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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blasphemy by Douglas Preston


I'm a fan of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I think I've read everything they've written together and individually. I always look for their next book and order it before it's even out. Blasphemy is Douglas Preston's latest novel and I really looked forward to reading it.


I couldn't put it down. It's another good read. But, as a Christian, I was concerned that it seemed to only portray Christians as looney tunes or sickeningly corrupt. Of course, I know that there are lots of people who call themselves Christians who are corrupt or crazy. But not all of us.


I sat down and wrote an email to Douglas Preston about my concerns. He actually emailed me back and I was glad to know my concerns were important to him. Here is a copy of his email and my reply.

Dear Sharon,

Thank you for your thoughtful email. I appreciate you taking the time to write it. I would like to respectfully suggest that you may have misunderstood the novel. Blasphemy is not an anti-Christian novel at all, nor is it anti-Protestant. On the contrary, it is pro-Faith and pro-Christian. Allow me to quote from a recent review of the novel:

It’s refreshing to see a mainstream novel from a bestselling author make the hypocritical Christians the enemy rather than the whole of Christianity, as some of Preston’s peers have in recent years. The message of the novel actually is a pro-faith one – and yet a pro-science one as well – while railing against those so-called Christians who act not as they’d have others do unto them.

The hero of the novel, Wyman Ford, is in fact a devout Catholic. At the end of the novel, he doesn't "buy" into Hazelius's fraud. His conclusion is that God works in extremely mysterious ways, and that even this fraudulent religion is somehow part of God's plan. The novel is not anti-Christian or anti-Protestant. it is anti-hypocritical-Christian, anti-certitude. It is against those Christians who are involving themselves in politics (ignoring Jesus's commandment "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render unto God what is God's".) It is against Christians who are intolerant, unloving, unforgiving, and condemnatory, who advocate prosperity Christianity (again in direct contradiction to Jesus's teachings), who take from the poor to feed their megachurches, and who say that anyone who doesn't believe exactly what they believe is going to hell. Pat Robertson has a personal fortune of close to a billion dollars, amassed in part from donations from thousands of middle-class and working-class people. Is this Christian? The greed and desire for power displayed by so many of these televangelists flies directly in the face of Jesus's teachings. They are the false prophets of our age.

Unfortunately, despite what you say, there are many Christians like this. You hear them every day on the television and read them in the newspapers. They are the Dobson's, the Falwells, the Robertsons, the Ralph Reeds of this world, and all their followers. They are the blasphemers, because they claim to know the Mind of God with certitude, and will condemn anyone who has a different view. As George Bernard Shaw once said, "There are scores of thousands of human insects who are ready at a moment's notice to reveal the Will of God on every possible subject." To claim to know the Mind of God with certitude is blasphemy.

I am a Christian. But I am deeply disturbed by what is happening in Christianity today. That is the message of Blasphemy, and it is a pro-God, pro-faith message.
Again, I appreciate you taking the time to write, and I hope I have helped clarify the real message of BLASPHEMY.

Sincerely,

Doug



Dear Mr. Preston,
I can't believe you read my email and personally responded! Thank you so much! I do agree with you about the greed and power in organized church, but it's not everyone. As long as you are aware of that. Well, OTOH, it is everyone because we are all humans who can fall into sin before you know it just like Pastor Eddy. But we aren't all crazy and ready to ride to Arizona with scriptures pinned to our shirts and willing to start shooting! LOL! I happen to love the movie, The Apostle, because it shows a man struggling with his sin, wrestling with himself but he never turns from God. He turns to God for help with his sinful nature. He is a sinner saved by grace and not by his own good works, high intellect, money, or power. He suffers the consequences of his sin. This is a true Christian. King David, in his psalms, struggled with his own sin and the consequences of his sin but he does it in the arms of God not pushing away from God.

It relieves my heart that you are a Christian yourself and are writing from the inside. The greatest blessing I can pray for someone else is that they know Jesus Christ as their Savior and have an on-going, personal relationship with God and to know His Word. It's the closest humans will come to having a good life and being a good person. But, it doesn't insure perfection. It relieves my mind that you are saved and I will continue to read your novels and look forward to the next ones!

God bless, Sharon

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Windows

I found these photos that show the popular wall of windows for modern houses. People want soaring ceilings with walls of windows. And, I have to admit they are beautiful! I love being able to see the outside and beautiful views.

But let's think a minute about these tall ceilings and walls of windows.

1) Heat rises so it's going to be expensive to heat a room with soaring ceilings.

2) Things get dirty and dusty. Ceiling fans, light fixtures, windows, walls, window ledges, window treatments...how do you clean something that is so high? How do you reach a cobweb? How do you take down and clean window treatments?

You have to think practical. You can get away with almost any style of decorating as long as it's clean. But any designer/decorator masterpiece is ruined when it gets dirty.

Dusty windows, cobwebs, coatings of dust on fan blades, grime will ruin any look. Many of these homes that have "views" are sitting in a position where you can't even get a ladder to those high windows on the outside. You might get a ladder tall enough to wash the inside but what about the inside? This means you will need professional window cleaners on a regular basis. An additional expense.

If you live near the ocean, your windows will need to be cleaned all the time because of the sea spray that dries on the windows. Eventually the wind driven sand will scour the glass etching it. These are expenses to keep in mind.


It's difficult to decorate these soaring spaces. Everything seems to shrink and look too small. So it might mean a professional to help you decorate it. Another expense.

All those windows usually need some type of treatment or covering for privacy. When there are a lot of them, it gets expensive.

Keeping all those window treatments clean or replaced is expensive.
















Monday, January 21, 2008

Humility


Humility


In church this morning, the pastor reminded me of how important humility is.


Humble - An adjective that describes someone marked by meekness or modesty. A lack of vanity or self-importance; lowliness, meekness, modesty. A humble attitude, or spirit, is not arrogant or prideful.


Humility – the condition of being humble.

Jesus washing the disciples feet by Ford Maddox Brown


Psalm 131
Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia-

“…It by no means implies slavishness or servility; nor is it inconsistent with a right estimate of oneself, one's gifts and calling of God, or with proper self-assertion when called for. But the habitual frame of mind of a child of God is that of one who feels not only that he owes all his natural gifts, etc., to God, but that he has been the object of undeserved redeeming love, and who regards himself as being not his own, but God's in Christ. He cannot exalt himself, for he knows that he has nothing of himself. The humble mind is thus at the root of all other graces and virtues. Self-exaltation spoils everything. There can be no real love without humility…”

As King of the Universe, Jesus could have been born in a palace with slaves in attendance. He could have driven the best and most expensive vehicles and worn designer clothes of only the best material. He could have eaten any delicacy the world has to offer and had bodyguards to keep Him separated from the masses. He could have…but He didn’t! He deserved it, but He didn’t insist on it. It was His right, but He subjected His rights. Christ humbled Himself for our sakes. He, who had never been apart from the Father, who had never experienced sin, now allowed Himself to be born to a poor couple in a barn. He walked barefoot and wore lowly clothes, He worked and provided for His mother and siblings, He ate basic food and walked among crowds of unwashed sinners, touching them. He humbled Himself even to death, a torturous and horrible death, at the hands of those He came to save.

Humility is a Christian grace as exampled by our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Matthew 11: 29 “Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.”

Phillippians 2: 5-11 For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him, and has given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly ones, and of earthly ones, and of ones under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Humility is a state of mind that is pleasing to God and it gives us peace and patience under trials.

1 Peter 3: 3-4 Your beauty should not be an external one, consisting of braided hair or the wearing of gold ornaments and dresses. Instead, it should be the inner disposition of the heart, consisting in the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great value in the sight of God.
God humbles us to bring us to Himself, and when we humble ourselves before Him we are accepted.

2 Chronicles 7: 14-15 If my own people will humbly pray and turn back to me and stop sinning, then I will answer them from heaven. I will forgive them and make their land fertile once again. I will hear the prayers made in this temple,

Isaiah 57: 15 Our holy God lives forever in the highest heavens, and this is what he says: Though I live high above in the holy place, I am here to help those who are humble and depend only on me.

Isaiah 66: 1-2 The LORD said: Heaven is my throne; the earth is my footstool. What kind of house could you build for me? In what place will I rest? I have made everything; that's how it all came to be. I, the LORD, have spoken. The people I treasure most are the humble-- they depend only on me and tremble when I speak.

Mattew 23:11-12 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he who shall humble himself shall be exalted.

The pastor said, if you humble yourself, God will exalt you and everything He does is done perfectly. If you exalt yourself, then God will humble you and you will have caused yourself a lot of heartache.

Matthew 5:2-3 And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit! For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus taught that the “poor in spirit”, those who are humble and realize their need of salvation and their dependence on God, are blessed and will inherit the “kingdom of Heaven”. Those who are humble, meek and lowly, who realize the poverty of their spirit, who are thirsty and hungry for what only God can give them, will be saved when they reach out. We are empty of self and ready to be filled with Christ. We know we have a need that we cannot fill so we have to have God. With this humble attitude, we will then value God and His free gift of salvation. Our salvation and relationship with God becomes our treasure.

Where is humility today? We insist on our rights, we sue for our rights, we scream for our rights, we demonstrate for our rights! And we have become a selfish, arrogant, me-generation. We think it’s all about US and we think we are the center of the Universe. We have become mini-gods, demanding our way like spoiled brats. We push ourselves ahead of others, clawing our way over the backs of others, we blame others, we point the finger and sneer. We try everything we can think of to get attention for ourselves whether it’s wearing immodest clothing, performing Youtube videos or jumping off buildings in squirrel suits. We want to be famous, we think we are so important. We are ready to divorce our spouse rather than make sacrifices for them, divorce rather than humble ourselves and try to change, divorce rather than do something you don’t want to do. We don’t want to sacrifice anything, we don’t want to wait on anything, we don’t want anything to cost us. We want it all for ourselves. We have to have our way or someone is going to know about it.

When I was growing up, my parents modeled love, sacrifice, and humility to us. And I learned how to prefer others before myself. If there is 5 pieces of chicken and 4 people, I will ask all 4 of the others if they want the last piece. I don’t hover over it to grab it for myself. I offer to let others ride in the front seat of the car rather than calling “shotgun” to grab the most preferred seat for myself. If there are several of us together to go to lunch, I try to be flexible and follow the group rather than insist we eat where I want to eat. I will let others in front of me. We need to learn to put others before ourselves. We need to treat others with respect and give them the preferred places. We need to treat our elders with respect and put them first in line. While driving we can allow someone else in front of us. We can hold back from honking the horn when someone does something we don’t like and jumps the gun on us. It’s little things like this that will teach us humility.

Humility goes against our grain. We aren’t born with a humble spirit. The first time we want something to eat, we begin to squall until we get what we want. The first time we get a belly ache, we pitch a fit until we get a good burping and some relief. We come out of the womb knowing how to demand our way and get attention. But, as Christians, we have a new spirit in us and the Holy Spirit is in us teaching us a new way so that we can begin to mature and grow past our childishness.

Colossians 3:12 God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient.

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