Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oh, did I mention I like to write?

Hey all! Some of you know that I have been working on a couple of novels. Purely fiction. Mostly for my own amusement. I have decided to start a new blog and post the first chapter from my book Theristes on that blog. It's sort of an attempt to get some feedback from my friends and motivate me to finish the novel! I won't give anything away here, and I am only posting the first chapter for now. The next couple of chapters go in depth into explaining just who my main character is, but I think you'll figure it out by just the first chapter. It's meant to be exciting and a bit scary. I'd love to get your opinions, so feel free to read it and tell me what you think!

Here's the link to my other blog - 'Theristes'.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow-plows and God's Great Love

Well, I'm back. The holidays were as busy for me as I am sure that they were for you. Add a nice little snowboarding vacation to the mix and it means that Jeremy has neglected his blog for a couple of weeks. Well, hopefully that all ends now!

I am always amazed by how much God loves Camille and I. This life was never going to be a 'bed of roses', but having Him in it sure makes things go a lot more smoothly! He is continually giving us things that we don't deserve. Here's an example. The best friend that I ever had during my days in the Army was Jason Moore. I got out of the Army two weeks before September 11th, 2001 (another example of God's undeserved grace in my life). In the seven-and-a-half years since that fateful day, Jason has spent most of his time in Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, away from his beautiful family. A lot has happened in both of our lives since 2001, but we have managed to stay in touch and our friendship is still very strong. He will always be like a brother to me and his beautiful wife Christina and his three awesome boys will always be family.

Christina's best friend Jacy has an uncle who owns a beautiful house right on the slopes in Telluride, Colorado. If you don't know anything about Telluride, let me just tell you that it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Its high altitude, vast terrain and sparse crowds make it one of the best places to snowboard and ski in North America. Its remote location and limited accessibility make it a playground for the rich and famous. We could never, in our wildest dreams, afford to stay in a house like Jacy's uncle's in Telluride. But remember God's undeserved grace? Well, Jacy's uncle knows how badly she and her husband Tony have been wanting to go on a snowboard vacation with Jason and Christina. He told her that when Jason came back from Iraq for the last time and had some time off, that they could have the house (which rents for $15,000 a week) for a week, free of charge! It's a huge house. When Jason and Christina found out that they had the place for a week in January, they called me to see if Camille and I would come stay with them! For Camille and I, that's pretty much the stuff dreams are made of! God's grace...

To make a long story short, it was the best snowboarding trip of our lives! Awesome slopes and great friends equal good times! You would think that God had outdone Himself for us on this one, but in the middle of all these blessings, He decided to say 'I love you' yet again. Many of those closest to me know that I have struggled with nightmares and anxious dreams of rejection for years. The rejection dreams started shortly after my first marriage ended because of alcohol abuse and unfaithfulness...possibly an over-share, but sometimes the truth, as they say, hurts. I personally believe that the enemy of my soul is angry that God helped me to find my true soul-mate in Camille and that I am indescribably happy now. He tries to haunt my unconscious life with dreams that Camille will hurt me the way my former wife did. A while back, this 'dream torture' sort of came to a head when I discussed my dreams with my brother (who also has a history of terrible nightmares) and he told me that the only way he had found to end his nightmares was to have his wife Jamie pray that he would have a peaceful sleep each night when they went to bed. Now, Camille prays the same thing for me every night and the bad dreams have stopped!

Well, in the middle of one of the best weeks of our lives, God decided to show us again how much He loves us and how perfectly 'right for each other' we are. I awoke one morning with a start. For some reason, the company that maintains the roads in Telluride and Mountain Village decided to get an early start with the snow-plow that morning. As the plow came down our driveway, I went from sound asleep to 'Why is someone running their fingers down the chalkboard?' - instantly! While the rude awakening was annoying, it was also a relief. Camille had prayed, as usual, before we fell asleep that my dreams would be peaceful. Yet for just a few seconds before I was so rudely awoken, I had been starting to have one of those 'anxiety dreams' again. I was a bit puzzled and disappointed that God had 'struck out' on that one. Still feeling the rush of negative emotions attached to a bad dream, I looked over at Camille, who had also been jarred from her sleep by the giant noisemaker. But unlike me, Camille was laughing! Still stinging from the feelings of rejection and disappointment brought on by the short dream, I wondered how a snow-plow could possibly be so funny, especially before the sun was even up!

Camille looked at me with a smile on her face and announced, "I just had the funniest dream! I dreamt that you cloned yourself...there were two of you running around!" She looked me right in the eye, gave me a big hug and said, "But the funny thing is...I liked it! I love being with you, and having two of you, I got to be with you all of the time...even when you were at work!"

Whoah. In one instant every negative emotion and insecurity I was feeling was washed away by the knowledge that my wife is the most wonderful and trustworthy person on the planet! And that she loves me as much as I love her! I knew right then that not only am I the most fortunate man alive, but that God was trying to tell me something. You can call our simultaneous dreams a coincidence if you want. You can say that the snow-plow stirring us from our sleep at exactly that instant was random, if that's how you feel. But I know better. I know the God whom I serve. I know that His love for us is deeper than we could ever imagine. I knew right then that Camille's prayer the night before had been heard. For reasons that will probably always be His own, God had chosen to go a step further in answering those prayers that night. He wanted to say 'I love you' with an exclamation mark. I think that He wanted to address my feelings of rejection right at the roots. To show me in a way that words never could just how unfounded those feelings, conscious or not, are when it comes to Camille. Once and for all, He showed me how wrong my enemy is when he tries to make me feel insecure.

My friends, this is how much our Creator loves us. He loves us enough to 'scheme' ways to show us His love even when we are sleeping! There is not one instant in our lives when His great love is not reaching out to us. I am as guilty as you are of forgetting much of the time that He is right there beside us, wanting to help us and be a part of our lives, no matter how mundane they may be. I can't even wrap my mind around that - the Creator of the entire Universe loves Jeremy so much that he orchestrates elaborate dreams for he and his wife just to drive home the point that they are perfectly safe in each other's love. He's so eager to love us that He couldn't even wait until the alarm clock went off!

Man, I love Him back.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Little Ones

Family. I realize that not everyone is stoked about their family, so if you are having a tough time with yours, you'll have to excuse me for a second. I really love mine. I realize how fortunate I am to be able to say so many others wish that they felt the same way. I don't take it for granted.

As I write this, my beautiful little niece Maci is drawing me a picture and explaining to me that 'alphabet letters' are on there, but you just can't see 'em. Her cousins Zach and Levi are knocking on the sliding-glass door, covered in mud, needing help shedding their soaking-wet clothes so they won't turn the kitchen into a water feature when they come inside. This post will probably take all day to write - but I couldn't care less! The place is chaos, but these little mini-nuclear reactors are my family, and being with them is the happiest place on earth.

My side of the family decided that there wasn't enough insanity in the month of December, so we had to extend it into January for a 'belated' Christmas celebration. This is about the forty-seventh holiday-related event that we've attended this season...but thankfully this one is taking place at someone else's house! My brother actually has the perfect house for it. Room for everyone and enough space to test out the new bicycles, tricycles, wagons, etc. that were found under the tree this Christmas. At least once an hour someone is falling off a wagon or hitting a wall head-first, adding to the general state of emergency. Little Gwen, my sister's youngest is usually directing the traffic and Max, my brother's youngest is blowing them all off for Baby Einstein.

Having no kids myself, you would think that all of this would wear me out...but the truth is that I am probably the biggest kid of them all. I soak in the chaos and do my best to add to it! Not only do I relish having two or three of my favorite little people on the planet climbing on me at once, but I truly find a sick pleasure in getting them fired up and handing them back to my siblings. Unfortunately, the effect is sort of nullified by the fact that my brother and sister are as crazy as everyone else around here and find the whole maelstrom of miniature humanity as humorous as I do.

We live in interesting times, to say the least. Our nation...our world...seems to converging on a crossroads and the uncertainty of what is next is weighing heavily in the air everywhere you go. I've noticed the pressure getting to a lot of my friends. Tempers are flaring up quicker and frustrations are being expressed more openly. As I sit here surrounded by the little lives that will be affected by the decisions made by our generation, I am reminded of just how critical it is that we remain clear-headed...of just how much they need us right now. Whether we realize it or not, we are shaping the world of their future. There is a lot of doom-saying going on right now, some of it worth a second though and some of it just plain idiotic. But we owe it to these little ones to press in and try to make sense of a crazy world. We need to try our hardest to set them up for success.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I truly believe in our Creator. That means that I truly believe that nothing is impossible when He is involved. I believe that He is not finished with our country or our world quite some are implying. I believe that to Him, the left and the right, the liberal and the conservative, the red and the blue...all of Him it's all just jargon. He cares about people. He doesn't love you any more or less if you believe in Him or if you don't. He really doesn't give a rip about our politics, our opinions, our social experiments. He created the cosmos and then transformed Himself into a helpless baby human, lived a life amongst us and died for us, all for one reason. He loves us. Every single one of us. He loves my niece Maci as much as He loves the inmate on death row as much as he loves the monk in the Buddhist monastery in Tibet as much as He loves me. And that kind of love is not ready to throw in the towel.

The interesting thing about our Creator is that while He has infinite power and could sweep in an 'fix' everything in an instant, He doesn't. He chooses to use us...people. We are His hands, His feet, His voice. He is not going to 'change the world' unless we are willing to get on board and help with the dirty work. If you are feeling a bit lazy and thinking of letting someone else pull your weight in all of this, just look around you. Look at your family. Even if you are from a broken, hurting family, there is bound to be at least one little one who is innocent of being involved in any of the hurts life has dealt to you. At least one Zach or Levi or Maci or Gwenneth or Max who is counting on you to leave them with a future that is bright. I truly believe that we can address the problems of our generation. I also believe that we cannot do it without the help of our Creator. So, this is a message of hope and a message of warning. All is not lost...for the sake of our little ones, all cannot be lost. But if we think for a second that we can 'make everything better' without the help of the One who put it all here in the first place, we are fools. Fortunately, He loves our children even more than we do and wants to help. All we have to do is ask. And then act.

P.S. - I will probably come back often to this theme. I realize that I have eluded to issues in general and have only scratched the surface of what I see happening in our world and of possible solutions to some of the problems. I purposely do not want to get political in my blogging. So, from time to time, as my heart leads me, I will probably just address social issues in general and how they relate to what our Creator wants to do in our lives.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I'm Still Here...I Swear!

Whew! The holidays can get busy! Unfortunately, so does my job around this time. The weather is crazy and commerce never stops - so consequently, Jeremy never sleeps! At least this is how it has seemed lately.

Anyway, I don't know if anyone actually reads this stuff in the first place...but if you do, I assure you that I will get back to my old blogging self shortly! Right now, I have to help Camille get ready for yet another party at our house. This one is for all of the employees at her work who will be out of work for a couple of months while they shut the hotel down for a big remodel project.

I hope your Christmas and New Years were great and I pray that 2009 will bring great stuff! I'm really looking forward to writing some new posts, so stay tuned. In the meantime, take a look at a few pictures that really are worth more than a thousand words when it comes to explaining why I truly believe that everything we see didn't 'just happen'. God Bless!

P.S. - These images are copyrighted. If you have any questions, ask me!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Grand Design

Happy New Year! I'd thought I'd start out 2009 with a little nod to our Creator. First of all, look at the picture to the right. Amazing, huh? Our Universe is indescribably beautiful. This particular image is of a galaxy named M81. It is 12 million light years away from earth and is 22,000 light years wide. On a clear night, it is visible with binoculars if you look toward the constellation Ursa Major (the Great Bear). It is one if the brightest galaxies that can be seen from the earth. M81 is a spiral galaxy not unlike our Milky Way. One interesting factoid about M81 is that it is officially known as a 'Grand Design' spiral galaxy. There is a lot of nerd talk that goes into explaining what makes a galaxy a Grand Design galaxy, but essentially, it has to do with the remarkably symmetrical spiral pattern. The interesting thing, to me, is the fact that scientists chose the name Grand Design to describe these spectacular galaxies. One look at this natural wonder and there is no doubt that it did not come into being by accident. I've talked about this before, but a growing number of scientists on the forefront of astronomy and astrophysics are now openly professing their conviction that our universe was a Creator. The raw science simply points to this fact. Hence, the name Grand Design. Grand indeed! And most definitely designed.

I was reading something quite interesting this morning. First of all, let me say that I'm not really sure how life existed before the invention of the iPhone. I can now roll over in bed in that half-asleep stupor, wipe the gunk from my eyes, grab my iPhone and viola - all of cyberspace is at my fingertips! I can check the surf report and get a live weather update for the beach by my house without ever even completely waking up. If there's no surf, I can check to see what my flight schedule for the night will be, roll over and go back to sleep! Yeah...just what I needed...more inspiration to sleep late. Maybe I need to go back and re-read my post about my neighbor The Lumberjack...

Anyway, today is incredibly stormy, the surf is Death (with a capital 'D'), and the gym is closed for New Year's. So when I rolled over and grabbed my portable link to the civilized world, there was really no good reason not to just lay there, relax and nerd out. Besides, Camille was still asleep and she's just too cute to wake up when she's all cuddled-up next to me. So, I opened a news reader app on the iPhone and checked some of the blogs I follow. One of my favorites is the Universe Today website's RSS feed. This morning, there was an interesting article about how scientists are changing their opinion about just where in the universe our solar system sits. Although to the layman it may sound medieval, there are some pretty sound reasons why until recently they honestly thought we might be at or near the center of the Universe. Because of some new information regarding 'dark matter' and a bunch of stuff that you probably don't care much about, astronomers are becoming convinced that our position in the Universe at large is actually not all that special. We seem to be in an rather ordinary 'corner' of the cosmos.

As is the case with a lot of blogs, the real interesting stuff on the Universe Today's blog is often found in the comments section. Get a bunch of science nerds together and throw in a subject that even the people at the cutting edge of astrophysics haven't really figured out yet, and the daggers start flying! The discussion sort of gravitated toward the expansion of the Universe and the Big Bang. As everyone tried to out-nerd each other with their witty displays of astronomy knowledge, someone made a statement for which no one else had an argument against. Several readers were arguing that there could be no 'center' of the Universe because it is always expanding and that at the time of the Big Bang, all matter, time...everything...was in exactly the same spot, just infinitesimally small. Then another reader made a comment that gave me the goose bumps. He reminded the other readers that the Big Bang was truly a Creation event in every sense. All arguments about where matter and time were at the time of the Big Bang are pointless. Matter and time didn't exist before the Big Bang...the Creation event. The Universe was created in an instant out of nothing.

Wait a minute. Did I just read that on a scientific blog? The Universe was created out of nothing? In an instant? And not one brilliant Darwinist astronomy geek is willing to argue that point? Man, where have I read that same thing about Creation before? I know I've heard that somewhere...

Genesis 1:1-3, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."

Oh yeah...that's where I've read that before! God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. He simply spoke and bang (or maybe I should say 'Big Bang') - the Universe came into existence. All of the doctorates and laureates and Nobel prizes in the world will still bring us back to this simple truth. Our Creator made all that we see. It issued forth from Himself. There was nothing...then suddenly there was everything.

And so, as we turn our gaze to the beautiful Grand Design Spiral Galaxy M81, I can't help but think of another blog I read recently. This time, the topic of the discussion was not how, but why. Why does all of this big, breathtaking Universe exist? The author of that blog concluded that God is the ultimate Artist working with the ultimate medium on the vastest canvas. Looking at the photos that the Hubble telescope and others are sending us, he argued that our Creator is using the cosmos to express His unfathomable creativity on a grand scale. The Universe is the product of the ultimate creative mind. The mind of God. He made it because He could. He just wants to express Himself. Thankfully for us, His heart is as big as His mind. His love equals His creativity. And so, while we fear His size and His power, we can trust in His mercy...His grace...His love.

And someday, I'll get to see M81 as He sees it. I'll get to experience what awesome treasures may be waiting to be discovered on the billions of worlds inside that Grand Design galaxy. So will you, if you know Him. A new year has arrived. Let's start it by acknowledging the One who created time in the first place. Happy New Year and God Bless you all, my friends!