Upcoming My Two Shekels column

I was thinking about what I should write about next. While watching Friday Night Lights, I thought of an issue in Christianity that doesn’t seem to get addressed very often–but should. We’ll see. Hopefully by November I’ll have that one written…

Evan Almighty theology

Not a bad film…even had some thought-provoking theology. I have never seen the original, but this one has an interesting quote of God’s (played by Morgan Freeman):

“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 he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”

It really gives you a lot to think about. God doesn’t give us virtues on a silver platter but rather gives us chances to build them up, like spiritual muscles.

The Reagan Diaries

An interesting read so far. I think it was President Ronald Reagan‘s journal and his other writings that made even historical revisionists realize that he was actually a very brilliant man. However, Reagan, just like the rest of us, wasn’t perfect. He writes in 1981 that he thinks Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor would be a great lady who would support pro-life causes. Wrong.

Reagan also noted, and you could certainly read the frustration, that reporters would gleefully report of his leisure time but never bothered to learn that any unfinished work at the end of the day went with him to his private study in the White House. He also seemed to have a friendly relationship with Democrat and fellow Irish-American house speaker Thomas “Tip”O’Neill. Reading this book has inspired me to keep a daily journal and lament the year in which I didn’t keep one. I hope to use my journal to keep myself up on the memories and thoughts I haven’t recorded over the years.

An interesting fact: President Reagan and I share the same birthday. He was born February 6, 1911 and I was born February 6, 1973. He was (depending on when in he day he was born; I was born at 10:11 A.M. CST) exactly 62 years older than me.

Check out this Website, which is the home of Reagan’s son, talk show host Michael Reagan. Mike is one of the smartest cookies in the business. He, along with Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved and, of course, the godfather Rush Limbaugh, are among my favorites in the talk radio business.

Writing fiction

As if looking for a job, freelance writing (journalism, columns and blogging), trying to learn more about God and taking care of my personal life don’t take up enough of my time, I’m also working on my dream job: fiction writer. I hope someday to make a full-time living writing fiction. It’s my first love.

Am right now about 2/3 finished with the rough draft of my first novel (which, at this time, I’d rather not so much as give the title). Also have some short stories that I’m finalizing and getting ready to submit for publication.

Writing can indeed be a lonely job, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

My attempt at satire

As far as writing goes, I recently got my first byline writing for a satirical publication. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the story, and the editor seemed to like it also.

I don’t plan on using my real name on the bylines of my satirical work and will instead be using a pseudonym. Why? Because I’d rather use Richard Zowie for my non-satirical work. I call this the Mel Brooks Principle, meaning that a writer must sometimes alter his identity if he doesn’t want to give a reader the wrong impression of his work; Brooks executive produced the drama The Elephant Man but, because of his work as a satirist, he chose to take his name out of the credits. Brooks was apparently worried people would see his name on the movie and think the movie was a comedy. Satire is an enjoyable delve into fiction, but it’s only one of many things I want to do as a writer. I also enjoy column writing, blogging (Duh! Right?) and hope someday to get into my dream job: fiction writer. We’ll see. In the meanwhile, keep reading, and God bless.

By richardzowie Posted in satire

A Bible ‘contradiction’ explained

Yesterday I worked at the local library. As I was making my sweep to make sure things looked tidy on the bookshelves, I noticed a peculiar book. The exact title escapes me, but it was something like “Contradictions in the Bible.” Looking at it, I saw that the author compiled a list of items where he felt the Bible contradicted itself. Of course, if true, this opens a theological can of worms: if the Bible is wrong in one area, where else is it wrong? Because of these “contradictions”, the author said, we must conclude that the Bible is nothing more than a historical book that is filled with myths.

Not so fast, high-speed.

Of the contradictions I was familiar with, most looked easily explainable. For example, the author notes that in First Kings 8:23, 27-30 King Solomon gives a public prayer while dedicating the temple. However, in Matthew 6:5, Jesus encourages the people to pray in private and not to pray publicly, as the hypocrites do.

On the surface, this seems to be a contradiction—unless you realize the context. Solomon’s public prayer was one of sincerity, especially when you read the text of the prayer and consider the painstaking details in planning and building the temple. From start to finish, it took years. Jesus was referring to religious leaders of the day who were trying to show how holy they were by praying in public. He knew their hearts and knew there was no sincerity whatsoever in their prayers. They were trying to please men rather than God. To avoid such an appearance of godlessness, Jesus said, when speaking to God it is better to do so in private.

Does this mean that all public prayers are wrong? I don’t think so. For instance, I don’t necessarily have a problem with the National Day of Prayer as long as it’s approached in sincerity. If you plan to participate because you think it would be great to attend and even get a chance to let the public hear your articulate prayer, then it’s best that you avoid it. If your reason is because you are deeply concerned about our nation and the world and want to join others in offering prayers up to God, then I don’t see a problem there. Again, it hinges upon how your heart is and what your motiviations are.

In the future, I will be posting examples (and writing columns about them in “My Two Shekels”) of supposed Biblical contradictions that can be easily explained by simply understanding the context and the customs of the time. Remember, the eastern mindset is wholly different from the western one.

October 15: Blog Action Day

October 15 was Blog Action Day, a day in which blogs take time to raise awareness regarding environmental issues. What can you do to help out the environment? Here are some important but easy steps.

First, eliminate the hard copy. Print out documents only when absolutely necessary. At one radio station I worked at, the computers were linked. So, I could write up the news from my computer and bring it up in the production room computer, read it for broadcast and be done. Paper wasn’t needed.

Second, recycle. Items like cell phones, batteries, toner cartridges and computers can be recycled. Instead of putting them into landfill, recycle.

Third, conserve water. When I brush my teeth, I turn the water off while scrubbing. I also try to make sure my showers are no more than 15 minutes long–even though where we currently live now is a well water system and, therefore, has no water bill. When you go to a restaurant, please only request water if you intend to drink it.

Fourth, properly dispose of hazardous chemicals. Many counties will have times throughout the year when you can dispose of paint, used motor oil, batteries, turpentine and so on. Don’t simply dump them down the drain or into the garbage.

Fifth and finally, invest in some sturdy shopping bags. They last much longer than standard paper or plastic bags, and with the many sizes, designs and colors, they’re a worthwhile investment.

Remember, it’s our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth God has provided for us.

Christianity gets negative marks from younger generation

A news report in the San Antonio Express-News says most young Americans supposedly think of modern-day Christianity as “judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay”. Also, many Christians try to avoid the label “Christian” because of its negative connotations.

This is according to a new book that bases its findings on research conducted by the California-based research firm Barna Group. The young group with negative feelings about Christianity consists of ages 16-29.

Christianity could be doing a far better job trying to evangelize the lost and encourage other believers, but I wonder if today’s youth really knows enough about Christianity to be qualified to criticize it. I’ll never forget that high school friend of mine who had no idea what the story about David and Goliath was about. And, no, the Christianity you see on television and the movies doesn’t count.

We learn that the findings are based on a survey of 867 young people, which inccluded responses from 440 non-Christians and 305 active church members. The survey reported that 91 percent of non-Christians felt Christianity was anti-gay while 87 percent said it was judgmental and 85 percnet said it was hypocritial. Among those who were Christians, 80 percent felt the anti-gay label fit, 52 percent felt that Christianity is judgmental and 47 percent think the faith is hypocritical.

Please, don’t get me started on polls. I know there are things like probabilty and statistics, but do you really expect me to believe that 867 young people accurately speaks for the tens and tens and tens of millions who are in this country?

One of the premier pollsters, John Zogby, has this to say regarding the accuracy of polls: “It’s pure probability and statistics. The same theory is involved as when you take a blood test and the clinician draws only a small sample rather than draining all the blood out of your body.”

I wonder if that’s an accurate assessment. Doctors generally draw blood only from your arm rather than drawing from a different part of the body each time. I wonder if Zogby, et al, really gathers opinions from across the country or if those polled come from a certain area. Still, I find it very difficult to believe that the less than 900 respondants can accurate speak as a minute fraction of all this country’s young adults.

Something I’ve learned about God

Maybe you’re a Christian like me, and you often get discouraged because you don’t feel God’s presence in your life. I’ve been frustrated by this in recent years, and after a lot of contemplation I have concluded something. A Christian who isn’t spending time every day reading God’s Word, praying and meditating on God and His Scriptural promises really can’t expect God to be there to guide them through life and its challenges.

We remember from the Old Testament that King Saul, near the end of his life, was a broken man. He tried in First Samuel 28 to get guidance from God for his battle against the Philistines (where he would end up seriously wounded and would commit suicide). God chose not to answer his prayers. It wasn’t that God was uncaring, but rather that Saul all of a sudden wanted a relationship with the God he’d disregarded for so long. Saul, described by some as a man “after man’s own heart” rather than God’s own heart, was reaching out to God for convenience rather than for a relationship. Think of the stories of a parent trying unsuccessfully to get together with a child with which they’ve been estranged for years. Very difficult task.

For me, the best time for devotions is in the morning, which is a challenge. I encourage you to make time daily to spend time with God. It makes more of a difference than you can imagine.

Learning more about God

I am reading this book called God of Weakness by John Timmer. Have only read the first chapter, but what I have read has really floored me. I’ll be writing a future My Two Shekels column about it, but here’s the gist. We as Christians can’t exlude God from our daily lives (such as failing to have devotions and private time with God) and then wonder why God doesn’t seem to be present in our life during the tough times. Very convicting, indeed. Just as the Apostle Paul wrote about dying daily in First Corinthians 15, we have to decide for ourselves every day to live for God, spend time with Him and make Him our focus. I am reminded also of NBA legend Chris Mullin, who’s a recovering alcoholic. He told Sports Illustrated once that fighting his addiction is a daily battle. When he gets up in the morning, Mullin looks into the mirror and says, “I’m not going to drink today.”