Rare Disease Day

Today is Rare Disease Day. According to the website:
A disease or disorder is defined as rare in the USA if it affects
fewer than 200,000 Americans at any given time.
My wife Ann has a rare disease called Neuromyelitis Optica.

Do you know anyone with a rare disease?

... thought I would republish this post from a few years ago.

Calling in Sick

Been a bit under the weather this week. Don't think that I look as bad as this guy but I try not to look in the mirror too much these days. Ann got it first - right after she left the hospital. She is coughing less today so I hope that healing is coming soon for yours truly. I will need to be better by Monday when she has her kidney stones blasted. Until then I plan to mostly veg in front of the TV.

That said, I have been writing daily at my devotional blog. So feel free to click here to get your Bob Blog fix. Or check in here later when I am back to normal - whatever that is. ツ

Zealot :: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Our small group read and discussed this book together over the past few months. It was such a great experience to process the thoughts in the book with a group of committed believers. What follows here is not so much of a book review as a collection of random thoughts I had while I read it. Here is my list in no particular order:
  • The author's disillusionment with Christianity comes through a lot. He "accepted Christ" at a religious teen camp but then rejected the experience in college. I can relate a bit - college was not the best time for me spiritually.
  • Aslan's view of himself as a "scholar" bleeds through in the way that he writes and how he sometimes presents speculation as historical fact.
  • The book is confusing at times because it asserts that the gospel accounts are not historically accurate but then uses excerpts from these very same accounts when it is convenient to support it's thesis.
  • The bible is often quoted in a very literal way. It led me to believe that the author leans towards a narrow black and white view of scriptures. Yet my understanding is that his Muslim views are not fundamentalist in nature.
  • He reads the book of Acts and the Pauline epistles and sees a schism between the Jews who spoke/read Greek and the ones who did not. 
  • He asserts that James, Jesus brother, thought the Apostle Paul to be a heretic. He seems to agree with that because he believes that Jesus never really wanted the good news to be spread to non-Jews.
  • He purports to love the "historical Jesus" more than the one pictured in the gospel accounts but then seems to deride him with innuendo that presents Jesus as somewhat of a manipulator and ignorant peasant that was not dissimilar to the magicians parading around in that era.
  • The belief presented is that John the Baptist was the leader and Jesus was one of his disciples. He discounts much of what is written about Jesus as embellishments and thinks that the Baptist is the real deal.
  • The book presents Jesus as just another messiah type who embraced a view prevalent in his day and as a zealot type who actually wanted to overthrow the Roman government.
  • Most of his views about Jesus being a zealot or bandit stem from the idea that crucifixion was reserved for people who committed crimes of sedition and treason.
  • The book asserts that, after the fall of Jerusalem, the disciples reinvented Jesus to be a different kind of messiah than the historical one. It says that a kinder and gentler messiah was needed to appease Rome.
  • The book contains some interesting historical background about the time of Christ and the following decades. But I had a hard time trusting what it said as it rarely footnoted with the source of the information. The book did include a notes section but I did not have the want or the energy to weed though it.
All that said, I must admit that I liked the book. It made me think and challenged me at different points in my reading. However I do not recommend the book to you if you do not have a good working knowledge of the bible. Aslan has a very definite slant that could convince a person who was not familiar with bible and the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus.

When Church Is A House Of Pain

I recommend you today to a post on Les' blog with the same title as above. Here is a clip of a compelling testimony written by Pam McCutcheon, a Christian who shares about the aftermath of losing her son
Do you know what Jesus did when He came upon the sisters of Lazarus right after he had died? The sisters were angry with Him, yelling, they told Him that if He had been there, Lazarus wouldn’t have died! Did Jesus say “but he is in heaven, a better place”? Did Jesus say “you might damage your witness by grieving so outwardly”? Did Jesus say “here is some Scripture”? NO. Jesus simply WEPT. He wept with them. He was deeply moved and He wept. Even though He knew He was going to resurrect him that very day. He wept out of love. (John chapter 11) I pray more would use His example and not say damaging things, but simply weep with those who weep.
I have disabled comments for this post so please click here to visit Les' blog. The post is so helpful for anyone wanting to know how to mourn with those who mourn. Also, please leave a word of encouragement there for Les and Pam.

Helping Prisoners Get College Degrees

Many of you know that I worked weekly with prisoners at a Kansas prison for three years and spent three years monthly ministering at a jail in Kansas City. So I was particularly interested to hear about NY Governor Cuomo's announcement to give inmates the opportunity to earn a college degree. Here are a few responses from Chuck Culhane (pictured below), a man who spent a total of 26 years in prison and earned most of his college credits while incarcerated.
"I wanted to see change in my life," Culhane said. "The punk that had been holding up a gas station wasn't going to cut it."
"You find these kids on the corner dealing drugs. If I offer them a job, $25,000 a year, they'd walk away from that in a minute," Culhane said. "[College] would give them something of a self-esteem and an ability to navigate out here, if nothing else. Job creation is essential."
Culhane said he began writing while on death row, which he credits as the start of his education. He works with a variety of prison rights groups now and often serves as a guest speaker.
I agree with Chuck. I think that a college education has the ability to change a person's life. Helping prisoners get a higher education gives them the opportunity to become a different person and stay out of jail. Even so, the program in New York will cost more dollars in the short term. Yet the long term benefits make sense to me. What do you think?

... click here for more on the proposal and Chuck Culhane's story.

Miracles :: All or Nothing?

To be sure, Einstein (in this image) is not speaking of the existence of miracles but more to the ways that we live. Do we live as if God miraculously created it all or not.

That said, many do feel a need to take an all or nothing approach to the topic of miracles. Some feel that miracles do not exist because they regularly occur in life. Yet others claim that ordinary things like baby births are miracles.

My thinking is that there is probably a middle ground that embraces the working of miracles without seeing everything as one. Or perhaps we can simply see life itself as a natural miracle that sometimes confronts us with miracles that are supernatural in nature? Guess it depends how we define it.

What do you think when you hear the word miracle?

Valentines from the Unknown Writer

I'm sorry I didn't get you a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day,
but if you want something sweet I'm right here.

Nothing Steve Jobs ever created could fully replace you in my life.

Roses are red, that much is true, but violets are purple, not really blue.

I don't understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine's Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.

... check out more funny cartoons at the Shoebox Blog.

Last Vegas | ★★★★★★★

You would be mistaken if you think that this movie is some kind of Hangover movie for senior citizens. It came across to me as more of a Bucket List kind of flick. It features five great entertainers who are funny, a bit racy and, most of all, endearing. I loved the way that the guys, they called themselves the Flatbush Four, were friends after 60 years. The self-deprecating geriatric humor had me smiling and laughing. I loved this line:

"It's crazy, but whenever something spectacular happens to me, the first thing I want to do is tell my wife about it. And, after 40 years of marriage, if I can't tell her about something wonderful that happened to me, it sort of stops being wonderful."

The guys and the gal offer to us a nostalgic trip down memory lane. I found myself flashing back to childhood memories in New York and wondering what some of my old buddies are doing. And in the end, I saw forgiveness and reconciliation among old friends. I liked the movie a lot and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

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

Star Trek Actor Trivia Quiz

Here are the answers in alphabetical order:
  1. Majel Barrett
  2. James Doohan
  3. Michael Dorn
  4. Leonard Nimoy
  5. William Shatner
  6. Patrick Stewart
  7. George Takei
Here are the questions in no particular order:
  • Which Star Trek Actor Is Responsible For Inventing The Klingon Language?
  • Which Actor Has The Most Appearances In The Star Trek Universe?
Check your answers here and here . Please let me know how you did.

... a tip of the trivia hat to the How to Geek for this one.

National Computer Clean Up Day

This funny Shoebox cartoon informs me of a day that I have never heard. It is purported to be a day dedicated to logically review, and delete old files and programs. Some even think we should vacuum the dust from our PC's. One description of the day says:

"Most of us add programs and files to our computer with reckless abandon. After all, computers have huge storage capacity. Many of these files and programs are forgotten over time. Overtime they clog memory and cause confusion during retrieval and use of other files. And, some may slow down your computer."

Funny because I have been doing a bit of cleanup since Google fiber was installed in my loft a few weeks ago. The fast internet speeds give me better ways of uploading and archiving old files. Will you celebrate the day or will you just ignore it like me?

... see more funny cartoons at the Shoebox blog.

Character Matters

It has been a week since the Seahawks trounced the Broncos in the Super Bowl. A few days ago Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann wrote an oped piece titled "Dear Mr. Manning" in the Denver Post. Here is a beautiful clip from it:
It matters that you're professional in the way you talk to reporters.

It matters that you give credit to others — coaches, teammates, mentors.

It matters that you don't give up in a bad game and keep fighting, no matter the odds.

It matters that you take time to write notes to fans and sign autographs — even after crushing defeats.

It matters that you know the difference between being embarrassed by your team's performance and just not being the best team on the field that day.

And it matters that you meticulously prepare to play the game ... and encourage everyone around you to do the same.
The things that Laurie lists reveal a beautiful character. I so agree with her closing assessment of Manning: "it's your character that sets you apart from so many of your predecessors and peers. And that's a legacy that matters."

... I recommend that you read Laurie's article in full here.

Friday Bacon Rant

This image had me smiling this week when I saw it on Facebook.
A few thoughts about the heavenly food.

    •  I'm not a fan of wrapping it around stuff as it loses it's crispness;
    •  Crispiness is the main thing - hate limp bacon;
    •  I think that it enhances the flavor of cheeseburgers;
    •  The "B" is the only thing needed in a BLT;
    •  Center cut bacon gives me the illusion of eating healthy.

Not sure that rant is the proper title but I can go on about the stuff. ツ

What do you like and/or dislike the most about bacon?

Are you short on ears and long on mouth?

Love the Stephen Covey quote in this image. Here are a few more.

“You're short on ears and long on mouth.” -John Wayne

“It takes a great man to be a good listener.” -Calvin Coolidge

“An appreciative listener is always stimulating.” -Agatha Christie

“I never miss a good chance to shut up.” -James Patterson,

“There's a lot of difference between listening and hearing.” -G.K. Chesterton

“Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer.” -Ed Cunningham

“It's not at all hard to understand a person; it's only hard to listen without bias.” -Criss Jami

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” -Bernard M. Baruch

Religious Superstition Ain't the Way

Saw this funny pic yesterday on Facebook. It reminds me of the many superstitions that so many of us embrace. Some think that wearing a particular jersey will help their team win the game. It is all very silly but sometimes the silliness spills over to our religious lives. Often we find ourselves thinking that the words of our prayers (or even simply the ones that we confess) have some sort of magical power. In that we miss the main point that the words we speak or pray is all about the things that we have hidden in our hearts. Faith is really the opposition of superstition because it is not about manipulating outcomes but trusting God regardless of how things turn out.

Can you relate to what I am saying? Have you experienced superstition spill over into your life? What are other examples of religious superstition that you have witnessed?

Control, Fear and Love

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.To love is to be vulnerable. -CS Lewis

I read this quote over at the Mockingbird blog in a post that says: Control Is Just an Illusion, But Love Casts Out Fear.
I highly recommend the post to you. Here are a few clips from it.
"The root of the desire for control is fear. And fear in this world is not without cause.

My own usual response to fear is to put a lot of energy into creating an airtight system that eliminates risk. But this is not without cost. Go too far with this sort of thing and you will find yourself desiring secrecy even when there’s no need for it. You’ll want to check things all the time and make sure all is well. You’ll suppress emotion, because emotion must be regulated by reason in order for the system to function, and then when it’s time for emotion to have its say, you won’t be able to find it."
I can so relate to the idea of fear motivating a desire to be in control but I never thought about how it could squelch the expression of love. When we experience bad things we sometimes (especially if we have a predisposition to do it) use control to manage the pain and provide us with a temporary sense of peace. The denial stage of grieving is like that. But, like denial, control can be bad when we allow it to dominate our lives. To really love, and to really live, requires us to let go of control. I end by sharing the ending from the Mockingbird post:

"Maybe it’s just recognizing that the supreme level of control sought by those of us of “freak” status is just an illusion anyway. Terrible things will happen, despite your best efforts to secure yourself against all shock and alarm. You will be blindsided–if not by the thing you’re guarding against, then by something else. That’s what “blindsided” means: you don’t see it coming. And the energy you’re spending on maintaining a defensive system would be better spent on loving the people around you before they’re taken, which they most certainly will be at some point unless you’re taken from them first. Yes, it’s risky. But it’s worth it. They’re worth it. They’re worth the fear and discomfort and uncertainty and vulnerability–wonderfully worth all this and more."