Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ah...It's Good To Be Accepted!

Core Thought: It's nice to be accepted...spots and all!

My mom might really give me a hard time about this, but here goes. Yesterday, I went visiting at Methodist Oaks outside of Orangeburg...we have 13 members living there in one of the larger retirement communities in the state....with all stages of independence...from regular homes, to apartments, to assisted living, to full nursing home care. There are so many of my folks there, that it has become impossible to everyone in a day, so I try to see a certain group at a time.

Anyway, if I had only been at Denmark for a little while as a minister, when I got out of the car to start visiting, I would have left and driven back to Denmark visiting no one. You see, I was in a hurry when I left my house, and put on a blue shirt which was only "mostly blue." In my haste, I had not noticed that this was my "only around the house" blue shirt with a mass on my belly area of bleach spots!

Then I thought, "Wait a minute! These people have known me for two decades...and they won't care one bit!" Guess what! I was right! I had four great visits, and the bleach spots didn't cause anyone to call a deacon demanding my resignation! time, I'll be a little more careful getting dressed! Ain't life great! Oh, and I got to use my new Sony PSP (Play Station Portable) to show my seniors pictures from our church Christmas party last Sunday (PS...the pictures are at seemed to appreciate it!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Core Thought: How should Christians fight the Christmas wars? Be meek!!!

Go here for a cool picture of the space shuttle's launch last week at night:

Now what does the space shuttle have to do with being meek? Well, being meek doesn't have to do with be whimpy. When Jesus said In Matthew 5:5, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth," He didn't mean the "whimpy shall prevail!" The Greek word for meek was one used to describe force being brought under control for a purpose. It was used of breaking horses...their strength remained, but it was channeled for new purposes.

The shuttle is shot into orbit because of the meekness of its power. It's fuel could be ignited by spraying it over a flame onto a field...and the result would be a big fire! It would have no boundaries to reign in its destructive force. But in the rocket, the fuel is exploded under control, and the force is channeled through the engine nozzles in a certain way to produce the right amount of thrust. When the Challenger exploded in the mid 80's, it was because a seal failed in a rocket booster, and the exploding gas was escaping from a place other than the rocket's engine nozzle. It was no longer under the control of the engineers' design, and the result was devastation.

This is what happens when a person lives a life in which his or her potential is "exploded" in ways that are not channeled for good, in ways that go against the "Engineer's" (that would be God!) design. A person who lives life totally by his or her own uncontrolled appetites, can the most extreme example, a sociopath, not able to live in society. On lesser levels, the destructive power of a life without meekness, a life in which power is not disciplined and guided into good purposes, can destroy or damage marriages, and families, and churches.

Christ is saying that a person who is guided by nothing other than their passions for pleasure, power, control, etc. with no discipline, no channeling for God's good purposes, is bound for destruction, and that only those who learn to direct and discipline their lives for good will ultimately survive, and even thrive as they discover just how "high" in orbit they can go, trusting God to direct the amazing potential He has given to every human being!

Having a Good Day? Then Don't Watch the Evening News!

Core Thought: Why are we drawn to the negative stuff?

Sorry, I've been out for a week...had a mini-cold, etc. I saw the ABC (you can probably insert any seems to be the same with them all) news the other night, and in 20 minutes (you subtract about 10 min for commercials!) of actual broadcasting, they covered these stories:

Iraq: daily, weekly death tolls; questions on staying/withdrawal/internal fighting between two main factions, etc.

Political race for president (Isn't that still two years away???) / Democratic tension over Hillary vs. Obama

The IRS's ineptitude using a new computer system (without a backup) that caused 200 to 300 million in refunds that were NOT legitimate. Guess who ends up paying for their, so if you got a refund that you were not due, send it back! Hmmm...hasn't the IRS heard of stop payments??

Violence in GAZA as Palestinian factions continue to fight...this night was particularly gruesome with video of the car in which three children (3,6,9) were gunned down because of their father's position in the gov't. Sure, it's news, but why did they have to show video of the interior of the car riddled with bullet holes, and blood...remember, ABC is owned and operated by DISNEY!

The plight of children (as young as five or six) in the Congo and other parts of Africa working in mineral mines (copper and cobalt) to get minerals needed for OUR ELECTRONICS! Now how guilty do I feel about that? I didn't know! Honest!

And then my personal favorite: THE CHRISTMAS WARS...the tag line was something like, "Tis the Season to Be Intolerant or Outraged." The story centered on the airport in Seattle removing their Christmas trees when a rabbi wanted a menorah put up. They even interviewed the airport Santa, asking if he felt like he was a "walking target!" Personally, what saddens me is when Christians get angry ON AIR about not having a nativity scene somewhere, etc., instead of finding ways to reach and love people who disagree with them. I mean, if Jesus on the cross can forgive everyone (including you and me) who was responsible for his being there... and mind you, He did that with no one (other than the thief) coming for repentance, agreeing with Him, be careful what you get mad at! Make sure it's something that Jesus would get mad injustice, poverty, the sin in your own life. Then again, that's the subject for another blog.

No, where was I? Oh, the negative 20 be fair, there was one news story that was upbeat..the shuttle made it to the international space station...that took about 15 seconds.

I wouldn't have even blogged this had not Charlie Gibson (who comes across as an upbeat person), said, "We hope you've had a good day, and we hope for you a good night!" I thought to myself, "Hmmm...that news cast didn't really contribute to my having a good day! Sure, we need to know what's going on in the world, and sure, people are more interested in the negative stuff....but can't we have more than 15 seconds of uplifting news on a news show?

I guess the good news business isn't the networks anyway, I guess that why God gave us the Great Commission, and not to ABC!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Don’t Think You’re Special? Take Another Look!

Core Thought: If you can read this, rejoice! It's long for a reason!

God popped me with two quick lessons as I drove to the hospital in Columbia this week. As usual, I was running late, so it was rush hour, and for someone used to a town of 3,500, rush hour in the “big city” isn’t a lot of fun. As I was driving through (with lots of other people driving though, too!) a residential area near the hospital, hoping to miss the major traffic “clumps” on the major roads, I saw a blind man walking along the busy road alone with only his white cane to warn drivers.

Lesson One: Don't take the miracle of seeing for granted!

Lesson Two: Some blind people have amazing sight! (See next post below!)

I had been going over all the “stuff” I needed to get down and wondering how I was going to get it done, and not once the whole day (or week for that matter), had a paused to thank God for the amazing job He did in designing my sight. Did you know….(Warning, you may want to skim the following small print…it’s long to make a point…that seeing is a wonder we seldom reflect upon. Remember, what you are about to skim is happening trillions a time a second, and doesn’t even touch what the brain is doing with the information the eye is constantly sending it!) Anyway, as I said, “did you know that…

when photons hit the cells of the retina, they activate a chain reaction, rather like a domino effect. The first of these domino pieces is a molecule called "11-cis-retinal" that is sensitive to photons. When struck by a photon, this molecule changes shape, which in turn changes the shape of a protein called "rhodopsin" to which it is tightly bound. Rhodopsin then takes a form that enables it to stick to another resident protein in the cell called "transducin".

Prior to reacting with rhodopsin, tranducin is bound to another molecule called GDP. When it connects with rhodopsin, transducin releases the GDP molecule and is linked to a new molecule called GTP. That is why the complex consisting of the two proteins (rhodopsin and transducin) and a smaller chemical molecule (GTP) is called "GTP-transducinrhodopsin".

The new GTP-transducinrhodopsin complex can now very quickly bind to another protein resident in the cell called "phosphodiesterase". This enables the phosphodiesterase protein to cut yet another molecule resident in the cell, called cGMP. Since this process takes place in the millions of proteins in the cell, the cGMP concentration is suddenly reduced.

How does all this help with sight? The last element of this chain reaction supplies the answer. The fall in the cGMP amount affects the ion channels in the cell. The so-called ion channel is a structure composed of proteins that regulate the number of sodium ions within the cell. Under normal conditions, the ion channel allows sodium ions to flow into the cell, while another molecule disposes of the excess ions to maintain a balance. When the number of cGMP molecules falls, so does the number of sodium ions. This leads to an imbalance of charge across the membrane, which stimulates the nerve cells connected to these cells, forming what we refer to as an "electrical impulse". Nerves carry the impulses to the brain and "seeing" happens there.

In brief, a single photon hits a single cell and, through a series of chain reactions, the cell produces an electrical impulse. This stimulus is modulated by the energy of the photon, that is, the brightness of light. Another fascinating fact is that all of the processes described so far happen in no more than one thousandth of a second. Other specialized proteins within the cells convert elements such as 11-cis-retinal, rhodopsin and transducin back to their original states. The eye is under a constant shower of photons, and the chain reactions within the eye's sensitive cells enable it to perceive each one of these photons.

WOW! Here's a picture of the chemistry of sight going on right now in your eyeballs in case you skipped the small print!

Didn’t know you were carrying around such amazing biochemical processing plants in you’re your head did you!!!! Add to these reactions that ability with a second for the brain to process these trillions upon trillions of bits of information, and then, almost instantaneously compare them to memory cells, so you can recognize a person, determine their current emotional state by their expression and then respond appropriately. It’s a wonder our heads don’t explode with all that’s going on in there!

During the Christmas season as you “see” the sights, the lights, the faces of family and friends, take a moment to remember Proverbs 20: 12 Ears that hear and eyes that see— the LORD has made them both. Thank Him for this amazing gift!

Oh, and one more thing about the wonder of seeing! Do you remember the first thing the shepherds said once the angels had delivered the news that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem? Luke 2: 15 tells us, When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." They said that they had to go and “see” this Savior! That is my prayer for everyone reading this blog as December 25th approaches…that you will “see” the wonder of a baby in the manger, who became the Savior on the cross, and the Risen Lord out of the empty tomb! May you “see” God everyday in the miracles that surround you, even for the miracle happening RIGHT NOW as you are reading, processing, and understanding these very words! Go and celebrate the wonder of you! God as put a lot of work into making you YOU!

On to Lesson Two!

Another Kind of Sight!

Core Thought! The physically blind are handicapped in one way, yet we might be more handicapped if we have eyes, but cannot perceive truth and beauty. Maybe then we need to “see” with the eyes of people like Robert Smithdas and Helen Keller (both blind and deaf).

Robert Smithdas has been blind and deaf since he was 4 and a half, and was, according to Barbara Walters on 20/20, the most inspiring person she had EVER interviewed. He is married to Michelle, who was born deaf and lost her sight in a snowmobile accident as a teen-ager. They are happy and independent, both having earned masters degrees, and both teachers of the blind and deaf. Bob is a poet, too, and on the 20/20 piece on him and Michelle, they ended with this poem.

I praise my God,

for he provided me with music

when all sound had died away.

Into the songless darkness of my days,

the light of hope and

song of love have crept,

until my spirit sings this hymn of praise

to Him who woke me when my whole life slept."

How is that for “seeing” life from a clearer perspective. And before Bob Smithdas became a poet, Helen Keller, also blind and deaf since infancy, had her own powerful vision to share with others. Here are some of my favorites! (If you're getting tired, skip to the last quote, it's worth it!)

"With the death of every friend I love -- a part of me has been buried -- but their contribution to my being of happiness, strength and understanding remains to sustain me in an altered world."

-- Helen Keller

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

-- Helen Keller

"The world is so full of care and sorrow that it is a gracious debt we owe to one another to discover the bright crystals of delight hidden in somber circumstances and irksome tasks."

-- Helen Keller

Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind. If I had three days to see, this is what I would want to see.

On the first day I would want to see the people whose kindness and companionship have made my life worth living. I would call in my friends and look for a long time into their faces. I would also look into the face of a new baby. I would like to see the many books which have been read to me.

The next day I would get up early to see the dawn. I would visit a museum to learn of man's upward progress in the making of things. I would go to an art museum to probe the human souls by studying paintings and sculpture.

The third morning I would again greet the dawn, eager to discover new beauties in nature. I would spend this last day in the haunts of persons, where they work. I would stand at a busy street corner, trying to understand something of the daily lives of persons by looking into their faces and reading what is written there.

On the last evening I would go to a theater and see a hilariously funny play, so as to appreciate the overtones of humor in the human spirit. Yes, by God's light in Christ, seeing what matters and beholding the extraordinary in the commonplace.

Helen Keller

As we are tempted so often to self-pity, we would do well to remember Helen Keller’s words written at the end of her autobiography:

Fate--silent, pitiless--bars the way. Fain would I question his imperious decree; for my heart is undisciplined and passionate, but my tongue will not utter the bitter, futile words that rise to my lips, and they fall back into my heart like unshed tears. Silence sits immense upon my soul. Then comes hope with a smile and whispers, "There is joy in self-forgetfulness." So I try to make the light in other people's eyes my sun, the music in others' ears my symphony, the smile on others' lips my happiness.

How we all need the "joy in self-forgetfulness!" Have a great day, devoid of destructive selfishness, filled with the joy of being alive!