the Bible. However, there are also very robust arguments to counter these. In my experience with Christians (and I believe this to generally be the case with Christianity), emphasis is ultimately put on faith. It is difficult to nail down a definition of faith, but in the face of opposition, Christians typically indicate to me that faith involves believing something without proof, and often without the necessity of applying rational argument. There are a number of inconsistencies with this concept.

First, I ask the question, how is it that someone comes to know their faith? Surely it requires some level of rationality and acceptance of the validity of sensory experience merely to be able to physically read the Bible and have conversations with those who held individuals come to know their faith. It requires a basic acceptance of logic to perform the act of contemplating the possibility of faith, to understand sentences in the Bible, and to make inferences based on these sentences. To reject the role of rationality altogether in faith is simply nonsense. As such, I propose that rationality is necessarily the basis for acquiring any faith. Faith cannot be divorced from reason. It is precisely reason that endows us as intelligent beings capable of understanding any faith, and consequently choosing to accept or reject it.

Secondly, I ask, what is one's basis for accepting the Bible as the ultimate truth? To argue that the Bible offers infallible truth because it says it does so in the Bible is clearly not a valid position. The circularity of logic here could apply to any text or speaker who declares that he/she/it contains the real truth of existence and morality. More often, Christians answer this question by saying that they know it to be the ultimate truth by faith alone, without proof. This is sometimes described as a gut feeling or intuition (“I just know it in my heart”), or more specifically as the result of some personal revelation. The problem with this answer is that fervent believers of other religions have equal claims. If someone were to try and convince me that the Bible is the ultimate source of all truth because they know it on faith, then I ask, how is their faith is any different than that of a devout Muslim who proclaims the truth of the Koran, or the faith of a devout Hindu proclaiming the truth of the Vedas or Upanishads? In other words, if it really is all about faith alone, then what is the tie-breaker? How would I know who to believe? There can be no answer based on faith alone. Without reason, there is no argument for the primacy of one religion over another. Without reason, there can be no persuasion one way or another. Without a rational foundation for faith, a belief in the Christian God is no more valid than my devout belief in Richard Dawkins’ “Flying Spaghetti Monster”.

Third, I’d like to probe further into the question of a person's basis for accepting the Bible as the ultimate source of truth. Generally-speaking, the Christian tradition affirms belief in the existence of both God (good) and Satan (evil). Satan is described as deceitful and tempting, always trying to craftily draw followers away from God and toward himself. The question I ask, is how do Christians come to know God is good? In other words, how did they determine in the first place that it was appropriate to follow this God? With no prior basis for determining what should and should not be done, we could not determine with any certainty that subscribing to God’s brand of rules for morality (as opposed to Satan’s) was the correct decision. If someone has no pre-existing notion of what is good and what is bad, then choosing God over Satan would be merely an arbitrary decision. There would be no way of knowing that it was not God doing the deceiving and Satan offering the truth.

No, what I propose is that we each have an innate sense of what is good (right), although the specifics of this are certainly not equivalent among people. It is this sense that directs some toward belief in the Christian God and rejection of Satan, some toward belief in Allah, some toward Yahweh, some toward other deities or spiritualities, and some toward nothing at all.

What I am trying to do here is not to discredit the Bible or Christianity. I find Christianity to be primarily a beautiful religion that teaches people first and foremost to treat one another with respect, compassion, and love. It would be difficult to find fault with this aim. My point is only that the validity of any particular religious tradition cannot be proven. Even the most fervent Christians I have ever known have expressed periods of doubt in their faith at times in their lives. Given this uncertainty, it is simply inappropriate to impose the particular moral obligations of a religious text that cannot, itself, be validated, when these moral obligations are not compatible with our basic notion of decency and equality.  Christians generally no longer stand by the Bible’s support of human slavery, because it offends their notions of what is good and decent (a guiding force in choosing the faith initially). In like manner, passages that allegedly condemn homosexuality (although it is disputed that they actually do so) should be subjected to the same test of goodness, decency, and reason before becoming measurements of morality. Let us err on the side of respect, love, and compassion for all.

Mr. Mitchell,

You say you are not trying to discredit the Bible by your dissertation.  Conversely, I am not trying to purport the Bible with my answer.  One can do no better than to follow after that which one has established as truth.

It is my belief that the basis for the determination as to the right or wrong of anything is not man’s right to decide.  If one is not in alignment with the teachings of the Bible, then most certainly, he is free to live as he decides.  As long as one is willing to accept the consequences of one’s actions, then that one is truly free, as suppression is a condition of the mind and heart. 

Conversely, once a person establishes the Bible as a basis for their life, or professes himself as a believer, he must define good and evil according to the pre-established doctrines, as the Bible defines good and evil for that man and the true believer aligns himself with that criterion.  If he professes another directive, opposed to biblical teachings, unless or until he realigns himself with the directives previously established, he should not lay claim to the Bible as defining his religion.  The Bible clearly delineates what is right and what is wrong to those who profess to hold to its teachings.  This is important to understand in the establishment of faith as faith is inextricably linked into obedience of a particular way, for Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him.

Mr. Mitchell, you mentioned that the definition for faith is not clear to you.  Let me assist you with that.  The Bible clearly defines faith.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for, it is the under girding of your hope, the structure under it, like the structure that holds a bridge in place and establishes the hope that it is safe to cross. 

It is the evidence of that which is not seen.  We have several evidences of that which we do not see.  Gravity and air are not ethereal.  We have evidence of air or gravity.  Prior to the establishment of proof, we still knew they existed.  We had the evidence of their existence by the proofs of their existence.  Faith is not ethereal.  It is not a wishing on a star and believing that positive thoughts overriding negative feelings will make it come true.  It is a belief based on the reliability of past experiences. 

When you sit in a chair, you believe, based on past experience that the chair will support your weight.  You accept, on faith, without getting down on your hands and knees to verify, that it is safe to sit in the chair.  Clearly, at some point in your life, you have seen a chair not hold a person sitting in it, but based on probabilities of dependability, your faith in that chair is confident.  The under girding of that belief is based on the fact that you sit in chairs all the time and rarely, or perhaps never, are you tossed out on your backside.  The evidence not seen is that despite the fact that you have not examined the chairs reliability, you feel there is enough evidence by chairs of the past to verify it will hold you.  You have FAITH in that chair.  You’re not sitting in thin air, hoping that a chair materializes; you’re sitting on a chair that you assume will support your weight. 

Now, put that established chair on a place where falling out of it will result in certain death, and the level of faith is probably going to be drastically reduced.  Whereas you have sat down on the chair without a second thought on your kitchen floor, if that chair is balanced on 2 beams stretched out over the Grand Canyon, your faith in it will waiver or perhaps break down, entirely.  Over a course of time, given the opportunity to establish that the beams are secure and that the chair will not act any differently on the beams than on your kitchen floor, you may build the faith to be able to sit in that chair.

That’s what Faith is.  It is a belief based on past performance and a hope of future performance.  It is established in the reality of God’s word.  IF a person is not willing to test God’s word, by putting himself under the authority of His Law, and under the conditions of God’s Word, then one may not establish a claim that there is no proof of the reality of God’s word, anymore than one can say a chair is not reliable to sit in based on the fact that they are not willing to sit in it. 

Many professed Christians give irrational explanations of what faith is because they are unwilling to put themselves under the authority of God’s word or law or risk relying on what they, quite frankly, do not know. 

One establishes that faith by incorporating the word of God into their lives according to the way established by God.  In other words, you begin to obey it.  You begin keeping the laws of God, to try to follow His words as He has laid them out, even in the face of adversity and you begin to see that God is taking care of you.  Things begin to work out so that you can obey.  The further you test it, the more it establishes your faith… because you run into impossible situations that work out in the most incredible ways.  And so you start to incorporate more of God’s word into your life. 

You establish the reliability of the Word of the God of the Bible exactly the same way you establish that a chair is safe to sit in—perhaps even to the point of being comfortable even if the chair is perched on a precipice.  Even though you see others around you fall out of other chairs (like drunks or babies who cannot sit up or children using the chair incorrectly) or you’ve seen it collapse (under too much weight or abuse or neglect), you learn the rules, or follow the Word and you see that the chair is reliable, if the sitter is faithful to the conditions of the chair.

One learns the reliability of the Bible through use, making clear that there is a difference in “the way that seems right to a man,” over they way that is righteous.  You learn to walk by faith in the way that God has established over the way of sight because you come to realize that it is God that establishes reality and what you see with your eyes is not as reliable as the way God has established, because reality is established by God.  And to the degree you have confidence in that way, it defines the level of your faith.  Do you have faith in a chair on a solid floor?  You have a little faith.  Do you have faith in a chair positioned on a sheer drop?  You either have great faith or you lack faith.  It is confidence in previously established behaviors and promises.  Abraham had great faith because God gave him a child when his wife was too old to have one and promised him that child would grow into a great nation.  He had the child, every day of his life, right there in front of him, as the under girding of his faith-for the very existence of the child was an impossibility.   He had a further promise from God that in Isaac, He would establish the seed of Abraham, and the faith of the past of Isaac’s impossible birth, gave way to the establishment that God would not allow his word to “come back to him void” giving Abraham the confidence to believe. 

This is how faith grows… the past experience, the establishment that God’s word is wholly reliable, leads you to be able to go forward in the face of uncertainty or even in the face of certain ruin, knowing God holds reality in the palm of his hand.  Simply put, faith is knowing.

I cannot tell you how you could establish the Bible as the ONE book above all other books as I do not know you or what you hold as valuable, but I can tell you what established it’s preeminence over every other religion I’ve taken part in or studied.  It answers every question I’ve ever had regarding the meaning and purpose of life.  That was a solid beginning for me and then the building of faith over the course of a lifetime, of seeing my own waters pouring from a rock and my own storms stilled with a word, literally, I am a faithful believer that the God of the Bible is as real as anything I base reality upon. 

It’s not about living a moral life, based on what we imagine to be honorable.  We do not decide for ourselves good and evil.  That has already been established.  One may ignore it… or disparage it.  One may live contrary to it or force others to conform to another way, but that will not disestablish its authority over mankind.  There is a way that seems right to mankind, but the end of that way is death.  If one seeks life, then there is only one way to attain it—no matter what anyone’s opinion might be.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Overstating the Obvious

I Was The So-Called Unhealthy Fat Woman At The ...

I never got up to 400 lbs. But I can say, from experience that when you are heavy, it seems to make you fair game for a myriad of folks to come up to you and act as a brute boor. It seems to give people the right to comment on what you eat and scream things at you out their car window as you walk down the street. I could have been this woman, myself.

Fat people bear their daily sins, exposed for the world to see... I am an over-eater. And while it may be more readily evident than being an incredibly insensitive and brutally calloused and litigiously rude sort of brute, it is, nonetheless, indisputable for all to see that you have a conspicuous shortcoming and consequently there are always people who feel an obligation to state the obvious.

"You're fat."

Like you didn't know it... Like somehow, when you went into the store and had to bypass the cute adorable normal sized clothes and waddle into the Wide Sizes, you would be in-cognizant that a size 3X was for the morbidly obese. Like when you had to get down on the floor for any reason, and you hoped, maybe even prayed, that there would be something nearby that would support you without collapsing so you could get back up again, you wouldn't realize that you might be carrying around a bit too much weight. Like when you went to a public place worried that they would have chairs with arms that you couldn't fit your ample backside in or like when you had to squeeze into a seat in an overcrowded airplane and had to ask an irritated stewardess for a seat belt extension.... you would not be aware that somehow, you were not normal.

You know, having struggled with my weight for decades, I can tell you that people treat you much differently when you are heavy. They assume you are stupid. They take one look at you and surmise you are lazy and obviously undisciplined. Consequently, you are overlooked for promotion and held in contempt by those who do not suffer your obvious affliction. I simply (well not simply of course) drop the weight and suddenly, I've become smarter and the bull's eye on my back has disappeared.

Its a hard thing to change. Its a hard thing to face what you are. Its a hard thing to look into that mirror and see what everyone else sees, no matter what your malady. However, until you can face it, you won't change. I don't know what it is that singles out fat people to make others feel an obligation to "set you straight about your weight" because, I still have other issues that people are much more hesitant to point out, but like the person in this article points out, "tough love and humiliation" won't likely bring a change about, any more than posting this article will illicit a heartfelt repentance from the nauseating disgust that a person feels when they encounter someone who is obese.

People can really be unkind. So I'm trying to overcome being unkind. Its my contribution to the betterment of society.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What I've learned in 4 years...

I used to be thin.  I used to be active.  In my Junior year, we'd moved from Texas to St. Louis.  All my friends left behind... all my activities... no more swimming pool... no more eternal summers... no more kickball or cheer-leading practice or dances or spending the entire day at the mall.  My father fell ill.  My mom started a job and I came home from school and watched TV... talked with my dad... or when I'd get with my friends, we'd ride around in cars.  My metabolism hung on through my Junior year but by the summer before my Senior year, I started putting on a little weight.  My dad died.  Mom didn't make meals like she used to.  

When I went to college, I started noticing a lot of the girls got that Academic spread.  I was determined it wouldn't happen to me.  So I started riding my bike and I was really careful not to eat the junk.  I thinned back out.

Seems like every time I've figured out what to do to keep my weight down, it would work for a while but then some lifestyle change would come along and yank the rug out from under me... and everything would start unraveling again.

I come into work early.  6 A.M I start.  The call center doesn't start up until 7:30 so its usually just me in there until at least 7 and sometimes not until 8 because a lot of folks work from home.

Yesterday morning, a co-worker stopped by my cubicle.  "Hi Judi." I smiled.  I drown out the sounds of an empty room while I do my work with my earbuds and music from my computer.  I get a little jumpy.  I keep thinking I see things and I start concentrating more on what is not going on around me than what I'm doing.  So I smiled and gestured and said "Good Morning," and went back to what I was doing.

But she stopped and came over and sat in the empty chair by me.  She works in another department.  "We started a Biggest Loser's program in our department," she began.  "One of the women you used to work with said you'd lost quite a bit of weight."

"Yeah, half of me so far."

We talked about how hard it is to diet... to exercise when you're really heavy.  She told me that our mutual co-worker told her I'd been doing this three years.  Actually, it was 4. (

She asked how I kept the weight off. I had to change everything.  I stopped looking at a diet as a temporary fix that I was looking to get past. I told her that the only way she was going to be successful, was to change her whole way of thinking about food and eating and to change her family's eating habits along with hers.  

I mentioned how I never eat anything like cheeseburgers and fries anymore.  That its just not worth it to me.  

She looked like I'd hit her.   I know that feeling.  The "diet" is just for now... I explained, to stay thin, (funny but I haven't actually gotten there yet), you have to quit looking at everything as temporary.  It isn't.  It can't be.  The diet is the easy part.  The really hard part is maintaining.

I explained about condensed calories... and this is my favorite example.  A McDonalds Big Mac, large fries and a Soda, 1300 Calories.  18 Apples, 1300 Calories.  What in the world would make you eat 18 Apples?  If someone told you that you had to, you'd feel pretty desperate.  I can't eat all that!!  But I've most certainly eaten that meal.  

I've learned to count calories.  I've learned that I can eat a huge plate of vegetables or a huge bowl of Salad and consume very few calories if I leave off the butter and the cheese.  I've learned to appreciate food as a way to stave off hunger instead of as a way to fill an unfillable hole or as reward or as a substitute.  I've learned that I can add spice and heat and make my food delicious without making it calorie laden and that I reward myself with being able to bend over or squat down... because for a very long time, way too much time, I couldn't... I couldn't run... I couldn't stand for long periods of time.  I couldn't control my eating... and now that I am master over my appetite instead of being enslaved, that too is a reward.

I found these things on various websites... because its important for me to remember that I can eat three pounds of celery for the same amount of calories as 1.5 ounces of a Snickers Bar.  That I can change 2 whole apples for 2 slices of cheese or 7 little squares about the size of a dice.  I wanted to keep it where I can go back and look at it or share it the next time someone wants to know how I keep it off.  

Food can benefit my life or it can become an oppressive tormentor whose delicious favors appear rewarding but are, in reality, stealing away my life. 

What 200 Calories look like (taken from numerous sites)

Apples (385 grams / 13.5 oz ~ 2 Med apples)

Butter (28 grams / 0.98 oz or 2 Tblsp)

Broccoli (588 grams / 20.7 oz or 1 1/4 lb)

Snickers Chocolate Bar (41 grams / 1.45 oz  or 4/5 of a 1.85 oz bar.)

Cooked Pasta (145 grams / 5.11 oz or about a 1/2 C dry or about 1 C cooked)

Hot Dogs (66 grams / 2.33 oz- ewww)

Kiwi Fruit (328 grams / 11.6 oz or about 4 med)

Cheeseburger (75 grams / 2.6 oz or 1/2 of a McDonald's Double Cheeseburger)

Eggs (150 grams / 5.3 oz or 2 large eggs cooked with a teaspoon of butter)

Celery (1425 grams / 50.3 oz or 3 lbs)

McDonald's Apple Pie (62.3 grams / 2.2 oz 1 pie less 1/2 oz The whole pie weighs 2.7)

Mini Peppers (740 grams / 26.1 oz or 1 lb 10 oz)

Canned Black Beans (186 grams / 6.56 oz or about 3/4 of a cup)

Werther’s  Candy (46 grams / 1.6 oz or not quite 9 pieces)

Chic-Fill-A ChickenBurger (total calories is 440 so not quite half of this)

Dunkin Doughnut- Glazed (52 grams / 1.8 oz total calorie cnt of the doughnut is 230)

French Roll (72 grams / 2.5 oz)

Avocado (120 grams / 4.25 oz about 1 small)

Canned Sweet Corn (308 grams / 10.9 oz or a little over a cup)

Baby Carrots (570 gram / 20.1 oz or 1 1/4 lbs)

Canned Green Peas (357 grams / 12.6 oz or a cup and a half)

Canned Baked Beans (186 grams / 6.56 oz or about 2/3 of a cup)

Doritos (41 grams / 1.44 oz or about 22 chips)

Dried Apricots (83 grams / 2.9 oz or 10 pieces)

French Fries (62 grams / 2.2 oz or if you get the small fries at McDonald's, its 30 calories over the 200)

Fruit Loops Cereal (51 grams / 1.8 oz or about 1-3/4 Cup)

Grapes (290 grams / 10.2 oz or 3 -1/3 Cups)

Gummy Bears (51 grams / 1.8 oz They're 9 calories each so you can have 22)

Hershey Kisses (36 grams / 1.27 oz or 8 they are 25 calories each)

Honey Dew Melon (553 grams / 19.5 oz or 3-1/4 Cups diced ) Cantaloupe 3-3/4 Cups Watermelon, 4-1/2 Cups

Jelly Belly Beans (54 grams / 1.9 oz or 50 jelly beans)

Tomato sauce (226 grams / 7.97 oz)

M&M's (40 grams / 1.4 oz or 58 milk chocolate or 20 peanut)

Red Onions (475 grams / 16.75 oz or a pound)

Sliced Smoked Turkey (204 grams / 7.2 oz enough for a couple of sandwiches)

Coca Cola (496 ml / 16.77 oz or not quite a can and a third of another can)

Olive Oil (23 grams / 0.8 oz or 1-2/3 Tblsp)

Tootsie Pops (68 grams / 2.4 oz 3 are 180 Calories and 4 are 240)

Whole Milk (333 ml / 11.3 fl oz)

Balsamic Vinegar (200 ml / 6.8 fl oz)

Lowfat Strawberry Yogurt (196 grams / 6.9 oz-about 3/4 Cup )

Canned Chili con Carne (189 grams / 6.7 oz -about 3/4 Cup )

Canned Tuna  (102 grams / 3.6 oz or 60% of a can of Tuna)

Fiber One Cereal (100 grams / 3.5 oz or        1-2/3 cup)

Bread (90 grams / 3.17 oz Unless you eat Ezekiel bread... then its 2.5 slices of bread you can live on.)

Blueberry Muffin (72 grams / 2.5 oz  well it depends on the recipe, but the Starbucks Muffin, you get a little over half.)

Condensed milk (60 ml / 2.02 fl oz or 1/4 cup)

Whole Wheat Flr (60 grams / 2.1oz 1/2 cup)

Rice Cereal (54 grams / 1.9 oz or about 2 cups)

Wheat Cereal (53 grams / 1.87 oz 2 Cups)

Brown Sugar (53 grams / 1.87 oz about 1/3 C)

Salted Pretzels (52 grams / 1.83 oz or about 31 tiny twists 15 of the classic.)

Cheddar Cheese (51 grams / 1.8 oz about the size of a woman's thumb)

Potato Chips (37 grams / 1.3oz)

Sliced and Toasted Almonds 
(35 grams / 1.23 oz or 6 tblsp)

Peanut Butter (34 grams / 1.2 oz or ~2 Tblsp)

Salted Mixed Nuts    (33 grams / 1.16 oz or   3-1/3 Tblsp)