Monthly Archives: April 2015

Reflecting Light

Most people have a hobby they adore. It can something that ignites the intellect or stills the mind. Hours can seem like seconds when spent doing what one thoroughly enjoys. My son loves Legos and he’s been collecting them for years.  During periods of stress, I’ve found that if I pick up a small set, he can spend an entire day assembling one and playing with it. His mind focuses so intently on building a functioning piece that everything else recedes into the distance. He describes working on Legos as his ‘happy place.”  (I have to remind myself just how much he cherishes them each time I step on one barefoot ’cause that hurts in ways that polite words cannot describe!)

For my daughter, it’s drawing.  She spends hours closeted away in her room with Manga books, drawing models, body positions, facial expressions.  It is not a stretch to say that she has even doodled all over her bookcases and bed set. But it brings her joy and I find myself treasuring a peek at life through her perspective. I’m able to see how she feels about something without her having to use words, something she is fairly short of to begin with, and so I cherish each little scrap of paper she draws on.

bookfairydrawing

My “hobby” is jewelry and gemstones.  I’m fascinated by all of the different types of crystals, how they form under immense pressure, what trace elements give them their color, and where they are found geographically. I also love the history of gemstones and the methods for cutting them. Different types of cutting techniques are often associated with a specific era given the materials that were available to shape a gem. What was ‘ideal’ in the 1880’s is less than ‘ideal’ now because we can use computerized cutting to achieve more exacting dimensions. Gemstones have been sought after for thousands of years both as objects of beauty and even as medicine. Ancient Egyptians used certain stones as medicine and would place a stone under their tongue like we might a sublingual tablet to treat specific ailments. Gemstones are even specifically referenced in the Bible.

There is nothing I love more than visiting antique shops and estate jewelers even if I can’t buy anything. Every now and then I’ll trip across something absolutely incredible which I’ve only ever read about but never seen in person. I’m known to ask little old ladies in grocery stores about the rings they wear and I want to hear the story behind each piece if they are willing to share. Somehow, for me, there is something about a piece of jewelry that captures memory and history in an object which renders it more precious than the monetary value of it. I suppose in some ways, I feel a parallel between an object which is valuable because of where it came from and who gave it to me and humanity. We are more than the sum of our parts. We embody experience, history, memory, and value to those around us.

At any rate, perhaps the most important aspect of a gem from both a beauty and technical standpoint is how a gem captures and returns light to the viewer. Gems worth using for jewelry are typically intense in color and fairly free of internal characteristics that would cause them to look muddy. A well cut gem reflects light back up through the top of the gem so the viewer receives the maximum light refraction and sparkle. Here’s an example of what well cut versus poorly cut diamonds look like:

diamondcuttingchart

The diagram of the ideal cut diamond demonstrates that most of the light is returned through the top of the gem as I mentioned above. The poorly cut gem on the far right is not as beautiful to the viewer, because most of the light is lost through the side and back of the gem. There’s very little sparkle for the wearer to enjoy and it is far less valuable and beautiful.

Have you ever met someone who was just incredibly beautiful in their soul; the kind of person that you know has been to proverbial hell and back and still sees the beauty in life? The person who is so gentle and at peace that you would trust them to hold your hand in your darkest moment? I think in some ways we’re like gemstones. We’re each unique in our own way and we have inherent, intrinsic value. The question is: are we reflecting the light? Are we allowing God to cut us in such a way that His light is reflected outward to those around us? Do they see the beauty of His light in us? I hope that any brilliance I have is because of Him and that other’s feel His love and light in my life.

Problems with my site

Just a quick note, I am having problems with my titles. Please bear with me as I figure this out.
Cheers!

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Animal Research, Human Abortion, & The Problem of Pain

Animal Research, Human Abortion, & the Problem of Pain
Many years ago, I had the distinct privilege of working under Dr. Andrew Whipple as his research assistant. Our goal was to harvest primary rat hepatocytes and then develop a serum free in vitro culture medium that sustained the cells. The purpose of serum free culture medium is that serum is a blood product. It varies greatly depending on the source, what the blood contributor has eaten, their physiological stress (hormones affect everything). Thus, there is an entire set of variables that cannot be accounted for while using serum in in vitro culturing. The elimination of the need for serum based medium allows researchers a greater opportunity to qualify and quantify exactly what is working in that carefully controlled environment. Needless to say, as an assistant, one of my jobs was the care and feeding of rats. That was one FUN summer job! In case you’ve never kept, cared for, fed, and cleaned up after fifty rats, there is no real way to describe the smell or the fun factor in that job. Mike Rowe-Come on over!

At any rate, we were careful and responsible for ensuring the animals did not suffer, that they had enough food and water and that we kept them in clean environments. I might have only gotten paid $5/hour, but I like to think I did my job well. All my friends know that I HATE urine and feces (I’m a little like the character Monk if I’m honest with myself.) and I took great care of them. When it came time to harvest the hepatocytes (a fancy word for liver cells), the animal was anesthetized and I inserted a canalula into the hepatic portal vein (the main vein that feeds into the liver), perfused a substance that liberated the cells from the matrix of the liver, and then extracted the liver within its capsule. Each rat died under anesthesia and pain free. I did not take the life of a rat lightly! Nor did my professor. We treated them with care and respect during the entire process. We would have operated in a pain free, humane manner as a matter of course because these are God’s creatures. However, there are laws that guide this process in America, although there are some deficiencies in the way the law is applied. At this time, there are proposals to modify the law to improve some of the lapses that have occurred.

Here is an excerpt from the text of the Animal Welfare Act: “AWA stipulates that researchers “… avoid or minimize discomfort, distress, and pain to the animals,” procedures that cause pain and distress merely require that the “principal investigator has considered alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to the animals, and has provided a written narrative description of the methods and sources…used to determine that alternatives were not available.” While the AWA “requires researchers to provide anesthesia or pain-relieving medication [to regulated animals] to minimize the pain or distress caused by the experiment…,” they can withhold anesthetics, painkillers, and tranquilizers if deemed “scientifically necessary.” Please note that no such legislation exists for aborted children.

PETA versus People
I have friends (true friends!) who are anti animal testing. They deeply empathize with the pain and suffering of an animal and feel that it is immoral to take the life of an animal for our own purposes. While I appreciate their heart and concern, some of these same friends are completely pro abortion. How is it that we can protect, boycott, and trumpet from a perceived moral high ground about animal rights when we don’t even give the same care to an unborn child? From a logical standpoint, these two issues and logical arguments contradict one another. The Animal Welfare Act works to ensure that animals do not suffer in the process of research and/or death. Where is the same outrage for human children?

Proponents of abortion call it a health issue, and admittedly sometimes it is. I am for an abortion when the mother’s life is in danger. Although many of my Christian friends would disagree (respectfully I hope) with me on this matter, I am also for an abortion when a mother is pregnant with an anencephalic child. [The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) describes the presentation of this condition as follows: “A baby born with anencephaly is usually blind, deaf, unaware of its surroundings and unable to feel pain. Although some individuals with anencephaly may be born with a main brain stem, the lack of a functioning cerebrum permanently rules out the possibility of ever gaining awareness of their surroundings. Reflex actions such as breathing and responses to sound or touch may occur.”[4]]

However, the vast majority of abortions are the result of a decision about convenience. The argument is, “It’s MY body!” Actually, it isn’t your body. It is the body of your unborn child, and that is no small matter. The fact that someone else’s body is inside your body places a profound moral obligation upon each and every woman. It is even more imperative when we consider the indescribable pain these babies experience during abortion.

Planned Parenthood’s website describes in clinic abortions methods as: Aspiration and “Dilation & Evacuation.”(D&E) Aspiration is “a procedure that ends pregnancy by emptying the uterus with the gentle suction of a manual syringe or with machine-operated suction.” This procedure is used until up to four months of pregnancy. The Planned Parenthood website ‘could not find a definition for D&E. WebMd defines D&E as “Dilation and evacuation (D&E) is done in the second 12 weeks (second trimester) of pregnancy. It usually includes a combination of vacuum aspiration, dilation and curettage (D&C), and the use of surgical instruments (such as forceps). In both types of in-clinic, surgical abortion the baby is literally pulled apart from limb to limb without the benefit of any anesthesia. 2010 numbers from the Centers for Disease Control indicate there were 750,000 abortions! Where is the outrage and concern for all of these children who suffered a horrific, barbaric death?
(http://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion/in-clinic-abortion-procedures)
(http://www.webmd.com/women/dilation-and-evacuation-de-for-abortion)
(http://www.cdc.gov/Reproductivehealth/Data_Stats/index.htm)

I am certain that this will be deeply controversial on both sides of the political aisle. However, I believe that at the very least, we should propose and implement a law that provides for a pain free death for these little children who will never have a life and have no say in their own death. That should be our first push in legislation.

There is also a second area of dissonance. Many of the very people who are against animal testing are FOR using human embryonic tissue for medical testing. WHATTHEHECK? I am not going to lie. Human embryonic material is powerful stuff! It holds the opportunity to understand and cure diseases we’ve been fighting for years. What we really must ask ourselves is this: Do the ends justify the means? And, Is there another way? This is a rather strong statement, but consider this: much of the foundation for current medicine was developed during the holocaust; experiments performed on people that Hitler didn’t want. They were expendable. In that same way, we have objectified an entire population of people we don’t want, and we are using them to further our own medical interests. The whole “It’s for a good cause” just doesn’t wash here.

As a society, we need to examine our priorities and our logic. We must consider the contrast of how we applaud humane treatment of animals and then turn our backs on the suffering of unborn children. This is an issue that deadens our approach to life and leads to a life of selfishness with little or no regard for the suffering of others. Abortion is a weighty issue, and it deserves serious thought.

The Guys Have Gone To Vegas! (To the 27th Wives)

The guys have gone to Vegas, yes they have flown the coop;
And so it stands to reason, I’m ten feet deep in poop.
From noses to bottoms, I get to clean them all,
Including the potty that’s floating down the hall.

Now I like home improvement, but this one is a bummer,
Because I never planned on learning to become a plumber.
I went into the restroom to see that all was cool,
And make sure there weren’t any sharks ‘swimming in the pool.’

Something was amiss, there was no water in the bowl,
So I leaned in a bit closer and gave the knob a pull.
I lept back in revulsion as the toilet gave a rend,
And vomited back at me the contents hiding ’round the bend.

I plunged, and yelled, and plunged but it wasn’t any use.
Why is it that when hubby’s gone, life gives me this abuse?
Off I go to Wal-Mart to find myself a snake,
A tool from which ‘occlusions’ cannot hope to escape.

I’m knee deep in poop and it occurs to me,
That while I’m at this task I should charge a handsome fee!
The pay ain’t much and I demand a raise,
For everyone one of us who has had this kind of day.

So, let’s all have a laugh-this one is on me.
Here’s to the Air Force Wives and my victory!

Travel Light!

We are a camping family, or I should probably confess and say a ‘glamping’ family since we have an RV. Every time we have orders to move, I look forward to shedding the old house and moving into the tiny camper because we are all crammed in there together. I love that we can’t take much with us, so the typical explosion of clutter occurs on a much smaller scale. I love living like a turtle; we pull up the jacks and move to the next place, put the jacks down and voila! we are home. There isn’t any dragging bags into a hotel and back out again. My family isn’t sleeping in someone else’s bed a la The Three Bears. We don’t need to rely on restaurants for food or make complicated meals. Cable television is eclipsed by caveman television (or campfire); even better, you can use your caveman television to cook dinner. Life is so much simpler and lighter. When we are camping, I feel a kind of freedom that I can’t achieve in any other way.

Today I read an article in Taylor University’s Alumni Magazine. It’s entitled, “Peace Be Still,” and it addresses how a woman named Rhonda was able to forgive the person who sexually abused her. She has been able to reach out and live freely because the ball and chain of anger and unforgiveness aren’t holding her back anymore. In the article, a woman approaches her and says, “I can tell that you have been genuinely healed from sexual abuse, but I don’t know how.” Rhonda recounts how before she was able to forgive, she “had to control her environment. She was angry, always on edge.” Before she was able to forgive, Rhonda would have nightmares about her experiences that tormented her. Now, she lives in peace and freedom.

When Rhonda said she had been able to forgive, the other woman was taken aback. “It’s been years of anger that I’ve been able to stay safe-not forgiveness,” she explained. Anger was how she protected herself from additional harm. Rhonda then asked, “Do you have repetitive nightmares about the situation?” And the woman answered, “I don’t sleep.” To which Rhode asked a most thought-provoking and incredible question: “Tell me, what has your anger protected you from?”

Reading this article had a profound impact on me. It hurt my heart! I’m the angry one with lots of defenses built in. I feel a need to control my environment so that I don’t feel like a victim all over again. Although I never experienced sexual abuse, there was a lot of ugly and crazy that I survived as a child. I want to cry because I pray that God will help me forgive, but I still feel the pain. I’m slowly improving (at least according to my kind husband), but I really want instant results!

As I was mulling this, I was reminded that Jesus admonished his disciples to travel light. Mark 6:8 “Take nothing for the journey except a staff, no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.” There were probably several reasons for these instructions, but the importance was 1) traveling light allowed the disciples to move about unencumbered by things and 2) that God through His people would supply their needs.
I think Jesus’ instructions in traveling light, when considered in conjunction with the Fruits of the Spirit, can be applied emotionally. What emotions are light? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These allow a the heart and the soul to be free and unencumbered. More importantly, they allow the heart to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, and there is room to allow others in. A heart full of anger, bitterness, impatience, and hatred is a heart that has the weight of a stone. There is no freedom in that; only bondage.

I want my heart to be light! I want it to be able to journey without strings holding it back or heavy luggage weighing it down. It needs to have wheels or wings so that I can do my Father’s bidding. After all, we’re all just visitors here. We aren’t home yet.

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Truth and Tolerance

As a Christian, I mourn that our nation has increasingly become secular.  In fact, I think it is safe to say that the United States of America is no longer a Christian nation.  In an earlier post entitled ‘From Athens to America, A War of Attrition,’ I explore this idea specifically as it relates to Paul in Acts 17 when he addresses the Aeropagus.  While the Athenians had erected an altar to ‘the unknown god’ (just in case they missed one they didn’t know about), we Americans have essentially torn down our altar to the God we know, Jesus Christ, and are busy building altars to many other gods.

We have dispensed with God because we don’t think we need Him any more.  As a result, truth has become an individually applicable, personal concept that is not anchored in anything or anyone greater than humanity.  And since ‘truth’ changes from person to person, there is no one universal guideline for it that we embrace as a society.  We seem to believe that values and ideologies are created by humans and that there is no greater authority than man himself.  This has brought us to a point where the very freedom of religion which was the genesis for our country is now being challenged.

(First of all, let me begin by saying that I believe each person is made in God’s image.  Therefore, every individual deserves to be treated as though they are God’s child regardless of their politics, their sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic status, etc.  I also want to say that I have many friends whom I cherish from all walks of life.  I have gay friends who have been more Christlike and selfless in the way they love their neighbors than I have been.  They are people I could call in the middle of the night when life has hit the fan and I could rely on them.  Their example has taught me an awful lot about myself and who I want to be.  I’ve also been in situations where I’ve seen the church miss ‘love’ by a country mile and feel completely justified in condemning sin with which they are uncomfortable while embracing their own sin which is like a recliner: warm, inviting, and broken in.  I’ve also experienced ridicule for being a Christian by atheist professors in academic environments.  I suppose, as humans we are able to justify our behavior when it does not reflect our deeply held beliefs.)

When I was a child, I remember stopping in at gas stations and restaurants when my family was on a road trip.  We’d roll up in our gas guzzling buick, park poorly, and pour out of the vehicle in search of fresh air and food.  I remember often seeing a sticker on the door of each establishment that said, “We reserve the right to refuse anyone service.”  I couldn’t wander in barefoot for a Tab cola or sport a tube top into the gas station to buy Chicklets.  It seemed that businesses were granted the freedom to do business as they saw fit.

Thirty years later, we are now in a position where privately held business owners are being compelled by the government to violate their deeply held personal beliefs in order to accommodate the lifestyles of other people.  Christian bakers, pizza shop owners, and more are being forced to bake and serve for events like gay marriages which they believe violate their faith in Christ Jesus.  How did we get here? And, as Christians how do we respond?

I believe it is immoral and unconstitutional to ask someone to violate the tenants of their faith.  I believe it is even more immoral and unconstitutional to fine them and threaten their livelihood because they resist on religious grounds.  I find it fascinating that political figures who were perfectly okay dodging the draft by being ‘conscientious objectors’ will not permit people of faith to conscientiously object.  Frankly, I’d be very uncomfortable even asking someone to violate their faith for my convenience whether they be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or of another belief system.

That said, again, how do we respond?  I think we must each search our hearts, pray, and ask God how He would have us respond.  We must search the scriptures to know who God is and then ask Him for His guidance.  And then we must act in accordance with how we feel God is leading us.  There will come a time when the only person you and I answer to is God and so we must be certain that our attitude and actions do not dishonor Him in any way.

The other day, I came across this blog http://tenthousandplaces.org/2015/04/01/bake-for-them-two/ and I was fascinated by her argument.  The Bible says that they will know we are Christians by our love.  She had struck a beautiful tone of love in this posting.  Her discussion is both compelling and valid in some regards, particularly as it pertains to our attitudes.  It convicted me in many ways and I’d encourage you to consider it carefully.  Are we giving our cloak and are we carrying their sword?  These are questions we must honestly ask and answer even if it makes us uncomfortable.  Are we following Christ’s example?  How do we adhere to the truth while sharing grace?

As an aside, I think it’s important to note that the author states she does not believe homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle.  I do not believe that scripture bears out her opinion and I’d direct you to Romans 1:24-32.  

So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. 

God is the same yesterday today and forever.  He does not change; he is immutable.  Thus, His definition of sin has not changed either.  It’s important to point out that along with sexual sin, Paul includes, “Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy.”  Clearly, we can all find our own sin right next to sexual sin in these passages!  So we need to be careful with the truth that Christ has given us, and if we do not have mercy and we do not have love, we are failing miserably.

In closing, I want to quote my pastor Brady Boyd.  He once said, “We are not called to win an argument.  We are called to win souls for Christ.”  We cannot expect non Christians to believe and live as though they are, but that is one of the main mistakes we as Christians make.  Remember that Jesus meets us right when and where we are whether that’s in a bar, at a kegger, or in church.  Also remember that the ground at the foot of the cross is level.  Who are we to deny anyone else the love, grace, and mercy that He offers?