Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Robin Williams May Not Be In Heaven

When a celebrity dies a strange phenomenon happens. I feel like I've lost a friend. I've never known the person, but having seen them on television and movies, I feel like I did know them. My heart feels sad. I feel the loss. I find myself reading about the person's life and deepen my sense of grief. When Robin Williams committed suicide, I was deeply affected. I had a real friend commit suicide in my very own home. I was reminded of that fact when I saw that Robin Williams also died of suicide. I not only felt the loss for Robin Williams but my feelings of loss for my friend resurfaced.

With my friends suicide, I learned that depression is a disease much like cancer is a disease and that it is a deadly disease. When my friend died, I took comfort in Romans 8:38-39: "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." My friend was a Christian. He believed that Jesus died for him and that he was forgiven of all his wrongs. I know his death did not separate him from the love of God.

By worldly standards, Robin Williams seemed to be a good man. He toured with the USO and gave his time to entertain troops. He was considered a second Bob Hope. Robin Williams visited his friend Christopher Reeves when Reeves was despairing of life. Williams raised money for the homeless through Comic Relief. He supported many other charities including The Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation and St. Jude Hospital.

Good deeds do not earn us a place in heaven. As good and kind and Robin Williams may have been, non of his deeds earns him a place in heaven. None of us can earn our way to heaven. We have all done wrong. We all fail to love God and other human beings perfectly. There is only one way to heaven. Because we all fail to live up to God's perfect standard of love, we are all condemned. God does not desire to condemn us. He wants us to be with him forever. God provided a way for us not be condemned. He sent his son to live the perfect life we could not live. He sent his son to be condemned and to die, so that we could be saved from condemnation and death. The only way to be with God after our body dies is to believe that his son, Jesus died for us. We must recognize that we failed God and failed to love him and others as God commands. We acknowledge to God that we have failed. We belief that Jesus' death can redeem us from our failure. We commit to God that with his help, we will become more loving like Jesus. We surrender to God so that he can begin and complete the process of making us more loving like Jesus. When we accept Jesus as the only one who can redeem us, we are reconciled to God. Then, like my friend who committed suicide, we are reconciled to God and will never be separated from God's love again.

Did Robin Williams believe in Jesus? Was he reconciled to God? Did God set him free? Only God knows. According to Hollowverse.com "Williams' father was Episcopalian and his mother was a devout Christian Scientist. Though Williams is not very religious today, he considers the possibility that his mother's faith and its idea of 'mind over matter' helped him kick his drug and alcohol addictions."He often joked about religion, but he did go into recovery for his additions. If the 12 step program was part of his recovery, there's a chance he surrendered to God as part of his recovery. According to wnd.com, Williams did hear the gospel from Dr. Ted Baehr and Baehr states "Williams had, at one point, 'accepted Jesus Christ' in one of the recovery programs, Baehr said, 'but he never found the transformation that Jesus brings.'" So there is hope that Robin Williams is in heaven. I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


What does commitment mean? I think for many people, commitment means that I'll remain as long as my needs are met and I'm happy. If we are not happy with a job, we leave. If we are not happy in a marriage because our needs are not being met, we leave. There was a time in our history where we were loyal to a company for life. There was a time in our history when we were married for life even though you faced hard times. You went through hard times together. You stayed with the other even if you no longer felt loved or felt happy. My grandmothers were married to drunks. They were afraid, abused and often not happy, but they were committed. 

When we realized that companies were not loyal to us, we realized we no longer needed to remain committed to the company. When we realized we could leave abusive situations, we did. At some point in our history, our own needs and our own happiness become more important than our commitment. Commitment became conditional.

It is not good to stay committed in an abusive situation. While I admire my grandmothers' courage, I'm sad that they endured abuse. I think in our past, we fell into a trap of legalism. We remained committed because it was morally right to do so. We endured abuse, neglect and not being loved because it was wrong to break our commitments. Society and religion told us it was wrong. We felt pride in keeping commitments and too afraid to break them. We would feel ashamed of ourselves if we divorced. People who did divorce were looked down upon by society and the church. 

Now we've swung the opposite direction. Commitments are conditional. Society and sometimes even the church encourages us to leave when things get tough or we are not happy. Sometimes the church fights against the messages of society but in a legalistic way still promoting pride or shame as the motive to stay committed. 

To leave a situation because we are not happy or our needs are not being met is selfish. Marriage is not an institution which is designed to have our needs met and to make us happy. Marriage is a covenant relationship between two people and God. It is a means for growth to become more like Jesus, to become less selfish, more giving, more loving and a better person who truly is an image of the Creator. 

We must learn that God's love for us is unconditional. He is committed to us and our well being. We are not capable of keeping our commitments. We are not capable of loving unconditionally. We are not capable of obeying God's law of love. Jesus kept his commitment to us. He loves us unconditionally. He kept God's law of love perfectly because we cannot. He died for us because we deserved death yet God did not desire that we perish. He redeemed us and reconciled us to him even though we abandoned him to seek our own pleasure and happiness apart from him. We sought our own pleasure and happiness but failed to achieve it because we had abandoned the very source of love, pleasure and happiness. God asks us to recommit ourselves to him knowing we can't keep it on our own. Even though we will continue to break our commitment to God, he will not break his to us. We can be assured that nothing will ever separate us from God's love ever again. 

Our commitments to each other must flow from God's commitment to us. Our love for each other must depend on God's love for us. Apart from him, we cannot keep our commitments. Apart from him, we cannot love unconditionally.

If we are motivated by fear or shame, we will not love and keep our commitments. We may be coerced into keeping our commitments out of fear or shame. We may remain loyal because we are enslaved by fear, but we will not grow in love. Commitment itself does not enslave us. Commitment frees us when we depend on God to keep the commitment. Fear, shame, regret, selfishness, and pride enslave us.

My wife and I signed a covenant when we were married. In doing so, we committed ourselves to God and each other regardless of circumstances. When we signed it, we knew we were NOT capable of keeping the covenant and our commitment. We signed it knowing God IS capable of keeping out covenant and commitment. We signed it in faith trusting God to keep it. We believe our love came from God who is love. We believe God grows our love. I love my wife more now than when I signed our covenant. Our love is strong because our God is strong. We have no fear of divorce because we trust our God. We feel very secure and very free. We are not chained by commitment. We are free. We are bound by love and by God who loves us. That bond cannot be broken because God is faithful. 

What is commitment? In our marriage, commitment is a faithful covenant with God and each other bound by the love God has given us. For us, commitment is for life. We are not bound by a legalistic determination to stay together. We do not live in fear of shame. We are not afraid of breaking our commitment. We are not enslaved by a promise. We are bound by love forever. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Legalism or Grace

I read a blog written by a woman who regretted that she kept her virginity until she was married. She made a purity pledge at age 10 and kept that pledge. After she married, she felt pain and shame loosing her virginity. She stated that if she would do it over, she would not have made and kept the pledge. She based this on the pain and shame she now felt. Sadly, her problem is legalism and doesn't realize it. She never truly understood the gospel. She only understood moral legalism. She kept her virginity out of pride and shame. She was proud of keeping it and ashamed to loose it. Her motivation was to look good to others it was not gratitude for saving grace.

Christian churches today in America are determined to keep a moral law and to have our children keep a moral law. On the surface, this is good. However, the way we teach keeping the law is often shame based and not grace based. What needs to be taught is the gospel. Children and adults need to be taught that Jesus unconditionally loves them, that he lived a righteous life because we cannot and that he died because we deserve death. Once we accept that he died for us, we will still be saved by grace even if we "loose our virginity." Once we realize that we are saved, we are motivated by love and gratitude to keep the moral law. We tend to teach it backwards. We teach keep the moral law at all cost, change all bad behaviors and then be saved by accepting Jesus. What we need to be taught is that we are all sinners because we break the moral law and nothing in our power can make us keep the moral law. We need a savior because we are incapable of being righteous. God offers us grace to pardon us from our sins. Once we receive his grace, we are also given the power to change. The holy spirit will convict us of sin and behavior that needs to change. He will give us power not to change the behavior but rather change who we are on the inside which will also result in changes in behavior.

I just had a little baby girl. She is 3 months old. It is not my hope that she will make a purity pledge and keep it with all her might. It is my hope that she will enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and allow him to change her from the inside. If she makes a purity pledge, I want her to rely on the holy spirit to keep it. If she fails, I want her to know that she is forgiven and still loved.

We also need to be careful not to teach only grace without teaching moral law. If we don't know the law, we won't know sin. If we don't know sin, we won't know that we need a savior. We need to be taught what is sin and that we are law breakers incapable of being law keepers. What we can't be taught is the law and that we are responsible to keep the law in our own power. We can't keep the law in our own power. We need to be saved and given the power to keep the law. John Bunyan is created with saying

Run, John, run, the law commands, 
But gives us neither feet nor hands. 
Far better news the gospel brings: 
It bids us fly and gives us wings.

The law show us sin but gives us no ability to keep it. Grace gives us forgiveness which gives us both motivation and ability to love. We motivated by gratitude for grace. We obey the law of love with love. We don't follow just a moral code, we live by a higher principle of love. When we and others fail we give and receive grace. 

I will teach her morality and I will punish my daughter when she is immoral, but I will also teach her grace. I will always let her know that Jesus died for her so she could be forgiven of her moral failure. I want her to know she was born a sinner and is a sinner so that she will know she needs a savior.

Friday, May 16, 2014

USCIS is Ineffective and Inefficient

I've been screwed again by the USCIS. My wife is from the Philippines. She came to the US on a K-1 (fiancĂ©e) visa legally. We were married in Maui Hawaii on August 2nd 2013. When she arrived in Honolulu on August 1st 2013 she relinquished her sealed visa package which contained her medical exam records(I-693). She had been required to get a medical exam and immunizations before entering the US. She did this and I paid several hundred dollars plus travel to the only approved hospital in the Philippines. This exam couldn't be done at a local hospital. It had to be done at St. Luke's in Manila. Of course, she didn't live in Manila, not even on the same island as Manila. After giving the paper work to the officials in Honolulu, the documents should have been sent onto Denver CO since we were going to live in Boulder CO after our wedding and honeymoon. We went for her "Green Card" interview which required that I take off a day of work and which cost me more money. When we sat down for our interview, the first think that the interview said was that her visa package was lost but he promised to find it. He didn't find it. We were sent a notice a month later that she would be required to get a second medical exam because her first one was "deemed lost." Again it must be by an approved facility so we can't just have our family doctor perform the exam. There is an approved facility in Boulder but only if she was a patient. The Boulder facility gave us a phone number of a facility which would do the exam but it is 3 hours away. The cost of this second exam is anywhere from $200 - $500. It is NOT covered by insurance and will mean another day off work. 

Prior to this fiasco, the entire visa process was delayed by 6 months due to the DACA executive order by President Obama giving processing priority to illegal immigrants. I wrote about how that order negatively affected me, other citizens and military personal here.

I saw on the USCIS Facebook page that the USCIS was award a "customer satisfaction" award. My chin dropped. This customer is not satisfied. I've not run across a more inefficient and ineffective organization in my life. If any corporation was run like our government agencies, it would be out of business. 

It is not surprising to me that the Obama administration is full of corruption. The "buck stops here." The CEO of the the US federal government is ultimately responsible for the offices under his authority. The lack of effectiveness of the USCIS is the responsibility of the leader. Our president has proven his lack of leadership ability many times. 

It is time for this president to go. I personally cannot wait until 2016. The question is: Will I be able to endure another 2 years? 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Being a Dad

On April 23rd 2014 my precious daughter Johanna was born and I became a daddy for the first time. I am overjoyed and extremely happy. My wife was induced because she had preeclampsia . She went through 9 hours of labor but her cervix only dilated 3 centimeters, so she had to undergo a cesarean. After witnessing what she went through, I'm convinced that the male is the weaker sex. She demonstrated tremendous strength and endurance. When she should have been resting and recovering from the surgery, she had to wake every few hours to nurse our baby.

My dad is very happy that I've had a child but says he doesn't envy me raising a child in this world. He raised five children but didn't face the challenges that exist today. Honestly, I am concerned. My solution is prayer, much prayer. I've begun by praying Psalm 139 over my child often.I pray with my wife morning and night.

To prepare for the birth of our child, my wife and I went on a retreat at Glen Eyrie. We walked in beautiful creation. We prayed. We wrote in our journals. We read the Bible together. It was a great time for us both. It was very helpful to us both. I'd highly recommend doing it.

Our daughter's name means "God's Gracious Gift." That is truly what she is.

God’s gracious gift arrived today.
Conceived by the love of two
Now, forever upon our hearts will stay.
Our precious baby, we love you.
Resting upon Mother’s breast,
Baby is safe and secure in peace.
Contently she is heavenly blessed.
Our love will everyday increase.
As our baby will mature and grow
In our care in this earthy place
May she turn to God and know
For eternity, love and grace.

I love holding her and seeing her every day. I pray for her future and am doing my best to plan for it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Comcast (XFinity) Review

I love the Olympics. Every two years, I am glued to the TV every night watching. Other times of the year, I don't watch broadcast television. Every Olympics, I must get cable installed with a DVR so I can watch the Olympics and fast forward of the countless commercials. I called Comcast which was my first mistake. All I really wanted was NBC, HD and a DVR. Of course, I did not expect Comcast to offer that, so I asked for local channels in HD with a DVR. Of course Comcast doesn't offer just local changes with HD and a DVR. You must get their "Digital Starter Package." with a total of 80 channels 79 of which I did NOT want to the tune of $60 a month for 12 months. After 12 months, the price is higher. $60 is their rock bottom price to get new customers and then screw them a year later. I caved and forked over the $60 for 79 channels I don't need just to get the one I do want. 

Comcast kindly sent us a DVR with a self-hook up kit which arrived days later. I went to the web site to start my service. The site was extremely slow and very broken. I work in IT and have better knowledge than the average user and I couldn't get setup. The site simply did not work. I was then forced to call customer service which was no better. They sent a communication to my DVR and said I'd have cable in 45 minutes. I had cable in 45 minutes but not the channels for the starter package. I had channels I shouldn't have and didn't have channels that I should. I called customer service again who again sent a signal to my box and again told me to wait 45 minutes. This time it worked. 

Next I decide it would be nice to have cable on our other TV.  I simply hooked up cable to the TV with no other box. I turned on the TV and had no cable. I called customer service for the third time and was informed that I must have a cable box for an extra cost. So the $60 became more like $66. To get this box required a trip to the Comcast store. The person on the phone told me I had a preorder and so would not need wait in line. I could go immediately to the cashier. This was a lie. I arrived and I was told to self-check in and to wait. I said, but I had a preorder. I was told, "I don't know what they told you on the phone, but you must wait." I waited. After all other customers were handled and I was alone the same person at the counter who told me to wait asked what I wanted, tried to look up my name in the self-check in and couldn't find me. Since I was now the only person there, he did handle my request and I got my box.

I also asked why I had HBO. I was told it was included for free for two years. Nice, except I don't want HBO being broadcast in my house. I asked if it could be removed. He said, he'd try and didn't see why not. To my surprise, it was removed and I was relieved.

Now I was ready to watch the Olympics and I was happy though I was $66 poorer. Naturally the DVR had glitches. Sometimes it froze and would not recover. I also learned that it could only record one channel at a time. This was not too bad since I really only wanted to watch one channel. 

Comcast was nice enough to provide streaming of all events. If I went to NBCOlympics.com and logged into my XFinity account, I could stream to my hearts content. I thought this was great. My wife is from the Philippines and she wanted to see the Filipino skater. Naturally his routine was not shown on Prime Time. The entire program was available streaming though. There was a catch. You could not fast forward. You had to sit through all skaters prior to the one you wanted to see. This wasn't too bad since our skater was in the first group, however, internet streaming is not reliable and we crashed a few times. Since we could not fast forward we had to start from the beginning and rewatch it all. Eventually we were able to see our Filipino skater's program.

Now I'm more than ready to return our cable box and cancel our Comcast cable TV. I'll be relieved though I don't expect it will be easy. I wasn't easy two years ago for the summer Olympics. 

I think Comcast is a greedy company with poor customer service. Why should anyone need to pay more than $60 when only one channel was wanted? Why doesn't Comcast offer an a la cart option? Why must we pay for a cable box for every TV we own? Why does customer service fail to do a simple hook up? Why does customer service lie to you? I'll be very happy to be rid of Comcast until the next Olympics when I must do this all again or find a better option.