Friday, February 28, 2014

Kicks and Books

Last night, I got to feel my tiny little niece or nephew kick for the first time.  My sister has been feeling the baby kick for a few weeks now but it wasn't strong enough until now for people on the outside to feel it.  It was weird and amazing.  My sister is 18-19 weeks along so she still has a long way to go but I can't wait to meet the wee one.  They're having the sonogram to determine the sex next week and I've been invited to attend the little event.  Although they both have their preferences (daddy wants a girl and mommy wants a boy), they're going to be ecstatic no matter what it is.  I want a boy so that Josiah has a boy cousin close to his age to play with but I also want a girl so that I can buy the cute dresses and dress her up like a little doll, things that I haven't been able to do with my son.  I've hoped for twins but according to the two ultrasounds, there's only one heart beat.  Oh well.  I guess I'll have to settle for one or the other. 

The weather was nice for a week or so but it's turned chilly again so we've been cooped up inside.  I finished my book on the Colorado gold rush (very fascinating) and started a book that I feel like I should read, even though I've heard from other sources that it may not be very accurate.  "To Hell On A Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West."  It's interesting, although I've been rather disappointed that it's not as well-written as I would have thought.  Usually books that are somewhat ficticious (sometimes by intent, as is the case with Frontier Marshal, and sometimes not) are very attention-grabbing but this book hasn't been.  I'm reading it with more than one grain of salt and will balance it out by reading a first hand account of a military wife's experience on the frontier when I'm done with this one.  So many books to read!  And so little time....

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

All Creatures Great and Small

When my siblings and I were younger, our parents got us the boxed set of tapes of the TV show All Creatures Great and Small.  The series is about James Herriot, a veterinarian in England who joined a practice a couple years before World War II.  The TV show follows James and his colleagues through the many trials and joys of being a small town and country vet.  The show was based off the books that we also had and that Mom read to us.  I recently found that the full episodes of the TV show are on Youtube and I've been watching them as I've had time.  I'm on season 3 right now.  England has just entered World War II and it's only a matter of time before all the young men in the country will sign up or be drafted.  I don't remember if James or either of his colleagues went to fight.  I do believe that vets were exempt from the draft because of how desperately their services were required at home to keep animals healthy so the country wouldn't run out of food.  It was a scary time for them.  Knowing that their world is being turned upside down and yet trying to continue their lives as if nothing has happened, trying to be cheerful and not think about the awfulness of war.  The older men in the dales remember and talk about the first World War.  They know, better than anybody, what's coming.

I often wonder what our country would do if there was another world war.  Because of the technological advances in weaponry, another world war would look much different than the previous ones.  I doubt we'd ever have another draft.  I mean, we have the weapons capability to wipe out huge cities or small countries.  If it came that close to another world war, I would think we'd just annihilate the other country, rather than risking the lives of so many of our men and women.  We would never allow one country to sweep across Europe and kill so many people.  But that's assuming we can stop them, of course.  We aren't the only country that has advanced weapons.  If it came right down to it, I think it would be a matter of who bombs who first.

I would never wish another war of that magnitude on our country but I do so wish we could learn the lesson again without the bloodshed.  My generation doesn't understand what it's like to wonder if we're actually going to lose a war and be taken over by another country.  My generation doesn't understand how important it is to be united in the support of our troops.  My generation doesn't know the cost of freedom.  We are so quick to throw away our freedoms because we don't have an empty place at the table that daily reminds us of the cost of that freedom.  We allow the government to tread on us as it promises security and safety, not realizing that it can't guarantee those things, and even if it could, our freedom is too high a price.  For the past 200+ years, men and women fought and died for our freedom... and now we hand it over to a government that cannot be trusted.  Sad.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cakes and Gays

It's a long one today as I want to work through something that I've been thinking about recently. 

There's been several stories in the news recently about some small businesses refusing to provide services or products for gay couples.  One of the stories was about a cake business who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.  Another was a flower business and I think there was also a photographer who refused to shoot a gay wedding.  Last week, a law passed the Kansas House of Representatives which allows businesses to deny services to certain people if those people's sexual or gender choices violates the business owner's religious convictions.  I've been thinking about these cases a lot and wondering what I would do if I owned a cake business and a gay couple wanted me to make their wedding cake.  What's the right thing to do in that case?

First, let's establish a few things.  The Bible lists many sexual sins and homosexuality is one of them.  God, who created everything and everyone, has the right to restrict marriage to one man and one woman for a lifetime.  Homosexual couples, if they get married, are not married in the eyes of God because it's only a marriage if it is within the boundaries that God established. 

Second, I do believe that businesses have a right to refuse services based on religious convictions.  One of the fundamental rights that our country was built upon is freedom of religion.  If something violates your conscience because of what you believe, you should not have to do it and (within reason) there are laws in place to protect you.  So although many people are angry about this law in Kansas, I do believe it's the right law. 

But, even if the law is right, should it be used?  Should I, as a Christian, refuse to provide a cake for a gay wedding?  And much more importantly, would Jesus?  Honestly, I don't really know.  Is it participating in sin to provide that cake, knowing that that couple is breaking God's laws and that their "marriage" is a sham?  Before I attempt to answer that question, let me bring up something else that really needs to be said.

If I, as a cake makin' person, am going to refuse services to a gay couple because it violates my conscience, don't I also have to refuse to make a cake for a couple that's fornicating?  Or a couple where one or both are divorced for unbiblical reasons?  If I'm so concerned about not providing a cake to someone who's participating in sexual sin, doesn't that have to extend to everyone?  And does it (or should it) make a difference if the person claims to be a Christian? 

So, given all of the above, I've come to the conclusion that it's not a wise or helpful thing to deny someone a cake.  First, although I think I'm standing by my principles, it will only make that couple (and many others, when the story gets out), hate me.  We are supposed to love people and be a witness to the world.  If we make them that spitting mad, they're going to hate all Christians because they think we hate them for their sexual choices.  Second, if I'm going to stand by my principles, I have to deny everyone who is involved in sexual sin.  I don't think a person can pick and choose which people are sinful enough to be denied the cake.  And THAT will be one awkward conversation after another.  Third, although there are exceptions, most gay people do not claim to be Christians.  I find it silly and destructive that Christians require nonchristians to live by biblical principles.  Now, if that gay couple claims to love Jesus, we might have to have a different conversation.  But once again, there are many fornicators and adulterers who claim the name of Jesus.  If you deny one, you have to deny all. 

But we have to ask the question again... would Jesus deny them a cake?  Jesus had a profession.  He was a carpenter until He started His ministry at 30.  Although I know people will disagree with this, I don't think Jesus refused to make cabinets for people who were sinning sexually.  And ya know what?  He knew exactly who those people were and what they were doing!  Seeing how Jesus treated poeple in the Gospels, I would just find it really hard to believe that He'd refuse to make a cabinet for someone who's sinning. 

Just for a moment, let's imagine a different scenario.  I make cakes for special celebrations.  A lesbian couple comes into my shop and wants me to make a cake for their wedding.  I make the best, most beautiful cake I've ever made.  They are thrilled.  They tell all their friends about the amazing cake.  They have me make a cake for their cat's birthday party.  They have me make a cake for a friend's surprise party.  Suddenly I'm seeing these people on a semi-regular basis.  We have conversations and start to become friends.  As the friendship grows, I'm given an opportunity to share my faith.  Although they may not be saved immediately, they receive what I have to say because they know I genuinely care about them.  And someday, maybe I'll see them in the kingdom. 

I'm not saying it's bad to have convictions.  I'm not even going to say that business owners who deny services based on their religious convictions are wrong.  But is it wise or helpful?  How are we supposed to love and serve and witness to these people if we just make them hate us?  My pastor says something that I love: you need to build a bridge of friendship that will bear the weight of truth.  If you just lob truth at someone without having a relationship with that person, all you're really doing is alienating them.  Anyway, that's my two cents. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

2014 Winter Olympics

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia started a few days ago and we've been watching a variety of the events.  Besides the figure skating, which is my favorite event, the part I like best is getting to know some of the competitors.  Because of the level of performance that is required from them, almost all of them have an interesting and amazing story.  In fact, in one of the snowboarding events, I liked the Canadian competitor so much because of his story that I cheered for him instead of for the American (he ended up winning gold).  Many of the competitors had a lot of adversity to overcome in their short lives.  Quite a few of them had serious injuries in their life that they had to heal from and then start over.  The indomitable spirit that resides in the hearts of the competitors is inspiring.  The love of the event in which they compete is obvious and it's heartwarming to see the comraderie between the competitors.  Most of them know the other competitors because there's few people competing at their level and there seems to be mutual respect and admiration.  Part of me knows that we are only shown the best of these people at the Olympics but I also believe that it's not all show.  These people care about each other, they cheer for each other after a great performance, they grieve for each other after a bad performance, they hold their breath with the rest of the audience when one of them goes down.  Especially after the nastiness that we're constantly seeing in the NFL games, it's nice to see competitors who are able to control themselves and just compete.  And no matter how many medals we bring home, I'll always be proud of Team USA.   

 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Creationism

For today's blog post, I would like to relate a conversation I had with the in-laws at lunch yesterday.  We got onto the topic of creationism because of a recent debate that took place between a young-earth creationist and an evolutionist.  (Full disclosure: I did not watch the debate but read a couple articles about it after the fact).  These are the main points that we discussed.

First, I have a difficult time with creationists who pick a particular theory and stick to it, come hell or high water.  Young earth, old earth, middle earth, God used evolution, God didn't use evolution, etc.  The fact of the matter is, we just don't know.  The Bible does not explicitly say how God created the earth and the inhabitants therein nor does it say how long ago He did so.  To act like you have it figured out is, in my opinion, arrogant.  God might have created the earth millions of years ago and allowed the animals to evolve over time.  God might have created it in a literal six days and the earth is only 6,000-10,000 years old.  God might have done something that we haven't even thought of yet.  You can have an opinion if you want, no one is denying you that.  But hold that opinion loosely and be ready to admit that, as much as you'd like to think it happened a particular way, you just don't know.

Second, the "evidence" that both sides present for their argument isn't really evidence.  Anything that's discovered is always interpreted through the lense of that particular scientist's worldview and bias.  A creationist and an evolutionist can look at the exact same thing and come to two different conclusions.  So to use specific discoveries as "evidence" for your viewpoint doesn't really cut it.

Third, in my opinion, there are only two things that, as a Christian, you must acknowledge.  First, that God was somehow involved in the creation of the universe and the animals (to what extent is up for debate) and second, that humans did not evolve from anything else.  If you want to hold onto some evolution, that's up to you.  But the Bible is very clear that God was involved in the creation of everything we see and that He specifically created human beings in His image and He breathed into them to give them life.  To deny these two things is to deny the existence of God and to deny who we are and why we were created. 

Fourth, I've heard a lot recently that debates like the one that took place are bad because "no one has ever been argued into the kingdom of God" and "you can't prove to anyone the existence of God."  These things are true.  Yet, I don't think these debates are all bad.  Assuming both debaters are well prepared and it's done in a civilized manner, I think doubts and questions can be raised in the minds of unbelievers which might cause them to explore the origin of the universe and where they came from and why they're here.  These are good questions and hopefully they will find the truth in the Bible.   

Fifth, I made this statement yesterday:  I think that the devil uses and encourages arguments and debates about the origin of the universe and what the Bible says about creation (whether between believers or unbelievers or a mixture of both).  When we become caught up in senseless arguments with people, we turn our attention from Jesus.  The Bible is there to point us to Jesus.  If we are using the Bible to prove our point or using it as a science textbook, that's very dangerous.  God didn't give us the Bible so we'd have all the answers.  He gave us the Bible so we could see the truth.  We're sinners and we need a Savior and that Savior is Jesus.  To become caught up in arguments, especially if they make us arrogant or angry or hateful toward others who don't agree with us, is what the devil wants. 

So be aware of how you're using the Bible.  Consider your opinions and hold them loosely.  Don't get distracted or pulled into useless arguments.  The Bible is there so we can see Jesus. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter Storms and Reading

Our second big snowstorm of the winter descended upon us yesterday and turned an ugly brown world into a white fairyland. The snow was beautiful, falling gently for most of the day as the temp hovered around 25 degrees.  With the coming of night though, the temps dove and we woke up to a balmy 4 degrees this morning.  I love the snow and the colder temperatures don't bother me, especially since it means that the snow will stay around for at least a few days.  I'm a little worried about my gardens though.  The last few weeks have been unseasonably warm and two weeks ago, we raked our backyard and uncovered lots of green... bulbs, holly hocks, salvia, and other things that were unidentifiable.  My roses and my weeping ornamental peach were starting to bud.  Hopefully the 6 inches of snow and freezing temps won't do any damage.  Plants in this region of the country have to get used to mild winters with unnaturally warm days followed by snowstorms and cold. 

This kind of weather keeps us indoors but I don't mind.  I have lots of reading to do this year and since I want to spend the spring, summer, and fall outside, I need to read a lot on days that I can't go outside.  I finished the book on Wyatt Earp (Wyatt Earp, the Life Behind the Legend) and have started Bringing Up Boys and The Gold Rush (about the Pikes Peak gold rush of 1859).  I'm also reading a Max Brand book to Josiah.  Although it should seem obvious, reading out loud is a lot harder than reading to yourself.  I read Josiah's kids books to him but that's a lot different than sitting down and reading out loud from an adult book for an hour or two at a time.  It's getting easier and I'm glad I'm starting it now because I intend to read every day to our children.  I remember my mom reading Little House on the Prairie to me and my siblings, at least a chapter every school night.  She read the Boxcar Children before that and various other books between the series's.  We all grew up with good imaginations and four out of six of us love to read (the last one may still develop a love of reading and the other one always struggled with it so he never learned to enjoy it).  As Josiah gets older, I'll have to find more appropriate books to read to him since the Louis L'Amour and Max Brand books have a bit too much violence in them for a young child that can understand what's being read to him but for now, the books are for my enjoyment.  Well, a cup of hot chocolate and a good book awaits so I must bring this blog to a close.