Google & The End Times

downloadThis morning, I attending a seminar about Google, specifically as a marketing tool for businesses. I have to admit, I think I may be traumatized.

As a marketing specialist, I was impressed by what Google can deliver in the ways of advertising for the business I work for. Google has created advertising that gives businesses a ton more bang for their buck than we’ve ever seen in advertising before. By using complex, individual-specific information gathered about each and every person using Google Search Engine, advertising is delivered to those who are most likely to purchase your product. Awesome, right?!

For the marketing me, yes.

For the me as a whole, though, no.

As a consumer, I feel completely violated. By using my internet searches and purchases, they have a disturbingly accurate picture of me. Despite being the kind of open person that I am, there is a difference in me choosing to write about the things in my life as opposed to some faceless mega-corporation choosing to take that information about me and sell it to various companies that want my business.

As a Christian, I feel completely horrified. With the end times steadily approaching, bringing with it the times of the mark of the beast, I can’t help but think I have just witnessed the last part of the technology that was needed for that nightmare to be ready to launch. With Google able to construct surprisingly detailed, accurate profiles of who each of the more than 4 billion users from around the world are, there simply will be almost no way to hide your beliefs. For those of us today, even if we wanted to hide what we believe in the future, it is too late. For me, that is a sobering thought.

It’s coming, people. God help us all.

~ Bird

 

Do Animals Go To Heaven When They Die?

Jake 2Saturday, I had to take our eleven year-old German shepherd, Jake, to the vet to be put down. Besides the usual ailments that come with aging, he had tumors growing on his stomach, and severe hip dysplasia. Rebekkah and I agonized over the right time to do this. His quality of life had been decreasing a lot lately, and his suffering had increased. It was time to end his suffering.

Obviously, the whole thing, from the decision it was time to say good-bye, all the way up to burying him, was very, very sad and I am flooded with grief, and questions about the souls of the animals we have loved so deeply. If the soul of the animal goes on existing, then my decision for Jake was only one of complete mercy and knowing he is happier gives me peace.

However, if these souls of our pets simply cease to exist at the moment of the death of their body, then it just seems cruel to have ever let them live and love us at all, laboring and suffering under the human’s curse, and coming into a shadowed sense of self-awareness that the wild animals never seem to attain, all without the offering of hope in our next life that He has offered all of mankind? The animals’ breath, like ours, was God’s breath. He gave us life in the same way.

Somehow, I find the idea of God ending anything or anyone abruptly, inconsistent with all that I know about Him and His nature of love. If all humans have eternal souls, the saved as well as the un-saved, then why would God not grant that same benefit to all who were given life from God’s own breath? No. Every molecule of this universe is a miracle unto itself, complex systems exist within other ones, a planet balanced perfectly in the cold, indifferent blackness of space…around us, we see a creation that testifies the existence of God in each leaf, blade of grass, drop of water.  The God who designed and created this earth is meticulously thorough, and spectacularly complex. He does nothing unbalanced, unjust, or without compassion.

God never does anything that isn’t perfect. I believe He has a perfect eternity for the animals too, whether it be in ours or in something specifically for their eternal happiness. Jake might want something different than just being my pet. I like to think Jesus is having some of the angels dress up like postmen so Jake can chase them around heaven.

In Problem With Pain, C. S. Lewis speculated on the eternal fate of animals, suggesting that at least tame animals might enter heaven through their relationship with humans. Because of the domestic animals having a sense of “self”, they fall beneath the sanctification we live under. C.S. Lewis was clear to state that he was not imparting divine knowledge;  he was simply guessing, based on what he knew about how God works.

Following Lewis’s example, I did the same thing. Jake’s very existence in my life has often brought me peace, safety, comfort, and pure happiness. I truly lost something valuable this week. I want to know if it is gone forever. So, I did a simple list about what the bible says about God and the animals  He created before He created the humans who messed everything all up.

What I know about God in relation to animals:

  • God created them, and He considered them to be good. Genesis 1:26
  • Our first job as human beings was to care for them. Genesis 1:26-27
  • He knows each and every one of them, down to even the simple sparrow. Matthew 10:29
  • In the story of Jonah, the people of Nineveh were spared destruction because God wanted to have mercy on their children and the animals. (see Jonah 4:11).
  • Noah’s ark was designed and built to save a tiny little human family, and a butt-load of animals.
  • There are most certainly horses in heaven. (Revelation 6:2–8; 19:11; 2 Kings 6:17).
  • God holds the lives of animals in His hands (Job 12:10).
  • He, Himself, feeds them (Psalms 104:21–30; Matthew 6:26).
  • They were created for His enjoyment (Revelation 4:11).
  • God never forgets about them (Matthew 10:29; Luke 12:6).
  • People who mistreat their pets are judged by Him as “cruel” (Proverbs 12:10).
  • Those who treat their pets kindly are called “righteous” (Proverbs 12:10).
  • He tells us that the beasts, the birds, the earth, and the fish of the sea all know by whose hand they were created by, and in His hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind. Job 12-7-10.

And the list went on and on and on. I simply couldn’t include all the many verses that showed how much the Lord cared for the animals.

Using all that I know about the Lord, His nature, and His word, and added with the tons of versus that shows He cares for them, I believe all animals, domestic or not, have a perfect plan He set in place for their existence as well. God designed this delicately balanced, amazingly complex planet, and placed it into the depths of an ever-expanding universe, knowing full well we would never be able to explore most of it, but would spend generations trying to grasp just the very idea of what our universe might have hidden for us to explore.

He designed the oceans and the amazing mysteries we still have yet to uncover about it. Who knows how many breeds of animals and fish have lived and died without even one human laying eyes on it?  Why did He create them, if not for us? I believe He created all of this for His own good pleasure.

He has never showed Himself to be anything but spectacularly thorough about every single part of this incredible creation we call earth, right up and including, our own salvation plan. For Him to not have set something equally perfect up for the souls of the animals seems like it would be an oversight, and He simply does not do anything that isn’t absolutely perfect in every way.

Jake is in a perfect place God designed for him. Anything less would be so unlike our Creator.

– Bird

 

How’s Your Fruit Hanging These Days?

fruit-of-the-spirit-sampleI had some problems crop up this week that really challenged my desire to walk an authentic Christian life. I don’t want to be a Sunday Christian… I am always a Christian. Just, sometimes, I’m also a pathetically weak one.

Normally, when I am faced with problems that aren’t specifically coming from a person, I find it easy to trust the Lord and remain calm and optimistic. But when another person seems to intentionally cause me undue stress or hardships, that is so much harder for me to deal with. In situations like these, there is an actual perceived enemy to attack, and my natural inclination is to always annihilate anything or anyone I take as a threat. What can I say? I’m a warrior.

Since the parting of ways with my ex-husband, it is no secret that I have been struggling financially. Everything these days is expensive, but jobs are paying less than they once did. I feel strongly about Rebekkah earning her degree, and so barring anything miraculous, I am probably going to have this problem for another three years at least.

I’ve learned to trust the Lord with my very physical existence, be it food, water, shelter, and even clothes, and that of my daughter’s and the animal’s. Hey, we haven’t starved yet! But with large, unforeseen expenses, the stress is doubled because I rarely get large chunks of money at one time, and almost every dime we bring into the house goes to utilities, rent, or food. There simply is no extra to save for a rainy day. This rainy day was the fuel pump going out on my truck.

Without going into a lot of detail, I paid someone a considerable amount of money to fix this problem, and they didn’t, or 562621b2a11da903a2eb77d0cefe8084couldn’t, as it were. Plus, they don’t feel they should have to give me any of it back because they at least tried to fix it. For two weeks, I had been told that it would be back to me the next day. And then each day, I would be told something had come up and it would be the next day again. Finally, I told them to just tow it to a mechanic in town, and for days again, I kept getting promises to do just that, only to have excuses why it wasn’t done, over and over again.

Now, if I want them to bring it back, they want another $50 for gas and the use of their trailer. What a freaking nightmare.The worse part is, I work with one of these people, and she got me in some trouble with my boss with what I feel was a very misleading story designed to cover her getting trouble at work. She used something I consider to be part of my personal life as an excuse for being late to work. It would be understandable if that were true, but it simply was not. Text messages and times of phone calls easily disproved I had anything to do with her tardiness. And her lie painted both Rebekkah and I as the trashiest kinds of people. We were both greatly offended.

By the time I was able to piece together what she had said and why, I was beyond furious at her, and the people who believed her, and my manager for not even asking what my take on this lie was. Now, the problem was addressed, the truth was discovered, and all is fine now at work. But let me tell you, it was not pleasant, and I found myself distancing myself from people who had acted in a typical, flawed-but-human way.

Now, this is absolutely not a tattle-tale post. I don’t know where these people are spiritually, and I do know they struggle with their own financial difficulties, just like Rebekkah and I do. This post is about me, and about how I am going to react.

impossibleI can’t even begin to describe how often I run into people who claim to be Christians, and yet act in no different manners than people who aren’t saved act. I’ve seen people pray over meetings, sitting next to women they were cheating on their wives with. I’ve seen Christians do evil on every spectrum, and sadly, I include myself in this. The flesh is always in constant struggle with God, and always will be until we are freed from it’s deathly taint.

I know it comes as no surprise that I have a temper. I had much better control of it when Chef and I were together, but for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I have a shorter fuse than before. Maybe it is because life just seems so much heavier now that all the responsibility of it lies solely on my shoulders. Whatever the reason, 90% of my failings these days can be laid squarely at the feet of me losing my cool.

Up until this week, I couldn’t complain about my job or most of the people I worked with. But when all of this happened, I felt betrayed again, though on a much smaller scale than when Chef had done it. I wanted to use my sharp mouth to attack any perceived accuser. Fortunately, I didn’t. I can’t say I was sweating blood in the struggle to maintain, but it was close.

Throughout that whole miserable day, though, the Lord kept reminding me of Galatians 5, and how people who have Him working through them will show good fruit to any one watching. Here’s the verse.

 16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17For the flesh sets its desire426532263_640-640x360 against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

      25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:16-26

I don’t want to be the kind of person who talks a good talk, then blows my witness spectacularly having a temper tantrum. I don’t want to cause division and derision between people. I don’t want to be a big, fat hypocrite. I want every minute of my life to showcase God’s mercy, and His kindness, and His grace. I want this with every fiber of my being, even though I will often fail despite my desire.

downloadMy lesson from all of this is this: the real tribulation we should all prepare for are the tribulations we face daily in our lives as we interact with others who are also hopelessly bound to their flesh, same as us. It is infinitely easier to believe that we will choose death over receiving the mark of the beast in some hazy future scenario than it is to forgive the little, short-term injustices we experience at the hands of others all the time. If you want to be trusted with the big things, you first have to prove you can be successful with the smaller ones.

I almost never get through a time of testing without some failure on my part to confess, but this time, I think I have to thank the Lord for being so present in all of this, and for showing me what all of this was about without also having to go behind me and clean up yet another mess I’d made with my big mouth. Thanks, Lord!

As the saying goes, if you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backwards. As time goes by, all truly saved Christians are expected to show the fruit of having the Holy Spirit teaching them. These should be love for other people, joy in not only your triumphs, but joy in the good things that happen to other people. You should be finding peace in situations that once were so hard for you to deal with. You should be getting more patient, kind, and good. You should struggle more against sin, and your faith shouldn’t be flickering. Your actions towards others should be becoming gentler, and you most definitely should be gaining some control over your own actions. 

I’ve got a long, long way to go before I can honestly say I’ve gotten the victory over my flesh. But after this whole experience, I can say that I’m humbled that the Lord continues to work in me, and on me, and through me. You honor me, Lord, with your love and your mercy. :-)

~ Bird

 

The Man With A Plan

moneyThis is a story my dad told me last week, and it made me laugh. Especially since it is a true story.

Back when my dad was a young man, he worked at an agricultural supply store in Austin, Texas. 

One day, a well-dressed middle-aged man came into the store. In a somewhat arrogant manner, he asked my dad to fetch the owner of the establishment. Dad did so immediately. The owner quickly emerged from his office in the back and hurried to see what this was all about. 

As he walked up, the man introduced himself, and they shook hands. Then, they got straight down to business. In an authoritative tone, he told the owner that he was going into business for himself, and was going to need a lot of supplies…. I mean, a lot! .. and he preferred to deal only with the owner for such a large purchase. The owner assured the customer he would handle the entire sale personally, shooing away his young, hovering employees and grabbing a notepad.

He’d handle this sale himself. 

The man then began to outline his business plan. The owner, sensing this could potentially be his biggest sale ever, walked about the store, listening to the entrepreneur’s plans for his new business and the specific things he would need to purchase to get it started. For a couple of hours, he attentively took careful notes and made suggestions about this product versus that. Between the two of them, they came up with quite an impressive list of things that the man was going to buy for this new business. 

Now, the man was keen on getting everything he needed from one place, but some of the supplies were things that the owner normally did not carry. However, he assured the visionary, he would be happy to order them. Once everything on the list was there, the purchase would take place….If the price was reasonable. The owner, almost gushing with appreciation for having been chosen by this visionary, promised him he would be able to beat the price of anyone else in town. 

Without missing a beat, the owner offered to put together a proposal outlining the costs. Back then, computers were a thing of science fiction novels, so any research would have to be done with catalogs, rotary-dialed phone calls, the yellow pages, good old-fashioned haggling, and of course, the trusty calculator. The owner knew this was going to be a lot of work, but for a sale like this, it would be worth it. 

Armed with his list, the owner promised the entrepreneur he would research the costs, and have a reasonably priced proposal for him by the following Monday. Excited, the owner got right to work the minute the entrepreneur left the store.

He outlined his store’s costs, and then called different suppliers about the costs of supplies he didn’t carry, along with delivery options and those costs. He haggled, strong-armed, or begged different vendors he had always used, wheeling and dealing for the best prices he could get. He called in favors, and promised his own.

Finally he wrapped up the entire exercise by meticulously typing a professional, detailed proposal for the wealthy entrepreneur with two fingers on a manual typewriter. By the time he’d done, his wife was threatening to divorce him, his kids had run away from home, and his dog had taken to hiding under the house when he was at home. But it was done, and it was perfect.

That next Monday, the entrepreneur returned to see the store owner’s proposal. Barely able to breathe with nervousness, the owner handed him the product of so many hours of phone calls, calculations, and two-fingered typing on a manual typewriter. His hands were shaking as he handed it over. 

Dignified and somber, the entrepreneur accepted the proposal. For what seemed an enternity, he said nothing, only flipping through neatly typed pages of detailed information. His face gave away nothing. 

“Looks good,” he said, finally looking up at the hopeful owner.”I believe we have a deal, sir.”

The owner was barely able to contain his excitement as they shook hands. He wanted to dance around like an idiot! This was a huge, huge sale and completely worth all that work! With this kind of money, he could easily bribe his family into loving him again!

“Now,” said the entreprenuer, serious-faced, his tone one of a man getting down to business.

“I will have to pay you in shetland ponies. So, how many shetland ponies do you think all this will cost?”

Turns out, the guy had escaped the mental institution up the road. 

~ Bird

PS: Dad. I LOVE THIS ONE!! Makes me laugh every single time I hear it!

The Problem With Assumptions

braying-donkeyHave you ever heard the statement, “If you assume, you make an ass out of u and me!”?

Guess who is kind of an ass today.

I’ve had some really big changes happen in my life over the course of the last few years, but maybe one of the most unexpected has been suddenly having a relationship with my brother Michael. After decades of silence, suddenly we are talking again, and I have to admit, it is both exhilarating as well as terrifying.

Trust was a casualty in his and my life long before we ever even stepped into kindergarten. In fact, in all five siblings, there is a deep current of distrust between all of us. I can’t put my finger on the exact moment we all decided we couldn’t trust each other, but nonetheless, it is there. I’ve racked my brain to find the exact situations that made me decide I couldn’t trust each one of them, and the truth is, most healthy families have tolerated a million worse things from each other than anything any of my brothers and sisters have ever said or done to me. That makes me think that the atmosphere of the home had more to do with all of this than anything any of us have ever done to each other.

In the few weeks that Mike and I have been communicating again, we have had to address this underlying current of pure dadmikecathiedistrust a few times. He and I each have our own storage bin of wounds we feel the other one caused, and though I believe we both had long ago forgiven each other for those perceived wrongs, they were still there in our hearts, filed away and ready to be used to erect a wall for us to protect ourselves. I was presented with an opportunity this morning to pull out those reliable bricks of security and start erecting the wall. Instead, though, I chose to just be vulnerable to Michael instead, in the hopes that we can finally put to rest this ridiculous exercise once and for all.

Please do not misunderstand me…. I am just as quick to believe the worst about my brothers and sisters’ motives as any of they are about mine. It is just absolutely insane!

What is the point of trying to have a relationship with a person if you are just going to end up wrecking each other all over again? I do not want to repeat the mistakes of my youth and ignorance. I want to love my brother; I want to see his kids graduate; I want to make Thanksgiving dinners, and see my Dad beam in pride with every step of success my brother achieves. I want to pick up the phone to discuss Dad’s health or plan a vacation to each other’s houses. I want all of these things, but I am afraid of them too. I, like Michael and the others, do not know what any of this should look or feel like. I’ve never had it either. But I want to try. I have a feeling it would be nourishing, stabilizing, and fulfilling. I also feel like it is going to be a lot of work, learning to interact with Michael as another person I care about, and not like some insane member of an age-old blood feud that even I myself only partially understand.

I want the past and all of its mistakes in a grave, never to show their faces in my life again. I want something better for all five of us. And if I want that, then it my job to change my cowardly reactions to being vulnerable first, and stop worrying about how any of the other siblings might have dubious agendas when it comes to me. The fact that these shadowing fears of mine never actually manifest themselves in reality but only hide in the long silences between us is enough for me to accept, they probably don’t really exist at all. No one is out to get me; and I am not out to get them either.

brothers and sistersToday, Michael read my post about Dad, and it hurt him. There was a whole side of the story that I did not know then, and from his perception, it was blatantly unfair. In my defense, though, I had to tell Michael that part of that post I wrote out of sheer anger because of Dad’s pain, but also because I was beyond furious that Mike refused to even let me disagree with him in public. I was basically trying to initiate some sort of response from him that would prove he cared at all about any of his family, even if it was only to be pissed at us. Or, put simply, I was picking a cyber-fight with him.

Of course, when I wrote it, and he never even once responded to any of it, I added another little bleeding brick to my arsenal. In the end, it really never even once occurred to me that he hadn’t seen it, and thus, the lack of reaction. Instead, I assumed he just cared so little, he wasn’t going to be bothered with answering it.

When Mike and I started talking again a few weeks ago, I figured he was letting sleeping dogs lie by never mentioning it. I thought we were starting fresh, so I didn’t mention it either. Today, I got the reaction I was hoping for back in June, only this time, it sucked.

The truth tends to be pretty black and white in my mind, which is why I am always careful to remind readers that I write from my own vantage point only. That goes double if I write when I’m pissed off. I can’t even count how many times I’ve written something in the flames of a rage only to have to come back later and apologize or clarify. I’m passionate and impulsive….rarely, a good combination.

When I wrote that piece, I did so assuming I knew what Mike was thinking. As usual, I had interpreted Michael’s silence in the for fire-blushworst possible light, and assigned to him motives that were not really what was actually going on. For instance, even though I knew for a fact Dad had tried to reach out to him over the years, I have no actual proof that Mike had actually known about any of these attempts. None of them were directly sent to him, only to others around him. Also, what was interpreted as a snarky comment about our father, was, in Michael’s perception, a commentary statement aimed at our stepfather, who in my book, deserved it and more. Sadly, that thought had never occurred to me either. The truth is, there is actually an obituary on the internet for a man with our father’s same name, and we do not have a common last name. Another truth is, just as I have been growing and changing all these years, so has Michael. About the only things about us that have remained the same are the old childhood wounds and our traditional reactions to them. By assuming I knew who he was all these decades later because of the limited knowledge I once had about him when we were kids, I ended up completely wrong about a lot of things.

So, Michael, I hope you will accept my humble apology for attacking you on the internet, and for always assuming the worst about you, instead of the best. I have to unlearn some pretty crappy things I picked up long ago, but I promise you, I will no longer assume I know something to be a fact without even stopping once to think I might be wrong. Instead, I promise to go to you first and find out what is really going on. You know, basically the same amount of respect I’d offer anyone else in my life.

I’m sorry.

~ Your Sister, Cathie

You Are What You Read

Facebook is always good for a little distracting fun. My best friend, Audra (My Best Friend Cheats At Board GamesStonking Best Friend) posted this:

books

And since I’ve read a zillion books, I thought it would be fun and maybe even a little self-illuminating. I gave myself only 5 minutes to come up with the books, and here’s what I came up with:

The Eye of the World Series by Robert Jordan

The Light & the Glory Peter Marshall, David Manuel

Fox’s Book of Martyrs by John Fox

Touch the Wind by Janet Dailey

Bible by God

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

The Golden Key by Melanie RawnJennifer RobersonKate Elliott  

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Empire Trilogy by Raymond Feist, Janny Wurts

Rainbow Garden by Patricia St. John

 One thing I noticed right off the bat is that I read 7 of these books as a kid, and 3 of them in my early twenties, except for the last of the Eye of the World series which took 20 years for the author to complete. Cool, right?

touch the windFor instance, Touch the Wind was the first graphic romance novel I ever read. I was about 13 and we were staying with my mother’s sister, my Aunt Pamela. Both Mom and Pamela were avid romance readers, and you could find those books everywhere in the house. I had been allowed to read Grace Livingston Hill (Christian romance writer) and a few mild Harlequin’s (boring!), but those thick books were off limits. I snagged Touch the Wind, and proceeded to spend the next 6 hours hiding in the bathroom and outside in the shed with a flashlight reading about Rafaga and Sheila, the honorable kidnapper/thief and the poor little rich girl. Let’s face it. It was hot. 

Decades later, I bought that book again and read it as an adult. Wow. What was I thinking? I laugh my butt off at how not politically correct it is to fall in love with your kidnapper, who raped you and convinced you he did it to protect you from other rapists. That is, after he gunned down your abuse new husband while he and his gang were robbing you. For obvious reasons, reading it again kind of took the shine out of the memory for me. Yikes.

Each of the books on my list has some other memory linked to them for me, and it was fun to recall some of that stuff.

I thought it might get some of you thinking like it did me.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend! 

~ Bird

The Dilemma of the Half-Eaten Donut on the Ground by my Truck

DUNTUMaybe it’s the delirium of a three day weekend looming large in my future, but I noticed half of a donut on the ground by where I parked my truck this morning when I got to work. It looked somewhat fresh, chocolate with white frosting, and I really didn’t pay it much mind on my way to the door. Kinda gross throwing your food where people walk, but I’ve seen worse.

At lunch, it was still there, looking equally as fresh as four hours earlier. Immediately, I noticed the suspicious absence of ants, or other bugs, and began to wonder why the 48 strays in the area hadn’t snapped up that sugary treat when they were making their rounds.

Now I wonder if it is really a donut at all.

I’m afraid to get a closer look and yet afraid I’ll step on it if I don’t.

What fresh hell is this??

~ Birddonut