Marine Angels on Assignment

It was the early Seventies,  I was going to college at Southern Oregon University. It was a time of great social upheaval and cultural change. I met a girl from California and we became friends. Wendy was a kind and loving person and had a quality of innocence about her. She asked me if I would go with her to see a friend in Arcata, California. I asked her how we were going to get there. She said, “We’ll just hitchhike.”

That didn’t sound too great to me. I had hitchhiked once while at college and it was only for a few miles. That time, a friend and I were riding in the back of a pickup. I didn’t feel safe and did not want to stay in the truck and so my friend and I got out at a stoplight a few minutes down the road. I expressed my doubts to her, but she convinced me to go. Her plan was to only take rides from women. It sounded somewhat logical to my teenage mind and so I went.

At first, everything went well. We got rides from women and were well on our way down the Redwood Highway. Our last ride left us on the road while it was still light. As time passed, no one suitable came by and we were left standing on the side of the road as it began to get dark. We were totally unprepared to spend the night outside and had not taken sleeping bags or blankets to keep us warm. Neither did we take flashlights or matches.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I was beginning to get worried and was very unhappy that I had chosen to go with Wendy. I’m sure I was thinking that if I ever got out of this situation, I would never hitchhike again. It grew dark and a car stopped. We looked inside and there were two young men with blond hair and crew cuts in the car. They looked different from the students we went to school with. They were very clean cut and looked safe and responsible.

We got in the car; it seemed like our only choice at the time. As we introduced ourselves, they told us they were Marines on leave from Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California. I told them that my brother was a Marine and where he was stationed at the time. Their level of concern for us immediately went up a notch. Because I was the sister of a fellow Marine, they felt an obligation to take us exactly where we needed to go. They wanted to make sure we made it to Arcata safe and sound.

We arrived in Arcata late that night. I slept on the floor of the dormitory where Wendy’s friend was staying. I remember thinking how God had taken care of us by bringing those two young men along that deserted highway at just the right time. Were they actual Marines or God’s angels sent to take care of two very foolish girls? I will never know, but I will always be grateful for the ride they provided and the concern they showed us that night. It is an experience I will never forget.

How about you? Has God provided for you in extraordinary circumstances? I would love to hear your story. I’m sure God’s angels have looked after each and every one of us. They surely walk among us, for as the Scripture says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” Hebrews 13:2.

 

 

“What’s In Your Hand?”

In my last post, I talked about finding our gifts and talents. So what happens when we do know what our gifts and talents are? Can we just move forward and find a path that will help us express them and use them for the benefit of others? Sometimes the way is clear, but at other times it is blocked, and many times we are the one’s blocking it. How do we block our own path forward? Through Self-Disqualification. 

What is Self-Disqualification? It is where we tell ourselves we cannot move in a certain direction because we either do not have the resources, qualifications, or we believe our past has disqualified us. Let’s look at each reason and let’s take them in reverse order.

Our Past: We disqualify ourselves and keep ourselves from moving forward because we have made some mistakes in our past. We tell ourselves, “Surely God cannot use someone like me.” This is the height of self-negation and it does not take into account the grace and mercy of God: the God of Second Chances. Let’s look at a few examples of people God used in spite of their mistakes: Moses killed a man and fled the country he was living in. God called him to become the leader of his people and help bring them out of slavery. Joseph spent considerable time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Pharaoh took him from prison and made him the second in command in Egypt. David committed adultery and had the woman’s husband killed when he found out the woman was pregnant. God used these men in spite of the mistakes they had made or the places they found themselves. If he could use them, he can surely use us.

Our Qualifications: It is true that many times we don’t at the moment have the qualifications to do the job we aspire to do. That said, it will take some time and effort to find the right school, internship, or training we need. Remember, no one is born qualified. Each of us must find a way to get qualified if we want to pursue a certain career path or area of giftedness.

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Photo by Josh Willink on Pexels.com

The Resources: Granted we all need some resources to move forward. We may need a grant, scholarship or loan in order to get more training. We many need money for transportation if we want to volunteer somewhere and get our training that way. We all need something. But here’s the deal, each of us has something we can use to begin right where we are. How do I know this? Let’s look at one of the examples I used earlier. When God called Moses, he was living on the backside of the desert herding sheep.  Moses gave God all these reasons why he couldn’t do what he was being asked to do. Finally, God said to him, “What do you have in your hand?” Moses told him it was a rod. God then had him use what he had in his hand to help him accomplish the task he was given.

So I would say to you? What do you have in your hand that you can use to get started on your journey? Is it a pen, pencil, artist’s pad, mop, broom, vacuum or laptop? Is it a mower, rake, shovel, steering wheel or cell phone? We all have something right where we are that can help us get started in the direction we need to go. So let’s take what we have, where we are and get started. The journey will be exciting. We don’t know where it will lead and who we will meet along the way. But sure as can be, we will never get there if we don’t take that first step! 

Where Do Your Gifts and Talents Lay?


images[3]This week I am reading a biography of Winston Churchill. When we think of a larger than life figure like Winston, we assume he had a life of success at every turn. Usually that is far from the truth. Winston was not a good student. He was not good at foreign languages and math. He failed the entrance exams for at least two schools he wanted to get into. He needed to be tutored in order to pass the required tests. 
One exam he took between his Junior and Senior levels of education was Latin. It was a two hour test. He wrote 1. on the paper. About a half an hour later he wrote (1.) and put parentheses around the number. That was it. He just sat there unable to answer the questions. Mercifully, the headmaster came and took his paper and he was able to leave the exam room.

What people didn’t know about Winston was that he loved History and English Composition. He was talented in those fields and they would prove key to his success later in life. He was also stubborn and he refused to give up. That served him well when he was helping his country face the Nazi’s during the Second World War. These gifts and talents are part of what made him a great leader.

Each one of us has been given gifts and talents. Sometimes those talents are not readily identifiable by ourselves or others. Sometimes they are so different than what other people have or what society requires that they are almost unrecognizable. Whether we can identify them or not at the moment does not negate that we have them.

If we are at a loss to figure out where our talents lie and what course we should follow, what can we do? We can look on the Internet and take one of the free tests available. We can also grab a book that has the test in it, tells us about the different gifts and suggested occupations for those who have those gifts. One I read a while back is Dr. Caroline Leaf’s, “The Gift in You, Discovering New Life Through Gifts Hidden in Your Mind.” You can get it used on Amazon for only a few dollars. I have given this book to others trying to figure out where their giftedness lies and what they can do with it. I would highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to identify the gifts and talents within them. 51aCXiA3NSL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_[1]

Why is identifying our gifts and talents so important? I believe that if we can identify our gifts that we will be able to seek employment in the appropriate fields and lead a more satisfying and fulfilled life. Notice I didn’t say, “We will be able to become wealthy and a tremendous material success.” The happiest people I know are those that are functioning in their areas of giftedness. They are serving where they fit the best in this world and are making the greatest impact in the lives of those around them.

“Cogito Ergo Sum?”

large[1]We have all heard of Rene’ Descartes famous saying, “Cogito Ergo Sum,” meaning, “I think, therefore, I am.” Is it true? I don’t know; should we talk to the goldfish in my aquarium? He exists and I don’t believe he thinks. If he did, he would jump out of there in a heartbeat. After all, he will spend his entire life in a very small confined space. If he could think, he would either be on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. He would most certainly need to be treated for a severe case of claustrophobia. Not to worry though…he’s happy. He probably lives responding to his innate biological needs and instincts. 

One thing we do know for sure is that we think and we exist. Are our thoughts important or are they just ethereal things that fly through our brains randomly? Jesus said, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” So what does that mean? I think it means that the things we spend our time thinking about become a part of who we are. If we spend our time thinking about positive things, we will become a more positive person. The same goes for the negative. If we dwell on hateful, negative thoughts, we will also become more of that kind of person. We do have a choice about what kinds of things we think about and dwell on. 

Do we always have a choice about what comes into our brains initially? No, not always. We may be driving down the street and see a billboard with a negative sentiment and image. A thought will come into our mind about that image and sentiment. What do we do with that thought? We can choose to think about it or we can refuse to. We have to learn to be intentional about the things we think about. Scripture says that we are to “Take every thought captive.” Kay Arthur said it another way: “Frisk every thought at the door!” 

How do we do that? Simple, we replace it with another thought. We say to ourselves, “No, I don’t want to think on that, I will think on this.” We then choose to think about something positive or different than that image or thought. It takes practice and discipline to stop the negative and move to the positive. Does it really work?

Yes, it happens to me every day. I may be doing something and a random thought will come into my mind. Let’s say it is something negative about someone. I can choose to dwell on it or I can say to myself, “No, I choose to think differently about that person.” I then think about them in a different way and then I move on. I don’t want to harbor a negative image about someone in my brain. There must be something good about them I can think about if I have to think about them at all. Sometimes, I will think on a Scripture verse that helps me put my mind back into a more positive mode.

Will it make a difference in our lives? I think so. I know two people who have dementia. One was a positive person during the course of her life and the other was negative. Now that they don’t have their faculties the way they used to, the basic thought patterns that they have developed during their lives have taken over. The positive person is cheery although she doesn’t remember much, and the other is as negative as she always was. It is sad to listen to her talk; she views everything from a negative perspective. They are examples that our thought choices really do matter.

What if we have chosen the negative most of our lives? Can we reprogram our brains? Yes, it is never too late. Our brain is a living entity and we can begin to be intentional about what we think about. If you need something concrete to help you get started, I would recommend  a book I read a while ago, “Switch On Your Brain,” by Dr. Caroline Leaf. It talks about “The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health.” She has a 21 day Brain Detox Plan to help people reprogram their minds from the negative and help them get their brains on a more positive track. She has worked with the very young and very old and has seen success in both groups. I enjoyed reading her book and appreciated the scientific backdrop for her work.51hyrp28dPL[1] 

What about you? Have you found a way to be intentional about your thought life or are you letting thoughts take root in your brain that are harming you? Cogito Bonum or Cogito Malum: Think on the good or Think on the Bad. It’s your choice!

Predictive Prophecy

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Anyone who has gone through the University system has met many a professor who does not believe in a Supreme Being. They can be quick to denigrate the Bible and tell you that it is just an old ancient book that has no relevance in today’s society. When they say that, you may go back to your dorm room and look at your Bible and think, “Is that really true? Does it indeed not have any relevance for today?”

So what makes the Bible unique? What makes it different from any other book that has been written? How can it stand the test of time and still come out as a best-seller even in modern times? Why can we indeed depend on it as a source of truth and inspiration? Two words…predictive prophecy. The Bible claims to be the very words of God. What authenticates it and has authenticated it through centuries past? Predictive prophecy; that is what makes it different from any other source of wisdom and verifies the authority of its words.

What is predictive prophecy? Throughout the Bible, there are hundreds of prophecies about Jesus, Israel, the nations, and specific people. Hundreds of these prophecies have already been fulfilled accurately. They are so accurate in their fulfillment that they cannot be denied. For example, there are hundreds of prophecies about Jesus, the Messiah. During the course of his birth, life and death, he fulfilled over two hundred of them. The odds of that happening are astronomical, to say the least. We know that if these were fulfilled at his first coming, that the remaining prophecies will be fulfilled during his second coming and reign.

The nation Israel strayed from God and there were many prophecies predicting its judgment. Over and over, these prophecies were fulfilled. They were scattered among the nations and the prophecies concerning their regathering are happening right to this very day. Even the prophecy in Isaiah 66:8, “Can a nation be born in a day?” was accomplished on May 14, 1948. 

The ruler, Cyrus the Great, was named in the book of Isaiah one hundred and fifty years before he came into power. Is that some sort of coincidence? I don’t think so. In the book of Daniel, the eleventh chapter encompasses a brief history of the wars and ensuing intrigues between the Seleucids of Syria and the Ptolemies of Egypt. It is so accurate that historical scholars have a hard time believing it was written hundreds of years before the events took place.  

These are just a few of the examples of predictive prophecy in the Bible, there are many more within its pages, too numerous to count. One thing we can be sure of is this; if the previous prophecies were fulfilled, the future prophecies will be also. How could this happen? I believe that God sits outside of time and sees the end from the beginning. He inspired the prophets of old to write things that they themselves did not see or understand, things that would come to pass in the future. We can rely on the truth of the Bible, and know that its predictive prophecy is the proof of it.

 

I Want My Church to be Multi-Racial, Multi-Ethnic and Multi-Cultural.

This past Sunday in church I sat next to a young Hispanic man. As I was thinking about our differences, I looked around at the people in our church, and I saw that each one of us is like a candle. The only difference was that each candle had a different color coating on the outside.

candles-2899921_640 photo by geralt – courtesy  of Pixabay

Years ago, I was watching Dr. A.R. Bernard, the Pastor of the Cultural Christian Center in Brooklyn, New York, on television. He was talking about how the leadership in his church purposely went after racial, ethnic and cultural diversity. They wanted their church to be representative of the city they were living in and be a microcosm of the world in general. I liked that idea and it stuck with me. He talked about how they would purposely seek out leaders from different backgrounds to be front and center in their church. He said that if you want your church to be a certain way, you must make an effort to make it happen.

That became a dream of mine. I don’t want to go to a church that is homogeneous racially, ethnically or culturally. We need people from different backgrounds in order to understand each other and not be afraid of our differences. Each race, ethnicity and culture can add an element to our church that would otherwise be missing. I, too, want to go to a church that is a microcosm of the city and world I live in.

I looked around at my church, and thankfully, it more than represents the community we live in racially. We exceed the percentages for our city as far as ethnic diversity. Culturally, I’m not sure how we are doing. I haven’t met many people from different countries around the world. That is still a dream of mine, that God would bring them to our church.

We have many churches in our area that represent their native countries and speak their languages, i.e…Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Korean, etc. That is all well and good and I understand why people want to worship in a setting that they are familiar with and with people that speak their native languages. I’m just putting the word out, though. We need a few of them from each church to come to ours, so that we can get to know them and the gifts and insight they would bring to our body of believers.

So, if you’re new to the area, come on in. We don’t need people that look like we do or talk like we do. We need you, with your racial, ethnic and cultural differences. You will truly make our church representative of the world we live in and we will all be the better for it.

H+ TRANSHUMANISM

Several months ago, I realized I needed to learn more about the field of Artificial Intelligence and so I decided to do some research on the subject. I read Hugo De Garis’s book “The Artilect War – Cosmists vs. Terrans.” It was written for the general public and was a great place to start to learn the language and concepts being used in the AI field today. Because I read it, now when I read articles about AI written by Bill Gates or Elon Musk, I am now more able to readily assimilate the information and contextualize it.

Another area that overlaps part of the AI field is the field of Transhumanism. So, what exactly is Transhumanism? Transhumanism is the enhancement of the human body through technological, genetic, mechanical or synthetic means. It is a broad field with scientists and researchers moving forward to actualize their goals to move human beings past their biological limitations and create a “new and improved human.” This human will not be fully human, but will have enhancements in one form or another in their bodies, brains, or genetic makeup. It will literally be a Human 2.0.

If we have an artificial hip or shoulder, have we become a Transhuman? Technically, no. Anything we do to our bodies in order to bring them back to a normal functioning level is not Transhumanism. Although, while reading this book,  I did call my husband a Cyborg because he had an artificial hip. Needless to say, he was not amused! In other words, just replacing worn out body parts is not Transhumanism. A person is still a Human 1.0 who has had this kind of surgery.

Just as I needed a primer on AI, I needed a primer on Transhumanism to begin to understand the concepts and where the scientific research is taking us. I chose the book, “The Milieu,” by Dr. Thomas R. Horn for my initial introduction into the subject. 

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This book has nine other contributing authors who tackle the bioethical concerns relating to this subject. The authors give the reader the historical context of where the idea of Transhumanism originated and how the scientists got where they are today. They each take a different area of this vast subject and share their view of how this research will affect us in the future. When does a person move from being a human to being a Transhuman? If we allow animal DNA to be implanted in our bodies, have we ceased being human? Will an animal/human hybrid still have a soul? What are the societal implications of Transhumanism? These and many more questions are explored in the book.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this emerging field. Although many in our society are not discussing this subject, all of the leading nations of the earth are moving forward with their research in this area. The hope of producing a “super soldier” through genetic mutation, mechanical augmentation and brain implantation is no longer in the realm of science fiction. It is being played out in laboratories throughout the world every day of the week.

When I started this book, I was concerned that I wouldn’t understand it and that it would be too technical for me. Yes, I did have to look up several words in order to understand the initial concepts in the first few chapters, but after that it was pretty much smooth sailing. By the time I was about at page 80, I had moved from being concerned that I wouldn’t understand it to being concerned that I did understand it as I was becoming more aware of where the scientific research is taking us as a human race.

Transhumanism is quickly moving from the realm of science fiction to real science and I would hope we would all become educated about the biological, societal and spiritual implications that come with it. Better to begin to be aware of what is coming than wake up one day and have to try to form some sort of bioethical groundwork for how this will affect us societally. After all, most of us are still  Humans 1.0.

Lessons Learned From My Sons

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Any one who has had sons knows that some of the best lessons in life can be learned from them. The first lesson I learned from my sons was Joy. When they were toddlers they could find Joy in the smallest things, such as playing with the boxes at Christmas more than the toys that were in them. They didn’t need anything sophisticated to provide their Joy, they found it in their surroundings. They taught me to look for Joy in the ordinary circumstances of life.

The next lesson I learned from my sons was an appreciation of Beauty. They found Beauty in things I would have considered common place. When they would bring me a bouquet of dandelions, I would smile and thank them for the “pretty flowers.” They didn’t see weeds, they just saw the Beauty of nature. I learned to see Beauty where I hadn’t seen it before.

When they went to Pre-school and Kindergarten, I learned Tolerance. They did not see color, race or economic status in their fellow students. They just liked who they liked and wanted to play with whomever they met. They had not learned to discriminate against people relating to anything society would later want to put on them. I knew I needed to be more like them and just view people as people…period.

When they were in Elementary School, I learned Generosity. Both of my sons began to see the economic disparity in their classmates lives and were concerned for their them. One son went out for track. He had three pairs of tennis shoes and for the first few days gave the shoes he was wearing away to someone needing a better pair. By the third day he had to make a hard decision. If he gave away his last pair, he would not be able to go out for the sport himself. We all learned that unfortunately, there are limits to where our Generosity can take us.

In Junior High, they taught me to let them have their Independence. Each had to make their own decisions and suffer the consequences for those decisions. Our youngest son went along with all of the other boys in the class and refused to write in a journal like his English teacher assigned. He took a “D” rather than cooperate, and was grounded until he brought his grade up.  Our oldest was suspended for a few days when he turned on a kid who had been harassing him throughout the year. He was ready to deck the kid and the principal told him that if he would just leave the kid alone, he could stay in school and the other kid would be suspended. He said, “No, if you leave me in school today, I will hit him.” He did not hit the kid and took his suspension days having stood up to him. Each had to make his decisions Independently of his father and me. 

In High School, they taught me Consideration and Respect. During a heated discussion with my oldest, he said, “Mom, you always think you are right!” That struck a chord with me as I could be a force to contend with in a verbal argument. I needed to learn to Consider my son’s opinions and not always think that I knew what was best for him. The same lesson came to me also via the younger son. He was a bright child and I wanted him to go to college right after high school. He knew he wasn’t ready and had no desire to go to college then. When I finally quit fighting with him about it; he went about his own way, joined the Army and later worked in the construction industry. Eventually, he did go to college, but it was on his terms pursuing a career he was interested in. I needed to learn to show Consideration for their opinions and Respect my sons’ decisions and let go of my preconceived ideas about what was best for their lives.

My sons have taught me a lot and still continue to teach me in their adult years. They are both intelligent and have deep moral values. They are better able to discern the gray areas in life and because of them, I have learned not to be such a black and white person. I appreciate my sons and all of the lessons they have taught me, and I know I am a better person because of it.   

 

 

 

“Verba Volant, Scripta Manent”

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“SPOKEN WORDS FLY AWAY, WRITTEN WORDS REMAIN”

Most of us have heard this expression in a more modern version: “Spoken words are like the air, written words are forever there.” Either way, the expression gives us something to reflect on. Those of us who have the privilege of writing in the public arena should think about the effect our words will have on those reading them.

Whether we are writing to educate, inform, entertain or just express our opinion, our words will have an influence on others. Proverbs 18:21 says: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” I view the pen (or the keyboard) as an extension of our tongue. We are either bringing something negative (death) to our readers or we are bringing something positive (life) to those who read our words.

I consider this a heavy responsibility. Our followers live in many different countries and are of different ages. We have no idea what their living conditions are and what they are going through at the time they read the things we write. We need to be thoughtful about what we post on our blogs and on others’ blogs as well.

Have you ever Googled your name? If you do, you will be surprised to see your comments on the internet for everyone to see. When people read those comments they will get to know a little bit about you and who you are. Now, in the age of the internet, this expression is even more true…”our words are forever there.” Who knows who will be reading them in the future…prospective employers or possibly committee members who will be deciding on scholarships, grants, fellowships or that doctoral program you have been wanting to get accepted in to?

I have read several blog posts where the writers use profanity to make a point or just express their feelings. Although it may seem appropriate at the time, as writers we need to think about how we will feel in a few years when we go back and reread our posts. Are there any other words we could use that will get that same point across as well?

As someone who has lived several decades, there have been plenty of times when I have said things I regret. I’m glad they weren’t written down for all the world to read. At this point in my life, I don’t want to be writing things that I cannot take back and that will remain forever on the internet. How about you?

Politicians Make Poor Messiahs

I have noticed a trend in the last few Presidential elections. People seem to look at the leading candidate like he is some sort of messiah. No matter which side of the political spectrum your candidate is on, the man is the one who is going to fix all of the problems in the country. With his god-like status, he will be able to right all wrongs.

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Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

 The problem with this kind of thinking is that it just isn’t true. Our Presidents are human and can only do so much to alleviate the ills in the country. If they have a Congress who is willing to work with him, they may get something done. If not, the President is pretty much spinning his wheels during his time in office.

No matter who we elect, that person is human and a flawed individual. The media may or may not choose to prop the President up, but in the end their flaws and mistakes become known. There is no hiding the fact, that even if they do their best, they will still make some pretty big mistakes.

Have we so left behind our belief in a Supreme Being that we are willing to assign god-like status to a man? Do we really think that a mere mortal can save us from ourselves and provide some sort of utopia here on the earth? There is nothing wrong with needing a Messiah as long as we choose one who is not fully human. Take Jesus for instance, he is the ultimate God-Man. He was perfect, sinless  and came to give his life for the likes of you and me. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16  Jesus is the only one who can take care of all of our needs and make our lives better.

Let’s quit looking at mere mortal men as messiahs. In spite of their best efforts, they are ALL flawed individuals. And let’s be done with looking at our Presidents and Presidential candidates like they can solve all of the ills of the world. From my vantage point, Politicians make poor Messiahs. How about from your vantage point?