Friday, December 28, 2007

Grump's Top Ten list for Husbands

Marriage is hard work. As with most cliches, that phrase has been uttered so many times, that it's ramification is often passed over. This is a shame, because the impact of the truth that led to this phrase becoming a cliche in the first place, is likewise passed over. Marriage is indeed hard work, but as with any difficult task, it can be made easier if you can identify smaller sub-tasks, learn to do them well, then put them into practice. As Martin Luther once said,"marriage is a school for character", so like school, in order to be a graduate of school, there is a sequence of learning that teaches us basic steps, goes on to put these basics into action by repetition, and adds additional more difficult skills as you go along. And as I recall my own school days, some of the most boring, trivial, or counter-intuitive steps, often turned out to be some of the most critical steps as well, so that my success as a student would have been radically different had I not taken the time to master the boring or seemingly insignificant steps all along the way.
After 7 years of marriage, it is beginning to dawn on me that marriage is very similar to the school process, and Mr.Luther's observation increasingly strikes me as one of the most profound statements I am aware of. Small, seemingly insignificant things that at first glance seemed counter-intuitive, now are beginning to sink in as the keys to marital happiness. I have distilled these ideas into a list of 10 Steps for Husbands. Yes, this is indeed directed at husbands, if for no other reason than as being a husband, I am more aware of why these steps seem trivial, but are powerfully important to my wife. And guys, I am an equal opportunity critic - I have some steps for wives too, but that will have to wait for another time. . This is by no means an exhaustive list, and in way of a disclaimer, as an Evangelical Christian, my worldview undoubtedly colours my view of marriage. However in this article I have endeavoured to make these principles as broadly applicable as I can, and will trust the reader to make of them what he will.
While I do not expect that my marriage or any marriage can be perfect in every respect - none can - nor do I expect that anyone can always apply these 10 principles consistently, but I wish I had started learning these principles and applying them years ago. And without further eloquence, here are Grumpamoose's Top Ten Husband Steps to a good marriage.

1 - Listen to your wife. And that does not mean merely hearing what she says, but actively paying attention to her when she speaks. This is the hardest step to do, if you are like most of us males, since we want to get to the point of what is being said, whereas for many women, what is being said is the point. Listening in this way to our wives is much more of an art that a learned skill, however it is most critical that we try and keep practicing to listen. I am aware that active listening will be difficult, but do it anyway.

2 - Learn what she likes and what truly makes her happy, and why. The why is as important as the what. And here is your first chance to practice step #1, since many times she may not know or know how to tell you the why.

3 - Regularly do things that make her happy, with no expectation that she reciprocate. (Although unless she is an unusually selfish individual, very likely you will be taken care of more often than not). This includes romantic gestures, so here is a chance to practice the second step.

4 - Get in shape. If you are already there - stay there. In a sense, your body also belongs to her, so take care of it.

5 - When she is telling you something that is hard to hear, stay calm and control your temper rather than immediately counter attacking. She may have a point. And if she does...

6 - Be Honest at all times and in all things, both with her and most importantly with yourself. And if she has a point, listen to her. If she honestly is mad at you, she is mad because you are a bonehead. So listen to why she thinks you are a bonehead, and stop being a bonehead. And if she is honestly out of line

7- Be willing to forgive her when she honestly is in the wrong. By no means does that excuse her, or erase the memory of what she may do, but once you grant her forgiveness, the file is closed. Don't reopen it.

8 - Don't say anything unless you mean it. And if you promise her to do something, don't promise it unless you can do it right then.

9 - Remember that every action you take, and every dime you spend, affects your wife in some way. It may be a wonderful way for her good, or a bad way that causes her pain, but it will affect her somehow. The only variable is to what extent one way or the other it goes.

10 - There is a reason why you married her. Try to remember what that reason or reasons where why you married her, and appreciate her for it.

Get busy living, or get busy dying

A few years ago I heard a song by Tim McGraw called "Live like you were dying". The man who the song was about was told that he did not have long to live, and decided to take what time he had left to really live. Every time I hear that song, I wonder why so many of us are like this man, just trying to make it to the next deal, or the next goal, or just to make it through the day, and how it often takes something like a sudden cancer diagnosis to shake us out of the every dayness of everyday, and start living life to the fullest. The reality is that every day we live; we are that much closer to dying. Whether it is 4 months or 40 years, we are all heading toward that distant shore.

As I live longer, I am learning most of the things that we spend most of the time and thought on, if you are really honest with ourselves, are not close to being as critical or as fulfilling as we often think. This is not to say we should neglect our responsibilities. We shouldn't, especially when our families depend on us. But it seems a tragedy that so often we find out too late that the things we have at times ignored, in our single minded pursuits for status or wealth or a new house or a bigger fancier car, are all too often the things that would bring us the most joy in life.

In the Biblical Gospel of John, you will see this phrase - "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10 English Standard Version) That passage is from where Jesus is describing himself as a good shepherd, who takes care of his sheep, which are us. Now any of you who have taken care of pets can understand. You want to make sure that all their needs are met in abundance, and they are well fed and cared for, so that they are then free to live and run and bark/meow/squeak, and enjoy living. While our pets may spend a great deal of effort in trying to please us, if their needs are met, they are content.

In the same way, I think what Jesus is saying here is that we have the ability in Him to relax. Our needs are met, if only we take the time to see it. There is great freedom in that. Freedom from constantly trying to prove ourselves to those that truly don't care about us, or to book the next deal, or to win the next account. Freedom to enjoy our families. To go on the mountain climbing vacation, or the ballgame with your kids, or to surprise your wife with a romantic weekend in San Diego. Freedom to laugh just for the sake of laughing. Freedom to live abundantly - to "live like you were dying."

Incidentally, the title of todays post is from a quote from on of my favorite films, The Shawshank Redemption. In that movie, the main character, Andy Dufresne, refuses to lose hope in the midst of an extremely dark and unjust place. In this film I see graphic reminders that it is the little, seemingly insignificant things, like cold beer shared with your friends on a hot day, or helping others with no expectation of reward, and having true friends, that make life worth living, even in the midst of extreme hardship.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

This has been a challenging December run-up to Christmas. Indeed the whole year has been a struggle, both maritally and financially. It has been particularly challenging in that this is the first Christmas since we married that Bungirl and I have not been able to get anything for each other. As much as I despise shopping in any form, one of my favourite things since we married has been to see how well (or how poorly) I was at selecting her gifts. And I will admit that 1A in the favourite things department is to also see what I was given.

But all this thinking about gifts, and the lack thereof in this house for 2007, my mind goes back to what for me and for many Christians is the core of what Christmas is about - the ultimate gift of Christ, and what the forgiveness he freely gives all who ask. It occurs to me, particularly as an American in 2007, with a life of significant wealth relative to the rest of the world, and enjoying a relative abundance of freedom, that my life does not reflect what is the usual state of humanity across the pages of history. Indeed, the vast majority of men have only known, and multitudes still only know, little more than oppression, war, poverty, misery, and despair. Yet it is in moments when we realize this condition, that the radical uniqueness of the Gift of Christ stands out clearest and starkest of all. Intellectually I realize that my life, as hard for me as it seems sometimes to be, is vastly better, wealthier and easier than that of a 1st century Judean shepherd, or a 12th Century English peasant, or a 21st century Iranian Christian. What oppression, pain, misery and despair I may know is that of a spoiled child not always getting his way, but even in that, the starkness and brightness of the Gift of Christmas stands radically apart from the everydayness of everyday.

If you are at all familiar with Handel's song "For Unto Us a Child is Born", part of this passage from Isaiah may be familiar to you as well, but I think particularly this year, the whole passage echoes deep in my heart, and as miniscule as my darkness and oppression is, I can gladly and joyfully praise the coming of the Child born to all of us.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Merry Christmas to all.

* Quick note - before playing the video, page down and pause the Christmas music tab. Otherwise you may get a rather bizarre sound*

Friday, December 14, 2007

If this is truly how the GOP leadership really thinks, why should I bother anymore

Alright Alright I dropped the ball on finishing the stream of consciousness postings I started a few days ago. I will come back to it.

What has got me angry over the last 48 hours is the recent peeling back of what the GOP Elite, or at least a large portion of it, really thinks about Southern, Evangelical conservatives, has made me wonder if there really is a place for me in the post George W Bush Republican party.

Let me start of by stipulating that Governor Mike Huckabee is not my first , second, or even third choice for the Republican nomination for President. He is far too willing to resort to using government power to force his personal preferences (a la federal ban on smoking - where the hell in the Constitution does the Federal Government have that authority?)

That said, it's one thing to point out Mike Huckabee's apparent statist tendencies, or question his judgment and/or his seemingly naive understanding of human nature in the Wayne Dumond case. That's politics. But this is not what is being said. Rather it's the snide remarks about his Baptist faith, usually from Catholics or Episcopals that scream "Religious bigot!" when it is the other way around, and ignorant stereotyping of Arkansas and the rest of the South, and the snarky comments about where he went to college. For the record, I studied for two years at Huckabee's university, Ouachita Baptist University, from 1990 to 1992, and I can assure you, OBU is far from a slouch academically. It is one of the top Liberal Arts colleges in the South and arguably in the top nationwide. This type of discourse is way way way out of line.

It isn't the questioning of Huckabee's record, but the almost gleeful tone of condescension on, and, and the out and out derision toward Southern evangelicals in associated reader comments on these, that make me wonder why I should even care anymore.

This is not the first time I have heard this attitude from a GOP Bigwig, nor are these two sites the only places I am reading this kind of garbage, but I was under the impression that such disparaging attitudes toward Evangelicals was isolated and generally condemned in the Republican mainstream. Well, apparently not. As the saying goes, it is better to have clarity than agreement.

So, since the Romney-ites and Guiliani'ers have nothing but disdain and contempt for my faith and region, why should I vote for them? Since is has become crystal clear that the New York-Washington GOP Elite see me and folks like me as "useful idiots", why would I want to waste any more time and effort in voting for GOP candidates?

At least the Democrats are honest about their hatred of Southern evangelicals.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Do you really want to be free - part 2

In yesterday's post, I said that the theme that has been floating around in my head for the last few months, has led to some interesting ramifications, and an emerging question. Namely if it is mostly universally conceded that Freedom is good, and slavery bad, then why do so many people continue to be drawn more to the siren song of slavery when Freedom's song gets discordant and muffled?

Or perhaps a a better question would be why do I see, more and more, evidence of how many people are almost afraid of what Freedom really means in practice, and almost prefer the known misery of servitude? And more personally, how is it that I see this phenomenon more and more in my own life?

What keyed me in to this idea is a post I read the other day on Fraters Libertas. While the author here is referring to the political ramifications of this question, my suspicion is that the more immediate, and underlying cause of this freedom paradox goes more to the individual characters of us as Americans, and in aggregate, as a society.

I will come back to this tomorrow...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Do you really want to be free?

Very likely this is my natural doom and gloom coming out, but I am not sure. Lately, when I look at what is going on in the country and the world today, something seems increasingly 0ut of whack, and I have had some difficulty in putting my finger on what may be behind it.

While it seems, and I can indeed see anecdotal evidence of economic struggles, overall the economy seems to be ok. Not Great, but not "the worst economy since Herbert Hoover.", aka the usual hyperbolic talking down of the economy that the MSM seems to spew every four years heading into a Presidential election. But that is not what is bothering me.

It could be the conduct of the Bush Administration on the "War on Terror" but again that is not what is on my mind. (With the stipulation that I wish the execution of the war was much more Sherman like from the get go. In other words, if you are going to fight a war - fight the damn war. This is not to disparage the efforts of the frontline soldier or Marine which is magnificent by and large, but to question the wisdom of a strategy of winning hearts and minds that was pursued for far too long. And 1 day of this strategy is too long)

However it seems to me that this sense of unease runs at a much deeper level that - and the only way I can think of to describe it is the apparent ease at which too many of my countrymen have traded their God given freedom for a mess of taxpayer paid pottage. Or at the very least have expressed a willingness to do so. And no, I am not talking about the accusations flying around the internet about how the President is shredding our Constitution. Rather the evidence of this willing slavery goes back much farther than November 2000, and it is much much deeper than the shallow political world.

This idea started germinating in my head in October of this year, at least to the point where I became aware of it doing so. See here and here. Since then, on several occasions, I have been mulling this train of thought over, and following where it leads, and I am coming back to one central theme, which is "Freedom good - slavery bad" .

Out of that theme I am coming to understand some unexpected ramifications.

More to come later.....

Friday, November 30, 2007

How good of a General are you?

This is an interesting test of your generalship abilities. See if you can do better than Robert E Lee did at the Battle of Gettysburg

I decisively won the battle by the way. I guess this proves that every general can have a bad day.

Hat Tip - "Thirty Three Things Nov 26th on the Evangelical Outpost

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Grump's Christmas Moosic

If you haven't already noticed, there is now music on this blog. Turn your speakers on. Grumpamoose's Christmas Favorites is at the bottom of the center column. And he is taking requests. If you have a favorite song, and know the url where he can get it, please leave it in comments.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving Days 19, 20, and 21

I see that I have been remiss in not keeping up with the Thanksgiving posts. So I guess I have some catching up to do

These past three days, I have been thankful for:
well written television programs
falling colorful leaves
the smell of cookies baking
the smell of turkey roasting
the taste of a bowl of Genghis Grill
My uncle's love of music.
restful naps

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving Day 18

I am thankful that I had a good weekend, celebrating my wife's birthday on Saturday. I am also very thankful that I was able to get most of the things I needed car-repair wise taken care of.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving Day 16

Today I have one dog leaning on me, one laying on the floor next to me, one more laying on the other couch trying to stay alert, and the fourth diddy bopping around like the imp that he is. Life is good

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving - Day 14

Today I am thankful that I was able to get home in less than 5 hours. There was a major fatality accident involving a fuel tanker truck, that closed one of the main north/south freeways for several hours, and as a result all the northbound side roads, many of which were built before the population exploded in this part of the region, were way way overcrowded.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving - Day 13

Today I got my paycheck f(or which I am thankful since it included my long overdue commission check) but what I am most thankful for today is the bracing crispness of fall that has finally arrived in Texas

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving - Day 12

Today I was sick with some kind of stomach ailment, that kept me up for a few hours last night. So I was able to Skype with a friend in Russia. I am thankful for the chance to do so, because he updated me a bit on what he has been up to since we were there in early October.

Mystery Topic Challenge #4

If I were President for a day, with the power to do anything, I would interview and test all 435 members of Congress on their level of understanding and appreciation for the limits on Federal government authority and power. Those that test at less than 90 % will be dismissed from the Congress and ineligible to hold Federal office until they test above 95% on 10 separate tests.

Those that test less than 50% are jailed, and those that test less than 20% are summarily executed as tyrant wannabes.

With the 4 members still standing, I will create a committee to review the entire US Code, and repeal all laws that violate the Constitution. All programs, departments, and agencies that do not meet the powers granted to the Federal government will be immediately disbanded, all agency buildings not needed for valid constitutional Federal use will be sold to either various state governments, or private sector, and proceeds deposited in the Treasury to repay all debts incurred by the disbanded government.

As an example, Dept of Education - gone. Dept of Health and Human services - Bye bye. National Endowments for the Arts, Public Broadcasting Corporation, NPR - adios. Alaskan Bridges to nowhere - auf wiedersehen. Congress will take back the power over the economy now exercised by an unaccountable Federal Reserve Bank.

My next step would be to convene a web conference of all 50 governors, to explain that although the Federal government does not have the constitutional power to run the disbanded departments and programs, there is nothing in the US Constitution that prevents the states from doing so, assuming they want to tax their own citizens for those things. At the end of the first web conference, all 50 governors would email a list with their nominees, 2 people for each congressional vacancy, for their states.

I would followup with all the nominees in a second web conference, with me and the 4 incumbent legislators. We would interview them, then I will appoint temporary replacements for the 431 House and Senate vacancies, choosing the candidate with the best grasp of the Constitution from the Governor's nominee lists.

After calling the new Congress into session later that day, I would work with them to pass 2 amendments the Constitution to outlaw pork barrel spending, and add a mechanism to quickly remove from office any Federal office holder that attempts to circumvent the Constitutional limits henceforth. Powers granted to the President and the Congress can only be added to by further amending the Constitution in the manner listed in the Constitution.

After these amendments are passed by 2/3 of both Houses of Congress, I would forward the text to the states.

The next to last thing I would do would be to ask Congress for a bill to reconfigure the federal budget to one better fitting the proper Constitutional limits to federal power. This bill would allow for previously nderfunded constitutional agencies to be fully funded, and the remainder of unnecessary tax revenues would be refunded to the tax payers. This bill would not go into effect until the Constitutional amendments were ratified by 2/3 of the States.

On my last act of the day, I would issue two executive orders stating that all surplus federal employees that have their jobs eliminated can apply for any open positions in the remaining departments, including the Department of Defense. This executive order called for all remaining department managers and Cabinet Secretaries to provide assistance to all former Federal employees as possible, and to provide referrals to any State government programs that perform a similar function to the illegitimate former Federal one.
The second executive order mandated that all remaining federal employees will have to go through a thorough customer service re-training to understand that they serve the citizens, who are in effect their customers. All federal employees will be required to master good customer service techniques, and undergo periodic customer service refresher training.

Then I woke up.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving Day 11

Today, although it only did so for a few minutes on my way to work this morning, I am thankful for the rain today.

Ever since I was a little kid, I have enjoyed the slap of the windshield wipers, and the smell of rain in the air. There are few things more enjoyable than sitting on the porch, and watching the rain come down. Unless the rain is also bringing tornados - then it is not so much fun.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving Days 9 and 10

In the spirit of Fridays post, I decided that for this Thanksgiving series, I would to honor the Sabbath by not posting. Ok, so actually I forgot to do a Thanksgiving post. So today will be a double dose.

First I am thankful for the smell of biscuits baking, and the taste of hot biscuits and gravy. Speaking of biscuits and gravy, occasionally when I eat them, it brings back memories of college days. Anyone who was at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas in the late 80's/early 90's sure remembers Singing Minnie at Walts. And for some reason, she is associated with pancakes, and biscuits and gravy on Saturday mornings for me, and the memory of her crazy songs just adds to the enjoyment of the biscuits.

Second. I would like to express my thanks to all US Veterans, of which my brother is one. So, to him and all the others - Thank you, and God speed.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Either I am going crazy or someone is trying to tell me something

I normally don't put much stock in people's claims to "see a vision" or "God told me such and such". I am not saying God hasn't and doesn't communicate that way, because He has. But as these types of claims tend to be made by people that, to put it charitably, seem to either rely more on emotional hysteria than common sense in their day to day lives, or are trying to make a fast buck, or a million. So, I am skeptical. Again, I know God can communicate anyway He wants, but it seems to me that actual dreams and visions are rare, and that in most claims, I doubt that it was God talking rather than late night indigestion.

Which leads me to my current dilemma. When I was in Russia a month and a half ago, I had a certain dream that I will describe in a few minutes. I had the same dream again last night. Now normally, when I have wild dreams, I chalk it up to my overactive imagination (see my sidebar about me being a frustrated writer), but this time I am wondering.

Anyway, in my first dream, the Russian government passes a 2 part law that effectively expels all foreigners then living in Russia. This law called for all foreigners to leave in a matter of days, and called for all non-personal property, ie cars, flats, furniture and bank accounts over a certain value, to be forfeited by them. In my dream this was causing a great deal of chaos, as our American friends living in Russia scrambled to pack, arrange travel, and housing in America.

The second part was that all "foreign" religions, other than Russian Orthodoxy and Islam, were outlawed, and any Russian national in a non approved religion would have to either convert, leave the country permanently, or face imprisonment. In my dream then, my wife and I helped three students and their non-Orthodox Christian family members navigate through the US immigration bureaucracy to help them get legal asylum in the US, and then two of the families lived with us in our house for a time.

At the time, when I told my wife about this, we both were laughing, and thinking my imagination had run amok overnight once again, and I put it aside.

Until last night.

Last night, I had the same dream, with the same events. Russian government again expelled all foreigners, with only their personal items, and chaos ensues. The government also outlawed all religions except for Orthodox and islam, and wife and I open our home to some Russian Christians and family members we know. However this time, at the end of this dream, I got a strong sense that I was being asked a question - would I be willing to open my home and take my time and limited money to do this? Would I be willing to house and provide shelter for these fellow believers, not just ones I had met in Russia on past trips, but strangers?

The truth is that I don't know. I would like to think I would, but I don't know. In any case, as with the first dream, I am inclined to again chalk up this second dream to my overactive imagination.

Except for this - the Russian government recently changed the visa rules in such a way that it effectively ends the ministry of many Western Christian workers currently living in Russia. It is my understanding that most of these folks are on a multiple entry visa, and now these individuals have to leave the country after 90 days, and cannot return for another 90 days. In addition, they will need to apply for another visa to come back, and whereas before, this application could be made in a neighboring country, such as Finland or the Ukraine, now the applicant has to apply in their home country. This is causing a great deal of confusion, as it is unclear how these new rules will be interpreted by the various Russian embassies and consulates, and many Christian workers are not sure how they can continue to effectively work if they are having to be out of the country for half the year.

More than that, this latest action seems to be part of a trend of a rising Russian hyper-nationalism over the last few years, that as an American who remembers at least part of the Cold War, seems ominous. I say this as someone who greatly admires Russia, and Russian people, some of which I consider to be some of my dearest friends. And I say this as someone who would love nothing better for my Russian friends to see a Russia that is strong, prosperous, and most of all, offering freedom to its citizens and peace to its neighbors. Instead I see a Russia that is strong, and thanks to overly high oil prices, increasingly prosperous. But also Russia where freedom, what post Soviet freedom there was, is in peril. And a Russia where I can certainly see where the religious freedom enjoyed in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union may once again disappear.

It is in light of these recent events, that I wonder if I am off my nut, or if these two dreams may indeed be God trying to get my attention. And if so, what it is He is wanting me to do.

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving Day 8

Thank God it's Friday.

Yeah yeah, I know that is such a cliche. But I really cannot think of a better way to say what I am thankful for today, other than it is Friday.

Although I am not Jewish, and to my knowledge never have been, there is something about the way the Jewish Sabbath evening is celebrated that strikes something deep and joyful within my soul. I don't know exactly what it is, and perhaps I will never know. Perhaps it is because, in my mind at least, that the Sabbath was meant to be a weekly Thanksgiving Day - a time that is routinely set aside to stop our busyness, to cease from laboring, and to celebrate God's provision and goodness for that week. Not so much out of duty, as out of gratitude, it is altogether proper to celebrate these things; for our ability to work for our living, for our families* and friends that make worthwhile the drudgery of working for a living, and ultimately for life itself.

Shabat shalom.

* at least families as they ideally are.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving Day 7

Today I am thankful for a red-light free commute home, a warm happy tail-wagging greeting, and a tasty, quickly prepared supper. Life is good.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving Day 6

Ok so my car needs fixing - badly - brakes are squealing and growling, and I have no funds to get it done. So I hate my job, and am wanting to get back into a company where I actually know the big boss,. And I am not happy that I wasn't able to afford what I wanted to do for my wife on our recent anniversary, and likely won't be able to do what I want for her upcoming birthday and Christmas.

But I am not going to dwell on that. When I look at my life right now, It is what it is. So, instead I am going to choose to be thankful for what I do have today, instead of resentful for what I don't.

So, I am thankful today that I have a car that (mostly) accomplishes it's task of getting me to and from work, and I am thankful that I have a job at all, and I am glad to know that I have a wife who can write creative, and very funny, pieces like this.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving - Day 5

Today was the first day that I really began to wonder if I would be able to make it all 30 days. As you probably heard, today was Election Day. And while I am yearly becoming more and more cynical about politics, (or should I say politicians?) and probably could spend another month ranting about how our Republic is in sad shape these days, in keeping with the theme this month, I will refrain.

One thing though that I am thankful for is this - whether or not it is a illusion or no, the fact that we as citizens have the privilege of being able to cast a ballot, and in some small way effect what the Government does (or does to us quoth Cynic-a-moose); this is what I am thankful for today. The universal adult franchise is so radical a notion when you look at the vastness of human history, and specifically the "Grand Experiment" we have had at Constitutional republicanism, is pretty much unmatched. I am at times in awe of the genius and insight into the reality of humanity's innate lust for power over others, that led the US Constitution's framers to create one of the most profound systems of government this world has ever seen.

And I am also thankful that the spiders crawling up my nose last night was only just a bad dream....

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving - Day 4

Today I was distracted by much busyness at my work all day long, and I was running to do this and talking to prospects about that, and the next thing I knew, I was in the car on the way home. The ride home was the first time all day that I had to reflect on what I am thankful for today. And between impatience at the drivers who don't seem to understand the concept of "green means go", and the radio antics of Mike and Cobra on The Ticket, it occurred to me that I love work days where I am busy every minute of the time I am at work, as those are the days that go fast.

Especially I love it it the day in question is a Monday or a Friday. So since today was assuredly Monday, I am thankful that I had a busy day, because it means that I can get on with enjoying the rest of the day with the wife and our 4 dog pack.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving - Day 3

It is upper 60's today, with little wind and blue sky, so that is what I am thankful for today. So much so that as soon I get done with what I need to get done today, I think I am going outside to enjoy this day.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving - Day 2

Today I have two things. First of all, the dogs were fairly quiet this morning, and did not start getting too rambunctious until after 7 AM rather than their usual 5 AM, and they all quickly and quietly did their business outside, came back in, and managed to lay down and be quiet for another hour and a half, allowing me to sleep a bit more.

The second thing I am thankful for today is that the repairs needed on our car, to make it pass inspection, were not more than I had allocated for them, so I didn't have to tap into our gasoline or food money this week.

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Month of Thanksgiving

Many years ago, when I was a university student, I was involved, albeit peripherally, with our local Campus Crusade for Christ group. One of the best memories I have is our weekly "Hour of Power" nights, where many of us would gather to sing, fellowship, and afterwards, go do some group activity like bowling or country dancing. One of the songs we would sing had the lyrics "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks."

It is commonly said, almost to the point of being a cliche, that we have so much to be thankful for. So, I am going to put that idea to the test this month, since it is the month where Thanksgiving Day is celebrated.

Every day I am going to make an effort to think (honestly, and not merely for the sake of blog filler) of something in my life that I am thankful for, and why. I don't know that I will succeed in writing something every day, but I am committing to making an effort. And who knows, maybe this will help make me less of a grouch, which will make my wife thankful. And that is always a good thing.

So here goes....

I want to start this month of Thanksgiving by saying that I am thankful for my wife. I am fully aware, often painfully so, that I all too often fail to love her in the way that she would like me to, and I am thankful specifically for her patience and forgiving spirit in spite of my frequent idiocy. We just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary a few days ago, and while I was not able to do what I wanted, for financial reasons, I think we had a very good day anyway. After all this time, I am in awe that anyone would love me enough to want to spend her life with me. So there you go....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Freedom is scary, Part 2

In my previous post, I posited the opinion that there is something deep inside human nature that is somewhat afraid of freedom. And this is one of the reasons, unspoken and possibly unconscious, why many people cannot or will not come to grips with the claims of orthodox (small O) Christianity.

Part of this may be that there is an innate lust for power over others, that flows as an undercurrent in most human relationships. In religious circles, this often manifests as legalism and pressure from the group on individuals to conform, to be "good Christians". The idea here is that Christian freedom, is simply freedom from the wages of sin, and nothing more. The law is still in full force - just some specific provisions may have changed.

Alternatively, freedom often gets mistaken for licentiousness, which in its basic form, is essentially enslaving oneself to ones own passions. Christ's death paid for my sins, so now I am free to do what I want, so I will. And in many cases, these two extremes play off each other. The licentious son rebels against the restrictions of the legalistic father, and the legalistic mother recoils against the chaos of her licentious daughter.

However, neither of these extremes reflect the freedom for which Christ died.
For the religious legalist, the idea that Christ's death fulfilled the Laws requirements, while not abrogating the Law, is anathema. The expectation is that therefore the Christian life is still a series of dos and don'ts. Not the same ones, but requirements all the same.
Likewise for the licentious person, Christ's death covers all, so the idea that there should be any guidelines for behavior is also anathema.

So, since Freedom, in the Christian sense, is neither legalism, exchanging one master for another, and it is not anything goes, but has guidelines, what can we conclude?

Paul faced a similar idea when he addressed the Corinthian church on the topic of eating meat addressed to idols. In effect, he said let it be as you think best. He did not add a dietary law, so he did not push a legalistic approach, telling the Corinthians they were not allowed to eat this meat. However neither did he instruct the believers who had no qualms with eating the meat to just go willy nilly eating this meat, regardless of the feelings and perceptions of the other believers.

In other words, Paul taught what I believe is the core of freedom. What Paul offered was the idea, that we could voluntarily abstain from exercising our freedom, out of love and respect for where others were in their understanding of Christ's sacrifice, and his Grace that he offered in that sacrifice. If the others had a legitimate conscience problem with eating meat sacrificed to idols, those that didn't were encouraged to allow the other party the freedom to not have their consciences violated. And at the same time, those that had objections to the practice of eating meat, were encouraged to allow those that had no problem the freedom to do so, without adding conditions.

As a believer in Christ, we are free from the wages of our sins. But I believe there is more, much more, to freedom than a one time pardon. We are also set on the road to freedom as well. We are free from the need and desire to rule over others, whether in a one on one relationship, and in larger groups. We are set free from the need to try to earn our way into heaven by following one set of rules, or a different set. And we are free to fail at any thing, and still be forgiven. Not only forgiven by Christ, but free to forgive one another, as we all wait for the Day when we will be free from the pains of this world, and freed into the joys of the next one.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Freedom is scary, Part I

I just returned from my 4th year to go to Ekaterinburg, Russia, with a team from Northwest Bible Church in Dallas, TX, and once again God showed me something from the Word that never really resonated before, from one of our daily NBC team devotionals.

I was asked to prepare one for our team for the first weekday after wife and I arrived, and in my typical fashion, I didn't prepare for anything for as long as I could avoid it. So that morning I finally started thinking what to speak on, and Galatians Chapter 5 verse 1 popped into my head:

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not
let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

As I got to thinking on this verse, I recalled the scene at the end of the film, Schindler's List, where the Jewish prisoners at Brinnlitz were left alone. The German guards had all fled the day before, with Oskar and Emilie Schindler leaving that night. The next morning, all the freed prisoners were still sitting on the ground when a Russia soldier rode up on horseback, and told them that they had been liberated. Yet everyone stayed seated, and one older man asked " What do we do now?" This has always seemed rather odd to me, since it would stand to reason that the prisoners would have immediately taken advantage of their freedom from inhuman and unthinkable bondage, and ran from the Brinnlitz camp as fast as their feet would carry them, and yet they stayed.
From my university days, I seem to remember similar anecdotes of slaves in the American South that stayed around the plantations, even after the Union army had arrived and taken control of that area of the Confederacy, and word was delivered of the Emancipation.

This idea, that people would prefer to stay and live as if they were still in bondage, even if they have been liberated, seems strange to me. And even more strange, it seems that even when a people have tasted freedom, there is a strong tendency to trade that freedom for slavery once more, in certain circumstances. But the more I thought about it, not only that day, but since last week, it seems more of a default position for human behavior.

On a political level, more and more it seems that many, if not the majority of my countrymen seem fine with exchanging liberty for a sense of security. Or on a financial level, many would rather live as slaves to the credit card companies, or to the mortgage banker, or to their jobs, in order to have a newer shinier car, or another 1000 square feet in the house, or what ever they desire that may not be within their means.

However it is in the spiritual arena that I believe this willingness to trade freedom for bondage is most often seen.

From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was proclaiming liberty to the captives. From the way He treated those that the society of the day deemed less than worthy, and from His sermons and parables, one of the subtexts of everything He said and done was a message of liberation: not only from the wages of our sin against a holy God, but freedom to love others as we are loved. Freedom to see how God values others, and ourselves, and from the knowledge of that, freedom to live accordingly.

Yet it seems that often people would ask Him " what must I do?" to earn this freedom of eternal life. In other words, what rituals or rules must we follow...To what regimen shall we submit to?
I feel that is a response from our natural self, for we often fail to truly understand what it means to live freely. Or if we do understand, we are afraid of the ramifications of a life of freedom.

I will have more on this in a day or two..

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What is a GrumpaMoose?

OK, what is a GrumpaMoose?

I am often grumpy and grouchy, so a GrumpaMoose is what my wife named me. The moose part I do not quite get, but there you go.

I didn't set out in life to be a grouch, and I really don't know where or when I started being one. But as the saying goes, "Life Sucks, but God is Good", I think I fixate too much on the first part and often forget the second part

And hey, if you lived with 4 partly to mostly insane dogs, you would be grumpy too.

Anyway. I am again taking up this blogging thing, after an absence of some months. Some of what I write may make you laugh, or annoy you to the nth degree. Sometimes both. Especially since I will be coming from an Evangelical Christian, and politically semi-cynical worldview, annoyance may likely result. I am who I am, and if this viewpoint is not your cup of tea, oh well.
But I will hope and trust that it will always be enjoyable and perhaps occasionally thought provoking. While I will of course enjoy and ask for your comments, especially if you disagree what I write, please be aware that I am extremely stubborn, and probably unpersuadable.

Stay tuned.....