Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A Very Special Anniversary
(LONG But Worth The Read!)

Yesterday was a milestone for me. Nine years ago -- January 18, 1996 -- I gave my life to the Lord and became a Christian.

It was not a decision I made lightly. Dramatic as it sounds, I had to face the possibility of my own death. But let me start at the beginning...

My wife had become a Christian months earlier and had occasionally invited me to bible studies her church had. I had been happy for her that she'd found a church that she was happy at, but at the time, I just wasn't interested. I noticed over time, however, that she had changed for the better. She became a better wife to me and a good mother to our firstborn son, Adam. Over a few months' time, the tenderness and love that she showed me made me want to do nice things for her. So, one time, when she asked me to come to the bible study, I relented and said "okay." When the day of the bible study came, though, that's when I started getting ill...but I was determined to try to please my wife. I told her that evening "If I have a fever, I can't go. But if I don't have a fever, I'll go." She took my temperature and, to my amazement, that thermometer read normal (even though I knew I had a fever!)

We went to the bible study, which began with a veritable feast of good food! Unfortunately, I was not very hungry because of how bad I felt. After the dinner, the bible study was led by the pastor of my wife's church. Throughout the study, a pain built up in my back. At first, it was just annoying and I focused past it. But it kept getting worse and worse. For love of my wife, I began to battle my body to focus past the pain to hear the pastor's words. The pain became constant and fierce. I found I had to focus on every single word the pastor was saying in order to hear him...and that's when something incredible happened: I recognized the truth behind his words! I saw my life and how the Bible pertained to it...and I saw that I needed to do something about that. After the bible study concluded, I went up to the pastor and shook his hand and asked if I could come to his church that Sunday and give my life to the Lord.

But that's not where my journey led...not right away. Later that night, I woke with a "coughing fit" so bad that it knocked me off my feet by the time I made it to the restroom. I barely caught myself on the sink counter with my elbows before falling to the ground. In the process, I wrenched something in my back and was in agonizing pain. Somehow, my wife coaxed me back to sleep. The next morning, the pain returned and we knew we'd need to get me to the hospital. Angel called her pastor because we didn't even have money for an insurance co-pay; she'd hoped he would know someone who could lend us the money. He told us to come by his house on the way to the hospital. When we arrived, he gave us $40 out of his own pocket and said he'd be praying for me. Once we were done at the hospital, the insurance co-pay was $35 and the prescription co-pay was $15...for a total of exactly $40! My wife and I were both astonished at that.

I didn't go to church that weekend, I recouperated at home. I didn't go the following Wednesday, either. By the following Friday, I felt a sort of strange paranoia and intense nausea followed by dry heaves and general physical misery. I was severely dehydrated from not replentishing the fluids I'd lost while suffering the flu. Angel called her pastor and asked for prayer for me. Somehow, Angel got me through that night, too. The next day, I wasn't any better, so we took me to a nearby minor emergency center.

After a two hour wait, they finally saw me and they were alarmed. The nurse told me they wouldn't even let me leave until they got at least 2 liters of fluid into me. She hooked me up to an I.V. but my veins kept collapsing! After that happened four times, I started getting really scared. Feeling weak, I closed my eyes and thought "I could die today!" Soon after that, I began remembering the preaching from the bible study the week before. I remembered that the pastor had talked about there not only being a God but a Devil too -- and that they war over people's souls.

In contemplating my own death, I had to ask myself "If I die right now, am I going to go to heaven?" The answer was a clear and resounding "no." What had I done that was worthy of it? How could a life of marijuana and alcohol use or selfishness towards my wife or feelings of murderous hatred and vengefulness pass a righteousness test of any kind? I knew it couldn't and that terrified me!

I realized I hadn't made a decision of who I would serve in this life -- God and His Son Jesus Christ or the Devil? I also realized that not making a decision was the same as making the wrong decision! Desperate, I prayed to God right there, in my thoughts. I made a vow to Him: I said "God, if you let me live today, I will go to church tomorrow and give my life to you!"

Minutes later, the fifth I.V. attempt succeeded in getting one liter of fluid into me before that vein collapsed as well. The nurse said they could attempt to run an I.V. into my ankle or I could try to drink a liter of orange juice. I opted for the orange juice and drank it down as fast as I could, so they let me leave.

The next day, I fulfilled my end of my vow and went to my wife's church and went up at the time of the invitation. The pastor led me through the plan of salvation in the Bible and I made my confession of faith. That is, I publicly acknowledged that I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He was born, He died and that He was resurrected on the third day. I understood that, because of the sin of Adam (the first man), humankind was spiritually separated from God as sinners and that God sent Jesus as the mediator between humankind and God. So I confessed the sins of the bible that I was guilty of and prayed to Jesus to ask Him to forgive me of those sins and to send His spirit into my heart to change me.

Unlike when I was six years old and went in front of the congregation of my parents' church to impress them and get baptized, this time I felt His presence. And more than that, there was a change in my life. I forgave those who I had any old grudges against and I let go of old hatred and rage. The man I used to be died that day and was reborn a Christian.

I do not claim I am perfect but the Lord has been spiritually perfecting me these last nine years. I have faults and have made errors out of ignorance but I cannot willfully sin against my God and His Son, Jesus Christ. I no longer curse or drink alcohol or do drugs. I cannot hate, although I have been made angry. I no longer hold grudges though I have endured trials and temptations.

My ultimate goal is to see my God and His Son Jesus Christ in peace on the day that I die. Secondly, I want to share the hope that is in my life now. It goes beyond race, as God is no respecter of persons, and it is about a perfect love that He offers.

Thank you for your patience in reading this. I apologize for its length but I wanted to get it right and give God His rightful glory. He deserves no less.

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Catching Up

The last several days have been something of a whirlwind and I'm trying to catch up. Most of what I've been doing on IR Haven has been updating the design of the blog. You've probably noticed the new banners for Traffic Pods and Fast Freeway. These are new methods I'm trying to drive traffic to IR Haven, in combination with Blog Explosion and Blog Clicker.

I'm going through some challenges in my personal life but I'm not quite ready to blog about them yet. All I can say is that my family and I are healthy and well and the Lord is growing my wife's and my faith. If I can blog about things once they're in their proper perspective, I will.

Friday, January 14, 2005

How Can They Be So Close Yet So Far? Oh, Yeah...Faith!

UK Science Center to Probe Mysteries of the Mind

Can there be a predisposition for fundamentalism? Do the faithful cope more easily with pain? Are they faster to recover from illness? Such are the questions scientists and theologians will attempt to answer at a new study center which starts experiments into human consciousness in the next few months.

Does that mean they think fundamentalism is genetic, therefore it can be cured with some wonderdrug?

OXSCOM has received a $2 million grant for a two-year pilot run from the American-based philanthropic John Templeton Foundation to carry out a range of experiments, some of which will use pain techniques to see if the faithful cope better with pain than non-believers.

Scientists will use chilli pepper to burn volunteers' skin, said OXSCOM deputy director Toby Collins.

Then, religious icons or other symbolic artifacts will be shown to them to see if they make a difference in pain perception.

*shakes head*

It's not the image of Jesus or the symbol of the Cross that brings peace. It's the living, resurrected Jesus and the knowledge that He suffered on the Cross for our sins so that His Spirit could dwell in our hearts.

The people of faith who are survivors of the tsunami are not being comforted by pictures; they are comforted by their faith.

For crying out loud, the public are not lab rats and you can't treat them like lab rats in an experiment and hope to get ANY meaningful results.

Greenfield said its time has come because of people's propensity to go against all logic, based on certain beliefs and faiths.

She highlighted the rise of fundamentalist beliefs as a concern.

"We are very mindful as to the state of the world as to the strength of beliefs and what that can do for world peace and well-being," she said.

"What is it in the brain that, in the presence of evidence, refutes that evidence?"

Beliefs can be remarkably resilient, even against logic, added Oxford theologian, professor John Brooke, and this merits study.

He used the example of the Asian tsunami disaster to suggest that even a huge tragedy can often fail to force the faithful to flounder in their beliefs. Why is that?

This really would be insulting except these people obviously do not realize that they are being condescending and ignorant about people who have faith and spiritual beliefs. I believe science has yielded some very helpful technology (like computers, the internet and medical breakthroughs) but when science tries to understand faith and/or religion, science gets way out of its league.

I Corinthians 1: 18 - 21 and 26 - 31 (King James Version)

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.


26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Tsumani Topic Is IR-Related

I was telling my wife about my "Tsumani Afterthought" post yesterday. Out of that conversation came an interesting conclusion: everything about the Tsumani impact and relief response is interracially-related...not exclusively in the relationship sense (although that is a factor) but in the scope of nations affected.

People of more than 12 nations were involved. More than that, actually, because of many of the devastated locations being tourist resorts. Many "foreigners" were killed, injured and/or traumatized: Europeans, Australians, Americans and Africans, to name only a few.

Relief efforts were spearheaded by several of these "foreigner" nations. People were horrified at the incredible extent of death and they empathized for the survivors. Based on the amount of giving, from all over, it doesn't seem like people stopped to think about the color of skin, nationality or ethnicity of those they were helping.

Finally but hardly least, there were many IR couples either separated or devastated by the earthquake/tsunami. Many "foreigners" were either involved with or married to people of the affected nations. Quite a few were there visiting the native families from those countries.

So, just to clarify: the tsunami topic is not merely relevant for its "newsworthiness," but it's also very relevant to us here at IR Haven. It will be interesting to see how this continues to develop...

Best Wishes,

Monday, January 10, 2005

Tsunami Afterthought

I've been keeping up with the statistics and many of the news story angles, even some of the various international perspectives on this tragedy. Sometimes I have to purposefully take a break (unlike the unintentional break I took from blogging last weekend) from all the news and commentary because it is truly overwhelming. It is painful to realize that, before this is all over, more than 250,000 will most likely be counted dead and certainly millions of lives have been devastated.

Of course, the survival stories, public sympathy and generosity have also been reported. It is truly inspiring to comprehend the positives that have come to light recently. I won't bother with the political side, except to say that many political differences have been temporarily shelved to deal with this crisis.

But one element that has stood out to me is this: Why does it take massive amounts of death and suffering to make people start acting the way they should act all the time? People should care about each other. People should put aside differences of opinion to create positive change, regardless of whether they gain personal power or a quick buck out of it. People should be generous. People should ask themselves "what can I do to help somebody in need?" without asking "what's in it for me?" So why don't more people do that? The answer is surprisingly simple: sin. The Bible speaks well on this and does a much better job than I could.

Best Wishes,

James 4: 1 - 10 (King James Version)

1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?

6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Back In The Swing Of Things

My apologies for not blogging yesterday, I was ridiculously exhausted. You know you're "ridiculously" exhausted when somehow, in your mind, you know that you're just one step away from seeing things. It is bad when you're at work on the verge of exhaustion-induced hallucinations. Next thing you know, you're answering the phone "Hi, I'm Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?" Next thing after that, BAM! you're fired, right? I did not want that on my resume, so I just tried to quietly focus on work...

I'm also really looking to build readership of IR Haven. I've tried Blog Explosion, which has helped, as well as cross-linking with some very nice bloggers. What has worked for other people? You can either comment below or send me an e-mail. Thanks!

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Earthquake/Tsunami Update: A Wonderful Response To The Question "How Can A Just And Loving God Allow Suffering?"

God Alone Knows Why There Is Suffering On Earth

(The Age - Jan. 3, 2005)

I would put the full text here but The Age's website clearly stated "This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited." So please check this link out, it's well worth the read (there may be a registration but it's free)!

Best Wishes,

Monday, January 03, 2005

Tsunami Update: Let The Media Pedantics Begin

Who thought that it was a good idea to send network morning show anchors to the devastated regions of the earthquake/tsunami disaster to interview survivors of this tragedy? Whoever thought of it should have included recommending at least some basic tact and real understanding for the producers and anchors, instead of what I saw on ABC and NBC this morning. What I saw was a Today Show anchor repeating everything that a man from Sri Lanka (who lost his wife and youngest daughter) said because she wanted to make sure people understood him. Then there was Diane Sawyer from Good Morning America looking way out of her league trying to relate to a group survivors; the syrupy tones of voice were painful to listen to.

To their credit, CBS just had their host talk via satellite to a correspondent there (Allan Pizzey - a longtime, respected foreign correspondent) who didn't interview anyone. I got considerably more information and perspective from the CBS report...

Don't get me wrong. I'm really not criticizing the anchors who went over there; they're doing what they were told to do. I think it's the producers and heads of the programming that may regret trying to get higher ratings out of a disaster in this manner. After all, the world is already watching the coverage of the recovery efforts -- why, oh, why do they need to send over anchorpeople who are used to interviewing celebrities and government officials? How can these anchors possibly hope to relate to the suffering of these poor people? It's a shame.

Best Wishes,