Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A good family bonding experience

My mom and dad arranged a family retreat weekend for them, me, and my siblings. (Minus Lucinda; the autistic one who wouldn't be all that interested.) They are looking at the future and trying to make sure that she is cared for after they die. They also wanted to try to keep us kids in contact with each other and try to pass on a legacy. So to accomplish this they started a family council that will meet yearly and oversee Lucinda's trust. It will be up to us four kids to make sure the fifth kid always has a roof over her head and a kind care giver, and gets family interaction for the rest of her life. It reminds me of the inherent value that people of diminished capacity have. While many people excuse abortion and euthanasia because the burden these people bring on those around them would be too great, I see that the burden is exactly what is needed in people's lives. We are so programmed to love only those that love us back, that the experience of caring for an 'unwanted' baby, or Alzheimer sufferer, or autistic sister shows us a depth of love that God wants us to see. A burden is precisely what can cause us to grow and mature. To see outside of our own selfish wants and needs. A society that shuns all human burdens, rejects life that falls outside of their definition of satisfactory, and kills rather than sacrifices of themselves is destined for destruction.

Anyway, my story -before I got off on that ranting tangent- was that we had a family get-together. Part of the proceedings involved us kids talking about how we were raised and memories and such. This was kind of sad for me for two reasons. First, it made me think about how little I was involved in the lives of my brothers and sisters. I married so young and lived so far away for a good deal of their childhoods. (My youngest brother just graduated High School.) Besides that, my wife hated my family and really poisoned my attitude towards them for a long time, so we didn't visit as much as I would have liked; and when we did there was so much tension where I felt like I needed to placate her and as a result was very rude to my parents. So that lack of time spent with my siblings resulted in very little bonding. We just aren't close. And that's sad to me. They are all adults now, and our time together will probably never increase, so I don't see how we can become any closer.

Another thing that made me sad was how little they had to say about how they were raised. Of course, I wasn't there for most of their childhood, and things may have been somewhat different for them. Especially for my brother and sister who were adopted. Since they have different genetic inclinations, and racial identities they probably perceived a lot of things differently than I. But one thing that disappointed me is that they don't see how amazing my parents are, or how blessed they have been in the way they were raised. I thought about that for a bit and realized that I didn't gain this understanding until relatively recently. And I think that is largely because I have kids and they don't. When you have a child you are forced to think about what you are passing onto them. And that naturally brings you to an analysis of your parent's parenting style. What attitudes, opinions, and philosophy they gave you as you grew up. And what parts of that you do, and don't, want to pass on to your kids. Most people I've talked to about parenting have made numerous statements along the lines of: "I'll never do what my parents did to me!", and: "My child will never have to feel the way my parents made me feel." The simple fact that my statements are more along the lines of: "I hope I can do as good a job teaching my kids what my parents taught me." shows a LOT.

Another part of our get-together was a story time, where my mom and dad just talked about their lives together. It was an amazing and moving testimony of how God brought them through some very, very difficult situations. Things like having an autistic daughter, being diagnosed with lupus, and losing their savings time and time again. I'm very proud of my heritage that my parents gave me. The thing that stirred me the most about their story was the blessing my father was as a stable, obedient man of God. I'm proud of my mom too, but as a man, looking to be married again soon, it's my father's steadfastness that resonates with me right now. My mom mentioned that the divorce rate of parents of autistic children is 80 or 90 percent. My dad's simple comment on that was that he just never thought about it. Divorce never entered his mind. As I look back over my former marriage, I realized that he passed that on to me. Through all the deception and other stuff I won't talk about, I never considered divorce. It just wasn't an option for me. (Until I had to do it to protect the kids.) That's when it clicked for me. I realized that this is a legacy that has been handed down to me. And that's what I want to give to my children. (And bless my wife with.) It's a generational blessing. I will do all I can, given the authority that God gave me as a father, to imbue my children with that blessing. It's the stability that comes with being grounded on the rock of the Word. The strength of having a firm foundation. It's the strength that is necessary to whether the rains and wind and waves that our culture assaults families with. Those cultural waves destroyed my family because I was 'unequally yoked' to a person whose foundation was not the same as mine. But now God has given me a wonderfully grounded woman!

But back to the family retreat… After we had established the family council and bestowed official offices to each of the kids it was off to the beach! So all six of us piled in the freshly cleaned and detailed minivan and headed out west to the Oregon coast. About 45 minutes later we were climbing out of the wreckage of the freshly decimated and destroyed minivan. Apparently someone who was headed east decided to be original and pass the person in front of them on the right. This was a particularly daring idea since most of the shoulder of the highway is gravel and there was a 20-foot-drop off. Well they ended up spinning out of control and into our lane, smashing into the side of our van at 60 mph. This sent us spinning 1 or 2 and a half times into oncoming traffic where we were promptly smashed again, this time in the rear. That last crash saved us from going off the 20 foot embankment. After I could breath again, (I got the wind knocked out of me) I said, "Praise the Lord, we're still alive." I don't think most full-speed highway collisions end that well. My mom and dad were in the front so they got faces full of airbag, but miraculously were unhurt save for some residual soreness. My sister and brother on the right side of the van are sore. Me and my youngest brother got the brunt of the hit. He has a badly bruised ankle, and my left side hurts when I breathe in too much.

Had my dad been driving a mile an hour slower it would have been a head on collision and my parents would have been dead, and likely all of us in the back as well. I was asleep when we were hit. The impact and screeching tires and screaming sister woke me up. While we spun around and around I didn't think about life or death. I was just annoyed that I couldn't breath and that my sister was screaming really loudly. No wait, I did think we might die when I looked behind us and saw more oncoming traffic. But apparently it didn't frighten me at all. That's nice to know. It's like that crazy tattooed guy wearing the fez said to Indiana Jones as they were about to both be chopped up by the boat propeller: "My soul is prepared! How's yours?" Oh, another nice thing about this crash is that I just happened to have propped a sleeping bag up between my head and the window that exploded. I'll bet that helped.

So I'm glad we crashed instead of another trip to the beach. I won't speculate on God's reasoning for it, but I will say that it will cement this family council thing in all of our memories forever. And it brought us together as a family. And it taught me and my girlfriend an important lesson in intercessory prayer. She had been getting feelings of fear concerning my death 2 days earlier. She knew that fear is a tool the enemy uses to attack us, and get us away from God's will, so she rebuked the fear. But now we know to let our feelings push us to pray for the subject of fear when it arises. Like judo, where you use the force of your enemy against him.

So I'm praying that our family will become closer, and stay close through the coming years. Having a yearly council is a good way to facilitate that. And having a sister that needs our help for the rest of her life is good as well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I'm getting married so I can have sex.

Ha ha haaaa! This has been a great day for me. I got another response on my blog that really cheered me up. Here is some of it and some responses…

Anonymous said:

"Ok, we all know that you’d say that "church" is the top best place to find a woman. Then we'd also all know that you're definitely hopelessly insane."

S/he was referring to this humor entry where Mr. Knowitall tells of the second and third best places for meeting women, but does not reveal the first. Let me clear one thing up. Mr. Knowitall is a good friend of mine, and I can tell you without hesitation that he would certainly NEVER recommend meeting girls in church! I let him use my blog for his advice column but I do not endorse or agree with his opinions. So please, never confuse his thoughts and opinions with mine! (I'm trying to get him to start his own website so he won't need to pollute my blog any more.)

And referencing some earlier entries about my impending marriage…

"Reality check…Didn’t you marry the first one too soon??? What makes you think that just because you haven’t kissed this one, that it will work out better? …

You’ve already admitted that you’re starved for affection. I think you may be looking for that “special someone” subconsciously for the wrong reasons. Are you too holy to be horny? No, (as a faithful guy, I know!) it’s against human nature. Maybe she IS “the one”… but HELLO…what’s the rush? Is it the sex? What else would it be? If you really love each other, and it isn’t about sex, then you can wait a few years to make sure it’s right. Right? RIGHT!?!?...

…If the answer is sex (I know you’ll say “no”, but who do you think you are fooling?), then forget it. Having sex once to satiate the urge is better than putting yourself and your family through another failed marriage…

…Oh, how I worry about your judgment…."

This made me happy because it confirmed something in my spirit. I'm a pretty open, soul-searching kind of guy. And when an accusation is leveled at me I take it to heart. I examine it. I tumble it around in my head for a while. And I usually find that it has a basis in reality. How many times have I said to myself after a sound criticism: "Gosh, I am too proud.", "Wow, that was thoughtless of me." or "I really didn't think that through as much as I should have." Why, if I had a nickel for every one of those moments of self deprecating realizations I'd have, like, almost a dollar! No, really, it's the way God made me. I'm introspective and not afraid to admit when I'm wrong.

So when I read a criticism like this I'm in familiar territory. I'm not instantly pushing back and dismissing, or returning fire. I know that others in my life have insinuated as much to me about this issue of my impending marriage, but never out and said it. But this… This is just a balls-to-the-wall, in-your-face, call-out. And I LIKE it! And what is most exiting to me about it is that the call-out hit my spirit and bounced off like a pebble off an aircraft carrier. Normally, when I'm confronted with something I don't want to admit, the call-out hits my spirit like a tank running over a frog. I'm crushed. I soak in it. I stew. I dwell. The accusation resonates because it's based on a truth. Sometimes more than others. But there is always a familiar feeling of accomplishment when I take the criticism, own it, and incorporate change in my life as a result.

So can I prove to anyone besides myself and God that I'm not making a decision about marriage based, in part, on lust? I don't think that would be possible. All I can say is that I did that 'getting married for sex' thing the first time I got around, so I know exactly what it feels like. And this is utterly different. I can also point to the fact that our 'no kissing' policy is as strong as ever. We aren’t being ascetics for the hell of it, or to prove anything. It is part of a larger thing happening in both our lives. I don't think it's wrong for people to kiss before they are married. But I see a tremendous gift that God gave me. He freed from the lust of my flesh. I am very familiar with my nature, and so I can easily recognize when I am protected from it. Here's an example from today... I walk into my office and Little-Miss-Takes-It-Too-Far is playing the "leaked" Paris Hilton sex video on her laptop. This is hard-core pornography, up-close and personal. This is exactly the sort of thing that used to send my mind into a frantic downward spiral into lust. And the lust would continually hound me until I did something about it. I think most men are this way. (I hope I'm not a freak!) But since last year, the spirit of lust has been –I can only assume- viciously beaten down by something every time it tries to attack me. I'm impervious. Certainly not because of anything I'm doing. I'm not maintaining any sort of magical enchantment or attaining some higher state of holiness. No, like all gifts from God, this one was given to me even though I don't deserve it. I can see that it is a part of a movement in my life that God is guiding me through. I can't see it clearly, but I can tell it's beautiful and I am SO thankful for it. The fact that I don't feel a need to kiss my girlfriend, and don't lust after her is weird. Very weird. And I wouldn't expect anyone to understand it unless they have been led by God to do a weird thing before. As I said, it's a PART of something bigger. It's not WHY I have been convinced that I should marry my sweetheart. But it is in concert with all the other reasons. And it allows me to know that I'm not doing this for the wrong reasons. I know that in this mode of lustlessness (I want that to be a word!) I could go for the rest of my life without sex and be just fine. Therefore I can rule that out as a potential wrong reason for marriage.

So what's the hurry? If it's not for sex, than why not wait a couple years? It would certainly be the common-sense thing to do. It would be a good, safe approach. It would ensure that we aren't jumping the gun. Any marriage councilor would recommend it.

Well, the fact is that I'm not in a hurry. I'd be lying if I said I'm not excited about it, or that I'm not happy it's happening sooner rather than later. But this is the essence of a spirit-driven life: when you are led to do a thing; do it. If I was being led to wait, I'd wait. If I was being led to scratch the whole thing altogether I would, without hesitation, do that. If I was being led to kill my neighbor, I'd do it. No wait! I would see that it contradicts scripture, and thus the 'leading' must have come from myself or Satan. (Hopefully not me. I don't have anything against my neighbor!)

So if I'm right that God is leading me to marry this girl, why would He do that so soon? Well, I can think of two reasons off the top of my head. And both of them have been without a mother for years. That doesn't mean it's THE reason. And I would never presume to know the mind of God or accurately decipher His plans. But I don't think He minds if we see some obvious benefits of following His ways. For all I know it could be because the world is going to end on October 2nd, and He wants me to have one night of wedded bliss before the end. That would be funny. Anyway, my point is that we could wait, but that's not what God has been telling us to do. I have already outlined how I believe He has been telling us to get married several times in blogs gone past.

But could I be wrong? Of course. Who couldn't be. Thank you for your concern about my judgment; it's touching, really. I would be concerned about it too if I didn't believe in a personal God who loves me and cares about every little detail of my life to the point that He actually directs me towards His perfect will which ultimately brings the best to everyone. If I'm wrong about this decision then I'm wrong about a great many things more. Because I'm more convinced about this decision than any other one I've ever made in my life. Only time will tell I suppose.

An open mind: Part 2

I always enjoy it when people comment on my writing, so I thought I'd answer some recent criticism of this entry, and keep going on this subject because I keep thinking about it.

One component of being open minded about a new idea is the ability to de-contextualize it from your own world, and try to re-contextualize it in that of the idea-holder. Let's use the idea of the Burka: that head to toe covering that so many places in the middle east have their women wear. As a modern American I sure don't identify with that idea. So to open my mind to it I have to do some imagination exercises. I have to think about what it is in the culture that shaped me, that makes me dislike the idea. Then I have to think about what it could be in their culture that makes it seem like a good idea. Finally, I have to evaluate those cultural influences and try to determine their intrinsic worth. That's where things get hairy of course, and I think that's one of the big reasons postmodernism arose. People are squeamish about judging other culture's ideas and it's much easier to just say, "To each their own." The problem with this approach means that you now have lost any power to oppose evil. Because if you can't say one belief is inferior to another, you can't say for instance, that Hitler's ideas were worse than your own. So when it comes to the topic at hand, I submit to you that the postmodern approach only superficially accomplishes true open-mindedness. In fact, it only dullens (not a word) the mind, as there is no need to concisely slice through anything difficult when you can just wave your hand and say "Whatever… everyone defines their own truth." But to actually discern good from bad, you have to be able to pull out some sort of mechanism for doing so. Ethics, morality, religion, common sense… different people call it different things, but it boils down to the same process. You accept or reject an idea based on what seems right to you or to an authority you believe.

So let's get back to opening my mind about Burkas. I will do my best to lay aside my values and preconceptions. (Although I admit that this is impossible for anyone to do completely, no matter how open minded they are.) Research is the best way to do this. But since I don't have time to research the history of the Burka, I will make some assumptions that I think are pretty safe based on the few things I do know. I know that it's worn to keep men from seeing the women a lusting after them. I think it's based on some scriptures from the Qur'an, but it may also be a cultural concept. So there are two areas where I can identify with the Burka. I agree that modesty is a good thing, and I also agree in respecting scriptures. I haven't lost my identity as a western Christian because of this exercise. I still diverge from the idea of the Burka because I think it goes too far in forcing modesty, and I believe that the Qur'an was not God-inspired. But the process of imagining where the idea comes from, and why it's important to people gives me a greater sense of understanding for their idea. This is a good thing. I think it is more honest than the form of open-mindedness that the Left is preaching.

Now I'll respond to some criticism of my last Open Mind entry…

Anonymous said:

"Believing that God knows all is NOT open minded. In fact, it closes your mind to the very fact that there may be good scientific resources that you can learn and grow from."

"Being open minded would be maintaining your spirituality and morals, but still leaving room for humans learning scientific information. (that’s why god gave us these big brains, right?)"

First of all, holding any particular belief about God can not intrinsically be open or closed minded. If I believed that there was no god, or that god was a cat, or that I was God, it would not make me more or less receptive to new information that could change my mind. That is a totally separate function of personality. Granted, you could have a belief that excludes other beliefs. But that is a matter of degrees in most cases. Because EVERY belief excludes it's opposite. If you believe that the earth is flat you cannot also believe that the earth is round. So in that sense -like I was trying to point out in the last entry- you have closed your mind to other contrary ideas. But I think how receptive you are to those contrary ideas is contingent on a couple of factors about your personality. First, how adventurous or gregarious are you? How creative? How secure in what you believe? All of these factor into your willingness to entertain new ideas. So no matter what you believe -even if you believe nothing really exists- that belief in and of itself does not effect how open minded you are. Receptivity to new ideas that can change your worldview are built into your personality, not your beliefs.

I mentioned in the last entry about how some people believe that religion and science are totally separate and can never mingle. This is based on the idea that science can only address matters with naturalistic explanations. That's a fine theory, but it is a philosophy with an alternative. People today seem to forget that. They have bought into the idea that everything in existence has a natural explanation that eventualy Science will discover. I would say that a more pure form of science would be an exploration of truth no matter where it leads you. Instead the scientific establishment has boxed itself in and drawn artificial lines regarding where they can explore and where they can't. So who has the closed mind here? Who has closed their mind to the laws of entropy? (Nature never builds itself up into higher and higher forms of complexity! It has always done the opposite.) Who has closed their mind to the irreducibly complex? (How did nature randomly create completely interdependent mechanisms that are useless except when working together?) Who has closed their mind to anything that they can't explain with diagrams and flowcharts? Those open minded humanistic scientists, that's who.

God gave us a tremendous gift when He created our minds and our thirst for knowledge and truth. Any Christian who is "against science" (As you seem to believe about me.) is not following in the foot steps of his Creator, and is probably insecure about his faith. But no more insecure or stubborn than an evolutionist is about considering a supernatural explanation for what they would like to believe has a natural one. Science, art, philosophy, etc. are all noble, great pursuits that can lead toward God. But they get derailed when they are made into a god themselves. And once they loose that life-line to the One who made them possible in the first place they become corrupted.

So is my mind closed to what science can teach us because I believe in God? Maybe we should poll the most famous scientists in history who provided the biggest leaps in scientific knowledge and see if their faith in God hampered them? Newton? Einstein? Galileo? None of them were naturalistic atheists, and they seemed to do just fine. Next time you assume a Christian is intrinsically close-minded to science just look in a science history book.

"Nothing against believing in god though… It's just that our human belief in a God, is just that...human. If we are intrinsically flawed in our thinking, then our understanding of the "truth in god" has to be flawed too."

I couldn't agree with you more. That's why I ended up where I did: we are hopelessly lost without Revelation. That is: God telling us what's up.

"You say that god is the way to find truth. But you also say that no human can fully find or understand truth. To ME (and many), god is understood to be a human creation, to fulfill our spiritual and moral needs."

That's a great theory. But I have some questions about it. Where did these people who made up God come from? Where did matter come from? What was here before the big bang? Why do we have spiritual needs? And yes, I've heard the one about morals being a residual effect of the evolutionary process and societal structuring. You can explain ethics away with that. But not spiritual needs. But that's all diluting my point… which is that it's awfully presumptuous to be a tiny speck in the universe, trapped in time and space, and declare that there is no God! How could you possibly know that? What caused you to close your mind to that idea?

"God? Where does that come in exactly? It just doesn't make logical sense. Not unless you've been diligently taught as a child to think that there is this entity hovering above us all waving his “magic wand” to make life, death, earthquakes and evolution happen. I know you're spiritual, but you aren't that silly. Tell me it isn’t so.

You seem so smart, but damn, DAMN, you're awfully brainwashed and closed minded in my opinion. "

I was indeed diligently taught as a child to think that there is a God. Though your caricature of Him is pretty laughable. It's interesting to me that people can think that a belief in an entity above and beyond humans is silly. Especially when they don't have a better alternative theory for the existence of everything. I understand that within the framework of naturalistic humanism there is no need to account for the existence of everything. But those within those confines should realize that they are putting their faith in a very new and unproven philosophy that simply ignores a great number of human issues. And if they don't step outside of them to examine the evidence that undermines their worldview they are being quite closed minded.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Friday, June 17, 2005

How to get a woman

Dear Mr. Knowitall,

I'm thinking of getting a woman. Do you have any advice?

Owning a woman is a lot like owning a snake. But getting them is half the fun.

Some men have found a lot of success with women simply by being themselves. This technique may work with a mature, down-to-earth woman; but who wants one of those?! Off to the bar! This is the second-best place to find a woman. It's just like in real estate and philosophy, there are only three things that are important: location, location, and… Crap. I forgot the third thing. Anyway, when it comes to finding everlasting love, there is no better place to find it than where shallow, desperate people drown their feelings of meaninglessness in alcohol. When selecting a woman, there are a few things you want to look for to make sure you are getting the highest-quality woman available.

  1. Look for bruises or dark marks. These could indicate damage during shipping.
  2. Don't forget to use your sense of smell. You can often weed out the bad ones by scent alone. Try walking by groups of them with your eyes closed to develop this skill.
  3. The 'tap test' is a handy way to ensure freshness. Rap lightly on them with your knuckles and listen for what kind of sound they make. If you hear a sloshing sound you know they have been out too long.

After you have sufficiently thinned the herd, you can focus your efforts on the select few left. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. High quality women only like what they can't have. This is true of clothes, cars, food, and even water. It's like they say: "The grass is always greener in Paradise City." So if you want a woman, you will have to not be available to her. Here are some ways to make her feel like she can never have you:

  1. Wear a wedding ring. This will give her the impression that you like gold. Which of course means that you have expensive taste.
  2. Wear handcuffs to give the impression that you are an escaped convict. Women love a man behind bars.
  3. Wear a priest's robes.
  4. Don't wear anything. This communicates a powerful message about something. I'm not sure what though.
  5. Hire a homeless guy to dress like your butler and follow you around. She might think you're Batman
  6. If a woman approaches you and tries to start a conversation, immediately put your hand in her face and say, "Talk to the palm, 'cause you ain't the bomb."
  7. If a woman offers you a drink or cigarette, slap it out of her hand and stomp away angrily.
  8. Offer to open the door for her, then slam it in her face and say, "See! You can NEVER HAVE ME!!!"
  9. Wear a patch over your eye. No woman thinks she's cool enough to hang with a pirate.
  10. Talk with a lisp. This will make her think you have a speech impediment.

Once you have established that you are too good for a woman, you have to let her know that if she tries hard enough, she still can never have you. So keep working on that list till you've accomplished at least half of it with one woman. This will make her crazy with desire for you. Then, when the moment is right…. Leave and never see her again.

I mentioned that bars are the second-best place to find girls. Now I'll tell you the third-best place: The Internet! The internet was invented by a lonely politician around time of the Great Depression. So it really is geared towards romance. Singles chat rooms are full of wonderful, beautiful, talented women. Some of them over the age of 18! Now when it comes to 'net'ting one of these hotties, you need a totally different strategy than in the bar scene. These women like to be worshiped. Some of the best forms of worship can be found in anthropology books. I have seen books like these before, so I'm a pretty good source of info on the topic. In ancient times people really knew how to appease their gods. Now a days, it's hard to find a good virgin sacrifice happening. But that will work to your advantage, because if you come out of nowhere with one of these, she is sure to be surprised. And as with every capture; surprise is half the battle! So buy her a plane ticket, and get ready for a weekend of romance! Here are some ideas about how to use old-fashioned worship rituals to woo you're website wonder once you see her in person. Woo-woo!

  1. Blood sacrifices appeal to a woman's sense of bloodiness. Generally, the larger the animal, the more impressed she will be when you slash its throat, spewing ichor over her.
  2. Fire is a universal symbol for burning. A woman's eyes will always light up if you show her your passion by lighting part of your body on fire. If you don't have experience with this, start with your hand. It's relatively easy to put out quickly. Once you have mastered that you will eventually be able to engulf your entire body in flames. One warning though: burning hair smells really bad, so try not to burn your hair or you're sure to dampen the mood.
  3. Show your faith in her by mutilating yourself and then asking her to heal you. Now, keep in mind there is a fine line here. If you go overboard with this one, you may appear psychotic. Remember, everything in moderation.

Now you may be saying to yourself: "Gee Mr. Knowitall, I've tried all your advice, but still I ain't got no woman! Maybe if you tell me the first-best place to meet one I'd be set." Well, if I told you that, I'd have competition. So forget about it SUCKER!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Therapeutic prayer

This is what I find myself doing, and I don't think it's good. I tend to analyze what is wrong, and speak a positive word against it. My prayer becomes a positive affirmation rather than a God-directed word. I don't know exactly how the human intellect and God's revelation mingle and complement each other in the act of prayer. But I find myself suspicious of a prayer that sounds like it could come out of secular therapist.

I'm in a class at my church where we are supposed to be learning to pray for healing and such the way Jesus did. After all, He did say that we would do even greater things than He did. But I sure haven't seen that happening. And that's what this class is all about. Why is the church not seeing these things? (Well, in the northern hemisphere anyway.) There is the crowd that claims that it's because we don't have enough faith. That if we just believed enough every single person who needed healing would be healed. My question for them is this: Does that mean God intends for us to never die? Because if He always wanted everyone to be healed, there would be no excuse for not raising every Christian from the dead every time they died. Clearly, God does not want us to live forever on this earth. He's making a new one for a reason.

The basic answer that the class and book we are reading points to is this: Jesus did what He did because He only did what the Father told Him to. In other word; Revelation. We Charismatics believe this means the Holy Spirit revealing God's will to us is the key to the miraculous. As long as we are acting by revelation, the healing will absolutely happen. So then the obvious trick is to learn to recognize and differentiate His voice from yours. I've talked about that already here.

Part of the class is hand's on training, where we practice hearing (or seeing) what God wants done. A couple weeks ago we prayed for a woman who had a lot of pain and it went away and she was able to move in ways she hadn't been able to in years. I've heard that one of the reasons so many miracles are taking place in less developed countries is because they are more open to the supernatural. I'm open on a theoretical level, but skeptical about all the miracles I've seen. In this case, I didn't know anything about her condition beforehand, and don't know how she's doing now. I'm sure she's not lying, but I do know that the power of suggestion -especially in a group setting- can be very powerful. I'm not saying that is what happened. I'm just saying I haven't seen any evidence that shows otherwise. Something like before-and-after x-rays, visible marks that disappear, limbs growing back, etc. Like in all the stories I've heard from various 3rd world countries. Last night we prayed for a woman with aching teeth and one with pain in her feet. They said the pain went away. Sorry if I'm under-whelmed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not being snide or disrespectful. I know that God can heal. I've heard stories from people I don't doubt at all. (Like my parents) But even without the stories, I know God can do it because I believe His word. But what is happening in this class does not feel like progress to me. Although, as a fallible human stuck in time, I'm very aware of how limited my perception of progress can be. And I know this is a class where we are all learning a new thing, so like any class of beginners, there shouldn't be super high expectations. But the things I've heard described as evidence just isn't evidence to me. We were all in prayer for this woman's feet, and were asked to say anything we felt like God was leading us to say regarding a healing. We were practicing the receiving of revelation, with the assumption that as beginners we won't necessarily nail it right away. Several people said they visualized a variety of paths, there were trap metaphors and such. The idea of a stepping stone path led to the idea that she was on a journey by herself, as she was going to soon be entering the empty nest time of her life. Then most of the words were about her mothering, how she had done a good job, etc. My pastor let me know he was going to ask me to say something soon, so I doubled my efforts to hear something, anything, that could be from the Lord. But I was preparing to say that I just didn't have anything. If I'm going to pursue this, I want to do it honestly. But when I was asked, I ended up saying something else. Since I tend to think visually, I thought, maybe, but probably not, I maybe, might have seen a heart. Thinking of how this related to foot pain caused me to visualize the arteries going from the heart to the feet. I figured, (or was guided) to the idea that the goodness God had put in her heart must extend to her feet as well. I said as much and was done. I didn't feel like I had learned anything.

One of the key components to this process is supposed to be asking for confirmation from the person you are praying for that what you said makes sense and applies to them. The problem was that nothing anyone said could possibly have not applied to her. No one said something like, "You cheated on your taxes in 1997 and that is the cause of your pain." (Not that I think she would ever do that!) Now THAT would have shown something deeper at work than feel-good positive affirmations.

This entry is kind of making me sound like a skeptical, cold hearted bastard, I know. But I want to just be honest about my search for everything God has for me. I am very confidant that He will reward that search with answers. I have total faith in that. I also believe that what we are doing in this class is right and good. Just because it's not jumping up to my expectations does not mean it's wrong. I believe this process works. It is very scriptural and balanced. But the process of learning to hear from God is a long one. It takes years of studying His word and meditation and prayer. Also practice. But the practice without the prerequisite maturity and closeness with God is frustrating. But it is also inspiring me to attain that maturity. I want to be at a point where I am tuned into the Spirit to the point where I will hear and see things that ONLY He could give me. I want to know that He is using me to minister to others, not that I'm using my own reasoning to make someone feel good. I see that I am called to it, and I will obey.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

An open mind

Here is the question, or rather, two questions about an 'open mind'. First: is it possible? And second: if it is possible, is it useful or desirable? These questions are almost anathema in today's postmodern world. But I think that is because the term 'open mind', like so many others, has been loaded with presuppositions to the point that it has become useless. Like the word 'progressive'. Progressive now means political, philosophical, and religious left, or liberal thought. A formerly neutral, straight-forward word is now politically loaded and ready for combat. Of course this wouldn't work with a word like Neanderthal or Kettle. Neither of those are seen as intrinsically good in the way that Progress is good. People want progress, so attaching your ideas and beliefs to a word like that is very advantageous to the proliferation of them. Also important is the implicit antithesis of the word. What's the opposite of progress? Regression, stasis, retardation, stuck, old, etc. By couching your view in a word that opposes so many negative ideas you automatically cast your opponent in the worst light possible.

The same thing applies to the term 'open mind'. Let's consider the opposite to having an open mind… Well, obviously you would be close-minded. You're not open to new ideas. Unmoving, unable to adapt to change. Stubborn, old-fashioned, and not-too-bright. These aren't typically good attributes to have. Or ARE they? I submit that the answer, as usual, is "Sometimes". Certainly in the business world, the inability to adapt to an ever changing market and customer demand is a bad thing. It would also be bad for a military strategist to be unable to change their plan based on new information. When it comes to personal relationships, you never want to be stagnate, or rely on formulas and what-worked-before. If you are involved in politics, it behooves you to be open to new information that can inform your decisions. Being open minded in all of these spheres of life is undeniably important and good. But does it naturally follow that you should apply that same thinking to the spiritual, moral, and philosophical? Here is where I diverge from my liberal brethren and say No. To an extent.

The reason is that a person's philosophy is the bedrock of their thinking. Everyone has a philosophy weather they know it or not, and it powerfully influences what kind of decisions they make in business, politics, and relationships. Religion too; but since philosophy and religion are so interconnected I'll leave that out of the equation for now. Being a bedrock for your decision making, means that the more stable your philosophy is, the more stable your decisions will be. If you are constantly revising what you fundamentally believe, you will have a cascading effect throughout the rest of your life, as you re-analyze your decisions and decision making process. Like the Bible says, "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." And here, I've discovered, is where the term loses it's teeth. Because the fact is: most proponents of open-mindedness don't really do this. They aren't always shifting their core beliefs. That's just not a reasonable way to live your life. What they really mean is that those who disagree with them should be open to changing over to what they believe. Or that they are willing to change their mind about superficial things, giving them an illusion of open-mindedness. They will change whether they vote for a particular Democrat or a Republican, whether they think it's OK to spank children, whether they should be aggressive in perusing their career. Because it's possible to swing either way with these kinds of opinions without reevaluating your basic philosophical outlook. But that's not the kind of change in heart that liberals are after when they ask a conservative to be "open-minded" about gay marriage. (Gay is another intrinsically positive word, stolen and loaded with artificial meaning.) However, as a proponent of the idea that there is objective truth, I have to believe that someone who has a false philosophy should be able to open their mind to the truth. Which of course requires an open mind in the most obvious definition of the term. But I'll get back to this.

First, let me state that I don't believe anyone has ever discovered THE complete and perfect philosophical outlook on life. No human is capable of discerning the WHOLE TRUTH as it truly is. Only a god could have that kind of view of reality. So when I refer to false philosophy and true philosophy, realize that I am meaning further-from-the-truth and closer-to-the-truth. Most people's philosophical opinions are full of contradictions and half-baked ideas. This is because it takes a lot of time, research, wisdom -and I would suggest revelation- to construct a really solid, unified theory about the big questions. I know I certainly don't have the time and energy to pursue such an endeavor.

So how do we cobble our philosophies together? Simple. We choose authorities. We decide that someone, or some institution has figured out X, and that it seems to make sense to us, so we accept their authority on the subject and integrate their opinion into our belief system. Everyone does this. Ask yourself this: what is your opinion about evolution? How about UFOs? Mormonism? Answers could range from, "I don't know enough about it to make a decision." To "I think it's all a load of crap." To "I have fully studied the subject and know enough about it to agree or disagree." Now ask yourself where you data comes from. Let's pick one, for simplicity's sake. Evolution. You are probably not an expert in the field. You could be well read, and if you were, you would know that there is a huge range of opinion among the experts in this field. You have scientists who have studied this theory all their lives and staunchly support the idea that humans evolved in a totally random accident of coincidence and chance. Then you have equally credentialed scientists who look at the same data and say there is no way this could have happened without some kind of guiding force. You also have scientists who say that it's all bunk because it doesn't agree with their interpretation of the Bible.

Now who are you going to believe? You will choose an authority. Choose a side. Based on what? Your core philosophy. You will give more credence to the arguments of those with whom you agree philosophically. Do you believe in personal a god? You'll lean towards the Intelligent Design scientists. Do you believe there is no god, or that if there is, he is not active in the world of humans? Then you will probably favor the Darwinist evolutionists. Do you believe that science and religion are totally separate and often contradictory? You'll tend to agree with the Darwinists.

So are we then destined to continually instantiate our preconceived notions by bolstering them with our chosen authorities? I think for most people the answer is Yes. It's human nature. It's darn hard to reorient all your thinking based on new data. And with the proliferation of technology and information it's easier than ever to find some expert who agrees with what you already think. This is why information debates have become pretty pointless lately. People throw statistics back and forth all day. They can research and quote experts to back up their claims, and the other guy can do the same. You can follow the arc of this type of debate and it leads to a battle over the credentials of the sources. Which will just lead to more debate over the validity of certain credentials. It's ridiculous and futile. We are said to be living in an information age, where information is the new commodity. But it seems to me like we just have so much conflicting information, that it all proves to be fools gold. (Although the mere fact that data conflicts does not mean there is not true data and false data, it just isn't useful a debate tool anymore.)

But then, all of man's wisdom is bound by moth and rust. Which leads me to my next point. If we are supposed to have an open mind to different points of view, but can always be skeptical about those views based on the validity of their authority, where then can we find truth? How? Well, human wisdom attempts to answer this conundrum with a philosophy called postmodernism. It simply says that there IS no transcendent truth. Everyone makes their own. There are all sorts of practical problems with this philosophy, and no one actually fully embraces it. But God's answer is the same as it always has been: Revelation. The only way to access real truth is to have it revealed to you by a power beyond you. While having an open mind is based on an admirable desire to humbly seek truth, once that truth is found you need to wrap your mind around it.

But that being said, there are many people who have wrapped their mind around false philosophies. How do I know I'm not one of them? What right do I have to say I've closed my mind on this idea, but you need to open your mind to accept what I've found? Quite simply, I don't. No person does. That is why we are completely dependant on God for wisdom. Ours sucks.

Of course I'm at a supreme disadvantage in this argument since I have never radically changed my beliefs. I have tweaked, grown, and stretched them, but never taken on a completely different outlook on life. I'm still on the same trajectory I started out on: Generation X, protestant, conservative, white, male, American in the 21st century. So this means one of two things. Either I am extremely blessed to be given parents who raised me with proper beliefs and a philosophy already pointing towards the truth, or I am just close-minded and don't want to change. I could be filtering my information and choosing my authorities based on my personal opinions that are a result of how, when, and where I was raised. Like I stated above, I think the vast majority of people do this, so I don't feel bad if that's the case. But what I don't want to do is tell others that they need to have an open mind about my beliefs if I don't have a truly open mind about theirs. That seems arrogant and hypocritical.

Unless I'm right, and they are wrong. But as I said, I don't think a human mind can truly know that. I'm thinking that just as the complexity of biology leads to the natural conclusion that there is a God, so too the complexity of thought and ideas leads to that same conclusion. No one can possibly know enough about everything to be able to state with 100% certainty that they have found The Answers to everything. Again: only a god could claim that. Being in the class of Non-God, you and I can only understand what we are given the ability to understand. With the reasoning that I have been given, I have read about all sorts of other religions and philosophies and found that they either do not line up with reality, or are utterly useless. (Like Solipsism and Postmodernism.) Although I'm wary of taking a utilitarian approach to truth-seeking, as truth should be the ultimate goal, not a means to an end. But there again, is my underlying philosophy directing my thought patterns.

I'm having trouble coming to a conclusion about this topic. Perhaps that is the way it should be. But let me try to sum things up… Most people who claim to be open-minded really aren’t. (Try convincing an open-minded Pro-Choice advocate that a fetus is a human if you don't believe me.) Most people sift the data they consume through a filter that only lets in the data that already backs up their beliefs. They do this by rejecting authorities who present contrary data, and accepting those who present agreeable data. Because of this state that people are in, only divine revelation can truly change a person's heart and basic beliefs towards the truth.

So while it takes some humility to be open minded, I think it takes even more to realize that you just can't know truth on your own. You NEED a God to mercifully show you truth. Then, when you have been given that truth, close your mind on it and don't let go.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

My re-marriage conclusion

So here I am, trying as hard as I can to give my passion up to Jesus. I'm almost certain He's going to give it back to me. To give to her. But in the mean time, we are both praying and looking for signs. I've already gone over all the things we are seeing that seem to indicate that we should be together. The only thing that is still causing me trouble is my insistence that I take Jesus at His word when He says marrying another woman would be adultery. I've been grappling with this for so long I'm almost tired of it. But not quite yet. I've heard the rebuttals to this, using vaguely hermeneutic language
about how these sayings are meant to protect the disadvantaged party in marriage. Which in those days was always the woman. So the wording was put this way so that men couldn't follow wrote laws, get rid of their wives, and move on without realizing they were defying God. Following the spirit of this message makes sense. Jesus was usually pointing past the law, to the intent behind it. People got stuck on the specifics, and built their spiritual principles on those words, rather than the Heart of God that inspired them. And I could say that I am doing just that when I worry about these specific words
that Jesus said. BUT, and it's a big but; these are Jesus' specific words, not some construct of legalism. I really, really don't want to get to heaven, and have Him say, "So... I noticed you did the exact opposite of what I said in the Bible." Sure, I could point to all the other apparently blessed second marriages I see around me. But that is not my heart. I don't want to follow the status quo. I don't want to completely rely on experiential data to inform my life decisions. But I see so much evidence in that realm, (experiential) supporting that this marriage to this woman is the right thing to do. Yet I know all those homosexual apologists in the church see the same thing. And they do their hermeneutic gymnastics to re-interpret sodomy to mean temple prostitution, and go on their merry way. I don't want to be that way. I want to give the scripture the weight
that it deserves, only counting the experiential when it aligns with the Word of truth.
I'm in a strange place where I really, truly believe that marrying this woman is the right thing to do, and everything is pointing to that… but there are these verses. Because I do believe I'm in His will, I assume that the right revelation will come to me concerning this. But I don't know how that will work. On the other hand, I know that my heart is desperately wicked, so it's quite possible that I am just fooling myself into seeing signs that just aren't there. I've taken all the precautions I know to make sure that's not the case, (like staying in council with elders, staying physically chaste, gauging my
kids growth towards her) but I'm only human and could have overlooked something.

That being said, I don't think doing nothing is helping anyone. So I'm reading these verses carefully and thoughtfully. One trend I see in most of Jesus' words are that they are corrections. He never made new laws for us to follow. He summed up all the laws by telling us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to love God with all we have. The legalistic leaders said an eye for an eye. Jesus said turn the other cheek. That is God's nature that we should mimic. The law said you can't do anything on the Sabbath. Jesus said we should help others even if it breaks that law. That is God's nature and we should strive for that. The Pharisees said, and showed by example, that the law said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Jesus said to love your enemy. That is God's nature and we should emulate Him. The law said not to kill. Jesus said God wants us to not only restrain our bodies from murder, but also our hearts. Then when it comes to divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1 said if you found your wife displeasing you could give her a certificate of divorce and that was that. Jesus said that God didn't like it when that happens. He allowed it because of the hardness of their hearts. Now Jesus is telling us what God wants regarding marriage. He says God really doesn’t like divorce. God knows the pain it causes. He knows the societal ramifications. But it's interesting to me that Jesus did leave the exception of infidelity on the wife's part. That would seem to be a nod to the Deuteronomy verse about a woman becoming 'unpleasing'. Clearly, God recognizes that the marriage covenant can be broken. As Paul says in 1st Corinthians 7:

15But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

My ex left me years ago, really. I can't know with certainty that she is an unbeliever. But I can say with a clean conscience that she does not show any fruit that comes with belief. And the folks Paul was writing to would be in a similar situation. You can really only judge a persons actions and attitudes. And by those standards it is obvious that she does not believe.

Jesus said don't divorce, God hates it. But sometimes it's necessary. Paul points out that God wants us to live in peace with one another. If you're unequally yoked, and one is pulling the other direction there can not be peace. My ex was pulling the other direction for a couple of years, and I kept going, causing considerable strife.

My biggest sticking point was the idea of the covenant. How serious it is to God. The materials I read in the Bill Gothard stuff really emphasized how you CAN NEVER break a covenant. It's not like a contract, or regular agreement. But then Jesus says Himself that adultery does break the covenant. While I don't know for certain that my ex committed the specific act of adultery, I can recognize the same spirit. And I can agree with Paul that it is better to let the spouse leave if they want to.

So that's it then. I'm pretty comfortable declaring myself unbound from my marriage covenant now. I feel like I'm free from this debate that has been going on in my head for the last two years. I will still remain open to other insights of course. But right now my spirit feels at peace. I recognize that it could be my 'desperately wicked' heart deceiving me, but God will show that to me if that's the case because I am earnestly seeking Him.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Give it up

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Most playgrounds suck

Here is an idea that's been sitting on the backburner for a couple of years. And it will probably stay there. I hope someone reads it and develops it and makes a billion dollars with it. I just have too many of these ideas to pursue…

Large Scale Play Equipment Concept

By Josh Foreman

Critique of current playground paradigm~

Playgrounds are without a doubt a fantastic concept. Condensing a variety of play options into a limited area serves many purposes that are immediately obvious. Social interaction, easy observation, and safety are the main benefits. My problem is not with the concept, but the execution.

The proliferation of homogonous playground equipment is easily assessed by a quick perusal of your local parks and playgrounds. I contend that there are numerous deficiencies in the current stock of design elements that are utilized today. And that these deficiencies can contribute to a less than optimal play experience. Beyond serving as a mere distraction for children, playgrounds have the potential to teach a multitude of skills, and build psychological pathways. ->Insert supporting quotes from child development expert or two assuming they exist.<-

The current play areas are not designed with certain key play-elements and mechanics in mind. The equipment choices made will inevitably shape the psychology of the future, as they encourage some play patterns while discouraging others. One need only to look to nature to find many elements that are missing from the current stock of designs. Think about what activities and play-patterns children engaged in before the advent of the modern playground. Climbing is certainly at the top of the list. And today’s playgrounds provide plenty of that, but only on a superficial level. The strictly regimented and evenly spaced apparatuses that are provided today are no substitute for trees, boulders, rock walls, etc, that the children of yesteryear used. With a lack of abstraction and unknown modifiers, the sterility and predictability of the current structures retard growth in several areas of child development. For instance, the development of a spontaneous reassessment of one’s situation comes with unexplored, unexpected, uneven terrain. Features that are severely lacking in today's equipment. Children today must bring their adventures to the equipment; imbuing it with properties its physicality does not support. While this does promote a healthy imagination, nothing would be lost if the hardware were more receptive to the child’s representation of an engaging play space. I submit that facilitating the imagination only leads to greater imaginary scenarios. -> This is where my intuitive knowledge of what is fun becomes hard to quantify. <-

Another element currently lacking is that of exploration. A quick glance at a playground is all the survey a child needs to know exactly what is in store. No mystery, no exploration, no chance for a decent game of hide and seek!

Wasted space is another problem with the current conception of the playground. Consider the insular nature of the traditional pieces; the swing-set, see-saw, and merry-go-round. In the last 20 years we have seen an increasing tendency to incorporate multiple set pieces into one large structure that includes monkey bars, slides, bridges, and steps. This is a positive trend, but could be carried much further.

And let us not forget who we are creating these areas for. Where are the flights of fancy, the bizarre, the intrigue, and many other attributes of childhood? The lack of aesthetic concern in modern play equipment is abhorrent. There is no direction, theme, or style. Only utility. I will admit, there is the occasional flair; a crenellated roof, a spiral ladder that resembles a snail, a rocket tip, or some other hodge-podge of conflicting elements. The aesthetic dimension of playgrounds is almost completely ignored. A generic setting would seem to be conducive to a broader set of imaginary scenarios. i.e. “Pretend we are on a boat.”, “Pretend we are in a castle.”, etc. But the same can be said of rocks and trees. And while the generic template may be large, it is unconvincing. A more directed design could facilitate deeper game-play scenarios for those who are attracted to the theme. Children less drawn to the theme can still exercise the same amount of creative effort that they would to project their fantasies onto a generic playground.

Proposal~

The current playground paradigm is propagated for several reasons. Those are budget, modularity, known and simple installation procedure, wear and weather endurance, safety, and tradition. I believe that I can design a new kind of play area that can address most of these issues, while retaining expanded and superior play-pattern facilitation.

Concept~

I will look towards two references from which to pull aesthetic inspiration. The first is the natural world, which was the original playground. (Mainly rocks and trees.) The second is the archetypal themes of childhood play. (The book, Peter Pan, provides a fairly comprehensive list.)

The first unique element of this design will be its non-uniform dimensions and surfaces. While a grid based interior structure will ensure modularity, the outer surfaces will resemble rocks and trees. Not a literal interpretation, but an accommodating, play-centric abstraction. The natural theme will extend to every level of the design, bringing a more coherent, and natural look.

The second feature will be the surface properties of the equipment. A steel interior will be coated with a rigid cover that defines the gross shape. Then, a thin coat of -> Need to research soft, durable materials<- is applied and painted using fast, but effective surfacing techniques. Several of these techniques can be seen on modern action figures, indicating that they can be mass produced efficiently. Convincing stone, wood, and many other surfaces can be achieved, bringing a beauty and subtlety not seen in current play equipment.

The third distinctive element will be a concept found in video games known as level flow. Working in virtual space with limited resources gave birth to this concept. It involves maximizing play features by utilizing the reuse of negative and positive space. A simple example of this is the bridge/tunnel. One piece of geometry provides two play experiences. One travels above the ground going over the bridge, and under the ground as they go under the tunnel. This concept can be taken much further than it is seen currently in playgrounds. I believe I can produce 3 to 10 times the amount of play space than is available in the standard playground setup.

And finally, this system will incorporate and facilitate many styles of play that are discouraged, or not supported well enough by current playgrounds. Some of these are climbing abstract surfaces, jumping from island to island, crawling, hiding, balancing, and swinging on ropes.

->Put concept art here.<-