Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Girl Who Worked for Peanuts



The Girl Who Worked for Peanuts


T
here once lived a woman who had made some poor choices in her life, one of which resulted in her now 17-year-old daughter. Another poor choice was the woman’s new live-in boyfriend. All you need to know about him at this point is that, whenever he was home, the 17-year-old girl had to keep her bedroom door locked and braced.
Unfortunately, the girl’s mother made one final poor choice just as our story opens. In an effort to peg the needle on the pleasure gauge, she accidentally mixed too much of too many things, with the result that she ripped her soul right out of her body.
Within a few minutes after the end of the funeral, the now ex-boyfriend assumed that the woman’s house was now his, along with the woman’s daughter. When he apprised the girl of his conclusion, the ink on the period at the end of his last sentence was not dry before she informed him, clearly and distinctly, that there was medication for the kind of delusions he was suffering and that she recommended he take the maximum dose.
At this rebuff, the ex-boyfriend launched a fusillade of expletives, insults, threats, demands, and animadversions, accompanied by a complete set of those words—in two languages, for he was bilingual—that are still rather frowned upon among churchgoers. Then he said, “I can’t afford to let you live here for free. You’ll have to go out and earn money any way you can. Unless—,” he added, in a tone that made clear what the “unless” was.
“Bless my mother,” said the girl, as she walked out the door, “but she had really bad taste.”
“And bring the money to me,” he shouted after her. “You already owe back rent.”
Now, the girl was not well educated, but she was no dummy, either. So she went from farm to farm looking for employment. She figured that if she could work for a chicken or a hog, she wouldn’t have to give money to the ex-boyfriend, who would, as was his usual practice, spend it on drink and entertainment at the Red Light Café, just across the county line.
The stable owner told her that he had girls by the dozen offering to care for and ride his horses, and the watermelon farmer, after sizing her up, said she couldn’t do the all-day lifting required. After these and a few other rejections, she at length found herself at the door of a peanut farmer and his wife (who immediately took to calling her “Sweetie”). When the farmer made the girl an offer of a certain amount each week, she said, “I don’t want cash. I’ll just work for peanuts.” The farmer couldn’t hide his expression of wonder, but he agreed to pay the girl in peanuts rather than currency.
When the girl got home, the ex-boyfriend demanded whatever money she had earned.
“I work for peanuts,” the girl said, demurely.
“I don’t care,” the ex said. Give it to me.” So the girl dumped a substantial sack of peanuts (still in the shell, of course) onto the kitchen table.
At this perceived outrageous affront to his dignity, the ex-boyfriend produced, just as he had before, and at an increasingly high volume, a highly repetitive string of all the insults, asperities, and excoriations he could think of, lavishly punctuated by an all-too-generous serving of four letter nouns and verbs. To be honest, my summarized paraphrase of his retort has shortened this story by two thirds over what it had been if I had quoted him exactly.
This ungentlemanly outburst didn’t faze the girl one bit, for she had heard all those words before. What did bother her, however, was noting that her mother’s ex had brought up the crowbar from the tool shed. She quickly connected the dots, and, early that evening, before the ex was even half drunk enough to locate the courage to try the crowbar on her bedroom door, the girl packed up her meager belongings and disappeared.
Happily, she reappeared at the peanut farmer’s house, where, to her request to stay in the farmer’s barn, the farmer said, “Well, I guess that can’t hurt nothin’.”
And his wife said, “Of course you can stay with us, Sweetie, in the house.” There is disagreement among the sources of this story concerning whether or not the farmer’s wife gave her husband a look, and if so, just what the look was.
Well, the girl moved in, and eager to earn her keep, she took her pay of peanuts, roasted them, and sold them at a makeshift stand on the edge of the property right by the road.
Next payment, she made peanut butter cookies. She fixed up her little food stand into a nice place with outdoor tables. Oh, and she made peanut pie, peanut butter and banana cake, and peanut butter fudge.
As the seasons passed, she began selling peanut oil. While demonstrating its use, she discovered that her customers loved peanut chicken, so in the next year she built a small restaurant with her earnings (thrifty saver that she was) together with a modest chicken coop.
Time continued to fly first class and the calendar pages continued to be ripped from their holder. Eventually, the girl’s income (still in peanuts) was such that she was buying her benefactor’s entire peanut crop, together with generous proportions of the crops of several nearby farmers.
After she had expanded her restaurant, she decided to build a baseball field, so she could sell peanuts to the spectators.
The girl was now well enough off to hire a lawyer, who, in two shakes of a rabbit’s tail, evicted the mother’s ex-boyfriend and sued him for back rent.
The girl next had the house torn down and built an amusement park on the property, appropriately called “Peanut Land,” because it featured peanut rides and peanut characters. The concept was so hip (as they used to say) that venture capitalists met with the girl and offered her 178 million dollars for a 49 percent stake. After some deliberation, she agreed, took the money, and moved to Switzerland.
Whenever she was asked how she got her start, she would always reply, “In my first job, I worked for peanuts.”

vvv
(C) 2019 Robert Harris

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Rags for Husbands: An Explanation


Getting married reveals many mysteries that few men ever could have predicted. Today’s amazing fact is that rags belong to different social classes. The first clue a husband gets into this seemingly secret hierarchy comes when he, under the car or under the sink or on his knees attempting to mop up a spill with a paper towel, shouts out to his wife, “Honey, I need a rag!” Naturally, he in his cluelessness expects his bride to answer, “Of course, sweetheart. Here are several.” Instead, he is surprised to hear her ask, “What kind of rag?”
To save my readers the embarrassment of answering, “You know, just a rag,” thereby provoking an argument that will likely end in his sleeping on the sofa for the next several weeks, here is the explanation.
At the top of the social hierarchy are the Royal Rags, often indistinguishable from Guest Towels. They are frequently folded neatly, stacked together in a pile of half a dozen or so, and ensconced in cute little ceramic holders in the bathroom. But beware, O man, Royal Rags are not to be used under any circumstances. Pity the husband who dries his hands on one. And should he wipe his greasy hands with one after changing the oil in his wife’s car, well, that thought cannot be completed. Just remember: Royal Rags are part of the decor, not part of your toolkit.
Next are the Good Rags. These rags often have all four edges sewn, are nicely rectangular, and have no holes or rips. Good Rags may be used for light jobs such as wiping the bathroom mirror, cleaning one’s glasses, drying  the dishes, and so forth. It is not a good idea to take some of these to the garage or workshop, because they will be in danger of getting soiled. If you have a dirty job, you need to use Worker Rags.
Worker Rags supply the backbone of household cleaning tasks. They can be used to mop floors, wipe the mud off shoes, apply some preserve-and-shine treatment to tires, clean the dust off neglected book shelves, scrub the shower pan, and other elbow-grease-required tasks.
Finally, at the bottom of rag society—and ironically enough, the most useful and hardworking in the rag hierarchy—are the Kamikaze Rags. Kamikaze Rags can be identified by their often irregular shape, frayed edges, stains, and evidence of a former life as a bath towel, bedsheet, or T-shirt, before being cut or ripped into rags.
These rags can be used for anything—wiping greasy hands, cleaning up after an event by Junior or Fido, applying some strange chemical to clean some rusty tools, wiping the runs off a paint can, removing the grease from a lawnmower, or any truly yucky task. Unfortunately, Kamikaze Rags are used only once. So husbands, take note: always keep a supply of Kamikaze Rags on hand. The ones you use and hand to your wife are headed for the trash, not the washing machine. Those super handy little red rags you can get in the automotive department of hardware stores are perfect for grimy use. Just remember that they are mortal and will not be reincarnated. No woman wants to launder her delicate unmentionables in a washing machine that has been used to clean filthy rags. (Ever wonder why auto repair shops have their own washing machines?)
In addition to a personal supply of Kamikaze Rags, every husband should ask his wife to identify the various living accommodations of each of the other classes of rags, in order to avoid issues (as they are called). Pay special attention to the domicile of Worker Rags, since these are the ones you are least likely to get into trouble if you use them.

From Glimmering 2029, in Glimmerings III by Robert Harris


Friday, March 15, 2019

Drawbacks to the Christian Faith


Drawbacks to the Christian Faith

I believe in truth in advertising and in presenting both the upside and the downside of every decision. Those of you who have read my previous article, “Benefits of the Christian Faith,” might be feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit right now. But before you decide, remember that choosing to become a Christian should not be taken lightly. It is a serious decision with eternal implications, and it includes several challenges. “Count the cost,” Jesus says (Luke 14:28).

Why someone might not want to be saved

Here are some reasons you might not want to become a Christian:

1. You don’t want to live forever in the kingdom of God.

A king rules his kingdom, and in heaven  God would rule as your Lord and King. What is it that Satan says in Paradise Lost? “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.” Is that you? Would submitting forever to your creator be just too much for you? Would you feel repressed rather than privileged to live in an environment where only goodness existed? No more dirty jokes or plastered weekends? No more “let’s get crazy” parties? No more thinking of yourself as the greatest thing since tofu?
Response: Don’t confuse Divine Authority with earthly authority. God is the Authority (he created everything, so his book is the most reliable). God really does love his creation, people especially. Think of how much trouble he goes to just to get your worthless hide into his kingdom. He thinks you’re valuable. Sheesh.

2. You don’t like the idea that just anyone can be forgiven and get into the kingdom.

Does the thought of living among a bunch of repentant sinners, many of them of questionable social class, bother you? Are you a racial supremacist who thinks only people with the same color skin that you had on earth should be allowed into heaven? Or are you an upper crust type who is repulsed by the thought that some laborer you once hired from a hardware store parking lot might not only be in heaven with you, but have a larger reward than you?
Response: If you want a superior reward in heaven, serve God with all your strength and remember that earthly status isn’t one of the factors considered for heavenly reward. Buying lunch for the guy you hired in the hardware store parking lot will earn you more points toward a reward than being promoted to chairman of the board. And if you make a face as if you just tasted a rotten lemon when you think that Ted and Zelda will likely be in heaven with you, what do you suppose they are thinking about seeing you there?

3. Whatever the consequences, your pride is the most important thing.

Are you unwilling to take orders from anybody because you want to be the center of attention, making all the decisions? No worship choirs in heaven for you because you want to solo, whatever the tune? At the end of your life do you want to sing, “I did it my way,” and tell everyone that you lived an “authentic” life? Self-actualization is your mantra? You like to take the opposite position in every discussion just to show what an individual, unique thinker you are? You don’t want to have to admit that you’re no longer superior to everyone else?
Can’t stand the thought of not being in control, of no longer arrogantly strutting down the hallway and enjoying the look of fear on the faces of your cowering subordinates?
Response: Think of how many billions of people have passed through life on this planet. Of those, there were certainly at least a million each of people who were smarter, better looking, wittier, more skilled, more talented, more creative, stronger, and faster than you. And many of them were saved, which gives them an advantage over you, by being wiser, too. I hate to break the news to you, but pride is a personality disorder—and that explains why you’re not a very happy person.

4. Your explanation of the world doesn’t include God.

None of this spiritual mumbo jumbo in your Scientific worldview, thank you. So when you observe a process like metamorphosis, where a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, you find it easier to believe that it was produced by chance than by design. You have to believe that the process developed from many, many individual mutations, most of them harmful, and none of them being directed or having a goal, than to believe that the apparent intricate design actually is an intricate design, produced by a Designer?
When you look at the beauty and complexity of the natural world—trees, clouds, rain, sunsets, tropical fish, crystals, butterflies—do you think, “No big deal. Just a bunch of accidents, like me”? Do you wait with nervous anxiety every year for the missing link fossil that “finally proves” your materialist worldview?
Response: I suggest you hunt diligently for a theory of origins that can replace neo-Darwinism, (and still leave God out of the picture, of course) because that theory is a house of cards in a high wind.

5. You want to feel free to lie, cheat, steal, seduce, perhaps kill, without feeling guilty.

Hey, as long as you can get away with it, why not? After all, somebody once said, “Where God does not exist, everything is permissible.” If God existed, would he just get in the way of what you want to do, so goodbye God? Does it flatter you to think that you make your own rules? Make them up as you go along? Have you discovered that morality is just a social construct imposed by the oppressors on the oppressed? Are you fond of telling others, “Who’s to say what’s right or wrong?”
Response: Before the double-edged sword of relativism comes back to bite you (I just love mixed metaphors), remember that relativism is a two-way street (with swords that bite driving up and down). In a society where every Joe, Frank, and Sheila is busy making up their own rules, do you still expect the waiter, the auto mechanic, the cell phone rep not to overcharge you? Do you think the doctor peering at you from behind his surgical mask had any motivation not to cheat his way through medical school? (He knows that if you die during the operation, he will get paid anyway.) Do you expect your friends to be truthful with you? Do you expect your spouse to remain faithful to you? What are you smoking, anyway?

6. You hate God, so you want to continue to pretend he doesn’t exist.

Is it crucial for you to get revenge on God by denying him? Are you really trying to get revenge on authority? Did your earthly father abuse, neglect, abandon, or in some other way hurt you deeply?

God is your Father.
Your father is not God.

Did your mother make you memorize Bible verses in the King James Version, even though you didn’t know what they meant? Did some nice girl say NO to you because she was a Christian? Do you blame God because you are homely, handicapped, suffering from disease, poor, foolish?
Response: If this is you, I think you’ve got it backwards. Instead of trying to get revenge on God for something he didn’t even do, you should take this opportunity and turn to him, for comfort and healing. He’s big enough to handle your pain and help you through it. Why reject the best help—spiritual, emotional, intellectual—that’s available?

7. Something very bad happened to someone you loved.

When your loved one became ill, maybe you prayed to God for help, healing, or deliverance. But his answer was not what you wanted, so you have erased his name out of your book? Did God not snap to it and obey you when you told him what to do? Instead of turning to him with trust, did you turn away and refuse his comfort?
Response: Do you blame God for every bad thing that happens, but never praise or credit him for every good thing that happens? Does your ignorance of Scripture cause you to think that God causes every bad thing that happens rather than allows them with his own sadness?
Turn to the Bible and read with the goal of understanding just how horrible sin is, and how it has marred the entire creation. Maybe then you’ll realize that turning from God makes your pain worse. But, of course, it makes Satan happy. Do you hear him laughing at you right now?

8. It just flatters your ego to feel so sophisticated—and superior—as to deny the existence of God.

Do you enjoy scoffing at Christianity and smirking when people mention Jesus because you love their reaction and it makes you feel so superior? Does it make you feel so much above people when you mock them for “blindly believing their grandparents’ faith instead of living in the real world”?
Do you feel warm and tingly all over when you can mention Science (with a capital S) and pretend that science and Christianity are somehow incompatible?
And do you really get a buzz from the look of shock on the faces of those naïve believers when you announce so forcefully and confidently that God is a myth?
Response: Sorry to be blunt, but this is the attitude of the young and the immature (as in 13-year-olds) who have learned these set phrases (and attitudes) as a response formula that makes them feel less insignificant. I suggest that you probably have low self-esteem and are in need of an emotional prop to make you feel better. Rather than spit shining your ego with tired clichés, you should seek and find the God whose love gives you value.

9. You won’t be able to sell your soul to Satan in exchange for worldly success.

That’s right. Satan doesn’t like Christians (and the feeling is mutual), so if you think you’ll want to work for the devil so you can get lots of stuff in this life, don’t join his enemies (us believers).
I do have a word of wisdom about this, however. There are so many people these days eager to do the devil’s work that he doesn’t need to pay for souls anymore. So you’d be giving your soul up (together with its eternal fate) for free. And even if he does promise you whatever it is you crave so crassly, remember that Satan is liar and a con artist. Don’t be surprised if his check bounces, leaving you with nothing but a hole in your pocket and a dumb look on your face.

10. You don’t want to be persecuted, tortured and killed for your beliefs.

Okay, let’s cut to the bottom line. It’s safer to believe in nothing than in a faith that might get you killed.
Christians past, present, and future have always faced hostility from various sources, secular and religious. Jesus’ death on the cross was just the beginning of countless believers facing torture, burning, beheading, shooting, hanging, and on and on.
In the United States currently, the persecution has been limited largely to discrimination in hiring and promoting, admission to the university, and the like. But already, in many Middle Eastern countries for example, the hostility has long been expressed through personal violence.
So hey, why take a chance on being persecuted? All you’re risking is eternal life.


4
The Truth Will Out
Once upon a time, in a kingdom somewhat far away, the king’s guardsmen rounded up several preachers of various religious ideas and brought them into the king’s presence. “These men are disturbing the peace of the citizens,” the head guard said. “They are preaching strange doctrines.”
“Let them speak,” said the king. So the guard threw one of the men down before the king.
“Speak,” said the king.
“There are many paths to God,” said the man, “but it does not matter which path you are on because choice is an illusion.”
“Return this idle babbler to the marketplace,” said the king. “Who is next?”
So the guard flung another man down. “Speak your wisdom,” ordered the king.
“The goal of all our reincarnations is to become nothing,” the man said. “We must seek nonexistence.”
“What of this man?” the guard asked.
“He is a harmless fool,” the king said. “Return him to the marketplace.”
Finally, the guard pushed another man down to the king’s feet. “What is your delusion?” the king asked, smirking.
“There is only one God,” the man said, “and only one path to him, and that is through the atoning sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ, who grants eternal life. Unless you serve him, you cannot be saved.”
“And this one?” asked the guard.
“Kill him,” said the king, in a fearful voice.

V
&
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
—2 Timothy 3:12

V
&
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
—James 2:19



Questions for Thought and Discussion

For Those Who Are Not Christians
1. If you are not a Christian, of the reasons for not wanting to become a Christian, are any of those discussed here your reasons? Which reason(s), and why?
3B. If you are already a Christian, did any of the reasons for not wanting to believe hold you back? If so, how did you overcome the objection?
4.

Activities

1. In your small group, choose someone to play the narrator, the head guard, the king, the “many paths” preacher, the reincarnation preacher, and the Christian. Act out the vignette, “The Truth Will Out” in this chapter. Discuss its purpose in this chapter.



The Benefits of Christian Faith


The Benefits of Christian Faith


Why someone would want to be saved

Why should anyone want to become a Christian? Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the answer you’ll hear right away will be something about eternal life and avoiding hell. While that is a good answer (it also has the most significance) there are several reasons for becoming a Christian that will impact your life right here on earth. Here are a few of them.

1. Your life will have meaning.

If you now think that you are just another late product of evolution whose existence is meaningless and has no other end than death, becoming a Christian will enable you to realize that you are actually a spiritual as well as a physical being, whose life does possess meaning, an infinitely powerful meaning. In fact, you were created in the image of God himself, sharing some of his characteristics (creativity, love of beauty, desire for fellowship).

V
&
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
—Genesis 1:27

2. You will understand the value of your life.

As a being created in the image of God and given existence by his grace, you are a supremely valuable part of the created world. God values you and loves you in a way far beyond the way he values and loves the plants and animals he has also made. In fact, he loves you more than he loves the angels. You will understand this and feel your value when you learn that God gave his only son to die to pay for your sins.

V
&
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.
—1 Timothy 2:5-6

3. Your life will have purpose.

Think that your existence is pointless and purposeless? By trusting in God, you will gain confidence in your life as something greater and more important than your mere existence on earth. Whether young or old, sick or well, rich or poor, and whatever color or nationality you are, you’ll realize that your life has a higher purpose than just to consume resources and try to avoid pain. God has a plan for you that extends well beyond your few years on earth.

V
&
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
—Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV)

4. You will be comforted in suffering.

When you suffer or face tribulation, even if you are alone physically, you will receive the comfort and feel the love of your creator. Christianity doesn’t promise an easy, successful, healthy life. Christians face at least as many illnesses, accidents, and setbacks as anyone else. But the knowledge that they have a compassionate, loving God gives suffering Christians strength to persevere and be optimistic in the face of their trials.

V
&
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
—John 16:33

Suffering alone can be deeply miserable. But God is always there for those who seek him, love him, and serve him.

5. You will have the joy of the Lord.

You will feel not just comfort in your sorrow or grief, but joy in the face of every sorrow, misfortune, or tragedy, as the Lord walks along with you. You’ll understand how a Christian can be very unhappy, even downcast, but never feel alone or despairing. That joy comes both from knowing God and from knowing that this life is only a temporary existence that will give way to eternal happiness in heaven.

V
&
And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
—Revelation 21:4

In our weakness, you give us strength,
In our suffering, you give us hope,
In our sorrow, you bring us joy,
And in our struggles, you bring us peace.

6. You’ll enjoy an objective moral code.

You won’t have to wonder, doubt, decide, and second guess each time you’re faced with the question with moral implications. If you’re faced with a decision about doing wrong; you’ll already know the answer or you can ask a simple question that invokes your Christian moral code:
1. Would doing this honor God?
2. Which choice will please God the most?
3. Would doing or choosing this disappoint God?
4. Does God prohibit this?
5. Does God permit this?
6. What does the Bible say about this?
7. Will any of these actions be unvirtuous?

Relativism and situation ethics can become very complicated, with lots of manipulation, rationalization, self-serving, and second guessing. Moreover, lacking a fixed set of values forces you to go through what often will be a tedious, hasty, poorly structured decision-making process, hunting around for pro and con reasons, evidence, data, previous examples and facts relevant to the situation.

4
It’s All Relative
That day, the professor had been lecturing to his ethics class on morality and property.
“There is no objective basis for the belief that theft is wrong,” he said. “That’s just an opinion—or rather a dogma—perpetuated by the wealthy capitalist exploiters to exploit the workers, whose labor creates the property that the capitalists hoard.”
“So a thief is just taking his own due property?” asked a student rapidly scribbling in his notebook.
“Yes,” replied the professor. “A property reassignment operator is thinking, ‘Give me my property that you happen to have.’”
“Yes!” said the student.
“That you happen to have illegitimately,” concluded the professor, emphatically.
“That’s so interesting,” said the student. I wish I could take notes faster.”
“No problem,” replied the professor. “You can purchase all of my lectures in the bookstore. I record them all on this voice recorder. You can—.” Just then, the professor noticed that his voice recorder was not on the lectern. “Where is my recorder?” he asked loudly to the class. There was no response. “Who has my voice recorder?” he yelled, fishing around violently in his briefcase. “Has someone taken it? I want it back right now.”
Not hearing any replies, the professor immediately called Security and demanded that several officers come to his classroom, seal the exits and search every student until his recorder was found. “That is my personal possession and I’ll see to it that whoever stole it is expelled from this university and forever banned from attending any other university in the world.”

Biblical principles are solid and resistant to abuse (and hypocrisy). Living a principled life also allows you to make friends and be trusted by everyone more easily, since it is soon clear that you have fixed moral rules. Therefore, others can predict how you will act or respond in given situations. People who “make it up as they go along” are unpredictable morally and must be viewed with caution in nearly every circumstance.

V
&
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.
—Psalm 1:2

V
&
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
—Matthew 11:28-30

7. You’ll finally know the truth.

It is quite astonishing how much falsehood, disinformation, misinformation, propaganda, and plain lying exists in our information world. Once you are saved, you will learn the truth, with the help of the Holy Spirit. You’ll learn about yourself, others, your life longings, and be able to expose and reject the lies that so many people use to manipulate you with. You’ll discover that there are permanent, objective truths and that those who smirk when you mention truth are at sea without an anchor.

V
&
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
—John 14:16-17

8. You will become emotionally healthier.

What is the cause of an enormous amount of emotional pain and suffering among people today? Resentment, bitterness, grudges, rancor, ill will—in a word, unforgiveness. When you come to Christ, you will recognize that you are in need of forgiveness yourself and that perhaps unrecognized guilt has been disrupting your peace of mind. Bearing the burden of guilt over sins you committed in the past can eat you up and paralyze your emotional life. When you experience God’s forgiveness for your sins and you no longer carry the baggage of sin, you will feel a healing of your heart.
Similarly, bearing an unforgiving grudge against someone who has wronged you can poison your entire personality as you constantly remind yourself each day that there is someone you hate or have not forgiven. Such bitterness and resentment punishes you and prevents you from emotional growth and wholeness. And it taints your whole experience of life—and the relationships you have with everyone.
Finally, once you begin to let go and receive forgiveness and forgive those who have wronged you, you can begin to forgive yourself. We are a self-blaming people. Whenever something goes wrong, not only do we too quickly learn to hate the wrongdoer, but we also hear a whisper inside our own minds that says, “This is at least partly my own fault.” And we hear that voice over and over, possibly for years. When you can complete the forgiveness circle by forgiving yourself, life will suddenly seem to be fresh and new.

V
&
And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
—Matthew 6:12 (NLT)

9. You will become a child of the Light.

You will no longer live in the darkness of mind, heart, and soul.

Trust Me
Wilma had been very successful in her career, but not so much in her relationships. Then one evening she met a quite handsome man who, as she told all her friends at the office, was just the best conversationalist. He praised her looks, her intelligence, her skills. He told her she was the most special woman he had ever met.
The fast friends quickly moved to talk of marriage. Wilma’s only qualm was that they always met in very dark restaurants and her boyfriend—I mean, fiancé—always wore sunglasses.
Nevertheless, Wilma was eager to land such a supportive, good looking, complimentary companion—who never asked for help paying the check—so the wedding soon took place.
The next morning, Wilma’s new husband had already left for work. He did leave a note asking her to meet him for lunch at a restaurant some miles away. Naturally, she got ready and headed out.
When she got to the restaurant, her husband was not there. But he had called and left a message telling her he would be late because he had lost his cell phone. He said she should wait for him.
Wilma waited until early evening, but her husband did not appear, nor did he call. Facing a long drive, the woman, tired from stress, decided to stay overnight at the hotel attached to the restaurant.
The next day, Wilma arrived home after the long drive, only to discover that all her furniture was gone. She soon also learned that all  her bank accounts had been emptied, her investments liquidated, her house re-mortgaged and the equity taken out.
She did find a note on the door from her husband of a day that said, “Thanks for being so gullible and willing to be a fool.”
Yes, Wilma had been conned.

Indeed, Satan is a con artist. His confidence scheme is to keep people from accepting God’s offer of salvation. And he does this by promising us whatever we hunger for, whatever is our weakness. And he offers it to us at an incredible price, a price that turns out to be—incredible.
“You want X? Sure, sigh—I mean sign—here. All it costs is a brief eternity apart from God. And who wants to live in heaven with God when you can have X now and me forever?”

V
&
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
—John 3:19

V
&
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."
—John 8:12

V
&
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.
—1 John 1:5

10. You will be given eternal life.

Asking Jesus into your life to forgive you and to lead you in the Christian walk from then on restores you to fellowship with God, and gives you a place in the kingdom of heaven. Did I mention that it’s an eternal home where you will live forever?

V
&
I tell you the truth, those who listen to My message and believe in God who sent Me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
—John 5:24

Concluding Anecdote
An old acquaintance once said to me, “I don’t see a shred of evidence for the existence of God.” I knew then that argument was useless. I was tempted to say, “Open  your eyes,” and then point to all the beauty and design in the creation: flowers, trees, crystals, clouds, sunsets. But that would get me only a scoff or a sneer. The real problem was that the eyes of his soul were closed, and that prevented him from seeing God’s fingerprints in the physical world. You can’t see what you do not want to see.


Questions for Thought and Discussion

For Non-Christians
1. In light of what you read about why you might want to enter the faith, have you changed your mind? Why or why not?

For Christians
1. In your experience with personal evangelism, which, if any, of the reasons presented here have you found to be effective?
2. Think of two more benefits to salvation in addition to those discussed in this chapter.

For both Christians and Non-Christians
1. Of the reasons for wanting to become a Christian, which two do you find personally most appealing or most persuasive? Why?
2. Of the reasons for wanting to become a Christian, which two do you find personally least appealing or least persuasive? Why?


Activities

1. Create a poster titled, “10 Reasons to Meet Jesus” or “Ten Reasons to be Saved,” and list the ten reasons from this chapter. Next, create a handout with a discussion of each reason (feel free to use any of the material from this chapter, but be sure to include a citation).
Finally, go public with this. Sit at a table at a mall or somewhere lots of pedestrian traffic goes by. See how many people stop to read, how many continue on to discuss, and so forth. Write a report of your day’s activity. What did you learn? Was the poster session effective? Did some people get angry?

 Be sure to read the companion article, "Drawbacks to the Christian Faith."




Sunday, February 17, 2019

A Parkinson's Prayer


A Parkinson’s Prayer

Dear Lord:
We come to you with hearts overflowing with gratitude for all the help and guidance, blessings and mercies, forgiveness and grace you have lavished on us throughout our lives. Yes, we have now been called to bear the difficulties of Parkinson’s Disease, but those pains amount to little more than irritants compared with the many years past when our lives were filled with so much happiness, so much joy, and so much love. Over those years filled with such unending goodness, we have learned to trust you for each day, whatever it might bring, and to trust you for our future, not just on earth but in heaven. Yes, compared with the promise of eternal life with you in heaven, our current illness is nothing but a sneeze. And that knowledge and trust allows us to carry over the joy and love we have always enjoyed from your bounty, redeeming the time of our current distress.
As the Bible says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). And further, it says, “I am sure that what we are suffering now cannot compare with the glory that will be shown to us.” (Romans 8:18)
So our past was good—we thank you for that—our present is good, in spite of our disease—because you help us to flourish—we thank you for that— and you keep reminding us that our future is glorious—and we certainly thank you for that.
But frankly, Lord, we don’t care very much for Parkinson’s Disease, neither those of us who have it nor those of us who are caregivers for someone burdened by it. We ask, therefore, that you will give us the ability to bear this burden with cheerfulness, and to be content with our lives. As Paul says, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I’m in. And I can endure everything with the help of Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11b,13)
Yes, Lord, may this ridiculous disease, that makes us drool on our pillows and shuffle when we walk, may this disease be used by you to improve our character and our spiritual walk. As the debilitations continue to mount, give us the understanding of what’s truly important and what is not. Help our suffering to lead to hope, as Paul says: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:3-5).
Even more than helping us to grow, dear Lord, we ask that you will make each of us a quiet witness to the world, turning our suffering to account by making us model Christians, a light for others, both saved and unsaved, that all may see our commitment to you our God. Make us examples of faithfulness and trust in you, relying on you with all confidence, resting cheerfully in you as we persevere through whatever may come. For “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Thank you again, dear Lord, for giving us an opportunity to live in this world and to be saved from it. May we always reflect our gratitude for being who you are and what you have done for us, remembering that

In our weakness, you give us strength,
In our suffering, you give us hope,
In our sorrow, you bring us joy,
And in our struggles, you bring us peace.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Ways to Hide Something

Okay, secret agents, here are a few ways to hide something. This knowledge might be useful to spies, victims of political and religious persecution, those with sketchy roommates, and more.

1. Cover it. Put a tarp over it. Put a blanket or newspaper over your tablet on the car seat. Paint it. Plaster it. Put a patina on it. Bury it. Put it in a drawer. Put it under or behind a drawer. Put a cell phone tower into a windmill frame, church steeple, or other enclosing structure.

2. Put it where no one looks. Some people used to hide money, drugs, cigarettes, etc. by taping them to the lid of a toilet tank. The news got out, eventually, so that's no longer a place where no one looks. Ditto with the freezer. But what about under the cat? In a light bulb? In a funerary urn?

3. Blend it into the background. This is the chameleon effect. For example, a microphone or camera that looks like a pencil can then be put into a dozen or two real pencils. Camouflage it.

4. Mix it. Mix the gold dust into a bag of construction sand and place the bag with other bags of sand. In fact, you could hide many different items this way. The most dramatic form of mixing, perhaps, is steganography, where data is mixed into the pixels of a photograph. I read recently that the Russians are doing this. I attended the old Comdex computer show one year and bought some software that encoded and decoded information into photographs. I imagine it is still available.

5. Mail it to yourself. While the information is in the mail, it is protected from thieves raiding your house or office.

6. Commonize it. This disguise technique makes something valuable look ordinary or worthless. Example: Wearing homeless attire instead of fancy preppy clothes.

7. Divert attention from it. Create a misdirection, diversion, or fake version. Example: The big safe in the closet carries only ordinary paperwork. The valuables are in a hidden safe. Or, the heavy steel door with the big lock and alarm, and the sign that says, "Warning: Authorized Personnel Only," is the janitor's closet and the simple door marked, "Janitor," is the door to the secret room.

8. Hide it in plain sight. This is the classic "best practice" ploy. Example:  Turn the currency into a valuable coin (some pennies are worth more than $50,000), and put it into a pile of loose change in a cup on the dresser. Or buy a rare stamp and put in on an envelope or postcard left on the table. This was used in a detective story many years ago. I remember another plot from a show years ago where the secret information was put on a microdot that was glued to the end of a sentence in place of a period.

9. Make it look like something else. One current example is disguising cell phone towers to look like trees or other objects. Many people become fixated on an idea or concept of something and this blinds them to things that are disguised. "We're looking for a book, and that's just a pack of paper napkins."

10. Encode it. Information can be hidden by using codes, ciphers, symbols, maps, and many other tools. Plain text encoded into readable language is a great method. For example, if you encode, "Meet me at midnight" into "TXSE JE UI WIERPMGH," it will be obvious that you are using an encrypted message. But if "Meet me at midnight" encodes to "We have mice again," then it is not so obvious that a hidden message is involved.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Who Was Jesus? Lord, or Liar, or Lunatic

In 1968, there was still a Western Civilization requirement at at the University of California, Santa Barbara, so one day there I sat in Campbell Hall along with 600 to 800 other students, mostly freshmen, listening to the professor discussing early world history. In the course of things, he mentioned something about Jesus. Immediately, a student sprang up and asked loudly, "Isn't it true that Jesus didn't really exist?"

The professor, unflustered, took the question politely and said something like, "No, there is good evidence from reliable sources outside the Bible, that Jesus was a real, historical figure." The student, disappointed, sat down.

The  question then arises, "Well, if Jesus really did exist, who was he?" Someone has suggested that there are three possibilities: He was a liar or con man, telling people he was one with God when in fact he knew he wasn't. Or he believed his own claims, which would make him insane, thinking that he came down from heaven to save sinners. Or he actually is the Lord and what he said is true.

Let's look at each of these briefly.
1. Was Jesus a liar? If you study the four Gospels in the New Testament carefully, you'll find all kinds of clues to their believability. For example, when Jesus casts the demon out of the possessed man into the herd of pigs (Matthew 8 and Mark 5), a myth would more likely say that the people marveled and began to worship Jesus. Instead, they begged Jesus to go away.  Or look at the disciples themselves. When Jesus calms the wind and the waves (Mark 4 and Luke 8), instead of rejoicing at their Lord's power, they are absolutely terrified and ask each other, "Who is this man?" Another piece of evidence is that Matthew and John were disciples of Jesus, which makes them eyewitnesses to what he said and what happened. They wrote two of the Gospels. Were the three of them all willing to die for a lie? I doubt it.

2. Was Jesus insane? That's what his enemies said (John 10:20). Would John even record this accusation if he didn't believe otherwise? And the fact is, at least two of Jesus' brothers became Christians (James and Jude). They grew up with him and followed his actions closely. Would they accept him as their savior if they believed he was just making crazy talk? And wouldn't well educated people like Joseph of Arimathea and Paul be able to tell if Jesus could not distinguish between imagination and reality?

3. Was Jesus Lord? This is the third possibility. If the New Testament is true, and if Jesus wasn't lying or crazy, and if he raised people from the dead, and if God raised  him from the dead, then this must be the answer.

If my discussion makes you curious, the best thing you can do now is to read the gospel of John, after praying to the God you might not yet believe in (don't feel foolish; it's okay) and ask him to reveal himself to you if he is real and ask  him if  the claims of Jesus are true. The Gospel of John, together with the rest of the New Testament, will tell you what to do next.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

My Mind Is Still Thinking about the Mind-Brain Dichotomy

One more thought about the interaction between our minds and our brains. I have been arguing that the two are separate entities, although I have stated that the mind depends on the brain to do its work, just as a driver depends on a car to take it places.

So as an elaboration, the brain often suggests ideas to the mind, sometimes obtrusively. For example, a man may be thinking about the sales strategy for a new product, when suddenly and unexpectedly, he will be confronted by a sexual thought. This, I opine, is the work of the libidinous brain, pushing an idea into the mind's consciousness. The mind and its owner (the sales strategist) then are free to decide whether to ignore (or suppress) the idea or to entertain and elaborate on it. Either way, while the mind is connected to the brain, the mind is not the same.

Another example of the obtruding brain is the "tape" too many people allow to keep playing in their minds, presented by the brain, that says, "You're no good; you're a loser. Father was right: you will never amount to anything." In such cases, it can be very difficult for people (who are their minds) to suppress or ignore those thoughts. They might even play the tape and believe it. Sometimes the tape results from a diseased brain whose chemistry has gone wrong; other times it could be a spiritual issue. In the latter case, remember that you are a child of God, created in  his image; and if your brain tells you otherwise, it's lying to you.

We all can use our minds to choose what to think about. We can, so to speak, command our brains to recall and dwell on a memory, to produce or replay a fantasy, or to engage in a thought experiment, where we trace forward the logical consequences of some decision or action. Of course, we enlist our brains to help us because our brain meat is our random access memory, and a better brain yields a better memory and faster recall. There are folks with photographic memories, who seem to be able to remember everything. Or on a more common level, many teachers can remember all their students' names by the end of the first class. That's something I never could do in all my years of teaching. Even by the end of the semester, I often didn't know the names of everyone in the class.

At the other end of using our brains for storing memory are the sufferers of Alzheimer's. Their brains are so deteriorated that many lose the ability to remember where they are, who their family members are, when they ate last, and so on. Their car has crashed, and they can't get anywhere. But they are not their brains.

Our minds should use our brains  to learn skills, moral values, good  habits, and useful knowledge. Even if our brains don't like it. Habitual goodness will bring your brain into line. Show your brain who is master. Tell it what you want it to do, how it can help you. And if it lies to you, ("You need to wash your hands again and count the tiles on the ceiling again,") just tell it to shut up.