Entries by rdbowker

Watching Movies and Seeing Films

I am a Baptist by conviction.  Among other things, I believe in the doctrine of Individual Soul Liberty, which holds that God may give one person different convictions than He gives to others.  I am not judging or criticizing anyone, whether they believe it’s right to watch movies or not.  Feel to weigh in if you feel that I have gone too far.

I was recently informed that a drive-in movie theater was still open not far from our home.  It brought back happy memories of a childhood when our parents would take us to see Don Knotts or John Wayne from the comfort of our Rambler.  My wife and I watched Star Wars on the outside screen, and we took our kids to see Snow White (in the rain).  All of those memories bring a smile to my face.

But there were many times during my life when I was not allowed to go to the drive-in.  The first two churches I was in taught that going to movies was a sin.  Some of the schools I taught at included clauses in the contract that forbade us from attending movies.  As a younger, less discreet (or more rebellious) person, I sometimes challenged people as to what the difference was between watching a movie in the theater, on television, or on film or videotape in church.  The best response I remember getting was when I was told that “…movies are shown in theaters, and we don’t go to theaters.  But at home or in church, it’s acceptable to see films.”  I only ever met one person whose consistency would not allow them to watch a movie even if it was aired on network television.

If people cannot watch movies confidently and to the glory of God, then they shouldn’t do it:  what’s not of faith is sin.  But for those who are not so convicted, since the Bible does not include clear prohibitions against clean, decent, uplifting entertainment, then I say go for it–provided of course that it IS clean, decent, and uplifting.

As times and churches have changed, however, so have movie theaters.  You used to be able to walk into a theater showing Muppets Take Manhattan and anyone who saw you go in knew what you were watching.  With today’s metroplexes, however, there is always the possibility that a weaker brother could see you enter and draw wrong conclusions about what you intend to see–and I think that that goes back to the origins of Christians banning theater-attending in the first place.  Before there were movies, there was vaudeville–which might or might not include bawdy or risque acts.  It made sense for Christians to avoid going to a theater where they might be unintentionally exposed to indecent and ungodly influences.  Early movies sometimes included nudity (and there were no MPAA ratings back then) until the industry was forced to censor itself.  It made sense for churches serious about holy living to preach against going to theaters or seeing movies.

Which brings us back to the drive-in.  Today, once again, a Christian who feels comfortable with it can go to a movie, knowing what to expect, and leaving no question about what they are seeing.  And those are good things for believers who want the uplift of seeing a good movie without doubts or qualms.

Just a note in closing:  I mentioned seeing Snow White at the drive-in when our kids were little.  We were attending a church that frowned on movie-going, but did not forbid it.  There was nothing in my contract saying I couldn’t go.  There was a double-feature of Disney movies–in addition to Snow White, they were showing Homeward Bound–both good family movies.  We made our plans to attend, but didn’t tell anyone because we didn’t want to be a stumbling-block to church folks who might not understand.  Imagine our surprise when another church family pulled in next to us.  And another on the other side.  And two others in front of us–by the time the movie started, it seemed like half the church was there!  Yet, no one made an issue of it, no one lost their sanctification, and the church did not split.  And we didn’t feel like co-conspirators:  we had fellowship with the other parents, and we knew where our kids were. And for me, that wasn’t a bad thing.

In order to check as to whether a movie really is clean, decent, and uplifting, you can go to kids-in-mind.com which will identify any objectionable content.  Be wise–please God.

Historical Examples

With the scandals in Washington,  each of us must come to one of three conclusions:

  1. that the accusations are all part of a vast, right-wing conspiracy;
  2. that the President is an evil man intent on being a tyrant; or
  3. that the administration is led by by bureaucrats and department heads with no integrity, and that the President’s administrative style has not been able to keep them in line.

Based on history, I choose the third.

This is not like Watergate, where the President was directly involved in conspiracy to commit and cover-up crimes.  This is more like the scandals that haunted Presidents Grant and Harding.  In each case, they chose the wrong people to lead the executive departments, and then they didn’t watch and control them closely enough.  When you read about these two “scandal-plagued” Presidents, you will not find any corruption or criminal activity directly tied to them–it is always attached to the people they failed to supervise because they thought that they could trust them.

Was the response to Benghazi politicized to help the Obama campaign?  Yes, but neither by the candidate himself nor the secretary of state.  They both should have known about it and put a stop to the lies, but they didn’t authorize them.

Was the abuse by the IRS a political strategy to hinder conservative groups?  Yes, but led from within the Treasury department, and not from the White House.

Was the outrageous raid on the AP’s phone records a power grab by a justice department that used the phony excuse of  “national security” to violate the first Amendment?  Yes, but by now it must be obvious to everyone that the CIA is far less effective than we thought, and is desperate to avoid being embarrassed again, especially by a leak from within. 

And nobody is even talking about the Department of Homeland Security, which considers angry white Constitutionalists more a threat than Muslim extremists, and is buying more ammunition than the army.  I won’t mention the tanks they recently bought, which could only be used within our own borders, and against our own people.

A true leader would see the illegitimate motives and directions of these department and agencies, and would replace their leadership with ones more in love with this nation and its values.  But maybe that is the administration’s greatest failing:  they don’t seem to understand or appreciate the traditional values of this land, and so their vision is directed more by discontent than by love for the USA.  

 

Civil Rights

Just a quick note on civil rights.

Last week, the attorney general of the United States said that citizenship is a civil right.  He was speaking in the context of immigration reform, and his words renewed a curiosity within me.

So today I got out my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and looked up the word civil.

According to the most definitive dictionary in the English language, civil refers to attributes belonging to citizens.  Unless there is a law on the books (or in the Constitution) guaranteeing that all people are to be considered citizens, then citizenship by very definition cannot be a civil right–civil rights are the result of citizenship, not the root cause.

What about the Civil Rights movement?  That was an attempt to see that all citizens received the rights guaranteed them by Constitutional amendment.  The term civil was used correctly.

One of the other definitions offers an alternative name for the Civil Rights movement–the Natural Rights Movement.   Civil rights, endowed by citizenship, can change; but Natural rights are endowed by God based on our very existence as beings made in His likeness and image.  All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  I think I read that somewhere.

And, Mr. Holder, God never promised anyone citizenship in the US or any other nation–though He did offer citizenship in Heaven for all who will come to Him by grace through faith.

The Diary of a Little Too Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank has been a popular book for many years, especially for young teen girls.  Ms. Frank’s descriptions of her experiences with the horrors of war are an important historical account that resonates with young people.  Schools have been allowing or assigning its use in the classroom for years.

Occasionally there have been complaints about a “coming of age” passage in the book, but generally it has been considered worthwhile reading.  Until now.

Apparently, an unedited “definitive” edition has been published and specified as required reading for at least one Michigan school district.  Among the extra material included in this newer edition is a graphic description of Anne’s “…discovery of her genitals,” her emerging sexual desires, and her portrayal of her mother and other people living together.  According to a news article, one mom has called it “pornographic” after her uncomfortable seventh grader showed her the passages.  The mom is seeking to have the unedited version banned from the school.

In a telling comment on our society, almost none of the other students noticed or cared about the content.

My real problem is not with the merits of the case; but I don’t like how it has been reported.  The “news” article ended with a blatantly editorial opinion:

Meanwhile, parents in Virginia’s Fairfax County lobby to remove Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Beloved” from high school curricula*. Add Horalek’s aversion to Anne Frank’s diary on top of that and it’s almost like parents don’t want their children confronting the more uncomfortable parts of history.

That’s right:  take a stand for morality, and you will be accused of being an ignorant bigot unwilling to face the reality of history.

Let me close with this analogy to draw the distinction that the reporter seems unwilling to recognize:  I have no objection to students learning about Henry VIII beheading some of his wives; but I don’t want them reading detailed accounts of his honeymoons.  Both are aspects of historical reality, but only one meets a standard of decency that needs to be revived in our schools and in our culture.


 

*Here is what one blogger wrote with regard to Beloved.  Notice the same disdain for morality displayed in the news article.  Warning! Even the summary here is more offensive than young people need to be exposed to.

Beloved contains incest, rape, pedophilia, graphic sex, extreme violence, sexual abuse, physical/emotional abuse, infanticide, and an extensive amount of profanity. The first two chapters contain five references to sex with cows in addition to other types of sex.
They cite violence and sex, but I suspect the real reason behind continuing challenges to Beloved is that it confronts us with our sins.

By the way, the same blogger whose writing was presented as news in the main article above, previously wrote about the controversy over Beloved.  The headline says it all:

Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ is simplistic pornography, say two Michigan parents who don’t appear to be very smart  BY Alexander Nazaryan

Nuff said.

 

School Issues

Just a couple of random thoughts about the politicizing of our schools today:

Was anyone else angered by the President’s speech at the Teacher of the Year ceremony?  It wasn’t enough to recognize the outstanding achievements of this dedicated educator, or to thank faithful teachers everywhere–POTUS had to give special attention to the teacher at Newtown, CT.  They weren’t there, and the event was not about them, but it gave the politician-in-chief another chance to lobby for gun control.  Mr. President, there is a time and a place, and this wasn’t it.

Also,

It seems to me that we punish our students more quickly for their t-shirts and their toys than we do real criminals with genuine weapons.  Today’s “no tolerance” policies get kids suspended (or even arrested) for harmless acts, without any consideration for their motives.  For criminals like the Boston bombers we agonize over their reasons for their deadly acts, as if the reasons made a difference.  Until scientific studies demonstrate that children who play innocently with toy guns grow up to be mass murderers, I say leave them alone.  It’s the intentional killers who should be suspended, if you get my drift….

Lone Wolves?

Apart from the oxymoron of calling 2 men “lone,” let me observe a few things based on the items being reported:

  • The brothers read and passed on information designed and published by others, with specific instructions on how to kill and maim people.
  • One brother returned to his homeland where he received indoctrination and training from other people.
  • They hung out with and even roomed with other people who proudly identified themselves as “terroristas”.
  • They read and announced their agreement and sympathy with the writings of others (and specifically al queda).
  • They have been aided and comforted  by the words of others whom they respect and admire–especially their father and an aunt.

These two brothers may have done the bombing on their own without any direct outside participation, but the fact is that they have attached themselves to and acted with the guidance and approval of an international terror network–Extreme Islam.  There are no lone wolves among the jihadists–only footsoldiers sent on solo missions.  When will we realize that the attackers are not the threat; the real danger comes from the evil machinations of Extreme Islam?

Let’s stop talking about lone wolves and home-grown terrorists.  Let’s stop talking about the Chechnyan revolution against Russia.  Let’s stop expressing outrage that they attacked us after all our country had done for them.  They are terrorists serving a foreign cause.  They are puppets in the hands of a wicked puppeteer who needs to be acknowledged, opposed, and eradicated.

We don’t need to see al queda around every corner, but we do need to see them when they attack us.  I know governmental official warn us not to jump to conclusion; but the fact is that all but 1 act of terror in the US in the last several years have been conducted by young male extremist muslims.  Homeland security has access to my library records; I vote that we allow them to do some ethnic profiling, and go after the real danger to me and my family. 

Sympathy

I am saddened and express my heart-felt condolences to the Rick Warren family on the loss of their son this week. While suicide is generally considered an act of the will, for a person with mental illness it can be more of an accidental death; though well-meaning (but misinformed) friends, family, and church-goers may not understand it.

Imagine with me, if you will, a father who knows that his son’s car is acting up. Its acceleration is erratic and unpredictable, and it seems potentially unsafe. All that the son knows is that he needs the car to get to work. His father takes the car to his local mechanic, who can’t find the problem, but says he doesn’t think it’s serious. The car is then taken to the dealer, who says that the problem is familiar, and that certain fuel additives and intentional changes in driving habits can make the problem less noticeable. All the son knows is that he needs the car to get to work. Dad takes responsibility for seeing that the additives are used and reminds his son to drive carefully. Mom doesn’t know anything about cars, but she knows how important working and having money is to her son, and does her best to be supportive as he pursues his career goals. After all, the only way to slow him down would be to lock him in his room, which goes against her love for him and her desire to see him happy. When the car breaks down and the son dies, the blame game starts.

Dad blames himself, sensing that there must have been something more that he could have done to get the car fixed. Mom feels that somehow she should have raised her son differently, as if it’s her fault that he became obsessive about work, regardless of the risks. Friends and acquaintances are shocked, knowing that the car was faulty, but still never expecting it would lead to this outcome.

Depression is a faulty car; the need to drive it is mental illness; the unnecessary death that results is suicide–not necessarily a selfish act of the will, but the sad outcome of the mental illness.
(I understand that people kill themselves for many reasons; but this young man was not trying to make a statement or to strike back at a perceived insult or injury–this situation, as reported, was not in that category.)

Mental illness is real; its potential deadly consequences can become tragically real; and when all is said and done, all we can do is pray for the family and friends. Pray for comfort, and pray for understanding–and pray for the young man or woman that you know is driving that defective car down the rough road of life.

Prayer first is better than sympathy later.

Manipulating Medicare

Check out and consider this news report.  Did you hear about it anywhere else? Even Drudge posted it for only one day.

So in addition to the $200 Billion cuts that the Affordable Health Care Act is making in Medicare reimbursements to doctors beginning in 2014, now the administration is cutting an additional 2.3 percent from the Medicare Advantage cooperating insurance plans.  These are the private companies that work under Medicare’s umbrella to provide services for a set rate.  And what is the justification?

The medical providers in question have managed to keep their costs down while everybody else is increasing premiums.  That’s right:  efficiency and thrift have allowed these companies to run fairly profitably, even under the strict government regulations. 

But profitable companies might compete with the government’s own unprofitable programs, so we have to penalize them, lest their consumer base get the idea that private is better than public when it comes to health care insurance.

Note:  these cuts, designed to take place next year, were not proposed by the GOP or voted on by either house of Congress.  They are purely regulatory decisions coming from the Obama Administration, with word released in February and reported on by limited news outlets for one day in March. 

Bad policy + Bad media = increasing Executive power. 

Remember the Second Amendment.  We might really need it some day.

Effort vs. Achievement

There’s a story in the news today about a 106-year-old Ohio woman who has been given her high school diploma, even though she did not fulfill the requirements for graduation.  Years back, she refused to do the final required assignment–to read a book–in order to pass English and have the credits she needed to graduate.  She claims to have said that she had read the book in the past, and no one was going to make her read it again if she didn’t want to.  The teacher, supported by the school, upheld state educational law and denied her credit for the class, meaning that she did not meet the standards to graduate.  Now they have had a change of heart and have reversed their decision because…well, I guess just because she’s old.  This is just another example of the disregard that our society has for achievement.

Several years ago I conducted a survey of students in our high school in order to determine how they viewed the importance of achievement versus other factors such as effort or fairness.  I proposed a theoretical situation where the PE teacher was testing students on their ability to do chin-ups (today called pull-ups in order to accommodate, I assume, people who have no chins).  The majority response was that a student who attempted a chin-up should not only pass the test, but get the same grade as a student who performed one or more of the exercises.  Furthermore, a smaller majority answered the survey by saying that even a person who would not attempt a chin-up (for any reason whatsoever) should pass the test, though with a lower grade than one who tried or accomplished the task.

Understanding that many non-athletic students do not believe that physical requirements should be tested or used to determine a student’s grade, I changed the questions, and targeted an English assignment.  Once again, the students said that anyone who attempted a term paper, even if they didn’t finish the assignment or meet the requirement should get a passing grade.  Only the student who did nothing and turned in nothing should get a failing grade–but even that grade should be high enough that it would not have a significant impact on the student’s overall grade for the term.

In essence, my students believed that anyone who attend school should pass every class, even if they do not actively participate; and anyone who tries the work should get grades equal to those who succeed in completing the work as required.  Effort, intent, fairness, and perhaps other factors were held to be as important as achievement.  In the case of this elderly woman, the teachers and administration today apparently felt that it was unfair to deny her a diploma any longer, out of deference to her longevity alone. 

On a spiritual note, God does not judge us on our intentions, efforts, or our expectation of fairness toward us.  He will never say, “Welcome, sort-of-good, kind-of-faithful person; I’ll let you into my Heaven because you tried to keep my commandments.”  Christ does not reward us for the wood, hay, or stubble that we build into the house of our spiritual life–Christian behavior is judged by what remains of the story of our life after He burns away all the unworthy parts.  We will give account for what we have done (not just tried) for Him.

[If we were judged based on our efforts, that would mean that salvation is something that we could earn if we tried, and God would owe us credit for anything we try or intend to do to please Him.  On the contrary, salvation itself is based on Jesus Christ’s achievement by laying down His life a sacrificial offering for our sins.  Our part in His salvation–our ticket to eternal life and heavenly blessings is based on the completed adoption process achieved when we surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives.  By the way, I don’t know of any place in the Bible where God assigned a believer to do a task for Him, and then He didn’t give them the power, wisdom, and direction to meet the goal.  When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, our salvation is already a done deal; but we will lose reward when we have failed in the assignments He has given us.]

Which takes me back to a bumper sticker I used to have:  “God doesn’t grade on a curve.”  While He may choose to show us mercy and grace while we walk this earth, the day is coming when the grade He gives will be Pass or Fail–and I surely don’t want to fail.  A big red “F” on that final report card is a guaranteed ticket to a place that starts with a big red “H”, if you know what I mean.  That’s why I accepted as a teenager the eternal grace of Christ’s completed work which was accomplished when He died on the cross.  And that’s when He wrote my name in the Lamb’s Honor Roll of Life, never to be crossed out.

Dear Facebook Friends: Please Assume the Best

An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends and Acquaintances:

I hope you enjoy your games.  We all need recreation, and I am glad that you have found a safe and inexpensive way to relax.  However, it’s not my thing; so if I don’t respond to your request to help you win points or chickens or whatever else you need, I’m still your friend.  Assume the best.

If you post beautiful pictures for everyone to see, you are sharing God’s handicraft across the cold and invisible ethernet.  I look at them and like them, but I don’t comment on them.  It’s OK–I don’t write to artists or photographers who do a good job; I see no need to praise their salespeople.  Keep the scenic vistas and dog pictures coming, but don’t expect me to forward them.  (P.S.  I have my security settings programmed to block pictures of cats, so I won’t even know if you are showing poor judgment.)

If you send me a block of letters and want me to comment on the first word I see, don’t expect an answer.  I can read and I can find hidden words.  But you need to realize that my wife has beaten me at Boggle so many times that I refuse to play with her any more.  If I won’t play the game with her, don’t expect me to play it with you.

If you send me any links to YouTube or other video sites, you should realize that my computer is slow enough that it can only show two seconds of a streaming video before it has to stop and catch its breath.  I assume that what you sent me is funny, or spectacular, or cute, and I send happy thoughts your way.  But don’t ask me if I’ve seen it, because I haven’t.  (Believe it or not, I’ve never even seen the “Gangnam Style” video that over 2 billion people have watched.  Does that make me a bad person?)

Please assume that I love Jesus, Salvation, my wife, my kids, my grandkids, America, the Second Amendment, etc.  You’ll have to assume it, because I won’t “like,” “comment,” or forward your post.  And if you send me a post telling me that I am somehow not brave or caring if I don’t re-post your status, I really don’t think my courage or compassion are any of your business.  Stop trying to “guilt” me into doing what you want!  I could say that such behavior says more about you than it does about me, but I choose to assume the best of you and your enthusiasm.

I appreciate the fact that you are posting your daily devotions on line.  Thank you for being faithful in scattering the seed of the Gospel to hundreds or thousands of people.  When I see it, I smile and pass over it.  I am currently using Morning and Evening by Spurgeon, and I really don’t think I am being sinful for not reading every spiritual note posted in this forum.  (I liken it a little to hearing someone praying aloud on the radio or TV.  Is it wicked or disrespectful if you don’t stop, bow your head, and pray along with them?  I don’t think so; I am happy to see others worshiping, even if I don’t join in.)

If you send me a picture with instructions to hit “comment” and see what happens, please assume that I am smart enough to ignore it.  Facebook postings are not interactive, and nothing can or will happen by clicking any of the buttons or writing anything in the comment space.  All it does is make your Facebook identity known to the 100,000 people who haven’t figured that out yet–and to the phisherman who started the post on its deceitful journey.

I don’t “friend” everyone who asks me to do so.  It may not be that I don’t like you; it may just be that I already have too many “friends” to keep up with.  Until enough people have been blocked or have otherwise “left the room,” I just can’t manage any more friends, even ones as close as you are, Gentle Reader.

If you start sending me posts or comments with profanity or ungodly language, activities, or comments, expect me to remove you from my list of friends.  You have the right to say or write what you want; and I have the right to limit what comes into my house.  On the other hand, if you have included naughty or nasty things in a post and I haven’t “unfriended” you yet, that’s probably because a)I thought it was a mistake, or b)I didn’t read your post that day.

I used to say I don’t “do” Facebook; in a very real sense, I still don’t.  Think of it with the help of this analogy:  I may be on the fairgrounds and walking through the midway, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to ride the roller coaster or try to win a goldfish.  I don’t feel like I need to apologize to the hucksters who try to lure me into their booths; and my lack of participation should not be construed as a bad thing.  I’m there; I enjoy seeing other people throw the darts and ride the rides; and I’m OK with that level of involvement.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want to be judged by my reluctance to respond to everyone who asks me to do so.  Please assume the best of me, even when I don’t answer the invitation to join your party. 

 

I Thought I Wrote a Poem

There is a local Christian writers’ group that meets monthly to critique work submitted by the various attendees.  As you might imagine, handing over your creative baby to the sharp eyes and red pens of other writers is an act that requires thick skin and a sense of humor.  To warm up that sense of humor, I offer this little verse, dedicated to my fellow critics and English teachers.

I thought I wrote a poem, once,

With lovely rhyme and meter.

I took it to a writers’ group

Who slapped it like a mosquiter.

 

One thought I should have added lines,

One thought it needed fewer;

One found it all self-evident,

One called it too obscure.

 

One said it has the rhythm wrong

And should rhyme where it doesn’t.

One thought it was a masterpiece,

But most agreed it wasn’t.

 

And so I end my tragic tale;

I’ll dwell on it no longer.

I thought I wrote a poem, once—

I couldn’t have been wronger.

 

Do the Math

Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has acknowledged the release of 2,000+ illegal immigrants in recent days, and the plans to release about 3,000 more by the end of the month.  While she accepts no responsibility for the action, she explains it by citing the budgetary necessity, saying that it costs $164 per person per day to keep each prisoner locked up.

Obviously, each prisoner is not getting $164 worth of food per day; therefore, she must be dividing the total cost of the program–including the salaries of personnel, payments on one-time facility and furnishing purchases, and utilities–by the total inmate population.  DHS has not announced the closing of facilities, turning off of utilities, or layoffs of personnel.

They will realize little or no savings on food, since DHS reports that it will have to monitor these parolees at a cost of up to $14/per person/per day.  They have not announced additional hiring to monitor these people on the street, so apparently the present staff of parole officers have so little work that they can take on an extra 5,000 cases.   Additionally, the assumption is that state and local programs can absorb the necessity of caring for these jobless criminals at no additional cost (or at least no cost that matters to the feds).

And all that means that the total federal cost of running the program remains the same, while the prison population is reduced by roughly 11%.   By my calculations, that means that the daily cost of maintaining each of the remaining 30,000 after the end of the month will be $191 per day.

And that’s why we need to raise taxes again, so that we can pay for our savings.  Three cheers for Obamanomics!

 

I’m Sorry. No–Wait–I’m Not.

One common aspect of depression is that sufferers tend to adopt and accept the blame for things that they are not responsible for.  This manner of thinking can become ingrained to the point that it is called neurotic guilt.  It may have several causes, but ultimately is rooted in a sense of failure carried by the sufferer.

I am sorry that I have not blogged recently.  No, I’m not.  I have set a goal for myself to write at least two blogs per week, which is a reasonable goal.  No, it’s not a reasonable goal for me, because once I have set it, the goal becomes a law that I must obey or violate.  When I violate it, I feel guilty, regardless of the reason for the failure.  So my expectations are self-imposed and do not take into account various factors that may interfere.  And I am learning not to impose guilt on myself when it is a result of my own unreasonable expectations or outside interference, but I’m not doing very well in overcoming this wrong thinking.  Sorry.

Five weeks ago I woke up with a pinched nerve in my back, which prevented me from moving freely or even standing for more that a minute or two.  Despite 3 series of oral steroids and a nerve-block shot (epidural), the pain is still only slightly less and is only controlled by vicodin around the clock.  In the meantime, I have not been able to spend time at the library (my primary writing spot) and even find it counterproductive to try to sit at my desk and work.  Darlene had signed us up for a cruise and I refused to let her down, so we rented a wheelchair, bought a walking stick, and had a very nice time.

Needless to say, I have not been able to blog for a while, and it might be a while before I can do it again regularly.  To those of you who have come to expect something from me, I’m sorry.  But my inability to write without pain is not my fault, so I’m not sorry.  I’m not going to set a goal for when I can return to this forum, but with your prayers and my doctor’s help I trust that it will be soon.  Until then, I will miss you, Gentle Readers, but I refuse to feel guilty about it.  (At least I will try not to feel guilty.)  

Yours in Christ,

RD Bowker

Three Cheers for Humility!

My church awarded me their annual “Humility Trophy,” but when I displayed it in my living room they made me give it back.

That’s an old joke; but the topic is newer and truer every day.  I could go on a rant here about the cult of celebrity; toddler pageants; reality shows; end zone celebrations; public immodesty; or any number of other attention-grabbing behaviors, but who am I to throw stones at others?  I post here on a semi-regular basis as if my thoughts and opinions are so important that they should be known outside of my own head and home.

So I will just say this and move on:  the President is already the President.  He has already been sworn in.  There have already been 2 days of partying (including a “Children’s Inaugural” event).  So everything you see and hear today is fake–phony–artificial “news”, designed to remind us how wonderful a particular public servant, his party, and his family and friends are.  I understand that in today’s culture, tremendous ambition is required of any candidate seeking to win elected office; but it seems to me that the desire for man’s approval has to end at some time if we truly desire God’s approval.

After all, my Bible still says, “If My people…shall HUMBLE themselves [the first of several requirements]…then will I hear from Heaven and heal their land.”  –2 Chronicles 7:14

At the Corner of Body and Soul

At the risk of sounding self-centered, I’m going to let you, My Gentle Readers, into another corner of my personal life.  There’s a commercial on television that says, “Depression hurts.”  I can testify just as sincerely that “Hurts depress.”

There is a definite (though not completely understood) relationship between the workings of emotion and intellect with the physical body.  In my case, I have a hormone imbalance that predisposed my mind to depressive and even suicidal thoughts.  In searching for the root of that imbalance, doctors have discovered that I have Graves Disease, which in itself disposes my mind to depressive thoughts, even while it acts on the thyroid to cause anxiety (or, in some cases, mania).  Now I have a herniated disk in my lower back, pinching a nerve and interfering with virtually all physical activity.  It also interferes with my sleeping and contributes to a depressive predisposition.

I cannot meet my home or church obligations, and my inability to work leaves me with ethical considerations regarding my unemployment benefits.  My wife had signed us up for a cruise to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, which could be less than optimal if I have to attend on crutches or in a wheelchair (and we didn’t purchase the insurance, so we can’t cancel or reschedule without losing beaucoup bucks).

When Darlene gets home from work, I have little or nothing to talk about, because my day has centered around my pain and little else.  This leaves the burden of conversation (as well as my chores) on her, at a time when her work situation is hectic and almost oppressive, and she could benefit from being able to put her own aches and pains aside.  Tomorrow is a “respite day” for us, but we have relatively few options for getting away for some “us” time.  The church has graciously stepped in to provide some meals because she is so busy and I am unable to stand long enough to prepare dinner.

I am not looking for pity.  Many people in my support group have far more serious problems than I have.  There are medications to take the edge off the pain and to reduce the swelling while I await the next step.  I have a loving and understanding wife, and 3 children and grandchildren who are all involved and concerned.  My church family is helping to carry the burden.  I am truly blessed.

But next time you hear that mental illness is all in somebody’s head, don’t you believe it.  It pollutes the soul and contaminates the body.  It dominates the mind as well as the physical aspects of life.  My intellect may tell me that happiness is a choice, but my body laughs at that assertion.

Gentle Reader, if you have gotten this far, please stay with me for one more minute, for there IS a positive side to all this.  For there is more to me than body and soul; there is also spirit.  And while happiness may or may not be a choice, the fact is that faith is a gift from God.  I have the spiritual foundation of Jesus Christ, Who never changes.  I have the guarantee of full recovery in a land where the body will be glorified and my soul will know all things.  God’s love for me and caring for me never waver, even when I crash at the corner of Body and Soul.

I have a request for you today.  If your time and energy are limited, please don’t pray for me; I have lots of brothers and sisters praying for me.  Rather, think of someone else in your family, your church, your circle of acquaintances, who suffers from mental illness; and ask God to guide them through their mental morass and their physical minefield.  Ask that they may find a listening ear, and an appropriate medical treatment.

And pray that the Lord will protect you and the rest of your family from this accident of life that could be waiting just around the corner.