The message yesterday was on Acts3. While I sat and listened to the preacher talk, the scene began to play out before my eyes. Those of you that have read and are familiar with the New Testament know the story I am talking about. The story of Peter and John as they came upon the lame man begging for money outside the temple gate, where Peter spoke those famous words; “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give to you also. In the name of Jesus Christ stand and walk.” Immediately the beggar’s legs were healed and he ran shouting the praises of God. As the story was played out on the screen in my head, I began to empathize with one of the players. This is one of the many ways God has spoken to me through the scriptures, so I waited with eager ears to hear what He was about to say. I wasn’t disappointed. I was surprised, and astounded by the vastness of my ignorance, tho. I expected to see something of me in Peter, or for something to resonate between me and John. I did NOT expect to empathize with the lame beggar. You see when Peter spoke to him, the beggar paid attention. He turned to Peter and John expecting money, something to live on for the next day, or if he was lucky, the next two or three days. These men of God had taken pity on him, and were going to give him something. This is the way I feel when God speaks to me. He has had pity on me and is going to give me something to help me through the trying times of this life. So when Peter said his famous words, it confused the beggar for a moment, and then he reached and took him by the hand. That is when God worked through Peter. Not just giving the beggar money, but giving him something worth sooo much more! The ability to walk! No more did he have to rely on the generousness of others to live. No more sitting and hoping that some man would take pity and help him. He turned to Peter expecting money, and received his Life instead. If we count on men, at best we can only get enough to get by for a few days. If we count on God, we need never worry about it again. After the service I was in awe of how I could miss such a message in all the times I had heard and read that story. Then I had to laugh. I realized that I was going to have to go home and tell my wife that God told me I was lame.
There have been times in my life when I have gotten into arguments. No, really, I have. I know you find it hard to believe, but it is true. Nine times out of ten (or maybe eight, at least seven, I know) times it is because of miscommunication. More specifically on the definition of a certain word or phrase that I thought was a “given” meant something different to somebody else. I recall one time my wife and I got in a serious disagreement over the Bible. She said it was an ‘Instruction Manual’, and I corrected her (yep, mistake no.1) and said it was a ‘Guide Line’. When someone says ‘Instruction Manual’ I think of “place screw 15786509 into hole 344476349 and tighten until snug” or some such. You see it names the screw and the hole and tells you what to do with them. A Guide Line is more of “a good way to take connect these two boards with a screw. You may also use a nail or some twine, but the screw is the best way.” Do you see the difference there? It may only be a subtle difference, but there it is. It was enough that the Devil could stick his foot in the door and cause stress and dissention in the ranks. We argued over that particular subject for quite some time, and I had no idea why until much later. We were both saying the same thing, but using different words to accomplish it. The Bible tells you how to handle situations without getting bogged down with the specifics (like names of screws and pegs and what-nots). Now-a-days, with the advent of texting and social media we have to be extremely careful of how we phrase things, lest we give the enemy an opening. We as partakers in social media need to also keep this in mind and not take offense at the first perceived insult. It is really hard to apply the right ‘tone’ to some messages, and sarcasm often doesn’t translate well either (imagine that!) So when you read something you may find offensive, before you fly off the handle and start a three page rant about someone, and then unfriend them, you might stop a moment and try to figure out if what they ‘said’ was actually what they ‘meant’. (And to finish the story about me and my wife arguing, all was well as soon as I admitted I was wrong. There see how easy that was?)
Someone once told me that there are three ways to tell if what you are doing is what you are supposed to be doing with your life. The first one was that it was something that made you happy. In other words it was something you couldn’t dream of ever NOT doing it. The second one was by an unmistakable stroke of providence the opportunity just fell into your lap, greatly improving your quality of life. And the third way was the one that I have focused on to help me grind through the years of doing things that I did not want to do in order to provide for my family. The third way was simply a lack of options. You see sometimes we have to travel the rough path in order to learn something that God wants us to know. Sometimes it is those thorns we have to wade through to continue on that whittles away the rough edges and prepares us for greater events a few more turns down the path. It is never a pleasant thing to realize, and if we had been given the choice (knowing what it was going to be like) I doubt that any of us would choose to go down that path. So if you are experiencing the thorns, or stumbling along the road think about the reason you are there. If it is because of one of your own choices, perhaps you need to rethink that decision. If it is because of a lack of options, this too shall pass. Endure and learn. It will prove useful a little farther down the road.
There is a secret that most anthropologists use in their study of different customs and cultures. That secret is the fact that regardless of how much you try to lessen the impact of your presence on your environment, you still change things just by being there. People will react differently around you. Animals will behave different than they normally would because you are there. Even if you try to hide your presence you are still affecting things around you. Wind has to change course because you are there displacing air. Even light reflects differently because you are there. You can’t change that. What you CAN change is HOW you affect things. You have two options. You can either make a positive or a negative impact. Just by keeping a positive attitude or making an improvement in the surroundings generate waves of the same type of energy all around you. Being negative will do the same, just with the opposite effect. Now some people do not care how their actions change their surroundings, because they make their changes and move on, never having to deal with the results. Some people do not realize they are changing things, and some wear blinders to how much change they cause (and a lot of times it does no good to try to explain it). I figure if I am going to make an impact on my surroundings, I want it to be a positive one. As long as we do that, life can get better for everyone. This is what Jesus was teaching with the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. When you do this, you improve not only your life, but everyone and everything around you. So why not make a positive impact?
I don’t understand the ‘competitive’ nature of people. I have never been very competitive minded. I know that sounds odd coming from someone born and raised in the South, where everyone takes their team spirit to the extremes, but it is true none-the-less. Why? For the simple fact that ‘competitiveness’ is just another way of saying you are trying to be better than someone else, and I have never had that goal in mind. I am not trying to be better than anyone. I want very much to see my friends and family succeed in all of their endeavors (adding the qualifier that they are good and moral endeavors that will help them to better themselves). So when I hear the whispers (shouts in Alabama) of my team is better than yours or other such chants, my eyes usually glaze over and I lose interest very quickly. I have the same problem with video games that only offer deathmatch in the multiplayer side. I really don’t see the enjoyment of pounding your friend over and over again until it causes them to get mad. Where is the fun in that? I enjoy working together with people to solve problems and overcome situations for the betterment of ourselves, but I have found out over the years that I am kind of unique in my mindset, and that most people do not think that way. The way I see it, I have my accomplishments and you have yours. I do not judge my success by comparing the two. I am not writing this to bash anyone, just pondering things at my keyboard. Perhaps competitiveness is a good thing for some people because it motivates them to better themselves, but I choose to find motivation elsewhere.
I attended a Writer’s Conference in Pell City, Alabama this past weekend. I really enjoyed myself, meeting new people, and realizing that I shared connections with some that I had no idea existed. During that time, a man came by my table and glanced at my books. He picked one up, turning it over and looking and then placing it back on the table. He started to turn around and leave, but then turned to me and asked; “What is the difference between Christian Science Fiction and regular Science Fiction?” I answered him by saying that I wrote the story from a Christian worldview, with Christian morals and beliefs. “The morals are there in regular science fiction, too.” Looking back on the conversation now, I realize that my answer was not very self-explanatory. I was always a Star Trek fan (R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy), but as I have grown older and looked back on those original episodes, I see where the writers would take ‘pot shots’ at organized religion such as Christianity. They portrayed people that believed in an all-powerful deity as ignorant savages. The misconception that is generated here is that God and Science oppose one another. I disagree. One does not have to exist excluding the other. Never have I heard a Christian exclaim “There is no science!”, but I do know there are scientists who believe in God. Science can only explain things going back so far, and the explanation always falls short of explaining the “Origin” of all things. Some people say the answer to life on earth is “alien seeding” of the universe. Even if you accept this theory as true, the question remains; “What was the origins of those aliens?” Kind of puts you right back where you started, huh? The Big Bang Theory? Nobody said God ‘quietly’ created the Heavens and Earth. Evolution? I have never seen a fish turn into a man, and if man came from apes, why did it stop happening? It seems to me if that were the case we would have some half-man/half-apes walking around somewhere. Where are they? So where does that leave us? It leaves us with questions that only religion can answer, and those answers do not deny science. They do not exclude science. I have pondered all of these questions before and I came up with this statement that covers all of the above; “Science is man’s way of describing God’s paintbrush.” So why do people insist on separating the two?
Has anybody ever seen the movie “The Langoliers”? It was based off of Stephen King’s story. It was about these people in an airplane that slip sideways in time to yesterday, only to find out that yesterday was being ‘erased’ by these creatures. The premise of the story was that there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, there is only today. Time was just ‘now’ and all that happened in the past and all that was yet to happen didn’t exist. I don’t agree with the story on that point, but I do try to live like that. The Bible clearly states that we are not promised tomorrow (Proverbs 27-and to clarify the verse refers to tomorrow in these earthly mortal frames that we inhabit). Life is a fleeting thing, and we need to do all the good that we can while we are here. There is more than enough evil and sorrow in this fallen world, we need to stand fast and be bold in helping our neighbors. Tomorrow we may be gone and it may be our neighbors who are left to save those of our loved ones that come along after us. Just one act of kindness could mean the difference between a strong, joyful life and one lived in darkness and despair. It is never a bad thing to do good.
I remember back when I was growing up how I used to sing with the radio a lot. For a long time I never realized I had a decent singing voice. I would sing while I was driving, and while I was working, but I was usually by myself when I did it. Well, by myself or with people who would rather take a beating than give someone a compliment. Wouldn’t want to give them the big head now would we? Anyway, it was a long time before I realized it. Then I had to sing with a bunch of my classmates for Class Night. I remember the song was one of Journey’s, and I knew it pretty well. I used to sing along with it every time it came on. So while we were at rehearsal, I noticed one of my classmates staring at me with her mouth hanging open. It took me some time after the rehearsal was over before I realized why. Apparently I had been singing loud enough she could separate my voice from the others and she was amazed by what she heard. My point in relaying this story isn’t to brag, but to encourage. You see I didn’t know I could sing at the time and nobody told me. If you see someone doing something amazing, tell them about it. Who knows, they may not realize it either, and you just might make someone’s day.
I saw an article on optical illusions today. It was pretty cool. The video showed a bowl that was mirrored on the inside with another bowl upside down and fitted to the top of the first. The bowl on top had a hole in its center. The way it worked was explained in the video, but it basically reflected an almost realistic picture of whatever was in the bottom bowl into the air, hovering in the middle of the hole in the top bowl. It was a realistic picture, and looked solid enough to grab, but it was all part of the trick. If you tried grabbing where you thought the object was sitting you got nothing but air, because the real object was sitting in the bottom bowl, about 8 inches below where the ‘hologram’ was. This reflective bowl dictates how your eye is seeing the object. It warps your perspective and lets you see the object in the wrong place, telling your eyes to ‘lie’ to your brain. Life is a lot like that sometimes. It presents an object or idea, tricking us into believing it is what we want or need and then misleads us into thinking we can take it just by reaching out, when in reality all we will be able to grab is empty air. If you’ve been reaching for a goal over and over again and coming up empty, re-evaluate your goal. If it is worth pursuing, change your perspective and try again. It could be you are only inches away from your mark.