28 December 2009

Reinventing Jesus (Pt. 2)

In continuing the look at the book Reinventing Jesus that I started discussing yesterday, we move into section three, which discusses the canonizing of Scripture. For those not familiar with the term, when we say canon, we are speaking of those books of the Bible that are included as authoritative. The Protestant church has held that there are 66 books in the canon of Scripture, and those outside of that are considered non-canonical, or extra-biblical, and not authoritative or necessarily inspired.

Eventually, four Gospels and twenty-three other texts were canonized (declared to be the Holy Scriptures) into a Bible. This did not occur, until the sixth century.
-Dan Burstein Secrets of the Code, 116

27 December 2009

Reinventing Jesus (Pt. 1)

Reinventing JesusOne day last week, I rented and watched the Dan Brown inspired movie "Angels and Demons." Unlike the previous "Da Vinci Code" movie, which had it's little 15 minute segment directly attacking Scripture and the historic Jesus, this movie was pretty tame. It was more an "attack" on fictitious corruption in the Roman Catholic Papal system and the Vatican, and nothing against Christianity itself. After watching the movie, it made me recall a book I had started reading about two or so years ago called Reinventing Jesus: What The Da Vinci Code and Other Novel Speculations Don't Tell You, which I know I never finished. So, I went and got it off the shelf and started up where I left off (though I do plan to go back and re-read the early sections), and spent part of my Christmas vacation reading (surprising I know).

07 December 2009

Star of Bethlehem

And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matt. 2:9-11)

I watched a pretty fascinating DVD presentation today on the Star of Bethlehem that I wanted to share. The DVD presentation is not too technical, not too scientific to understand, and is presented quite well. My wife watched this video months ago, and I have had it laying here to watch but only just got around to it. Aside from further disrupting the traditional view of the nativity scenario (something that seems to have already been traditionally misconstrued as I examined HERE), it answers and connects many other issues that have been of concern.

01 December 2009

I Feel Like Such a Gentile: Grief & the Early Church

Since, then, there is certainty as to the resurrection of the dead, grief for death is needless... For why should you grieve, if you believe your loved ones have not perished? ... We wound Christ when we do not accept with equanimity the summoning out of this world of anyone by Him, as if they were to be pitied. - Tertullian (c. 200)

Although the death of a children leaves grief for the heart, it is not right to either go forth in black garments, or to bewail them. The Lord prudently says that you must grieve with the mind, not with outward show... Are you not ashamed to lament your children without restraint, like the Gentiles do? You tear your face, beat your breast, and take off your garments. Do you not fear the Lord, whose kingdom you desire to behold? - Commodianus (c. 240)

When the dear ones whom we love depart from this world, we should rejoice rather than grieve. Remembering this truth, the blessed apostle Paul in his epistle lays down , saying 'To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.' - Cyprian (c. 250)
Our brethren who are freed from this world by the Lord's summons are not to be lamented. For we know that they are not lost. Rather, they are sent before us. Departing from us, they precede us as travelers - as navigators are accustomed to do. They should be envied, not bewailed! The black garments should not be taken upon us here, when they have already taken white garments there... The Gentiles can deservedly and rightly criticize us that we mourn as though our dead were extinct and lost. For, we say they are alive with God... There is no advantage in setting forth virtue by our words, but then destroying the truth by our deeds... The Holy Spirit teaches by Solomon that those who please God are taken from here sooner and are more quickly set free. Otherwise, while they are delaying longer in this world, they might be polluted with the pollution of the world... - Cyprian (c.250)
Words of wisdom and comfort from the early church.

Jonathan, you are free from the pains and weaknesses of this world; your days are now full of joy and life and comfort with our Lord. I miss you terribly but will see you soon, son.

29 November 2009

Collision: The Movie

I finally got a chance to get my hands on and watch the new "Collision" movie today. For those not familiar with this movie, it is a debate film/documentary between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian Douglas Wilson, recorded during a series of on-the-road debates they had, showing highlights of the exchanges during the formal debate sessions, with some of the behind the scene antics and personal comments from each sprinkled throughout.

Hitchens is well known as a political writer and activist, and is often regarded as one of the prominent exponents of "modern atheism," though he refers to himself more as an anti-theist. Per Wikipedia (the most reliable source on the web ;-}) he describes himself "as a believer in the philosophical values of the Age of Enlightenment." His main argument is that since the concept of God or a supreme being is a totalitarian belief that destroys individual freedom, free expression and scientific discovery should replace religion as a means of teaching ethics and defining human civilization.

Douglas Wilson has has recently authored a handful of responses to other atheist authors, like "The Deluded Atheist" responding to Richard Dawkins, "God Is: How Christianity Explains Everything" which is a response to Hitchens' writings, and "Letter from a Christian Citizen" which responds to Sam Harris' book.

This movie began as a series of back-and-forth communications between Wilson and Hitchens, that were later compiled and released as the book "Is Christianity Good for the World?" This launched interest in them doing public debates, which of course led to a "tour" of sorts, and highlights from those various meetings were recorded, adding in behind the scenes interchanges, and released as this movie.

The movie does a good job of presenting both of their views equally and adequately, giving us a good look at some of the issues. Obviously not exhaustive on the subject, and no one cries "uncle" by the end, but points are well made. For me, the high points were hearing Hitchens make comments about never having debated or met someone like Wilson and some of his arguments. He said many people he has debated seem hypocritical, but that Wilson seems the genuine thing, actually believing what he defends.

I think at times though, some of Wilson's arguments get lost on Hitchens understanding. Not sure if he just doesn't fully understand what corner Wilson is backing him into, or if he is not sure how (or if) he can respond. Wilson hits Hitchens with pieces of presuppositional apologetic techniques that in recent decades have been popularized by the late great debater Greg L. Bahnsen. Attempting to pull the carpet of reason out from under Hitchens, it seems all but lost on Hitchens (or so it appears somewhat from the small segments we see).

One of the other things that shines through, is the Christian love and charity that Wilson portrays. At least for the footage of the film, we see them both acting civil and respectable to each other, never demeaning or attacking or being hateful to each other.

The other brief, but powerful highlight to me was when Hitchens brings up the supposed failed prophecies of Jesus and his promised first century return (Matt. 10:23; 16:28; 24:34, etc.). This seems to be a favorite technique by the critics, and has been an attack from Jewish apologists and others against Christianity, and was a contention for men like Bertrand Russell:
I am concerned with Christ as he appears in the gospels…there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise…for one thing, he certainly thought that his second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at the time. There are a great many texts that prove that…he believed that his coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of his earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of his moral teaching. – Atheist Bertrand Russell, from his book Why I am Not a Christian
However, for Hitchens, it fails when countered effectively by Wilson's preterist response.

Overall, the movie was entertaining. As a Christian, nothing said by Hitchens had much force, but were typical arguments used as more of an emotional opposition to a creator.

My main complaints against this movie deal more with presentation than content. Whoever was hired to do the camera holding was either drunk, or had no clue how to hold a camera and focus in on the subject. The majority of scenes were jerky, chaotically zooming in on noses, hands, mouths, eyes, etc. and unable to hold still, bouncing around like someone was rolling around with the camera. It was very distracting and very irritating. The "sane" parts were the pieces that were obviously from outside "professional" services (like all of the CBN pieces).

Much of this film appears to come from hand-held cameras, and goes from being grainy, black and white, poor lighting, and other effects. Either this footage was captured without the intent to use it in a professional presentation like this movie, or I assume this might have been someone ideas of "art" for the films sake. Either way, it makes this film come across as a poorly shot home movie, and takes away from what could have been a professional film presentation.

On top of the irritating camera movements from the "drunk" camera man (as we began to call him), the audio suffers in many areas. There are many scenes where you clearly see the speakers are wearing lapel microphones, yet the audio we get for the film is obviously from the condenser mic on the camera. So, we get to hear all of the background noise and hiss in many scenes.

Many of the debate segments take place in restaurants, bars, and small public places, and contain a lot of background noise. In some parts, the film editors knew this was a problem, and we have subtitles, which are helpful, but not always present. To counter this, you must crank up the volume and pay very close attention. Unfortunately, you crank the volume to hear the dialog, and when the segue segments kick in with the various styles of music (some very heavy rock), they blast you away. At other times when the volume seems adequate, the editors have decided to add background music that tends to be way louder than it should, and that distorts the dialog.

Overall, a good film that I would recommend to anyone, but I really wish someone with better skill would remix and edit this film and soundtrack to fix these issues.

24 November 2009

Wither: Dream Theater Speaking to Me

Let it out, let it out
Feel the empty Space
So insecure find the words and let it out

Staring down, staring down
Nothing comes to mind
Find the place turn the water into wine

But I feel I'm getting nowhere
And I'll never see the end

So I wither
And render myself helpless
I give in and everything is clear
I breakdown
And let the story guide me

Turn it on
Turn it on
Let the feelings flow
Close your eyes
See the ones you used to know

Open up open up
Don't struggle to relate
Lure it out
Help the memory escape
Still transparantness consumes me
And I feel like giving up

So I wither
And render myself helpless
I give in
And everything is clear
I breakdown
And let the story guide me

I wither
And give myself away

Light reflections on the page
The worlds want to create

I drown in hesitation
My words come crashing down
And all my best creations
Burning to the ground

The thought of starting over
Leaves me paralysed
Tear it out again
Another one that got away

I wither
And render myself helpless
I give in
And everything is clear

I wither
And render myself helpless
I give in
And everything is clear
I breakdown
And let the story guide me
I wither
And give myself away

Light reflections on the page
The worlds want to create
The worlds which you create

Let it out let it out

Yes, more lyrics that speak to me, especially my melancholy and depressing side. From one of my all-time favorite bands, Dream Theater. Here, watch the video:

23 November 2009

Pray for Obama - Psalm 109:8?

If you have not heard, there is a new crazy Christian idea out on the Internet. People are selling products with the slogan "Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8." The verse in question says:
May his days be few; may another take his office!
Very cute use of words indeed. Sounds pretty harmless at first, until you read the next verse:
May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow!
Keep reading, the following verses get worse. So, the call is for a shortness of days and removal of office, but in context, this is to be due to death.

Now, as "witty" (and I use this term lightly) as this use of Scripture is, the point is made that there is a dislike of the President, and they would like his days in office to be few. Now, in their defense (not that I know their true intent, but giving them the benefit of the doubt), they did simply use verse 8. Verse 8, used, abused and chopped totally out of context, as a stand alone thought is fine - point taken. I too could agree with the sentiment. In the ways President Obama is setting this nation up for great harm, I too pray for his days to be few (impeachment anyone?). I hope and pray that his harmful influence and potential for damage to be thwarted. So, taken "as is" and out of context, their point is somewhat acceptable.

However, anyone who looks it up, is not going to stop at verse 8, and it is very irresponsible to strip things out of context to make such a point. So, for that I would condemn such a slogan as not only a poor witness of Christian love and charity, but it is an abuse of God's Word as well as a display of public disrespect for the office of President.

However, then you have those professing Christian like Frank Schaeffer making some pretty strong leaps in this case.

SCHAEFFER: No. Actually, it means something more threatening. I think that the situation that I find genuinely frightening right now is that you have a ramping up of Biblical language, language from the anti-abortion movement for instance, death panels and this sort of thing, and what it's coalescing into is branding Obama as Hitler, as they have already called him. And something foreign to our shores, we're reminded of that, he's born in Kenya. As brown, as black, above all, as not us. He is Sarah Palin's "not a real American." But now, it turns out, he joins the ranks of the unjust kings of ancient Israel, unjust rulers to which all these Biblical allusions are directed who should be slaughtered, if not by God, then by just men. So there's a parallel here with Timothy McVeigh's t-shirt on the day of the Oklahoma City bombing. He said the tree of liberty had to be watered by the blood of tyrants. That quote, we saw at a meeting where Obama was present carried on a placard by someone with a loaded weapon.
Again, in the slogan creator's defense, the slogan strictly asks for prayer to God for Obama, that his days in office be few. Looking strictly at the slogan, they do not seem to be promoting physical violence by man, but simply a calling on God in prayer (at least I pray to God that is their intent). If such a slogan provokes another person to take physical violence, then you cannot hold the slogan at fault per se, anymore than holding a gun responsible for someone using it to kill someone. However, the point is made that things are already at a heightened state of "hostility" over Obama's action (you would think he'd take a hint and stop), so I would have to honestly ask if this type of slogan is really to an advantage for God's Kingdom or if it could be dangerous?
SCHAEFFER: What we're looking at right now is two things going on. We see the evangelical groups I talked about in my new book, Patience With God, enthralled by an apocalyptic vision that I go into in some detail there. They represent the millions of people who have turned the Left Behind series into best sellers. Most of them are not crazy, they're just deluded. But there is a crazy fringe to whom all these little messages that have been pouring out of Fox News, now on a bumper sticker, talking about doing away with Obama, asking God to kill him. Really, this is trolling for assassins. This is serious business.
I agree that there are many in the "Christian" world that are blinded by this delusional "end time" apocalyptic anti-christ scenario, that are already on a heightened alert from years of being told we're living in the "last days" that stirring up this kind of fear and hate could provoke them to physical violence. But again, if some wacko sees himself as fulfilling some last days scenario and commits violence, you cannot really hold the whole of Christianity at fault, or even a slogan. Especially considering that the very Word of God that the wacko attempts to use speaks against people taking such direct violence.

My biggest point of disagreement comes over Schaeffer's words that "Look, this is the American version of the Taliban." The radical Muslims use their scriptures to condone and promote physical violence, not by using it out of context like this slogan, but because their scriptures do literally promote it to begin with. They are not asking their followers to simply pray, they are promoting the taking of violent actions against the enemies of Allah. They are not saying, pray against the infidel, they are saying flat out that it is fine, just, and commendable to kill the infidel. That is quite a drastic difference to telling people to pray against an unjust ruler. If the Muslims radicals were simply gathering in large groups to pray against (and even pray for the death of) the infidels, then I feel confident saying we'd have little to worry about.

The difference is, the Christian Scripture do not call for individuals taking violence unto themselves; unlike the Muslim scriptures which clearly do.

So, is the slogan bad? On the surface, taken at face value, I do not think it is, and would hope that the creator of it is innocent of anything other than good intentions. However, given the current political climate, is it wise to promote this new "Pray for Obama" slogan? I would have to say it is probably more likely to be harmful than beneficial at this time.

We as Christians are to love one another, we are to love our enemies, and we are to submit to our rulers (Romans 13), acknowledging than they, even the ungodly ones, are placed into office by the sovereign hand of the Almighty. We get what we (as a nation) deserve; and considering the way we have let our country go, we deserve what we get. Hopefully it will be a wake up call for Christians to take action, get off their butts, and take a part in the political system of this country, by voting and running for office and by contacting our leaders and demanding they take the godly paths in situations. Take action, pray, get involved...if not, don't complain at what you "allowed" to get into office.

Does America need a revolution? Maybe?
Does it need a revival? Definitely!
Will displaying products with this slogan promote revival? No!

Pray for President Obama. Pray that God will open his eyes to the truth. Pray that God will grant him godly wisdom, to do the right thing, to lead America back to it's Christian foundation. Pray that God will restore justice, order and truth to our nation, it's leaders, and it's laws. Pray that God will convert and save Obama that he can then be used to promote and defend justice and godly principals; but if not, pray that God would see fit to remove him from where he could cause harm, and replace him with a more godly leader. Do all things in love and compassion, and do not provoke others negatively, as I am sure this slogan would be more prone to do.

What are your thoughts? Post them below.

18 November 2009

Confessions of a Madman

Yesterday marked the sixth month since the unexpected passing of my first-born child, Jonathan. The last six months has been a roller coaster ride emotionally as many of you have read on here; a ride I still seem to be on.

During this time, I have developed quite a drinking problem, that only a few very close friends and family members are even aware of. The bad thing is, not only am I drinking harsh stuff, but some of the worst type of harsh stuff that has added poisoning ingredients. I have tried in recent times to stop, but have been unsuccessful. So I post it here publicly in case anyone else wishes to share their experiences with this type of problem.

Hi, my name is Jeff McCormack, and I am a Coke-a-holic. My soda of choice is Diet Coke, or even better, Coke Zero (especially Vanilla or Cherry Coke Zero). You see, soda is bad enough, with all the chemicals, acid and things that drain the minerals right out of your body. If you switch to diet brands, yes, the reduced sugar is one huge advantage (especially to someone pre-diabetic like myself), but you still get the chemicals, the acid, and the added poisonous artificial sweeteners. But, for someone who comes from a lifetime of prior soda addiction, this is a better way to go than sticking with the original. The lesser of two evils, I guess.

HA! So, I was just grabbing your attention. Yes, I do drink more diet soda these days than in times past, but honestly, it is a vice I am willing to live with at this time.

But yes, yesterday was the six month point since Jonathan passed. I can't say things have really gotten any better in my emotional mind yet, I still have issues - daily, mainly when things get quit and my mind slows down. In some ways, the length of time has made things worse. As I mentioned in a post on this topic some months ago, I still kind of feel like Jonathan is a fallen comrade, that I left on the side of the road while I went to get help. The further I get away from him time wise, the more I feel I can never make it back to help him before it is too late. I know, this is weird thinking, I agree, and I can't stand the way my mind works sometimes. I wonder if some kind of happy-pills could fix this (even though the side effects of such pills seem much worse...lol).

Intellectually, I can grasp it....theologically I can grasp it. He is not "left behind" nor is he stuck in need of saving somewhere. He is much better off than when he was her suffering in his weakened state. I can praise the Lord that he brought Jonathan into our covenant family, and that Jonathan never strayed from keeping the truth. I can rest assured that God is faithful and just, and that Jonathan's trust in the saving work of Christ alone ushered him into the very presence of our Heavenly Father for all eternity. All of this is good and all, but my selfish heart and mind have to be forced to think about this side of things.

While I know I should be happy and excited as to the way every little piece of this scenario went down as peaceful and quickly as it did (which my intellectual self is happy about), that is not my mind's first inclination. I am too selfishly wrapped up in missing him, in seeing him, in sharing with him. I still see his facial expression, I still see him sitting at my desk doing my book store packaging, I still hear him grumbling and complaining over certain things. The memories flood in daily, too much to allow the pleasant things I should be thinking, and instead flood my mind with pain and grief.

So, I drink soda as an outlet (sounds like a good excuse, right?).

I really wish I had the mental abilities to follow in the steps of the great King David. For those of you not familiar with the story from 2 Samuel 12, David committed a great sin, and it brought judgment from God upon him in the promise that his son that Uriah's wife had just had with him would not live. When the child became deathly ill, David spent seven days fasting and praying. On the seventh day, the child died, and when David found out:
Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. Then he went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the LORD. After that, he returned to the palace and ate. His advisers were amazed. "We don’t understand you," they told him. "While the baby was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the baby is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again." David replied, "I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the LORD will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me."
I too long for the day when my emotions get out of the way of my intellect and I can say all is well, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, and I am blessed none the less. For now, I struggle still, and appreciate all of the prayers and thoughts that so many of you have sent our way.

So, I toast you all ... raise your Coke high and enjoy the burning sensation as it runs down your throat! To God be the Glory...Great things he had done!

06 November 2009

Missed Opportunities? Entertaining Angels?

Last Sunday, after church, my family and I had to run by the bank to drop off something in the night deposit. It was lightly raining and a tad bit on the chilly side. As we were pulling away from the night deposit, there was a frail looking gentleman in the parking lot motioning to us. We rolled the window down and he motioned with his hand open, saying something about needing to get to the mission downtown, but not having enough money for the bus. We had just left the bank, but only to drop off checks, not to withdraw any cash. My wife rarely if ever carries cash...when she does, she goes through it fast, and so is usually always empty pocketed.

My wife was driving, and she was directly speaking with the gentleman. Her first thought was that he wanted a ride. However, we have a eight person van that is usually filled to max capacity (us plus six kids). My first impression of what he was saying, was that he was asking for cash.

How often are we presented with an opportunity to serve, yet we turn our backs for various reasons. Beggars can be deceptive, there are many out there that are. They want money for drugs or booze; they are scam artists. "Get a job dude, and stop bothering me." How many times have we passed people in need, and not given them the time of day because we were suspicious of their true situation? I know, I will admit, I often act that way.

On this particular Sunday, we acted as usual, cutting him off, saying we couldn't help, and we drove off. It was just habit, an impulse reaction of sorts. I was prepared to hand him a few dollars, because he looked and sounded sincere, however, the window was closed and we drove away before I could act.

As we got back on the road, my wife said to me, he wanted a ride, but we have no room. I said, I think he wanted money for the bus. She said she had no money on her, and we drove away.

All was silent for a few blocks. I know I was thinking in my silence about whether we just blew an opportunity. All I could think of was Hebrews 13:2:

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
I assume my wife was also pondering the event. All of a sudden, the silence was broken when she said, "I think we should turn back and help him," to which I said "I do too." It had just hit her...wait...we DO have room in the van. Hard habits are hard to overcome, and for a moment, we had forgotten our eight-seat van does have a spare seat now in our van due to the passing of our son in May. I said, and if it is just money he needs, I have a few bucks on me, which she did not realize.

She immediately turned the van around to go back to offer him a ride downtown or cash, whichever was needed. We drove to the bank parking lot, and he was gone. We drove around the shopping center next to the bank, and he was no where to be seen. After a few moments of looking in all of the direction we thought he could have gone in such a short amount of time, we gave up and got back on our way.

Did someone else give him a ride? Or did he simply vanish?

Anyway, the issue is, we have become so callous towards strangers in need, doubting if there is a need, that we often brush them off without a thought. I hate feeling like that, and hope that the Lord gives me a more tender mind to reach out and assist others whenever I am able. My job is to act, and react, in love, and help others. If they are deceptive, then let that be on their head. Who am I to be the judge and jury over whether they are sincere or not? We do not need the government to help the needy, if we all were just more willing to reach out to them with what the Lord has blessed us with.

27 October 2009

Already Gone (Ken Ham) - (Pt 2)

I finished the book I began discussing previously, but rather than posting additional posts as I went along, I decided to blow through it and give a recap. A couple of findings they discovered with the survey was:
  • Only 11% stop attending church during college years (most of us assume it is college that shakes their faith)

  • Almost 90% of those leaving the church, do so during the middle to high school years

  • Not much variance between those in public school, or those in Christian or home schools

  • "Sunday school is actually more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of our children."
The book is filled with statistics, and breakdown charts of statistics, and can boggle the mind in trying to keep up, but in the end, the point is made. There is an issue, and it stems between a worldview teaching of the Bible's authority and validity versus modern science.

The issue seems to boil down to a two part mindset. Church teaches us moral and spiritual issue and stories. Science and school teach us relevant life facts. Sunday school and youth programs have given the parents the door to shrug off much of the spiritual instruction of their children, and what little they do get in church tends to be Bible stories and Biblical morality.

In many cases, when we look at what is being taught in the Sunday schools, we're just teaching on an inspirational or moral level.

In many cases, they are getting two lessons on a Sunday, and neither are really relevant to them. It's not just Sunday school, it's the sermon, the VBS, it's most of the teaching programs - they are not helping them in the postmodern culture where it is becoming the norm to attack and marginalize Christians. They are not coping - they are not able to cope - they haven't been trained to cope.
If you look at some of the "hard" questions people in the world ask, you have to see that most churches are not educating the children to answer them. There is no real concerted effort to bring our children up with the ability to combat the attacks on the Bible and it's history. Are your children able to answer and defend against questions like:

  • How do you know God exists>

  • Where did God come from?

  • Hasn't science disproved the Bible?

  • What about ape-men?

  • How did Noah get all the animals on the ark?

  • What about carbon dating?

  • How come dinosaurs have nothing to do with the Bible or church?

  • How can the earth only be a few thousand years old when it "looks" so old?
After a while in school, on the edge of adulthood, there begins this disconnect:
The facts are relevant; faith is not. If you want to learn something that's real, important, and meaningful, you do that at school. If you want to learn something that is lofty and emotional, you do that at church. At school, they teach you about everything - fossils, dinosaurs, marriage (different views, gay marriage, etc.), sex, the origin of life, what is "right" and "wrong," different religions - they learn about everything!
The issue boils down to an issue of authority - biblical authority. If the Bible is held as authoritative, then our view of things outside of it have to be in conformity to the authority of the Word. We need to be teaching our young children about this authority, and give them clear answers to the challenges the world seeks to attack with.
In our survey, we asked the thousand young adults who have left the Church if they believed that all the accounts and stories in the Bible are true and accurate. Of those, 44 percent said no, 38 percent said yes, and 18 percent didn't know...

...82 percent of those who said they did not believe all accounts and stories in the Bible are true and accurate did so because of doubts about the authority of the Bible.

Responding to these attacks on the Bible should be at the forefront of our attempts to restore relevancy to the Word of God and make our churches relevant to this generation.
Some very good points are made when examining what modern churches do to stay "relevant" and appealing to the younger masses, but it is all just a band-aid that does not heal the deep issue that exists. It is a short term fix in most all cases.

The education in church tends to be more Bible stories, than application of it to the world, science, etc. We send our children out without the ability to defend their beliefs, and they get shredded and turned away.
True spiritual growth and a healthy church all start with an individual - with you -accepting the Word of God for what it is - the absolute authority - and treating it accordingly. The Bible from Genesis to Revelation is the living Word of God. The written, uncompromised Word of God in your mind and the presence of the Holy Spirit of Christ in your heart is the pure essence of Christianity. When you gather together a group of people with that, "church happens."
Other issues examined are the church's "relevance" as an institution, and the many issues that turn people away from the church on the corner (hypocrisy, political strife, etc.). Much more is covered, and I found this to be a good read. It fired me up to take action, to desire to teach my children and others, the deeper things outside of simple Bible stories.

We must take a position to be in the Word ourselves, always ready to give an answer for our faith, and we must pass that on to our children. Don't simply allow Sunday school to be our children's only exposure to biblical teaching, it won't be deep enough. For those who homeschool, step up the depth of study when it comes to conforming the biblical teachings with the world of science.

A couple of the suggested resources in the appendix of this book include: and many more.

Please post all comments below on the actual blog. Thank you!

14 October 2009

Descended into hell? (Pt 10): J.I. Packer on the Apostles' Creed

My last post on this topic, was way back in November. Much has happened since then to turn my life all around, but I recently was provoked to post another quick post on the topic, as I have recently purchased a new book that touched on the subject. If you are new to this whole line of discussion, jump back to the previous part (menu at bottom).

In brief summary, I started writing this series because I find that many modern churches explain away the "descended into hell" clause of the Apostle's Creed, saying ti was simply a way of saying he suffered greatly on the cross. Not only is that false when viewed from the understanding that the early church (who formed the creed) believed, but it does great harm to the aspect of salvation that it pertains to.

J.I. Packer's 2008 book Affirming the Apostles' Creed is yet another modern Reformed author that thankfully does not follow the typical line of thinking mentioned above.

He starts as we did, by differentiating between Hades, and Gehenna (what we typically think of when saying "hell." Though Packer doesn't say he "physically" descended anywhere...didn't actually go down, to imply the "place" was down, but seems to feel it meant Jesus really actually died, and that Hades, "the place of the disembodied, is lower in worth and dignity than life on earth..." (pg 87).

He says when Jesus entered Hades, his presence made Hades into "Paradise" to fulfill what he told the penitent thief in Luke 23. This kind of goes against what we have read about the historical Hebrew understanding of the separate section of the Hadean realm, but doesn't take him way off track like some moderns get. He goes on to say that while Jesus' was in Hades for three days, it was for the purpose and benefit of the faithfully who had departed prior to his atonement. He says that 1 Pet. 3:19 shows that Jesus proclaimed his kingdom news to "the imprisoned "spirits" who had rebelled in antediluvian times" and even goes so far as to say that it would presumably include "the fallen angels of 2 Pet. 2:4ff, who are also "the sons of God" of Genesis 6:1-4" which is another great admission, considering the who modern "sons of God" debate (see my series of posts on that HERE).

So, I share this just because it excites me to find other within the Reformed denominations who espouse the historic view on these issues, rather than explain them away and do great harm to areas of understanding in the salvation scheme of Christ.

I also just last week obtained an old copy of an 1890 book by Frederic Huidekoper which is actually two separate books in one, with the one of interest being entitled "The Belief of the First Three Centuries Concerning Christ's Mission to the Underworld." If it adds any additional worthy tidbits to this topic, I will be sure to share them.

View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

13 October 2009

Already Gone (Ken Ham) - (Pt 1)

I am in the beginning stages of reading a book that I believe will turn out to be very interesting, and hopefully enlightening. I carry the book through my bookstore, and from all I have heard, and from my wife's review (yes, she finished it before me...again), it is well worth you looking into. This is especially true if you are a church leader, a parent, or anyone involved with education of children. The book is entitled "Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it" and is written by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer. Britt Beemer works for America's Research Group and specializes in statistics, which help to determine human nature trends. For this book, they questioned and studied 1000 American people, between the ages of 20-30, who were brought up regularly attending a conservative, evangelical church, but were now no longer active in attendance, prayer or personal Bible reading.

The trend in America is seen as matching what has already taken place in churches throughout the UK. The UK used to have a flourishing church life, and looking throughout history at the abundance of spiritual knowledge that has spawned from this area, and that obviously later led to America, we have great ties there that are worth examining. America has always been deemed a nation blessed by God, and has shown tremendous spiritual life in it's fairly short lived existence, but the trend shows a great decline, similar to what has already happened in the UK.

The basic surface level results to the inquiry, show a breakdown of the top reasons these young adults have discontinued attending, and include reasons like: boring services, legalism, hypocrisy in leaders, too political, self-righteous people, Bible not relevant, among other less common reasons. But, in digging deeper, with more probing questions, seeking reasons behind the confusion and frustrations, the book found startling results that will probably shock the readers as much as it did the researchers.

I only just got to the beginning of the first major issue they found, and until I finish exploring all they say about it, I won't divulge anything on it here yet. I hope to blog additional findings as I continue through this book, and hope it is found useful, and helpful to stop this bleeding of our churches.

Pick up the book, read along, and post your comments as I explore the book here.

Proceed to PART 2

12 October 2009


OK, I know I am way behind the times on this, it seems. Sometime ago, I know it must have been at least a year or more ago, I received a free DVD in the mail. It was interesting enough to keep, so I laid it aside in a stack of keepsakes on one of the kitchen counters. Well, all of this time went by, but over the past week I was cleaning things up some and rediscovered this DVD, so the wife and I decided to sit down and pop it in yesterday. The DVD is listed as a pre-release special one hour edition of a (then) forthcoming movie, entitled "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West."

This particular topic has been a point of interest recently, so the timing of watching this movie was about right. Back in April of this year, I believe it was, we had a special speaker come and speak to us at a chapel service at work. His names was Kamal Saleem, and he spoke for approximately twenty minutes, giving a brief history of his years of involvement as a terrorist who was actually sent to America to infiltrate and destroy from within. He had since become a Christian, and was now an outspoken opponent of the radical Islamic mission. I do not know what it was, and I am not normally captivated or interested in this type of topic; but I was mesmerized by his talk, and it had an impact on me.

Turns out he had written a book, and it was just being released that week. I went home that evening, and told my wife about the speaker, and the book. Not sure why, but she was immediately interested and said to order it. So, I did (and you can too, by simply clicking on the book image here...hint hint). When the book arrived I jumped right in, and began reading it. It was obviously a much more expanded view of the short speech he had given at my work, and the details were captivating. I had only gotten about two chapters into it before my wife captured the book from me. Of course, as she usually does with books she reads, she gets lost in them for days and hours at a time until done (meaning me and the kids didn't eat or get cleaned for that whole time...lol...jk, I love you honey). Anyway, she consumed it much quicker than I did, and of course wanted to share it with me. I made her refrain as I spent the next couple weeks finishing it myself.

It was written in a very captivating way, and leads you through his story of being recruited at the young age of seven, and how he progressed through the ranks of the radical terrorist army, and recounts mission after mission and what he went through for their cause. The story was tearful, tearful, fearful, and enlightening, and at times I had to step back and say, this can't be true. Some of it was just too shocking to my soft American mind I guess.

Throughout the story, he recounts how he now looks back and can see how the hand of God was on him to protect him through some of the horrifying things he went through, that honestly, he should not have survived. Even the way his conversion went down, one can see how God is plainly in the details of it all. An awe inspiring story I must say.

Anyway, so we had read this book a couple months back, and now had discovered this movie that we received way prior to that time, and had failed to ever watch. So, with the book and all of those gruesome stories as a backdrop, we watched this movie. Most of what Kamal (not his real name, by the way) had written was now being displayed in graphic color before us. It was all coming to life as we watched Islamic TV new clip after news clip of their agenda, their teachings, and their actions. Now it was not just reading one man's story, and hoping he was not making most of it up (some of it just seemed too shocking). Here I was seeing the same agenda he spoke of, on the screen, spoken from the mouths of the leaders of the movements. It all became so much more real now. Here is a condensed twelve minutes preview of the movie:

I highly recommend everyone to get your hands on the movie, show it to friends, get your church to screen it for the congregation to watch, and get the word out. You can access the site to read and see more, at www.ObsessionTheMovie.com. I checked and this movie is available for rent through both Blockbuster and Netflix online. On the official movie site, I see they have since released another movie, "The Third Jihad" which I am interested in checking out too.

The book by Kamal Saleem is a great read too, and additional information about it, as well as quite a bit of extra video interview footage, can be found on his site at www.kamalsaleem.com.

Sadly, we Americans have become quite ignorant, passive, and so tolerant that we have opened the door and allowed this stuff into our own backyard, with very little protest. The foot is in the door, now what will we do to slam the door on it? Education is the first step.

01 October 2009

The Mind of Madness...

Last week the family and I went on vacation down to visit family in North Carolina. This is about the fourth time my family has made the trip, but it was my first time finally being able to go with them. For one reason or another, I have never been able to go with them. Last year's trip was the first time that my family stayed in our timeshare during the trip, and they had a blast. I experienced the trip through the many photos and videos. The trip last year was the week of May 10-17, so this years trip was a bit later in the year. Maybe the date stands out to you, but probably not. Dates have become very much an "issue" for me lately, and seeing the photos from last year, dated that week in May, well, maybe it is just my twisted mind..

Since I had seen the many photos of the kids fishing last year, once we arrived and went fishing it all came to life to me. Unfortunately, one of the key photo subjects was not with us this time, and it was all that was on my mind as I relived the photo memories in person now. (Comparison photos from this years trip can/should be viewable to the public for a while by clicking HERE on my Facebook page.

Later in the week, we made the trip to the aquarium, which had also been visited by the family the year before. I again had experienced this previous visit through the photos and video clips. One of the first displays that hit me hard was the alligator. The kids again climbed on it, but all I could see when I looked, was Jonathan sitting there with his arm in the alligators mouth. Probably this, being added upon the already heightened emotional status of the prior events, made me noticeably somber for the aquarium trip (my wife assumed I was being grumpy because I am no real fan of such "nature" trips...lol).

Now, do not get me wrong. I did not mope around and cry the whole trip. We had a great time, and it was the first time that I can recall in many years (if ever) that we went on a vacation for any length of time where we really had nothing to do but relax. Unlike the 2007 trip to Disney where it was run, run, run, this trip was do what we want when we want, for the most part. We slept in almost every day (well, they slept in, I used the early morning time of peace and quiet to do some much desired reading...completing three previous started books). We fished, we swam, we shopped, we visited the in-laws, but nothing was on any specific time table. It was nice to get to spend such exclusive time with the kids, and I think we all had a good time.

We returned right before the weekend, so we had the weekend to recover before starting the new work week. Our church had a picnic Sunday after church. I ended up getting sick Saturday evening, so I was unable to attend church or the picnic that followed. I used this almost entire day alone, to rest and read. I did however, decide that this quiet time might be a good time to disassemble the photo board we made for the memorial service for my son Jonathan (pictured in a previous post). It had been folded up behind the couch ever since the memorial service ended, and we wanted to remove the photos to put them all into a dedicated photo album with other keep sakes and memorable pieces. I knew it was going to be a hard task, and I knew my wife would have a hard time with it, as she had often asked me to help her get it done.

So, I did it, but it wasn't pretty. I guess doing this, on the back of the already mentioned grievous vacation times just made matter worse. With each photo I removed, memory after memory of "better" times flooded my mind...and of course the tears flowed and flowed. (Yeah, I said it, I cried, but I AM a man...lol). One of the toughest ones was one with my mother holding Jonathan. My mother passed away in 2002, so seeing a photo of both of them, now being gone, just hit me pretty hard.

I made it through, and immediately jumped back into reading to get my mind off of it all. If not, being home alone, I would be really depressed and mope around even worse. My stinking melancholy temperament always attacks me when I get alone, and the littlest thing sets it off usually...not that it needed anything else this time.

The thing with dates, and this is where my madness is the strangest I guess, is that whenever I see a date prior to May 17th, it immediately screams at me of a time when I still had my son with me. At my office at work, I have iTunes installed on my computer, with a couple hundred songs that I play randomly through the day as I work. For those of you not familiar with iTunes, it has a column out beside each song, with stats, which includes one for the last time the song was played. Many times a day I look at the player to identify the artist or song/album titles that is playing, and I see that date. Any date prior to May 17th chokes me up for a moment and I immediately think "I last heard this song when Jonathan was still alive."

Likewise, when I see or hear dates anywhere else, a similar thing happens. I do not know if this is in anyway common, or something anyone else might experience. I can only compare to those around me, and this type of thing does not happen with my wife. Shoot, she barely remembers what day it is, has to think hard to remember her own age, and has no clue of when our anniversary is, or how many years we have been married. So, the date game is not an issue with her, to say the least (sorry honey for picking on you...I love you...lol).

Tuesday my family went back to the home school co-op school for classes, and Jonathan's art teacher met my wife in the hall, and turned over to us yet another batch of Jonathan's artwork from the previous school year. Add another memory moment to the already heightened memory meter for the week. oh, and the other odd thing, is that this same art teacher lost her husband...May 17th, 2008...one year to the date, prior to Jonathan's death, so that has always been a bit mind boggling. The date game drive me further into madness, but I guess it always will.

Well, I won't go on, I know some of you are probably tired of my constant grieving on here, and I understand. I just wanted to share and get this weeks story off my chest. I do hope to return to writing here more frequently, both on personal life matters, as well as further theological topics.

I have once again begun reading some of the more challenging topics, and have acquired a couple more titles dealing with topics previous discussed on prior blog postings. I am hoping to be more frequent in my blogging here, and I thank each and everyone of you who take the time to read the words of a simple madman like me.

Many of you read through links on Facebook, and leave comments on Facebook itself about my posts. I appreciate every comment, but would appreciate it even more if you would leave your comments right here, below, on the blog itself. That will preserve them linked to the article permanently, unlike how they disappear on Facebook.

Thank you

06 September 2009

Today in History

Eighteen years ago today, my life drastically changed. On 9/6/91 our first born child Jonathan was given to us by the grace of God, and we were parents at last. The past eighteen years were filled with the typical ups and downs of parenting, and our other five little blessings came along too.

As most everyone knows, my life drastically changed yet again on May 17th of this year when my first born "mysteriously" passed away. Life has not been the same, and it never will be, but we push on...day by day. Today would have been my son's 18th birthday...an achievement age in most everyone's life. We were truly blessed to have had him in our possession for the time we did, and though I miss him terribly each and every day, I occasionally try to smile, knowing he is no longer suffering the issues he had while on this earth. I long for the day when I will see him again in our Father's heavenly kingdom.

Happy birthday my dear son...I love you and miss you so very much.

02 September 2009

You Woke Up in Heaven

It has been three and a half months since my oldest son passed from this life. This coming Sunday, 9/6/09 would have been his 18th birthday. My cell phone gave me a startling buzz this morning when I put it on, alerting me, as it was set to do, that a birthday on my calendar was four short days away. It of course, brought immediate tears to my eyes.

It probably would not have been as bad had it not been for the previous series of dreams I had mere hours earlier.

I will say I am glad to have not been plagued all this time with sad dreams, as some have reported having. I have heard many stories of people who have had dreams of "closure" after losing loved ones. I had one such dream, within a week of his passing. It was very odd, but did provide a sort of closure.

However, last night, I had another, this one less dramatic. I was simply with Jonathan, and he was doing something on the computer. I just sat beside him, amazed to be back with him, and I kept just rubbing his foot and leg, glad to feel him physically again. I kept wishing we would stand up in the dream so I could wrap my arms around him and hug him again. I woke up weeping greatly, of course.

I soon went back to sleep, and found myself in another dream with Jonathan. This time we were standing, and I immediately wrapped myself around him and just held him close. Again, I woke up weeping, but somewhat happy for the experience.

Well, after last night, I was inspired to finish writing a poem/song that I had long ago started putting to paper. I got it to a place where it feels presentable, though maybe not 100% completed. I present it here in it's current form, just to basically "dump" it out of my system as a release. I have carried it around for weeks and weeks, so it is good to finally be able to release it somewhat. It is basically a recap of my last day with Jonathan:

You Woke Up in Heaven

The day was spent to get you well
You were so tired, I sure could tell
"How are you doing" I ask again
"You worry too much" you say and grin

I held you up for the exam
Just lean on me, until this ends
As we drove home you were so mad
Another issue it seems you had

Lay down your head and get some rest
Tomorrow morning you'll feel your best
But how was I supposed to know?
That off to heaven you would go

You woke up in heaven that morning
God took your hand and led you home
And though I'm sad and crying in pain
I'm sure happy for you all the same

Now I sit in pain and grief
My mind still swims in disbelief
I hear your voice, still see your face
And wish I too, could finish this race

I long to stand right by your side
To take your hand and be your guide
To teach you things you did not know
For now I'll wait down here below

You woke up in heaven that morning
God took your hand and led you home
And now dear God, please give me strength
To live my life, whatever it's length

11 August 2009

Thank God

I am beaten down
I am broken ground
I have lost my found
But I'm not done

I have everything
But I am nothing
Just a squirming bug
Under a rug

But I thank God for everything
Thank God for everything

There's a road ahead
We all end up dead
Some get there ahead
Some hang on

I will take a step
Then another step
'Cause I find it helps me
Not to stall

If I thank God for everything

Song lyrics from the song "Thank God" on the new solo album Balance by King's X guitarist/vocalist Ty Tabor (tytabor.com); they really hit home with me when I heard them recently.

29 July 2009

Losing My Child: Living In and Through Grief (Pt 7)

So, another set back occurred today...oh joy. We received notice on this past Saturday, that the life insurance check from my son's passing was in the mail. Well, today we received it...YAY!!! Then we opened it, and found it was made out payable to my SON'S name. Well, long story short, it was a typo and the insurance company is reissuing another check ASAP. My hope of using it to kill some of the surrounding debt before the end of the month, has been thwarted. So, I must patiently continue to wait...not one of my strong suits...lol.

OK, to continue in the look at the booklet Good Grief, we come to the seventh stage, which is the feeling of anger and resentment. Supposedly this stage will come after the depression, so I guess I have not been through this as fully as I could be, but I still relate to many aspects of it. While admitting that neither anger nor resentment are good or healthy emotions, they are nonetheless still common for most people, and therefore important to move past them.

When in this stage, we tend to become critical of everything related to the situation. I found this to be the case somewhat, when it came to the whole "what if" scenarios. I found myself questioning and casting blame on doctors, types of treatments, etc. What could have caused this? Who is to blame? What was done wrong, and by whom? These are areas he directly addresses in this chapter. No real solution is given, except to attempt to move from this quickly.

Stage eight is to resist returning to normal activities. I guess to a certain degree I have experienced this. It has to do with feeling like only we remember the great loss we have had, while others around us have returned to life as usual, so we seek to keep the memory (of pain) alive, leading to further depression, and a lack of desire to get on with life and try to get past it. We become too comfortable in our grief, and find it less painful to experiencing new situations in life.

One of the things he touches on in this section, is how people who surround the grieving one tend to make every attempt to avoid the issue...avoid bringing up the lost love one, for fear of bringing up painful emotions. He says that this tends to have the opposite effect, in that it makes the griever think everyone has all but forgotten the lost one. We should be open and free to discussed the one who has passed...to keep the memory alive, and to live and relive the joys of their lives. I often try to bring up my son in conversation with the family, and my other children do not grasp this point, and always think we should not speak of him. They do not bring him up, thinking it will make mom or dad cry again. But we really need to continue living, speaking, and remembering him in our normal conversations.

Stage nine is when things begin to clear up, and the dark clouds begin to break up, and a ray of hope begins to shine through. An example is given of the typical "Hollywood" little old lady who has lost her husband years earlier, and has become a recluse basically. She has kept her husbands belongings exactly as they were, and sits and ponders the memories on through the years, never letting anyone in, or seeking to experience life any further. This is what can happen if we do not move through the stages to reach the days of hope and life again.

Stage ten is to begin reaffirming reality again. We will never be able to return to our old selves again, with great loss comes great changes in life. But we should and can continue on in new experiences, and often, those of great faith will be better suited and able to assist others through similar issues due to their experience. So, in the end, we should come out different, but in ways, better than before.

I pray that I find my way through all of the steps and to this outcome myself. I appreciate those who have continued lifting me, and my family up in prayer during these times. I feel without it, we would not have made it this far. May God continue providing strength to us each minute of each day until I see the clouds break and the sun shine through once again.

This is the end of the examination of this little booklet, and I will return to my continued reading of the R.C. Sproul book Invisible Hand for my personal study on this issue further.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

28 July 2009

Losing My Child: Living In and Through Grief (Pt 6)

OK, I have been negligent in finishing this up, so let me go ahead and cruise through the remaining sections of the Good Grief booklet. It has now been ten weeks since my son passed away, and I must say, it seems like it has been much longer than it sounds. It some ways it seems an eternity since I last saw him, or talked to him, or just saw him sitting on the computer. Yet, the pain is still very fresh in many ways.

We did, as mentioned in the last post, get the finalized death certificate. All of the insurance has been filed, and so some of that closure is in the process; but the grieving, at least for me, still goes on.

Stage four of the booklet, describes that physical symptoms of distress can occur when grieving. People who have had a major life loss or change, can become so depressed that it can actually begin to give them physical ailments and sickness. I did not connect as much with this section, I guess because I have not remained in a stage of grieving to the point of causing these ailments yet, as it mentions this may happen after a longer period of time. I am hopeful that my grieving and current depression level will not lead to a long enough time to cause this to be a problem (I am hopeful).

Stage five discusses how one may become panicky, concentrating and pondering over the loss to the point of disruption of living. Losing focus, not paying attention, asking people to repeat themselves when they speak with you...always kind of being "out of it" would be descriptive of this stage. Fortunately, I do not feel that I have experienced this phase, and pray to God I never cross over into this. I feel I have maintained a focus on work and my extra curricular activities.

I must admit, my motivation...my creative desire has become more slack or (more) lazy. Not so much in my 8-5 job, but more related to my extra side projects. I tend to spend less time accomplishing things at and around the house, and more time just "vegging out," reading and hanging with the family. Musically, one of my bands has been much more active the past few months, so that has greatly helped keep me going in that area; but the other band is kind of in a creative phase, and honestly, I just am not all there or feeling it. I am hopeful it will pass, but I guess it is a side effect of the depression I still am prone to.

I do not have the panic that this sections starts off with, but I definitely relate practically word-for-word with the last paragraph of this chapter, which states:
To help ourselves through such a period when we can think of nothing but our loss, we must be open to new and different human relationships. At a time like this all we want to do is run away from life. The last thing we care to do is to try anything new. We can think of a hundred different reasons why we prefer to stay at home and be gloomy rather than go out and be forced to be nice to people and think new thoughts. Such an attitude is natural; it is to be expected.
This I feel is me right now. I may not necessarily just sit around being gloomy, but I definitely do not have the motivation to go out and do anything, or meet anyone "new" like this. Actually, on top of the grief issue, other recent experiences with a close "friend" have made me even more desirous to not make any new friends or relationships. At this time, I am content to be with my family and my book "friends." I have no desire to open up to, get close to, or confide in anyone else outside of my current direct circle. Call it depression, or lack of trust in so called "friends," either way, for right now at least, I have no desire for new friends or relationships. So, I guess I may be stuck in a portion of this stage at present.

Stage six discusses the guilt we may feel over the loss. There are two types of guilt, the normal guilt we feel over time not well spent, words not said, etc. We always wish we had a chance to do things over, to do things better, to say "I Love You" more, to spend more quality time with them. This I do feel, and is said to be normal.

The second set of guilt discussed is called neurotic guilt. It states every person will have some of this, and it may be hard to separate which guilt is which when dealing with it. I do admit I have some of this, but feel I have come to terms with it. The example of neurotic guilt that is given is a story of a daughter who spends day and night for a long period of time, by her aged mother's bedside. Finally, the doctors order the girl to go home and get some rest, and she does, and that same night the mother dies.

In my case, it is the "what if" question of why, upon arriving home early that morning (3AM), did I not put the pulse oximeter on my son's finger just to see how his levels were doing? My wife said he had recently stirred and was fine, and I did not want to wake him, so I was simply satisfied with holding his hand and seeing his head move. If I had put the meter on, and had noticed something was wrong (if there was anything wrong at that time of the night, that is) then I would have had him rushed to the hospital, where I am sure he would have been tubed, poked, prodded, stuck, etc. and who knows what other "torture" in the attempt to preserve him. If after all of that he were to still have died, it would have been a most horrible way to go...conscious, fighting, and in discomfort. I am thankful that the Lord directed me to not take steps to further check him and possibly lead to that; but instead my son went very, very peacefully, without a word, without pain, and just slept away.

OK, I will stop for now, and try to cover the last four sections in the next post. I am glad to be re-reading parts of this now and being able to pour out my thoughts here, whether anyone reads them or not, it refreshes my mind on the subject and hopefully helps me make it through some of this time.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

17 July 2009

Jonathan - The Truth Revealed


That was the first thing out of my mouth when I spoke to the funeral home, who revealed to me the official cause of death on the death certificate for my 17 year old son Jonathan. Two days ago, they called and left a message stating that the medical examiner's office had called and the finalized death certificates were in. They told me they were submitting the request for the copies I had ordered, and should have them for me to get in a couple of days. Being impatient as I am after waiting now eight weeks for this, I called them back and asked if they could contact the medical examiner and see if they would tell us the actual cause of death. When I received a return call from the funeral home yesterday, just fifteen minutes from the time I left work, the answer simply blew my mind.

Cause of death: Brain Tumor. More specifically, Neurocytoma. I could not believe it. A brain tumor?? There had never been any symptoms that led anyone to even examine him for that.

At first, this was a shock, and it overwhelmed my emotions with a ton of additional "what if" questions. What if we knew and treated it? What if it was something simply fixable? UGH!!! It was a flood of pain and emotion all over again.

My initial attempts to find answers on line were less than stellar. There was a bit about it online, but I was finding mostly case studies, with technical jargon that I did not understand or want. I wanted a page to simply tell me what it was, how it is caused, and the treatment and survival rate. Instead I found bits of information on types of treatment and other less clear stats.

I did find many in the case study, even after surgery, still died, some in as little as six months, some lasted a couple more years. So I did not find any clear cut wording that says yes, it was easily treatable and survivable. I think the increased difficulty of finding a quick answer was God's way of telling me to stop. I gave up looking after a few moments.

Now, the day after, I realize that for me to dig for an answer is not a good idea at all. No matter what the answer I find, it will not bring him back, and it will not make me feel more whole. Worst case, it could make me far worse than I currently am. All of the "what if" scenarios in the world won't do anything to lead to peace of mind to me, but in fact could push me deeper. I am pretty sure if we had discovered it, in his weakened condition due to lack of weight, he probably would not have survived the surgery to fix it (some of the case studies showed people not surviving the surgery part).

It does help me in many matters though. First off, it clears my mind of any thoughts that the recent supplement IV treatments had anything to do with his death. It clears out the possibility that the diet he was on caused any problems. It also clears the thoughts that maybe we didn't start aggressively treating the weight gain issue sooner. None of those seem related to his eventual death, but instead, out of left field, a new undetected issue swoops in beyond our control to take him away.

Strangely, he had no symptoms of this brain tumor that we were aware of. From what little I found online, the common symptoms included chronic headaches, vision issues, and loss of coordination and tingling sensations in the limbs. None of these were issues that Jonathan ever brought up as having. Of course, he was so secretive of many issues and symptoms, one can only wonder if he did, but never shared them. Since the most common symptom was chronic headache, something he never seemed to complain of, then I have to assume he wasn't hiding it from us.

Anyway, while it does raise some additional questions, it also answers some of my already plaguing questions, so in the long run, I have to learn to let it go; there is nothing we could have done more as far as what we did know he had, so not knowing, puts the situation that much further out of our hands.

04 July 2009

Losing My Child: Living In and Through Grief (Pt 5)

Part three of the "Good Grief" book discussed feeling depressed and very lonely. The one thing about this book, is obviously these things do not have to proceed in the order given in the book, nor does everyone experience every step (as I will touch on in future segments). This particular step though, still seems to be lingering some in my process of grief.

The grief tends to make you think no one else has ever grieved as bad as we are. I can't say I have ever felt that way, because I know that no matter how absolutely horrible and painful I feel now, there are plenty of others who have experienced even worse (Job comes to mind for one that I hold up as worse off than me, though even more modern contemporaries could easily be mentioned).

The part of this that does touch base with me some is the feeling of being alone in this pain (even though I am surrounded by family also directly affected). I walk around as if in a haze. It is as if the sun is never shining, and while others around me go on with life as usual, I am stuck under a cloud. I work and work to keep my mind off of it, and do as much as I can to distract myself and enjoy things and people around me, but at the first sign of quiet, my mind drifts back to the reality at hand. In those cases, I tend to feel alone and isolated.

One small point he makes really hit home greatly. He says:
When we are depressed, we find ourselves thinking thoughts we never have otherwise. We say God does not care. We may even doubt there is a God.
I have said previously how it is a battle between the mental and the emotional, and this is exactly it. I know in my mind God is there. I know in my mind God is in control. I know that every aspect of this situation is brought and controlled, down to the minutest detail, by the hand of God, yet emotionally the grief and depression tear away at that knowledge. That is where these books have come in handy, to help remind, shape and mold the emotions to adhere to the logical knowledge of the mental.

This booklet speaks of the eventual end of these "dark days" which seem so far away and impossible while living in them, but I put faith in the fact that they will one day end, and I will see sunshine again. There is a part of me though, that does not want that to happen, as it is almost like I am moving past my son, and forgetting him (which I know will never happen, but again, emotions rage). He states these dark days can last for some people much quicker than other, so who knows how these things will play out.

I have seen comments by some of our friends, feeling helpless as to what they can do to help us through this. Honestly, even I do not know the answers, and when people ask if there is anything we need or anything they can do, I do not have a clue. The books states:
One of the most helpful things we can do for a friend at such a time is to stand by that friend in quiet confidence, and assure him o her that this, too, shall pass. The friend will not believe us at first, and will tell us we do not know what we are talking about. We may even be asked to leave. But the friend usually does not mean it. Once it is realized that our concern is genuine, the quiet assertion of our own confidence in God's continuing care and concern will assist tremendously in the friend's recovery.
Now, whether this is true, I do not know, yet..lol.

I do appreciate all of the prayers and assistance from those around us that have been offered so far. At this time, we must forge on and attempt to live as normally as possible; but we could still use prayer for strength and peace of mind (especially me, as I am much more prone to depression than my wife tends to be). I must say, being able to "unload" some of this here is serving to be somewhat therapeutic, whether anyone reads it or not...it just "gets it out" I guess. Also, working through these books again is giving some comfort thankfully.

As part of a recent "what if" segment in my brain recently, I was struck with an increased awe and thankfulness to God in this situation. What if I had noticed an issue with him those few hours before he was gone? What if I had rushed him to the hospital?
I won't go into any real detail as to the horrors my mind went to, but in the end I was ultimately thankful that Jonathan passed so peacefully in his sleep, and not in conscious pain in a hospital, trying to be kept alive through intervention that would have still led to his passing, though in a much more torturous manner. So, the fact that things went the way they did, can be viewed as nothing less than pure mercy from God for both us and our dear son. While I still do not understand how or why he passed when he did, I am thankful that it happened the way it did.

As of today, we are at the end of the sixth week since his passing (in ways it feels so much longer). We were told after the initial autopsy, that the final death certificate would be about six to eight weeks out, awaiting the toxicology results. So, we hope to have a bit of closure in that area any time now. I pray that whatever the outcome, it would somehow provide some closure in my mind mentally and emotionally, and help eliminate some of the "what if" issues that still bounce around inside. His condition was somewhat of a mystery in life, I fear his death may end up being the same...we'll see.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7