Aaron Zook – At Rest in God’s Country

Uncle Aaron and skiing group

From left to right: Aaron, me, David, Nevin, and Jason

More than a week ago my uncle Aaron, the oldest in his family, went home to heaven May 31, 2013, after an extended illness. His family and friends gathered in Ohio June 3 to remember him and to lay his body to rest. Despite the bittersweet nature of our gathering, God’s grace to us was real. We were able to rejoice in the love and peace that God gave Aaron and his family. His passing brought to mind many memories for all of us. I have many as well, but there’s one that stuck with me for a long time after it occurred and will continue to impact my life into the future.

The picture at the top of this post was taken on the top of a slope in Calgary, Canada. The occasion was his son’s wedding to a lovely Canadian, Salina.  Aaron, his other son Nevin, two cousins and I took the opportunity to try out some super Rocky Mt skiing. Aaron was really plowing into the physical activity craze that he’d been able to indulge in recently and I was impressed by his vigor and stamina. Ever since then I’ve made it a personnel goal, God-willing, to be as energetic and fit as he was at that age. But this is not the thing that will really stick with me.

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Be normal – but with a dash of bold love

Not so normal...

Not so normal…

The other morning whilst driving to work, NPR provided a thought provoking chunk of spiritual food. A writer whose religion or lack thereof was not revealed, described some  anecdotes that could be found in his latest book. These stories consisted of his experiences in cafes. His most interesting story was a time when he saw a man sitting at a table with a gun in his lap. He sat down across from the man and found out he was working on a suicide note. The writer, who’d just been paid recently for a piece, offered to buy the gun from the down and out gentleman (I believe his desperation was due to financial difficulties and his wife leaving him). During their conversation he discovered more about the man and then offered him a phone and more money for a bus ticket home to his children/family. The man accepted the offers, gave up the gun, made the calls, and was soon on his way to family members – all of it paid and facilitated by the good samaritan. The storyteller/writer saved the man’s life. As I heard this story a few thoughts spoke to my spirit.

First, the writer helped this hurting man in a sacrificial way, having never seen the guy before. And he did it in a creative way. Instead of freaking out and trying to focus the guy’s attention away from suicide – he just offered to take away the means of destruction and with money – something the guy needed. He didn’t preach, berate or plead. It seemed that he approached the guy in a “normal” way as if the situation wasn’t as grave as it appeared and this brings me to my final point.

I wondered if I could do the same thing. I wondered if most of us religious, christian types wouldn’t step in with a load of christianeze to try to divert the suicidal from their intentions. Could we be “normal”… Thinking a prayer or dropping Jesus’ name into the mix may not have hurt either, but in this situation the lack of religiosity didn’t hinder a good outcome. Could I/we just be just as nice and normal in a peaceful, loving (and very effective) way to help someone like this in need?

Or do we – like I know I have and still do, when faced with an uncomfortable or unsettling situation, waste precious time or even miss an opportunity because our minds are racing trying to come up with the right “christianeze” – the ‘right, holy lingo’ to bring to the situation because that’s what good christians are supposed to do?

Do we hesitate to reach out because we haven’t figured out how to add the ‘soul-winning’ angle to the context? Or do we even intentionally reject doing simple, non-preachy kindness/niceness like this blogger describes in the opening lines to a recent post:

“We can’t support that?” the campus ministry leader informed us. “Not unless you include a tract or share the gospel in some way.” My college roommate Dave and I had requested some material and volunteer support from the parachurch organization for a new project Dave had initiated. He wanted to show God’s love on campus by raking leaves, cleaning frat houses, and providing hot chocolate on cold mornings. The ministry leader would have none of it. Showing kindness and love was not enough. For these acts to carry real value, he said, they had to be accompanied by something more.

Might it not be better to just do something – polite, friendly, kind, creative…in a way – kind of normal? And maybe the God-thing will just happen: a life will be touched: even changed forever?  And then quietly, humbly and without fanfare, we can give all the glory to God…and walk on to the next opportunity.

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Precious Time


Our growing young man

Hello. I’m a guest writer for the Persistent K.o.G. but I may start to write from time to time as I’m inspired. You will probably see that my posts will be on quite different topics than Andrew’s. But hey, variety is the spice of life, no?

So last week I took a substitute day for the first time since my daughter was born. It was at one of the schools where I had previously taught, so it went fine- it is always easier to substitute when you know how things work at that particular school. Getting up early in the morning and heading to “work,” however, made me more thankful for the opportunity to stay at home with my children even though being a stay-at-home mom has it challenges too. (Many people seem to think being a stay-at-home mom is an ideal privilege- to which I say Yes! and No!)

To all the mommies out there- this is  my inspiration from the sub day. Soon enough my son will be in school. (No, I probably will not homeschool. For one thing, if everyone homeschooled, teachers would be out of a job. For another thing, I  have met quite a few   homeschooled youth that socially stick out like a sore thumb. I could  go on with my reasons not to homeschool, but I will spare you.) Anyhow, recently I have discovered how much I  enjoy teaching my son and engaging and expanding his mind with educational and fun activities. At the same time,  I have found that it is so easy to  go through days and weeks without  spending much time playing with my child. So I was/am inspired to make a goal for myself. I purpose to do 2-3 creative, teaching activities with my son each  week. (Also I want to start Bible memory with my son.) These activities would be in additional to the daily book reading and spontaneous play that I do every day.

This is a precious time. My children are small and their young minds are soaking up so much. I want to make the most  of these years!

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Some presumptuous atheists…

spaceImgRecently I discovered the spiritually/intellectually inspiring debate program, Intelligence Squared. The program listing and past programs can be accessed via their site or NPR. I’ve begun listening to recent debates via Itunes podcasts. A recent one, “Science Refutes God”; despite its title, actually strengthened my belief in God.

The audience thought differently and gave the atheists the ‘win’, but I found their arguments to be rather pathetic in the face of the infinite universe and the Science behind it. (Ironically what they’ve devoted their lives too…) Some of the comments on the debate’s page bring this out as well. (like this – When science can create a life form in a test tube, then they can win the debate.)  I thought D’Souza did a better job in trying to trip up the atheists in the arrogance of their position, but I could see how the audience may have thought he was being too preacher-pushy and reacted against that via their vote.

What really stood out was the non-believing scientists presuming that they, as mere humans, can decide they have enough evidence to refute God. The audacity of that position is staggering when you consider how little they know about the infinite universe. (A scientific fact that all scientists adamantly support because their studies continually show them how little they know!) In fact, in modern cosmological terms it’s even expanding! Yet they’re sure that their smidgen of collected scientific knowledge is enough to make the possibility of God seem irrational… The universe’s breadth and depth is increasing, and these guys think that because they haven’t yet explained every atom, jot and tittle of it, that they can declare that the belief in a Being beyond it and them is highly unlikely.  Amazing…

(Photo courtesy of Chemtec at stock.xchng)
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In one way the hippies may have been the saints…

Arlington Cemetery DCRecently I listened to this episode of Fresh Air concerning the Vietnam War. I was thunderstruck again with the related thought that some of the convictions held by hippies and other radicals were more righteous and godly than what many claiming christians stood for in that era. This particular episode was about a writer who had found documents detailing the atrocities committed by american forces against civilians throughout Vietnam. A publicly acknowledged one was the My Lai Massacre which I’ve heard of many times, but this author had found, researched and documented many, many more brutalities; like the following:

“It wasn’t odd for a helicopter to hover over people in a field until they got too frightened to stand still anymore. And they would make a break for cover, for a bunker, and then they would be gunned down. Sometimes troops on the ground did this, too. They frightened people into running and then used this as a pretext to kill them, and it was called in as a ‘guerrilla taking evasive action.’ … It was, in their estimation, a lot of times safer to just shoot first because they knew no one would ask questions later.” (Nick Turse)

And to think that most fundamentalist, politically conservative evangelicals proudly (some to this day) supported the Vietnam War in opposition to those ‘evil’ liberal/socialist, doping hippies…  Now if you say, “but they didn’t know about those things” you have a slight point. But many nice american ‘christians’ also actively chose not to learn what truth could be found. Unlike this patriotic, God & country, anti-communist, pro-war crowd, the ‘godless’ civil rights/anti-war crowd were more interested in truth and justice than some so-called ‘christians’! So looking back, and limiting it to the scope of the Vietnam War, who were the ones calling for righteousness and who were the ones rallying for more immorality?

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Squirrels Duel

It’s a dog-eat-dog world in the animal world. It’s get what you can for me and mine as quick as you can before you die (or are killed by the other guy who’s quicker…). It’s a game of king of the hill or in this case, king of the bird seed perch. God’s creation is marvelous and it speaks of His glory; but it is broken and I don’t believe this squirrel fight represents His ideal. Animals and humans were not meant to live this way. Social darwinism and its survival of the fittest competitiveness that permeates all aspects of modern life, including churches — is not the ideal way for any of God’s creation to live…

And yet I hear in the tone and verbiage coming from some who not only believe that this kind of existence is natural, but that in someways it’s even desirable! I hear this from some who have been influenced by tea party/libertarian notions of an ideal society where men are free to do what they want with little or no accountability to anybody but themselves or a few close cohorts. I can’t find that tone of anti-authority, anti-accountability, anti-peace, anti-community, and anti-mutual aid in Scripture, can you?

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Don’t Curse It…but Don’t Bless It Either

old-page-of-BibleWhen a human institution mixes obvious failings with good intentions and misses the mark of God’s ideal; do we call down the fire of His wrath or do we bless them for the little bit they might get right? Must we do one or the other? Can “cursing” or “blessing” have different meanings, and therefore some “cursing/blessing” may be appropriate while others are not? (e.g. the OT prophets)  Recently I thought of one american institution where these questions seem relevant; the american mega-church “way” of doing church.

It’s obvious that the american mega-church model is built on the best of intentions. It’s also obvious that there are some righteous, God honoring people involved with this kind of church. But as more time to test and observe this style of gathering has accumulated, so have the glaring deficiencies and dissatisfied and disillusioned former attendees. (Ironically seeker-friendly mega-churches are intentionally built and run to satisfy people’s ‘felt’ needs…)

Despite the nagging discomfort with the style and fruit of these kinds of ‘churches’, I was encouraged recently to be nice and “bless” a newly minted local iteration (a campus franchise where sermons are piped in via video feed from the mother ship) because at least they’re trying and it must have something good to offer: look at all the people packing its giant auditorium.

I agree we shouldn’t curse them to everlasting punishment or even wish other disasters upon them; That is God’s call, not ours. But I cringe at this idea that we can’t honestly question or even warn against the obvious and egregious departures from God’s ideal expressions of His body on earth. Should we “bless” an institution where all the tithe money goes towards more institution building and self-pleasing gadgetry? Should we turn a blind eye and “bless” a place that serves up more milkshake than spiritual meat…week in and week out? Should we “bless” something that looks and sounds more like a theatre of entertainment? Should we bless a gathering where the gospel preached and lived is a watered-down, sugar-water potion that gives false comfort to crowds of never-quite-sold-out, carnal, perpetually-riding-the-fence american christians? No; I for one won’t bless that.

But I do think we should pray for them that God’s blessings of conviction and refinement fall down upon them. Prayers of lamentation and repentance on their behalf might be in order as well. And based on Biblical precedent, I believe it’s absolutely appropriate to call the failings out and speak against them as well, without condemning the offenders to the ultimate wrath of God…

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