Friday, February 26, 2016


MALWARE |ˈmalˌwe(ə)r| noun Computing software that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems. ORIGIN blend of malicious and software.

Apparently in July of 2015 an all out global assault was launched, designed to trick and defraud hapless wanderers in the vast and often illusional world wide web. I can’t say it wasn’t predictable and only a matter of time. Criminal minds are constantly devising ways to dupe the unsuspecting whether in the real world or the virtual. It’s the classic law of cause and effect. There is no security measure that cannot be defeated and turned against its original good purpose. 

[Remember I said that when they want to coax you into bio tattoos to keep your personal info safe].

PC users have always understood and battled against the threat of malicious software but now even the heretofore impenetrable MACs are vulnerable. Perhaps even more so because many still believe they are not vulnerable and therefore they are grossly unprepared when they get hit.

Here’s the new con game. Click on something, even simple innocuous things you wouldn’t expect to be harboring ill will toward you, things you once could trust like an X to close a pop up advertisement, and a portal is launched on your computer screen. It will look official and might warn you that your computer has acquired a virus and you need to immediately call a listed number for tech assistance. The warning will be frozen on your screen though and there is no way to get it off unless you do a force quit of your browser. Sometimes this takes multiple force quits and often people give up after one or two tries thinking their computer is locked. 

Never, ever, click the OK or call the number - ever! Even if you can’t unlock your screen. 

Sometimes the malware comes hidden inside a notice that you need to upgrade your Adobe Flash Player. It will use the familiar logo and colors of the program but if you click on it your computer will be invaded and you won’t know where all the malicious codes are immediately planted in your system, hidden and waiting to do all sorts of damage, including stealing passwords and access to online banking.

Of course, there are programs, anti-malware fighters, that can be installed to search out and remove these rotten cells of dark code. Even that solution is fraught with potential dangers because the clever digital bandits can also disguise themselves as champion anti-virus computer cleaners. 

Carefully vetting one’s options for repair has become paramount in this increasingly duplicitous age of anything goes. It would seem there is no end to the variety of cons out in the wild wild west of the Net. It has come to the point that one ought not to trust anything or anyone. Looking for a phrase or a good pork recipe? Click here. Oops! And don’t count on a long list of good reviews for a program either. People make a living writing good reviews. 

Anyone else seeing an analogy here? 

Satan and his minions are working overtime seeking to undermine the faithful too. When one tactic is finally exposed, the liars find new ways to dupe the unsuspecting. Looking true and good, using right sounding words and images built around just enough truth to keep spiritual discernment at bay is the current successful ploy. Not to be deterred, satan can and will change these tactics when enough people catch on so the byword is Christian Beware! 

The take away from this is: whether you are venturing out in the uncharted digital waters of reprobated modernity or you are answering to the pious siren call of religiosity, take heed: recognizing and dealing with malware is the new normal and here to stay until He comes to end it.

Even so come Lord Jesus!

For Him,


Sunday, February 14, 2016

What I Learned About Imperfection

I had to let some time pass before I could write about this. I needed space to process and determine just the right words, the perfect angle to present it. Two weeks in and I’m not seeing perfection in this so I’ll just do the sloppy thing and relate it as best I can because I need to say it. 

Sometimes you just have to carry on without perfection as your ultimate goal. 


We traveled to Penhook Virginia to attend a relative’s memorial service. The fifty minute drive from Danville, where we spent the night, was a portal through which we stepped temporarily back in time. 

Allow me to explain.

Penhook is a small rural lake community snuggled into the heart of Virginia by a crazy quilt of irregular patches of fields embroidered together by verdant tree lines. The route is not a modern highway nor is it straight from Danville to Penhook thus one has to follow the directions carefully. The two lane road weaves and meanders through an agricultural countryside then suddenly, without warning, takes right and left angle turns that appears one might have mistakenly gotten onto a private road inside the middle of a working farm. 

Sometimes the road winds through wooded areas and then rounds a bend where the view bursts open to a wide vista that reaches all the way to distant mountains rising above the horizon. 

All along the way we passed tall, square, windowless, obviously elderly, log structures. Some were nearly obscured with the naked tangled tentacles of vines still hibernating in the February chill. I wondered when I spotted the first one. It was too small to be a cabin. Then by the time we had passed the fifth of sixth one, I knew there must be something in particular these relics represented. Sometimes one would sit precariously next to the road, as though the road pavers had specifically deferred to the building’s first right to be there and left it undisturbed, inches from the asphalt. And then others would be standing like mute sentinels in a stubble covered field or tucked in a stand of tall pines. 

My curiosity peaked, I determined that I’d find out what these old buildings were as soon as I was able.

We arrived at the little United Methodist Church in Penhook and filed in with the other somber guests. The first thing I noticed was that it was decidedly a church. It had all the markers. Stained glass windows that depicted Bible stories and, gasp, a CROSS. There were enough wooden pews to fit several hundred people, if tightly seated. 

The second thing I noticed was what was missing - the stage and the rock and roll instruments. Instead there was a piano and a single microphone. Old, well-used hymnals sat in the racks behind each pew. Everyone seated, the pianist began the service with the achingly tender sounds of gentle worship. There was no throbbing, bumping, thumping or rousing percussion. Just delicately, adroitly touched piano keys, melodiously setting the mood for a humble coming together to honor and remember a life. Several times we were asked to open the hymnal and sing along. Like revisiting old dear friends the familiar lyrics and melodies hugged us with deep spiritual assurance rather than jolting physical emotion. We listened to the eulogies, recited the Lord’s Prayer together and the Twenty-Third Psalm. Even though this was a special service I knew this is what a normal Sunday service would be like in this place.

I began to wonder if I had somehow managed to transcend the space-time continuum. 

Service over we were all invited to go downstairs to the basement where a delicious meal prepared by the church ladies awaited us. We ate and fellowshipped. Not once in the whole time in that building did my ears ever need protection with plugs nor were my nerves frazzled into high danger alert mode. 

On a table outside the fellowship hall I noticed a stack of cookbooks. I know from experience that the very best cookbooks are always the ones put together by the church ladies. I picked up four and pressed a folded bill in the minister’s hand. I didn’t need an excuse to contribute to the little church but it seemed to be the easiest way I could show my gratitude for the experience of church one more time - real church - the kind that is fast becoming extinct–replaced by what is considered superior, the new normal, modern razzle-dazzle. Better. More perfect for this age.

At the end of the day, as we took the winding country road back to Danville to our hotel, I flipped through the spiral bound cookbook marveling at the wonderful recipes it held as we re-passed the old log buildings and I had a strange thought that these two things have something in common–church cookbooks and old log buildings. 

They are both perfectly imperfect. 

In this age of flash and dash, crisp, sleek and precision-devised style, old log buildings would never pass modern rigorous building codes for any purpose and spiral bound church lady cookbooks would never make the best seller list. Neither are perfect by any 21st century standards, meaning: not marketable. 

But I want to point out that the old log buildings - called Tobacco Barns, where the farmers used to dry their crops, some over two hundred years old, are still standing. Still. Standing. Still able to do what they were built to do if anyone wanted to dry their tobacco leaves there. 

And... the United Methodist Church of Penhook, Virginia has been serving the small community faithfully, without fanfare, promotion or marketing since 1956. 

And... the Penhook United Methodist Church Cookbook is full of recipes handed down generation to generation, that have been nourishing families for longer than I’ve been alive. 

Sometimes you just have to carry on without perfection as your ultimate goal. 

Or you could redefine perfection.

For Him,

Friday, February 5, 2016

On True Love

I’m taking some time off to refill my well. Life gets too much with you sometimes and you just need to regroup. 

Thirty years ago this weekend, the love of my life and I eloped. I thought I’d revisit a column I wrote seven years ago–as we were celebrating our 23rd anniversary. Seems in this age of harder-than-ever-to-get-and-keep relationships, this message is as relevant, if not more, than it was nearly a decade ago.

For Him,

Ron and I are celebrating our 23rd anniversary today. We had vague plans to go out this evening for an upscale dinner. Since our special day has graciously fallen on a Saturday, we have had the luxury of moving in slow motion and without much motive to be productive. It’s been an odds and ends day. Between lingering in front of the fire after breakfast, doing a little online research, a little laundry and a little leaf blowing, we both managed to squander the morning quite nicely. By 1:00ish we had both concluded that getting dressed up, driving to a restaurant, eating and then driving back home seemed somehow excessive and completely unnecessary. 

We didn’t really have to even declare this. Knowing each other so well, we just knew it and I simply went into the kitchen, put a chocolate bundt cake in the oven and decided on beef stroganoff for dinner.

This is true love, I don’t care how anyone else defines it.

Too many people marry for the wrong reason. First they erroneously equate physical attraction for love, and then they hang on to a toxic relationship in the name of loyalty to love long after the reality of the absence of love becomes obvious and marry anyway hoping the state of being married will force love to appear. Sometimes both men and women simply fear being alone and thus won’t let go of a dead-end, unfruitful alliance and marry believing that anything is better than being solitary. Some marry knowing the relationship is doomed but gamble that it might work. That is a contributing factor to the current fifty per cent divorce rate. Girls often misinterpret falling in love with love as the real deal. But in the clinches, loving the idea of love can never be the lifeboat of genuine love when the murky waters of living begin to rise and swell into engulfing waves.

I have lived long enough to know exactly what I am talking about, both from personal experience and from watching from the sidelines as dear friends and family have made unfortunate mating choices for all the wrong reasons. There’s an old adage my mother used to quote, “marry in haste, repent in leisure”. Adage or not, it gets to the point. I know of at least four young women, in my life, who have confessed to crying themselves to sleep on their wedding night. Imagine that. All but one of those four marriages did not survive. 

I wish that I had asked each one why she married if she knew it wasn’t right but I didn’t so I can only guess based on what I knew of each of their experiences. Two of the four were rebound marriages. Their hearts really belonged to others but married the first one to come along who asked. One of the four married because she was approaching the forty mark and was afraid she would never get to marry and have a family. The fourth girl married because she wasn’t sure how she would survive on her own. She compromised for security. All the wrong reasons to take vows to love, honor and cherish, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. Easy words to say in the romantic scenario of a wedding day, much harder to actually abide by when health fails, and jobs disappear, annoying habits grate on fraying nerves and tempers flash. Hardship is difficult enough to navigate even with a foundation of love, much less without it.

An old friend of mine had an interesting approach. She said starry-eyed girls make the mistake of creating a list of the things they want in a husband. Even in this egalitarian, liberated woman era most girls still come into this life hardwired to want to have a husband, home and family. The list begins at a very early age. But my friend maintained that smart girls, while making the top ten want list, should really be focused on the top five things they absolutely cannot live with in a mate. This makes perfect sense but is incredibly hard to do when you are glazed over with loving all things about love. You can’t really want to think about negative things.

Everyone's list will be different. Since my friend posed the concept, over the years I have considered what would be on my list, not for myself, having no need for it for the past twenty-three years, but, instead, for some young women I know who have married for the wrong reasons. If I had to make my list now, it would be influenced by the criteria of their failed unions plus my own failures and near misses. It would be:

• No addictions - including tobacco
• Not a narcissist or ego-maniac or control freak (is that 3 things?)
• Not a liar or exaggerator
• Not on the same page with me spiritually
• Finds it difficult to impossible to rearrange his life to accommodate me

That last one could easily be the first in the list but to be effective the list cannot be compromised anyway so it doesn’t really matter about the order. The problem with negative list making, especially when the list maker is already in a deeply dug hole of a relationship, justifying comes way too easy. Even a true and honest list can be fogged over in an instant with excuses–-the most common one being, “I can change him” or “he will mature” or “it doesn’t matter, he has other good qualities”. 

To these I say, “Shut up and run!” 

And frankly, this advice is not just for girls. Guys marry for the wrong reasons too.

The easy comeback is always, “Well, you know, everyone has to make their own mistakes.” But as you get older and more bruised and battered by personal experience, you get smarter about how you learn your lessons. You’ll just have to trust me on this, observation is much less painful.

What is true about true love is that it never needs rationalization, it never needs excuses and it always feeds and nourishes instead of drains, shrinks and diminishes. True love is all about respect and desire to see the other person prosper emotionally. For years my own philosophy about the test of love is that, it’s not someone saying, “I love you” but someone being willing to love you in the way you need to feel loved. 

This is always different in different people, some are high maintenance others are low to no maintenance, the revelation of really true love is the willingness to define the need and accept the degree of difficulty to meet it. Whatever it is, can you see yourself doing it for decades? If not, the key ingredient to the recipe is missing at the get go. This test works in the reverse as well. If your needs, whether high or low, are not being met, then, once again, the recipe can’t work without that one important element–true love.

So, true love doesn’t need fancy dinners out or wrapped gifts - it is the ultimate gift that keeps giving every day. There is nothing better but make no mistake there is nothing worse than to find you settled for much less than the real deal, especially on your wedding night.
Corintthians 13:4-7  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.