Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Beatles at the Ridge

Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, doesn't get a whole lot of press these days. Other than being the home region for my family in days gone by, it also made the news back in 1964 when the Beatles flew briefly into town on the way to Springfield, Missouri, where they were going to stay on a dude ranch for a while.

Walnut Ridge is on U.S. 67 in the northeast quadrant of the state. In the early days of rock and roll, quite a few artists used to travel up and down 67 playing and singing. That includes Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and others. In fact, Cash was born in Arkansas and raised in the town of Dyess to the east of Walnut Ridge in Mississippi County.

A few years back, the town put up a Beatles exhibit dedicated to the band's visit. It includes the above mural (I'm standing to the right of Paul), a sculpture based on the Abbey Road album cover, a museum, a "Guitar Walk" along the railroad tracks, and other things. The flagship event happens every September with the "Beatles at the Ridge" music festival. The Beatles tribute act The Liverpool Legends was there last fall, and George Harrison's sister Louise has visited. Here's a link to the event's website -  http://www.beatlesattheridge.com

I finally made it down last May to see the exhibit, although it wasn't under happy circumstances with my mother's passing. I would love to actually get there during the music festival. Someday. At any rate, if you get a chance, go by for a visit.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Roseanne the Conservative?

I purposely haven't commented much on the political melee in the U.S these days - primarily because I have little energy for arguing. Few really argue in the classical sense anyway - they just pause and reload their talking points without really listening. But I digress. There is a current situation that interests me as an observer, and that is the apparent conservative embrace of Roseanne Barr because she ostensibly backs Donald Trump. 
I have a long memory, I guess. I can remember when Norman Lear set conservatives (Christian and otherwise) aflame when All in the Family went on the air, and a host of his other shows that followed. When Roseanne's first show went on, she took what Norman Lear did and put it on steroids (for the time). She was not popular with most Christian conservatives. Anyone remember the kerfuffle that flared up when she screeched the National Anthem and grabbed her nether regions on the air? That went over like a lead balloon. 
But now, Roseanne is being embraced and seen as a conservative fellow traveler. I think not. If you watched her entire appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, she took the opportunity to hold Mike Pence up as a bogeyman if Trump got run out of office, and frankly, Pence is much more of a traditional Republican social conservative than Donald Trump is by a long shot. The fact that Roseanne would take a shot like that at Pence OUGHT to tell conservatives of Christian persuasion something. 
But I am not optimistic. I'm looking at most things with a jaundiced eye these days. A 1700s play called "The School for Scandal" says it better than I could:
"Tis a d***ned wicked world, Sir Oliver. The fewer we praise, the better."

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

May L. Vinson Griffith Williams (1923-2017)

It's been more than a year since I posted on this blog. In June 2016, my dear mother was in the hospital after breaking her hip. My family celebrated her 93rd birthday in the hospital with her. It would be the last time we'd celebrate her birthday, as her hip break (as happens so frequently with the elderly) basically threw gasoline on what had only been mild dementia and the beginnings of congestive heart failure. I may tell the whole story here later, but the long and short of it is that Momma went to be with the Lord May 2, 2017, after putting up a valiant battle. We held her memorial service later in June after her burial in Arkansas.

I had the blessing of having Momma with me for 16 years, and the privilege of taking care of her myself until the last four months when it became medically and physically impossible. I've been too busy at my work to really process her passing properly, and I'm really still in the grief process albeit bypassing some of the "steps." I know Momma is with the Lord and that provides great comfort.

Now that the long walk is over, I hope to begin returning to blogging more regularly. It's probable that I will focus more on spiritual issues than commenting on the events of the day. I'm not even sure how many readers I have left after such a long drought. Oh well. Whether I'm read or not, even the process of writing again is therapeutic. I appreciate those who have been praying for us. More than words can say.

Monday, July 04, 2016

A Challenging Time of Life

I hardly know how to begin this post - intended to explain to my very patient, long-time (and possibly by now, former) readers why this blog has been so inactive in the past couple of years. From the time I started it back in 2005 or so, you can see how the number of posts has grown less and less over time. Not because I don't love to write or have nothing to say.

Pictured right are me, my two sisters, and my 93-year-old mother. It was taken June 13, 2016, at a regional hospital on my Mom's birthday. On May 30, she fell getting out of bed and broke her hip. This was after an extended period of declining health since 2011, and a February hospitalization due to dehydration. Before she began getting ill, my late stepfather began his final illness, passing in 2010. (Both moved in with me in 2001, and eventually I became their caregivers. Not an easy thing to do as a single bachelor with family far away, but God provided in His time.

Mom is now home as of Saturday, and that is a miracle from the Lord in and of itself. Many elderly people never make it back home after a hip break. The mortality rate is very high. But by God's grace, Mom survived and made it back home. We're not over the challenges yet - she must have a lengthy period of rehab and therapy with visiting nurses and in-home caregivers when I have to be at my office. At her age with severe arthritis and just being old and tired, it's a tough row to hoe. Getting up and walking is sheer agony, but she has to try. If that hip joint or her knees lock up, she'll be bedridden and taking care of her at home will be near impossible. But we're not there yet, and I'll do everything God grants me to do to keep her here where she's loved, happy and cared for.

The main purpose of this in-depth explanation is to illustrate a few things that have been roiling in my mind since these challenges began. First, the Lord's commandment to honor your father and mother never came with an expiration date. To me, Mom is not a burden but a joy. Yes, there are difficulties and frustrations. But she took care of me in my infancy and childhood, so now it's my chance to take care of her. For those with aging parents - count every moment and make it count. Every day is precious.

Second, family. The four of us have not been photographed together in eons. (My father died in 1980). We've aged a bit. We all have differing views on a host of subjects. We're rarely together anymore. But when we are - it's precious. The love for one another is unconditional. I am thankful to God for my family and loved ones. I'm a loner by nature and will always be, but I love my family. May God continue His work in their lives for His glory.

Third. The government—state AND federal—and their tender ministrations. They have really, thoroughly ripped the guts out of our health care system. The rules, regulations, bureaucracy, and I suspect more than a little corruption, are like a living, breathing Gordian knot with an attitude. I have learned a lot over the last year, and it's awful what they put people through. Especially the elderly. We need reform and like yesterday. The government needs to get out of our business, especially health care. I'll stop there. Too tired to rant.

Between a very heavy workload at my office and the health issues in the family, it leaves me little time for blogging and writing. I often find that when I get home from running all over the region or dealing with another health crisis, my mind and body are both so tired I just have to sit and vegetate mindlessly. There's a bit of a mental block. Experience has shown me that I can sit in my chair for a day and not be bothered at all, but let me pick up the computer to write, and that's when the phone calls start, Mom will need help, urgent emails needing immediate replies, text messages, visitors etc. all hit at once. My life at present is a little bit like the Kurt Vonnegut short story "Harrison Bergeron." You can't think too long before your "Handicapper General" earphones shriek in your ear. This has given me such a fear of being interrupted that I don't want to begin any task, especially writing. How I could write this much and get away with it amazes me.

I'm really not complaining, although there have been tears and frank talks with the Lord. He is allowing these things in our lives for a purpose, to teach us things, and to build up our endurance. That's all in Scripture if you look. Easy? Bwahahahaha! No, it's not. But God is faithful, even when it seems like He's nowhere to be found. He IS present and sovereign in our suffering. I am not experiencing anything that He did not experience during His earthly sojourn to be my Savior. I have a Creator God who understands and cares. We cling to that, and eagerly await the outcome of His divine, sovereign work in our lives. For His glory and our good.

So there it is. I do not know when my next post will be, or whether I will be able to resume this blog as it was originally conceived. One day at a time. Your ongoing prayers will be appreciated.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

When the Ignorant Discuss and Judge God's Will

Apologies in advance for those who don't like reading novelettes. But in light of some issues regarding my "share" yesterday about God's will, this commentary had to be written and posted. I think the MAIN POINT of that post got missed entirely: Christians are not guaranteed a bed of roses in this life and under this sun. If interested, read on. If not, hide the post. I understand not everyone on my friends' list is an evangelical Christian believer, nor is everyone a theologian. But I hope even those who do not share my faith will read it. At least it might help explain a few things. This only scratches the surface. Volumes COULD be written.

First, a mea culpa: I should know better by now than to post things to make a spiritual point that are either badly worded, not thoroughly fleshed out for the sake of understanding, or theologically imprecise. So - here's the clarification for those who are interested. If not, hide this one from your feed, or read one of my humorous posts, scenery shots, or music shares.

The original post was about God's will. Among the things said in the poster I shared - "God's will was for the Apostle John to be exiled, the Apostle Paul to be jailed, and for Jesus to be executed." This ignited a kerfuffle in the comments, and in my view, it's because the subject of the will of God gets grossly misunderstood by non-believers and even believers at times. Here's some basic Christian theology that has been orthodox doctrine for 2,000 years.

God is sovereign in His creation. He has a divine, eternal, GOOD purpose that will be realized in its entirety. We have to get this straight first of all:

God, as Creator, has the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to do what He wants with His creation. He also has the absolute right to DEFINE right and wrong, good and evil. His creation has NO right to alter what He has determined. What "rights" we have - we only have by His divine grace and gifting. We have no right to sit in judgment on God. You can try, but it will be futile.

We as finite human beings can only understand what He has chosen to reveal. "We see through a glass darkly." Many things in this fallen world (including our own fallenness) get in the way of understanding His will, His Word, and His revelation. Scripture says even faith is a divine gift. We understand truth only through His enabling and revelation. Since we are finite and NOT omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent - all divine attributes - we take what He has revealed and wrestle with it in our lives.

So, what does this mean? The statements made in that poster ARE true, although taken alone by themselves without any illumination, it's easy to see why some balk. Per Scripture, it was the eternal purpose of God to redeem a people for Himself. His purpose included the first advent of Christ when he came to earth as a man, walked among His creation, and eventually died on the cross for the sins of His people, and rose again from the dead for their justification. This was Gods' purpose BEFORE He even created the universe. That means God knew precisely what would happen in this world before He created it, including the fall of man, human sin, and the need to deal with it.

His solution was realized in His Son - who came to earth and bore God's wrath for sin, to rise again from the dead, and to redeem His people. So in that sense, it WAS God's will for Jesus to undergo what He did. Jesus did not do it because He was forced. He did it willingly, although in His humanity, He said, "Let this cup pass from Me, yet not My will, but Yours, be done." Regarding Jesus' life, He said in John 10: “No one has taken it (my life) away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again." But in accordance with the divine purpose, He humbled Himself and obeyed the Father's purpose. And He ACCOMPLISHED His Father's purpose. Which, by the way, leaves us quite an example. The servants are not greater than Our Master.

Nothing happens in the lives of God's redeemed people that He does not allow. He takes things that happen and uses them to work toward His eternal purpose. Before anyone points to all the terrible things that have happened throughout human history and tries to use that as ammunition to disparage Him, Christian believers and Christian theology, it would be well to remember that God Himself suffered what we suffer in this life. Pain, illness, temptation, sorrow, grief, joy, laughter, etc. Yet without sin. Our Creator gets it. He understands it, and us. He lived it and walked it. He is our example of a life well lived in love and service of others, as well as righteous living. A life of complete faith and trust in the goodness, holiness, righteousness, and sovereignty of the Father, and complete obedience to Him.

This is tough sledding. There is a mystery between the sovereignty of God and the "free will" of man. Tension is there between the two, and I will not pretend to be able to understand it entirely. Somehow He fulfills His absolute sovereignty and His GOOD purpose, and does so through fallen human beings - redeemed and unredeemed alike. In the course of history on this earth, horrible things have happened. Sin (beginning in pride) is the root cause. Yet His purpose in allowing it is a good purpose in His perspective and determination. In the end, evil people who did evil things in their lives will stand before Him and give account. They are responsible for their evil actions and choices and will be held accountable. Those of us who have been redeemed by Him are accountable too as His ambassadors. In the end, in eternity, it will all become clear to us. We will see His goodness, why things happened the way they did, what eternal good He brought out of it, why it matters, and there will be no disagreement with His divine decrees. "Every mouth will be stopped."

All this is in the pages of the Bible if you care to study it out. If you choose to do so, I pray that the Holy Spirit will walk with you in it, and open your understanding. I'm still studying, still praying, still trying to understand with His help - and still believing.