Cancer sucks!

OK, first of all NO, I don’t have cancer, nor does anyone I know right now. In fact, I’ve been blessed to not have to see a family member or friend get eaten up by this terrible disease. I know at some point I may need to walk that road, and I pray that God will give me the grace to do so if that time comes.

No, I say this because of the deaths this past week of both David Bowie and Alan Rickman to cancer. To ME this is a blow because I KNEW these people, loved their work and cancer took them away too soon from the world. I know for others the pain of loss is much closer and much more pronounced that some pop star or celebrity. But allow me to “work with what I’ve got” for a few minutes.

Many people have written lovely pieces remembering and celebrating these men, and rightfully so. Others have written about the pain that cancer inflicts on the world. While others begin to ask the inevitable questions that come with these losses. Why? And especially why if there is a God who LOVES us, does He “allow” cancer to continue destroying and taking lives?

What I offer below is not “the answer” to those questions. I don’t claim to have that. These are things mankind will struggle with until “the end” (whatever that may entail). But let me just offer some food for thought.

How does God accomplish most of the “good” that is done in the world? Is the miraculous supernatural power of God frequently on display for all to see? Or does most things get done by ordinary people, inspired, directed, fueled and led by God, sometimes without their direct knowledge of it, to do good: to help, to heal, to research and learn?

Over the past 50 years, we have made HUGE strides against cancer. A diagnosis used to almost universally be a death sentence but NOW, for most cancers, the odds of surviving are in your favor. Certainly the research and medicine behind this fete was at least partially driven by people’s commitment to God and the compassion He placed in their hearts for people and the knowledge He gave them the ability to learn and expand upon. After all, we are His hands and feet.

So let us not grow weary of the fight. Let us push on towards the goal of eliminating cancer from this planet. Support research. Support science, medicine and education. Encourage young people towards this goal. They can and will tap into the love and strength that God supplies to reach for it.

In the meantime, God co-suffers with us. He mourns with us that we will no longer enjoy the continued musical genius, acting prowess and unique voices of these lovely men (at least in THIS life). He sorrows with you over the passing of your relative or friend from your life. He understands loss. He experienced it firsthand. And He is FOR us – our biggest cheerleader in this fight against all things that harm and kill people. So let’s press on and in His name Mess. Cancer. UP!

Please donate here: American Cancer Society. Every little bit helps.

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Does God destroy souls?

Most of you who read this (all three of you – LOL) probably already know I’ve laid aside my former belief in an actual “Hell”, as in a place where God will stick people who don’t believe in Him (or believe the ‘right things’ about His son, Jesus) and torture them forever. Not surprisingly, I get a bit of push back from people who have not been taught any other way to believe and wish to keep this idea for various reasons. One of the reasons I get is that “The Bible teaches about Hell”. And one of the verses that is used is found in Matthew 10:28. I’ll quote it here from the NASB (version chosen pretty much at random):

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (NASB)

Sounds pretty clear, right? Don’t fear man because he can JUST kill you, but GOD can destroy both your body and your very SOUL in Hell, so you better be scared of HIM.

Well, right off the bat, this disagrees with some of the established traditional beliefs.

People’s “bodies” are not thrown into hell. Hell is AFTER death and the judgement, but BEFORE people (well, the ‘saved’ ones) get their new, glorified bodies. So, technically, according to tradition, there is no BODY to throw into Hell, ONLY a soul.

Secondly, the standard belief is that the soul doesn’t DIE (get destroyed), but is tortured endlessly. The idea that people are destroyed in Hell is called Annihilationism, and is generally regarded as a fringe heresy. (NOTE: It’s not. Many early church fathers believed in it, and it has plenty of scriptural backing, too. But that’s another post.)

So, already, just examining the “clear English” meaning, there’s problems with this passage when compared to traditional beliefs about Hell.

But let’s go a bit deeper and examine the actual GREEK words in this verse. I have in my library a version of the Bible that tells you the standard and alternate meanings of the Greek words used in NT writings, so that you can decide for yourself, with the Spirit’s leading, what is the ‘correct’ interpretation. I will quote here:

“Stop being (or: Do not continue being [other MSS: You should not be]) made to fear from the one normally killing the body, and yet continuing unable (with no power) to be killing the soul. But rather, be habitually fearing (or, continue being wary of, with a healthy respect for) the person being constantly able and continuing with power to loose-away and destroy (or cause to be lost) both soul (the interior life; [note: may refer to the person’s reputation in regard to character and other personal qualities]) as well as body within the Valley of Hinnom (Greek: Gehenna; Jerusalem’s garbage dump: the place where criminals and folks with disgraced lives, and thus considered unfit for proper burial, were cast away, the disgraced end of an outcast or criminal).” (The New Testament – Jonathan Mitchell – www.jonathanmitchellnewtestament.com)

I know it’s a lot to take in, so let’s break it down.

Firstly, the word translated “Hell” in English Bibles, like almost EVERY time that this word is claimed to be said by Jesus, is Gehenna, The Valley of Hinnom, Jerusalem’s garbage dump where terrible atrocities were committed in Israel’s past. He’s talking about a REAL place, not some destination after you die. We only get that idea because we think of souls as only being what’s left after we die.

Secondly, the word translated “soul” would be better translated “identity” in this passage. A few verses later (vs. 39), this is exactly the meaning that Jesus applies to the word when He talks about gaining and loosing your “soul”. Those who hold on to their identity will ultimately loose it. Those that let go of their identity to take on the identity of Christ will discover who they really are. This isn’t about disembodied spirits in the afterlife, it’s about your earthly life, your personage, the essential “you”.

Thirdly, there is no mention of God in this verse. All the verse says is a “person” has the power to destroy the soul. The assumption that this is God is made based on a preconception that only God sends people to Hell. But the verse isn’t talking about HELL, it’s talking about Gehenna.

So, who was sent to Gehenna? Well, only criminals and social outcasts (beggars, prostitutes, etc.) bodies were dropped in the city dump instead of being buried in a grave or tomb when they died. And such a thing was anathema to Jews. It was like the ultimate disgrace, a mark against their very identity (their very “soul”).

In 70AD, during the destruction of Jerusalem, all the Jews who rebelled against Rome were slaughtered, tossed  into Gehenna and set ablaze. THAT’S who the disciples needed to have proper respect (fear) for. Jesus was telling them not to purposefully challenge Rome, so that they would not end up dead and disgraced in Gehenna (and therefore not out sharing about Him).

However, the next verses say, even if that was to happen, God would still have them in His care, would still accept them, which was a FANTASTIC promise for them. Popular theology of that time said that if you didn’t have a grave to be buried in you couldn’t be raised from the dead. Jesus was telling them that NOTHING could keep Him from them, not even death, not even death resulting in being “destroyed” and disgraced in Gehenna.

So God will NOT be destroying your soul. Jesus said only “Satan” destroys. Jesus brings life. Men might seek to both destroy and disgrace us for our message, but God will ALWAYS accept us, and raise us to life in the next age. That’s the promise of this passage.

Four of a Kind

Today my youngest girl turns 13. As I am about all my kids, I am so proud of her. She is having a great year at school, both academically and socially. She’s kind, loving, smart, a hard worker and loves life. Isn’t that what any parent wants for all their kids. So, Happy Birthday, my “little girl”.

This also starts a unique time in my life. For the next 9 months, until September 16th, I will be the father of FOUR teenagers. Yes, Tricia is 13. Kyle is 14 (15 in July), Alex is 17 and Misty is 19 (both until September). I’ve known this day was coming for awhile now, and it has finally arrived.

You might think I may have some words of wisdom concerning this event, but really, no. I feel I am still just learning how to parent teenagers. I often tell my two oldest that their kind of getting the raw end of the deal, as we are just learning with them how this works best. I think it’s good to be honest with your kids. They need to know your not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, and that you can make as many mistakes as they will. Mistakes are how you learn. If you come away a better parent (or student) because of them, then they were worth making.

So, I have seven more years to learn how to get this teen-parenting thing “right”. Prayers and well-wishes are coveted. I’m sure my kids would agree. 🙂

New Router

Four smartphones

Two tablets

Four laptops

One desktop

Two XBoxes

Two Roku TVs

And a Chromecast

Our old wireless router was struggling when we only had half as many devices. After Christmas it was about ready to give up the ghost. Videos buffering or just dropping out altogether. Long load times. The internet “rebooting” for no apparent reason. It was clear we needed a new router to handle the increased traffic. We HAVE a good ISP connection with Cox (though I found out it COULD be better — a story for another time), but our router was an older model when I bought it a few years ago. It just couldn’t push through that much data.

So, I did some research, some review reading and some shopping and decided on a model that was judged “Fastest router of the year” (in 2014), the Asus RT-AC68U. It’s dual band, so we can have our small devices on the regular 2.5Ghz band, and our gaming and streaming devices on the “wider” 5Ghz. I went and picked it up at Fry’s Electronics yesterday.

Besides the speed, it has a lot more management features and extra options than our last router did. At one point today we had 14 devices connected and no problems/complaints from anyone. Except when I reconfigured the Chromecast and it automatically switched the TV to the Chromecast while Kyle was playing the XBox. He was like “Dad… what’s happening?” I swear I had no idea it would do that. LOL

Well Check

I had to take Kyle in for a “Well Check” yesterday morning. It’s required he have one every six months so that he can continue to receive his ADD medication.

The Doctor was pleased with his stats. Nearly perfectly average for height and weight. Eating well. Grades good. Medicine obviously doing it’s job of helping him focus. Thank goodness I can now get three months of prescriptions instead of having to drive in every month to pick one up. Also thanks to God that this medicine is covered but for a small co-pay. This medication has been SO important to both my boys who were both diagnosed with ADD early in childhood. It’s almost certain I had it to, but putting kids on medicine for “being boys” was pretty much frowned on back at that time, so I wasn’t diagnosed. Alex has since outgrown his need for the medication, which often happens during puberty. But Kyle will still benefit from it, at least for a few more years.

It’s amazing how a STIMULANT of such a low dose actually stabilizes brain activity and allows a child to focus more readily. I’m fairly sure that Alex could have struggled through without it, but Kyle, who had not just ADD, but ADHD (hyperactivity) when he was first diagnosed probably would have had to be homeschooled since he could not deal with a classroom environment. He simply did whatever his brain told him to go do, no matter what anyone else was doing, which meant wandering around the class playing while everyone else was trying to listen to the teacher teach something. I often wonder if I was the same way. (I don’t remember that far back).

So, a few minutes at the doctor’s office, and prescriptions in hand, I took Kyle back to his 2nd day of his final semester of Middle School, where he is doing very well. He should have enough medication to finish out the school year once I am able to get them all filled. Another chore completed for me and a wonderful blessing secured for Kyle’s education. Productive day.

A Hunger for Violence

So, the family went and saw the final Hunger Games movie yesterday evening, Mockingjay, Part II. As a conclusion to the series, it was satisfying if a bit predictable. After all, we all know the bad guys have to die and the “good girl” lives “happily ever after”. The one “decision point” in the movie was only mildly suspenseful, as they gave a HUGE amount of clues as to what was going to happen. As the remainder of this post is about what occurs at the end of the film, I’m going to give the standard *SPOILER* space in case you’d rather not know. For those who have seen it, or don’t care one way or the other, press on…

*SPOILERS*

 

*SPOILERS*

 

*SPOILERS*

 

*SPOILERS*

 

*SPOILERS*

So, I found it interesting that the decision was really a choice between two violent acts. Violence is often considered inevitable, especially in movies of this type. Is she going to kill Snow or is she going to kill Coin? Basically, who is she going to take revenge on? The guy who essentially ruined her life, or the lady who (inadvertently) killed her sister and is likely to be as big a tyrant as Snow was. Of COURSE it’s pretty obvious she’s going to do the “right” thing (especially since Snow is going to die soon of a terminal malady anyway). But is it really “right” or is just Hollywood “right”. Do we REALLY have situations where violence is the ONLY answer, or are there ways to think outside the “violence box”, and come up with some solutions that don’t involve killing people? While this is “just a movie”, it greatly mirrors our struggles with terrorists, rampant gunmen, etc. Do we just kill them because “that’s all they understand”, or can there be alternate solutions?

I ran these thoughts past Jen and she gave me some good insights into how Katniss was feeling at the time she made her decision (She’s read the books). Katniss was simply “done” at this point. She was TIRED of the fight, tired of being the “face of the resistance” and always trying to figure out what the “right” thing to do was with everyone pulling her in different directions and trying to make her their puppet on a string. So, yes, she COULD have thought of alternate solutions (rather than just killing one of them), but she gave up. It was too HARD to continue STRIVING for peace.

This brings up a good point. Violence is really only ever a SHORTCUT solution to doing real WORK in people’s lives. It’s easier to kill or “put away” criminals rather than working WITH them (and their victims) to rehabilitate, build and restore relationships. It’s easier to BOMB the terrorists than to try and sit down with them and VALIDATE their claims of how we (our country’s foreign policy) have damaged their lives, and make an attempt to put things RIGHT.

Katniss took the easy way out. Easier to just take out Coin rather than trying to “fight” her over the long term with words and ideas (an area Katniss was never really good at, and was always coached through). Non-violent peacemaking is HARD WORK. Many people think pacifists want to take “the easy way out” by just letting their enemies “win”. But no, that’s not true. We don’t want to take the SHORTCUT, but to do the work to forge peace that doesn’t depend on the destruction of life. That’s NOT easy, it’s HARDER. Violence comes easy to ALL of us, even to noble “heroes” like Katniss Everdeen, who showed over and over she HATED all the killing. But in the end, she just had had enough. She became a bit more like her enemy than she would probably care to admit. Thankfully, circumstances took her out of the political ring altogether (she had played the part they wanted her to play), and so she was able to have that “happily ever after”, at least as far as movies go. But I wonder if she often thought, “Did I really HAVE to kill her?”

We should ask that question BEFORE we agree with policies that kill first and ask questions later. Do we REALLY need to respond this way, or are their OTHER solutions (harder, longer, costlier moneywise, yes) to the violent solution? Will we support the hard work for peace or give in to our hunger for violence?

Why?

I’m sitting here working on my blog site, when Jen looks over my shoulder and says, “Oh, I like it.” Alex asks, “What?” and she says, “Dad’s blog.” Alex says, incredulously, “Dad has a BLOG?”. And so it begins. 🙂

Well put, son. Dad has a blog? Why? Why NOW? And what does HE have to say? I’ve ask myself the same questions. A blog is something I’ve THOUGHT about doing for a LONG time, but always came up with reasons NOT to. “I don’t have enough to say.”, “I don’t have the time to keep up with that.”, “Will anyone even READ it?”, etc.. And so, I just put the idea on the back burner. It’s been back there for a long time. I think it might be sticking to the bottom of the pot. LOL

But over the past year or two, I’ve become much more vocal online, mostly on FB, but also on other blogs, forums, etc. So, I suppose I’m finding more things to say. As I get older, I’ve become less reactive and more reflective. I tend to see things I just didn’t notice before, either because I was just too busy, or just didn’t care, I’m not sure. But over the past 18 months especially, the way I think about the world has changed. It’s been partially due to moving from having “kids” to having all teenagers. It’s been about hitting 50 and realizing I have less years ahead of me than I do behind me. It’s been about maturing as a person, and it’s also been about finding a new level of spirtuality that has made God a more tangible presence in my life, and enhanced an ability I always had, but didn’t always tap into, to see Him and His principles/attributes/Spirit in everything and everyone.

Those things have combined to make me think once again about doing this blog thing. Several people have told me they thought I would do well with it. I don’t know if I’m convinced, but hey, what better way to start off a new year than with a new project like this?

So, if your interested, subscribe (or follow my FB feed — I’ll cross-post there.). Most days will probably be mind-numbingly dull as I recount some random event or conversation from my day (if I even remember to post that day), but hopefully there will be some gems in the pebbles, some words that might “speak” to you, or at least something to make you smile.

Why?

Why not?

Let’s see what happens.