Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Word About My Stones

Just an update for those who frequently visit my blog:

Yesterday, I went to the urologist, who took an x-ray and said, "Kidney stone? What kidney stone???"

Well, he didn't exactly say that. He said, "You must have passed it without knowing it."

How often have you ever known anybody who passed a stone without knowing it? Doesn't happen very often, does it?

The other stone is still way up in the kidney, and the urologist said it could take years, and that I shouldn't worry about it much at the moment. In a day or so, we'll do a dietary analysis (you can just guess how that's done) to see what the food or drink factors (I think it'll end up being coffee) were that caused the stone.

Thanks for your prayers! I feel fine--God is good!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Patience


Spirit & Truth # 152
“Patience”

By Rev. Greg Smith

He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was completely restored (Luke 6:10).


They say you should never pray for patience, because God might present a situation in your life that requires you to learn it. Lately, I’ve learned to be patient, while being a patient. The words are, of course, related.


Recently, I’ve been dealing with kidney stones. My experience has not been as agonizing as some of the horror stories that I’ve heard from friends. However, today I’ll have my third doctor’s visit to deal with these little kidney boogers, and tomorrow I’ll probably have to get them blasted. I’m learning to be patient with the process of being a patient.


According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, The English word patient, as an adjective, has been around for a long time, since around the year 1320. It comes from the Latin word patientem, and means “bearing or enduring without complaint.” The noun form of the English word patient has been in use since 1393, and refers to a “suffering or sick person.”


The English word patience is a bit older, dating to around 1225. It comes from the old French pacience, and is related to the Proto-Indo-European base pie, which means “to damage or hurt.” The Online Etymology Dictionary defines “Proto-Indo-European” as “the hypothetical reconstructed ancestral language of the Indo-European family. The time scale is much debated, but the most recent date proposed for it is about 5,500 years ago.” From this early base, we see a relationship to the English word passion, in the sense of suffering, and in the sense of strong emotion as it is related to the Greek word pathos.


Another related word in English is passive, which dates to the year 1388. It comes from the Latin passivus, which means “capable of feeling or suffering.” The meaning “not active” is newer, dating to the year 1477.


So why all this study of language? To underscore the point that when we find ourselves as medical patients, we have to learn patience. This patience means adopting an attitude of passivity as we experience passion and pain. A patient can be nothing but patient as he waits in the doctor’s office. She can be nothing but passive as she submits to the doctor’s treatment.


When Jesus said, “Stretch out your hand,” the man with the withered hand did exactly as he was told. He submitted to the Lord’s will, becoming passive under the care of the Master. Whether you’re receiving medical care, or seeking God’s healing in more spiritual and emotional ways, remember to submit passively to the Lord’s will. Perhaps then, you’ll find the relationship between being passive, and the Spanish word paz, which is the English word peace.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pressing On!

Spirit & Truth # 151
“Pressing On!”

John Napier was a famous mathematician and theologian who lived in Scotland between the years 1550 and 1617. As the seventh Laird of Merchiston, he was known for his wealth as well as his intelligence. He published many theological and mathematical works that awed his readers. He was the inventor of logarithms, and divining rods that were used as multiplication tables. John’s grandson, Dr. Patrick Napier, immigrated to the new colony in Virginia, where he was a surgeon at Jamestown.

Patrick Henry, who lived from 1736 to 1799, was that famous American patriot who gave the speech that ended with “Give me liberty, or give me death!” He was one of the great minds that inspired the American Revolution. Patrick Henry lived at Red Hill in Charlotte County, and Scotchtown in Hanover County. I was fortunate enough to live near each of these at different times in my life.

Chief Red Bird (aka Aaron Brock) was a Cherokee Indian who lived in what is now known as Clay County, Kentucky, in the late 1700s. When fighting broke out between Indians and European settlers, Red Bird sought peace. As a result, he and a friend were brutally tomahawked to death. Their deaths almost started a war, with the French and Indians on one side, and the Americans on the other. The war was averted by treaties, which were later broken by the whites.


Phoebe Moses was a young sharp-shooting performer who was born in Darke County, Ohio, in 1860. Changing her name to Annie Oakley, she amazed audiences throughout Europe and America. Once, she shot the ashes from the cigarette of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. Joining Colonel Cody’s Wild West Show, she became known as Little Sure Shot, and performed with Buffalo Bill Cody and Sitting Bull.

What do all these characters from history have in common? Me! I am directly related to each of them—and I’m proud of it! But I have to keep my family in proper perspective. While the past is something to celebrate, it cannot save me—now matter how interesting my ancestors may have been.


In the book of Philippians, Paul bragged that he was a Hebrew of Hebrews—blameless according the Law, a follower of tradition, a citizen of both Israel and Rome. He had quite a pedigree, but he said, “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done… Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us (3:7, 13-14).”


It’s tempting to either let your past bog you down, or to try to ride its coattails into glory. Christians must do neither of these things. Instead, we must press on to the future that God has in store for us. Is your past holding you bound? Release it to God. Have you relied on your heritage for your salvation, rather than trusting in Christ to save you? Reach, instead, for God. Only by pressing on can you free yourself of the past and reach the blessings of the future.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall is in the Air!

I don't know about you, but I'm loving these changing leaves, the nip in the air, and the promise of wonderful holidays! The Smiths have been busy enjoying Fall, and I thought I'd share a few pictures with you.

Here are our three youngest, gathered around an old-fashioned apple juicer on a friend's farm. We spent last weekend doing farm stuff, like making home made apple cider, and visiting just-born calves. Here's a picture of my animal lover and a newborn (the same day) calf.

Today, we went to Carter's Mountain Orchard and got a 36-pound pumpkin to carve.
Daniel thinks Lydia's pretty funny as a worm wriggling out of an apple.
Lydia thought he was even funnier.
Fall is my favorite season of the year. Lots of family fun, but without all the expectations of the holidays. It's been a good week, and I anticipate it's going to get better.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Garbage in, Garbage Out

Spirit & Truth # 150
“Garbage In, Garbage Out”

By Rev. Greg Smith


September 18 saw tragedy in Farmville, when four people were brutally murdered. 16 year-old Emma Niederbrock; her Longwood professor mother Debra Kelly, 53; her 50 year-old father Mark Niederbrock, who was a Presbyterian pastor; and her 18 year-old friend Melanie Wells of Inwood, West Virginia were butchered in Kelly’s home. The alleged killer is Emma’s boyfriend, Richard McCroskey, of Castro Valley, California. McCroskey also went by the rapper name of Syko Sam when he performed his horrorcore music.

If you’re like me, you may never have heard of horrorcore before reading about Syko Sam. Back in the 1980s when I was a teenager, Ozzy Ozbourne put on a gruesome show, but most of it was hype. Today, a new style of music makes Ozzy look like the Telletubbies.

Horrorcore is a sub-genre of hip hop music that is basically a slasher film put to music. Its themes focus on murder, Satanism, cannibalism, suicide, rape, and murder. Imagine if every day were Halloween, and you can begin to get into the mindset of horrorcore. The difference is that unlike a once-a-year holiday, or an occasionally watched violent movie (which can be detrimental enough to mental and spiritual health), music is something that fills most people’s lives. We listen at work, at home, in the car, almost everywhere we go. Music is all-pervasive, and can alter a person’s mood faster than a psychotropic drug.


The list of serial killers and mass murderers who were influenced by violent music is long. From Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker who slaughtered 25 people in the 1980s, to Richard Paul White’s butchery earlier in this decade, many murderers attribute their brutal killings to the influence of groups like AC/DC, Metallica, and more.

Strange, you never hear a serial killer saying he was led to murder by Mozart or Casting Crowns.

The truth is, our mothers were right when they said, “Garbage in, garbage out.” The things we put into our minds, good or bad, have a way of working themselves into our lives. That’s why the apostle Paul says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8 NIV).”

Of course, music is not the only contributor to the mindset of killers like these. Many, like “Son of Sam” David Berkowitz, (see his website here to see how he has now become a Christian) also cite the occult as an influence . Blogger Paul Calcagno, an actor who now regrets making a video by the horrorcore rapper “Sicktanik tha Soulless,” knew McCroskey, and alleges that the murderer’s actions were influenced by the Son of Sam killings, and occultic involvement. A fascination with evil, obsession with death, and attraction to violence lead to acts which fulfill dark fantasies.

Perhaps you or your children may never be led to such depths by violent music and movies. But why pollute your mind with things that clearly aren’t of God? If God has called believers to be holy, why not make our entertainment holy as well?

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Grass that Suffers - Denial and Pride

Spirit & Truth # 149
“The Grass that Suffers: Denial and Pride”

By Rev. Greg Smith


They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, "What were you discussing on the way?" But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34).





Our culture is obsessed with proving who’s the greatest. Our sports heroes become heroes by dominating other players. Our most intimate relationships are marked by contests of will, and competition defines the marketplace. Perhaps we could learn something from the story of Jesus’ disciples.

Last week we saw how arguments arise out of ignorance. Combative relationships are made worse by denial—a refusal to admit that there’s any conflict there to begin with. Jesus asked his disciples what they were discussing (a mild term for what they were actually doing), and they refused to admit that there had been a dispute. Are you in a relationship that’s marred by conflict? It does you no good to deny the problem. Admit the brokenness in your relationship, and let God heal it.

Pride is at the center of almost every argument. The disciples were arguing because they had to prove which one was the greatest. When husbands and wives argue, it’s because each one is putting self first, rather than the other first. They are placing a greater priority over their own needs, wants, and ideas. Jesus has a solution to this problem of denial and pride.

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all (Mark 9:35).” First, Jesus sat down. When conflicts arise, take a break. Cool off. Get out of fight-posture. Next, he threw an idea at them that totally blew their minds. Place yourself last! Recently, I spoke with a husband in a difficult marriage. I encouraged him to become a servant to his wife, and love her with all he had in him—without expectation of any reward! What a concept—to love for the sake of loving!

Jesus “took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me (Vv 36-37a).’” You have to understand the place of children in Jesus’ day to truly appreciate what He was saying. Children had no rights. They were property. They were cheap labor, disposable, and easily replaceable. Jesus said we are to welcome the lowliest of the lowly in His name. Even if you think the one you’re arguing with has no rights, treat them well, and you will have welcomed Christ.

An African proverb says, “When two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.” Who is the grass that’s suffering as you’re fighting with your spouse, your co-worker, your neighbor, or a fellow churchgoer? What do the children around you see and hear? How do the innocent pay the price for your ignorance, denial, and pride? Jesus wants you to put yourself last, and become the servant of all. Only then can you have your way—because your way will be God’s way.

Pics from this past weekend

This past weekend was super-busy for us. My 3rd child, Lydia, turned 12 this weekend. Here's a picture of her enjoying her birthday cake with friends. We had a house full of squealing, Hanna Montana-singing, nail-hair-and-makeup doing girls. It was great fun!

Yesterday (Sunday) we had a baptismal service at the Hardware River. We baptized 8, and re-affirmed baptism for 1. (I don't believe in rebaptism, but will dunk any previously baptized person who wants it, as long as they understand that this is to help them re-affirm their faith and remember their baptism.) One of the baptisms I did was in Spanish!


These are pictures of me baptizing my 7-year-old son Daniel. He was so excited!



Yikes! That water was cold!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mixed Messages

Today, at a McDonald's restaurant, I saw something that made me laugh. I had to take a picture of it and share it with you.

Yes, this is a real stand-up ash tray with a no-smoking sign on it. What were they thinking?

It reminds me of all the mixed messages we send everyday.

Like:

  • When Christians say "Love the sinner, hate the sin," and then turn around and treat people in a hateful way because of their sin;
  • When people say "We should be open-minded about everything," when by definition that means being open to both truth and lies;
  • When we say "Do as I say, not as I do."

What mixed messages do you hate to hear? Leave a comment, and let me know.