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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

So, my father died yesterday.  People die everyday and as I have mentioned before, it is not death, but the dying that is difficult.  But my dad’s death was planned, and that has got to be a special kind of hell.  There are so many ways to die:  People die of cancer, heart attacks car accident, embolism, aneurism, freak acts of nature or the best way of dying of all time, while sleeping.  But what do you do when you must make a decision about death?

My father was a retired minister.  As a matter of fact, I flew from Wisconsin to California to attend his retirement party.  To give you a sense of who my father was, his retirement party was a roast.  To this day, and I am sure my sister would agree, we did not roast him nearly enough.  We all tended on the kind side rather than the roast side, but I guess that is OK.  I think people had a hard time roasting a minster.  Oh well, people may not have understood that my father was not that kind of minster.  In my opinion, he was the best kind.  You can be a christian and still be fun and not take things so seriously.

Speaking of Christianity; here is the worse story of yesterday.  Someone texted my sister to ask if my father was a christian.  Message to all you so-called-christians:  The time of death is not the time to try to ‘save’ someone’s soul.  When Christ visited Lazarus, who was dead, you know what he did not do?  He did not check to see if he was worthy of his time.  He did not ask stupid questions.  He did not make sure that the family believed everything that he believed.  He did not confirm that Lazarus was a good man.  When he was finally with the grieving family, do you know what he did?  Jesus wept.  If you wear a WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelet or have a bumper sticker saying the same thing, I implore you, I beg you, read the Bible so that you know what Jesus would actually do, because based on your actions, you clearly don’t know.  But I digress.

I called my father on Father’s Day, but he didn’t answer.  We had been playing phone tag for about two weeks.  I was calling for two reasons:  One, to ask about the restaurant that he and his wife had newly opened and two, to get him to send golf clubs that he had promised to send me.  On Father’s Day, he was flown to a hospital in Palm Springs because of kidney failure.  He has been in the hospital since Father’s Day, and as you probably know already, he never left.  Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the worse roller coaster ride ever.  Kidney failure is bad (50% survival rate), but not the worse, several trips to a dialysis center and you can live without kidneys.  However, his lungs became problematic and they had to intubate him, hooking him up to a breathing machine.  His lungs did not fail, they were just having problems.  Figure out the problem, get him off the machine.  The problem was blood clots (pulmonary embolism survival rate 30%).  As the nurse said, most people die from the amount of clots seen in his lungs.  OK, my dad is clearly tough, place a blood filter to prevent blood clots from reaching the heart and lungs, and get him on blood thinners (anti-coagulants), problem solved.  He began to bleed.  Quick medical lesson:  The clotting function of your blood is very important.  If you get a paper cut, the act of clotting stops the bleeding.  If your blood does not clot, or if you are on anti-coagulants, you get a paper cut and it may bleed forever.  My father has emergency surgery to find the bleeding and stop it.  The doctor tells my brother and mom he has a 30% chance of surviving the surgery.  He survives the surgery.  As stated before, my father was tough.  However, he must be taken off the anti-coagulants.  It was on that day that I lost hope.  You see, the down side to having knowledge is sometimes you get to figure out the ending before others.  It can ruin movies, which is why I must check my brain at the door to enjoy most films.  In my mind, the blood clots were the key to his survival.  If we got rid of the clots, maybe we could get him off that blasted machine and get that tube out of his throat, which he hated.  But the doctor did not want to give up (for good or bad).  My father also had an infection.  The doctor hoped if he could get rid of the infection, things would improve.  No problem, antibiotics.  They did not work.  Oh yeah, I forgot, my father could not maintain his blood pressure.  He was on pressors.  Pressors (norepinephrine) elevate the blood pressure.  Without the pressors, my dad’s blood pressure would plummet.  On the morning of July 9, the doctor, the wife, and the son (me) called it.  There was nothing more that could be done and we began the process of calling the family to see my father for the last time, because the next day he would be taken off of machines and medications.

I describe this to you because everything my father had was fixable.  Each ailment had a solution.  This was not cancer.  So the question was for a long time, at least in my mind, “How long are we going to do this?”  What is the acceptable amount of time to throw medicine and machines at a medical problem?  It was horrible.  Then, finally, when the decision was made, we had to plan his death.  How do you plan someone’s death?  How do you plan your father’s death?  Your husband’s death?  For right or wrong, I made it my responsibility to make sure that my father’s death was going to go as planned.  Nice and easy.

It’s weird to wake up on the day you know your dad’s going to die.  It would probably be worse if you were aware of your own death date, which I am sure has happened, but I woke up with the burden of responsibility of someone else’s death and unbeknownst to me, it made me extremely angry.  If you interacted with me, you would not have known how angry I was, and I did not know that I was angry.  But I soon left no doubt that I was angry.

To enter the ICU, you need a badge.  It’s a paper badge that sticks to your shirt.  You need a new one everyday.  You gave the security guard at the main lobby of the hospital your badge from the previous day and they printed you a new one.  I forgot mine, so I handed the security guard my driver’s license so he could print me a new one.  Also at the front desk was a hospital volunteer, a candy striper.  She was 75 years old if she was a day.  She proceeded to tell me how the correct procedure is to hand in your previous badge in order to get your new one.  I proceeded to tear her a new one and in no uncertain terms informed her that today was my father’s death day.  Now, my sister was with me.  My sister is a loud, in-your-face black woman.  She calls herself the truth whisperer.  Her blog is The Truth Whisperer.  She silently gave me my space.  I was angry.  Next, we visited my father.  In order to enter the actual ICU either a security guard or a candy striper must use their key card to open the doors.  So, there is a desk at the entrance of the ICU.  My sister and I were with my father briefly.  We just wanted to sit with him a while.  As we walked out, one of the volunteers said in an attempt at humor, “Just a short visit huh?  You weren’t in there very long.”  My sister, The Truth Whisperer, walked by silently to our private family room (reserved for such occasions).  I, on the other hand, proceeded to rip into the group of volunteers at the desk.  I informed them that today was my father’s death day and they needed to be more appropriate with visitors to the IC freakin’ U.  Did I mention I was angry?  I will say this though, all the volunteers were quiet for the rest of the day.

All the family had arrived and it was time.  I addressed the crowd of family and friends.  I explained how the process would take place.  We prayed.  We walked into the room.  We sang a hymn and then I got the nurse.  I won’t go into the details of this part, but this is when I got angry and stayed angry for a while.  It involved the nurse leaving out a drug that I thought was necessary.  It was a drug that I should have made sure was there in the first place.  After heated discussions with several nurses, culminating in a phone call to my father’s doctor, the desired drug was finally administered.  People stayed with my dad, and I chose to leave, because I did not want to watch my father die and I was surprised so many people did.  I also left because I was angry.  I was angry at the situation, angry at the nurses, but mostly angry at myself because I failed in making sure that things went exactly as planned on my father’s death day (By the way, I realize this is the worse expression ever, and I can’t stop using it).  It was like I was an obsessive wedding planner worrying about every little detail and freaking out when any little thing went wrong.  I went outside in the 118 degree weather to ‘cool’ off.  I have no idea why people live in Palm Springs during the summer.  I finally went back to my father’s room to make sure that everyone was doing their job and that he was comfortable.  Literally, while talking to the nurses and making sure all was as it should be, he died.  I think I breathed for the first time.

Everyone handles death differently.  It’s hard, especially when it is someone you love.  I apparently get angry and tell everyone that it is Death Day.  No matter how you deal with it, it is important to understand that death is part of life.  Try to focus on the person’s life rather than their death.  My brothers and I are going golfing on Saturday.  I am certain that my father would have wanted that.  I am also certain that he would want me to play with his full set of clubs.  I can’t imagine that my readers have enjoyed these last few blogs, but I hope reading them has made you think about the importance of your own loved ones.  Hug your family.  Say “I love you” to your family and friends.  We are all here for a relatively short time, so cherish it.  Those issues and squabbles you are holding on to simply are not worth it.  And if you feel the need to judge or evangelize during times of death, just remember one thing: What Would Jesus Do?  Jesus wept and so do I.  Thank you for reading.

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My father, Ronald Woods, died Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm.  He was 76.  I’m just sayin’ …

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—This blog is dedicated to the newlyweds, Rob and Rick.  Thanks for letting me publish this blog.—

So, as I mentioned in my last blog, I was at a wedding in New York.  My buddy, Rob got married to his long time partner, Rick.  It was my first gay wedding.  I thought about hiding that fact till the end of the blog and even giving the blog a different title.  I would have started the blog talking about my friend’s wedding, describing all the details of the ceremony, and then ending with, oh by the way, the wedding had two grooms.  I had it all mapped out, and of course it was brilliant.  However, I have decided to go a different direction.  I don’t want to bury the headline, but lead off with it, and talk about issue head on.

As it was my first gay wedding, I wondered what would be different about it.  For example, will one groom wait at the front of the church, while the other one walked down the aisle?  If so, would the music begin and everyone stand up as the groom entered the church?  Would it be at a church? Would both grooms look alike, or would one stand out as different?  What would the pronouncement be?  Man and man?  Husband and husband?  Or just married?  What would the official and law binding statement be? (I did not learn the answer to this question until the next day)  And what would the reception be like?  I assumed there would be dancing.  I wouldn’t think two gay men could get married without dancing.  Regardless of your opinion about this subject, THAT would be wrong.  Would there be any flamboyantly gay men there?  Would there be at least one black gay guy?  Hopefully his name would be Longinus or DeVon, spelled DEE-VAWN.  And would I be disappointed if there weren’t at least one flamboyant gay person there?  Would there be a first dance?  And who gives away the groom?  Yes, I had a lot of questions, and every single one of them was answered.  First, a little background:

I met Rob in graduate school at the University of Kansas.  I knew him before he came out as a homosexual.  I was even aware of a few dates he went on with women.  I later learned that he was still in his “discovery” phase of knowing himself.  I would not say that I knew him well, during this phase.  Quite frankly, I don’t feel we truly became friends until he came out to me.  We were having lunch together, and he told met that he needed to tell me a story.  I don’t remember the story, not even a little bit, but I do remember that in order for the story to make sense, Rob had to be gay.  I also remember asking him why did he decide to tell me that he was gay.  And his response was, that fact was crucial to the story.  I said OK.  In my opinion, that was the first day of our friendship.  Since then, we have travelled across country together, we have camped together, we have roomed together at conferences, and we have made an effort to spend time together almost every year.  Leah and I have visited him and Rick in New York and it is an honor and a joy to be his friend.  So, last year, when he described his proposal to Rick and the upcoming wedding, there was no doubt in my mind that I (and if possible, Leah) would be there.  Unfortunately, Leah could not make it.  I am sure we will visit them later, as I am a much bigger fan of New York than I have ever been (more on this later).

Prior to leaving for the wedding, Leah had an interaction with a friend that surprised me.  Her friend made it clear that she was clearly against gay marriage.  She is religious, and knew that we are Christians and assumed that we would not attend the wedding.  Leah of course informed her that I was, and she would too if we could have worked it out.  Apparently, it turned into a heated discussion.  So much so they had to talk it out the next day to make sure that their friendship was not destroyed.  Luckily, it had not been.  But they clearly had run into the first topic where they must agree to disagree.  This concept of God and gay marriage fascinates me and lead to my biggest surprise about my friend’s wedding.

The wedding was surprisingly traditional.  It was held in a beautiful church.  The Episcopal priest did an excellent job.  Rob and Rick walked in together with their mothers.  That was the burning question on my mind at the start of the service.  Rick had purple shoes, which was really the only unique difference between the two.  I will say the shoes were fabulous.  I loved them.  Hymns were sung, prayers were given, and we received a short homily (sermon).  God was clearly invited to bless this union.  And this fascinated me.  Would anyone have been surprised if God was left out of this service?  You would not have to search long to find people who believe in God working very hard to prevent such unions.  It is a subject of great political debate.  Many people have held signs, protested, and fought to make it illegal for gay couples to get married legally.  And in most cases, the argument has been God’s decree that marriage is reserved for a man and a woman.  And yet, there I was, watching a man and a man get married, legally, with what I can only assume was no accident, a traditional, God-invited wedding.  Two people who could have actively rejected God and all He had to offer, actually inviting him to be present.

The subject of God even came up in the car as we drove to the reception.  It made me wonder if God was discussed in other cars as well.  It also made me wonder, what was a more positive message of God’s love, this wedding with two grooms, or the protests and opposition preached in churches across the land against gay marriage?

The mayor was at the wedding, which I thought was odd.  Later, I discovered that it was he that pronounced them legally married in the state of New York.  I think this had more to do with the church, but I am not exactly sure.  I meant to ask, but never got around to it.  (After Rob read this blog, he offered to tell me, but I have not talked with him other than texts prior to publishing this blog.  Sorry, it will have to remain a mystery to my readers until I call Rob) Possibly the Episcopal Church has not resolved their guidelines for gay marriage considering the new state law.  Oh, by the way, I am almost forgot; the mayor was wearing a kilt.  The church was called the Episcopal Church of St. Mary in the Highlands, which made me wonder if the whole town had major connections to the Church of England.  It does.  I also wondered if the mayor was wearing a kilt traditionally, i.e., going commando.  What I could say about a kilt, going commando and a gay wedding is just too much, so I will stop here.

After the service, we headed to the reception location.  It was at a very nice old house/inn.  Appetizers were ready immediately, which was nice, but almost too much food.  I had to monitor myself, as I would not have been hungry for dinner.  Also, the two best words in any wedding, “open bar”.  Dinner was nice, and it was fun to see friends that I have not seen since getting my PhD.  Also, there was a lot of dancing.  And of course, the required playing of “It’s Raining Men”.  Quite frankly, I would have been disappointed if I did not hear this song.  the funny thing is, this is the only song that guys did not jump on the dance floor first.  As a matter of fact, no one moved until a bunch of women jumped on to the dance floor and started dancing.  It was almost if the gay men in the audience felt that they did not want to be a stereotype.  I think it would be like me going to a buffet and avoiding the fried chicken until last.  It’s not that I don’t love fried chicken, I just don’t want to appear to be a stereotype.  And I certainly would not put watermelon and fried chicken on my plate at the same time.

There was only one flamboyantly gay person at the wedding, at least in my opinion.  He reminded me of Cam on Modern family or Nathan Lane’s character in The Birdcage.  No black gay guys (sad clown) and I don’t know if anyone was named Longinus.  The dancing was great, and quite frankly, the most dramatic dancer was the DJ.  An odd fellow, who was having a lot of fun, perhaps too much fun.  He clearly was dancing to the beat in his own head.  It brought me joy.

No throwing of bouquet or garter.  The group was divided into single men and women and the grooms threw books.  Not the best idea.  One woman got smacked in the head with a book.  I thought it was funny, but I also thought, this is why the traditional throwing of the book will never take off.

All in all, a great wedding.  I wish the best of luck to Rick and Rob.  I love you guys and may God Bless your marriage.  People may have a problem with this last statement, but that is their problem, not yours.  I also learned a very important lesson:  When I think about how people discuss homosexuals in politics and religion, it makes me understand why so many people are against the church.  After the wedding, it got me thinking, maybe a lot of people are rejecting God’s people and not God.

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I spent a little bit of time exploring upstate New York.  Not really exploring as much as taking the long way back to the airport.  Here is what I learned:  New York is GORGEOUS!  I mean BEAUTIFUL.  I have been to New York several times, but never out of the city.  I had no idea.  This may be the most beautiful state I have ever seen.  This may be the biggest secret in the United States.  And I just told you.  I’m just sayin …

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This is Yul Brynner in the Ten Commandments. What?!?

So, before you get offended by the title, I must say that this is an often misquoted line from The Ten Commandments.  I try really hard to make sure that everything that I write about in my blog is true (Take a lesson from me Fox News).  So, I was about to talk about this quote as being from the movie, The Ten Commandments, but after some brief research (approximately 30 minutes, yeah that’s right.  Now you know why if I am busy I don’t blog), I discovered that this line was made popular by Billy Crystal.  I always assumed he was quoting the movie.  I know he was doing Yul Brynner doing a Bible character, but I thought the line was a parody of a true line from the movie.  Oh well.  It makes me wonder what else Wikipedia has lied to me about (don’t get me started).

Alright, back to the blog.  I have blog ADD or ADHD or whatever the heck they are calling it these days.  Oh look, a bird is outside.  How pretty.  Anyway, just to be clear, I am NOT a Tim Tebow fan.  I think he is anywhere from a horrible to a mediocre quarterback.  As a matter of fact, I think he is improving to be a mediocre quarterback.  So, why the hype?  You can’t turn on any sports channel without hearing significant talk about this man.  What is up with that?  Well let me tell you, it is for one reason, and one reason only:  He is an in-your-face, kneeling and praying, God-loving Christian.  And just to make things clear, I am not writing that as a good thing.

Once again, cards on the table, I am a Christian.  I take my beliefs very seriously, but I am no Tebow.  Also, I must say that I do NOT blame Tebow for the persona that has been created.  I don’t know the guy, but I get a real sense that this is who he actually is, cameras or no cameras.  So, I blame the media, and I blame the thousands, maybe millions of fans that are looking for a Christian Hero.  Again, I do not write this as a good thing.  This is something that people do, they need a symbol, hero, and/or leader of their own personal cause.  I live in Wisconsin, and no one knows this more than Packers fans.  Do you remember a guy by the name of Brett Favre?  He is like a fallen angel around here, and Rodgers is the risen lord.  It’s crazy!  So, maybe this blog is not about Tebow, but about the phenomenon of Tebow.  Why do people crave a representative for their own beliefs.  Why is it so important to show the world proof that you are “Right”?

Unlike many people, I do not have a problem with people sharing their faith.  However, here are a few rules that I devised for sharing one’s faith:

1.  The listener should have a choice.  This could easily be my only rule.  I feel like I should be able to watch a football game without someone giving me their opinion about how I should be.  Again, I don’t think Tebow is intending to do this, but I do believe as the media discuss his actions it becomes so in the face that it is annoying.  You love God.  We get it.  If I thought his actions were actually encouraging others to love God, I think I would be for it.  Unfortunately, I think it hardens those that do not believe in God and I think it gives believers a holier than thou attitude, an attitude that I personally wish would die.

2.  Once the listener has made their choice, respect it.  Here is one of my biggest pet peeves:  Two people walk up to my door.  “Hello sir, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour?”  “Why yes, yes I have.”  I reply.  And then they proceed to convince me to go to their church and believe their beliefs.  Uh Hello?  McFly?  Did you not hear me?  We are on the same team?  But it is clear to me by the way they talk to me, that we are not, we are not on the same team.

3.  Have a relationship with the person you are sharing your faith.  Why would a stranger listen to anything I had to say?  Why would they believe my word over a friend’s?  As a matter of fact, this is biblical, but I won’t go into it now.

Every time. What happened to praying in a closet?

4.  Keep it Real.  I don’t know Tebow and as I stated above he may be genuine.  If he is genuine, then we will never hang out, but if he is not, then I hope he reads this blog and takes it down a notch.

I predicted a big victory for the Patriots over the Broncos and I got it.  Was it Tebow’s fault that they lost?  No.  Did he play decently?  Yes.  Is he still a mediocre QB at best?  You got that right.  Did Jesus help him win all those games this year?  Maybe.  Surprised?  Regardless of whether or not you believe Jesus is on Tebow’s side, it doesn’t matter.  If He is on his side, He is on his side regardless of what you believe.  So, chill out.  Saturday Night Live did a skit on Tebow and people lost their freakin’ minds.  Guess what?  It was funny.  Don’t be offended.  Let your God be the same God regardless of what other people say or do.

I actually don’t have a problem with the concept that God has had a hand in this Tebow business.  He should never have been a first round pick.  Quite frankly, he should never have won at least three of the games that the team did win this season. Tebow has made a lot of money and he is getting a lot of press, and as a result, God is getting a lot of press.  Maybe that is what He wants.  Or maybe God wants Tebow to be rich and famous, so he can build a $3 million hospital in the Philippines.  Who knows?  But I am confident in one thing, you don’t need a Tebow to believe in God.  So, maybe my message is to you, Tebow fan … take it down a notch.

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Can you imagine what it would be like to make a statement and have everyone believe it to be true?  Think about it.  Google my title.  You will find it quoted as from The Ten Commandments.  As a matter of fact, you will have more difficulty finding a website that does NOT say it comes from that movie.  Crazy huh?  Well anyway, I got to go exercise my right eye, it is getting kind of weak.  I read with my left eye covered for an hour and it will be all better.  It makes sense, because I am right-handed.  I need to do this anyway, as one always remembers what they read better when they read with only their dominant eye.  I’m just sayin’ …

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So, according to a dude in California, Judgement Day, the Rapture, Jesus returns on May 21, 2011.  Now, if you live in the United States, that means Jesus returns tomorrow.  Of course, if you live in Australia, He is already here.  I always find it fascinating that when it comes to world revelations, it is always in US time.  I wonder if Americans realize that the planet is quite large and contains many more people and land than just us, but I digress.

First of all, when anyone claims they know the day of Jesus’ return, it pretty much guarantees that it will NOT be that day.  Simply put, if you are a Christian and believe in the Rapture, then you know that the Bible is quite clear that no one will know the time nor the day of Judgement Day.  Of course that has not stopped every crazy Rev, Pastor, and church fanatic from claiming they have figured out the ultimate secret, the End of Days.

Let’s for the sake of argument that tomorrow is indeed Judgement Day.  So, at bare minimum I plan on having sex tonight.  I generally don’t need trickery to get laid, but how can I resist the ultimate line, “We need to have sex tonight, for tomorrow we die.”  Go ahead and use this line tonight.  If it is successful, I want to know.  Also, if it is the Rapture tomorrow, I hope it is AWESOME.  I want craziness.  I want a ship or chariot the size of the alien ships from Independence Day and I want Jesus bare-chested standing tall on the bow of the ship.  I also want Jesus to be black, and as soon as I see him, I will yell triumphantly, “I KNEW IT!”.  There is no way a man from Bethlehem looks as white as does in 90% of the pictures and drawings you see of Him.  I want angels flying everywhere, the dead rising from their graves, and I want there to be a killer sound track to be playing from unknown heights as if a heavenly stereo.  Now, this probably sounds pretty sacrilegious, but make no mistake, if IT happens, I want to be impressed.  Finally, I will have a list of people who I will need to call, just to rub it in their face, and say “I told y’all.  Say it.  Saaaaaaay it.”  Then they will reply, “Brett, you are right, you are always right.”  “Now, come on over, and maybe I’ll hook you up with the Big Man.” I’d say.  Nah.  Just kidding, I wouldn’t rub it in like that.  Or would I?

The thing that really surprises me about this whole claim is how much media attention it is receiving.  Are people really that stupid?  Don’t answer that.  I even heard the story on ESPN radio.  This does not bode well for the gullibility of humans.  It pretty much means, if you say anything loud enough, long enough, and forcefully enough, you WILL get the attention of the masses.  Sad really.  Just think politics and it is enough to make you cry.

I refuse to discuss the validity of the Bible, the truth or lie of Jesus, and whether or not there will or not be a Rapture one day.  This is not what this blog is about.  But this blog is about how easy it is to get the masses to pay attention to what you have to say, and even get a large group of people to believe in what you have to say.  No doubt, there are many that believe that is how most, if not all religions began, and perhaps there is some truth to that, but what must be done to get people to think critically.  Believe or not this is true of hard-core scientific atheists.  They too gather in groups talking as one mind and pat each other on the back for believing in the same thing.  Add a few songs to their books and discussions, and you have church.

So, what’s my point?  Don’t really have one, other than the fact that tomorrow is likely to come without any fanfare and be no different from today.  And if you are like me and get some sex tonight, well then, Praise Jesus!

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My son invited two of his friends over tonight.  They had a great time and played very well together.  He has invited these friends of to our house about 20 times.  You know how many times they have invited him over to their houses? Zero.  To my surprise and jealousy, it does not bother Brett at all.  He likes to hang out with them, and it is clear that they like to hang out with him.  But here is the kicker, this is not normal thinking, but it SHOULD BE.  I wish I could be more like him in this respect.  Think about it, if you invited someone out to lunch, dinner, coffee, or any kind of excursion multiple times, and they NEVER returned the invite, wouldn’t you stop inviting them?  I know I would, and have, but it shouldn’t bother me so much.  You see my son has it right: If you want to hang out with someone, and they enjoy hanging out with you, but never return the invite, well, that;s their problem, not yours.  At least that’s how my son lives, and I could not be more proud.  I’m just sayin …

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So, I am not just quoting a John Lennon song, but introducing the topic of my blog:  What if there was no hell?  My wife subscribes to Time magazine, and this was their cover story.  It is in regard to Rob Bell’s new book: ‘Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived’.  Now, full disclosure, I have not read the book, but I am a huge fan of Rob Bell.  Bell has a video on sex that might be the best discussion of God and sex that I have ever seen.  Although I have not read his newest book, I found the Time magazine article interesting.

In Bell’s book, according to Time magazine, he proposes the possibility that Jesus Christ died for everyone, both past and present and basically, a loving God would not condemn anyone to hell.  Rob Bell is an evangelical teacher and heads a church of

Not your typical pastor

about 7,000 and apparently his evangelical brethren went crazy at the mere thought of a lack of hell.  Now, I know that some of my readers are atheists, so the idea of no hell is not a difficult concept to swallow, but for many people it is unthinkable.  Why?  Well, if you grew up in the church as I did, the idea that there is no hell is just about as heresy as saying there is no heaven.  For many people, evangelism without hell is like physical trainers without fast food, they both would be out of a job.

I may have mentioned before, I am a Christian.  I am not perfect.  I have made many mistakes in my life, both big and small, but I must ask myself:  Would my beliefs change if I was convinced there was no hell?  My beliefs wouldn’t change at all, and I am not convinced they should, nor should evangelists around the globe.  It has been my experience that very few, if any, have converted to Christianity out of fear of hell.  I am not going to try to convince my readers that there is a hell, but I do believe that hell exists.  In my opinion, hell is where God is not.  Like Bell, I believe in a loving God, and in His love, I believe He will not force anyone to be with Him that does not want to be, and therefore, the existence of hell.

I believe in the redeeming power of Christ, both on Earth as well as after, but have a hard time believing that Ghandi is in hell. 

In hell? I dont think so.

Now, keep in mind, I am not a preacher.  I did not go to seminary, and simply put, I am no theologian, but I can read and I consider myself pretty smart.  Let me share with you two Bible verses that might indicate that things are not as simplistic as many people believe them to be (which is the heart of the problem: people want their beliefs and lives to be simple and certain, but to discuss this would require another blog).

In the book of Matthew, chapter 19 (23-24), Jesus tells his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

If you google this passage, you will find a variety of different interpretations, but I want to give my simple take on this passage: Not everyone is getting in to heaven because they may be unwilling to do the things necessary to enter heaven.  We could argue at length what those ‘things’ might be, but I think Jesus is talking about those that put their trust and beliefs in non-God items, like money.  Again, it is just my opinion.

The second passage from the Bible I would like to share is from Luke 23:38-43 where we learn of a conversation among Jesus and two criminals being killed on the cross:

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The above passage from Luke would suggest that getting into heaven might be a little easier than that whole eye of the needle business.  The point I am trying to make is that many people are going to be surprised at who they see in heaven.  On the same token, many will be surprised at who is not in heaven.  One thing I am certain about, if there is a hell, I do not decide who will be there and who will not, and I am quite thankful for that.  As many churches remain stagnant or are losing members, churches like that of Bell are growing and doing well.  I don’t think churches should abandon their beliefs, as I believe Rob Bell is quite biblically sound, but I do think the church needs to have a more open door policy rather than behaving like an exclusive social club with dress code, passwords and secret handshakes.

At the end of the day, whether you are a believer in God, an atheist, or think we were planted here by aliens, isn’t it at least worth considering alternative ways of thinking?  If your beliefs can’t survive alternative ways of thinking; then do you really believe what you believe?  It’s something to think about.

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Last Friday, I got a vasectomy.  It went great, thanks for asking.  I was going to regale you with the details of the operation, including the moment I laughed out loud and the nurse asked what was wrong, but I might save that for another blog.  I do, however, want to tell you about the Dr.’s instructions I received for post-operation, specifically, the “Call immediately if you notice:” section.  I am to call the doctor if, my temp is above 100.6 (normal), unable to urinate (makes sense), drainage, redness or bruising greater than quarter-size at incision site (of course, standard warning signs), and swelling greater than softball size (WHAT!?!?!)

Did someone call the doctor after their testes swelled to the size of baseballs and get shunned?  “Sorry sir, baseball size is pretty normal.  We are very busy here at the doctor’s office.  Please don’t call unless they reach softball size.”  Who draws the line for when to see a doctor?  Three hour erection?  No problem.  Four hour erection, get to the hospital immediately.  Who drew this line?  I have had zero problems, but trust me; I was not going to wait beyond baseball size, or even tangerine, OK, plum size and that’s my final offer.  I’m just sayin …

My line.

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So, yesterday I played golf with a friend of mine.  In the golf cart was an advertisement for the Martini Lounge.  The last time I had a martini was at a bar in Chicago where transvestite sang for entertainment.  I told him I was not a fan of martinis, nor transvestites, but not for the reasons you might think.  Martinis, mainly because they are pretentious, and transvestites because they wear too much makeup.  I hate makeup.  It is why I hate clowns, Shakespearian actors, Halloween, and anyone who works for or shops at Mary Kay.

The conversation continued into a more controversial area and that is homosexuality as a sin and laws that have been proposed to prevent certain lifestyles, such as gay marriage.  I realize that this is a hot topic for many of my readers.  Hell, it is a hot topic for many Americans, but I do not want to discuss whether or not homosexuality is correct or not.  Quite frankly, I don’t care, but I am interested in the concept of what I will call “The inequality of sin”.

If you are a Christian, or a believer and follower of the Bible, you are aware there are a number of commandments on how one should live.  The Bible is considered by many as the Word of God and when one does not live by the Bible’s commandments, and therefore God’s Word he is committing a sin.  The Bible also clearly states that “… all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” — Romans 3:23.  And this is a point that my friend made.  “Everybody sins.” He said.  I said, “You are right, but the problem is we do not treat sins equally.”  Whether you believe in God or not, whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Hindu, or Jewish, I bet you do not treat sins equally.

If homosexuality is a sin, then so is sex before marriage, living with someone you are not married to, wanting what is not yours, such as your neighbor’s wife, adultery, and my favorite, divorce.  We don’t view people living lifestyles in these “minor” categories as major issues.  And we certainly wouldn’t dream of proposing legislation to regulate divorce or living arrangements.  It is kind of hypocritical, isn’t it?  But this is an issue for everyone.  Regardless of your beliefs, my guess is you too have your pet sins.  Here is an example: If a man is convicted of being a pedophile, serves his time and is released, where does he live?  In your town?  My town? The neighboring town? An island?  Even if he reforms, never commits that crime again, he is forever labeled and will find it difficult to receive forgiveness anywhere, and I mean ANYWHERE.  Would I be OK with a pedophile living near me and my family?  Hell no.  But I am aware of my areas of hypocrisy, are you aware of yours?

My church starts a series called “Everybody” next week.  I am looking forward to it.  I believe the church should be more inclusive than it currently is.  If you have ever read the Bible, you will know that people absolutely loved hanging with Jesus.  You also know that he hung out with people who were CLEAR sinners.  People hated him, in part, because of the people he was associated.  Think about it.  The Christian church just 2000 years ago was a handful of people, and now has a membership of millions … millions.  The church was the place to be.  When was the last time you heard of the church as the place to be? Jesus was the man.  I believe if you met Jesus you would like him.  You would want to hang out with him.  Jesus was clearly a cool dude.  He was your bud, your pal, the kind of guy you could throw up in the back of his car and not get mad.  Where is His church?  I want to belong to a church that loves EVERYBODY and people feel welcome within its doors.  I want EVERYBODY to know that they are loved.  Does it mean you must agree with everybody, no but it does mean that we all have issues and we all have fallen short.

I don’t care who you are, you don’t treat sin equally, but if you did, you might not look at that particular person with such disdain and realize, we all got problems.  I don’t agree with everyone the same, but I want to love everyone the same.  I am not there yet, but I strive to be.  How about you?
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Whenever I go to the grocery store and walk through the detergent aisle I think it smells fragrant.  I walk and smell the perfumes and fragrances and have the same thought every time:  This would be a great place to fart.

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If you read my first post, you will know that this blog is for entertainment purposes only.  However, the following post is surprisingly serious. 

So, one day on my way home I saw a very large electronic sign flashing “God Bless America”.  I have decided that I am sick of this saying.  First of all let me state for the record that I am a Christian, but I am definitely not the same Christian I was in college (details for a later blog).  For some of you reading this, the word Christian will either conjure up bad or good feelings.  For me, being a Christian does not give me the magic formula on who and who is not going to heaven or hell.  I realize that for many it does and for good reason.  If you believe in the Bible, and I do, it seems quite clear on what one must do to enter heaven.  But another thing that is quite clear to me is that I am not the one that decides who gets in and who does not.  It is also very clear to me that many may receive last-minute reprieves (see thief on the cross). 

One of my favorite Christian authors is C.S. Lewis.  He wrote the 7-book series The Chronicles of Narnia.  They made two movies from this series “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and “Prince Caspian”.  In the final book, “The Last Battle”, three of the four kings, Peter, Edmund and Lucy are in the New Narnia (essentially C.S. Lewis’ heaven for the Narnia world).  Susan is not there because she no longer believes in Aslan (the Jesus/God character) and the times she spent Narnia.  But there is a person who is there, and it surprised me when I first read it as a kid and it is my favorite section of any religious type book.  A believer of Tash (the book’s representation of the Devil) was in the New Narnia (Heaven).  What?!?  Here is an excerpt:

—But the Glorious One [Aslan] bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, though knowest how much I understand.–

I love this.  It also suggests that there are people who do evil things in the name of God and will NOT be in heaven.  It also suggests that God reads the heart.  This is a very comforting and hopeful belief to me because about 50% of my friends, very good friends are non-Christians.  Now, if you are reading this and you consider yourself a Christian and you do NOT have non-Christian friends, think about that … seriously.  Think about the fact that you do not have a diversity of friends and ask yourself “What would Jesus do?” (Another saying I detest, but I digress).

Although I have been highly disappointed with churches and many church people, I am not throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am far from being a saint, but that is one key difference I have made about my faith.  I am not a saint, and trying to hide the fact or act like I am better than anyone only makes me worse.  And this may be the main reason I do not believe I know who is getting in and who is not.  If your ability to get into heaven is depended on me or any other Christian, than that system sucks!  Because a lot of Christians suck.  It would be like if I gave my three-year old son a message to give my neighbor that a criminal is about to break into his house and kill him.  If you are a Christian and you want others to be a part of it as well, be better.  Hence, why I hate “God Bless America!”

Here’s the thing: Why would you ever say God Bless America?  What is the point?  Are you trying to separate the U.S. from others that may or may not receive God’s blessings?  Are you requesting special treatment for our country?  Have we done anything as a country to deserve God’s blessings?  Or is this truly a prayer that God make us happy?

First of all, what is a blessing?  Now, depending on the source, you will find different answers.  For example, a popular Christian website states “In short, all of God’s goodness and promises are blessings. When we do not see those things happening, we must seek to find the cause.”  The problem I have with this is the idea that if your life is going well or if good things are happening then you are being blessed by God.  The alternative is that you are being “cursed” and the website actually uses this word.  This is ridiculous.  I believe this is a popular belief and it is why many of my friends are turned off by Christianity.

All actions have consequences.  Whether you are a Christian or not, believe that statement.  Your life may suck because you make bad choices.  Don’t blame God.  And quite frankly, if you are having troubles in your life it is often those difficult times that bring you to an ultimately better place in your life.  You have no idea what a blessing might be in your life, the question is, how are you handling your own trials and tribulations?  I have both personal and family stories that would lead me to believe that we were cursed.  However, many of those events turned out to be blessings.  If curses exist, they exist for everyone, in the form of actions having consequences.

I looked up the word, blessed in Greek.  The word often used in the Bible is “eulogeo”.  I believe this is where we get our word eulogy. Here is a list I found on how the word has been used in the Bible: to praise, to invoke blessings, to consecrate a thing with solemn prayers such as to ask God’s blessing on a thing, pray God to bless it to one’s use, or pronounce a consecratory blessing on.  Finally, it is God causing one to prosper, to make happy, or to bestow blessings on.  To be favoured by God, blessed.

Obviously, “God Bless America” falls in that last line in which we ask God to favor us and make us happy.  But wouldn’t we want this for everyone, or just the people we believe are special?  I pray that God blesses ALL of my friends and even a few of my enemies.  What would the world be like if everyone was happy?  What would the world be like if we did not ostracize groups of people for not believing as we do?  Would more people want to be part of a group that welcomes and loves, or would they more likely shy away from a group that separates and hates those that “don’t belong”?  There are a lot of people in my life that have beliefs that I do not agree with, but I hope and pray that they have never felt ostracized, belittled, or treated in a negative way because I believed differently.  Does this mean that everyone is correct in whatever they believe?  I never said that, but I will say, I can disagree with you without taking away your rights, treating you poorly, and attempting to separate you in a negative manner.

I hope that God blesses America, but I also hope God blesses France, Ethiopia, Australia, Turkey, and even Iraq.  Does everyone believe in God, no, but if they had to depend on you for their belief, how do you think that would go?  Or do they even know you, because you can’t afford to hang with the non-believers, which is pretty much all Jesus did.

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At Church, a friend of mine was talking to my wife.  While she was talking to her she had her hands on her tummy (my wife as of this post is still pregnant, a week over due and huge).  As they were talking to each other she kept her hands on her tummy and was lightly rubbing it the entire time.  I am watching this and thinking “Should I be paying for this?”  Nice inappropriate way to end this post, huh?  Or very appropriate?  I’m just sayin …

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