Archive for May, 2013

dancingIt happened a number of years ago but, even now, I think “what a world we live in”.

In 2010 I read, in open-mouthed astonishment, a newspaper article about a Toronto woman suing Rogers because, she claims, the Canadian internet/cable TV/telephone/mass media conglomerate’s billing practices ruined her marriage.

Gabriela Nagy launched a $600,000 lawsuit against Rogers Communications for invasion of privacy, breach of confidence, breach of privacy and negligence.

She claimed the company was wrong to bundle her cellphone bill with her husband’s Internet and home phone services. The resulting invoice, addressed to her husband, contained details of her outgoing cell phone calls – details which, Ms. Nagy said, her husband used to figure out she was having an affair. He took their children and left her in 2007.

A Rogers spokesperson, while denying it breached her privacy, said Ms. Nagy and her husband asked to have all their services consolidated into one bill.

First of all, I have to admire Ms. Nagy’s chutzpah, to brazenly sue a company for exposing her infidelity. Never mind that it would have made more sense to spend her time and energy fixing her marriage or, if her husband was not willing, to seek professional help and get to the bottom of her lack of commitment.

When I finished reading the article, I recalled other media reports about a website called AshleyMadison.com. Using the slogan “Life is short. Have an affair”, the site claims that, for a fee, it will guarantee you a, um, successful affair.

So it appears our culture is moving toward approving adultery – even as it exercises a double standard by punishing celebrities and “heroes” like Tiger Woods when they fall on their faces.

Is marriage easy? Occasionally but, after health issues, it’s often the biggest challenge in our lives. And yet, I’ve read of studies that show single people don’t live as long and are often more lonely than married couples.

Then I remember something I read in the Bible called ‘1 Corinthians’: “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you come through it.

Does that mean some sort of supernatural fix for a troubled marriage? Maybe, but much more often, I’ve seen how it’s translated into unexpected help from a distant cousin, a surprisingly supportive chat with your financial advisor, an out-of-the-blue offer from your boss for a few days off, or a quiet promise from a “religious” neighbor to pray for you.

All these things could very well happen to Ms. Nagy. Or to you. And you may not even realize it until later. That’s just how God likes to work. We’re part of His plan. In fact, we are His entire plan – even when we treat marriage and commitment like a burden or joke.

What do you think? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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GlassOfWater“Why can’t you just be good?”

That was the question a frustrated relative posed during a faith discussion at a social event. The question was aimed at me because I was the only person at the event who followed Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) and the topic was getting to Heaven.

Just be good and you’ll be welcomed inside the pearly gates, right? As far as I can tell, that’s the point of view held by most people in our culture.

So why isn’t it true? Well, consider this: the residents of Walkerton, Ontario — a small town in central Canada — thought their water supply was good. You could pour a glass, hold it up to the light and it looked perfectly fine to drink.

But it wasn’t. In 2000, many residents began to experience bloody diarrhea and infections. Local officials insisted the water was drinkable, until the skyrocketing number of contamination cases caused the region’s medical officer of health to issue a “boil water advisory”.

It turns out the water was infected with deadly E.coli bacteria and by the time the crisis ended, 2,500 people (half the town’s population) became ill and seven died.

This may seem like an extreme case to you, but trust me, there isn’t a particle of water on this planet that is absolutely pure. No matter how clear and clean it appears.

And that’s the case with human beings. No matter how good some of us seem to be, no matter how generous, no matter how well-adjusted, every one of us has defects.

Looking for evidence? Consider this excerpt from a letter written by one of the ancient Jesus followers: “All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.” Sadly, nothing has changed since those words were written about 2,000 years ago and that’s why you can’t “just be good” and get into Heaven.

But there is a solution. Most Jesus followers believe what the ancient prophets wrote and they claimed God did something about our inability to become truly good. He gave us the gift of Jesus.

Here’s what Jesus did:

  • He lived with us;
  • He taught us who God is and how we can welcome Him into our lives;
  • He allowed government authorities to put him to death, so that ALL the wrongs committed by anyone who believes in Him and follows Him would be paid for and wiped out of existence;
  • He came back to life to defeat the power of death, prove He is the Son of God and provide a way for all humanity to live with Him forever in Heaven.

I see this as incredibly good news. How about you? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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10638108-abercrombie-and-fitch“Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

These were the words of Mike Jeffries, the chief executive officer of trendy clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, spoken in a 2013 interview with Salon, the online news and entertainment website.

That this was the policy of his company is not surprising; lots of retailers aim their products at a specific demographic (rarely mine, I can tell you) and ignore all others.

But none have been so bold – or brave – to publicly state that they don’t want overweight, older or ‘unattractive’ people anywhere near their products.

I was fascinated by the resulting controversy; many people, media outlets and websites reacted almost violently to Jefferies. Some online posters even searched out and shared the most unflattering photos of the CEO that they could find.

But isn’t it clear that Abercrombie & Fitch’s philosophy is exactly how our world works? Haven’t you seen or heard advertisements for condominiums that emphasize how exclusive they are? And aren’t certain restaurants trendy because they are exclusive? What about golf and country clubs – don’t they attract a certain kind of person who likes their exclusivity?

More important, aren’t there times in our lives when most of us – me included – have yearned for a meal in that exclusive eatery or lusted after a unit in that trendy housing project? We actually want to exclude others.

In some ways, I appreciate Mike Jeffries thrusting this unpleasant human characteristic into the spotlight. It gives me a chance to examine my own thinking patterns. It also highlights one big reason why I hold fast to my faith in Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s Son.

You may have been told, or come to believe, that following Jesus is exclusionary – that only people in the club get to spend eternity in Heaven with God and Jesus.

Serious Jesus followers do believe that because in one of the original source documents of His life, Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me.”

But what the critics of Jesus don’t tell you is anyone – and I mean ANYONE – can join Jesus in Heaven. God presents His son as a GIFT to every man, woman and child on planet Earth. Gifts are made to be accepted and that’s all you and me have to do to get in on this so-called “exclusive” offer.

When you tell God you want to trust in His son (who many people believe died to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do), the slate is wiped clean. No matter how ugly your past might be.

How inclusive is this gift? It’s open to Mike Jefferies, it’s open to me, it’s open to YOU, it’s even open to the most reprehensible kind of person (read one such story here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-6K).

So what do you think of this gift? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Deluded Does being born and raised into your “religious” faith make you a deluded person? Absolutely, according to atheist John Loftus. His fascinating essay is called “The Top Ten Marks of a Deluded Person” and I’m happy to engage John on all his points.

1. John says being born and raised into a faith makes you delusional for this reason: “Just taking the odds at face value, this is non-controversial and undeniable given the number of religions propagated around the globe and adhered to with utter and complete confidence as the one true faith.”
Do you understand that? Me neither. And I’ve read a lot of “religious” books and engaged in many debates with atheists. Maybe someone can explain it for me.

2. As an adult, never adopts nor cultivates the adult attitude of doubt. John says “All adults must revisit the religious faith taught to them by their parents,” and I absolutely agree.
God agrees, too. In a letter written by one of the earliest followers of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus followers are encouraged to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. Did you know that, John?

3. Never reads widely or is exposed to other points of view in the media.
We agree on this one, too. I’m always saddened when I encounter Jesus followers who know nothing about other faiths or about the burning issues of the day. It’s embarrassing.

4. Does not travel widely, including travel into different cultures.
Not so fast, John. Maybe you have the resources to wander all over this glorious planet. But many, many people (some of them atheists), don’t. So that hardly makes anybody deluded.

5. Never studies deeply into the nature of his or her adopted faith.
Yes! I’m also embarrassed when I chat with fellow Jesus followers and get a blank stare when I mention a well-known Jesus follower or event in history. So now I can ask you, John: have you studied deeply into the nature of your atheistic faith?

6. Lies in order to defend one’s faith. “If you have to lie to defend your faith, then you need help,” John writes.
And I nod my head in vigorous agreement.

7. Preaches to people who think differently, rather than rationally engaging them.
Once again, John and I see the same way. That’s why Frank’s Cottage is focused on starting conversations with readers. I end every essay with that invitation.

8. Claims he or she does not need evidence to believe.
Ya, that’s a silly claim. Do I have all the evidence I want? Nope. If I did, it wouldn’t be called “faith”. But do I have enough? Absolutely. Just as I imagine John has enough to believe in his faith.

9. Must be convinced that his or her faith is impossible before seeing it as improbable.
John seems to think that if he can show that someone’s faith is improbable, that should be enough. OK, John. What if someone demonstrated that atheism is an improbable faith. Would you be willing to change your mind?

10. Must denigrate the sciences in order to have faith. “Faith demands it,” John added.
I disagree. As far as I’m concerned, science shows us more about God. And I’ve written about just a few of the Jesus followers currently starring in the science world here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-3o.

So, am I deluded because I follow Jesus? Or are you surprised at how often John and I agreed? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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