Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hanley-boy: 5/1994 - 11/2010

Today our beloved dog Hanley had to be put down. He was the most wonderful companion dog I have ever known, and he will be sorely missed.

Hanley lived a long and happy life with us. He just turned 16-1/2 years old last Saturday, and he brought us many years of joy. We are so thankful to God for the time we had with him.

When we moved to St. Louis in 1995, Linda and I decided to adopt a dog. We had three criteria: The dog had to be small, female and have short hair. We visited at least three agencies and saw many dogs. The APA in Richmond Heights is where we first met Hanley.

We perused the puppies at the APA and could not quite find the right fit, so we checked out the adult dogs, which are typically more difficult to place into homes. When we entered the kennel area where adult dogs were kept, chaos ensued. Every dog in the place seemed to be barking, howling and acting crazy. Hanley, however, was calmly and quietly sitting at the back of his kennel. As Linda approached his kennel, Hanley came forward and simply licked her finger through the chain link door. He owned Linda's heart at that point, but we still had a problem.

Hanley didn't fit any of our criteria. He was male, larger and very hairy. So, we decided to look at more dogs located at other agencies. We played with puppies and petted more adult dogs, many of whom would have made great pets. Trouble was, Hanley stole our hearts! We finally confessed the obvious: We had to return to the APA and adopt Hanley. Fortunately for us, he was still there when we returned. He would be ours for sure.

We took him home that day and, since the APA was on Hanley Road, we decided to toss his given name of Simba and replace it with Hanley.

Linda and I have been married for 18-1/2 years and Hanley has been ours for 15-1/2 of them. He's been around longer than most of our friends' children!

During our seminary years, Hanley would wrestle with all the other dogs around our Gulf Drive apartment. He often slept on our bed and routinely cuddled with Linda on the easy chair every evening. We used to wonder aloud how anyone could simply abandon a dog as beautiful and well-behaved as Hanley.

Hanley, or Hanley-hoo as we sometimes called him, loved us through seminary, five job changes and finally a move to Maine. He kept Linda safe when I worked late during seminary, and even put up with our new kitten Country constantly pestering him. When our younger dog Foster nearly died during the move to Maine, Hanley somehow found an extra measure of strength in order to pick up her slack (at least that's how it appeared).

Hanley always looked young for his age, and people were amazed when told how old he really was. He always looked as if he were smiling and enjoying life. I think he was indeed very happy, and we were so happy to have him as our dog.

Goodbye Hanley boy. Thanks for loving us so well and adding immeasurable joy to our lives.

Go Guiltless

If you belong to Christ, guilt has no place in your life.

All of us are guilty of sinning, but the guilt we own is purely temporal. That is, we may say that, yes, we are guilty of doing a certain behavior which violates God's law. Yet, Christ died for every one of any given Christian's sins -- Christ took that guilt, died for it and thus paid the price. His death has eliminated our guilt, how dare you or anyone else point fingers at one of his beloved children!

If you belong to Christ, you have no standing, justification or right to cling to your guilt.

God himself, through Christ's work on the cross, has forgiven our sins and thus will never demand we pay for them ourselves. Nor will God ask Christ to die for us again! He is done with our sin -- you must be also! To hang onto your guilt is to say that Christ's death may have accomplished forgiveness for others, but for yourself something more than his death and resurrection is needed. That's egregious on a number of counts.

What a slap in God's face it is to NOT be satisfied with Christ's work on the cross! God sent his perfect, sinless son to die in our stead; would we now dare to claim: Not enough! Could there be a bigger offense to God than our claim to pay our own freight?

God means for us to be free. When we arrogantly, yes arrogantly, insist on paying our own debt, we enslave ourselves to a lifetime of work. Work is the engine that drives us to still more work. Ultimately, this leads to self-righteousness and entitlement, both of which seize our freedom and drag it away in chains. This cycle begins when we accept guilt.

Guilt is a pointed finger. It screams judgment and shame and demands recompense. It has no place in a Christian's life.

Conviction is what Christians rely upon to reveal sin. Conviction is an upturned palm with four fingers beckoning us to return to the one who heals. It is personal, truthful and firm, yet gracious and loving. Conviction invites us into relationship with the same God who eliminated our guilt. It's a promise of healing and growth and it is void of judgment.

Guilt has no place in a Christian's life -- reject it with every fiber of your being!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Short Takes

Weird thoughts passing through my noggin':

1) Have you ever noticed that almost every political pundit, regardless of party allegiance, often begins a statement by saying "look..."? Look at what?

2) When was the last time you saw a political leader actually get swayed by another person's argument, then publicly admit to being wrong? Doesn't this likely mean our leaders make decisions based on emotions instead of rational thought and truth?

3) The Declaration of Independence affirms the unalienable right to life. That's basic to the DOI. If any candidate for political office, regardless of party affiliation, is pro-choice, by definition he/she stands against the Declaration of Independence. Therefore, if a candidate is pro-choice he/she should relinquish the right to run for office. He/she is the secular equivalent of a heretic.

4) A study was recently completed to discover which drugs have caused the most harm to our society. Surprisingly, the most damaging drug was alcohol. Alcohol eclipsed even Heroin and Cocaine. Why? Because it's legal. The fact that alcohol is legal makes it much more acceptable in our country. Legality means alcohol can be more than just allowed, it can be encouraged.

Cocaine and Heroin are both illegal, which means they are harder to find and more expensive. Users of these drugs are generally thought of in our society as losers. Make them legal, sell them in liquor stores and Wal-Marts and everything will change. The government will enjoy enormous tax revenues, and both drugs will not only become acceptable, but encouraged. This will result in huge numbers of traffic deaths, divorces, domestic violence and misery. Government may be able to control prices, taxes and quality (debatable), but government has no control whatsoever over addiction.

5) If you think football is the most exciting sport around, consider this: A man in Maine used a stopwatch to time the last Superbowl game, the Colts vs. the Saints. He wanted to know how much time during a three-hour game was spent actually playing the game. His results revealed that the two teams combined for approximately 14 minutes of actual playing time. What was happening during the remaining two hours and forty-six minutes? A whole lot of standing around.

You want action? Watch soccer, hockey or basketball. So all of you who enjoy mocking soccer, realize that you are spending nearly three hours in abject boredom in order to watch fourteen minutes of essentially choreographed action. Zzzzzz!

6) I have Narcolepsy and you don't. You got no clue what tired is (with apologies to those suffering with Sleep Apnea).

7) If you ask me, there is hope for anyone walking into a counseling office. That said, the closest thing to hopeless is a wife beater. They just don't change.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Borifying the NFL

Every year the NFL tinkers with a great sport, which usually results in a negative effect. This year has so far followed suit. Football is a delicate balance between sport and business; for several years now the scale has been tipping toward business, and it's getting ever harder to enjoy the competition.

-- Tonight I watched the 2010 opening game between the Saints and Vikings. Favre was clearly rusty and unfit due to his late arrival to camp. Why was he late? Who knows, but once the Vikings offered him a huge raise and massaged his delicate ego he changed his mind and showed up to camp.

-- Every year my favorite team seems to turn over large numbers of players. How can I stay committed to a team every year when the locker room sports a revolving door?

-- Rules changes have damaged competitiveness. Quarterbacks are over-valued and over-protected; defensive backs can barely look at receivers without getting flagged for interference; there is an unbelievable amount of time-outs, commercial breaks and slow-downs due to instant replay calls; players fall down and drop the ball, but don't get charged with a fumble, etc.

-- Pass interference is the most ridiculous rule the NFL has. It's called so much during a game that games are often decided on the basis of a referee blowing his whistle. The penalty for offensive pass interference results in the offensive team advancing to the spot of the foul. If, then, a quarterback throws a sixty-yard pass, and the defender is called for pass interference, it is tantamount to a sixty yard gain. The assumption is that the offensive player, were it not for being interfered with, would have caught the ball. However, if the pass interference happened in the end zone, there is no assumption that the receiver would have caught the ball. So, the offensive team gets the ball at the one-yard-line instead. Does that make sense? Of course not. There is never a guarantee that a receiver will catch any ball thrown his way.

-- When offensive pass interference is called, there never exists the assumption that, were it not for the pass being interfered with, the defender would have caught the ball. To be consistent, whenever an offensive player is called with pass interference shouldn't the defensive team be credited with an interception?

-- The league itself is structured and run as if it were a small communist country in Eastern Europe. Instead of allowing teams to reap the benefits of hard work, and spend their profits any way they wish, the NFL is forcing parity upon the league. It is patently un-American to force teams to share their wealth, either through extorting profits or limiting teams' ability to use those profits to gain an edge on the competition.

-- Parity slowly ruins the sport. The more parity there is, the less distinction there is between teams. Following the league is more fun when there are teams to hate (usually the "haves") and underdogs to root for (the "have nots"). Right now, on any given Sunday any team could beat another. On its face, this seems positive. But it ultimately dumbs down the league; it's exciting when a weaker team squeaks out a win against a giant, but there really are no "weaker" teams any more (maybe a few). The only real difference between teams nowadays is the jerseys.

-- Instant replay is just plain boring, and it smacks of self-importance. Instant replays almost always occur at pivotal and exciting times during a game. They destroy momentum, excitement and pace, and they force folks to endure ever more TV commercials. In the end, even the Superbowl is just a game. It's just not that important to get each and every call perfectly correct.

-- Corporate influence hurts the blue collar fan. How many middle-class fans, the ones who wear their team's jerseys and buy advertisers' products, actually get to attend playoff games and Superbowls? Very few. Corporate sponsors, NFL cronies, families and friends, media employees and guests of the above people get seats at the most important games.

-- Greed is ruining the sport. Both owners and players alike are greedy; neither of these entities care a lick about the basic fan, and it's the basic fan that pays for everything through ticket sales, concessions, team merchandise and advertisers' products. Players charge for autographs, owners and players combine to overcharge for tickets and, thanks to greed, fans are priced-out of important games. Not only are they priced-out of playoff and Superbowl tickets, but taking Joe fan's seat in the stadium is usually some corporate sponsor.

Despite all of these annoying aspects to professional football I, like millions of Americans, will continue to be riveted to Sunday and Monday football on TV. It is still a great sport. Like a lot of things in our culture, however, the folks in charge need to learn when to leave a good thing alone. A few more changes to football and they'll lose me, and I won't be the only one hitting the door.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bush vs. OJ

Where does the NCAA find the cojones to strip Reggie Bush of the Heisman Trophy, while allowing O.J. Simpson to keep his?

The Two-Faced Left

Is burning a pile of Korans constitutionally protected? Yes. Should people burn a pile of Korans? Probably not.

That was simple. So, why can't liberals see this predicament as nearly synonymous with the mosque controversy near Ground Zero? It's not that they can't; they won't.

The Reverend Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL, is planning a huge cookout. What's on the menu? The Koran. He plans to burn a pile of Islamic "holy books" on September 11, the anniversary of the largest terrorist attack ever perpetrated against the United States. The attack, of course, was carried out by Islamic extremists.

Pastor Jones has every right under the constitution to burn the Koran, but he has almost no backing from the American public. Rightly so. This is one of those rare occasions in which both Democrats and Republicans stand together. He has the right, but on moral grounds he really should refrain from exercising it.

Even today, the eve of this fiery event, President Obama is contemplating a personal call to Pastor Jones entreating restraint. The FBI has already spoken to him, so has Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Even General Petraeus has chimed in against the Koran burning event.

The president won't lift a finger, however, to discourage building a mosque near Ground Zero, despite the disdain expressed by an overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens. He won't call the Imam in charge of building the mosque, won't send the FBI or Secretary Gates. In fact, President Obama will no longer entertain questions about the mosque; he won't even proffer an opinion. Additionally, the Imam has now warned us that moving the mosque location will result in further violence against the U.S. In response to this threat, the White House has offered only its silence.

Liberals have been barking the same drivel regarding the mosque from the start: It's constitutionally protected. They have accused conservatives of denying Muslims the right to worship and the right to purchase private property. If you are conservative, liberals have pegged you as constitutionally illiterate and bigoted.

Lost in the din of liberal bluster is the truth: conservatives have throughout the controversy trenchantly affirmed the Muslims' right to build near ground zero. They have questioned only the wisdom and sensitivity of building so close to Ground Zero. Nothing more.

The mosque issue and the Koran burning issue are nearly identical. Both leaders have the right to carry out their plans, but neither should exercise that right. Only one of these situations has the liberals in a tizzy, that would be the one involving a professing Christian and his church.

Might there be religious bigotry harbored in the hearts of liberals? They might be saying no, unfortunately I can't hear their words over the deafening volume of their actions.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Arguing With Fools

Let's get a few things straight. There is no such mental illness as Homophobia, nor is there a disorder called Islamophobia. Both terms are political in nature and are meant to denote bigotry in anyone disagreeing with either the homosexual or Islamic agenda. Additionally, both terms are derived from groups unqualified to psychologically diagnose.

Homophobia has a much longer history than Islamophobia. If a person happens to express disagreement with any aspect of the homosexual political and/or social agenda, that person will be tagged "homophobic." This tag is used to quash criticism and slap a label on people. This label is currently akin to calling someone a racist. It is often applied to Christians, who find homosexuality anathema to God's will. Despite the paranoia and anger homosexuals seem to harbor against Christians, there is no such term as Christophobia -- nor should there be.

Islamophobia is now the new trendy label to throw around. Currently, anyone against building a mosque near Ground Zero is "Islamophobic." Rational arguments against building the mosque are shot down in shame once this term is applied. Again, it's akin to being labelled a racist, which in America seems to be the absolute worst label one may be stuck with. And yet, there is no such mental illness as Islamophobia.

Tossing these labels around is tantamount to covering ones ears and shouting la la la la at the top of ones lungs. It is a cheap, arrogant and pathetic tactic used to win an argument. Most of us, however, see through this petty and immoral maneuver and ultimately lose all respect for the one employing it. It doesn't silence people due to shame; rather, people clam up once they realize they are arguing with a fool.