Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bullies

Webster’s Dictionary defines a bully as: A person habitually cruel to others who are weaker.  They like to browbeat, badger, insult, threaten and intimidate others.  They exert their delusional sense of superiority by menacing, terrifying and demoralizing their prey and as a result, are able to coerce or compel them to do the bully’s bidding.  

Bullies have always existed among us and over the years, many theories about what causes a human being to perpetrate these excessively dominate behaviors have been considered. What is it about these individuals that make them believe they are superior and therefore deserving of the unquestioning obedience and subjugation of others? 

We are all born with a temperament that steers us toward being introverted or extroverted; strong willed and aggressive or compliant and cooperative.  Any of these personality types are just fine in moderation; however trouble begins brewing when these traits move toward the extremes.  Mix in the parent’s character types, style of childrearing and attitude towards others and things can get complicated very quickly. 

It’s said most bullies actually have low self-esteem, which causes them to overcompensate with their peers by acting strong and assertive because those traits are usually associated with popularity.  I suppose this could be true in some cases.  Unfortunately, many times when the bully is given extra attention by other kids or adults, the bad behavior tends to escalate, so I’m not so sure about this excuse. 

The incidents of bullying are increasing exponentially, both in occurrences and the severity of cruelty involved.  Whether your child is in public, private or even Christian private school, you can bet they will encounter a bully, but when your child becomes the target, the stress they suffer can become severe enough to drive them to suicide.   

It’s very difficult to know how to handle this situation.  Despite a nationwide campaign in our schools declaring zero tolerance for bullying, teachers and administrators are all but helpless to prevent or stop it.  Kids are very savvy when attacking others, lying in wait to taunt and threaten their victim when the teacher is out of the room or not paying attention.  

It happens on the playgrounds and in gym class, and is prevalent in locker rooms and on the bus ride to and from school. Then the child tries to report the event, as they are instructed to do by the authorities, the bullying only tends to escalate in retaliation.  The very fact that this is still a huge issue in our society, escalating in severity and so very difficult to overcome, testifies to the evil spirit behind it.  

In case you haven’t heard, one of the saddest, most outrageous examples of bullying has garnered world wide news this week, which prompted me to write this article.  Karen Klein, a 68 year old grandmother living in the Greece School District near Rochester, NY, was recently verbally assaulted with outrageous insults and threatened with profanity laced taunts by at least 4 students while riding school Bus 784 as a monitor.  Ms. Klein drove a school bus for 20 years and now rides as a monitor to help control the student’s behavior.  Unfortunately, no one monitored what happened to her.    

According to my understanding, this incident happened two weeks before the summer break of this year, 2012.  Ms. Klein was sitting in a bus seat alone when the surrounding students began picking on her while another student videotaped the 10 minute incident on his cell phone. He then stupidly posted the video on YouTube for the world to watch.  Here is a very small sample of what you can hear on that tape: 

Girl #1—“Oh my God, you are SO fat, Karen!”

Boy #1—(after poking Ms. Klein with a book) “Your reflexes are so slow, you freakin’ fat f***.”

Girl #1—“She has reflexes like an elephant!”  (laughing) then “Oh my God, you are such a ****ing troll!” 

Ms. Klein leans over and says, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”

Girl #1—“Why don’t you shut the f*** up?!” 

Ms. Klein removes her glasses and wipes moisture off her face.

Girl #2—“Are you sweating? Look at her sweating like…”

Ms. Klein, “No, I’m crying.”

Girl #2—“Why are you crying?”

Girl #1—“She probably misses her box of Twinkies.” 

Later, one of the boys say, “You probably don’t have any family because they all killed themselves to get away from you!”  (multiple laughter) 

Again, this is a very small sample of what this lady endured at the hands of….wait for it….Middle School children!  Not other adults. Not college jerks. Not even immature high school kids. These were children thirteen to fifteen years old!   

Wake up parents!  Welcome to the wonderful, wild and woolly world of early teenagers in this day and age.  The father of one of the boys spoke on camera and expressed shock and disbelief that his son would be capable of such actions.  “This is not the way we raised our kids.  I would have never thought in a million years he would be capable of acting like that!”  Rather than punish his son, he was planning to get him into therapy to determine the root of his problem. 

Hey Dad…the root of the problem is your son is an unsaved child who, day after day, is at the mercy of the Godless public school system and is desperate to be accepted by his peers yet too immature to stand up for what is good and proper in this world.  THAT, sir, is the root of the problem. 

Let’s take a closer look at the ‘root’ cause of the dangerous decline of morality and manners in this modern day of progressive ideas and government intrusion in the lives, homes and education of our children.  

Before 1962, it was customary in America’s public schools for the kids to pledge allegiance to this country’s flag and to say a little prayer at the start of every school day.  The prayer was this: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen”   What an outrageous atrocity of abuse that was heaped on these students, being taught to respect and have pride in their country as well as reverence for the Creator of the Universe.  Great time of day!  How crippled and psychologically traumatized these children must now be as adults!  

In 1962, the Supreme Court decided in the case of Engel vs. Vitale to end prayer in public schools, giving birth to the most overused and abused phrase in the English language: ‘Separation of Church and State.’  This was the initial step in removing God and His moral laws from our classrooms; a brilliant idea which has spawned a generation of self-absorbed, egotistical, greedy, loud mouthed, immoral God haters. Gee, what a great idea that turned out to be!   

So, the people thought, ‘OK, we can’t pray anymore.  At least we can allow the kids one minute to silently pray or meditate on whatever their groovy parents might be teaching them.’ One lousy minute of silence in the classroom was too much.  The Supreme Court outlawed this in the case of Wallace vs. Jaffree in 1985.  And the thought police were born.  

Then, in 1992, Lee vs. Weisman caused the Court to prohibit clergy led prayer at any public high school graduation ceremony.  Lord knows we don’t want to ask the Sovereign One to bless and guide the students who were about to venture out into the cold, cruel world!   

And finally, until the atheists can dream up some other obnoxious lawsuit, Santa Fe vs. Doe banned in the year 2000, school sanctioning of student led prayer at public high school football games.  That ‘Doe’ person sure has wreaked a lot of havoc in our society, haven’t they??  Now, our boys can play football, bash their helmets together with the force of a 30 MPH car crash resulting in at least some degree of brain injury every time, all without the protection of that pesky God hanging over their shoulder.  

The glorious Marxist experiment by our liberal university’s intellectual and morally bankrupt elite, which spawned our messianic President, has been a smashing success!  Our society is finally free from those bothersome mores of conduct such as kindness, clean language, obedience toward authority figures and respect for others, especially the weakest among us, our elderly and the unborn. 

Thank God----whoops, no, we can’t thank Him.  He doesn’t exist!  In fact, I believe I heard “God is dead” somewhere.  Hmmm…we can thank ourselves for ridding our society of any moral compass and introducing relativism into our lives.  It’s apparent by the example of the Middle School students on Bus 784, this social lie conceived in the same bed as political correctness, has made our lives and American culture is SO much better.  

We have finally thrown off the chains of politeness as well as the basic Ten Commandments and can now feel free to act as the moment and situation strikes us, with no repercussions! In terms of bullying, well, what is bullying after all?  It’s simply one of many ways we can relate to others. If something we say or do negatively affects someone or hurts their feelings, that’s their problem.  They are free to feel or do whatever they wish. After all, there is no ‘right or wrong’ now!  We’re much too sophisticated for that nonsense!  

How sad that the moral and spiritual condition of this nation has degraded to such a state that our children routinely pick up language and behavior so foul, it would make a sailor on shore leave blush. That it would even enter the minds of not only the Greece Middle Schoolers, but kids nationwide, to speak to and treat any adult the way Ms. Klein was treated is something we should grieve.  How much lower can we sink before Almighty God has had enough? 

I hate to break it to that Dad whose son was involved in this unconscionable verbal assault, but ‘therapy’ isn’t going to help his little darling.  He needs strong discipline, appropriate punishment that includes making restitution to his victim and to be introduced and educated in the precepts of our Holy God.  

We must remember that the kids, who routinely act this way now, will eventually be the ones making the decisions about how to care for their parents when they are too old, weak and frail to care for themselves.  Scary thought, huh?



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What God is That?


*Sigh*  You know this is not gonna be good if this article starts off like that.  I just read a piece titled; Christians Can Change Their Minds on Homosexuality.  The author states that she was all at once, elated and filled with dread when President Obama announced that he supported same-sex marriage, because she knew the negative backlash it would cause. You see, she was to attend a reception at the White House that marked Gay Pride Month, and could remember a time she wouldn’t have been caught dead at such an event. 

She had been an ‘evangelical Christian’ for 30 years when her very independent and successful daughter called to inform her she was gay.  At first, she was understandably devastated and prayed for the Lord to change her daughter’s choice.  “But instead, God changed me.”  Uh…really? 

She goes on to say she had a “dramatic change of heart; an epiphany, a paradigm shift or just plain coming to my senses, “ when her daughter called to say she and her partner were getting married.  At first she was upset and saddened and asked God, “What event could a parent be asked to attend that would be worse than this?”  “His answer was short—a funeral.”   

She marveled that she had never felt God’s presence and love as strongly as she did during the wedding weekend. Her daughter was raised with the message from pastors, Sunday school teachers, Christian leaders as well as her Christian parents that, “She was an abomination to God and didn’t deserve His love.”  But, thankfully, the daughter received the message from God himself that He loved her.  Of course God loves her!  He will NOT, however, tolerate her lesbianism. 

This lady agonizes about the years she taught her daughter that homosexuality was wrong and how deeply she must have hurt her feelings.  She’s now “On a mission to help keep other families from making our mistakes.  Now the lessons I have learned about unconditional love for the gay community need to be applied to those who are exactly where I was for so many years.”  Wrong. 

And man said to himself, ‘Let me make God in my image, after my likeness.’  So in the image of man created him God, and man blessed God and said unto Him, “Thou shalt have dominion over pretty much nothing, and shall give power and blessing to any and everything I will to do and thou shalt unconditionally love every depraved and sinful act I can imagine.”  

What ‘god’ is this lady talking about that would debase His holiness to attend a gay wedding? This woman opines, “Love can’t be legislated, politicized, forced or faked.  It comes from God. I have said many times that change will come one heart at a time, and only God can change a heart—if we will just get out of God’s way.”  I think she means, if God just gets out of OUR way! 

Let us turn in our Bibles to the 1st chapter of Romans. I want to take you through most of this chapter and include in parenthesis the Greek meanings of the words for clarification.  It really is eye opening to see the original meanings. 

Romans 1: 18 “For the wrath (anger, indignation) of God is revealed (made known) from heaven against all ungodliness (having no reverence for God) and unrighteousness (violating God’s law) of men, who hold (restrain, hinder) the truth (moral religious fact) in unrighteousness.” 

Then vs. 21 “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations (inward reasoning), and their foolish (stupid) heart (soul or mind) was darkened” (deprived of understanding.) Professing themselves to be wise (expert, learned), they became fools” (be or act foolishly.) 

Vs. 24 “Wherefore God also gave them up (delivered, permitted) to uncleanness (impure morals) through the lusts (craving, longing for what is forbidden) of their own hearts, to dishonor (treat with contempt) their own bodies between themselves.”  

Vs. 26-28  “For this cause God gave (delivered, permitted) them up to vile (disgrace, dishonor)affections (depraved passion): for even their women did change (exchanged) the natural use (inborn-agreeable to instincts) into that which is against (from, besides) nature (distinctive native characteristics): and likewise also the men, leaving ( depart, disregard, abandon) the natural use (sexual use of a woman) of the woman, burned (set on fire, kindled) in their lust (appetite, unlawful craving) toward another (mutually, reciprocally) ; men with men working (perform, accomplish, achieve) that which is unseemly (ones nakedness, shame), and receiving (to get what is promised, retribution) in themselves that recompense  (reward given in compensation) of their error (wrong action, straying morally) which was meet (necessary, right and proper). And even as they did not like (deem worthy, approve) to retain God (adhere or cling to keep) in their knowledge (knowing things ethical and divine), God gave them over (delivered, permitted) to a reprobate (untested, unfit, rejected) mind, to do those things (perform, act out, carry out) which are not convenient” (becoming, proper, fit). 

Vs. 29-31 “Being filled with all unrighteousness (injustice, deeds violating law), fornication (illicit sexual intercourse, including adultery, homosexual, lesbian and bestiality), wickedness (depravity, iniquity), covetousness, maliciousness (desire to injure, evil, depravity); full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity (depravity of heart, bad character); whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventers of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection (inhumane, unloving), implacable, unmerciful:” 

Vs. 32 “Who knowing (being acquainted, understanding) the judgment of God (judicial decree, sentence of condemnation), that they which commit such things (practice, exercise, of this kind, sort) are worthy (merited, befitting) of death (loss of life and future misery in hell), not only do the same, but have pleasure (also, pleased, approve, applaud, agree to) in them that do them” (exercise, practice, act, commit).  *whew!* 

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”    Unchanging. Eternally the same.  Does not change His character or nature.  So this mother is agreeing to or applauding the kind of behavior from her daughter that God considers worthy of meriting a death sentence.   

‘Yay honey, your wedding dress is beautiful and Daddy and I will pay for the cake.   Then we can all pretend God blesses your lesbian union, and completely ignore that this lifestyle will lead you straight to hell; plus I will have to face a Holy God and explain why I decided to accept this charade of ‘love.’’ 

I think it is safe to say most parents love their children unconditionally.  Does that mean we have to sanction and applaud their actions?  For instance, let’s say my son was a serial killer.  We all know that is wicked behavior before God. What if I knew this information about him and, as he was on the run from the law, stopped by for Sunday dinner with a nice chunk of thigh meat from his latest victim.  “Here ma, I brought you a present. Cook this puppy up like roast beef, would you?  I’d love some of your mashed potatoes and green beans with it, and maybe you could make me some banana pudding for dessert! Whatta you say?” 

Like the mother in the article with her lesbian daughter, I would be horrified and disgusted beyond description!  The Bible is very clear that murder and depravity of this sort is completely against God’s laws—always has been, always will be.  After all, God is the same yesterday, today and forever, right? 

So do I take the wimpy road like this mother and say to my son, “Oh honey, that is one beautiful hunk of meat; Ooo, and so lean!  Must have been a jogger, huh? Thanks!  I love you and will delude myself into accepting your wicked behavior out of a misplaced definition of unconditional love; therefore I won’t call the cops and have your vile butt arrested.” 

How ridiculous, right?  So my son is a serial killer.  Do I stop loving that child I bore, nursed, cuddled and raised or do I completely cut all ties and ignore his existence?  Of course I would still love him!  And I’d call the cops on him in a heartbeat!  THAT is unconditional love, lady. 

Do I condone and accept his kidnapping, torture and murdering ways?  Of course NOT!  But I would still love him.  I wouldn’t be able to help it—just like God loves us but refuses to accept our sinful behavior.  He will still ‘call the cops’ on us, so to speak, and make sure justice is served.   

I feel for this very conflicted mother, but she is dead wrong.  As the verses with their original Greek meanings listed above, it is perfectly CLEAR homosexuality is not condoned or OK with God.  It wasn’t in Sodom and Gomorrah and it isn’t in this day and age either, no matter what the pushy, big mouthed, politically correct, depraved LGBT lobby tells you!   

For this mom to accept her daughter’s choice (and it IS a choice, don’t give me a bunch of bull that they are born that way), is doing her daughter and her own relationship with God a huge disservice.  I can completely understand her desire and overwhelming need to have a loving tie with her daughter, but she is leading her astray, as well as making a mockery of the Bible and the sanctified life we as Christians are to strive for.  

So what should she have done?  What should Christian parents do when their kid suddenly spouts off the news that they are gay?  You love them unconditionally. You reject their behavior.  Do you keep in touch? Yes.  Do you tell them as much as possible you love them?  Yes.  Do you have their lover over for dinner? No. Do you attend their ‘wedding’? Of course not. Don’t bother to give a gift either.  

What if that adult child chooses their lover over their loving, Godly parents?  Then you grieve like the dickens and pray for God’s intervention. That is their choice and like the rest of us, they will have to make their own decisions about God and decide whether to follow or reject Him. We ALL have to stand or fall on this issue alone and we parents cannot choose for them, as much as we want to and as much as our heart would break in a million pieces if they chose to shun God. 

Like this lady said, change will come one heart at a time and only God can change a heart—if we will get out of God’s way. God bless this mother. I know her heart aches to do the right thing and I will be praying for her to see the truth.



satan

I would have addressed you with the proper salutation of “dear,” however, you are anything but so I refrained.  I also refuse to show you the small respect of capitalizing your slimy name.  

There are a few things I want to get off my chest where you are concerned.  I’ve been meaning to do this for quite some time but you know how it goes, something always comes up to distract us from our plans.  Not that you care in the least, but I want you to know I think you are the most repugnant, purulent, vile, small minded little jerk in this entire universe. 

Yes, you go ahead and laugh.  If you had any common sense left, you would be ashamed rather than proud of that title.  Speaking of ‘sense’ I really must ask, what in all of creation were you thinking??  Seriously.  Did you actually delude yourself into believing you could usurp Almighty God and take His throne?  You mean to tell me you literally trusted that your small number of fallen angel stooges would have the ability to conquer Michael and his armies?  You buffoon! 

Now, I’ve really tried satan, but I just cannot comprehend ‘why.’  Why was being the most beautiful creature that ever existed, not quite good enough for you?  From all I’ve heard, you were truly a wonder to behold; full of beauty and light and music.  No doubt you sensed the other angels were utterly enchanted in your presence. Was that it?  

Did you begin to crave worship from those around you?  Ah, I’m beginning to see.  Every angel in heaven continually worshiped God and that took their attention away from you and your glory, but all you ever received was their admiration.  None of them rendered the worship you felt you deserved, did they?  Poor baby. 

You must have existed, trembling with a jealous rage that constantly simmered just under the surface of your being. Then to heap even more indignity on your head, you were still expected to bow in reverence to God, who was the bitter hindrance to your supremacy.  Apparently you devised a plan to depose God but you needed help.   

So, how did you do this?  Start rumors in the lunchroom or gossip around the water cooler about how unfair God was; that He was so stingy He wouldn’t share even a little piece of His mighty throne with you?  

I suppose you must have bribed and bullied and promised promotions to your followers in order to raise your little ragtag army so you could implement your plan.  Were you actually so stupid as to forget God knows everything?  You do realize He was on to you from the beginning, don’t you?   

You and your minions didn’t stand a chance and you were soundly defeated.  MAN that must have been humiliating!  I can just picture you standing before the All Powerful One, along with all the host of heaven, after having been caught with your pants down, so to speak.   

You’ll have to excuse me here, but I just have to snicker. Even with as lowly a creature as I am, made of dust, I have sense enough not to challenge God’s position…and I’ve never even seen Him!  Hahahaha…You stood in His presence every day, you moronic idiot! Talk about having NO excuse! 

So, tell me.  What happened then?  I picture the heavens quaking with the deafening sounds of lightning and thunder; a savage wind screaming around you as you faced an angry God. After all, no hint of rebellion had ever occurred in all of eternity past!  What would God do?  

You have to admit you’d earned the wrath and well deserved punishment of the Almighty and knew you and yours were up you-know-what-creek, without a paddle.  Tell me, satan, did you beg for mercy?  Were you on your knees, pleading for forgiveness, praying to be accepted back into His good graces while promising you would never, ever do it again?   

Please.  My guess is He looked straight into your heart and saw no honest repentance in any of you, so you were condemned to forever burn in the Lake of Fire he would prepare for you and your followers.  The Bible says in Revelation 14:11 “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth forever…”  Oh boy. You really blew it big time, didn’t you?  Brilliant planning on your part, I must say.  

THIS must have been the exact moment you became completely unhinged mentally. If it was the last thing you did, you would find a way to exact revenge; after all, if you were going down, you’d go down fighting, causing as much damage to God as you could! 

Somewhere, during this time, man and the earth were created.  It must have been a huge burr under your saddle to see the delight in God’s eyes as he fellowshipped with Adam and Eve in their perfect garden.  Made you sick with rage, didn’t it?  Hmmm.  Plan B began to form in that crippled brain of yours.   

You realized these creatures actually had free will, so you took the form of a harmless garden snake and seduced and lied to Eve, telling her that God was holding out on her and Adam.  If they would only take one little bite of the forbidden fruit, they surely wouldn’t die but would instantly be like God.  

Come now, you have to admit that was incredibly lame and tacky of you. You tempted a creature made from a rib.  Needless to say, because of her innocence, she probably wasn’t too bright.  She certainly wasn’t street smart!  I mean, hello?  ‘Eve, you’re talking to a snake!  Doesn’t that strike you as strange??’  You convinced her with your pretty lies and she ate and gave some to Adam, and he also ate.  Adam was forced to hand over possession of earth’s keys to you and you were off to the races! 

I bet you could hardly wait to confront God and rub His nose in the fall of His precious mankind; you had figured out where God’s soft spot was. You knew He was completely in love with human beings, His beautiful earth and all its creatures.  He had, after all, pronounced it “good.”  You were incensed that He was passionate about weak, stinking, ignorant beastlike people, yet He rejected you?  How dare He! 

So you probably waited until all heaven’s host was assembled before you broke in and accused God of being unfair.  Unjust.  You attacked His very character in front of everyone by saying He was unfairly favoring mankind.  After all, you reasoned, they too had sinned and therefore deserved the same eternal death sentence you would suffer. HA!  So there!  Trump THAT God!  I bet you stuck out your tongue too, didn’t you? 

I really wonder about your ability to reason coherently sometimes.  Unbeknownst to you, the answer to our sin and the subsequent need for justice was decided upon before God set the earth on its foundations while you and all the angels sang for joy.  Hate to tell you, you depraved, inferior jackass, you were outsmarted before you even fell!  THAT is why GOD is God and you’re not! 

The Bible was given to us, and because even you could read Elizabethan English, you skipped ahead to Revelation to see how it would end.  Daniel, Isaiah and Psalms held more clues to help you figure out approximately how much time you had before you were cast into the Lake of Fire forever.  Until then, you planned to wreak as much havoc on the earth as possible, and torment us as long as you could.  

BUT…the plan of redemption slipped right past you, didn’t it slick?  DUH!  The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us while you probably stood around, scratching your head, wondering ‘what the heck is He doing here?’  You were too stupid to figure out Jesus came to suffer the death penalty we deserved in order to pay for all our sin.   

God himself died in our place so we wouldn’t have to, therefore rendering perfect justice.  Not one soul in all of creation could accuse Him of not being fair from that moment on.  Talk about a moment of shock and awe! Come on now. Admit it. You soiled yourself, didn’t you?  You were outsmarted, proving again why God is supreme and you’re not.  

I’ve gotta hand one thing to you though. You’ve got some kind of exceptionally twisted imagination!  You’ve taught mankind every degrading, repulsive, depraved, deceitful, cruel, torturous, psycho, sickco behavior and attitude. What’s the deal?  Do you have committee meetings every Tuesday morning where you and your demons sit around some conference table, thinking up new horrors to unleash on us?   

Boy, do you have it out for human beings!  You loser! The only avenue you have left to sting God is to hurt His children, and you are sure working overtime in these final hours. You still whisper the same tired old lies, probably because we ignorant dust creatures still fall for them.   

Lies such as, ‘God isn’t fair.’  ‘God is holding out on you.’ ‘God doesn’t care about you or your feelings or needs.’  ‘God is mean and is punishing you.’ The only way we can refute you and stand strong is by knowing the Word.  Oh, I bet you just hate it when we throw scripture back in your ugly face, don’t you?   

And now, this very week, I find you’ve struck another one of my loved ones with your favorite weapon of destruction, cancer.  Yessiree, you can temporarily get your jollies knowing our family is upset and scared.  But you know what?  We belong to Christ.  We’ve been ransomed by the pure, priceless blood that dripped down that cross due to the ingenious, courageous, brilliantly engineered propitiation that occurred right under your nose.  LOSER! 

Oh, you may strike these decaying, dust bodies we live in with disease or accidents or deformity and you may even cause our death. How lame.  To afflict these earthly bodies we temporarily inhabit is like shooting fish in a barrel, isn’t it?  What challenge is there in that??  But that’s you. Tacky and already defeated. 

Yes, we’re all aware we are gonna die one day, unless Jesus snatches us home first, but then what, hotshot? Your reign of terror in our lives will be over!  You’ll have no more say or influence over us for the rest of eternity.  But WE will see YOU, along with your sorry excuses for angels, writhing in agony throughout the ages to come.  I wouldn’t consider dipping my little toe in water to cool anything on you, so don’t ask!  Fry, you disgusting lump of dog squeeze. 

In fact, I think I’ll bring a picnic lunch and lead my redeemed brothers and sisters in a special cheer, just for you.  ‘Gimme a OUCH!  Gimme a Ooooo,  Gimme a weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth! Whatta you got?  satan and his stooges in endless torment!  Yay!! 

 I plan to relax and watch you suffer for a couple thousand years, remembering the sorrow and pain you caused me.  Cancer, schmancer!  You don’t scare me, you fool!  Go ahead and kill these bodies; you’ll only be doing us a favor!  

We will be home, perfect and healthy forevermore.  Listen up because I want you to remember this: One day, you will most certainly stare right into my eyes.  I will see you suffer and I will rejoice.  Then I’ll jump up, run to Jesus and worship Him! 

That’s right you insipid little jerk, worship… The one thing you crave will all your being, is the very thing you’ll never, ever have!  You’re not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, are you?   

You had it so good…

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Lesson on Forgiveness


Every single human being you know throughout your lifetime will, at one time or another, let you down, betray, abuse, neglect and/or abandon you.  It doesn’t matter if the person is a spouse, child, family member or friend, you will be hurt at least once by everyone.  It’s simply the way it is because we are sinful, selfish humans living on a broken, decaying world.  In these last days when evil is increasing exponentially, this will prove to be true more than ever! 

Now, I don’t mean for this to be a downer for anyone.  It’s a warning to Christians that the ONLY person who will never let you down is Jesus Christ.  He is the only one you can really count on; the only one who truly knows you intimately.  He is the only person you are really safe with.  You’ll save yourself a whole lot of pain if you’ll remember this fact! 

When we are hurt by someone, we are to forgive, “even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”  But what, exactly does this mean?  I stumbled on a fantastic website that taught me the true meaning of forgiveness and why it is OK to sometimes withhold it.  Oh, I can hear the screams of protest and see the hackles of some of you rising from here.  ‘Heresy, heresy! She’s a witch, burn her!’  Put down the pitchforks and torches people, and let’s take a good look at this.  

I highly encourage anyone who is having difficulty forgiving someone to visit this wonderful site for a good, Biblical grasp of this because it has historically been a very difficult and misunderstood subject.   http://www.luke173ministries.org/     I will be borrowing liberally from the information on this webpage and will use quotation marks when I am quoting them. 

Luke 17:3 says, “Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”  That is the most concise recipe for forgiveness ever given.  When we need God to forgive us, we are to go to Him, confess our sin, ask for forgiveness (apologize) and repent (turn from our sinful ways.)  

When someone offers us a sincere apology, they shouldn’t try to avoid mentioning the offense; “I’m sorry for anything I might have done.”  Instead, they need to be specific in describing what they did wrong. They should acknowledge that we have every right to be upset and validate our feelings by assuring us we didn’t deserve to be treated hurtfully and then promise it won’t happen again.  This kind of apology is healing.  

Confess, apologize, and repent. You’d think it was the easiest thing in the world, wouldn’t you?  I think we Christians confuse and complicate these simple steps. But…what if the person that hurt you won’t admit they were wrong?  God Himself does not forgive the ‘stiff-necked’ who refuse to repent and who continue in their evil ways!  Surprised?  Find one instance in the Bible where He does.  If God does not forgive the unrepentant, we are not expected to extend that grace to them either.  

Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we realize the one who hurt us will never admit wrongdoing, so in order to free ourselves to carry on and live a fulfilled, happy life we need to choose to forgive them, knowing there is a wonderful promise attached.  To forgive someone is to cease holding them accountable for their trespass against you.  

We cannot confuse forgiveness with emotion. We were victimized and have every reason to be angry and offended. However, when we choose not to entertain thoughts of the trespass and give it to God, He will step in and heal our heart and damaged emotions. We may still hurt for a while but it will fade with time. What makes this possible?  The promise in Romans 12:19, “For it is written, vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”  His validation and perfect justice will be more than enough to satisfy the injury you suffered! 

Let it go.  Lay it down, sit back and trust your heavenly Daddy to take care of business for you.  It may take some time, but justice WILL be done!   

Then there are people who are a cut above your basic jerk and are, quite frankly, abusers.  “Abuse is a pattern of ongoing, continuous, unrelenting evil.  It will not stop until we leave for our own survival.  We finally come to realize the situation is hopeless; changing these ingrained characteristics is impossible.”  It is very unlikely God will change your abuser because your abuser likes hurting you and others!  They don’t want to change.   

But what if your abuser claims to be a Christian?? 

This kind of abuser is the worst and can cause enormous damage!  “Some are influenced by the Spirit of False Religion or a Jezebel Spirit; some were ‘born again’ many years ago but have not matured in their walk with God.”  Hebrews 10:26-31 talks about the doom of those who choose to continue sinning willfully after having received the knowledge of the truth; that there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God! 

“Besides trying to use scripture to justify their wickedness, some who call themselves a  ‘Christian’ will engage in other pseudo-religious behaviors.  They might attend church on a regular basis, tithe every week, speak in tongues, be ‘slain in the spirit’, raise their hands to God, tell people to pray for them, shout ‘Hallelujah,” and use all the right words and phrases.  How could anyone possibly believe that such a person is really malicious, and that this is all a fa├žade?” 

“What this person fails to realize is that someone with discernment can see these things and will know them by their fruit, or lack thereof. Using their ‘Christianity’ as a cover up for their sinful nature may not work all of the time or with every person, but it does work enough times and with enough people that it is worth it for them to continue doing.  And so, whenever they are rebuked or challenged, trotting out their ‘Christianity’ is their automatic response.” 

Abusers will rarely progress through the proper steps to gain forgiveness.  However, the reasons and excuses they spew do NOT fly with God!  The Bible states in Romans 2:5-6 (NIV) “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed.  God will give to each person according to what he has done.”  THAT is sobering… 

So what are some common ways these so-called ‘Christians’ act when their victim confronts and rebukes them for their behavior and the hurt they caused?  Hmmm, how much time do we have?  Some excuses are quite clever whereas others are just plain funny!  Quite possibly the most outrageous and one of my all time favorites, is selective amnesia.   

“Selective amnesia is the abuser’s phony defense of very conveniently forgetting anything that does not support their case.  They pretend they have no idea of what you’re talking about when you rebuke them for their behavior.  In order to avoid accountability whenever you confront them about their actions, the abuser will deflect the conversation and attention away from what THEY did, and focus it on you.” 

“Remind them of anything they’ve done wrong, and they will suddenly develop brain damage.  A look of bewilderment and hurt will cross their face as they tearfully deny what you’re saying. You may be momentarily confused, thinking maybe they really don’t remember. That is because a normal person’s natural tendency is to give others the benefit of the doubt and not assume malice." 

“If for some reason, they do begin to remember, a lot will get lost in the translation.  They aren’t going to remember things the way you do—it will get twisted, denied and added to until it sounds like either you’re completely delusional, or you are the one who wronged them!  If that tactic fails and you persist in holding them accountable, their last ditch strategy will be to tell you that it was ‘in the past’ and YOU are wrong for not ‘getting over it!’” 

I can personally testify these things are true!  Been there, heard that. “When the abusive ‘Christian’ in your life claims to have no idea what they did wrong, they are LYING!  They know perfectly well what they did.  They will try this ploy even after you’ve told them point blank exactly what they did wrong, furnished loads of examples, argued with them and protested their years of maltreatment.”  But you’ll only get proclamations of amnesia.  

“They have seen your distress every time they hurt you and that is, indeed their reward for doing so.”  They love knowing they had that kind of power over you! “You probably complained, rebuked, confronted, cried and fought them and tried in vain to set limits for years.  And nothing worked, leaving you no choice but to end the relationship for your own survival.  There is NO way they don’t know what they did.”  Hey, I got the T-shirt on this trip too! 

“It’s a losing battle to ever try to have a nice, reasonable discussion with an abuser.  You’re deluding yourself if you think you can make them ever understand, admit anything or be accountable in any way.”  You will never gain satisfaction from this person! Give them over to a Holy God to deal with. Believe me, He will not forget. Then allow your heavenly Father to heal you. 

Here are some other examples of the tactics abusers try when confronted with their sin against you.  These are great!  They will:  ‘not remember’, accuse YOU of trying to start a fight, show juvenile displays of anger (mimicking, screaming, name calling, breaking property, making fun of you..), accuse you of taking their actions ‘the wrong way’, refuse to take responsibility, blame you, use sarcasm, tell you, “I said I was sorry!”, tell you God forgives them so they don’t have to explain or relive the past, and get angry with you for confronting them, blah, blah, blah.  

Let me pause here and delve a little further into a very powerful ploy that some ‘Christian’ abusers use to excuse themselves and plant guilt into the one they hurt.  The ‘ol, “God forgives me and He’s the only one I will face so my conscience is clear whether you forgive me or not, so you can’t judge me,” routine.  Oh puke!  This is a “Christian who is simply too prideful to face their victim, apologize sincerely for being abusive and hurtful, admit they were wrong, and change their ways.”  

“They think they can put it all behind them and hold their head high without ever doing the right thing by their victim.  Any humility this person had shown in the past was false humility, calculated again to make them seem more righteous than they are.”  

In the Bible, when you damage someone, you are expected to make restitution to that person.  “Repenting to God” doesn’t get you off the hook!  You are supposed to face the person you hurt and make it right by making them whole.  Nowhere in the Word does it say that repenting to God is sufficient, or that it absolves us from any obligation to repent directly to the person we injured.  

I could go on and on with this but there is one last, particularly insidious disguise the ‘Christian’ abuser can wear, and it’s pretty powerful unless you stop and examine what scripture has to say about it.  I have seen this tactic in play, even during my childhood, while being brought up in an Assembly of God church.  They hide behind the “I’ve received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues, therefore I am a righteous and Godly person,” mask. 

I will not discuss my personal beliefs about this gift of the Spirit, so don’t bother bringing the subject up. It is not for me to judge whether a person does or does not have this gift or if they have deluded themselves into thinking they do when they are actually manifesting something counterfeit. 

BUT…when a habitually abusive ‘Christian’ pulls this rabbit out of their hat, don’t be intimidated.  It’s the perfect cover for their mistreatment of others by implying that because they are ‘holy’ enough to exercise this gift, they can’t possibly be abusive.  Remember what your Mama always told you?  “Actions speak louder than words.” Thank you Jesus, that’s one little nugget of wisdom we can count on! 

What are the fruits of the Spirit that God cultivates in His children?  They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control. Do you suppose you will find these fruits consistently hanging off of a ‘Christian’ abuser?  I think not! And how do we know if a person actually belongs to and is walking with God?  By their fruits.  NOT by what they tell us! 

Another test lies in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (NKJV) 

Go ahead, hot shot, speak in tongues till the cows come home!  You are an unrepentant abuser and have not love.  Now, you make sure to be in church every Sunday and make sure someone there knows you’ve been faithful to tithe. Oh yeah, volunteer to chaperone the youth group on their camping trip and pass out bulletins at the front door. Your service and big bad ‘spiritual gift’ means NOTHING to God! They are an abomination before Him because God looks at the heart and knows exactly what you are. 

“There is a clear difference between the fruits of a true Christian who lives by the Spirit as opposed to the behaviors of one who might claim to be a Christian, but who really lives by their flesh and by their sinful nature.” 

In closing, let’s review. The next time you offend or hurt someone, even unintentionally, you need to seek forgiveness and restoration.  You go to them, confess what you did, acknowledge they have every right to be hurt, apologize and ask for forgiveness, and repent and promise them you will never to that to them again.  THEN you go to God.  

When someone hurts or offends you and they don’t seem to be making a move to make things right, you go to them, rebuke them and IF they repent, you forgive them.  Every single time.  If this recipe is not followed according to Biblical mandates, or if they refuse to admit their offense, you are not obligated to extend forgiveness to them.  

Of course, you have no right to declare war and treat them badly either!  Simply choose not to hold their offense against them and turn them over to your advocate, the source of perfect justice and go on your way without them in your life.  Have nothing more to do with them.  God will heal your heart and emotions if you are faithful to conduct yourself in this manner.  He will recompense the pain you’ve suffered and justice WILL be served!  Thank you Lord, and let me hear a hearty “AMEN!”



Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ignore the Waves

Most people are aware that Jesus of Nazareth supposedly walked on water but I dare say the vast majority don’t know much more about it. I would even venture that most Christians pretty much ignore this story in the Bible because they’ve heard it so many times. Zzzzz.

But if you stop and examine this event closely it’s simply staggering to contemplate. Not only did Christ temporarily suspend the laws of nature then, He still wants to see his children trust Him enough to walk on the water towards him in the midst of the storms we battle. Here’s some basic information about the Sea of Galilee He walked on.

There are several places in the New Testament that speak of violent storms arising unexpectently on this body of water. How in the world could there be such raging storms so fierce that they’re considered dangerous? It’s not like the disciples were out on some huge ocean! The Sea of Galilee is the lowest fresh water lake on earth, sitting at 680 feet below sea level. Its surface area is 64 square miles with 33 miles of shoreline. It is 13 miles long and at most, 8 miles wide and only 150 feet at its deepest point.

Although it’s not a huge body of water, the lake would still be quite a challenge to row a sizable boat across, filled with men and fishing equipment, even in calm waters. On the day told of in Matthew 14:22-31, Jesus had preached to a huge crowd for hours and miraculously fed all the people before sending them home for the evening. Verse 22 says that Jesus ‘constrained’ his disciples to get into a ship and go before him to the other side of the lake. He entreated them. In other words, ‘Guys, I’m tired and need to be alone for a while without anyone talking or wanting something from me.’

The disciples complied. It was late afternoon when they parted company with Jesus and climbed into a good sized boat to begin rowing toward the other side of the lake. Verse 23 says Jesus went ‘into’ a mountain to pray and when evening came, he was there alone. Sounds like maybe he found a cave in the cliffs to hide away in solitude. Meanwhile, let’s switch back to the disciples in their boat.

It was night when a storm started up and they struggled against head winds, the Bible says, right in the middle of the lake. No motors, remember. All hands were probably rowing like mad or bailing water to keep from sinking. By this time, they had to be weary from their long day, handing out food to 5000+ men, women and children, cleaning up the scraps only to end the day fighting the rain and wind. The Bible speaks of perilous storms occurring on the Sea of Galilee that seemingly come out of nowhere and are particularly nasty. How is this possible on a relatively small lake?

Well again, it sits 680 feet below sea level in a basin-like area surrounded by hills, some up to 2000 feet high. The air at the top of these hills is cool and dry while the atmosphere on the lake is semitropical with warm, moist air. The difference in height between the lake surface and the surrounding cliffs causes surprisingly large temperature and pressure changes. Strong winds funnel through the hills dropping down on the surface of the water and when the cool air meets the warm tropical air, violent storms rise quickly without warning.

  Because the lake is relatively shallow, the waters get whipped up higher than if the water were deeper; in deep water, the energy is better absorbed and it takes much more to cause large waves. These unique topographical features are the cause of these unusual storms. During the 4th watch of the night, which would have been between 3 and 6am, they looked up and saw some man-like figure walking ON the waves! It’s kind of humorous how the Bible describes this scene: Verse 26, “And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were ‘troubled,’ saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” They were troubled. Troubled?? How about freaked out!

 The Greek word for ‘troubled’ means ‘agitated’ or to ‘strike fear or dread.’ Can you image? They’re exhausted and wet, struggling against this storm bailing water for all they’re worth, only to look up to see some bizarre thing coming towards them on top of the waves. They cried out. More like screamed their heads off! Can you blame them? Matthew 14:27, “But straightway Jesus spake unto them saying, Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid.” Excuse me? Whatta you mean, don’t be afraid? You say you’re Jesus but dude, you’re walking ON water!

Naturally, impetuous Peter just had to check it out. Verse 28-31, “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately, Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said to him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Jesus, seriously. Why did he doubt? He was defying the very laws of nature by walking on water! And it was storming like crazy! And he saw the wind!

Just how does one ‘see’ wind? The Greek for ‘saw’ in this verse means to turn the eyes towards something. Peter took his eyes off Jesus because he saw the storm in his peripheral vision and he got scared. Perfectly understandable, right? He was distracted from the unspeakably miraculous thing he was doing, saw the waves, felt the wind whipped spray hit his face and that was all she wrote. He lost heart and faith and started sinking.

Hey, he made it further than I would have! I wouldn’t have gotten out of the boat in the first place! Yet even under those extraordinary circumstances, Jesus gently chided him for being afraid. “Wherefore didst thou doubt?” Peter tried to keep his eyes on Jesus while doing the impossible and enduring a storm.

Today, we also struggle to keep our eyes on our Lord while we contend with much more dangerous situations. Looming economic collapse. Terrorism perpetrated by those who kill us because we don’t believe in their false god. Can’t trust our own government to have our best interests in mind. Exponential rise in violent crimes, which now apparently includes cannibalism. Abominable lifestyles forced on all aspects of society, including our children. The list goes on and on.

Since God never changes, Jesus must expect us to keep our eyes on Him as we walk on top of the sewage and filth of this world and that is as big a miracle in our day and age as walking on that lake was for Peter! How much easier it would be to just sink into the muck and take part in all the garbage the overwhelming majority of people seemingly enjoy. No struggle. No fight.

It’s not easy for my flesh and bone to walk on water. If it were not for the supernatural strength of the Holy Spirit, gained from spending time in my ‘cave’ like Jesus did, praying to the Father and staying in the Word, I’d sink to the bottom very quickly. Even so, there are still days I sink to my knees. Sometimes, this corrupted world is just too overwhelming and I naturally take my eyes off of Christ, look around me at all the dangers and I get scared. The only thing this accomplishes is getting sewage on my legs. Yuck!

Yet somehow, the touch of God cleans the filth off and pulls me back up to eye level with Him. It’s a very difficult thing to practice on a consistent basis! There is so much hurt and betrayal and disappointment in our lives to add to the things of this world. How any Christian can wish that Jesus would wait just a while longer to snatch us home simply amazes me! I don’t WANT to swim in the sewage.

I’d rather fight the good fight it takes to walk ON it and concentrate my attention on my Savior until I can shed this body and step into the pristine place Jesus has been preparing for me. The sewage will stay here.

What Holds Your Attention?

One of my dear readers kindly emailed to tell me about a wedding shower she and her husband recently attended at their church.  As expected, there were tables filled with beautifully wrapped gifts for the couple to open, along with platters of scrumptious food and drinks, making the setting appropriately festive. 

During the course of the evening, the general conversation strangely turned to the subject of death.  Perhaps someone was thinking about the wedding vow of being faithful ‘till death do us part.’  The guests began to describe what they would want their own funeral to be like and where they would want to be buried.  

My reader spoke up and said, “I plan to skip all that and go up in the rapture.”  This comment was met with an awkward silence.  One gentleman said, “Every generation has been expecting His coming,” to which she replied, “I’m aware of that. That’s why we’re supposed to be watching because the signs are more apparent than ever.” 

This Christian man unconsciously alluded to 2 Peter 3:3-4 which states, “Knowing this first, that in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?  For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’”  This cynical opinion was expressed by a professing Christian!  

To me, this is shocking!  I mean, I can understand a non-believer holding this attitude. Actually, I always thought that verse was speaking of a non-believer but to hear that a Christian who supposedly placed Jesus first in his life challenged the idea of the rapture, just floors me! 

How is it possible for a born again child of God to be a bona fide scoffer?  To speak of our blessed hope with derision and mock a sister in Christ in front of other people?  All I can do is say to myself, ‘Well Donna honey, you poor, little ignorant darlin’, welcome to the end times!’ 

 Apparently a surprising number of fellow Christians echo that same attitude; ‘well, people have been waiting for centuries so why should He show up in this day and age?’  Are they completely insane?  No, they must be addicted to that insidious drug called ‘gimmemore.’ 

Now, I’ll admit it’s a bit challenging to close my eyes and try to envision what’s waiting for us in heaven when Jesus finally snatches us off this wretched planet.  Paul informs us in             1 Corinthians 2:9, “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

I suppose I should cut these people a break. After all, the only things we flesh and blood mortals are familiar with are these physical bodies with their needs and desires, and this physical earth with its temptations and lures and sparkly goodies. We have NO frame of reference for heaven or the things God has prepared, so it’s little wonder it can be difficult to get excited about going there! 

Let me try to look at this situation from the opposite angle. Forgive my impertinence but what if we get to heaven and it’s boring?  I wonder if that’s one of the concerns these fellow believers have these days. When you’re really involved in this world, there are plenty of distractions that can be very appealing.   

Perhaps a house with a better kitchen, maybe even located in the upscale neighborhood your snooty PTA President lives in. That sports car your husband has wanted since he was in 11th grade.  Here’s a good one for those in my age range: plastic surgery! Oh, to have everything pulled back up where God intended it to be!  *sigh* 

OK, I’ll admit there are some things that can still capture my attention. After all, I’ve never been to heaven, so I really don’t know what it will be like. Of course, it will beat the alternative hands down, but will it live up to the thrill of what I could be striving for here?  As with many things, it comes down to a matter of trust in what God has told us in His Word.  

If I visited several evangelical churches in my area and took an unofficial poll, I wonder how many professing Christians would honestly want the rapture to take place this very day?  How many truly want to go home?  

More often than not, when I speak of my longing for the rapture, I’m met with blank stares from fellow believers as if I was some freakish alien. It’s like people get numb or turn off intellectually when the subject comes up. 

When is the last time your pastor taught about the most incredible event in human history and how world events are screaming its imminence?  Probably about the same time you last heard a message on hell and the cross. Years ago, right?   

Folks might as well get their noses back in their Bibles and let go of the cravings and goals of this earthly life.  What’s the point of sticking all your eggs in a basket that’s decaying or will surely be destroyed?  After all, that bigger house and cute sports car won’t be going with us when we’re raptured, and since we’re SO close, what’s the point of giving those things all our attention?  It’s a silly waste of time! 

We need to be scurrying around, stuffing our heavenly coffers with acts of love and giving in Jesus’ name while we still have the opportunity to earn more heavenly rewards!  Don’t know about you, but I don’t worry about timing and beating the markets here or how much money I’ll have to live on when I retire.  

I take comfort in knowing that even in this dire, collapsing economy, my investment in Christ is sheltered because everything single thing I’ve ever done in His name has been sent on ahead to be deposited as eternal treasure and is already safely placed in my mansion.  No Wall Street banker blow-hard will ever be able to get his mitts on what I’ve earned!  

Since I started out telling you about a wedding shower, let me ask you some important questions related to that subject. Do you consider yourself to be redeemed by Christ?  Are you part of His eternal church which He refers to as His Bride?  

If so, is your attention focused on earthly things or is your heart longing to join the one you love the most, your Groom?  Jesus is coming for His radiant Bride very soon. While you’re still on this earth, continue to do what you have to do to live but be sure to listen closely for His shout to ‘Come up here!’  I have a feeling it’s going to catch a whole lot of people off guard!