Thursday, November 30, 2023

Calvin & Hobbes: What's Good for the Goose...


Bill Waterson's beloved comic, Calvin & Hobbes, had a Sunday strip that pointed out the flaw in some people's definition of right and wrong.

It begins with Calvin making a declaration and following it up with a string of cliches to support his worldview.

Hobbes then puts Calvin's beliefs into practice.

Which leads to Calvin spilling the beans on the particular self-centeredness of his philosophy.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...The way the world is, it's amazing we aren't ALL covered with mud.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

How Do You Spell "Thanks"?


Time is a gift that only Yahweh can give. It bears witness to his patience.

Hope is the life force of a heart that is currently broken, but optimistic about the future.

Application of God's promises to the circumstances of my life wipes out all fear.

Nazareth was a backwater village that folks didn't ascribe much potential to, but it nurtured the world's savior. I may not hold a lot of promise in the eyes of some...and neither may you...but God can use even us to accomplish his will.

Knowledge of the love of God is an experiential thing, not an intellectual exercise. And it's something I can grow in!

Songs speak to the human soul in ways the spoken word cannot. I praise Yahweh FOR and WITH music.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. (Psalm 28:7)

Thursday, November 16, 2023

For When You Think It's Too Late For You


As I slowly make my way through The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, most of John Koenig's made-up words are accompanied by a short definition and etymology. For example:

alazia n. the fear that you're no longer able to change [Greek allazo, to change + dysplasia, abnormal development of tissue. Pronounced "uh-ley-zhuh or "ah-ley-zee-uh."]

But every so often, Koenig includes a short essay to further comment on the observations that led to him creating the word. In the case of alazia, that essay is packed with truth and needs to be pondered.


"When you were born, you could have been anybody. So quick and malleable, your parents could look at your face and see a future president. They tried to mold you as you grew, but they could only work with what they had. And when their tools stopped working, they gradually handed them off to you, asking, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'

     "There's a certain art to becoming who you are. There's no standard kit you can use to assemble yourself, swapping out parts as needed. Instead, it feels more like a kind of stretching, a teasing out at the edges, like a glassblower standing at the furnace.

     "A teenage personality is a delicate medium, its emotions almost too heavy to handle. You had to figure out a way to keep yourself together and tease out the good parts without falling out of balance or stretching yourself too thin. You couldn't stop everything to try to fix your flaws, but you couldn't just ignore them either. Luckily, you were nothing if not flexible, softened by the heat of youth, which kept you warm on a dingy couch or a night in the wilderness. You knew that you weren't just you, you were also the person you would one day become. So even when you failed, you could still be whatever you wanted to be. As long as you kept moving.

     "Inevitably you got hit, and you got hurt. You prided yourself on how well you absorbed the blow, bouncing back as if nothing had happened. But the pain changed you, in little chips and cracks that might take you years to notice. Over time you learned how to position yourself in very specific ways, protecting the most vulnerable parts of your psyche, even as you knew they were still a crucial part of the real you. Gradually you became more and more reluctant to move from that position. Growing a little harder, a little more brittle.

     "And now here you are. Sometimes you find yourself wondering if you can change, even if you wanted to. If you still have enough fire in the belly to surprise yourself, or if you're already set in your ways, too tough and cynical to stretch without shattering. Maybe you spent so long wondering who you were going to be one day, you forgot that that question actually has an answer, and that 'one day' would soon arrive.

     "Maybe it's too late for you to change who you are. Or maybe you're just entering a new phase, undergoing a change so profound that even your understanding of change is becoming unrecognizable. Maybe now is the time to stress-test your own assumptions about yourself, stripping away all the flourishes and ornaments that you don't really need, honing yourself down to the core of who you are. And even if it's true that you're no longer flexible enough to be anybody, you might be getting strong enough to finally be yourself."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...There's no need to fear. Jesus Christ is here. He has been called the Lord of Second Chances for good reason.

Isaiah 43:19 - "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"

Revelation 21:5 - "He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new'.”

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Does God's Voice Sound Like Morgan Freeman?



It's not every day that Hollywood makes a deeply truthful theological observation, so I thought I'd better not let this one disappear into movie history unnoticed.

The movie was Evan Almighty  -  the 2007 sequel to Jim Carrey's film, Bruce Almighty. In Evan, God (played by Morgan Freeman) contacts Congressman Evan Baxter (played by Steve Carell) and tells him to build an ark in preparation for a great flood.

As might be expected, Evan's wife (Lauren Graham) has a hard time wrapping her head around this major change in her husband.

It's at this point the following conversation takes place:

Just to make sure you didn't miss it, here's the main point:

Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they prayed for courage does God give them courage or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Sometimes we are the answer to our own prayer.

Bonus truth...Now you know why I never ask God to give me patience. (wink)

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Hello Darkness My Old Friend


When Paul Simon started the song Sound of Silence with the words "Hello, darkness, my old friend," I'm fairly certain he had no idea he was paraphrasing Scripture.

And when the Sons of Korah ended the song that came to be known as Psalm 88 with the words "Darkness is my closest friend," they probably had no idea it would get put into Israel's hymnal.

Sad guy in a dark place

And if you take the time to read all of Psalm 88, you may rightly wonder why it did.

Here are some highlights:

  • v3 - I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.
  • v5 - I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.
  • v8 - You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them.
  • v13 - But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?

If you're like me, as you read this you keep waiting for a sharp right turn.

At the beginning of verse 13, you perk up and think, "Okay, here's where this is going to come around," but nope. Verse 18 ends the song in the same depressive mood it began in: "You have taken from me friend and neighbor — darkness is my closest friend."

Why is this in the Bible?!!?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Even though I don't know why this sad song is part of Scripture, I'm glad it is. It teaches me that it's okay to be completely honest when I'm praying. There is no need to sugarcoat my pain, confusion, anger, or grief. God's not going to be shocked by my honest emotion and doubt.

And that right there is a reason to praise him, even in the midst of my pain, confusion, anger, or grief.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Apostles' Algorithms Are Absolutely Applicable


In order to get a springboard in creating a response to a friend's Facebook post, I went to ChatGPT and typed "Apply Acts 4:1-22 to living in current North American society."

What follows are the exact words this piece of artificial intelligence spewed out in a matter of seconds...and I'm speechless.

Image generated by LimeWire

Acts 4:1-22 in the Bible tells the story of Peter and John being brought before the religious authorities in Jerusalem after healing a man and preaching about Jesus. The authorities questioned their actions and teachings, and Peter and John boldly proclaimed their faith in Jesus Christ. Here are some ways you can apply the principles from this passage to living in current North American society:

Boldly Share Your Faith: In Acts 4, Peter and John didn't back down from sharing their faith in Jesus, even when faced with opposition. Similarly, in North American society, it's important to be bold in sharing your faith with others, while respecting the rights and beliefs of those who may not share your faith. Be willing to have open and respectful conversations about your beliefs.

Stand Firm in Your Convictions: Peter and John refused to be silenced or compromise their beliefs. In a diverse society like North America, it's important to stand firm in your convictions while also being willing to listen to and engage with different perspectives. This doesn't mean you have to abandon your faith, but it does require a willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue.

Trust in God's Power: The healing performed by Peter and John in Acts 4 was attributed to the power of God. In North American society, trust in God's power can provide a source of hope and strength. It can also inspire you to engage in acts of compassion and service to others, just as Peter and John did through the healing.

Seek Unity: While Peter and John stood firm in their faith, they also sought unity among believers. In North American society, where there is a wide range of religious beliefs and backgrounds, it's important to find common ground and work towards unity in the broader community. This can be done through interfaith dialogue and cooperation on social and ethical issues.

Be Prepared for Opposition: Peter and John faced opposition from religious authorities, but they were prepared to give an account of their beliefs. In North America, there may be times when your faith is challenged or opposed. Being prepared to articulate your beliefs and values in a respectful and thoughtful manner is essential.

Embrace the Opportunity to Witness: Acts 4 shows that opposition can provide an opportunity to bear witness to your faith. When faced with challenges or questions about your faith in North American society, see it as a chance to share the hope and love that comes from your beliefs in a way that can inspire others.

Pray for Boldness: In Acts 4:29, the early Christians prayed for boldness in their witness. In North America, you can also pray for the courage and wisdom to live out your faith effectively and to be a positive influence in your community.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I can't improve on these points nor on this summary: Overall, Acts 4:1-22 encourages Christians to be bold, stand firm in their faith, seek unity, and engage with the diverse society of North America in a way that reflects their beliefs while respecting others. It's a call to be both faithful and respectful ambassadors of Christ in a pluralistic society.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Is This the End?


The Saturday morning of the most recent outbreak of violence against Israel, a co-worker asked, "Are you ready for World War III?"

My response was a little more dismissive than it should have been, but I stand by its basic premise:

"You will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come." -Matthew 24:6-8

Global War

Since my spiritual awakening in the 1970s, every time something drastic happened in the Middle East, a new load of books would be released talking about how the end was near and how such-and-such ruler or such-and-such military campaign was the fulfillment of certain verses in Daniel or Revelation. And then things would die down and people stopped buying the books until their new editions were released a few years down the road at the next outbreak of violence.

It didn't take long for me to stop getting anxious about "wars and threats of war" in the Middle East.

Adding to my lack of anxiety was a book I read as part of my college class on eschatology. It was titled The Meaning of the Millenium and was authored by four people who held four different convictions about how the world is going to end. They each wrote a short paper supporting their view with Scripture references and charts, and then the other three would write rebuttals "proving" the view false.

There they were, four guys who were way smarter than me, each dedicated to the Bible as the inspired word of God, and each coming to a conclusion directly opposed to the other three. It taught me the depth of the truth of Jesus' words in Matthew 24:36  -  "No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...None of this is meant to say that this latest conflict couldn't possibly be the beginning of the end. It certainly could be. But you know what? I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to boldly join the Apostle John, praying with his words from Revelation 22:20, "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"

Thursday, October 12, 2023

A Partial Poem for Pastors


On Monday, February 12, 1990, I began writing a poem that was a whining sigh into the dark night sky. It was a start at pouring out my fatigue and lack of inspiration with the youth ministry I was involved with at the time.

The Bard Begins

And now, in the midst of Pastor Appreciation Month 2023, may it serve to tell all the pastors in our lives that they are not alone, there are people who understand, and it's okay to step back and rest every once in a while.

Can anyone keep just pouring it on?
Creating magic and doing no wrong?
Moving the masses, inspiring men
Surprising, impressing, again and again?
What works for awhile won't work all the time
The clock loses meter, the poet, his rhyme

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...This poem needs to be completed with some couplets of compassion and encouragement, just as your pastor needs your words and gestures of affirmation and love.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Working Hard or Hardly Working


I'm still quoting from James Martin's book, Between Heaven and Mirth, but this time, HE'S quoting a book from Anthony de Mello titled The Song of the Bird:

Lazy Man in Hammock

The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the Southern fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.

"Why aren't you out fishing?" said the industrialist.

"Because I have caught enough fish for the day," said the fisherman.

"Why don't you catch some more?"

"What would I do with them?"

"You could earn more money," was the industrialist's reply. "With that you could have a motor fixed to your boat...and catch more fish. Then you would make enough to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to buy two boats...maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me."

"What would I do then?" asked the fisherman.

"Then you could really enjoy life."

"What do you think I am doing right now?"

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Paul said it in Philippians 4:12-13. "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Thursday, September 28, 2023

He Should Have Asked, "Should I Be Doing This?"


I'm probably stretching things a bit to come up with a meaningful point from the following story quoted from Between Heaven and Mirth by James Martin. If that requires an apology, then I apologize.

But here's hoping you just appreciate the laugh.

What's so funny?

One priest friend recounted the story of his first wedding, which he performed shortly after his ordination. My friend had borrowed the marriage rites book, the guide containing the script of the marriage ceremony, from an elderly Jesuit. The old Jesuit had written little notations in pencil, because the rites book includes all of the words needed for the wedding Mass, but not what you might call the "Stage directions." So alongside the script for the marriage vows the old priest had scribbled helpful directions like, "Turn to the bride," "Turn to the groom," "Go back to the presider's chair," "Take the rings from the best man." He also wrote directions for the congregation that aren't included in the book, like saying, "Please stand" or "Please kneel."

All was going smoothly until my newly ordained friend reached the end of the vows. There was a little notation that added something that most priests say, but is not included in the official Catholic rites.

The penciled-in note said, "You may now kiss the bride."

My friend found that baffling. But who was he to argue with the elderly priest, who had done more weddings than he had? So my friend stopped, closed his book, leaned down, and kissed the bride.

She stood there dumbstruck, and everybody burst out laughing. Finally, he said to the groom, "Uh, I think YOU were supposed to do that!"

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Sometimes, unquestioning obedience might be questionable.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Feeling Like You're Hiding Something?


There's a fairly widespread phenomenon that affects people in an expansive range of occupations. It's called Imposter's Syndrome and it means you don't feel worthy of the accomplishments you've made or the opportunities you've enjoyed. The classic example is an Oscar-winning actor waiting for someone to realize they can't act.

I'm not who you think I am

It directly relates to the latest word I've discovered in John Koenig's The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

the giltwrights - n. `the imaginary committee of elders that keeps a running log of all your mistakes, steadily building their case that you're secretly a fraud, a coward, a doofus  -  who would've revoked your good fortune years ago had they not been hampered by their own bitter squabblings over proper grammar and spelling. [Old English gilt, awareness of wrongdoing + wrought, shaped with hammers.]

For most of us, there's no need to create an imaginary group to keep that log. We do a fine job of compiling a list of our faults all on our own.

That's bad enough. The trouble with this is compounded when we assign the role of giltwright to Yahweh...the very being who forgives us for all those things we are putting on our lists.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9 (NLT)

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Growing Young


From the pen of Rich Mullins, the words to his song, Growing Young:

I've gone so far from my home
I've seen the world and I have known
So many secrets
I wish now I did not know
'Cause they have crept into my heart
They have left it cold and dark
And bleeding,
Bleeding and falling apart

And everybody used to tell me big boys don't cry
Well I've been around enough to know that that was the lie
That held back the tears in the eyes of a thousand prodigal sons
Well we are children no more, we have sinned and grown old
And our Father still waits and He watches down the road
To see the crying boys come running back to His arms
And be growing young
Growing young

I've seen silver turn to dross
Seen the very best there ever was
And I'll tell you, it ain't worth what it costs
And I remember my father's house
What I wouldn't give right now
Just to see him and hear him tell me that he loves me so much

And when I thought that I was all alone
It was your voice I heard calling me back home
And I wonder now Lord
What it was that made me wait so long
And what kept You waiting for me all that time
Was Your love stronger than my foolish pride
Will You take me back now, take me back and let me be Your child

'Cause I've been broken now, I've been saved
I've learned to cry, and I've learned how to pray
And I'm learning, I'm learning even I can be changed

And everybody used to tell me big boys don't cry
Well I've been around enough to know that that was the lie
That held back the tears in the eyes of a thousand prodigal sons
Well we are children no more, we have sinned and grown old
And our Father still waits and He watches down the road
To see the crying boys come running back to His arms
And be growing young

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Perhaps it's because of all the stuff we live through in our lives that Jesus said we must become like little children if we want to see the kingdom of God. (Matthew 18:3). Here's praying that we all can grow a little younger each day.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Holy Humor: Papal Edition


According to a book I am currently reading (Between Heaven and Mirth by James Martin, SJ), Pope John XXIII, who served from 1958 to 1963, had a notable sense of humor.

Hast Thou Heardest the One About...?

Some examples:

  • When a journalist innocently asked him, "Your Holiness, how many people work at the Vatican?" John paused, thought it over, and said, "About half of them."
  • In the 1940s, when John was still an archbishop and the papal nuncio, or ambassador, in Paris, he was at an elegant dinner party, seated across from a woman wearing a low-cut dress that exposed a good deal of cleavage. Someone turned to him and said, "Your Excellency, what a scandal! Aren't you embarrassed that everyone is looking at this woman?" And he said, "Oh no, everyone is looking at me, to see if I'm looking at her."
  • The pope was visiting a Roman hospital called the Hospital of the Holy Spirit. Shortly after entering, he was introduced to the sister who ran the hospital. "Holy Father," she exclaimed, flustered by his surprise visit, "I am the superior of the Holy Spirit." "Well, I must say, you're lucky," said the pope, delighted. "I'm only the Vicar of Christ!"

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is..."A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing" Proverbs 17:22 in the Amplified Bible

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Proof of God


Calvin and Hobbes are relaxing on a hillside, and out of the blue, Hobbes asks probably the most important question ever.

Calvin thinks a moment and then comes up with a totally unique bit of apologetics.

Believe it or not, Calvin is right. God IS out to get him. And he's out to get each of US, too.

No, not in the way Calvin is thinking about it. God is not the Great Cosmic Killjoy chasing us down to inflict wrath on anyone who dares to step out of line...or color outside the lines. But he IS pursuing us with a heart full of lavish love and amazing grace. "Not wanting anyone to perish." (2nd Peter 3:9)

Borrowing from an 1890 poem by Francis Thompson, Yahweh has been called "The Hound of Heaven" because of his relentless pursuit of those he other words, us. And make no mistake about it, none of us can hide from him for long.

"Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:24 NLT)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...The prime example of God being out to get us is that he left the glory of heaven to become a man, perfectly live his life, then die to pay the debt for us NOT perfectly living ours.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

May I Never Know About Jesus Instead of Actually Knowing Him


It's a questionable thing when authors put words into Jesus' mouth that Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John haven't already reported on.

The hit TV series, The Chosen, does it well and clearly communicates that they are using their imaginations to tell the stories of those who were Jesus' first followers. They're not trying to convince anyone that it's a documentary and humbly present their bingeable show as encouraging entertainment, not canonical Scripture.

Conversely, in THE IMITATION OF CHRIST: Classic Devotions in Today's Language, by Thomas à Kempis (Compiled and Edited by James N. Watkins), there are passages specifically labeled as being The Christ talking to The Disciple. The good news is that, so far in my reading at least, these Kempis-written Jesus words have not contradicted anything Jesus actually did say.

The reason I bring it up at all is because I have been dumbstruck by a single sentence coming from the pen of Kempis but attributed to Christ. It has laid me flat and whether they are really the words of Jesus or not doesn't make any difference.

Some have much of me on their lips, but little of me in their hearts.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...As someone who has been talking and writing about Jesus for...well...a long time, I dread the possibility of Jesus saying that about me. "Search me, O God, and know my heart today."

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Could There Be a Point to Your Pain?


If it weren't for a nasty childhood, we might never have heard an Oklahoman cowpoke sing about a bright, golden haze on the meadow, or Sister Maria be encouraged to climb every mountain.

According to Laurie Winer's Oscar Hammerstein II and the Invention of the Musical"Richard Rodgers grew up in a house of constant turmoil. His quick-tempered father hated his in-laws, who lived with the family. 'People literally didn't speak to each other in that sad house,' wrote Rodgers' daughter Mary, 'except when they were screaming.' Her father recalled, 'And I turned to this, this kind of melodic construction, the way you turn to food'."

It's nothing new for something terrible to lead to something wonderful.

Jesus and Paul both recognized that suffering and loss forge a deeper and more profound faith in God.

Jesus taught his disciples that embracing suffering for the sake of righteousness not only mirrors his own sacrificial journey but also serves as a means of drawing closer to the divine. Luke 9:23 and 24 records...Then [Jesus] said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." Not that he literally means you have to lose your physical life in order to be a Jesus-follower. The idea is embracing the concept that your life no longer belongs to you, but is subject to the rule of Christ.

Paul, in his letters, emphasized that through trials and tribulations, believers can cultivate virtues such as patience, perseverance, and humility...all of which foster a stronger reliance on God's grace.

Romans 5:3-5: "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

By enduring suffering with faith and trust, individuals can experience the life-changing work of God, leading to profound spiritual growth and an unwavering connection to our heavenly father.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...If your current situation is less-than-ideal, if you are struggling in any way, it might help your feelings about it if you start looking for what strength or virtue Yahweh is cultivating within you by allowing it to happen.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Longing for a Quest?


Reading a good fantasy-adventure book or watching movies like The Lord of the Rings can sometimes get a person a little depressed.

John Koenig invented a word for that in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

ringlorn adj. [From ring, a key element in many sagas and myths + -lorn, sorely missing. Pronounced "ring-lawrn."

The wish that the modern world felt as epic as the one depicted in old stories and folktales  -  a place of tragedy and transcendence, of oaths and omens and fates, where everyday life felt like a quest for glory, a mythic bond with an ancient past, or a battle for survival against a clear enemy, rather than an open-ended parlor game where all the rules are made up and the points don't matter.

I've got two thoughts about that:

       1)  Most people in the fictional worlds created by Tolkien and Lewis et al have no idea they're in the midst of a fantastic story. The majority of hobbits living in the Shire went on with their farming without a single thought about dragons or orcs or rings of power.

       2)  For any Christians reading this, we ARE on a great quest. We have been called to carry out the overarching will of the strongest, wisest, most-loving person ever known to mankind. We are the hands and feet of the Creator and Sustainer of Life; determined to defeat the forces of evil and implant Truth, Love, and Harmony in the heart of every wandering soul on the planet.

You want epic? I gotcher epic right here.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Playing Music to Unborn Babies


According to This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin, pre-born babies hear sounds within the womb:

"It hears the heartbeat of its mother, at times speeding up, at other times slowing down. And the fetus hears music, as was recently discovered by Alexandra Lamont of Keele University in the UK. She found that, a year after they are born, children recognize and prefer music they were ex­posed to in the womb. The auditory system of the fetus is fully functional about twenty weeks after conception. In Lamont's experiment, mothers played a single piece of music to their babies repeatedly during the final three months of gestation. Of course, the babies were also hearing­ -- through the waterlike filtering of the amniotic fluid in the womb -- all of the sounds of their mothers' daily life, including other music, conversa­tions, and environmental noises. But one particular piece was singled out for each baby to hear on a regular basis. The singled-out pieces in­cluded classical (Mozart, Vivaldi), Top 40 (Five, Backstreet Boys), reg­gae (UB40, Ken Boothe) and world beat (Spirits of Nature). After birth, the mothers were not allowed to play the experimental song to their in­fants. Then, one year later, Lamont played babies the music that they had heard in the womb, along with another piece of music chosen to be matched for style and tempo. For example, a baby who had heard UB40's reggae track 'Many Rivers to Cross' heard that piece again, a year later, along with 'Stop Loving You' by the reggae artist Freddie McGregor. La­mont then determined which one the babies preferred.

"How do you know which of two stimuli a preverbal infant prefers? Most infant researchers use a technique known as the conditioned head­-turning procedure, developed by Robert Fantz in the 1960s, and refined by John Columbo, Anne Fernald, the late Peter Jusczyk, and their col­leagues. Two loudspeakers are set up in the laboratory and the infant is placed (usually on his mother's lap) between the speakers. When the in­fant looks at one speaker, it starts to play music or some other sound, and when he looks at the other speaker, it starts to play different music or a different sound. The infant quickly learns that he can control what is playing by where he is looking; he learns, that is, that the conditions of the experiment are under his control. The experimenters make sure that they counterbalance (randomize) the location that the different stimuli come from; that is, half the time the stimulus under study comes from one speaker and half the time it comes from the other. When Lamont did this with the infants in her study, she found that they tended to look longer at the speaker that was playing music they had heard in the womb than at the speaker playing the novel music, confirming that they pre­ferred the music to which they had the prenatal exposure. A control group of one-year-olds who had not heard any of the music before showed no preference, confirming that there was nothing about the mu­sic itself that caused these results. Lamont also found that, all things be­ing equal, the young infant prefers fast, upbeat music to slow music.

"These findings contradict the long-standing notion of childhood amnesia -- that we can't have any veridical memories before around the age of five. Many people claim to have memories from early childhood around age two and three, but it is difficult to know whether these are true memories of the original event, or rather, memory of someone telling us about the event later. The young child's brain is still undeveloped, func­tional specialization of the brain isn't complete, and neural pathways are still in the process of being made. The child's mind is trying to assimilate as much information as possible in as short a time as possible; there are typically large gaps in the child's understanding, awareness, or memory for events because he hasn't yet learned how to distinguish important events from unimportant ones, or to encode experience systematically. Thus, the young child is a prime candidate for suggestion, and could un­wittingly encode, as his own, stories that were told to him about himself. It appears that for music even prenatal experience is encoded in mem­ory, and can be accessed in the absence of language or explicit awareness of the memory."

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Truth is...Do NOT talk to me about "clumps of cells" or "potential life". A human is a human, no matter what his or her stage of development.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

It Takes More Than Success to Be a Successful Person


I recently saw a video clip of Rainn Wilson (the actor best remembered as Dwight in the U.S. version of The Office) talking about a period of great disappointment in his life.

He said that he was living his dream life: living in New York City, making a living as an actor, and collaborating with wonderfully-talented people. On paper, he seemed to have it all, but in his heart, he was miserable.

Getting everything he ever wanted and finding that it wasn't what he needed set him on a course to rediscover faith in God and a life of growing spirituality.

And I picked up Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ (compiled and edited by James N. Watkins) and read the following words (written as if Christ were saying them), I was reminded of Wilson's experience:

Why are you consumed with futile sorrow? Why are you weighed down and wearied with unnecessary cares? Desire my good pleasure, and you will suffer no loss. If you seek after this or that, and go here or there according to what seems advantageous to you or what fulfills your own pleasure, you will never be at peace nor free from care. In everything, something will be found lacking, and everywhere there will be somebody who opposes you.

Therefore it is not gaining or multiplying of this or that thing which brings you satisfaction but rather the despising of it and cutting it by the root out of your heart. You must understand the worthlessness of money and riches. You must not chase after honor and fickle praise. These things all pass away with the world, and they bring no joy if the spirit of devotion is missing. Neither will you experience peace if it is sought from anyone or anything but God. If you do not live in me, your life is without true foundation. You can change without me, but you cannot better yourself without me.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...The more I look at me and not Jesus, the more miserable I will be.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Using Science to Explain Scripture


Previously on Truth is... I have tried to express a certain correlation between a popular scientific theory and a Scriptural text, with perhaps less-than-stellar results. In an attempt to allow science to give it a shot, I gave ChatGPT the following instruction: "Explain the connection between the scientific concept of dark matter and Colossians 1:17."

This is the result of that exercise.

Colossians 1:17 is a biblical verse that states, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." This verse is often interpreted to refer to God's role in sustaining the universe and maintaining its order.

On the other hand, dark matter is a scientific concept that describes an invisible form of matter believed to make up a significant portion of the total mass in the universe. Although it does not interact directly with light or other electromagnetic radiation, its presence is inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter and the structure of the cosmos.

The connection between Colossians 1:17 and dark matter lies in the idea that both concepts point to an underlying force or presence that holds the universe together. While Colossians 1:17 attributes this role to a divine being (God), dark matter is proposed by scientists as a potential explanation for the gravitational forces that shape galaxies and galaxy clusters.

Although it's important to note that these are two distinct perspectives—one theological and the other scientific—they both touch upon the mysterious nature of the universe and the fundamental forces that govern its existence.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I'm not sure I could say it any better, other than to add that both perspectives involve exercising faith.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

"Well, As I Recall..."


The human memory is not all it's cracked up to be.

From the book, This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin:

In study after study, people are not very good at re-creating a word-for-word account. They remember general content, but not specific wording. Several other studies also point to the imperfection of memory. Seemingly minor interventions can powerfully affect the accuracy of memory retrieval. An important series of studies was carried out by Elizabeth Loftus of the University of Washington, who was interested in the accu­racy of witnesses' courtroom testimonies. Subjects were shown video­tapes and asked leading questions about the content. If shown two cars that barely scraped each other, one group of subjects might be asked, "How fast were the cars going when they scraped each other?" and an­other group would be asked, "How fast were the cars going when they smashed each other?" Such one-word substitutions caused dramatic dif­ferences in the eyewitnesses' estimates of the speeds of the two vehi­cles. Then Loftus brought the subjects back, sometimes up to a week later, and asked, "How much broken glass did you see?" (There really was no broken glass.) The subjects who were asked the question with the word smashed in it were more likely to report "remembering" bro­ken glass in the video. Their memory of what they actually saw had been reconstructed on the basis of a simple question the experimenter had asked a week earlier.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

This makes me think about how sly Satan was when he asked Eve, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” Now, the answer is no...God did NOT say that, but it got Eve asking herself about what the Lord actually DID say and what did he actually mean and did she hear it correctly and the train of doubt has left the station.

Truth is...It's okay to question. It's okay to doubt. But to rely on our own recollections, experiences, or opinions instead of the never-changing word of God is traveling a road to ruin.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

A Prayer of Repentance Leading to Revival


It's been said that every God-sent revival starts with prayer and personal repentance, and “The depth of revival is determined by the depth of the repentance”(Revivalist Frank Bartleman).

I can't imagine a better prayer of repentance to send us in the direction of revival than this one from John Baillie's A Diary of Private Prayer (updated and revised by Susanna Wright):

I Repent

Holy God, I have dedicated my soul and life to you, yet I lament before you that I am still so inclined to sin and so reluctant to obey:

So attached to what makes me feel good, so neglectful of spiritual things;
So quick to gratify my body, so slow to nourish my soul;
So greedy for present delight, so indifferent to lasting blessing;
So fond of being lazy, so unprepared to work;
So soon at play, so delayed at prayer;
So quick to look after myself, so slow to look after others;
So eager to get, so reluctant to give;
So confident in my claims, so low in my performance;
So full of good intentions, so unwilling to fulfill them;
So harsh with those around me, so indulgent with myself;
So eager to find fault, so resentful when others find fault with me;
So unfit for great tasks, so unhappy with small ones;
So helpless without you, and yet so unwilling to be tied to you.

O merciful God, forgive me yet again. Hear this sad account of my failings and in your great mercy blot it out of your memory. Give me faith to lay hold of your perfect holiness and to rejoice in the righteousness of Christ my Savior. Grant that resting on his goodness and not my own I may become more like him, so that my will may be united with his, in obedience to yours. All this I ask for his holy name's sake.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I also repent of merely mouthing these words instead of wrenching them up from my innermost being.

Thursday, June 29, 2023



The second chapter of the book of Acts is fairly foundational for those who want to base their Christianity on the earliest model. That's not to say the 21st Century Church needs to do all the things the 1st Century Church did in the same way it did them. The actions and activities recorded in the book are eyewitness accounts of what happened...not necessarily meant to be prescriptions for us to follow.


Acts 2:42 certainly seems like a good idea for a group of Christ-followers to pay attention to.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

You and I both know what it means to devote oneself: to concentrate on a particular pursuit, occupation, purpose, or cause. And to focus on the pursuits of Jesus' teachings, sharing love and life with fellow believers, and communing with our maker through prayer...this is worthwhile and foundational for calling yourself a church.


What if we looked at the phrase they devoted themselves a little differently? What if we compared devote to similar words like deflate and deaccelerate?

What if we stopped thinking we had a vote on everything that happens in our lives? What if we decided that our decisions are not always the end-all and be-all of our spiritual journeys?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I want to de-vote myself. I want to take myself out of the driver's seat and give Father, Son, and Holy Spirit complete control.

Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way. Thou art the potter. I am the clay.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Here, Boy! Come on, Fido!


In contrast to Shakespeare's taunting question, "What's in a name?", Gregory Berns suggests there might be something significant in one's name...even if the individual we're talking about is a dog.

Thanks to Gary Larson

From What It's Like to Be a Dog:

"How do animals treat names? If an animal doesn't have the faculty to understand that words are symbols, it is unlikely that they can translate their names into a sense of self. More likely, animals learn that a particular utterance means something interesting is about to happen and that they'd better pay attention. Whenever someone said (to the dog Callie) 'Callie,' Callie directed her attention to whoever made that noise. I never got the sense that she equated her name with 'me.'

"The experience of animal trainers would support the attention-grabbing function of names. 'Callie, sit,' is thought to be more effective than 'Sit, Callie.' ... Callie responds better to the first because her name gets her attention for the subsequent action. The reverse order requires her to remember the action that precedes her name."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Not to equate humans with canines, but the same holds true. In a conversation or group discussion, it's always better for someone to say "Dewey, what do you think about XYZ?" than "What do you think about XYZ, Dewey?"

The second phrase could very well get the response: "I'm sorry, what were we talking about?"

Truth is...when God says, in Isaiah 43:1, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine," it not only comforts me; it gets my attention.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Are Your Kids Ready to Face the World?


First things first, let it be said that it is not the local church's responsibility to raise children that love Jesus and can navigate the Bible.

Hear me.

Educating children in spiritual truth and Scriptural literacy is not the responsibility of the congregation of believers commonly referred to as the church. That is a parent's job.

Second things second, it is also true that any congregation worthy of the designation "church" will take seriously the mission of coming alongside its parents and helping in that job.

It is the seriousness of that task that is emphasized in the meme below:

Truth is...The world at large is not necessarily a friendly territory for faith in Jesus, and preparing our children to live in that world needs to be more than just keeping them busy while Mom and Dad worship.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

This Title Is a Lie


Once upon a time, there was a "movement" that started in the realm of art that espoused the absence of meaning in everything it created. It was called "Dadaism".

"A state of mind rather than a literary or artistic movement, according to its spokesman the Romanian poet Tristan Tzara (1886-1963), Dada was anarchic, nihilistic, and disruptive. Dadaists mocked all established values, all traditional notions of good taste in art and literature, the culture symbols of a society based, they believed, on greed and materialism and now in its death agony. The name Dada -- a nonsense, baby-talk word -- means nothing, so was well suited to Dada's wholly negative nature. Dada even denied the value of art, hence its cult of non-art, and ended by negating itself. 'The true Dadaist is against Dada.'" [Hugh Honour and John Fleming, in The Visual Arts: A History]

The self-negating nature of Dadaism causes me to think about certain statements:

  • "There is no absolute truth." ( that absolutely true?)
  • "People have no right to judge one another." (Usually spoken by someone who has determined, i.e., judged, that someone was being judgy.)
  • "Nobody can be totally sure about anything." (Are you sure about that?)

And what about the title of this post: "This Title Is a Lie"? If that's true, then it's a lie, but then that would mean it was true by being a lie...but if it's a lie that would make it true, which would make it NOT a lie, which would make it a lie...

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...It's not that hard to confound a human's mind. Kinda makes it easy for me to believe Isaiah 55:8-9. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."

Thursday, June 1, 2023

"Well, I Didn't MEAN To!"


When Carrie Fisher found herself on the set of the first Star Wars movie, part of her plan, in addition to working hard to learn the techno-babble dialogue of George Lucas, was to have a Hollywood romance. As she explains in the diary she kept at the time (later released as the book, The Princess Diarist), she DID have at least one self-imposed standard:

"It's difficult to imagine a childhood less likely to make one pro-adultery than mine. When I was born, my par­ents, the handsome singer Eddie Fisher and the beautiful actress Debbie Reynolds, were known as 'America's Sweet­hearts.' The gorgeous couple with their two adorable little babies (my brother, Todd, came along sixteen months after I did) were the American Dream realized, until Eddie left Debbie for the recently widowed gorgeous actress Elizabeth Taylor, who, just to pile it on a little more, was a friend of my mother's from their early days at the Metro-­Goldwyn-Mayer Studio. For those too old to remember or too young to care, it was one of the great midcentury tabloid feeding frenzies, and I watched it at very close range.

"So when I was contemplating having an affair on this movie, I wasn't going to include married guys. One of the things I knew when Harrison and I met was that nothing of a ro­mantic nature would happen. It wasn't even an issue. There were plenty of guys out there who were single whom I could date without needing to dip into the married guy pool. He was also far too old for me -- almost fifteen years older! I would be twenty in a matter of months, but Harrison was in his mid-thirties -- old! Well into adulthood, anyway.

"Also, he was a man. I was a girl -- a male human like him would have to be with a woman. If Harrison and I went to the prom together, no one would believe it. 'What's he doing with her? Captain of the football team and president of the cool literary club? What's he doing with Cutie-Pie Sweetcheeks, with the troll doll collection and Cary Grant obsession? Must be a glitch in the machine ... '

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

It should come as no surprise that the end result of Fisher thinking more and more about not having an affair with Harrison Ford is that she kept thinking more and more about him...and they did indeed carry on a sexual affair during the making of the film.

Truth the Old Testament account of Potipher's wife trying to seduce Joseph, Joseph made the wisest decision he could have. The minute he saw that reasoning with her was having no effect, he turned tail and ran away. Standing on the brink, wondering how close you can get, will almost always end in falling off the cliff.