Sunday, December 9, 2018

Chatter #220 Comfort and Joy

Oh tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
Oh tidings of comfort and joy.”

Christ is the ultimate source of comfort and joy. However, Christian comfort and joy come wearing a disguise called life. Like most intangible blessings, comfort and joy are not found by searching for them. They come by seeking first and foremost for the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

No man comforted and happy as in his current state comes to Christ. Christianity has nothing to offer the man convinced of his own righteousness. Christianity begins with a personal conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit that breaks a man's rebellion and drives him to surrender himself to Christ. This indispensable experience is, at the outset, neither comforting nor joyous.

The path of Christian discipleship from that point onward is a repeated push out of one's comfort zone into a deeper relationship with Christ. Not everyone is ready for this turn of events. Many come to Christ seeking deliverance from a problem or a habit that drags them down. Once delivered, they are content. Christ is not. He has received us that He might make us holy as He is holy and He will not stop short of the goal.

I somewhat understand pampered American society's obsession with comfort. There are many in our society who are driven to shield themselves from words and actions that offend and trigger feelings of discomfort. The truth is too hard to bear, so they construct new inoffensive truths and expressions to escape.

I have never understood the Church feeling the need to accommodate this mentality or those that espouse it. When I became a Christian, it was expected that I assimilate into the life of the church. The church expected it because they were living the Christ life as best they understood it from years of study and real world experience. I expected it for myself because I was dissatisfied with the godless experience of “regular” society. I wanted what they had.

The modern church has abandoned a unique interpretation in favor of becoming “seeker friendly.” Churches do a disservice to those seeking Christ when they place comfort above conversion and accommodation above assimilation. When that happens, we close the door to the fullness of joy available in Christ's presence.

We have before us the example of parents who are too frightened by rejection to discipline their children. Observation of the resultant offspring has brought renewed life the scripture, “I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

How is it that the Church believes it will succeed with this failed model of child rearing and escape a similar result? Comfort and joy do not just happen, they are gifts from God that spring from a forthright revelation of Christ and an honest exhortation of His principles by the Church. During this season give the gift of Christ and so share tidings of comfort and joy.      

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Chatter #219

     There are no straight lines in nature. This is a characteristic shared by all that exists and therefore, makes it a certainty that at, at least one point, every line crosses every other line. Some junctions are common, the lines following one another over great distances. Other junctions are extremely rare, perhaps only touching at a single point. In climatology, these points are labeled perfect storms. These junctions are very often both unstable and explosive.

     The idea of Medicare for all is a potential perfect storm with the capability of bringing down the house of cards called the American economy. Twenty-five years experience in healthcare, most of it in government-run healthcare, tell me that without a tight control over utilization the estimated 32 trillion cost of the program is the stuff of rose-colored glasses. You could double that and still not pay for the program.

     Never mind that politicians woefully underestimate costs as a matter of course. Politicians are not the only criminals in this scheme. They may not even be the chief criminals. Neither are physicians, and big pharma the criminals. To find the real destroyers, look in the mirror.

     “Free healthcare” is an open invitation to human corruption. Emergency and Urgent care are the most expensive type of care. They are also the preferred sites of healthcare for the entitled. Called me old fashioned, but a cold does not require either emergency or urgent care. In fact, it requires no care at all except rest and fluids. Yes, even the dreaded “man cold” needs nothing but symptomatic treatment with over the counter medications. And yet, centers charging the most for care are flooded by seekers of “free” acetaminophen and cough syrup.

     No one is turned away, everyone walks away without being charged and no appointment needed. What could better? Well, let me share that. How about IV fluids for everyone who doesn’t “feel” like drinking? How about a throat culture for a cough raw, afebrile sore throats? Or free CT’s for everyone who has bumped their head. “Free healthcare” is an invitation for those with “right” to healthcare to demand this and more. I see happen every day.

     Hell, I need a free pair of glasses, an annual physical that doesn’t cost me $500, a dental check-up, and free medication. Would I  rush to get these if they were truly free? Damn, right I would. I might even consider it if you were paying. But the truth is and always will be, none of these things are free.

     Uninhibited, unrestrained, access to the U.S. treasury, will bankrupt the country. Don’t fear kiddies, the picture is not all doom and gloom. Some friendly nation will move in to take care of America. Meanwhile, keep up the cry for “Healthcare for All.”

Monday, December 3, 2018

Chatter #218

    “Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.”

    My recent bout of ill health has allowed me to see as much daytime television as I can stand. I don’t watch network television so I’m not bothered so much by content. Old reruns of Maverick and Rawhide are fine with me. What bothers me...well, to be honest, downright scares the hell out of me are the commercials.

     Daytime commercials are a constant barrage of personal injury lawyers, Medicare providers, and medical equipment companies. With smiles on their faces, every one of them promises to get me everything I deserve. I don’t know about you, but I do know me and the last thing I want is everything I deserve. I have been trying to dodge my just deserves dang near all my life.

     Given all the crap for which Hillary Clinton has escaped prosecution, it’s easy for people to think there is no justice, no Great Prosecuting Attorney watching over all. But, that’s not a well thought out view. The most unctuous agnostics and atheists believe in an objective right and wrong. Don’t believe me? Go throat punch one and see how quickly they condemn your action as “wrong.”

     The agnostic and the atheist simply refuse to believe that there is anyone to enforce the natural law. That doesn’t make sense to me, but I have my own ideas. Most will tell you an impersonal kind of karma deals with the naughty. If this force is impersonal...not a does it think and decide? In the old days, we called this wanting to have one’s cake and eat it too.

     Experience has shown me rewards and punishments in this life are rarely material and always spiritual. The Bible calls Jesus an advocate. Now, St John is certain that Jesus advocates for those who believe in Him by pleading their case in the Judgment. He asks as a type of defense attorney for those who love Him, but I believe He also advocates for the ungodly. Unfortunately for them, it is as the prosecutor.

     Nobody in scripture talked about hell as much as Jesus. His descriptions are vivid enough for me. I am one of those unlucky people who has always felt my life merited a front row seat in hell. Someone will respond that I just have low self-esteem. I disagree. I know my life from the inside out and I’d say I have a pretty good handle esteeming my deeds.

     Yeah, skip me when it comes to what I deserve. I’ll have a double portion of mercy and grace, please.


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Chatter #217 Educated or Schooled

   “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?”

     Our modern society is hopelessly enmeshed in, to borrow a phrase from a song, “scientific delirium madness.” Modernity is built on the destructive principle of analysis. Analysis. by its very nature requires a pulling apart; a dissection if you will, of a thing into its many parts. Meaning and value are attached to some parts, while others, of no value to the “scientist” are discarded.

     The best recent example of modern analysis might be the confirmation hearing for Judge Kavanaugh. The man’s life was systematically dissected into tiny pieces which were then weighed, assigned value according to the interviewer, and processed according to a pre-determined political outcome.

     Some thought a slice showed evidence of sexual misconduct in his teen years. Some found a slice of judicial competence in another slice. None of the parties involved seemed to ever give a thought of looking at the whole man. They were not interested in a whole man, only the slice that served their hypothesis.

     The products of institutionalized, analytical instruction, armed with a paper proclaiming their talent for regurgitating the attitudes of their masters display a similar inability see whole people. I find it interesting that they shop Whole Foods while shunning whole people. Their thinking is geared to pull apart; to analyze.

     People are no longer people. They are white people, black people, brown people, male, female, trans-people, non-binary people, homo, hetero, bi, pagan, Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Republican, Democrat, intellectual and ignorant---anything but just plain folks and herein lies our insanity.

     The learned men who authored the quote that introduced this post also suffered from an education focused on the immediate, the minuscule, and the current. Only a few seemed able to synthesize their observations, their education, and their imaginations into the whole picture of the man before them.

     I once worked in a university hospital’s pediatric step down unit. To my delightful surprise, my patients and their families looked upon me as some kind of all knowing, all capable, hero. When I left my lofty perch, I landed (by choice) at a small rural hospital about 150 miles away. Immediately, I was transformed into a deplorable, ignorant, countrified, rube. The fact that I was more highly skilled for my prior experience mattered not at all. All that matter was the slice of my life that told where I practiced now.

     People are best taken whole--do not crush them, cut them in pieces, or cat them aside as non-therapeutic and worthless. Life is a teacher to which the best professor cannot compare. Paradoxically, the best professors teach living as the road to understanding one’s school lessons. 
    “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

     I am thankful today for the foolish, the weak, the base, and the despised of this present world who confound the things which are mighty. I am especially thankful for those bound by duty and honor who labor while we feast. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Chatter #216 Questions

   “Avoid foolish questions.” Paul to Titus (Chapter3, Verse 9.)

     “Our days are few, and are far better spent in doing good,than in disputing over matters which are, at best, of minor importance. The old schoolmen did a world of mischief by their incessant discussion of subjects of no practical importance; and our Churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruce points and unimportant questions.”

“After everything has been said that can be said, neither party is any the wiser, and therefore the discussion no more promotes knowledge than love, and it is foolish to sow in so barren a field. Questions upon points wherein Scripture is silent; upon mysteries which belong to God alone; upon prophecies of doubtful interpretation; and upon mere modes of observing human ceremonials are all foolish, and wise men avoid them.”

“Our business is neither to ask or to answer foolish questions, but to avoid them altogether; and if we observe the apostle’s precept (Titus 3:9) be careful to maintain good works, we shall find ourselves far to occupied with profitable business to take much interest in unworthy, contentious, and needless strivings.”

     “There are, however, some questions which are the reverse of foolish, which we must not avoid, but fairly and honestly meet, such as these: Do I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Am I renewed in the spirit of my mind? Am I walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit? Am I growing in grace? Does my conversation adorn the doctrine of God my Saviour? Am I looking for the coming of the Lord, and watching as a servant should do who expects his master? What more can I do for Jesus?”

“Such enquiries as these urgently demand our attention; and if we have been at all given to cavilling, let us now turn our critical abilities to a service much more profitable. Let us be peace-makers, and endeavour to lead others both by our precept and example, to “avoid foolish questions.”

     These are not my words. They were written in the 1800‘s by Charles H. Spurgeon. I was so impressed by what he had to say I have shared it here. I have taken some liberties with spacing, but the words are as they appear in his Morning and Evening.

     In a parting note, notice that all his important questions relate to one’s own behavior and not that of others. Maranatha.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Chatter #215 Onward Christian Soldiers

     Christianity’s greatest apologist of the last couple of centuries called Christianity a fighting religion. He’s right, you know. Christianity, as preached by Christ, cannot peacefully coexist with other religions. If your head has not exploded yet, hear me out. I am not speaking about physical, co-existence. Christians must not only live peacefully alongside all religions, but we are to defend the right of every man to worship according to the dictates of his heart. This is simply the Golden Rule. If you wish freedom of worship; you must also grant freedom of worship.

     If you honestly look at the religions of the world throughout time, you will find they agree more than they differ. Christian critics claim these similarities prove Christianity is made up of nothing more than cobbled together old myths. Pre-Christian stories of a great flood are not evidence that the flood never happened. It is simply evidence people view what happened differently and this is where the “fight” begins.

     Christianity does not insist that all other religions are completely and utterly false. Paul once said of man’s relationship with God, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” As noted, Paul was not quoting Judaism nor the new Christian teachings. He was quoting writings of philosophers his Greek hearers knew well. According to C.S. Lewis, “...the only possible basis for Christian apologetics is a proper respect for paganism.” 

     Christianity agrees with truth without regard to its source. Truth is truth. However, we assert that where other religions and philosophies diverge from Christianity, we are right and they are wrong. We believe Christ is the truth just as he said and if you get enough truth you will arrive at Christ. One thing people do not understand is that Christians are obligated to warn people away from what our scriptures describe as poor choices. This is not optional. When we do this, we are not judging you. We are not trying to force our faith on you. We are practicing our faith and trying to do this in a loving way.

     We support and defend your freedom to settle for less or to believe a lie. Our fight is spiritual; comparing spiritual with spiritual and not with the physical world. Do not expect us to quit, be shamed into compromise, or retreat. Our Bible and our faith is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.

Dog Blog #10 Happy Birthday

     Just about a year ago a large green Suburban pulled into our driveway with a delivery that would change our lives. We unload a large pet carrier that contained a dog and seven puppies. The smell of urine made my eyes water but seemed to have no effect on the squirming wigglers inside. Their little tails seemed to be wagging their bodies.

     After a quick inspection of our backyard, the entire crew was herded into the bathtub. Heedless of the needle sharp teeth and claws like razors, Faye managed to bathe everybody while I dried and deposited the puppies into a room we had set up for them. Those fuzzy little balls of boundless energy were so cute. They had come to teach us and had the lessons all prepared.

     I learned right off about putting my bare arms into the midst of the pack. Bleeding and a little wiser, I made it a point to target a single pup for a rapid extraction before administering any petting. I’m not sure that I ever learned the answer to the eternal question, “How much poop and pee can one tiny puppy hold?” However, I did refine my definition of the words “a lot.”

     I don’t think I ever entirely mastered the discipline of putting stuff where the puppies can’t get to it. In my defense, I must say they were the match for any soldier at adaptation, improvisation, and overcoming. The remnants of any missing item were sure to show up in the backyard.

     I had never fostered a dog before and adding nine (we added a 125 Malamute the day before Hope and the puppies arrived) in two days was a challenge, to say the least. Whatever trials we faced, there was no trouble that could match the boundless joy and unending love we received. Even seeing them leave us for their forever homes was a blessing. Archie, the last to go, is leaving this week and his departure may be the hardest to bear.

     I am writing today because Zelda, Arya, Huck, Junie, Bella, Piper, and Archie are puppies no more. Today is their birthday and they are all big dogs now. They have made their foster parents proud by spreading joy wherever they go.

Happy Birthday!