Setting the Context

“In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.” ―Benjamin Zander, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life

I like this quote. It reminds me of how much I need to set boundaries or context in my life. And if I really do not know who I am then I will not be able to set a context that is in concert with my core values. This issue of identity points me to my core inner being. Staying connected to my inner being helps me to live within the context of my life.

QNA :: First Theme Park

What Was The World’s First Theme Park?
  1. Coney Island
  2. Luna Park
  3. Santa Claus Land
  4. Disney Land
The How-To-Geek gives us the correct answer and more here.

Marriage and Disability

I can relate to these clips from Joni and Ken Tada's interview in Christianity Today:

In the book, you write that "marriage only magnifies suffering." What do you mean by that?
Any marriage is going to have problems, but when you throw in a disability, it's like enlarging the problems tenfold. Disability forces problems to the surface. Suffering squeezes you like a lemon, and what comes out might be pretty bitter. ... Christians often imagine they have a solid marriage, but when our love is put to the test, our commitment becomes real. We're faced with the question, Am I going to love this man or woman for better or for worse? I don't know that our challenges are greater than they are for another couple. The sacrifices might be greater. But with sacrifice comes a great reward of a deepened faith and trust in each other.
How did you, as someone with a physical disability, relate to your husband's struggles with depression?
At first, I was resentful. I think he just wanted me to understand what he was going through. And boy, that little bit of empathy really bound us together even more strongly.
You can catch the rest of the interview here.

Life of Pi | ★★★★★★★

I think most folks know that this is a movie about a young boy stranded on a life boat with a Bengal tiger. Most know of the great visual effects that director Ang Lee created with the help of computer generated animal images. What you may not know is that it is a story about a grieving boy who has just lost all members of his family in a fire at sea. And there is a spiritual aspect to the film that I found interesting as an adult Pi Patel relays his story of growing up in India and being stranded at sea.

Like many movies these days I think that it suffered from a lack of editing and went on too long. Also problematic was the acclaim that the movie received before I watched it - not sure why it was nominated for the best flick Oscar. And this is not a movie for young children because of the scenes of drowning (albeit computerized) animals and tense scenes on the high seas. Lastly, I did feel that the plot wasn't too believable.

All that said, I did like the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

Catch my other min-movie-reviews by selecting "Movies" above.

Confessions of a Grieving Control Freak

My friend Les asked me to write something about my grieving journey for his blog ...

In March of 1990 my life fell apart.

Ellen, my wife of 19 years, had a heart attack and kidney failure.

In the following four years my whole life’s focus was caring for her.

Everything else I was doing, ministry-wise, was stopped.

I slowly died on the inside.

It was during this time that I began to be confronted by the control issues that surrounded me and lived deep within me.

As I continually prayed for my wife she got weaker and weaker.

And my frustration got stronger and stronger.

I had no control over what was happening.

My children began having problems in school.

They too were dealing with a deepening grief about their mom’s health.

All the while I was being forced to change – I hated it.

All of the things in life that I thought I had figured out were unraveling before my eyes.

Everything that was important to me was falling apart.

I was dying on the inside and in May of 1994 my dear wife of 23 years died.

The past years had taken a toll on our family. My 14 year old son, my 10 year old daughter and me.

We were all devastated at my wife’s death.

We all expected her to get well.

That is what we prayed for.

I believed in healing and miracles.

Standing by her side I even prayed for a resurrection when my wife breathed her last.

The aftermath of her death found my son and my daughter struggling with diverse issues and me dealing with a broken theology.

I increasingly became aware of how much I had been led by principles and precepts.

Subconsciously I had developed a complex internal system of rules and logic concerning life.

These ‘of course’ were all based in scripture and encompassed words like ‘authority’ and ‘submission’.

Unclear to me was the real issue – living by rules put me in control.

For years I lived the life of a ‘led by the Spirit’ Christian when in truth I was more like a rules following control freak.

Sadly, my legalistic approach to life and Christianity bred an arrogant attitude towards people who didn’t see the scriptures the same way I did.

When my wife was sick the arrogant attitude began to give way to glimpses of humility.

I was humbled when meals came into my home from friends at church for 10 weeks.

Coping with hospitalizations, doctor’s bills (from 40+ doctors), hemodialysis, and a boatload of medical problems brought me to a place of breaking.

I was losing control.

I didn’t want to let go of my legalistic ideas and practices but had no option.

I could no longer maintain and feed the on stuff that once brought my ego such satisfaction.

The years after my wife’s passing brought many changes in my life.

That major theme of losing control seemed to subtly resurface as my children began to outwardly grieve the loss of their mom.

‘Control’ is a major battlefield for one trapped in black and white thinking.

It is all about ‘control’.

That brings me to the end of 2002.

I had remarried and Ann, my new wife, was going through an intense health crisis that involved paralysis.

I was beside myself once again when the Holy Spirit began to speak to me.

He spoke to me about life and living.

About letting go and flowing in life instead of controlling.

He said that life isn’t something to be managed like a project but something to be lived.

God was beginning to slay my desire to be in control.

Little did I know how much this would be tested over the coming years.

In the summer of 2007 my wife had another relapse of this nasty neurological disease called Neuromyelitis Optica.

This time she did not bounce back like the many times before.

This time she could not walk.

This time she would need to use a wheelchair to get around.

And she does to this day.

In January 2008 I read this quote from G. K. Chesterton:
“Why be something to everybody when you can be everything to somebody?”
It got me crying.

And over the following months I became convinced that God was leading me to leave my job as a pastor.

That summer I retired to minister full time at home.

I still find it difficult to let go and not control but I am making progress.

I try to see issues in the color gray rather than in black and white.

I do things these days that have clear boundaries.

I listen more to the advice of friends and family.

I honor the choices of my adult children even when I don’t agree with them.

And in all things I remember that God loves me and wants me to trust Him.

Not that I always do.

After all, trust is an issue of letting go and giving up control. :)

Don't Trust Wally

Does it get any better than Dilbert? Sometimes this funny comic strip is filled with life lessons. The obvious lesson here is that we should not be gullible like Asok the intern. Asok knew who Wally was yet he still trusted him to catch him when he fell. Interesting that Asok did not put his coffee mug down first - not sure what the message there is.

In life there are people who we should simply not trust. Don't be an Asok. Don't trust Wally to catch you when you fall! :)

Humble Statements

I was wrong. Please forgive me.

Thank you for helping me.

Be merciful to me a sinner.

I do not have an opinion.

I cannot make it alone. I need help.

I am not God. I need God.

The Right to Flash Headlights

Just in from one of our local news stations:

A new lawsuit accuses police in the St. Louis County town of Ellisville of violating the rights of drivers by prosecuting those who flash headlights to warn other drivers of police presence and speed traps.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of Michael Elli.

In November, Elli flashed his headlights at oncoming traffic and was pulled over by an Ellisville officer. Elli was cited for flashing lights to warn of radar ahead. The charge was eventually dismissed.

The ACLU said the prosecution violates the driver's First Amendment right to free speech.

I have never thought about this as a First Amendment free speech issue. What do you think?

Hitchcock | ★★★★★★★★

Might be revealing my age a bit but this movie caused me to reminisce a bit about the "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" TV show that aired in the late 50s and early 60s - it even played the theme song as the closing credits scrolled on the screen. The movie is an adaptation of a book about the making of Hitchcock's "Psycho" (his most popular and highest grossing movie) and focuses on his collaborating relationship with his wife.

I thought the acting was good. Anthony Hopkins did a good job and Helen Mirren complimented him well as Hitchcock's wife. The movie tells the story of Psycho and how Hitchcock had to battle with Paramount Pictures and censors at the MPAA to get it made - in addition to the shower scene this was the first film to show a flushing toilet.

Interesting that I have never seen Psycho but had no trouble following the story - funny how that iconic shower scene sound effects were influenced by his wife. Anyhow, I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★.

Catch my other min-movie-reviews by selecting "Movies" above.

Remembering Lincoln

I do not think I could myself, be brought to support a man for office, whom I knew to be an open enemy of, and scoffer at, religion.

The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong.

Nevertheless, amid the greatest difficulties of my Administration, when I could not see any other resort, I would place my whole reliance on God, knowing that all would go well, and that He would decide for the right.

In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.

May the Almighty grant that the cause of truth, justice, and humanity, shall in no wise suffer at my hands.

Back to the Future

Anyone else think that we would have flying cars in 2013? And what about:

    •  hover boards :: Marty would be disappointed today.
    •  power lacing shoes :: Sorry Marty. Still gotta tie them.
    •  auto-drying jacket :: Maybe use a portable hair dryer?
    •  video calling :: perhaps the movie makers envisioned Skype?
    •  wall mounted flat screen tv :: that will never happen.

FYI. The dates in the image are wrong. Still hope that by October 2015 I will fly in a car?

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.


Yeah, no one ever sees the 'H' in IMHO as 'honest'. Mostly it is seen as 'humble'. Wonder what really makes an opinion humble? I think that I would rather have an honest one. It reminds me of this quote from Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

I think that the line between fact and fiction opinion is often blurred by cable TV hosts. These often present opinion as fact and their opinions are often neither humble or honest. I think Voltaire framed it well when he wrote:

    Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes.

Perhaps we should omit the 'H' when we comment? IMO seems a bit more honest. :)

Chaplain Emil Kapaun

Today Chaplain Emil Kapaun was posthumously honored with the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest award.
Below is a post that I shared about him on Memorial Day in 2011.

Some of the many unsung heroes of our military are the chaplains who serve and sacrifice for our nation. Today, on this day of remembrance, I thought that I would share a bit about one such man. The image at the right depicts a statue, located in Pilsen, Kansas, of Emil Kapaun helping a wounded comrade. Kapaun was a chaplain in the US Army during the Korean War. Here are a few details of his inspiring service from the wiki on him:
  • In January 1950 he was stationed near Mt. Fuji, Japan as a military chaplain until alerted into combat in July 1950. 
  • In the same month, Chaplain Kapaun's unit, the 35th Brigade from Ft. Bliss, TX landed in South Korea during a big invasion.
  • He constantly ministered to the dead and dying while performing baptisms, hearing first Confessions, offering Holy Communion and celebrating Mass from an improvised altar set up on the front end of an army jeep.  
  • He regularly would lose his Mass Kit, jeep and trailer to enemy fire. He told how he was thoroughly convinced that the prayers of many others were what had saved him so many times up until his capture.
  • He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in September 1950.
  • When his unit was overrun by the enemy he stayed behind with the wounded. He allowed his own capture, then risked death by preventing Chinese executions of wounded Americans too injured to walk.
  • In November 1950, he was captured near Unsan, North Korea.
  • In the prison camp his main complaint was lack of sleep for several weeks at a time.
  • He was noted among his fellow POWs as one who would steal coffee and tea (and a pot to heat them in) from the Communist guards.
  • On May 23, 1951, he died in a prison camp in Pyoktong, North Korea. He was buried in a mass grave near the Yalu River. 
  • On August 18, 1951, Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions at Unsan.
If you are interested you can find more about Kapaun with an internet search. Today I honor and remember chaplains like him who do an amazing job ministering to our valiant soldiers. I applaud the quiet and humble way that they serve those who have given all for peace.

Why God is not an Abusive Heavenly Father ...

About a month ago I came across a blog titled "Desperately Wanting to Believe Again". It is a compelling site that features the writings of Les, a one-time Mississippi pastor baptist pastor who suffered traumatic loss when his wife and son were murdered in October of 2011.

I have loved the way that my interactions with Les have caused me to think deeply about my own life traumas and how I have come to see God in my own pain. Mostly it has helped me to see how a certain view of God can lead some to subliminally see God as an Abusive Father.

Now I am not saying that Les, or others commenting on his blog, say those exact words. But reading there has helped me understand that there is a seemingly widespread subliminal theological view that God is complicit in the painful things that happen to human beings. Following are a few excerpts from my comments on Les' blog.

When I read: “What I want to believe and know again with all of my heart is God’s love toward and protection of me. That God has my bests interests at heart.”

I hear you say: “If God really really really loved me then bad things would not happen to me.”

Is that pretty accurate? I do think that most people struggle with God being a loving God because they embrace a theology that sees God as the inflictor or permitter of their pain.

Personal story: I remember times in 1994 shortly after my first wife died when I hurt so much. I did not understand why she died at age 43. Yet each time I prayed my heart returned to the cross and I began to understand (in a very small way) that God loved me more than I could understand.

Since that time the cross has made such a difference in my life. Each time I want to see Jesus as the inflictor or permitter of my pain I remember the cross where He suffered. And if we accept the idea that Jesus is God incarnate then we understand that God also suffered in this life.

I still struggle with deep pain and heartache but not with God. How can I struggle with One who really really really loves me and comforts me in times of my deepest pain and despair?

That said, I do understand how difficult it is to believe that God really really really loves us when we see Him as the inflictor or permitter of our pain.

Interesting how we rush to blame the creator when a person does something horrendous but we do not blame the creation. As humans I guess we want to cut slack to the parents and grandparents of people who do horrendous things when in truth these had more influence over the person who did horrible things to us than God.

Why not blame these people or society in general? Why blame the Creator instead of the creation? Of course it is nonsense to blame parents and grandparents as these do not have control over people who murder innocents in schools or movie theaters. In my view, it is also nonsense to blame God for allowing people to have free will.

And in a very real sense we refuse and inhibit the comfort of the Holy Spirit when we continue to blame Him for causing or allowing bad things to happen to us. On a psychological level, how can one accept comfort or love from One who they see as an abusive Heavenly Father?

It is a very practical issue for me. Not blaming God has helped me to keep my heart free from bitterness and open to His love and comfort.

1) The only way that one could say that God is involved in the permitting of evil or bad things is to blame Him because he gave humans free will that resulted in them doing bad things.

2) This showed up with the first family when Cain murdered Abel. God warned Cain that sin was trying to grab hold of him but God did not stop Cain. Generally speaking, He still allows those kind of bad things.

3) So God would have had to take away Cain’s ability to choose good over evil to save Abel. Sadly Cain chose evil when he could have chosen good.

4) So God, generally speaking, allows bad things to happen because he has ceded His sovereignty (in a small way) to human beings who can make good or bad choices.

5) If God removes our ability to choose then he not only prevents evil and bad things but He also removes our ability to love and do good things to each other.

6) Our choice is to freely love and not do bad things. Hence my assertion that our problem is not with the Creator but with the created.

I don't see Job, the book, as a commentary on God so much as a commentary on the predominant theology of the culture of that time. The folks of that era framed God as an entity that played the puppet-master with human beings. So I don't find mystery in the idea that primitive human beings saw God that way. I do find mystery in the idea that people who have read the gospels still embrace a puppet-master sort of God.

The best things that I have gotten from the book of Job is the idea that grief is a universal experience. Who cannot see Job struggling with denial as he originally speaks of God in cliches then curses the day he was born. Most of the book is all about bargaining, anger and eventually acceptance - Kubler-Ross' grief phases.

I so agree with you that the issues for folks who hurt deeply are really more about wrestling with God and learning to trust him again. Sadly so many see God as the abusive heavenly Father and may never trust Him again.

It is why a different view of God is required to be able to trust again. Sometimes long-held beliefs need to be explored and changed for healing to come.

The Least Tolerant?

This picture (posted on Facebook - where else?) reminds me about the intolerance of the tolerance doctrine. Every few years I post something about it.

Many of those who passionately pursue tolerance are anything but tolerant when it comes to people who they think to be intolerant.

Don't you just love the irony of it all?

Remembering Roger Ebert

Sad news this week about the passing of film critic Roger Ebert. Interesting to note that he, like my wife Ann, spent time at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. In memory, here are a few of the things that Roger has shared with us:

"When I am writing, my problems become invisible, and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be."

"I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization."

"Kindness' covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out."

"Because of the rush of human knowledge, because of the digital revolution, I have a voice, and I do not need to scream."

"We are put on this planet only once, and to limit ourselves to the familiar is a crime against our minds."

"I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path."

"So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies."

The Bible in Sound Bites

What kind of mini-series would you produce if you only had seven hours of video to tell the entire story of the bible? Which parts would you include and what would you leave out? That was the dilemma that the makers of the History Channel's "The Bible" mini-series were faced with. Ann and I watched and enjoyed all five installments of the series. Here are a few afterthoughts in no particular order:
  • Was interested by the stories that they chose to tell.
  • The ultra-white teeth of the actors really bothered me.
  • The ninja fighting angels that saved Lot in Sodom made me smile.
  • I loved that Jesus smiled and showed the loving side of God.
  • Seems like they could have cast a few less European actors.
  • I was moved by the scourging and the crucifixion.
  • Thought that they could have had Paul in more scenes.
  • Enjoyed the interpretations of the stories and how they made me think.
  • I would have enjoyed seeing the stories of Joseph and  of King Solomon.
  • Wonder if there was a Catholic influence in how Peter and Mary were written.
  • Loved that the series broke all sorts of ratings records.
Overall, I liked the way that they weaved the story of Israel all the way from the Exodus from Egypt, exile in Babylon and the Roman occupation of the Holy Land. There seemed to be consistency in the way that they told the story.

Did you watch all or part of the series. I would love to hear your thoughts about it. Suspect they be different from mine. :)