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Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Alexa, Siri, Echo, etc.

Over the past few years, we have welcomed some new names into our home: Cortana, Alexa, Siri, and Echo. My grandchildren tell me I can change their name, if I want to, to something like Ziggy. Regardless, the computers want to talk to me.  They want to recognize my voice. They want to know where I am at all times, to track my browsing and shopping history on the web, maybe elsewhere. The computers even want my finger print, and they are asking for my mug shot. Sometimes they start talking to me when their name is mentioned on TV.

 It reminds me of Hal in “2001 A Space Odyssey.”  What are they up to? I remember when George Orwell’s 1984 was science fiction.  Now it is ancient history.  Big brother is here, and has been here for a while. I am not sure I want to be known that well. Where does all this information go? 

 Jesus to told us that the very hairs of my head are numbered.  This once seemed hard to believe. How could God possibly know such intimate information about every individual on the face of the earth? How many people are there?  Eight billion?

 Eight billion once seemed like an astronomical number.  But then, our understanding of numbers changed.  The first time I heard of a “giga” anything was in Back To The Future, the 1985 movie in which Doc and Marty leaped through time with a few gigawatts supplied to their DeLorean. But, we blew right by gigabytes into terabytes and petabytes.  We aren’t familiar with exa, zetta and yotta yet.  But they are out there.

 A few billion is nothing in our information age. If such information capacity is possible for men with the aid of PCs and laptops, how much more is it possible with God?

 The Bible says I have always been known.  God said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” (Jeremiah 1:5).   God knew me before I was conceived. God knew you before you came into existence.

 God always knows where I am, what I am doing, what I am thinking.  “You know [when I sit down and [when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down,and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.” (Psalm 139:2-3). 

 Here is a great mystery.  God doesn’t just know about me, like some cosmic computer, He knows me. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12). 

 And here is an even greater mystery:  not only does God know me better than I know myself.  He loves me.  This is a cosmic leap.  “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3).   “God demonstrated His love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

 Technology, economics and politics cannot deliver us.  God alone is our deliverance and our hope.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Right Stuff

 Sixty years ago on February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. I was in 9th grade. Our science teacher slipped us out a side door and led us to his house a few blocks away where we crowded around his black and white television to watch the launch. The tiny speakers strained to recreate the thunder of the Mercury Atlas 6 rocket when it ignited on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. A shaky camera traced the flame that streaked through the sky hurtling John Glenn toward space. The rocket was little more than a beefed up Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, its warhead replaced by a space capsule. Within four hours, Glenn made three orbits of the earth, and then prepared for re-entry. An entire nation held its breath as Walter Cronkite described the potentially loose heat shield and the likelihood that Friendship 7 would burn up like a meteor.

 Years later I visited the Smithsonian and viewed the space capsule in which Glenn made his historic flight. The capsule is about the size of a 1960’s Volkswagen Beetle. It was far less sophisticated than a Prius or a Ford Focus. Personal computers would not become available for another twenty years. Because of their discipline and courage, John Glenn and the other astronauts who blazed the first trails into space came to be known as men with “the right stuff.”

 Few of us will ever experience a heroic moment like John Glenn experienced February 20, 1962. But each of us can be men and women with “the right stuff.”  Every day we are called upon to live with courage, discipline, and faith.  Some face huge challenges.

 Today, when I think of people with the “right stuff,” I think of Patrick Kalenzi, the veterinarian who recently helped us care for our dog, Buddy, in his final days. Patrick was born into abject poverty in Uganda, the sone of a Tutsi family that had escaped genocide in Rwanda. With an indefatigable faith he overcame insurmountable obstacles and obtained an education. He immigrated to the US and rescued his family in Uganda from poverty. He captured his extraordinary story in his book, Tears Run Dry.

 James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2-3).  Peter wrote, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

 Perhaps the sixtieth anniversary of John Glenn’s courageous journey into space will remind us that we all can face life with courage and faith. Each of us can live with the “right stuff.”

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Winter Games

 Skiers fly through the wind like birds landing lightly on the snow, lugers plunge down the chute at 90 mph in a death-defying dive, skaters slice through the ice and downhill skiers carve moguls on the mountain. The Beijing Olympics stir memories: the magnificence of the mountains, the silence of the snow, the rush of the wind.

 In the classic words from Wide World of Sports, it is “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”  When Eileen Gu won the gold in women’s big air competition, she rushed to console Tess Ledeaux, who finished in second place.

 In 1988 Eddie the Eagle entered the ski jump competition as the sole competitor from Great Britain.  Near sighted and overweight for a skier, Eddie finished last, but set a UK record,  He inspired the world with his heart for competition against all odds.

 In the Vancouver Olympics twelve years ago it was the tragic story of Nodar Kumaritashvili’s fatal crash on the luge the day before opening ceremonies or Lindsey Vonn’s struggle to overcome a bruised leg and win gold in the downhill.

 The Winter games remind us of Dan Jansen skating for gold moments after his sister died only to crash into the wall on the final turn.  Who can forget the image of Jansen sitting forlorn on the ice? Four years later he returned to capture the top medal and carried his two-year-old son on a victory lap in memory of his sister.

 Two thousand years ago the Apostle Paul used Olympic metaphors to help us understand faith.   He wrote, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

 The race is different for each of us.  Our challenges are unique.  But we all have a race to run, a challenge to face.  No one has the luxury of sitting on the sidelines as a spectator. Faith requires discipline, determination, perseverance and sacrifice.  The good news is that we don’t have to face our challenges alone.  We have One who has run the race and shown us the way.  We have One who enters the race alongside us, pacing us and spurring us on to the finish. 

 The author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Saying Goodbye to Buddy

 Some of you have been following my reflections about our dog, Buddy, for the last 13 years.  We adopted Buddy one year before I started writing these weekly columns in 2009.  Thirteen years is a long time to write a column every week.  It is a much longer time in a dog’s life.  Buddy was a young dog when he found us, full of energy and full of confidence.  He thought he could leap any barrier and outrun any rabbit.  Of course, he could do neither.  But that is one of the things that makes Corgis so loveable. They do not know their limits, and don’t care. They will try the impossible.

 Over the years Buddy has taught me many things.  He has taught me patience by being patient, perseverance by never giving up. He taught me the value of friendship and trust by his desire to be with me on walks or ride in my truck, going wherever I go without question or complaint. He has taught me to greet every day with joy and every moment without regret. And he has taught me much more. I have tried to capture some of it in my writing.  Along the way. I wrote Buddy’s story in a children’s book, Buddy the Floppy Ear Corgi.  (Available free as an eBook Feb 1-5 on Amazon).

 We knew he was aging. Our vet said he is in his mid-nineties, in human terms.  Our 2-mile walks became a thing of the past.  He slept a lot.  He fell down the stairs, twice, so, we stopped doing stairs. He could no longer leap into my truck as he did in days gone by.  He suffered from Degenerative Myelopathy, a genetic disease similar to ALS in humans and common to Pembrok Corgis.  He struggled to his feet and did the best he could. We tried to keep him comfortable and continued to love him as he loved us.  Last week we laid Buddy down, gently and tenderly, with tears.

 In the end, Buddy was teaching me another lesson, how to face my own mortality and that of those I love.  As he declined Buddy would join me outside for my early morning devotions, even when the windchill dipped to -4.  I focused on Psalm 90, a Psalm attributed to Moses:

 “We have finished our years with a sigh. As for the days of our life, they contain 70 years, or if due to strength 80 years. … So teach us to number our days , that we may present to thee a heart of wisdom. … O satisfy us in the morning with thy lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. … Let thy work appear to thy servants and thy majesty to their children, and let the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us. And do confirm for us the work of our hands  Yes, confirm the work of our hands.”

 Like every living thing, we shall all die.  Like the grass of the fields and the animals of the forest, our bodies will return to dust. But we are unique among all creation.  God breathed into man the breath of life and man became a living soul.  Jesus promised, “I give them eternal life and they will never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them out of my hand.  My Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one  is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29).

 A year ago, I wrote a column about animals in heaven.  It makes sense that God, who created all life of every kind and declared it good, would also include animal life in heaven. It also makes sense that He who takes note of a sparrow that falls in the forest would take note when a pet dies that has given fellowship and friendship to mankind.

 We aren’t given much detail about Heaven, other than the fact that we will be in His presence along with all who love Him, that nothing that is essential to our happiness and joy will be lacking.