Friday, May 31, 2019

What Do YOU See?

From my window, I see my personal Garden of Eden. Rhododendron bloom. A blue jay perches on a railing. A woodpecker attacks suet. Squirrels nibble scattered seeds. Dew sparkles the lawn.

Geraniums, begonias, petunias and other varieties I can’t name spill from containers. A blue sky offers a backdrop to the forest, where trees recently turned green after the stark silhouettes of winter.

This is my happy place. Each morning I come here to talk with God, to read my Bible and pray, to praise God for Who He is and thank Him for His grace.

But my Garden of Eden is not a perfect place. This year the rhododendron sports only a dozen blooms, while other years blossoms covered the stalk. Birdhouses nailed to the side of a shed stand empty. Blackbirds crowd songbirds from feeders. Blue jays—selfish, bossy creatures—chase smaller birds away.

This year my husband applied what he thought was fertilizer as he planted our flowerbed. But when marigolds and petunias turned brown, he realized he had once added weed killer to that fertilizer to spread on the lawn. The bed had to be replanted. No hummingbirds have come by for a few days now. I need to refresh their feeders before they turn moldy.

Isn’t this how it is with life? There are the bright spots—the good health, the smooth relationships, the rewarding job. But then there are the niggling details that spoil perfection—the cancer, the argument, the annoying coworker.

The challenge is to focus on the good rather than the imperfect. The challenge is to see the good in others rather than their faults, the gorgeous blooms rather than the wilting plants.

Were I to focus on the imperfections of my Garden of Eden, I would see a deck that needs painting. Much to my husband’s dismay, squirrels sometimes take over the bird feeder. A rabbit dug a hole for a nest smackdab in the middle of our yard. I could get in a snit about all that and fail to enjoy the beauty.

But focusing on the negative is like focusing on the floater in my vision that recently annoyed me. Leftover from laser surgery to clear scar tissue, the floater was quite prominent when I looked at a plain wall. But in the busyness of the day, I forgot about it since 99.9 percent of my vision was clear.

I need to look at life like I look at my vision and my backyard Eden. Forget the imperfections and enjoy the grace of God. We all have much to be thankful for if we focus on the good and count our blessings. Here we go: 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . .

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Rook Review: The Case for Miracles

The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural

Written by a journalist who is an atheist turned Christian, this is a thoughtful read. In defining miracles, author Lee Strobel suggests Professor Richard L. Purtell’s definition that defines a miracle as an event created by God’s power that is an exception to the ordinary course of events.

Strobel presents his case for miracles by interviewing “experts” on the subject. His introduction presents examples of present day miracles, but he then offers the case against miracles through an interview with Dr. Michael Shermer, once a committed Christian who might now be called an apologist for disbelief. He believes miraculous occurrences have rational explanations.

But Professor Candy Gunther Brown begs to differ. She too has examined miracles and refutes claims such as those made by Shermer. She says his studies fail to consider that miracles seem to be clustered in certain world areas, fail to recognize some people are “anointed” with healing power and fail to recognize the role of faith in the giver and receiver.

Strobel devotes a chapter to the miracle of dreams and visions that continue to bring people, especially Muslims, to Christ. Strobel himself was strongly influenced by a dream.

The resurrection of Christ is examined through Strobel’s own critical lens: A miracle needs to be supported by solid facts and evidence that is corroborated by others. Strobel also considers that we might hear more of miracles if Christians were not embarrassed to reveal how God has demonstrated his power in their lives.

The book closes with a look at miracles that don’t happen through an interview with Dr. Douglas R. Groothuis, whose wife Becky, once a prolific Christian writer, has descended into dementia. Strobel quotes Tricia Lott Williford, whose husband died unexpectedly leaving her with two small children: “The truth is, there’s no formula we can count on for when Jesus says yes and when he says no. That’s the catch with sovereignty: He gets to decide yes, no, if, when, and how . . . . We can, however, base our confidence on his faithfulness.”

Since the book contains a “Guide for Group Discussion,” it would make an excellent small group study. Back matter also includes “recommended resources,” extensive notes and in index.

This book offers a thorough presentation of the state of miracles in our world today. You will come away appreciating Strobel’s thorough research.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Book Review: Dark Agenda

Have you ever wondered how our nation got to be so polarized? In this book David Horowitz, a Jew, traces the origins of what has become a campaign to silence the voices of faith that in centuries past shaped America.

Author Horowitz describes himself as agnostic, one who doesn’t know whether there is a God or not. So you know he’s not promoting a religious agenda. He’s simply noting what he observes. He compares the drift of our society away from free will for the individual toward totalitarian control by the government to the teachings of Communism, Marxism and socialism.

The book opens with a look at the New Atheists, those who condemned jihadists as religious fanatics but then lumped all people of faith together saying belief in God is irrational and unnecessary. He offers examples such as the 1997 Amnesty Lecture at Harvard where Nicolas Humphrey argued in favor of censorship so that children are not exposed to religion.

I was unaware of many of the examples Horowitz gave of anti-religious forces at work. For instance, in 2008 a U. S. Capitol Visitor Center opened, purporting to represent the history of our country. One panel gave the national motto of the U. S. as E Pluribus Unum, “Out of Many, One.” But our national motto established by Congress in 1956 is “In God We Trust.” References to God were stripped from the center. Even an image of the Constitution was photoshopped to remove “in the Year of our Lord” above signatures.

I was also unaware that in 2013 the Pentagon decreed that soldiers could be court martialed if they talked openly about their faith.

Horowitz describes the intent behind the development of such terms as “people of color,” a description developed to promote the idea that people of color (all nonwhites) are oppressed by the only people not of color, whites.

Those who wish to change society have turned the wall of separation of church and state, which was created to keep the state from interfering with religious expression, into a wall that suppresses religious expression.

Horowitz traces the current movement back to origins and lists people and court cases to show how Supreme Court justices have loosely interpreted the constitution to impose an anti-Christian agenda.

The book includes extensive end notes and an index. It also includes an “About the Author” page, which explains Horowitz grew up in a Communist household and was one of the founders of the new Left before he was transformed into one of the nation’s most important conservative intellectuals.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Five Ways to be a Game-Changing Momma (or Poppa)!

Dear Friends,

Have you noticed? Actions have consequences. I learned that growing up on a farm. If you don’t pull weeds, they choke vegetables. If you don’t water the garden, plants die. If you don’t feed the animals, you hear wailing from the barn. Actually, I don’t think that EVER happened because farmers know: Actions. Have. Consequences. And failing to act when you should, also carries consequences.

Society seems to have forgotten that lesson. We’ve fed a generation on violence through video games, movies and television shows. Is it really surprising some turn to violence to solve problems? In a society raised on violence, some become violent and the rest live in fear of violence. Actions have consequences.

I read of parents who are raising their children free from religious constraints. They expect the children to make their own choices when they are adults. But will children have any interest in spirituality if they’ve never been exposed to spiritual matters? Just asking.

So what positive actions can we take to offset the world’s negative messages? We can take seriously Romans 12:1:2: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Here are some “Be’s” to consider:

Be sure to get into God’s Word daily and respect it as an authority so that you know how God feels about current issues and events. That will transform the way you think. Don’t settle for the interpretation of a verse pulled out of context. Read whole passages, whole books. Discern the principles behind the passages.

Be sure your children and grandchildren know right from wrong, naughty from nice. Share your values. Be honest at the checkout counter and on tax returns. Talk about sexual purity, the sanctity of marriage and the importance of commitment. Demonstrate loyalty in friendship and family. Be generous.

Be sure to be a public witness for God and His principles. Offer your take on controversial subjects around the water cooler and among friends and extended family. Let others know you stand for God, life and morality. You may not win a popularity contest, but when the going gets rough, you’re the one they’ll turn to for advice and prayer.

Be sure to pray. Pray with those having problems and pray for those who may not feel connected with God. Invite them to church or a small group fellowship. Help them to find the connection they may not realize they’re missing.

Be sure to be gracious to others no matter their race, creed or lifestyle. After all, they are made in the image of God. And God is gracious to us, far more gracious than we deserve.

We can be game-changing mommas (and poppas) if we draw closer to God and take seriously the roles God assigned to us. Never forget: Actions have consequences. And failing to act when we should also carries consequences.

May you be like the Proverbs 31 gal, whose children rise up and call her blessed.

Happy Mother’s Day

Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Book Review: Opening Up: The Healing Power of Confiding in Others

According to author James W. Pennebaker, holding back our thoughts and feelings can make us sick. When people speak or even write about traumas, healing begins.

A college professor, Pennebaker has conducted experiments with students and others that illustrate his points. Surprisingly to him, most people have experiences in their past that they’ve buried in their minds. Yet even childhood traumas can seriously affect the health of adults.

A study he conducted on the deaths of spouses, either by accident or suicide, indicated that the more people talked to others about the death, the fewer health problems they experienced. Thus, grief recovery programs can be extremely helpful as people learn from each other that the emotions they feel are real and normal and that it’s all right to feel such pain.

Any expression of inner turmoil is helpful to our health. Pennebaker found that people who confided through prayer following the loss of a loved one experienced better health. The less people confided in one way or another, the more health problems they experienced.

If you don’t want to confide in a person, Pennebaker suggests writing about any issues you are experiencing, anything you don’t want to tell others. But don’t just write facts; write about why you feel like you do. Pennebaker encourages continuous writing for at least 15 minutes a day for several days. If you don’t like to write, talk into a tape recorder. And if you don’t want your writing to be read, destroy it.

By writing about events, we better understand them. And participants in his studies found that after writing about something that had been occupying their minds, their minds seemed free to think of other things.

According to Pennebaker “ . . . translating our thoughts into language is psychologically and physically beneficial.” And he goes on to suggest we apply the same practice to education. If we want to remember what we’re taught in a lecture, write about it. He encourages teachers to use essay questions on tests.

Published in 1990, the book includes 26 pages of notes and an index. Although written by a college professor, I liked the readability of the book and the way Pennebaker backed his premises with interesting studies he personally conducted.

So if there’s something in your past that you’ve never talked about but still think about, consider discussing it with a trusted friend or counselor or sit down and write about it. You’ll be healthier for it.