Monday, August 29, 2011

Shaved Heads and America’s Bond Rating

                 My senior year in high school, our football team had a plan that would help us win the state championship. I don't know whose idea it was, but it was brilliant.
            The plan? We would all shave our heads. In doing so we would find unity.
            Keep in mind this was the age when all of us looked like masculine Farah Fawcetts—with our feathered hairdos. Everybody was on board. Every player thought it was a fantastic idea. It would be sacrifice, yes, but that sacrifice would propel a spirit of unity; this spirit would be the impetus to win the state championship.
            There was only one problem. No one would be the first to shave his head. We did not win the state championship.
            I think what I'm about to propose will never work in government or politics, because I see no politician willing to be the first one to propose it. Nevertheless, I believe strongly in what I'm about to say. I reserve the right to grow.
            California has been in deep trouble for a few years now. They owe too much money. One symptom of the crisis: at times, the state has had to give government workers unpaid furloughs—a difficult choice—due to a lack of funds.
            Watching California through the years, I consistently thought: I have seen this before. I lived for 5 1/2 years in a country that was always on the verge of economic ruin (Argentina.) I have seen many of the same symptoms in California. Now, I am starting to see the same thing happening within the federal government of the United States.
            Both major political parties are guilty. I want to address only two of the problems as I see them.
            Number one. Greed. We want so much more than we need, and we're willing to borrow money that we do not have to get it. We are borrowing it from future generations.             We're asking our future generations to pay for good things such as museums, statues, PBS (and an assortment of pork barrel projects that may not be so good.)
            There is nothing inherently wrong with a number of things our government spends money on—if we don’t have to borrow money to pay for it. Therein lies the rub.
            I had a friend a few years ago, who sold one of his cars and began riding his bike to work. Nothing wrong with having two cars, but his wife returned to college to get a graduate degree. They could not afford two vehicles without borrowing money. To stay out of debt, they sold a car.
            Borrowing money can be presuming upon God—particularly with regard to things that are not essential. All financial experts I read discourage buying things on credit that will not appreciate in value. Although Scripture never condemns borrowing, it never encourages it either. It always encourages the follower of God to avoid debt.            
            Our government does not seem to remember this. Perhaps this is because we citizens typically do not remember this; therefore, our government reflects our values with regard to money. To fully address the national debt, the federal government must make cuts and/or fully eliminate the funding of many good things.
Number two: we need a strong theology of accountability. I recently did a study on accountability. What I am about to say, I realize, will also not be popular. Let me take some time to set this point up.
Aristotle viewed virtue as the mean between two extremes. That is a good rule of thumb in terms of viewing sin.
Often, sin can be visualized as two opposite poles, with the virtue lying in the middle. Mercy is the virtue. Cold, hard hearts are those that show no mercy. That is sin. However, showing too much mercy is sin as well. It prevents God from using discipline to help people who need to grow.
An example: the alcoholic who is enabled to continue in his drinking problem because no loved one will confront him. His loved ones will lie, cover up for the alcoholic’s mistakes at work, and conceal his brutality at home. A chief reason is the loved ones feel so much compassion for him. Unfortunately, in the end, the loved ones hurt the alcoholic.
One of the things I've learned from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah is how important circumstances are in God's work. God uses circumstances to get us to see the error of our ways. For example, when I was a young man, I believe God used circumstances to help me address spending habits that reflected greed and presumption upon God. (See point number one.)
            Helping the poor is important. But the more layers of government and/or bureaucracy that are added, the harder it is to have someone come to grips with sinful activity that leads to poverty. And make no mistake about it; there are times when poverty is rooted in sin. This is why relationship is so essential in terms of a godly approach to ministry to those who are in poverty. Through relationship, one can better discover who is in need and who needs to face the consequences of his sinful lifestyle.
            The genius of the free market, and of the freedom in our country, is this: it has held us accountable for our behavior in more ways than any other government in history. If we maintain a flawed behavioral pattern, typically, we fail. The free market plays no favorites; it is impersonal.
            The more we try to remove this mechanism of accountability, the more people will be hurt. Without accountability, more money is needed to compensate people who refuse to address their flaws of character. Ultimately, society runs out of money. We are careening to that point now.
            Few people like to be held accountable, including me. I DO want to be held accountable, because I know it is in my best interest. Even so, I don’t like it.
            What I have written today will not solve the debt crisis alone. Much, much more needs to be addressed. Nevertheless, I would like to think that these two points are two pieces that are part of a larger mosaic that would, ultimately, help us move in a healthier direction.
Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. I watched SOUL SURFER with my family Friday night. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It is based upon the true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm at thirteen when a shark bit her while she was surfing.
         What followed was an amazing testimony to her faith and fortitude. Clearly, Bethany had made a decision to be a disciple of Jesus. Somewhere along the way, she grew to the point that she could say, in effect, “If God can use my arm for the Kingdom, so be it.” She was literally prepared to present her life, and any part of her body, as a living-and dying-sacrifice.
         This was not some cheaply made picture with a microphone creeping into the shot; it was a first class production. This movie also offered high quality actors and actresses. What I liked was that they clearly respected Bethany’s faith, and they did not shy away from depicting it.
         The special features are also worth checking out. The documentary on Bethany goes into detail portraying her faith. Again, I am grateful the production company allowed this independently produced documentary to be included in the package.
         I have never had a problem with Hollywood sharing stories that turned me off. This is a big world and this country is a free one; there are a lot of stories to share, no one should have to gain my approval to tell a story.
         I have been concerned about Hollywood censoring the telling of a Christian’s story. In the case of SOUL SURFER, Hollywood told a Christian story to the best of its ability with respect and even affection. For this, I am grateful.
2. I finished the baseball book THE LONG BALL by Tom Adelman over the weekend. Adelman chronicles the 1975 Major League Baseball season, peaking with his account that year’s classic seven game World Series between Boston and Cincinnati.
         Adelman’s work is detailed, funny, informative, and interesting. I particularly enjoyed his tidbits about what high school student Ricky Henderson and five-year-old Ken Griffey, Jr. were doing that year.
         This book was not well publicized when it appeared in bookstores in 2003. That’s a shame; it’s a great read.
3. Sometimes I wonder if the Rangers simply get bored. They have won five out the last seven against the Angels. Strange how they seem to turn it on when they have to. I’m going to suggest to Ron Washington that Nelson Cruz have a designated runner from home plate on. Cruz pulled another hamstring on the base paths last night.
4. I don’t care if the Dallas Cowboys begin the season 15-0, with their defense, this year they would be lucky to win one playoff game.
5. Today, for the first time in 16 years, the Edge family is cable free. Long live the internet! And here’s hoping we can find an antenna that will televise signals on our vintage 1980s era TVs.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Leading the Field

            The historian, Jay Winik, recounts in his book APRIL 1865 the state of the South after the Civil War ended in 1865. Economic, physical, emotional, and spiritual devastation prevailed. Survivors searched for healing.
            One warm spring Sunday, the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was participating in a communion service. Dr. Charles Minnergerode was administrating the emblems.            
            Unexpectedly, one of the first to arrive to the communion alter was a tall, well-dressed black man who had been sitting in the section reserved for “Negroes.”
            A stunned silence prevailed in the sanctuary, marked by tension. Before the war, whites were always served communion first. Now, a line had been crossed.
            Church members remained seated in their pews, unsure of what to do next. Dr. Minnergerode was clearly mortified.
            As the black gentleman knelt before the minister, the strain became almost unbearable. And then … an older, white man arose from the congregation, and, in a very dignified manner, strode to the front of the sanctuary. He knelt beside the black man.  Others in that church took note and soon followed his lead.
            The white gentleman leading the way was the former general, Robert E. Lee. 
            Whether it is treating people of all races or economic brackets as equals, offering the “sinner” the love and hospitality of the Lord, or standing up for holiness when no one else will, God will always need people willing to courageously stand up and lead the way.*

            *This story is one that I am sure many of us have heard for years. It is so good, a preacher fears it will appear on SNOPES.COM someday, proven to be a myth. I appreciate Winik investigating this story in his marvelous history of the end of the civil war. His conclusion, after much research (including interviewing the church historian of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church), is the event did indeed occur.
Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. I told the fathers of my church yesterday, "Guys, when you take your daughter to college for the first time, don't let her walk you to the car when you say goodbye.” Let me explain.
            As I wrote last week, Judy and I were to take our oldest daughter, Haleigh, to college for the first time, Thursday. We tried to script our departure. Everything proceeded well until Haleigh volunteered to leave her roommate, suite mates, and all of the activities going on in her dorm to walk us to our car.
            Bad idea.
            I should have thrown a “hissy fit” and insisted she stay in the dorm.
            Instead, I said nothing.
            Haleigh followed us to the car. We said our goodbyes, and I was doing relatively well when I got into our vehicle.
            Then, as we were pulling away, I made the mistake of looking back in the rear view mirror. I saw the strawberry blond hair of my oldest child walking away from me. She looked so alone and vulnerable.
            Now, for all I know, she might have been singing, “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah; Zip-a-dee-A…”—happy to be rid of us. Unfortunately, my emotional state wouldn’t allow me to think that.
            Analyzing the situation: I knew Harding U. had a cookout planned in an hour. I knew she was going back to her roommate and friends in the dorm, but I could not help but think of that scene in the movie FATHER OF THE BRIDE, where Steve Martin sees his college-age daughter morph before his eyes into her four-year-old former self. In my case, Haleigh morphed into the toddler she had been years ago.
            I told Judy what I am sure Lot told his wife, "Whatever you do, don't look back!” It was too late for me; my tears had already turned me into a pillar of salt.2. What is Labor Day going to be like with out Jerry Lewis hosting MDA?
3. I like what Cardinal Daniel N. Dinardo recently said, “Pregnancy is not a disease, and children are not a ‘health problem’—they are the next generation of Americans.
4. Have I mentioned how much I appreciate the iPhone app NEWS 360°?
5. I am sorry, but I am having a hard time getting excited about the Dallas Cowboys this season.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Do Your One Thing

            I’m not a Boston Red Sox fan. But I was thrilled to watch what happened back in the 2004 divisional series between the Red Sox and the New York Yankees. The winner would go to the World Series.
            New York got ahead three games to zero in the series and seemed poised for a sweep. No team had ever come from behind after another team led 3-0.            
            Boston trailed by one run in the fourth game, and future hall of famer Mariano Rivera was called in to close it for the Yankees. Rivera was unhittable. However, he walked Kevin Millar. Millar was slow, so Boston’s manager decided to put in a pinch runner—Dave Roberts.
            Dave Roberts was traded to Boston from Los Angeles in July of that year. He had hardly played in the two months he had been with Boston, and he had not played in the two weeks leading up to that ballgame.
            Yet, there was one thing Dave Roberts could do well—run. Suddenly, he was thrust into a very difficult situation. He was called upon to use his discretion to steal a base.
            It was cold that October night in Boston; the temperature was probably in the 40s or 50s. Roberts had little opportunity to stretch, having sat on the bench for almost nine complete innings. However, Roberts had studied Rivera. He knew his moves to first base and home plate. After Rivera had tossed three balls to first base to hold Roberts to the bag, Roberts made his move.
            It was a critical moment. Sportswriter Peter King later asked him, "Were you nervous?''
            "Well,” Roberts replied, “it was one of those things where one side of my brain is saying, 'Go for it!' And the other side of my brain is saying, 'Take it easy, now. If you get thrown out, you'll be exiled from this city for life. And it'll be another year of Red Sox failure.' They're doing battle. But I just thought it was something I had to do. The game depended on it.”
            He was safe. Iconic Yankee shortstop, Derek Jeter, took the catcher’s throw. After the play, he offered his tribute, “I don't know how you sit in this weather for eight innings and come in and steal a bag like that. Good job.”
            Shortly thereafter, Red Sox batter Bill Mueller hit a single to score Roberts and tie the game. Boston won in the twelfth inning.
            Boston went on to win game five and then games six and seven in New York. They did the unthinkable—they defeated the Yankees four games to three after being behind three games to none. Unprecedented.
            The Red Sox went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 to win the World Series—Boston’s first since 1918. The curse of the trade of Babe Ruth had been broken—if you believe in curses.
            Dave Roberts did not play in the World Series. He had hardly played at all in Boston the entire time he was with the team. Yet, if Dave Roberts had not done that one thing—steal a base—Boston would not have been World Champions.
            That one thing had to be done, and he did it.
            You may be reading this post, gifted by God to do one thing and one thing only. Are you willing to offer God that one thing?
            That one thing could make an eternal difference in the Kingdom.
4There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. 5There are different ways to serve the same Lord, 6and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do.    7The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others (I Cor. 12:4-7.) CEV
Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. I can’t wait to read Thom and Jess Rainer’s new book—THE MILLENNIALS CONNECTING TO AMERICA’S LARGEST GENERATION.
2. I recently received a complimentary copy of the magazine, THE WEEK. I liked it a lot. Were I not already reading so many “mags” and journals, I think I would subscribe. Perhaps in the future.
3. I think I appreciate more and more the talent and personality of Justin Timberlake. Here is a quote from the aforementioned THE WEEK regarding the beginning days of his old band, ’NSync, and their serving as opening acts for heavy metal rock bands, “[One concert] it was literally raining beer cans and glass bottles the whole time from 500,000 people who wanted to see AC/DC and not [me.]”
4. Still waiting for a review from my mom on the new movie THE HELP. The previews looked good.
5. This week Judy and I take our first born, Haleigh, to college. For almost a year, I have used the Beatles song SHE’S LEAVING HOME as Haleigh’s ring tone on my cell phone. I guess I’ll have to replace it. Maybe I need to go back and look up the lyrics to the old HALL AND OATES song, “She’s Gone.” That might work.

Monday, August 8, 2011

# 1 Thing I Have Learned Each Decade: Decade # 5—Living Can Kill Me

             In 2005, I experienced what, for me, was a real crisis. In the spring, I began to feel a constant sensation of fullness in my stomach. It had nothing to do with how much I ate. And, while it was not extremely painful, it was very uncomfortable. I knew something was not right.
            Finally, Judy convinced me to make an appointment with our family doctor. I did, and I went and for my consultation shortly thereafter.
            He was a very good doctor, very interested in treating the whole person, not just the part of the person that was sick. He knew all about my family history–that my great-grandfather had died of stomach cancer, and my father had died of stomach cancer as well at age 52.
            As my doctor began to listen to my symptoms and examined me, he formulated an opinion. He excused himself and left the room; a few minutes later, he returned saying he had scheduled a CAT scan for me the following morning. I knew he was concerned, because it was unusual to schedule a CAT scan that quickly.
            I underwent a CAT scan, and as soon as the information was ready, my doctor scheduled another consultation. After I arrived, I sat down, and my physician told me, “I have good news for you. You don't have cancer.”
            I asked him, “So do I have anything?”
            “No,” he said, “you are just fine.”
            “So why do I feel this constant sensation of fullness.”
            “Stress! But I don't feel stressed.”
            He just laughed.
            The doctor went on to explain to me that just because you don't feel stressed, it does not mean you are not experiencing stress. He began to teach me that stress is something besides feeling anxious, nervous, or strung out.
            Indeed, looking back, I was under a tremendous amount of stress. I was in the doctoral program at ACU, our family had just welcomed two foster children into our home whom we would ultimately adopt, I was trying to remain involved in the lives of our two natural born daughters, I was a full-time preacher to our church, I was a police chaplain, I was very involved in our community, and, oh yeah, I was trying to be a good husband.
            I enjoyed my life, and that was part of the problem. I was trying to do so much, my central nervous system was becoming like a motor stuck in gear. However, since I enjoyed my life so much, I did not notice.
            I was very fortunate to catch this when I did. I know this sounds melodramatic, but considering my temperament and my family history, to this day, I believe if I had continued my lifestyle, it would have killed me within a few years. 
            Living was fun. I was happy. Nevertheless, in those few days, I learned, living life unchecked would kill me.
            Just a couple of weeks after that consultation, I began a weeklong class at ACU concerning the subject of spiritual formation. It was part of my program. That class changed my life.
            Our two professors, Jeff Childers and David Wray, introduced us to a wealth of biblical and Christian literature concerning the process of the Christian being transformed into the image of Christ.
            They did so addressing not only the spiritual man, but the whole man-mind, body, and spirit. I learned that integrity is not just doing the right thing when no one is looking, it is knowing the peace, or, as the Jews said, the shalom of God.
            This world is fallen, which inevitably propels creation toward disintegration. Instead of moving toward the shalom of God, we naturally move toward the brokenness and fragmentation of the Evil One.
            If the mind, body, and spirit are out of whack, it will impact the other facets of our being. To phrase it in an ineloquent way, in 2005, my life became whomper-jawed.
            My mind and body were racing far ahead of my spirit; I was headed down a path of destruction. I don’t think the next step would have been rampaging a post office, but I would have suffered some sort of breakdown.
            One aspect our class focused on was the spiritual disciplines. Many of the strategies were effective; the one most effective for me was probably meditation.
            That week, I radically reoriented my life spiritually. I made the decision to slow down my life physically and mentally. I began to carve aside time every day to get into the Word. Rather than reading sections of Scripture, I began to focus on small pieces of Scripture—sometimes as small as just a single verse.  I would pray over and over again a prayer of confession. Then I would breathe in and out and remind myself that God had made my lungs and had given me the breath of life—and His blessings were still sustaining me.
            Let’s say my meditation for the day (sometimes I would meditate on the same passage for months) was Psalm 84:3, Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. I would focus on that verse over and over and over again. I would dwell on the verse. I would do this day after day. (In time, I would naturally memorize this verse and it would readily appear in my mind and heart.)
            After I strategically addressed the spirituality of my life, the potentially stressful life situations were NOT eliminated. A couple of months after my class, my mother underwent a minor procedure and an artery burst in her kidney; she almost died. My sister and her husband flew in from their home in Seattle. My mother’s doctor told us to prepare the funeral. Fortunately, mom survived.
            Our attempt to adopt our two foster children faced severe challenges. 
            A church in Tyler kept bugging us about possibly coming to work with them. (It was Shiloh, and we ultimately moved there.) We had some life altering decisions to make.
            Interestingly enough, I did not suffer any physical problems during this time. I slept well every night for seven, eight, and sometimes, nine hours.
            In early 2005, before I began meditating on God and His Word, there would be a few times I would wake up in the middle of the night. My heart would be racing, and I would start to sweat heavily. (I guess I was experiencing stress at those times!)
            After I began to address my spiritual life, anytime an outside source would wake me up (a child, a dog barking…), I would address the situation and lie back down. I would begin meditating on God or on His word, and I would pray. Soon, relaxation would come and I would go back to sleep.
            During my spare time, I would find myself naturally trying to center on God and meditate and think about him.  Peace-shalom-was a byproduct of spiritual discipline.
            [Here, I cannot help but think of two of my favorite verses regarding meditation:
      When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches… (Ps. 63:6.)
         But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night (Ps. 1:2.)
            Now, I am a fallen human being, and I'm fully prepared for the possibility that I will face new challenges. I know someday I will die, no matter what I do.
            Spiritually, I know the purpose of life is not to try to live forever. I know that our primary pursuit is not good health. I know I continue to need to open up to new ways to grow in Christ.
            I am not trying to impose Christian meditation as a self-help cure-all. 
            What I am trying to say is this; a wonderful byproduct of cultivating the spiritual disciplines is peace--shalom. By pursuing the inner life with God, a person finds his spirit integrating with his mind and body. A wonderful byproduct of peace is a more stable physical, mental, and emotional health—and I am grateful for that.
            It has been decades since I have feared dying. (I do fear pain, but that is a different post.) However, I appreciate the stewardship of living. The fact is… God used my stomach to signal to me that my inner life was not right.
            I needed some prodding to more fully embrace and enjoy God. I needed more completely to die to self and orient my life around God.
            This is an art more than a science. I don’t always get it right, but my life is so much richer for the effort.
            In my forties, I finally realized that living is dying, and dying is living.  
Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. The Rangers insist on making this pennant race interesting.  Neftali Feliz had better watch out. With a new closer on the roster, Mike Adams, Feliz may get more rest than he bargained for.
2. I finally got to see the last HARRY POTTER movie on Saturday. (Possible Spoiler Alert!) I thought they did a marvelous job portraying Snape’s memory.  I also love the way the movie depicted the gospel story—as found in Rowling’s final volume. Moreover, I had forgotten, until the movie reminded me, that Harry Potter renounced the chance for awesome power by destroying the wand.
         This was a glorious movie.
         Authors such as J. K. Rowling, throughout history, have simply channeled the great themes of scripture. I sometimes wonder if God has gifted them with genius because it gives Him glory to have unbelieving authors imaginatively channel the great themes of the gospel.
3. ETCA starts school next week. Wow! TISD begins in two weeks. With sports starting the first Monday in August, and teacher seminars and workdays beginning as well, it seems now that summer has shrunk to basically a six-week period—mid-June through August 1.
4. I saw previews for THE HELP. I think HARRY POTTER is the only movie I’ve seen in the theater this year; I don’t go often. However, I would like to see THE HELP.
5. Is it my imagination, or is the DRAGON SPEECH DICTATION app on the iPhone becoming more accurate?

Monday, August 1, 2011

# 1 Thing I Have Learned Each Decade: Decade # 4—God Is Gracious

            During my first two decades, life was relatively easy. The third decade of my life, I discovered that life was hard. This was a good lesson for me, because it prepared me to appreciate what I learned in the fourth decade of my life – God is gracious.
            I discovered God’s grace in college. I internalized the biblical message that I was saved by grace. However, I was in my 30s before I truly began to appreciate God's gracious activity in my life and each blessing He gave me.
            One place this was exemplified was in my profession. The first five years of the decade, I lived in Argentina doing foreign mission work. I loved those years. Until my children were born, those were the greatest years of my life.
            In 1995, I was given the privilege to preach at a church in Brownsville, Texas. Four years later, I was blessed to begin preaching in Winters, Texas, near Abilene and Abilene Christian University.
            I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated both jobs. The two jobs were diverse in some ways. Each offered its own challenges. Moreover, I had many things to learn. Nevertheless, I appreciated getting to participate with God in His mission. Equally important, I appreciated God allowing me to follow the passions of my heart and aligning those passions with my profession.
            Having worked in real estate and roofed houses during the decade of my twenties, I was able to fully embrace the chance to do something I truly loved to do. I have not worked since I quit roofing in 1989.
            Let me elaborate: I cannot stress what a blessing it was (and is) to feel like I was doing what I was created to do; this sense allowed me to enjoy my work. When a person enjoys his work, it is not a job.
            The second major area in which God reinforced His graciousness was in the area of family. Judy’s and my natural-born daughters entered into this world during this decade.
            Fatherhood presented ENORMOUS challenges. I learned this immediately after Haleigh’s birth.
            Haleigh was born a little prematurely and did not eat enough in the first few months of her life. We had to wake her up literally every two hours—twelve times every 24-hour-period—to feed her.
            The physical and emotional strain was enormous. I can remember walking the streets of Argentina searching for something Haleigh’s pediatrician recommended and literally telling God, “I don’t know if I can do this (be a father.)”
            We somehow made it through that crisis, as well as the crisis our second daughter, Abby, endured when she ceased breathing immediately after birth and was placed in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for two weeks.
            From a selfish perspective, it seemed hard taking a day off each week with two little girls whose idea of fun was to play dolls, play dress up, and play CANDYLAND. I hate CANDYLAND, but I played it over and over with them.
            Personal pleasure for parents, of course, is irrelevant; however, I was later blessed to enjoy the fruit of those relationships, which was formed during those hours on the floor with dolls and CANDYLAND game boards. It wasn’t long before those girls grew out of those life phases and chose interests that corresponded with mine.
            Again, not that it is a right, but relatively early in my parenting career, I received the blessing of not only raising my kids but enjoying them as well.
            Lastly, I’ll mention that I was thirty when Judy and I entered the second year of our marriage. By then we were able to cultivate some good foundations for a healthy marriage.
            I enjoyed being married to Judy-so much so-I did not feel a deep yearning to have children. We were married almost 5 years before we had Haleigh. I wanted to have children because I felt privileged to participate in God’s work and mission in the world, not because I wanted to bring a third party into our household to compensate for something that was missing in our marriage.
            It was in that decade, before we had children, that Judy became my best friend. She remains so to this day.
            It was during that time that I really enjoyed being in her company. Those days, I would rather be at home with her than anywhere else. Later, I would rather be home with Judy and my kids than anywhere else. This feeling continue to this day.
            Looking back, I realize that during my thirties, God cultivated an understanding within me of how blessed I am. I remain blessed.
            This is God's gracious activity in my life. I don't know how long it will last. I am not entitled to these blessings, but I have learned to squeeze every bit of enjoyment out of them while I can.
            My children are not my toys. They have begun leaving home, one by one. This is as it should be.
            I would love to die at exactly the same time Judy does. It probably will not happen that way. Yet I remain forever grateful for whatever time we have left together.
            We humans deserve spiritual separation from God. Anything we get above that is a gift.
            Salvation comes by God’s grace. Other events that bring joy come by the grace of God as well.
Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. Last week I finished LOOKING FOR ANNE OF GREEN GABLES THE STORY OF L. M. MONTGOMERY AND HER LITERARY CLASSIC. The author is Irene Gammel, a professor of English at Ryerson University in Toronto.
            Drawing extensively from Montgomery’s diaries and journals, Gammel provides a detailed backdrop of Montgomery's inspiration for Anne. While Gammel’s work is not a true biography, she uses her rich resource material to reveal a multi-layered depiction of Montgomery's life.
            While her life might be described as a wonderful life, it was a very sad life also. Montgomery's mother died when she was young; raised by her grandmother, their relationship in adulthood was extremely strained. Both experienced an even worse relationship with Montgomery’s uncle, who attempted to remove Montgomery and grandmother from the family homestead—where Maud cared for her grandmother during the matriarch’s final years.
            Like most writers, Lucy Maud Montgomery was a complicated human being. Montgomery married a Presbyterian minister, Ewan Macdonald, while in her late thirties. She bore him three sons, one being stillborn.
            This I knew.
            What I did not know was that Ewan suffered a nervous breakdown, and was continually plagued by deep depression until his death. Moreover, she suffered from depression as well. Instead of each partner being available to pick the other up, Maud and her husband each exasperated the condition of the other.
            Most biographies and encyclopedic works note that Montgomery died of heart disease in 1942 at the age of 67. Ewan died one year later.
            (Not found in the book, but related information to Montgomery’s depression, is an article written by Montgomery’s granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler, published in the Toronto newspaper THE GLOBE AND MAIL, in 2008. She claimed that instead of dying of heart disease, Montgomery took her on life through a drug overdose. Here is a link to that article:
            A biographer argues that Montgomery did not kill herself:
            Whether or not Montgomery took her own life, the consensus among scholars is that psychologically, she was in a bad way at the time of her death.)
            ANNE OF GREEN GABLES did not arrive solely from Montgomery’s inspiration. It was also the product of many years of reading, observing, and writing—the writing being only moderately successful… until Anne.
            Ultimately, I believe Gammel’s book is worth reading for anyone who is a fan of that redheaded girl from Prince Edward Island.
2. The more I listen to Washington talk about the debt crisis, the more I think Aristotle was right—virtue lies between two extremes. There are probably exceptions, but I think Aristotle affirmed the rule.
3. Four episodes to go in the first year of “24.” Haleigh has gone to DRY BONES this week in Denver, so I’ve got to wait until she gets back. I’ve got to concede—
Jack Bauer must have experienced the most stressful twenty-four hour period of humankind in a long time. I would not trade places with him.
4. The Texas Rangers beat the trading deadline with some good trades. I like it that they received Koji Uehara and Mike Adams—good pitchers for the seventh and eighth innings. I also like their chances in the playoffs—assuming they get there.
5. Who is going to beat the Eagles in the East? They made great moves last week, especially signing Vince Young to back up Michael Vick (similar qb styles), Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Andy Reid is a very good analyst of player personnel.