About the things that Executives say ...

I had a great conversation this morning with a friend on Facebook about the ways that corporations and their executives are weighing in on socially political issues in the United States. Here is the heart of what I feel about it:
"My point is that it seems to be foolish (to me anyways) for a businessman (Christian or not) to alienate customers based on their own view of a politically charged issue. I also think that it is foolish for Starbucks, Microsoft and Nike to openly support the opposite view in Washington State's pending same-sex marriage legislation."
My view seems to resonate with some:
"Usually companies stay away from anything contentious," says Allen Adamson, managing director at branding firm Landor Associates and author of "BrandSimple: How the Best Brands Keep it Simple and Succeed." "They want the focus and attention on their products and services."
Interesting how consumers are reacting. Some are boycotting and some are supporting companies like Chick-fil-A and Costco because of things that their leaders have said. Some don't feel a need to respond either way to the things that executives say or the issues that they endorse. I am more in the latter camp. And I imagine that, in the long term, folks will be eating chicken and drinking coffee in the establishments that disagree with their political views.

The Vow | ★★★★

The plot of "The Vow" is about a young happily married couple whose world is upset in a major way when the wife loses all memory of their life together after an auto accident where she suffers a traumatic brain injury. I had heard about it before I saw it and what I expected was a thoughtful expression about renewed love in the style of that great Harrison Ford flick, "Regarding Henry". What I saw was very different and pretty disappointing.   That said, I think you will like this movie if you enjoy ...

    1) totally clichéd portrayals of traumatic brain injuries,
    2) really superficial selfish characters, and
    3) predictable story lines based on true stories.

Clichéd as it is, I think that the movie is not without merit. I liked Channing Tatum in it  - his character was perhaps the only redeeming aspect of the flick.

Obviously I really didn't care for "The Vow" and, on a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★.

Grieving Job Recap #4

Following is a recap in excerpts of last week's devotions on the Grieving of Job:

       Divine sovereignty allows but does not cause things to happen to us.

       Sometimes it is so helpful to get outside of ourselves and direct our attention elsewhere.

       He never really answered any of the questions that Job asked Him.

       The lessons of age often (but not always) provides us with a context to deal with loss.

       It can be so hard when we grieve and our prayers are unanswered.

       Dealing with the past that we have lost is a normal and essential phase of grief.

       Prayer can sometimes be such a lonely proposition. A grieving person can feel so alone.

I'll finish my devotions this week on the grieving of Job. Please stop by daily and join with me in the journey here.

Will I recognize you in Heaven?

Whenever I hear anyone talk about heaven they seem to speak to the idea that there will be a great reunion there with loved ones who have preceded them in death. I am not sure they would be able to tell you why they believe that they will recognize those who they knew on earth. Our pastor, Adam Hamilton, wrote an answer to the question "Will I be Married in Heaven?" and began by saying:
"Jesus indicated that people will no longer marry in heaven. This concept seems disturbing to many who are happily married but may be a great source of relief to those who have struggled in their marriages!"
That answer is such a hoot! Guess it is all a matter of perspective. The question does beg the bigger question of whether we will actually be able to recognize each other in the afterlife. I feel that we will. My thinking is based on the idea that many knew Jesus after his resurrection - there was something unique about him that people could sense. Likewise I feel that each of us possess a uniqueness that will stay with us after we die. But I could be wrong.

How would you answer the question posed in the title? Please share.

The God Particle

Did anyone catch the news a few weeks about the discovery by physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland who say that they have all but proven that the "God particle" exists. Here is an excerpt about it from a piece titled: "Higgs Boson: 'God Particle' Discovery Ignites Debate Over Science And Religion" ...
"One thing is clear: The July 4 discovery that marked a new chapter in scientific knowledge also reignited debate over the universe's origins -- and the validity of religious faith as scientific knowledge expands. The Higgs boson explains why particles have mass -- and in turn why we exist. Without the boson, the universe would have no physical matter, only energy."
Here are a few quotes from the article that show how diverse reactions are to it:
  • "Humans, with their remarkable tools and their remarkable brains, may have just taken a giant step toward replacing metaphysical speculation with empirically verifiable knowledge." "That's the difference between science and religion." "We don't require the universe to be what we want -- we force our beliefs to conform to the evidence of reality." -Lawrence M. Krauss, an Arizona State University theoretical physicist

  • "The mysteries revealed by modern science are a constant reminder that reality is bigger than our day-to-day lives." -Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno

  • "It only strengthens the notion that the universe comes out of a nothingness which is everything. -Alternative medicine guru Deepak Chopra

  • "The awe we feel with this heady topic causes even nonreligious people to use religious language." Humans are really fascinated with what we know scientifically and what lies right at the boundaries of what we can know." "The fans and the foes of religion ... are overreaching on both sides. The quest for the Higgs boson, and its ultimate discovery, neither proves nor disproves God." -Philip Clayton, dean of Claremont School of Theology and a researcher of science and religion.

I love the idea that there is something physical that came out of nothing. It speaks to me of the Genesis story and how God spoke the world into existence. Even so, I agree with Philip Clayton that such discoveries neither proves nor disproves God. I am one who agrees with the writer of Hebrews when he writes: "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible."

What is a Nervous Breakdown?

When I was young the term "nervous breakdown" was a bit mysterious. A few adults in my life had such episodes and I really did not know what was going on. Here are a few words about it excerpted from an article, authored by Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, titled What does it mean to have a nervous breakdown?
"The term "nervous breakdown" is sometimes used to describe a stressful situation in which someone becomes temporarily unable to function normally in day-to-day life. It's commonly understood to occur when life's demands become physically and emotionally overwhelming. The term was commonly used in the past to cover a variety of mental disorders; it's used less often today.

Nervous breakdown isn't a medical term, however, nor does it indicate a specific mental illness. But that doesn't mean it's a normal or a healthy response to stress. A nervous breakdown may indicate an underlying mental health problem that needs attention, such as depression or anxiety.

Signs of a nervous breakdown vary from person to person and depend on the underlying cause. Exactly what constitutes a nervous breakdown also varies from one culture to another. Generally, it's understood to mean that a person is no longer able to function normally."
I can definitely relate to being incapacitated by stress and stressful situations. Things happen in life that we are unable to process mentally and/or emotionally. I remember vividly that time when my wife Ann's legs were paralyzed on a cruise ship. I could not think my way to peace. I had to let go of my thinking and hear the Voice in my heart that told me of my need to release control and flow. In the end I think stress is often a symptom of times when life seems so out of control.

Grieving Job Recap #3

Following is a recap in excerpts of last week's devotions on the Grieving of Job:

      Faith is so important in navigating the deep emotions that surface when we grieve.

      As I cried through those words with the group I felt such deep pain being released.

      It is so important to simply acknowledge the loss that a friend or loved one has suffered.

      Our mind is not geared to deal with loss. It cannot deal with things that are unfathomable.

      In times like these it is so easy to be angry with God - even if we do not blame him for our pain.

      On occasion we find words that bring strength and courage to grieving people ... words that assuage their pain.

      When bad things happen to people like Job there can be a temptation to say that they caused it.

Stop by this week and walk with me here as I journey through the grieving of Job.

Profiling Doctor Tattoo

Saw this on Facebook today and, in light of my last post, could not resist posting it. I may be wrong but I think that it is generally older people (and make those of a more religious ilk) who profile (read that judge) people with tattoos. Younger folks, generally speaking, seem to be cool with tattoos. What is your experience? Do you subconsciously stereotype, profile or judge people with tattoos? Have you been on the receiving end of such judgment?

Tattoo Regrets

A few weeks ago our local NBC station ran a video titled "Tattoos not so permanent for some with regrets". Here is a blurb from it:

Right now, people in their 30s are more likely to have a tattoo than younger or older adults. More women have them than men, according to a recent poll. "People want to express themselves show what they believe in ...show what they like," said Martinez. And when their enthusiasm of the artwork starts to fade, eventually they will want it removed.

"When the laser hits the ink it kind of shatters it," said laser specialist Tayler Rittenhouse. The laser breaks down the ink and the body flushes it away, and the number of sessions depends on the color and quality of ink. The closer it is to the heart, the faster it typically fades. Cost is based on the size of the tattoo starting at $100 per session, and customers say it is not a painless fix.

Are you tempted to get tatted now that you knowing that this procedure is available? Count me out on both counts. :)

When you're in Asia

My friend Allison, an elementary school teacher in Kansas City, recently traveled to Asia to encourage friends who are serving Christ, loving hurting children and sharing the good news over there. I love the relational way that she and two of her friends spent a few weeks to care for their friends. Below are a few excerpts from her note about the trip:

When you're in Asia:
  • McDonald's and Pizza Hut are first date-caliber restaurants. (Pizza Hut even had chandeliers. Fancy.)
  • Lane divisions on the road and driving on the right side of the road are mere suggestions.
  • If you wear a ring on your left ring finger--any kind of ring--you may be asked how many children you have.
  • If you are white and you travel to a part of the country where white people are rarely seen, you can expect Asians will want to take their photo with you.
  • Asia is a great place to buy knock-off brand clothing and shoes, such as Snike and TCMS.
  • Men have no qualms about pulling up their shirts partway to cool off their their bellies.
  • Pajamas are acceptable daytime attire.
  • Just because you're in a public toilet intended for one person doesn't mean someone won't come in and join you.

I am certainly still taking note of the ways that I have grown and changed as a result of this trip, but I wanted to share a couple of things the trip has brought to light for me:
  1. When I am obedient to G-d, he never fails to put me in the right place at the right time.
  2. When all is said and done, the kingdoms of this world will eventually fall. The only kingdom that remains forever is G-d's kingdom, and that brings me tremendous comfort. It also motivates me to pr-y for the kingdoms that currently have power on earth.
  3. Teaching a child his/her dignity and worth truly does change the world.

If you want to read more of what Allison writes, she occasionally blogs at Telling the truth, becoming original.

Is Church a place to discuss Political Issues?

A few weeks ago Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the USA, said these words to the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s 49th general conference, held in in Nashville, Tennessee:
"To anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better – no place better. Because ultimately, these are not just political issues – they are moral issues."
I like the idea of discussing politics in church and like the thought of presenting a moral aspect of issues from the pulpit. Seems like an appropriate teaching venue. Yet I am not in favor of preachers slamming or endorsing candidates. In my opinion, biased politicking has no place in spiritual messages. What do you think?

Grieving Job Recap #2

Following is a recap in excerpts of last week's devotions on the Grieving of Job:

      There is something about the passing of a loved one that sets our minds on eternity.

      No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.

      Everyone that once honored and respected him is now calling his character into question.

      How can one trust their grieving heart to One who has caused them so much pain

      His words embody the idea that God is angry with him and the boils he suffers is an open accusation against him.

      I have been in such dark places where my posture is argumentative and my attitude one of bargaining.

      Advice such as this only angers people that are in pain and keeps them stuck in grief.

Stop by this week and walk with me here as I journey through the grieving of Job.

Will Our Pets go to Heaven?

I love the way that our pastor, Adam Hamilton, takes on difficult questions. I am of the ilk that pets do not have a spirit that survives death but enjoyed Adam's take on the question in his weekly e-note a few weeks ago. Have a look at Adam's take on the question below and let me know what you think! How would you answer the question?

One of the questions I've been asked frequently in this series of messages is whether our pets go to heaven. I posted this question on my Pastor Adam Hamilton web page and received a number of interesting responses. The Bible does not directly take up this question, so any answer is speculative, but I'll take a stab at an answer.

First, I hope all animals don't go to heaven. I really don't care much for ticks, spiders, snakes, wolves and bears! But perhaps even some of these have a place in heaven. Isaiah once gave a picture of the coming Messianic age in which he states that in that age, "The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD." This may have been simply a metaphorical way of speaking about that future realm, but it may also point to the truth that there will be animals in heaven.

In Revelation we hear of Christ riding a horse as he returns for the final judgment. Some point to this as a sign that the animals we've known on earth join us in heaven. Others have argued that animals don't have souls and thus will not be in heaven. I suppose that depends upon how one defines a soul. I have always felt that my pets did have souls - they have intelligence, personality, and character and they express joy, protectiveness, and companionship.

My thinking on this question is that it is possible that God raises up those animals that had special meaning in our lives, and that perhaps his resurrection of these creatures is part of the gift that God gives us in heaven. I'm thinking that this raising up of animals may be tied closely to the connection these animals had with human beings, and that not all animals are in heaven, but that animals may be "saved" by virtue of the faith of their human companions. I know that for many people who never had children, their pets are their children. For any who have loved an animal, they become an important part of one's life.

Each time we've lost a pet I have had a brief ceremony thanking God for the life of the pet and commending them to God's care. I'm not concerned about seeing the gerbils, hamsters and rabbits in heaven (I've lost track of all their names by now). But dogs and cats seem somehow more important to me.

There is one last thought I've had about this. In the Bible, Paradise is a word used for the afterlife where the righteous dead go. Jesus uses this term as he was dying on the cross. Paradise, as you may remember, was the name for the "king's garden" - a place of beauty that combined both the concept of an arboretum with that of a zoo. Animals were kept in the king's garden.

So, when a pet dies, I commend them to God's love and care. They are creatures of God and, in some ways less marred by sin and more freely giving glory to God than we humans. I trust God with their lives. I find comfort in the thought that they, too, will experience the blessings of paradise.

Man on a Ledge | ★★★★★★★

I agree with a Netflix reviewer who said "Man on a Ledge is a thoroughly preposterous yet eminently entertaining edge-of-your-seat thriller." Ann and I both enjoyed this entertaining desperate-man-exposing-cop-corruption flick. The plot was filled with some surprising twists as convicted ex-cop Nick Cassidy, played by Sam Worthington, seeks to redeem his name and expose police misconduct in the NYPD.

I thought that the supporting cast did a pretty good job and especially liked the performance of Génesis Rodríguez. The ending was fairly predictable but I liked it anyways. The DVD came with a fascinating extra that showed how the film's producers built a sliding room of the top of the hotel and used an actual 21 story ledge to film the movie - it explained why the action seemed so real.

I recommend this one to you and, on a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★.

Honoring Sgt. James Skalberg

Army Sgt. James Skalberg, a 25-year-old soldier from Red Oak, Iowa was killed in Afghanistan on June 27 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Following are the thoughts of my niece Angie about the day that Red Oak remembered this courageous American man.

I experienced a moment unlike any other in my life, today. It began by explaining to my children that we were going to stand along side the street to wave our flag and show our love for our country and a special man that died serving it. We weren't going to a parade and getting candy and we weren't celebrating. The young man that we were there to honor has a family, a young wife, a baby boy and friends that will never see him again because he loved our country so much that he would die for it.

My young son asked if there are other soldiers protecting us and I told him that there are and that we pray they come home safely to their families. My preschooler daughter proudly told everyone around that when this "nice man's car goes by, I will put my hand over my heart and hold my flag up."

When the procession passed by, everyone around went silent. Patriot guard riders drove by and I could feel the rumble of their motorcycles in my heart. My family and I watched a hero and his mourning family make their way down the street lined with American flags and proud but somber supporters. I will never forget the sight of the flag-draped coffin in the back of the hearse and for a moment wished the car had gone a little slower as it passed by - joining the many who wish for more time with this hero.

Tonight I go to bed sad, but filled with pride - pride in my children (whom I hope will remember today), pride in my town for showing so much support, and pride for the United States of America and for men and women like Sgt. James Skalberg who die defending our country and all of the people in it.

My children got extra kisses at bedtime tonight as I thought of Jamie's parents who used to kiss him goodnight when he was a child - never knowing what a hero their son would grow up to be. I also go to bed hoping that neither I, nor anyone else, has to have a day like today again.

Obamacare 101

From Lifehacker: How Will the New Health Care Law Affect Me?
  • Individual Mandates: By 2014, every citizen in the US will be required to have health care. Medicaid will be expanded to include a wider range of people, and subsidies will be offered for those who struggle to pay for insurance.
  • Employer Mandates: Employers with over 50 employees will be required to offer some type of health insurance option to employees.
  • No More Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies cannot deny you if you have a pre-existing condition like a chronic illness or disease. In addition, insurance companies can't drop you because of an illness.
  • Children Can Stay On Parent's Plan Longer: Previously, it was up to the insurance company to decide how long a child could stay on a parent's insurance program. Now, children can stay on their parents plans until they're 26 years old, regardless of whether they're in school, married, or considered a dependent.
  • No Lifetime Limit: Insurance companies used to have a lifetime limit on the amount you could spend on treatment over the course of your life. Now, that cap has been removed and your insurance company can't refuse to pay for services because you've reached a cap.

From About.com: Tax Impacts of the Supreme Court's Health Care Decision
  • the requirement for individuals to maintain health insurance coverage beginning in 2014 or else pay a tax penalty;
  • individual premium assistance tax credits to help low- and middle-income families purchase health insurance on state-run insurance exchanges;
  • an increase in the threshold for deducting medical expenses as an itemized deduction from the current 7.5% to 10% starting in 2013;
  • an increase in the tax penalty to 20% for non-qualifying distributions from Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts or Archer Medical Savings Accounts;
  • an additional 0.9% Medicare hospital insurance tax on wages and self-employment income over $200,000 for unmarried persons and over $250,000 for married couples starting in 2013;
  • an additional 3.8% Medicare hospital insurance tax, also starting in 2013, on investment income or modified adjusted gross income over $200,000 for unmarried persions and over $250,000 for married couples;
  • an increase in the adoption tax credit and making this credit fully refundable, effective for the years 2010 and 2011;
  • an excise tax of 10% on indoor tanning services;
  • a tax exclusion for student loan repayment assistance programs for health professionals to work in underserved localities;
  • a tax credit for small employers ranging from 25% to 50% for providing health insurance coverage to their employees, effective for the years 2010 through 2015;
  • a decrease from $5,000 to $2,500 in the amount that can be saved pre-tax through a healthcare flexible spending account, effective starting 2013 and with the amount inflation-indexed for subsequent years;
  • restriction of the definition of qualified medical expenses for healthcare flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, health reimbursement accounts and Archer medical savings accounts so that only prescribed medications and insulin are eligible for tax-qualified disbursements, effective since 2011;
  • a business tax credit of 28% of covered drug costs for employers who provide health plans offering precription coverage for retired employees, effective beginning in 2013;
  • limitations in the amount that health insurance companies can deduct for any one employee's compensation to $500,000 effective beginning in 2013;
  • a new economic substance penalty of either 20% or 40% for tax transactions after March 30, 2010, that do not involve a substantial change in a person's economic situation or have a substantial business purpose;
  • a new excise tax of 40% on high-cost health insurance plans offered by employers starting in 2018;
  • an annual fee on manufacturers and importers of brand-name prescription medicines;
  • an excise tax of 2.3% on medical devices starting in 2013.

Anything in these lists surprise you? Will you be affected by it? Please share.

Take the John Wesley Quiz!

The questions have their origin in the spiritual accountability group (called "The Holy Club" by some) started by John Wesley when he was a student at Oxford. The first list of questions appeared about 1729 or 1730 in the preface to Wesley's second Oxford Diary. Similar questions appeared in his 1733 A Collection of Forms of Prayer for Every Day in the Week.
Here are the first five questions replete with my comments:

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am?

    I struggle with comparison and judgmentalism. Sometimes excuse and rationalize it. I am not better than anyone.

  2. Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?

    I do not pass on confidences but I do sometimes catch myself passing on gossip.

  3. Can I be trusted?

    I hope so yet I do understand how weak I am.

  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?

    Not as much as I used to be. Being retired has freed me of some of those constraints. :)

  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?

    Sometimes. I can especially relate to self-pity. I am a work in progress.

As late as 1781, Wesley published a list of questions like this in the Arminian Magazine. Joni and Friends published the whole list of questions here. Let me know what you think of the list and how you might have answered one of them.

Hacker Fiction vs Reality

This revealing cartoon from the How-To Geek reminds me how I am often amused at the ways that computer technology is represented in cinema and television. I have of often LOLed at the ways that hackers and other geeks access highly complex computer systems. The ways that they figure out userids and passwords really amuses me.
CNBC offers six ways to protect yourself from hacking:

      1) Don't use the same passwords.
      2) Don't use the same security questions.
      3) Be aware your online shopping history.
      4) Share less about your whereabouts online.
      5) Never click a link/attachment) in a suspicious email.
      6) Read the fine print and prevent sharing of your info.

Check out the whole article here. Also, remember to use an anti-malware program, regularly change your passwords and possibly even use a password manager like LastPass. Be safe out there in cyberspace.

Grieving Job Recap

Following is a recap in excerpts of this week's devotions on the Grieving of Job:

      Christian clichés did not help me but got in the way of dealing with my pain.

      Sometimes our pain is so great that we wish that we were not present to experience it.

      The thing that kept Job from grieving was the idea that somehow God was judging him.

      Knowing that God has not protected you from past pain causes you to be gun-shy about future pain.

      I find that I am most healthy when I simply trust God in the midst of my unanswerable questions.

      I am able to walk in freedom when I let go of my need to have answers.

Stop by this week and walk with me here as I journey through the grieving of Job.

Jesus :: The Reality of all Myths and Legends

[The Christian] story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men
—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused. -JR Tolkien

Greg Boyd has this great response to this Tolkien quote in his post titled "Jesus: True Myth and True History".

What Lewis and Tolkien are saying is that the Jesus story fulfills the intuitions and longings expressed in many myths and legends. The God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the reality to which certain aspects of various myths and legends point. Jesus is the reality all authors of myths and legends, together with the rest of us, dream of. If we are honest with ourselves, and if we grasp the depth of the “good news” this story embodies, something quite like the Jesus story is what we hope to be true. Yet, most amazingly, this story gives us reason to believe it is historically true.

I find this to be a great response to the idea that the virgin birth, sinless life, miraculous ministry and resurrection of Jesus are merely mythical. Perhaps our desire to embrace a comic book hero from Krypton reveals a deep God authored longing for such a story to be true? Perhaps the existence of mythology substantiates the historical Christ?

Power is derived from the Consent of the Governed

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Stupid Quotes Quiz

This funny cartoon reminds me of what Forrest Gump's mama said: "Stupid is as stupid does." Here are a few other quotes on the subject.

    1) We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.

    2) Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid.

    3) Sin is too stupid to see beyond itself.

You do not have to be smart to match the quotes with these authors:

    1) Benjamin Franklin; 2) John Wayne; 3) Alfred Lord Tennyson

Answers are posted in the comments section. Let me know how you did.
The only prize you get is knowing that you are not all that quote stupid. :)

War Horse | ★★★★★★★★★★

I am not sure that I was quite ready for this movie. It sat on my Netflix queue for a while and I was not really sure that I would like it. Boy was I wrong. The thumbprint of director Steven Spielberg was all over this movie. My wife and I both felt like the two and half hours of screen time went by so fast. The story, the scenery, the ensemble cast and that magnificent horse simply draws one into a bit of history. I loved the way that the movie contrasted the brutality of war with the noble ways that some treated this beautiful animal. There were scenes that broke my heart and others that so elevated my spirit. The movie seemed to use Joey, that wonderful horse, to weave a bit of a World War I tapestry telling of struggling farmers, brave soldiers, brutal leaders, a loving grandfather and the evolution of a boy turned infantryman.

I loved the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★★.