Sarah Palin, McCain’s VP pick

Quote from Gov. Palin about her son Trig, born in April with Down’s Syndrome:

“Trig is beautiful and already adored by us. We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives. We have faith that every baby is created for good purpose and has potential to make this world a better place. We are truly blessed.” (HT: CRI)

That’s what I’m talking about.  About 90% of Down’s Syndrome babies are aborted, even though parents of these babies often testify about how much joy they bring to their families and to others.  Gov. Palin and her husband get it.  Every child is a treasure.  If we open our hearts to them, we will be amazed at what God does within us.

We were encouraged by all of our doctors to abort Michael, but what blessings we would have missed if we had done so!

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Chinese Olympic Success

I have been waiting for an article like this.  I knew it would come.  Totalitarian regimes often do well at the Olympics.  Hitler’s Olympic team in 1936 was very successful.  The old Soviet teams were also.  Requiring people to train 10 hours a day after having recruited them based on their genetic makeup will work sometimes.

The only mother on China’s team, Xian Dongmei, told reporters after she won her gold medal in judo that she had not seen her 18-month-old daughter in one year, monitoring the girl’s growth only by webcam. Another gold medalist, weightlifter Cao Lei, was kept in such seclusion training for the Olympics that she wasn’t told her mother was dying. She found out only after she had missed the funeral.

“You have no control over your own life. Coaches are with you all the time. People are always watching you, the doctors, even the chefs in the cafeteria. You have no choice but to train so as not to let the others down,” gymnast Chen Yibing told Chinese reporters last week after winning a gold medal on the rings. He said he could count the amount of time he’d spent with his parents “by hours . . . very few hours.”

Guo [Jingjing, a gold medalist in diving] 27, suffers from health problems related to diving and is said to have such bad eyesight she can barely see the diving board. It is a common hazard for Chinese divers, who are recruited as young as 6.

Another diver was prevented from eating dinner so she could be kept at 66 pounds.

Very sad.

Encounters

I have had encounters with financially needy (possibly homeless or near homeless) people on each of the last 3 days.  I have a desire for the Father to lead me in these encounters, but feel like I batted .333.

1.  On Friday we were packing up our campsite at Leo Carillo State Beach when I noticed a homeless woman in a vacant campsite across from ours.  Coincidentally, my wife and I had seen this same woman a day or two earlier on a street corner in Malibu.  At that time she seemed to be teaching an exercise class to nobody.  I at first blew her off as insane, but did feel the burden to pray for her.  When she showed up at my campsite, I knew God was knocking on my heart.  I walked over and prayed for her.  She was an African-American woman named Karen, and we had a short, but coherent conversation.  She thanked me, and I went back to camp.  Nothing spiritually cool seemed to happen.

A few minutes later, I was getting breakfast, and my family was still asleep, so I invited her to join me. (She apparently forgot the social convention of leaving after she gets prayed for and someone says goodbye.  O crap, she didn’t leave, does God want me to do something else?  Come on God!  I prayed for her, isn’t that cool?)  She came over and sat down, and we had about a 30-minute interaction.  She knows the Lord.  Well.  As she talked, more of her story came out.  I didn’t get the full reason why she is homeless, but it was obvious there was unresolved issues in her heart.  Mental illness?  I don’t think so but it’s possible.  The acting out (e.g. teaching exercise classes on the street corner) may have been her act of worship, or a coping mechanism.  But obviously who am I to say after talking to her so briefly?  I prayed for her again.  She prayed for me.  We hugged, I gave her some extra supplies, and she went on her way.  I know our time was a blessing to her, and it was to me as well.

2.  Last night, I was leaving Fletcher’s Coffee here in Hacienda Heights, and on the way to my car, I was approached by a man who was all sweaty.  The fact that he came from the direction of the strip club in the next parking lot gave me concern (Judgment or discernment?  I’m not sure).  His story was that he had run out of gas on the freeway and needed a few dollars to get his family home.  He had run all the way from the freeway (thus explaining the sweatiness, I thought).  Truth be told, I had zero cash on me, so I told him so, and he went on his way.  Oh how I would have liked to offer to pray for him.  Jesus had a way of cutting to the heart of the matter when he came across people.  Jesus relied on the Holy Spirit, as I am trying to learn to do.  (It is a common misunderstanding that Jesus did miracles or knew things a human couldn’t normally know because he was God.  Of course, he was fully God, but during his time on earth, he had to restrain the use of his divine attributes to experience full humanity.  Thus, he had to depend on the Holy Spirit for his ministry just like us.  Now, he was better at it than us, due to his divine nature that knew no sin.  And he had a specific role and calling that we obviously don’t.  But he exercised the gifts of the Spirit just like we are called to do.  I can demonstrate this from the scriptures if anyone thinks I am wrong here.)  What if God had placed me right there and wanted to do something really cool in his heart?  I think I missed my chance here.  Thanks to a gracious God who gives us so many opportunities!

3.  Finally, tonight, I was getting gas in Placentia.  This guy drives up behind me and tells me that he needs some gas to get home.  Deja vu.  I immediately remember that about 2 months ago, this exact same guy approached me at the exact same gas station and told me the exact same story.  At that time, I had given him about $15 of gas.  So, I called him on it.  I thought that would end our conversation, but it didn’t.  He pressed me.  “Just because that may be so, doesn’t mean I still don’t have a need…” etc.  I suggested to him that the odds of this happening twice when I don’t even live near there were so unlikely that I felt like it was just a well-practiced story and I was being taken advantage of.  Well, this guy was smart.  He then noticed my Biola shirt and played the “fellow brother in Christ” card.  He essentially accused me of judging him rather than responding to his need.  Admittedly, he kind of had me.  I had judged him.  But I think I judged wisely as the scripture says.  I ended up saying something like, “well, if you know Jesus then he will take care of you, and he can take care of you without me. God bless you.”  That pretty much ended our conversation but not the turmoil in my heart.

Lord, when will I grow in my skill of hearing your voice in the moment and responding according to the leading of your Spirit?  “I don’t have any cash,” and “let Jesus take care of you” aren’t exactly words of life.  It is possible that I helped the Lord expose the third man’s sin.  But I don’t take consolation in that.  What joy is there in exposing sin?  Lord, grow my heart to have compassion, and grow my ability to walk in your Spirit!

Train, When God Writes Your Love Story

This is so romantic.  I’m on a train from LA Union Station to San Luis Obisbo, traveling though graffiti-infested, ugly, urban sprawl.  But somehow, the train makes it all magical.  I wish my wife were with me, but I guess my laptop will have to do.  Just saw a truck on fire on some back alley.  Cool.  Except for the owner of the truck.

I’m finally sitting down to read When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric & Leslie Ludy.  I have read portions of it before and have recommended it to many, but have never read the whole thing, which strikes me as kind of a bad thing given that I am encouraging others to read it.

Leslie describes how her original plan was to have fun through her teenage years and early twenties, dating lots of guys, going to parties, football games, dances, etc.  But she would follow the two rules of Christian dating: don’t’ have sex before marriage and marry a fellow believer.  Her attitude was ‘as long as I follow these two rules, I can do what I want.’  I can certainly relate to that.  That’s what I thought too, except for the ‘dating lots of guys’ part.  Obviously it was girls I hoped to date, but my expectations were not that high.  One girl would have been great.  I actually did date a few girls, but never felt worthy of them.

But what Leslie didn’t anticipate was the heartache and compromise.

The relationship went strong for about eight months, but then he started waking up to the fact that there were other girls who were interested in him.  Not only that, these other young women were willing to have sex with him.  Still attempting to follow Christian dating rule #1, I had told Brandon that I couldn’t go “all the way” with him.  At first, he accepted this condition readily.  He even said that as a Christian himself, he agreed with my commitment to abstinence until marriage.  But there came a point where I noticed his interested gaze resting upon other girls who looked at him seductively with open invitation.  I could sense the end our relationship coming.  In desperation, I lowered by standards in the area of purity as much as I felt I possibly could, giving Brandon as many “physical favors” as I dared.  But it was no use. Soon it was over and he was giving his love and devotion to someone else, pretending he didn’t even know who I was anymore.  We had shared everything for almost a year of our lives, and now we were strangers.

This was the constant pattern of my love life.  Each fling ended with heartbreak and shattered emotions.  Each time, I felt used and defiled.  The perfect plan I had so carefully crafted for my dating career was crumbling (p. 61).

It was a process, but finally Leslie surrendered her dating life (and the rest of it) to the Lord.

He met me right where I was and taught me about Himself.  I learned how to love Him with my whole heart, to seek Him earnestly, to listen to his voice on a daily basis, and to fall in love with His word.  It was the most exciting time of my life!  It made the world of social frenzy I had come from seem incredibly empty.

I learned to lean on my relationship with Christ for my hope, joy, and security, rather than trying to find those things in a romantic relationship.  As close to Prince Charming as Eric (her husband) is, he still is only human… If I had gone into my relationship with him looking for all my emotional needs to be met, I would have been disappointed.  I wasn’t truly ready to begin a journey toward marriage with my future husband until I learned to find my hope and security in Christ alone (p. 67).

Yep, that’s the story.  Other people cannot meet our needs.  My wife cannot meet all my needs.  I cannot meet hers.  True romance is found in God’s pursuit of us.  True adventure is found in trusting God all of your life.

Leslie quotes Elizabeth Eliot’s biography of missionary Amy Carmichael (A Chance to Die):

The preoccupation of seventeen-year-old girls—their looks, their clothes, their social life—don’t change much from generation to generation.  But in every generation there seem to be a few who make other choices.  Amy Carmichael was one of the few (p. 66).

The invitation is there.  Will you take it?

And now I am traveling north along coast just south of Santa Barbara, enjoying the beautiful ocean scenery.  From graffiti and urban ugliness to this.  That’s just what the Lord wants to do in our lives if we let him.

Pics from Open House!

Jury Duty

I am sitting in a large room without internet access (unless I want to pay $5 for just an hour — I am far too cheap for that).   I read my paper.  I read someone else’s paper.  I talked to a guy for while who works at Disneyland.  We had a friend in common.  I finished Blue Like Jazz.  There is a lot of truth in it, but the packaging wore on me the more I read it.  I loved how he concluded that everything starts with really believing that you are loved by God.  Not just knowing it, but what Jack Frost call “having a revelation of the Father’s love.”  It must not only touch your mind, but also your emotions, your deep center.  That is the point that the world becomes a wonder to you, rather than a curse.  This when you begin to fall in love with the people that used to annoy you.  Donald Miller gets this.

The “packaging” is both his overly casual and sometime flippant attitude toward sin that will have devastating consequences in people’s lives and his meandering story as one who seems to take forever to grow up, and maybe hasn’t yet still.  But I know that there are areas of my heart that have not grown up either, so I will stop the critique.  I’m sure someone else can do it (and likely has done it) better than me.  Donald Miller will never be confused with C.S. Lewis, but then, he will reach people that Lewis won’t. Praise the Lord for how he uses all of us differently but as part of a giant tapestry to accomplish his will.  He is a funny writer.  I envy this ability.

The lady at the next table has been having a 20-minute conversation with a relative about some drama in her family.  She speaks loudly about personal stuff, defending her mother against some accusation of unfairness, and seeking to psychoanalyze her attackers and assess their motives.  I guess we all do this.   I am doing it to her right now.  It is her loud, somewhat obnoxious manner that interests me, more than the content, which seems common to life in this fallen world.  Her willingness to broadcast details of her personal life in this manner belies an orphan heart.  She wants to be heard.  She wants empathy.  She wants to be justified.  She wants to be right, and for others to know she is right.  Of course, all of us want this.  We all struggle with the orphan heart.  I used to use my students in this same way, and maybe to some extent still do.

The orphan (as I mean it here—I am plagiarizing from Jack Frost) is the one who never quite feels accepted or wanted.  He or she is the one who must scratch and claw to get what they are “entitled” to.   Think of the customer service lady at the counter or on the phone who gets overly defensive the moment you express dissatisfaction with a product or service.  Or think of the family member who cuts off relationship when you bring up something difficult.  Orphan hearts usually refuse to admit they were wrong, because their security is in being right, rather than in God’s love.  (For those who have known me long term, you know I have needed much growth here!  I used to think being “right” was pretty much all that was important.)

Wow, now she is continuing to talk loudly on her phone even though the court person is announcing to us all that we are dismissed and how to turn in our paperwork.  Instead of realizing that this would be an appropriate time to get off the phone, she speaks louder because she is having trouble hearing over the speaker.

Donald Miller wrote about how he used to subtlety reject people like this, thinking they would get the message that they needed to change their behavior.  Then he discovered that if you love them, a couple things happen.  One, you discover the whole person and some of the reasons they behave that way which helps you to have compassion for them.  And two, the security of your love and your acceptance of them helps them to behave differently.  They may become a wonder rather than a curse.

Well, one day of jury duty, sitting in a room, and I am done.  I was never even called to be on a panel.  This is always the way jury duty goes for me.  Never been on a jury.

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