An Hour and $10 in Gas
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Jun 16, 2012 | 4269 views |  0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

As is my habit before going to bed each night, I walk through the house making sure everything is secure and lights are off.  By this time, the girls have been in bed a couple of hours, and my wife has retired to our bedroom to read or have a go at another Sudoku puzzle.  As I go through my routine, the house gets darker and darker until I can barely see my way down the hall to our daughters' bedroom.  I flip on the hall light, open their door, and make sure they are OK.  They are always OK.  Sometimes covers have fallen off and need to be replaced, or one of them has moved precariously close to the edge of the bed and needs to be moved, but for the most part, they are perfectly sound asleep without fear or care.

In the quiet moment just before I turn around and head to my room, I thank God for them.

It is a silent prayer of thanks that God would give me such beautiful wonderful little girls, and an acknowledgement that these gifts from God also come with a responsibility.  When our daughters were born, my wife and I made a decision to "give them back to God" so to speak.  It was our way of deciding to dedicate our lives to doing our best to teach them, discipline them, and raise them to honor God with their lives.  Understanding we are not perfect, we pray for God's intervention where we would fail, and we try to remember that taking the time to train them to do what is right is worth any price, because they belong to God.

My wife and I were talking recently about one of them and a particularly bad habit that seems to be developing.  Without going into details, we agreed that the next time this particular behavior showed itself, we would deal with it immediately and together to make sure the message "This is not OK" would be perfectly understood.  We talked about different ways it might show up, and it was mentioned that it may even present itself in the store when I'm not around.  I told my wife, "If it happens in the store, or even when you are walking toward the checkout line in the store, stop and come right back home.  If you have to leave a basket full of groceries in the aisle, or give up the perfect parking space, bring her home right then and we will deal with it."  We agreed that it would certainly make an impression, but also we agreed that our child is worth it.

"She is worth an hour of time and $10 in gas," I said as my wife and I wrapped up the conversation.  Problem is, I can only hope other parents feel the same way as my daughters are going to one day marry, and I hope they find mates that had parents willing to take the time for them.  My children belong to God.  One of them has already accepted Christ as her Savior, the other has yet to make that choice, but she is still very young yet.  As we continue to teach her, we also pray that she will one day make the choice to accept Christ as well.  However, once they have made that choice, our job as parents is far from over.  If we are to raise them in the way God would want us to, we have to be willing to make sacrifices and make the time for them, even when it is most inconvenient.

Years from now, if I choose not to take the time and my children do not turn out right, my thoughts will come back to moments like these.  Moments where I chose not to take the time or waste the gas to correct them, times where I was too busy to do something else, and I will have to live with the knowledge that I could have done more.  I'd rather not.  So instead, I will choose to put the world on hold, to take the time to correct them, and to let them know the whole reason I do so is because I truly care for them and love them, and that they are worth much more to me than an hour and $10 in gas.

Injustice
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Jun 09, 2012 | 3342 views |  0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

What makes you angry?  Lots of things in life can irritate all of us, and maybe we get a little annoyed at others.  Then there are things that get under our skin and frustrate us, but if you are like most normal people, there are not a lot of things in life that make you truly angry.  I don't know if you are like me on this, but the one thing that can really make me angry is injustice.

There is something in me that wells up rather quickly when I see it happening to someone else, and when it happens to me I can feel my blood begin to boil within moments.  Things like bullying fall into this category, where one person uses their advantage in size, strength, or position to do to someone else what they would never want done to them.  Injustice takes what I perceive as a balanced world, turns it askew, and makes me feel like I'm somehow walking and looking at everything at a 45 degree angle, and I'm going to just have to live with it this way from now on.  I find it extremely difficult to bear this perception, and everything within me screams out to set things back into balance again.

When I witness injustice, I overwhelmingly feel an obligation to do something about it.  I also know now that when it happens to me, my mind will never let it go until "justice is served" somehow.  If I could, whenever I experience injustice personally, I would reverse the events themselves, or do whatever it took to erase any and all evidence of the existence of the injustice.  In spending time thinking about these things, it gave me a new possible perspective on the motivations of God and salvation.

Typically, when I think about sin and salvation and the redemption Christ offered through the cross, I have always felt I could not comprehend the motivation for the sacrifice made.  Salvation for me has always represented an injustice itself.  The One who was perfectly innocent dying for the perfectly guilty?  How could a just God of perfect judgement ever come to a point where that made any sense at all?  This perspective, however, assumes that sin came first, but that is not the case.

In the beginning, God had a perfect friendship with mankind.  There was no sin on earth.  Everything was as it should be, but then it all changed.  Sin came and ended that close friendship with His creation.  With sin entering the picture, a perfect holy God was forced to separate Himself from a personal relationship with mankind, and God was robbed - an injustice had occurred, if you will, and a just God could not tolerate the injustice.

The perfection of His creation had been purposely broken, stained, bullied, and abused and a just God demanded justice to restore what was lost back to Himself.  However, the justice required in this situation would ultimately destroy what He wanted in the first place.  God wanted justice, and He wanted the relationship restored with mankind, not permanently destroyed.  The only way this could be accomplished was through a Redeemer - One who would accomplish both the payment for sin while simultaneously standing in place of the guilty.  Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the ultimate justice would be served to overturn the first injustice done against God and still accomplish the desired outcome - the restoration of a connection between the Creator and His creation.

Having experienced the inner turmoil of injustice recently, I can begin to understand the strong desire for the fractured imbalance that had to be set right again.  With this perspective I understand that God's sacrifice for mankind was not motivated by a desire to pay for sins penalty, but God's motivation was the preexisting eternal love for His creation, for me, and for you.

In His Image
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Jun 02, 2012 | 3369 views |  0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

If you are the parent of a younger aged child, then you are probably familiar with Perler Beads.  These are little round plastic beads with holes in their centers that are arranged on a peg board, and then pressed using a special piece of paper and a hot iron to melt together to form whatever was made on the peg board.

The other day, my oldest daughter was working away on one of these.  It was a large heart, and in a move that is very untypical for her, she had chosen to use what I could tell was every color in the Perler Bead world to make the heart shape.  Because it was so large, it had been very time consuming, but this was taking a little longer than even I thought since the pattern was using so many colors and appeared to be so random.  It was nearing dinner, and my wife encouraged her to hurry it up so we could clear the table.

After she had finished filling all the little pegs with beads, she very carefully moved the arrangement to the ironing board where my wife would tend to it later.  That night, in her room at bedtime, I noticed the heart shape and all the colors, but something about the colors caught my eye.  I picked it up, and looked over what appeared at first to be the randomness of it all.  Yes, it had a heart shape, but that was the outline of the board she was using.  There was something about the colors themselves.

When I first started seeing it, I had to make sure I was right before calling my wife over.  She didn't see it at first, but once I pointed it out to her, it was immediately apparent.  The heart shape was quite large and would have taken a long time if someone just wanted to fill all the pegs, but my daughter had painstakingly found two of every single type of peg, and arranged them as mirror images of each other.  She did not do this with blocks of colors, but rather picked out random colors, and then mirrored them exactly on either side.  The effect was brilliant once you got it.

It would not take a brain surgeon to understand the hand of someone was at work here, and that there was no way this could ever happen all by itself.  She had made the design according to her own imagination, and it was obvious that a creator had made the object we now held in our hands.

This is the strongest point I have often made with anyone who refuses to believe in a Creator God, and even the Bible itself makes this point not as something to be argued, but as something so self-evident, it needs no argument. Romans 1:20 tells us that creation is the one point that leaves all "without excuse".  You can make whatever statistical argument you want about probabilities, but in the case of the beginning of all things, the probability factor is pushed to the farthest extremes to make its point, when the easiest explanation is right there in front of you.  Every time you look in the mirror, you have evidence of something made in His image.

I've never seen anyone yet walk up to a chair and ask where it evolved from.  Despite my own personal inclinations to do so, I've never been to an art gallery and asked myself whether some of the paintings were really the work of an artist or not.  When we see symmetry, we see design, and design demands a designer.  In the case of creation, we can refuse to believe in God as the foolish atheists.  We can choose to close our minds to what is already so clearly evident it needs no argument.  However, if we simply accept the choice, that either someone or no one made what we can clearly see was made, then the only question is who made it, and that Someone is God.  Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning, God created . . . "

Experimental Christianity
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
May 26, 2012 | 3209 views |  0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I bought a small chemistry set for my daughter.  What I expected was a batch of small amounts of chemicals that would require strict adult supervision – meaning my wife would probably have to make sure I didn’t blow something up.  As I opened the contents and took inventory, I discovered an important looking vial of white powder with a lid that would close very tightly as if something very volatile and dangerous was inside.  I could not have been more disappointed.  It was about the only thing worth anything, and it turned out to be baking soda.

-Reposted from www.MenRising.com

We decided to proceed with the experiment itself which was actually fascinating for my daughter who, knowing her father quite well, stood looking on curiously from a safe distance some 10 feet away.  With some added vinegar, the baking soda fizzed a bit in the test tube, but that was it.  However, I knew where I could get more baking soda, a lot more in fact, and figured it was time to ramp things up a bit.  I filled a large balloon with baking soda, and then filled a 2 liter bottle about 1/4 of the way full with vinegar.  I fitted the open end of the balloon over the bottle, upended the balloon to spill all of the baking soda into the vinegar, and then ran.  My daughter was already 10 feet away with her hands covering her ears.  The dogs had huddled together in the farthest corner of the yard long ago.

As the balloon grew larger, filled with the gas created from the chemical reaction, there was greater and greater anticipation of some imminent event, which translated into more steps backward for myself and my daughter.  However, there was no big bang of the balloon.  There was now just a hugely overinflated balloon on top of this fizzing bottle of liquid neither of us wanted to go anywhere near.  So, we waited some more and finally just let it be.  "What should we do now, Papa?"  My daughter was still gripping my hand and standing half-behind me watching the balloon.  “It’ll deflate on it’s own,” I assured my daughter, as I turned slowly to walk away, looking over my shoulder as I ushered her into the house.

The thing that is so great about true experimentation is that while you have some vague idea of what is supposed to happen, you never really know what is going to happen until you just go out and try.  In a lot of ways, that is what living the Christian life can be like at times for some people.

The Bible has all sorts of great advice for marriage, raising children, and living life in a way that pleases God and gives Him honor and glory.  In fact, many Christians know what the Bible says to do, they also have a vague head knowledge type of an idea that God is going to take care of them and everything is going to be all right in the end, yet, they have no idea what is really going to happen . . . until they try.

Do you really believe what the Bible says?  Do you really have faith about the passages that teach about family, witnessing to the lost, and living a life for the Lord?  Do you believe Romans 8:28 that says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”?

Truth be told, none of us really know exactly what will happen.  When life hurts, we can know everything is going to be OK in vague terms because the Bible tells us that everything is going to work out all right, but how that is going to be accomplished specifically is not a done deal in our minds, and so where comfort and security in God should be, anxiety and frustration usually rule the day.  The challenge is to remember God and His promises, and then cast all your care on Him (I Peter 5:7) knowing that while others act selfishly to hurt you, He still cares for you.  You will never really know and understand the power of God working in your life, until you try.

Resistance to Change
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
May 19, 2012 | 2761 views |  0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I honestly wasn't going to write about my new glasses, but WOW what a difference!!  As soon as I put the new glasses on, everything snapped into crystal clear focus, everything had a fine edge, and that cloud in the room completely disappeared.  It was as if someone had changed my world into HD!  I could see details on things, and I didn't have to search through the fog of scratches on my glasses to find a clear spot to see things up close.  Plus, my new glasses were so much lighter than my old ones.

While those are all the good things that happened, some other immediate effects were a slight dizziness, and then a slight headache.  My eyes kept wanting to wander to the place where I had a clear spot on my other glasses, and in short, though everything was now ten times better than before, the new glasses were uncomfortable.  Things had changed, and I just wasn't used to it.

When it comes to change, when it is unfamiliar and a little uncomfortable, or even painful, people resist it.  Even when the change is a very good thing, people want to go back.  Like my eyes still going to a spot on my glasses after so many years of habit, people will tend to want to go back into old routines even when life is better.

Whether it is you or someone else who needs to make a change, you are better served understanding that you are in an uphill battle.  The change can be a good thing, the change can be a helpful thing, the person can even want the change, but there will always be some level of resistance, and it is best you prepared for it ahead of time.  I am very aware of my own weaknesses, and have struggled my whole life overcoming them one at a time.  In every case, even when things were changing for the better, I found a resistance of habit to overcome, or a desire to go back to the way things were for any number of reasons.

I see people around me who also need to change, but knowing how hard I struggle, it is difficult for me to have any expectation that things will get better just because I want them to.  Now matter how clearly I see things, no matter how much better I just know life would be if other people would just change, the truth is, they just don't want to.  They want things to be better, of course, but not if it means change for them.  Guess what . . . if you search inside yourself, you feel the exact same way.

We all know we need to make some "minor changes" but the real problem is "everyone else!"  RIGHT?!  Well, not so fast.

A very interesting conversation took place this week that makes me believe otherwise.  A husband and wife are having some serious problems at home.  She wishes he would change.  She loves her husband, but prays God will do a work in his life to make him see his need to do better.  Guess what he's doing?  He's wishing his wife would change, and he is also praying like crazy that God would do a work in the life of his wife to make her see the need to do better.

I discovered that praying for other people to change so my life can be better is, let me just say it, stupid.  I cannot control them, and even if they see and know they need to change there is going to be resistance.  God is working on them (and all of us) already, so constantly praying for God to make them change is tantamount to asking God to work harder or faster just so we can have a better life according to our will.  Hmmmmmm.  Somehow I just get a sense that praying like that isn't going to move things along.

What can I do about it?  Well, I can change me.  It is counter-intuitive, I know, but it is the only thing I have ever seen make a difference.  The only thing that stands in your way is pride.  Once you begin to think in terms of "How can I change to make this situation better?" then you gain some measure of influence on the situation.  If we all took responsibility for our own actions, and tried to change our perspective from "if he/she would just" to one of "I really need to" then I think real change is not only possible in your life, but your change just may inspire others to make a change in theirs.

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