Advanced Tech Brings Down American Plane in Border Skirmish

Knee Defender

Knee Defender

Okay, you’re right, that title is just a little bit exaggerated. The technology isn’t very advanced at all. It’s just a plastic device called a “Knee Defender.”

But it did bring down a U.S. passenger plane.

What?

Well, yes, the Knee Defender didn’t actually bring down the plane. But this weapons technology was deployed in the border skirmish that brought the plane down.

Huh?

Okay, okay, let’s get technical. It’s not really weapons technology. It’s a little gizmo that can be used on a passenger airplane to prevent the passenger in the seat in front of you from reclining. It was deployed for that purpose in the border skirmish that brought the plane down.

Eh?

Yes, it was a border skirmish that brought the plane down. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

For more on border skirmishes and downed planes, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events

From Literal Slavery to Spiritual Freedom

In Exodus 6:5–6, God said to Moses:

I have heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the Israelites, “I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.”

Ten plagues later, the ancient Israelites were on their way from slavery in Egypt to freedom as a self-governing nation.

Israel in Egypt, by Edward Poynter, 1867

Israel in Egypt, by Edward Poynter, 1867

The exodus from Egypt is a seminal story in the formation of the Jewish religion and nation. It is the basis of Passover, one of the most important religious festivals in Judaism.

Yet there is little or no archeological or documentary evidence (outside of the Bible itself) that such mass migration of two or three million people from Egypt to Palestine ever took place. Current scholarship suggests that the Israelites most likely had continuously inhabited the land of Palestine. If there is any grain of historical truth to the story, it appears that it must have been a much smaller and less spectacular event, perhaps involving a few hundred people instead of a few million.

Does this mean we must throw the story of the Exodus out the window as a myth and a fallacy?

Not at all.

The truth of the Bible, and of divine revelation in general, does not depend upon its historical or scientific accuracy. The Bible, as the Word of God, is concerned not with material-world truth, but with spiritual truth.

The Exodus story has become a powerful metaphor for Jews and Christians alike. It tells a deeper story of the human longing for freedom from bondage of all kinds: political, social, financial, emotional, intellectual, and especially spiritual bondage.

In this post, we’ll apply the story to a specific issue: freeing our minds from the oppressive bondage of literalism in our reading of Scripture.

Yes, I am suggesting that reading Scripture in a doggedly literal way is a form of slavery from which we must be freed if we are to fully inherit the spiritual kingdom of God.

For more on freedom from bondage to literalism, please click here to read on.

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Posted in The Bible Re-Viewed

Robin Williams, 1951-2014

Robin Williams, 1951-2014

Robin Williams, 1951-2014

Annette and I are saddened to hear of the death of Robin Williams yesterday, August 11, 2014, at the age of 63. He was a great and compassionate soul. His humor lightened the lives of millions of people around the world. He was also a community-minded man who contributed in many ways to the San Francisco Bay Area where he made his home, and to the wider world. We offer our condolences to his family and friends, and to all who mourn his passing.

We are especially sad to learn that his death appears to have been a suicide after a long struggle with depression. We cannot help but think of his role in the movie What Dreams May Come, in which his character descends into the hellish regions of the spiritual world in order to lift his wife up from there into heaven after her suicide.

It is our belief that people find their life in heaven or in hell based not on the way they died, but on the quality of their character and their life. To put it plainly, no one goes to hell just because they have committed suicide. Though the dark state of mind and heart that leads to suicide may follow people into the spiritual world and persist there for a while, those who have a good heart will over time rise up into heaven through the care and compassion of wise and loving angels.

Robin Williams showed through his life that he has a heart for heaven. Though we on earth mourn the loss of a great entertainer and a good man, Annette and I are confident that it will not be long before Robin Williams has his angel audiences roaring with laughter at his latest heavenly comedy!

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Posted in Current Events, Pain and Suffering, The Afterlife

Why does God Keep it a Secret until it’s Too Late?

Do any of these sound a little too familiar?

  • You work hard toward something you’ve set your heart on, but no matter what you do, you just can’t achieve it.
  • You start a project with high hopes, everything goes wrong, and it takes five times as long as you thought it would.
  • You set a goal for yourself, achieve it, and find out that you’re still not happy.
  • You finally manage to get into a relationship with someone you’ve desired for a long time, only to discover that it is a complete mistake.
  • You try to get something done at your job or in an organization you belong to, but you can’t seem to get anywhere. Later you find out that someone was working behind the scenes to block it.

Now tell me you haven’t had this thought:

“If only I’d known then what I know now . . . .”

Now let’s just say that after you’ve spent months, years, or decades working toward something that turns out to be a big disappointment or a big disaster, you happen to meet God on the street.

Would you have some questions for God?

Questions such as, “Hey God, you’re all-knowing, right? Why didn’t you tell me?!? It would have saved me an awful lot of work, and I could have avoided a big pile of heartbreak.”

So why does God keep it a secret until it’s too late?

Why does God let us stumble along down here? Why does God let us waste half a lifetime running after stuff that turns out to be a big bust?

It sure would be a big help if God gave us just a little peek into our future, wouldn’t it?

Apparently, God doesn’t think so.

Why not?

For more on our efforts and God’s secrets, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God, Spiritual Growth

God Proposes, but Man Disposes . . . and God Re-Composes

Thomas à Kempis (1380–1471)

Thomas à Kempis (1380–1471)

In his 15th century devotional classic, The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis (1380–1471) famously wrote:

Man proposes, but God disposes

The general idea is that we humans can make whatever plans we want, but in the end, God is the one who decides what actually happens. Here is the fuller statement from The Imitation of Christ:

For the resolutions of the just depend rather on the grace of God than on their own wisdom; and in Him they always put their trust, whatever they take in hand. For man proposes, but God disposes; neither is the way of man in his own hands.

Perhaps it’s just my natural human perversity, but I’ve never much liked this proverb, pithy as it is.

I’ll grant that the plans we make often turn out very differently than we intended.

I’ll grant that God’s hand is always engaged in human affairs, guiding and directing us toward a path that God would have us take when our own plans fail.

And I’ll grant that those who devote their lives to what is good and right from a spiritual perspective will look to God for guidance, and willingly follow the path God lays out for them as they understand it.

What bothers me about this pithy old proverb is the suggestion that human free will is an illusion; that no matter what plans we may make for our life, God will ultimately decide the path we take and the destination we reach.

I beg to differ.

We humans do have free will. We ultimately decide the path that we will take—even if the destination we reach isn’t exactly what we had originally planned. I do not believe that the greatness of God is shown in exercising the power to control our lives and to have God’s will prevail over ours in the end. Instead, God’s greatness is shown in the respect and honor that God gives to us as human beings by allowing us to make our own choices and follow our own path even if God’s ideal path for us might have been a better idea.

I therefore not so humbly offer an alternate version of the classic proverb:

God proposes, but man disposes . . . and God re-composes.

Because the fact is, we humans dispose of much of what God proposes for our happiness and wellbeing.

Then God has a recycling job to do.

For more on God’s proposals and our disposals, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Spiritual Growth

It’s not fair that God made some people incredibly beautiful, and others just average!

Here’s a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Kimberly:

How come some people are blessed with beauty, while others aren’t as beautiful aesthetically?

I guess I feel it’s unfair, how God made some people incredibly beautiful, while others are just average.

Okay, so I have a question for you, Kimberly:

Are you trying to get me into trouble with all the women and girls in the world?!?

But seriously . . . it’s a great question! At least, all the women I’ve mentioned it to so far think it is. And there are probably a lot of men who think the same thing, whether or not they’ll admit it.

Which woman will be more successful?

Which woman will be more successful?

Study after study shows that people who are beautiful are more successful financially, socially, intellectually, politically, and romantically than people who are not so beautiful. People who are beautiful also generally have a better self-image, and are more likely to approach everything they do with a belief that they will be successful. And though it certainly doesn’t guarantee success, the power of positive thinking does make people more likely to succeed.

So you may be surprised to hear that I agree with you. By almost any measure you care to make, it’s not fair that God made some people incredibly beautiful, while others just average.

Fairness comes only in the things that can’t be measured: spiritual things.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

First, let’s just admit that this is a real problem for many, many people, both women and men. Especially if you are a young woman just starting out in life, it can feel like your whole life depends on whether you were born with beautiful genomes, or whether your genetic roll of the dice came out snake eyes. And no matter who you are, your looks can have a major impact on your life.

For more on beauty, fairness, God, and spirit, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex, Marriage, Relationships, Spiritual Growth

What does it Mean to Minister? Michael Sulsona’s Story

These days, when we hear the word “minister,” we’re likely to think of a preacher in a pulpit delivering a sermon to a church full of people. Or we may think of a top government official such as the Prime Minister of England, who holds great power over the citizens.

So it may be surprising to hear that the real meaning of minister is a servant: someone who serves others. Real ministry happens every time we serve the needs of other people—even if it has nothing to do with churches or governments.

Lowe's employees David, Marcus, and Souleyman fix Michael Sulsona's wheelchair

Lowe’s employees fix Michael Sulsona’s wheelchair

Michael Sulsona, of Staten Island, New York, experienced this kind of ministry one day when he was shopping in his local Lowe’s Home Improvement store. He was just rolling along through the aisles in his wheelchair . . . .

Oh, I guess I should mention that in 1971, while serving as a Marine in Vietnam, Michael Sulsona stepped on a land mine and lost both of his legs above the knee. He’s had to use a wheelchair to get around ever since.

So as I was saying, Sulsona was rolling through the aisles of his local Lowe’s store, accompanied by his wife Frieda, when his ailing wheelchair fell apart on him . . . again . . . .

As it turns out, it couldn’t have happened at a better place!

Lowe’s, of course, sells not only all sorts of appliances and accessories for a well-equipped home, but also all the parts and hardware that a home handyman might want. If something needs fixing, chances are Lowe’s has what’s needed to fix it.

But it wasn’t just the hardware that made this particular store the best possible place for Sulsona’s wheelchair to break down.

It was the people.

For more ministry and broken wheelchairs, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events
Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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Lee Woofenden speaking at Fryeburg New Church Assembly, Fryeburg, Maine, August 2012

Lee Woofenden speaking at Fryeburg New Church Assembly

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