I love Thanksgiving.  Aging has its perks and one is a blossoming realization I’m blessed with blessings I have no “right” to.  Traveling abroad has also helped destroy any sense of being entitled to this or that.  Clean air, clean water, safe neighborhood, shoes–comfortable ones at that, lots of food, safe transportation, and living in a representative democracy all sing for me.
And then there’s Betty.  It’s a special Thanksgiving when our wedding anniversary falls on it like it did this year.  38 years under the love, mercy and forbearance of a woman my friends like to remind me I don’t deserve.  They’re right.
We met in high school when we were fifteen.  In my junior year she was one of two new girls in our class, ones I casually told my mother “were prospects”.  I don’t remember who the other one was.  The only class we had together was a lecture where she sat in the back by herself.  Which was necessary because there wasn’t room to her left and right when she smiled.  

l zeroed in on her at a social event our Christian high school held early in the school year to help new students get acquainted.  We played a musical chairs style hand-holding game called “Walk-a-Mile”.  Guys cheated so they could hold hands with the girl of their choice.  Once or twice I ended up next to Betty but holding her hand left me speechless.

Several weeks later when some of us went to Virginia to help residents who were victims of Hurricane Camille, I asked her to sit with me on the van ride.  I wish I could say it was all good from there.  A month later I got my driver’s license and we began dating.  I thought we were having a good time but about 4 months later she broke up with me.  She had been trying to for some time but every night she planned to dump me I’d give her a gift.  Even the night she showed me the door I’d given her an early Valentine’s Day gift. 

Within days she was dating the school jock.  What did he have that I didn’t?  He was tall, good looking, and a talented athlete.  Hey, I had…, I had…, well, I was a pretty good ping pong player.  Plus, I had a job!

Over the next few months I had several dates but no one made much of an impression on me.  My sister asked me if I thought Betty and I would get back together.  I shrugged, “But I know that the way I feel around her, I’ve never felt with any other girl.” 

6 months later I found out Betty and Mr. ESPN were history and within a month we were back together.  Unfortunately the remaining dating years were rocky: I broke up 3 times–the last time 3 months before our wedding day.  Part of it was that we were so young, and I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing.

In hindsight, I didn’t.  The note that accompanied the flowers I gave Betty last week said, “For being what I never knew I needed.”  We were only out of high school a year and a half when we married; she was 18, I was 19.  And I didn’t know what kind of woman I wanted or needed.  Who can at that age?  But over the years I have discovered that God could not have found a more perfect woman.  I mean for me; someone who complements/completes me and I complete her.

Like every married couple, we have room to grow.  Last weekend we celebrated our anniversary by attending FamilyLife’s “Weekend to Remember” in King of Prussia.  (I can’t recommend that weekend enough; good biblical counsel that will gently but firmly call you to pay attention to your marriage; here’s the link http://www.familylife.com/site/c.dnJHKLNnFoG/b.5846045/k.8C0A/Weekend_to_Remember__Marriage_Getaway.htm?fromeventhp=WTRimage.)  We had some great talks–some were painful, but all valuable in making this wonderful thing called marriage, even richer.  Surely–apart from Jesus, this is God’s finest gift!

God and evil, or God over evil?

How big is your God?  How powerful is He?  Is your God biblical?  Is he sovereign or is He subject?  (Those are really the only two options.)  The Bible says He’s sovereign even over evil.  You’ve got to read John Piper’s provocative but glorious sermon on “Is God any less glorious because he ordained that evil be?”.  It was my guide through some deep waters in the wake of 9/11.  


voting, American style

The turnout on election day for midterm voting was unusually large–which appears to have favored Republican candidates.  Since then we’ve all been talking about what happened–whether we’re happy about it or disappointed, what should have been done or shouldn’t, and what it means for the next 2 or 4 years.  But in the midst of your political analysis, have you thought about something that’s remarkable?  

When Betty and I walked in the door of the township building to cast our votes, dead ahead was an armed constable listening to a conversation between a “watcher” and a voter.  His presence was the only hint anyone could have had that there might be anything other than a peaceful transition of power.

On Sunday citizens of the West African nation of Guinea got to vote for a president for the first time ever.  Former prime minister Diallo ran against opposition leader Alpha Conde but they’re still trying to sort out who won.  Pre-election violence left 3 dead and it appears that both sides engaged in strong arm tactics to force opponent’s supporters from their homes.  Charges say as many as 20,000 voters were urged to flee or they would be killed.  The effect was to put them far from their polling places on election day so they couldn’t vote.

Voting history in the USA is hardly pristine.  Despite the lofty language of our Declaration of Independence, there has always been a back seat and a front seat.  Women and African-Americans had to fight to get their supposed “equal” right to vote; nor did it come easy for native Americans or Asian Pacific Americans.  But now we enjoy an election climate where the average American doesn’t expect opposition at the voting booth.  

Since my day off each week is Tuesday, election days are always laid back for me and I squeeze voting in among the other items on my to-do list.  It can fit it in before or after any errand or task, because I don’t have to plan to take a gun for defense, and I don’t have to avoid certain times that might be dangerous.  Both the voting and the subsequent transition of power–such as a shift in who controls congress, is pretty uneventful.  My fellow Americans, we have much to thank God for!

climate change apocalypse

It was 1968 and everybody was scared anyway.  Sons and brothers were dying in rice paddies in an unpopular war, kids were hopped up on weed, LSD and heroin, cities were ablaze, national guard troops were sweeping across university campuses with rifles leveled, and the background music to it all seemed bewildering to anybody over 30.  A generation gloomily hummed Barry McQuire’s Eve of Destruction as it marched toward the cliff’s edge. 

Into this powder keg of alarm Stanford scientist Paul Ehlich tossed his bestseller The Population Bomb.  In apocalyptic tones he predicted that hundreds of millions of the world’s people would die of starvation in the 1970’s and ’80’s.  Not a call to action, the author wrote that this WOULD happen “…in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”  2 million readers bought the book and worried.  

The rationale seemed solid.  How could food production possibly keep up with the world’s exploding population?  It had doubled from 2 billion to 4 billion in a single generation, and seemed set to do so again.  Ehlich proposed radical solutions like starving any country that refused to implement population controls.  He claimed most scientists shared his fatalistic predictions. 

He wasn’t even close.

42 years later with the world’s population approaching 7 billion, food production in both developed and developing countries has far outstripped population growth.  The main obstacle to producing enough food is not the birth rate Ehrlich worried about, but political chaos.

The current discussion about global warming (sorry, climate change) has some similar markings: all the scientists agree, the specter is certain doom, it will be a worldwide cataclysm unless we take radical, immediate, and enormously expensive action–which will inevitably hurt the poorest in the world.

I don’t begin to have the scientific intelligence or vocabulary to debate the merits of scientific convictions that have become relatively uniform in the last 35 years.  But as a Christian I look at everything through the lens of Scripture.  Skeptics of the Bible will dismiss my point of view.  But my words are mainly for Christians who believe the Book is God’s revelation–and therefore accurate about whatever it mentions.  It tells us all sorts of things about faith–even faith about the future of climate change.

All the scientists–even the ones frustrated by the alarmism–admit the climate’s changed.  What they dispute is that humans are mostly to blame because of carbon emissions from fossil fuels.  And they dispute that it will lead the world to ruin unless we do something drastic; Kyoto and Cap & Trade legislation come to mind.  They suggest our weather changes are normal and cyclical and will not result in a world-destroying–or even radically altering, calamity.  

On Sunday I’ll be preaching from Revelation 8 about God’s first 4 trumpet judgments which are massive, nearly global environmental calamities unleashed not long before Jesus returns; loosed on what appears to be a rather normal, prosperous earth with lush greenery and fruit trees–not an earth inundated by the consequences of global warming (sorry, climate change).  

But it is 2 Peter 3:7 that specifically rejects the notion that man can do something cataclysmic to this planet while God looks on helplessly: …the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.  “Reserved” and “kept”.  In other words, people cannot so damage the planet that they thwart God’s future plans.  

Yes, we are still stewards of the earth and should take care of it like Adam was supposed to.  But abject fear is not warranted for the Christian who believes the Bible.  God has a future plan, is still in control, and has no intentions of permitting His handiwork to derail that plan.  It’s “reserved”, it’s “kept”.