Category Archives: Christian Living

Titanic and the Security of a Woman

Early in my marriage, maybe even before I was married, I heard a speaker say that one of the main things a woman seeks in marriage is security. I think the teaching came from James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. If it was someone else, I am sorry; I try to give credit to the right person whenever I can.

It was a good lesson to learn early on. It has served us well over time. I continue to learn the significant nuances of what this means.

As I was thinking of how to communicate this, the movie TITANIC came to mind. On the surface TITAINIC looks like a movie about a tragic accident at sea. That is not the case. The story is about Rose DeWitt Bukater who is speeding on a crash course to disaster. She is engaged Cal Hockley, a rich, handsome young man, that can provide financial security for Rose and her mother. The problem is that Rose doesn’t love him and he views Rose as another one of his possessions. Although she will have financial security she is at her wits’ end. There is something missing, something much more important. She becomes suicidal and is ready to jump off the back of the ship. Jack Dawson sees her and comes to the rescue.

Rose is intrigued by the daring young man who would apparently risk his own life to save hers. Jack is the antithesis of Cal. Jack has no money, no home and no solid plan for the future. Jack is an artistic free-spirit, spontaneously moving from one adventure to another.

Why would Rose be interested in Jack rather than Cal? What does he have to offer?

As a father, when I see a movie like this I cringe. I am afraid that my daughters will see a movie like this and decide that they want to run off with some flighty, irresponsible, free-spirit, adventure seeking artist and ruin their lives. A young man will lead her on an adventure and then tire of her and move on to someone else. Jack has a lot of those qualities and it is a little scary to watch. Part of the story is Rose rejecting being forced into a mold and choosing her own way. There is this element of youthful, rebellious adventure.

So Jack could offer rebellious adventure, but was that the whole story? Is that really what Rose was looking for? I don’t think so. Cal could give Rose financial security but he destroyed her emotional security. Jack on the other hand valued her. He came to her rescue more than once. He stood up for her. He valued her opinions and encouraged her to express herself. He wanted to share experiences with her. As the Titanic began to sink Jack was strong. He never gave up in trying to save Rose and himself. He was innovative and courageous. Even in the most hopeless of situation Rose felt secure as long as she was with Jack. To the very last moment Jack worked to make Rose secure; to make her believe that she could survive, and she did.

It is important for a man to provide security for his woman. Often we see this in terms of financial security, and that is very important, but it doesn’t end there. I learned some of these lessons early in marriage. A couple of times Beckie had come to me with some things that she was sure would shake up our relationship. I suppose they could have, but they didn’t. I assured her that they didn’t matter and that nothing was going to challenge my love for her. Someone has said that love is a choice and at those points I made a choice to love Beckie.

Early in our marriage we had some points of adjustment. Okay they were arguments, as much as Beckie argues (we really don’t argue and I can thank Beckie for that). The first few times it happened I saw fear in Beckie’s eyes. It suddenly dawned on me that the way I was reacting to her was shaking her security. I backed off and have tried to be sensitive ever since.

Much later in our marriage I went through a long period of unemployment. We were secure in our relationship so we weathered it rather well to begin with. I learned some important things during that time. One was that I could not find my security in a job or my ability to earn money. I needed to shift my confidence from myself to God. God is my provider and protector. He is the one in whom I should place my faith. It was an important lesson to learn. Since that time I have worried much less about money. Whether I have it or not really doesn’t matter much because my security is in the Lord.

Emotional security became much more important than financial security. If we were secure in our relationship with each other then we would we able to handle the financial stress. Our faith contributed to our emotional security. I heard a quote once that I really like, “An atheist is a person with no invisible means of support.”

I relate that like it was an easy lesson, it was not. I was without work, picking up odd jobs here and there, for almost a full year. As time went on Beckie felt more and more of the responsibility for the family. She was under a lot of stress but she tried not to show it. It was not right for me to let that burden fall on her. As we neared the one year mark, my confidence began to fail. When you have been without work for a few months, you can prop yourself up with, ‘It is just temporary. Something will come along soon.’ But when it has gone on for almost a year you question yourself. You begin to wonder if there is something wrong with you. You wonder if you will ever work again. Maybe you will become one of those families that live forever on public assistance. By then we were reaching a point that Beckie would have the additional stress of trying to support me emotionally as I was giving up. God in His mercy provided me with a job and we did not fall into total despair.

That year was 1990. It is now 2015 and I experienced another layoff. We have learned the lessons of the past and our confidence is in God as our provider and protector. But there were still lessons to learn. I knew that if I would place my full confidence in God that my faith would be contagious and that Beckie could feel confident in God also. We would be secure even though we were on a sinking ship. She would look to me to lead in faith. What I didn’t realize was how that works. We decided to spend some time seeking the Lord’s direction. I told Beckie that even though I often pray for God’s direction, I often don’t feel like I receive a clear indication from God as to what I should do. This seemed pretty normal for me so it didn’t really bother me. I have often seen people overstate their “Leading from the Lord”, and I don’t want to be one of those people.

When I shared this with Beckie, I saw that look in her eyes again. It was fear. I realized what was happening. We were seeking God for direction. She was looking to me to receive that direction from God and I was telling her not to trust my ability to discern God’s leading. Once again I could see that her security was shaken. I could see that I was placing responsibilities on her that clearly should belong to me.

The burden was on me to do a better job of seeking the Lord, discerning His leading and providing leadership in taking action. As it worked out I still did not hear a voice from heaven but I do think that God clearly led. I don’t think this is the last time we will be in a learning situation like this. Each time l learned a little bit more about myself a little bit more about faith and my amazing God, and a little bit more about Beckie and the emotional security of a women.

I hope you have learned some things through my sharing.

Bee Sting

Does True Faith have a Plan B?

I grew up in suburbia twenty miles east of Los Angeles. The community was built in the mid-1950s, a pretty typical suburban development of the time. The neighborhood was cookie cutter houses, chosen from about five different floor plans. All of the houses used the same group of plants in the landscaping but they were arranged a little differently at each house. The kids all played together in the street a little like “Leave it to Beaver”.

When I was about eight years old one of the favorite activities was to catch bees. Now, as a parent, I call this type of activity, “childhood stupidity”. So, write it off to childhood stupidity, but catching bees was what we did. The neighborhood was filled with shrubs called, wax-leaf privets. They have dark green waxy leaves about an inch wide and two inches long. In the spring they produce dense clusters of very small white blossoms and the bees loved them. The neighbor across the street had a hedge made of wax-leaf privets; the perfect place to catch bees.

To catch bees you would take a milk bottle, yes milk came in glass bottles at the time. You would hold the bottle upside down and lower it over a bee humming about the blossom cluster. Once the bee realized that something was wrong, he would try to escape by flying up into the bottle. Then you quickly place the cardboard bottle cap over the opening to trap your prize.

The first bee is the easy one. We would repeat this process of opening the bottle and trapping a second bee without letting the first, rather angry bee, out. If you were good you could trap four or five bees in the same bottle.

Normally there were about three boys involved in this activity. We would egg each other on, or encourage one another, depending on your perspective. There was an element of competition and pride over who would push the envelope and do the dangerous thing of catching one more bee.

One day a couple of the neighbor boys came knocking on the door. They were all excited. As I came outside they said, ‘Mike caught a bee with his bare hands.” Okay, that had to be the ultimate accomplishment in bee catching. That was boyhood bravery.

As we were walking across the street I was overcome by a sudden wave of childhood stupidity. Was it bravery, courage, naivety, pride, or misplaced faith? I don’t know for sure but the boys assured me that Mike had accomplished this extreme act of bravery and he had not been stung. I believed them and I wasn’t about to be out done, so I confidently said, “I can do that.”

As the other boys watched in nervous anticipation, I boldly walked up to the hedge. I looked at them again and asked for reassurance, “Mike really caught a bee with his bare hands and was not stung?“ Mike said “yes”, and the other boys said, “Yes, I saw him.” So based on that testimony, I stepped up, cupped my hands and caught a bee WITH MY BARE HANDS. For a brief moment I could feel his wings buzz against the palms of my hands and his body bounce from side to side. The other boys looked on in amazement. Then it happened, the bee stung me. I jumped back and let go of the bee. My hand hurt, and tears began to roll down my face. I can’t remember for sure, but I think I went home for a while.

I was hurt and confused. How did Mike catch a bee with his bare hands and not get stung? Was he just lucky? My friends wouldn’t have lied to me. What really happened out there?

A few minutes later I went back outside and questioned my friends. “I thought you said that Mike caught a bee with his bare hands?” They all said that he had and that they had seen it with their own eyes. So I challenged Mike, “Do it again. Show me.” So Mike turned to the hedge, pulled the sleeves of his heavy sweater over his hands and nervously cupped a bee in his hands. He held it for about one second, then let it go and ran about ten feet away.

The childhood debate ensued. “That’s not bare hands.” “Yes, it is.” “No it isn’t, you pulled your sleeves over your hands.” “That’s sill bare hands. “ No, it isn’t.” “Yes, it is.” “I never said you couldn’t use your sleeves.” “That’s cheating!” “No, it isn’t.” “Yes, it is.” And on and on it went.

My friends had made a claim that I took to be true at face value. I believed that what was true for them could be true for me. I had faith, as misguided as it was, it was childhood faith. Based on their statements, I stepped out in faith (or pride), and I got stung. On closer examination, they didn’t believe their own claims. They said you could catch a bee with your bare hands, but they were unwilling to truly risk it. They hedged their bet. They covered themselves.

Last night I was giving a couple of young men a ride home. As we were driving I made a statement that sounded so good. It was one of those quotable statements that someone would post on Facebook. I said, “Real faith doesn’t have a back-up plan.” It was so easy to say, but as soon as the words cleared my lips I was struck by how good and noble it sounds, but how hard it is to do. Pastors and other Christians talk boldly about living by faith, but when it comes down to it we are formulating back-up plans. We are pulling the sleeves of our sweaters down over our hands. We say that we believe but we are going to protect ourselves so we don’t get stung.

In Matthew 6, Jesus says to not layup for yourself treasures on earth. Do we believe that enough to actually practice it, or do we not lay-up a lot of treasures. Or do we lay-up treasures but then claim that we really aren’t placing our confidence in them.

In the same passage Jesus said, 25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Elsewhere Jesus says, “pick-up your cross and follow me.” That is not just a willingness to die for Jesus. It is a following Jesus with no plan B. There is no turning back. No hedging your bets. No pulling down your sleeves to cover yourself.

The question is not what other people are doing. The questions are for me. Am I willing to risk it all and follow Him? Am I willing to move forward without a plan B, a safety net? I have seen how others do it. Theirs is limited faith, but what is mine? Am I willing to believe Jesus for what He said, the way He said it? Am I going to reach out in faith, and risk being stung? Risk the ridicule of those around me.

Can you really catch a bee with your bare hands? It is hard to do when you have been stung once; but this time the challenge doesn’t come from childhood friends, it comes from the Son of God. Do I believe Him? Is it child-like faith or childish stupidity? I think I will risk it again and go with faith.

Following God’s Leading

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

More than seven years ago, Jim and I worked together on the design for a plastics plant to be built in Saudi Arabia. We didn’t work that closely together; in fact I can’t exactly remember what it is that we collaborated on. That was the only time that Jim and I worked together.
Not too long after that an incident occurred at work and three employees were let go. Jim was one of them. This was a major shake-up in our department and it was a major personal shake-up for Jim. From my understanding, he did some deep evaluation of his personal relationships and his relationship with God. One of the results is that he began to attend Christ’s Church of the Valley more regularly with his wife Debbie.
Once in a while Jim and I would run into each other at Church and make small talk about how things were going at our companies. Due to a shortage of available contracts, Jim found himself traveling for work. He would spend months in South Carolina (or maybe it was North Carolina. I’m not sure). Once or twice a year we would cross paths. Jim told me that he had been watching the CCV Church service online and that he could see me standing in the audience during the worship time. I happened to sit in the line of sight of the camera.
Fast forward to a few months ago, I was laid off from my job in February. Our major client went through a reorganization that directly affected my division. My company went through its own reorganization that further impacted my division. On top of that oil prices have plummeted, devastating the petrochemical industry as a whole. The bottom line is that after more than 17 years with my company, I was out of work and there was little chance that I would be going back to my previous employer.
It just so happens that my last day was just before the beginning of Lent. We have observed Lent for the past few years; it has been a valuable spiritual discipline. So this year I decided to give up work for Lent (or maybe it was decided for me). At any rate, I decided that rather than go after the quickest job I could find, I would use the 40 days of Lent to truly seek God’s direction for my next steps in life.
Without going into too much detail, I explored ministry related opportunities and sought out counsel from persons I respect. None of the ministry related opportunities showed any chance of developing into a vocation.
What did happen is that one morning in Church, Debbie, Jim’s wife, sat three places away from me, next to my mother-in-law. After the service my mother-in-law and her spoke briefly and then she greeted me and asked how things were going. I told her that I have been laid-off and she said that I should call Jim to see if they had any work. She gave me his number and I said I would call. Monday I didn’t call, but on Tuesday Jim called me. We talked for a while and he asked me to send my resume; which I did. My resume was pretty generic. Jim made some suggestions and I rewrote it to tailor it to the job. I sent it back and on Good Friday I had a Skype interview. By the next Monday we were discussing the details of a job offer and by the week after Easter I had the job.
For the past seven years, my career has been stagnating with no opportunity for advancement. This job will stretch me and give me all kinds of growth opportunities. It is a minimum one year assignment. I will be deeply involved with materials control for construction of the largest plastics plant in the world. I will be working with locations all around the world: India 2 design firms, China 1 design, 2 design/fabricators, 1 module fabricator, Italy 2 project management sites, Brazil 1 design site, and construction in Texas. On top of that, I will be making considerably more than I ever have before along with a good benefits package. The last day of my leave of absence is Friday April 17th. My first day on the new job is the following Monday.
Was this God’s leading? I can’t say for sure, but it seems that God had Jim and I working together on the one right project. He allowed us to maintain contact over the years. When the time was right we made the connection. All of the other opportunities never materialized in any significant way.
Like I said, I can’t say for sure that this is God’s leading, but it seems to be. One way or another I intend to take the advantage of the opportunity and use it to the glory of God. I still feel God is continuing to prepare me for something else and this is just one more step in the process. I am anxious to see what else He has in store.

Edges

Have you ever thought about the fact that we are known by our edges? Countries are defined by their boarders and people are defined by their extremities.
When computer designers and programmers tried to “teach” computers how to “see” they started by programing them to find lines. They were looking for the lines that were the outside of the object. Once they could find the outline they could compare the shape to a memory bank of images that had names attached. Sometimes the edge is difficult to see. If the item is the same color as the background the edge is hard to define. The computers were “taught” to take the known information and to create lines to complete the shape. Basically they would take known points and connect the dots to complete the shape in a way that matched the most likely known image. This is exactly what our brains do to identify images.
What is interesting is that we are known by our extremities. The same seems to be true of our reputations. Think about it. We are not known by our normal day to day activities. Our reputations rest on our extremes. Monica Lewinski is not known for her daily activities as an intern, rather she will always be remembered for sexual activity with President Clinton. Christopher Columbus is not remembered for his years of service as a navigator, rather he is remembered for pushing the edge and discovering the New World.
We also tend to be known for our great victories or our great failures. These are the edges or our reputations. They shape how people perceive us. Any object rests on its lowest point. I hate to say it, but reputations rest on our lowest points. People just naturally tend to focus on our failures more than our successes. A good reputation can be built over a lifetime and one major failure can call our entire character into question. That is why the book of Proverbs so often comments on the value of a good name.
Recently I watched someone close to me do something incredibly stupid. My response was not to look at it as an isolated event. Instead my mind began to rerun all of the events of the last year or so. I reevaluated everything trying to discern their motivations in light of this recent failure. Everything was brought into question. Everything that I had chosen to interpret in a positive light now was covered with a dark cloud of doubt.
The high points were canceled out by this new low point.
Duaneisum
“A man’s good name rests on his but.”
It is said that when the word “but” is used in a sentence it means, disregard everything that came before. For example, ‘Frank is a good talker, I have been impressed by the way he thinks and presents himself, but I don’t trust him’.
You see we are defined by our edges. People judge us by our extremes not by our daily activities, and the negatives tend to overwhelm the positives.
Many Christians are familiar with the Bible verse that says, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God look on the heart.” We tend to read that and focus on the stuff after the ‘but.’ We focus on the fact that we are not to live to please the eyes of men. We are not to just put on a facade for people to see, rather we are to work on our hearts, our intents and motives. You can put on a show for people but God is not fooled.
We ignore the first part of the verse. People only know us by what they see. They start with what they see, our actions, and then they infer our motives. It is not easy for people to get an accurate picture of us. You don’t always get to explain yourself. Besides, explanations, excuses and apologies only go so far. The only way to have good reputation is to start from the inside out. Have the pure intents and motives. Then have actions that are always consistent with your pure motives.
Above all watch your “buts”.

Does Christianity Suppress Women?

I while back I watched a debate between a Christian and an Atheist on YouTube. During the closing statements the Atheist dropped his guard and became very frank and honest, which I appreciate. He brought up a point that had not been part of the debate. He said he objects with religion because religion suppresses women and other groups. I could tell from his tone and facial expression this was a sincerely held belief. I sensed that as an outspoken atheist, he saw himself as a defender of the disadvantaged.
The view of religion as suppressing women is common. Even within the Christian Church there are ongoing debates about the role and position of women in the home and in the church. People will point to passages that say women must submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18), women should be silent in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35), or women should not teach in church or have authority over a man (I Timothy 2:11-13).
I tell you, if I were a woman coming from the popular, women’s liberation, women’s rights culture and I read those passages then I would want nothing to do with the Christian Church. But I am not a woman and I don’t come from a non-Christian background. I grew up in the church and I know the teachings of Jesus and his care for women. He had a faithful following of women that stayed with Him all the way. They were there with Him at the crucifixion, when nearly all of the men had abandoned Him. Mary was the first one at the empty tomb on Easter morning. She was the first one that He spoke to. If women were so oppressed then why were they such faithful followers? It doesn’t make sense.
Some would say, ‘That was Jesus, but the teachings of Paul and the current churches oppress women’. It is obvious that people that make such statements have never been in a church, or if they have, they never looked around them. Go to any church of any denomination on any Sunday. What you will find is a lot of women. Typically women will outnumber men two to one. If Christianity is a tool used by men to suppress women, then the Church should be filled with men dragging their submissive wives to Church every Sunday. The opposite is true. Women turn out to church in droves. They beg their husbands to attend. They go to prayer meeting and ask for prayer. The greatest desire of their hearts is that their husbands come to know Jesus. These “suppressed” women somehow believe that if their husbands become Christians they will become better men and better husbands.
There is a real disconnect here. It seems that the old proverb, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” applies here. Christianity works. It works for women and it works for men. What looks like suppression, seems to in reality be liberation.
It is a theme within Christianity that our first impressions are usually wrong. God’s methods are not our methods. Jesus says that to live you must take up your cross and follow Him, the first shall be last and the last shall be first, to be the leader you must be servant of all, in weakness we are strong, the poor are rich in the kingdom of God, and on and on. These things don’t make sense to our normal thinking, but to the fully devoted follower of Christ, they make perfect sense; because they work. I can’t fully explain it; but it is true. Praise be to God!