Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I don't think they'll fly off the shelves

Did you see this headline today: "Krispy Kreme Unveils Whole Wheat Treat"? Good luck, KK. Old habits die hard. The story says these new donuts are 100% whole wheat and 180 calories (only 20 fewer than in a regular glazed KK donut, which is 200 calories, half of which are from fat).

Just wanted to make you feel real good about those Krispy Kremes you like so much.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Dessert count...

...for Week 3 of my Lenten plan: 1 (I broke down at a wedding reception!).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My daughter's famous!

A long time ago I blogged about my grandson Eben, who is quite the miracle child. My daughter Rebecca carried him nearly to full term as an abdominal pregnancy. Well, Rebecca discovered that her pregnancy and Eben's safe delivery were written up in the August, 2005, issue of a medical journal called Human Pathology! And here's the title of the article:

"Subperitoneal Placenta Accreta Succenturiate in the Case of a Successful Near-Term Extrauterine Abdominal Pregnancy"

Can you believe that title! I can see it now. Eben will be sitting in school one of these days and the teacher will ask him to share with the class something special about himself. He can say he's the result of a subperitoneal placenta accreta succenturiate . . . well, you get the idea.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Orlando favorites

Here are 11 of my favorite Orlando things:







Favorite overall eating place - Macaroni Grill (love that bread!)
Favorite office away from the office - Panera Bread
Favorite men's store - Joseph A. Bank
Favorite gym - LA Fitness
Favorite chimichanga - Tijuana Flats
Favorite place to relax - Lake Eola
Favorite Chinese food - Panda Express
Favorite gas station - BP Express
Favorite milk shake - Chick-Fil-A
Favorite mall - Mall at Millennia
Favorite church - University Presbyterian!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Set free

I saw this painting yesterday online, and was taken in by it. It's by Pier Francesco Mola (1612-1666), an Italian painter of the Baroque period. It's called "St. Peter Freed from Prison" (based on the story in Acts 5:19).

I think it's a beautiful way to imagine God setting us free from our prisons of sin, or fear, or worry, or whatever the bondage might happen to be. Like Peter in the picture, we are miserable and helpless. Yet God in his grace reaches down from on high and breaks open the shackles.

Granted, sometimes we have to struggle and pray and long for this freedom. But God is our hope and strength as we await his timing.

The painting reminds me of that much-loved hymn by Charles Wesley, the 4th stanza of which goes like this:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

Amazing love! How can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

What explains...

...the amazing amount of coverage on the news of Anna Nicole Smith's death??

Monday, February 19, 2007

Does God want you to succeed?

While channel surfing this morning I stopped at one of the "Christian" TV stations to hear what Paula White had to say. She was interviewing some preacher who was saying God had shown him the secret of the number seven. He was AMAZED that Naaman dipped in the Jordan River seven times to be healed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5), AND this is the year 2007! So this anointed preacher was telling us that we're living in the year of SEVEN!! He said for us to just hold on, our miracle is coming!

Then Paula chimed in. She said that the Holy Spirit had given both of them the same message, even though they had not talked about it before the show! (Astounding!) Her message to us was from John 6, where a little boy brings his five loaves and two fish to Jesus, and Jesus feeds the crowd. Wait a minute! Paula said, "Five loaves and two fish... 5+ 2 equals ... SEVEN!! It IS the year of seven!!"

So, my friends, that's how to interpret Scripture. Just add up numbers and see if they agree with numbers in other Bible stories, and then apply them willy-nilly to whatever year it happens to be.

That's a wonderful Bible teaching technique, especially when you can go on to say, as Paula White did, that we need to be like that little boy in John 6 and give EVERYTHING WE HAVE to God (i.e., Paula White Ministries), so that He can give us 12 basket-fulls (of what? bread and fish?) in return.

Let's call these people what they really are: False teachers. Heretics.

If you go to Paula White's website, the first thing you'll notice on the home page (besides five pictures of Paula White) are the big words, "God WANTS YOU to succeed." Oh, is that right, Paula? What about all those people listed in Hebrews 11 who were tortured, faced jeers and flogging and even chains and imprisonment, who were put to death by stoning, sawed in two, killed by the sword, went about in sheepskins and goatskins, were destitute, persecuted and mistreated? What about John the Baptist, who lived in poverty most of his life and ended his life with his head on a silver platter? What about Paul, who finished his days in a dungeon, lonely and deprived of justice? What about Jeremiah the prophet, who was never understood or respected? What about John, who spent years in exile? What about Stephen, who was stoned to death for being faithful to Jesus?

I guess those people didn't have Paula White for a "life coach." Or maybe they failed to "sow a seed" to a TV ministry. I suppose they failed to "discover their purpose." How come "their tomorrows were not better than their yesterdays"? (These are all phrases borrowed from Paula White's website.)

What's missing from ministries like this one is the gospel of Jesus. On her website Paula White says, "I know that life is filled with challenges and opportunities and I believe that God wants us to face adversity equipped to win. God wants us to turn our stumbling blocks into stepping stones." How do we do that? Paula's answer is faith. "Faith causes change. Anytime there is change, there is opportunity. That includes the opportunity to grow more, and see more, and be more. Yes, it also includes the opportunity to fail."

Where's Jesus in all that? That message might just as well have been preached by Tony Robbins. It's not faith that causes change, it's Jesus. It's not success that God wants for us, it's likeness to Jesus. To become like Jesus requires suffering, not success. Success is not necessarily bad. But for countless millions of people it's an idol, and these health-and-wealth preachers are fanning the flames of idolatry, much like Aaron at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Beatles live again

For all you Beatle fans out there, have you got the latest addition to your Beatles CD library? It's called Love, and it's the new music used in the Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas by the same name. It's great! It's a collection of Beatle songs from every one of their "phases," but the songs are cut-and-pasted together in a most creative way by producer George Martin (who else?!). For example, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" (from Sgt. Pepper) ends with that awesome ending from "She's So Heavy" (from Abbey Road), and it's seamless. Similarly, "Within You Without You" is combined with "Tomorrow Never Knows," and it's like they were meant to be one song!

One of the most creative songs on the CD is called "Gnik Nus." That's "Sun King" (from Abbey Road) spelled backwards. And that's what the song is..."Sun King" backwards!

It's hard to describe, so buy the CD and enjoy the Beatles as you've never heard them before.

Whenever I listen to these old Beatle songs, I'm sad that drugs and alcohol and who-knows-what-else the Beatles did robbed later generations of the awesome musical gifts God gave the world through them.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dessert count...


...for week 2 of my Lenten "no-dessert" plan: 0

(And this DESPITE the efforts of my small group to tempt me with brownies and chocolate chip cookies on Tuesday night!!)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Open theism

While in the car today, I listened to a debate between a Reformed pastor and an open theist. You can download the debate here.

Open theism, as represented by this debater (a pastor by the name of Bob Enyart), is way off. It's the idea that God does not exhaustively know the future or decree what will take place in the future. Instead, God chose to create a universe in which the future is not entirely knowable, even for Himself. Thus man is able to shape future events that God must react to. This puts man in the driver's seat and strips God of His beautiful attributes of sovereignty and foreknowledge.

Enyart basically ended up saying that God is not omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, or immutable. God's "more important" attributes are love, goodness, and being personal and relational. True, He is all those things, but nowhere does the Bible justify categorizing God's attributes as more important and less important. Yet that's what this guy believes. He said that we in the Reformed camp are captive to Greek philosophy instead of the Bible, yet he ignored all the Scriptures that teach God's all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign character.

Interesting stuff worth listening to.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Solitude & silence

The class I'm teaching on spiritual disciplines will continue this Sunday, on the topic of solitude and silence. I think the two are practically inseparable. I also think they are practically impossible.

Well, not impossible...but the cultural deck is certainly stacked against us if we determine to seek out extended times to be alone and quiet. For one thing, most of us are afraid to be alone. It's when we're alone that we become aware of our insecurities, our thoughts go haywire, we become vulnerable to temptations of all sorts, and we find out how undisciplined we really are. Plus being alone is so...unproductive.

As far as quiet goes, what's that?!

I look around the restaurant I'm in right now: Everybody is talking, to someone either in the restaurant or on the other end of a cell phone. I hear someone behind me talking in my direction; I turn around and she's talking through one of those headsets that are so popular now. Music is playing through loudspeakers -- too loudly. And I see something sad: A father sitting with his little boy, but instead of talking with him he's doing business on his cell phone. (Does he realize that little boy will not be a little boy forever?)

But I'm guilty, too. When I leave here and get in my car, I'll turn on my iPod and finish listening to the sermon I was listening to earlier. Being quiet is so...boring.

What's the answer? Move to some little town where there aren't so many people? I'll go crazy! Get rid of technology? That's unrealistic.

I think one answer Richard Foster provides in his book, Celebration of Discipline, is a good one: "Take advantage of the 'little solitudes' that fill our day." Here's what Foster advises:

"Consider the solitude of those early morning moments in bed before the family awakens. Think of the solitude of a morning cup of coffee before beginning the work of the day. There is the solitude of bumper-to-bumper traffic during the freeway rush hour. Slip outside just before bed and taste the silent night. These tiny snatches of time are often lost to us. What a pity! They can and should be redeemed. They are times for inner quiet, for reorienting our lives like a compass needle. They are little moments that help us to be genuinely present where we are."

That's valuable and it's something practical we can all do if we try. But we ought to do more than squeeze little moments of silence and solitude here and there into our day. I'm sure we ought to just sit still and be quiet for 30 minutes, or an hour or more, from time to time. (Good luck, those of you mothers with young kids who I know read my blog!)

As difficult as it is, I believe this: When I choose to be silent and alone with God I am living by faith. I am living out of my belief that it's not all up to me, that I don't have to be in control and productive all the time, that I'm not indispensable, that people really don't need to hear from me or talk to me right now. There are other people they can talk to, who can do the job as well as if not better than I can. What I need right now is to listen to God. And for that, I must be quiet and alone.

After that, I'll turn on my iPod or answer that phone call.

Have any ideas on how to practice the discipline of silence and solitude in these chaotic times?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sects and Cults Podcast

I found an interesting podcast on iTunes by the Center for Global Apologetics of Liberty Seminary. The president of the seminary, Ergun Caner, interviews representatives of various cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Baha’I. There's also an interview with Dr. Mel White, dean of the Metropolitan Community Church.

Each podcast is not a debate, but a well-done and respectful interview full of really practical questions. (Like to the two Mormon elders, Caner asks, "Why the bikes?!") The interviews are apparently seminary classes, and after Caner's interview there are questions from the students.

If you want to learn what some of the cults believe and teach, check this out. It's called "Sects and Cults Podcast" in the iTunes store, and it's free.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lent

Pray for me. I'm going to give up desserts for Lent.

I love desserts. Cake, pie, cookies, chocolate, ice cream - you name it, I want it.

Today I ate lunch at TGI-Fridays. Oh, my. I have a new weakness...it's their "Cinnadunkers," these little donuts covered in cinnamon with cream cheese dipping sauce! Wow, are they good! I ate the whole order all by myself.

I walked out of there resolved to stop eating desserts. I hope to keep it up beyond Easter, but that's my goal right now. Lent doesn't begin until February 21, but I'm starting NOW!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Prayer

I'm teaching a new class in my church on the spiritual disciplines. I talked about prayer this past Sunday. I'm sure prayer is the most talked about and least lived out of all the spiritual disciplines...maybe of any topic of Christianity!

I can talk about prayer, but honestly, I'm not a great pray-er. My mind wanders. I get impatient. It's hard for me to be still. I listen to my prayers and I'm bored with them. So I find a lot of help in praying the prayers other Christians down through the ages have written.

I'm thankful for books like Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Confessions. Another good book is Richard Foster's Prayers from the Heart. I like praying the words of hymns, of the Psalms, and of other Scripture passages.

Here's a prayer I like to pray. It is attributed to St. Patrick (A.D. 389-461):

“May the strength of God pilot us. May the power of God preserve us. May the wisdom of God instruct us. May the hand of God protect us. May the way of God direct us. May the shield of God defend us. May the host of God guard us against the snares of the evil one and the temptations of the world. May Christ be with us. Christ before us. Christ in us. Christ over us. May thy salvation, O Lord, be always ours this day and for evermore. Amen.”

Friday, February 02, 2007

Michael Scott meets Lawrence Kohlberg

I'm taking a class in Human Development for my Counseling Psychology program. Our teacher assigned a project to help us understand Kohlberg's six stages of moral development. The project involved watching a TV show and writing about the moral decisions made in the episode. Then we had to identify where the characters seem to be on Kohlberg's continuum.

I picked one of my favorite shows, The Office. (How's that for a great assignment!) The episode I wrote about was the most recent one, called "Ben Franklin." Not only was the show hilarious, but there were a lot of moral (and immoral) decisions made in it.

Michael (the manager of the Scranton, PA, branch of Dunder-Mifflin Paper Co.) decides he wants to hire strippers to celebrate Phyllis's upcoming wedding. Everybody in the office pretty much complies; they don't walk out, or file a complaint, or cry sexual harassment or anything. (Angela fusses about it for a moment, but like all good Pharisees she jumps right in there with everyone else.) So the office staff seem to be at about Stage Two of Kohlberg's six stages. Like children, they accept the rules of their authority figure. They seem motivated mostly by self-interest (i.e., keeping their jobs).

Well, the male stripper turns out to be a Ben Franklin impersonator. But the female stripper is the real thing. She starts dancing for the guys, when all of a sudden Michael gets upset, tells her to stop, and orders everybody to get back to work. He says to the stripper, "Shame on you!"

It seems that Michael has had a sudden surge of shame himself. He feels bad that he's attended a bachelor party. He feels that he's cheated on his girlfriend Jan and owes her an apology. He's torn: Should he tell Jan the truth, and risk being dumped? Or should he keep it quiet, and violate his conscience? The Ben Franklin impersonator tells Michael not to confess; it would only upset Jan. (That, according to Kohlberg, is Stage Three thinking. Ben makes moral decisions on the basis of whether they would upset other people, not on the basis of right and wrong, honor and justice.)

To his credit, Michael doesn't follow Ben's advice; he calls him a sleazebag!

So Michael goes to the female stripper and asks her advice. Should he tell his girlfriend that he attended a bachelor party where a stripper performed? She tells Michael, "Secrets, secrets are no fun; secrets, secrets hurt someone." In other words, she implies that the loving thing for Michael to do is confess the truth. That's a Stage Five response. Her advice is based on the ideal that people be respected and social contracts honored.

Michael follows her advice and tells Jan about the bachelor party.

For once, Michael shows a little integrity in this episode. I think he even goes all the way to Stage Six - the highest of Kohlberg's stages. Stage Six is respect for universal principles of right and wrong and the demands of individual conscience. Michael's choice illustrates Proverbs 28:13 - "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy."

Maybe Michael Scott meets God as well as Kohlberg!

Nawwhh!