Monthly Archives: June 2015

No One Notices The Faithful Until The Faithless Sit Down

Yesterday a friend and I talked on Facebook about all the horrible things going on in the world and she commented: “Seriously I do wonder if we’re now living in the end times. The world is in a dreadful state and it is just getting worse.”

I said, “I used to think that, but – at least from what I read – globally before and during WWII things were a lot worse.

Some days I wonder why God is still waiting and wish he’d just end it already. Other days I’m grateful he’s not, because it gives everyone more opportunities to both spread and understand the truth.

I feel selfish by wanting it to end, because it’s coming from a place of fear in that I don’t want to see my nation fall, or for my good life to end.

I have to constantly remind myself that God is still in control. Even if there are hardships I can’t even imagine to come, I know eternity with God awaits me.

I just hope I continue to have the wherewithal to show God’s love to others, but I sometimes (often) wonder why I bother since so many hearts are hardened against him.

At least that’s how it seems. I could easily be wrong about that. I’ll never know when my words or deeds will influence someone the right way. Jesus didn’t give up, God hasn’t given up. Nor should I, because then I am no good to him or those who need him.”

I’ve heard a few people express concern that Christians are about to enter an era of persecution in Western countries including the United States.

I often wonder the same thing, especially recently, but then I thought, are trials and persecutions a bad thing — at least as far as the Kingdom of God is concerned?

In all instances when people tried to eliminate Christians and Christianity, it has instead resulted in explosive growth. Today, the highest percentage of Christian expansion is occurring in China and other oppressive regimes where it’s supposed to be illegal.

It’s easy to stand up with the faithless when they’re all standing. Not so much when they all sit down. That’s when the faithful are noticed. It’s frightening to be singled out and take the risk of being vilified at best or killed at worst.

But that doesn’t mean we should sit down. It’s in the times when the faithless sit that we must stand up taller. If we don’t then we have fallen prey to our own fears; we prove our own faithlessness, and even distrust of God’s promises.

I’m reminded of the book of Daniel. After Nebuchadnezzar built his 90′ golden statue, all people from every nation were required to bow down to worship it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused. They stood up when everyone else bowed. The King noticed and demanded they be thrown into a fiery furnace. Because of their faithfulness, the fires didn’t touch them, and the King and all his men bowed down to worship God. Sure, their faith led them into the furnace, but it also led them back out again.

God loves paradox. He uses our weaknesses to show his strength. He uses the darkest moments in our lives to reveal his grace, his love and his promises.

He uses the world’s attempt to kill Christianity in order to further his Kingdom.

We must be part of that, otherwise our own faith is meaningless, and we are literally no earthly good.

Therefore, do not be afraid of future trials and tribulations. Don’t fret about governments’ attempts at restraining our faith. Welcome them, because it’s at those times people will see Jesus most clearly. Our mortal lives and comfort should be the smallest price we have to pay to help accomplish it.

One Time Only

With the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, I am going to express my view on it once and only once, because to many here my view will be considered not only unpopular, but I may even be labeled homophobic.

I’m not going to preach the morality of it, because we’ve all seen enough of that. Nor will such arguments sway those for or against gay marriage.

There are instead long-term practical consequences we will have to face. I was going to share what I believe they will be, but it’d be mere conjecture that some will brush off as just that.

Instead, I want you to read the following article about what happened and is happening in Canada after it legalized gay marriage in 2005.

Expect to see the similar in our country. Or should I say more of the same considering what florists and weddings hosts have gone through in the last few years. It’ll only get worse now that SCOTUS has declared it constitutional.

www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/04/14899

Oblivious

We recently purchased a camper, and for the first time ever, we went camping down at Fort Lincoln State Park with some friends.

All week, we’ve been warned to expect severe thunderstorms on Friday evening. Like most times, I wasn’t too concerned. Thunderstorms are by their nature are difficult to predict.

There have been many a time when no storms are predicted, and one pops up seemingly out of nowhere. Other times, meteorologists proclaim high probability, and either nothing happens, or the storms turn or split off and we get nothing but blue skies.

Still, I kept an eye on the radar all afternoon, because being down in an open campground with nowhere to go was a bit concerning. Especially since we have yet to insure our camper.

Around 7pm, I noticed a massive storm develop west of Dickinson, and for the next two hours watched as it moved at easily 50mph, swirled, grew and headed right for us. I considered moving my car near the western edge of the campground, because it’s full of shorter trees, bushes and a steep hill. I figured there it would have at least some protection from hail, since that was my main concern.

Wind never crossed my mind.

The sky grew darker, and large drops of rain started about 8:30, so we moved all the chairs under the campers along with anything else we didn’t want to see get wet.

At 9:20 pm is when things started to get interesting.

The rain came, and at first it wasn’t all that much, so a few of us decided to sit under our friend, Bill’s awning. We didn’t have the awning down for more than five minutes when the wind hit. An impressive and more than a little scary wind. Bill, managed to stow it quickly enough the wind didn’t tear it off the camper. The rest of us piled into his camper to talk, play games and watch the rain fall, praying every second the rain wouldn’t bring hail with it.

To the west toward the hill, nothing much of interest was going on, as the hill and thick trees held much of the wind back.

Toward the east and the Missouri River, however, I watched the tall cottonwoods bend in the intense wind and not for the first time wondered how any tree could withstand such a beating and not break. After about ten minutes of those trees getting a beating, the power went out, and the camper switched to battery power.

I thought losing power was a bit odd, but we all figured because of the wind and rain, the power cord loosened from the outlet outside.

During the 30 minutes or so as the storm passed, I could feel an occasional gust, and wondered if the pattering of the rain was hail, which there was none. None was needed, because after it was all said and done, I don’t know if hail could have added to the resulting destruction.

When I saw blue skies at about 9:45, I told Tom it was time for bed. Not only was he tired, but I noticed the sky was starting to look quite lovely, and I wanted to take pictures. He went out first, and as I approached our with camper with camera in hand, I saw a man standing at the door. I recognized him as a neighboring camper, who is also a member of the church I go to, Derek. He saw me and asked if we were okay.

A little surprised by the concern I said, “Yes. We’re fine. We waited out the storm in our friend’s camper.”

“Oh, good,” he said. “Have you seen the playground?”

“Um, no,” I said. “Why?”

And then I looked:

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What was even more shocking is the camper next to the playground:

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I told Tom to stay in the camper, because I wanted to make sure everyone was okay, and I also wanted to get pictures. As we approached the devastation, I saw the lights of firetrucks and other first responders. I thought, “Wow, that was fast.”

Either that, or the trees fell close to the initial burst of the storm, and for at least a half an hour, we at the west side of the campground were completely oblivious to the destruction of the storm.

When Derek and I reached the camper that sustained the worst of the damage, Derek asked if anyone was hurt.

“No,” the man said. “God was watching over us, and I can’t tell you how thankful we are.”

“Indeed,” I thought. I can’t imagine what they thought when that tree crashed into their camper and rose one side up at least three feet.

I pulled out my camera and asked if I could take pictures.

“Go ahead,” he said, “It’s not as though I can’t do anything about the damage.”

I came back a few minutes later and noticed Tom standing inside the camper with the door open a few inches. I came in and let him see the photos. While he did that, I went to Bill’s camper, opened the door and said, “You guys have no idea how lucky we are.” I then explained what I saw. It wasn’t long before the entire campground population was outside to check on the damage and take pictures with their cell phones.

Selfishly, I thought, “Dang it. Because of their cellphones, all their pictures are going to be plastered all over Facebook before I even have a chance to download mine!”

On my way back, I talked to a few other people to ask how well they fared, and to take pictures of a fiery sky:

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Tom had finished looking at the pictures and pointed out his favorite was the one with the tipped picnic table.

He sat at the table and said, “All that damage makes me a little sad.”

As large tears fell, I hugged him close and reassured him that everyone was okay. He really didn’t like to see all that destruction, poor little guy. From his perspective, that had to be beyond scary. It was his first glimpse into the power of nature, and how powerless we can be in the face of it.

After Tom calmed down, a bunch of us went out to survey the damage. I decided Tom should come with. He saw everyone was indeed unhurt, and how the first responders and others were helping those who’s campers had either been damaged or had been pushed off their jacks. Not ten minutes later, he was his normal, happy self.

Thus Ends The Torture

Like the new look? You have Jeff Gerke to thank for it.

Recently I asked his opinion on the previous entry, and he suggested I change the theme to something easier on the eyes.

I had been thinking about it for a while, but was too lazy to take the five minutes to do so.

Sometimes it takes someone else to point something out before I actually do something. Hmm. That’s a lot of “some” in a single sentence. I’d reword it, but my laziness is kicking in again.

I got nothing else to add, so I’ll instead include one of my (current) favorite pictures. Hopefully it’s also less torturous on the eyes than my previous blog theme. I took this along the Missouri River during a photo session with fellow North Dakota photographer Marshall Lipp (you should check out his photography. It’s fabulous).

Enjoy!

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God and Science: Irreconcilable Differences?

On a Facebook group called “Conservatives and Liberals in Search of Understanding,” one conversation discusses how science and the arts have fallen prey to political agendas.

One person brought up how people approach science like a religion, and how science and religion are incompatible.

But are they? Do we have to approach God on only a spiritual, or at least emotional level, ignoring our intellect? Do we have to study science leaving our emotions at the door?

During the discussion, I stated by comparing religion – or at least faith – to science is apples and oranges. Since their end-goals are so different, comparing the two is counter-productive.

The more I think about it, however, the more I see how they’re not only compatible, but are intrinsically linked – assuming we are willing to see the connections. That’s key. It seems to me some scientists (and science enthusiasts) are unwilling to see God in the natural world, and enough religious people fail to acknowledge that the pursuit of science can help us see and understand God more clearly.

Recently my son and I watched a fabulous 6-part documentary called “Egypt” produced by the BBC. The episodes focused on three men who were key in discovering the rich history of ancient Egypt; from Tutankhamun’s tomb to the life of Ramases and finally translating hieroglyphs via the Rosetta Stone.

The last two episodes focused on how the British and France raced to be the first to translate the hieroglyphs, most specifically Thomas Young of England and Jean-Francois Champollion. During the show, a monk from the Catholic Church expressed concern that Champollion’s studies would lead to proof that the earth was older than 6000 years old.

My first thought was why? Why, if God is the creator of everything, would we – especially as Christians – be afraid of evidence that challenges, not the Bible, but our notions of it and God? It may seem like I’m parsing a bit, but hang with me. It’ll all make sense by the end.

I soon realized the Catholic Church at that time wasn’t concerned about people’s faith being challenged or weakened. When people are shown that their church is incorrect in their doctrines – especially when it comes to science – the Church wanted to shut it out, or silence it, because when people question their church, the church loses power.

Galileo Galilei believed and was able to prove mathematically that the Earth and other planets in the Solar System rotated around the Sun at a time when most everyone else believed we were the center of the universe. His views were controversial to say the least. He, too, challenged the Church that wielded even more power than during Champollion’s time. He was eventually tried by the Inquisition and was convicted of heresy where he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Even so, hundreds of years later, most people have accepted his and other scientific discoveries that the Earth and the universe is much older than 6000 years, and we are indeed not the center of the universe.

Yet Christians, in accepting this, don’t find any disconnect to these discoveries and their faith and the authority of the Bible. How does that work?

A few things.

Some have accused Christians of abandoning their reason and intellect in favor of their faith in God and the authority of the Bible.

Galileo felt this way when the Church tried to silence him. One of my favorite quotes expresses his frustration quite succinctly:

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

Nor do I, and nor does the Bible:

“Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.” – Proverbs 10:15

“Only simpletons believe everything they are told! The prudent carefully consider their steps.” – Proverbs 14:15

“They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” – Romans 1:19-20

There are many more, but I don’t want to inundate you too much. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with doing your own research.

God has countless times (well, not literally, but certainly more than I have personally counted), encouraged if not outright demanded that we use our intellect as well as our hearts to learn and grow toward him. As the passage in Romans said, if we want us to know him better, look at and study his creation. All of his qualities can be found there.

Sure we get things wrong; it’s part of being human, but anything we discover doesn’t change who God is. It can change our perception of him and certainly challenge our faith. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, such challenges and uncertainties in our notions can lead us to greater understanding and greater faith.

Some have claimed that theories such as the Big Bang and Evolution disprove the Bible. If we try to read the Bible as a scientific paper on the origin of the universe, of course we’ll find discrepancies. Doing so, however, makes as much sense as reading a toddler’s first book on colors to discover how fast light travels and bends around gravity wells. We have to consider the audience when reading the Bible. It was originally written for a nomadic people who had no formal education and had no concept of galaxies, or that every life form is made up of millions of individual cells, and it all starts with a single DNA strand.

One such argument is that the Earth and heavens were created in a single day. Our understanding of space and how light travels alone tosses that idea out. So does that mean the Bible is wrong? No. The Bible also says that to God, “… a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.” (Psalm 90:4) He is eternal, so a day to him could very well last millions, if not billions or trillions of years when measuring time how we perceive it. Again, we have to remember to consider the original audience.

So to anyone who uses scientific discovery to “prove” God does not exist, I can only tell them to look deeper, because they haven’t looked deep enough. Besides, God will only go where he’s invited. If someone refuses to see God, there’s nothing anyone can do to prove otherwise. They have to first acknowledge the possibility. I like to use Christopher Columbus as an example. He didn’t know the Earth was round before he set sail; he believed it and then set out to prove it. Many didn’t believe he was right until he showed them otherwise. The flip-side of that is there are still many who believe the e

arth is flat, and no amount of proof will convince them. They simply refuse to see. Proving God’s existence works the same way. He will remain invisible until people are willing to acknowledge his existence.

Which is the very heart of scientific search and discovery: To present a hypothesis – no matter how outlandish it seems at first – research and experiment until we are able to prove one way or another if it’s true or false.

Do we get things wrong at times? Absolutely, and we will continue to stumble our way through, taking many a wrong turn here and there. But that doesn’t change anything. The Sun will shine and galaxies will continue forming and imploding long after our bodies turn to dust. And God remains who he is regardless of how we view him.

Science can no more disprove God than these words disprove my existence.

And scientific search and discovery is one way we can find him.

 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. – Jeremiah 29:13

 

Old Lady Kayaking

IMG_0893Last Thursday I attended a Bloggers and Writers Workshop at Fort Lincoln State Park sponsored by North Dakota Department of Commerce.

The first part of the day consisted of travel writer and filmmaker Joe Baur who gave the attendees advice such as conquering fear of new places and new people. He shared some of his own fears such as even leaving his hometown to visit larger cities. Other sage advice he gave is since the internet is so visual, if we want to gain more readership, we must add visual elements such as photos and videos.

This in particular grabbed my attention, because I love taking pictures. I’ve also wondered how I could work it into my writing, or even if I should. It takes a bit of extra time to add visual elements to a blog post, but if it means gaining more readers, certainly the extra five to ten minutes adding the photos would be worth it.

He also mentioned that we must set a schedule for our releases (something I’ve slacked on of late). If we’re not consistent in our writing, we very quickly lose our readers.

Jenna Cederberg, Editor of Montana Magazine spoke next. Her focus was on knowing what you’re submitting your writing to. Know the magazine or publisher, because an editor will know right away whether or not you read their publications. She also stressed the importance of relationships. Successful publishing is largely due to good relationships between author and editor. Once you establish good ones, hold on to them.

After we broke for lunch, we had round-table discussions with Joe, Jenna, and Kim Schmidt, the public relations manager of the ND Department of Commerce where we could ask more in-depth questions. Kim gave us all advice on how to use social media to its fullest. Her focus was on the relationship we can build with them. They need North Dakota writers to help promote the wonders of our state that the rest of the nation doesn’t see. The best part is, when we promote them, they’ll link and add our writings to their publications and social media. It’s a win-win. She also said (and I’ve seen it, too) looking at North Dakota nationally, we’re the windy, cold, vast prairie with nothing to offer but agriculture, rising crime and oil.

When we are so, so much more than that.

But that’s another entry – or twelve.

Afterward, we had the choice to either tour the Custer House, Barracks and Indian Village, or go on a bike ride, hiking and kayaking. I chose the latter, because I’ve toured the Custer House before.

They were kind enough to provide the bikes, which, surprisingly enough, I only wobbled a few minutes before my muscles remembered that bike-riding thing. I guess it’s really true you never forget.

We rode down to where the Heart River converges with the Missouri. Waiting for us was a father and son team from Missouri River Kayak Rentals with enough kayaks for the small group. I told Kim I was staying on shore, and that I would take pictures. She said, “You really should go.”

I remembered Joe saying that we need to step out of our comfort zone. I said okay. After all the instructions (and there weren’t many), we donned our life jackets (also provided) and proceeded down to the water’s edge. I managed to step into the kayak without capsizing the small craft, which made me a bit more confident. The father of the team pushed me off and I started to row.

Kayaking never interested me. I wasn’t adverse to it, per se, but it also didn’t look all that fun. Mostly it looked like a lot of work.IMG_20150604_143510856_edited-1

And these old bones aren’t used to work. Sitting at a computer and typing all day doesn’t exactly keep the muscles in prime form. At this point, I was glad my body didn’t rebel riding a bike down to the river’s edge (even though it was mostly flat with a slight downgrade).

As I paddled around in a few circles to see how stable the kayak was, and how sharply I could turn, I realized just how easy it was. After ten minutes in the calm water, and finding a rhythm in paddling, I was surprised how relaxing it was.

With the cloudy skies, little wind and mild temperature (about 70 degrees Fahrenheit), we couldn’t have asked for a better day for kayaking. I even managed to keep up with everyone who had obviously kayaked more than me (which wasn’t saying much since this was my first time).

After about an hour paddling up and down the Heart River, I understood the allure of it. How can something that took physical effort (although well within reason) could be so relaxing? Kayaking manages, and is something I hope to do again. Having traipsed many times on the river in a speed boat, fishing boat and pontoon, floating on a kayak makes a person feel closer and almost a part of the river itself. I highly recommend it.

Even (or especially) if you’re an old lady like me.