The Last Minute

Friday, February 28, 2014

Some people, including yours truly, have the bad habit of waiting till the last moment to complete projects or goals.  We cram as much work as possible into one day or one hour, usually getting everything done only a few minutes before the deadline.   

A few years ago I wanted to submit an essay about the Federal Reserve to a contest.  The deadline was the New Year, so I spent New Year's Eve laboring in my studies on the intricacies of economics.  I finished the essay on time, but missed out on time I could have spent pleasantly otherwise.  

However, on my "hurry to get everything done" days I get a lot of things done.  One Bible verse I am reminded of is "Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."  We don't know when the deadline is for this world or our lives.  We need to be ready at any moment for Jesus to return.  

Any moment could be our last; do we have our lives in order?  Do we have everything we need to get done completed?  There won't be time for last-minute changes.  The Lord said He will return like a thief in the night.  Are we ready for eternity?

The Sunshine Award

Many thanks to Caitlin Baughman who blogs at Daughter of Destiny for nominating me for the Sunshine Award.  The Sunshine Award is a way for bloggers to learn more about each other by asking 10 questions.  Here are my answers to Caitlin's questions:

1. What's your full name? Bethany Grace Carson

2. Favorite color? Green and pink--the colors of grass and flowers in the summer. 

3. What color do you wear most often? Blue

4. If you won $10,000, what would you do with it?  Take my family out to our favorite Chinese/international buffet to celebrate and discuss what to do with it--decisions, decisions!

5. How big is your family? 3 marvelous siblings, my wonderful parents, and I for a total of 6.

6. What's your favorite animal? Why?  Rotisserie Chicken; it's delicious!  But seriously my favorite animals are dogs (particularly our dog Ginger) and cats.

7. What's your favorite season? Why?  My favorite season is summer because it's warm.  I can work in my garden, travel without worrying about blizzards and hazardous road conditions, and spend a lot of time outside without freezing.

8. Name 5 of your favorite movies:  The Sound of Music, Sergeant York, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, The Absent-Minded Professor (hilarious!), and perhaps Going My Way; however I watch movies only rarely and some of the above I haven't seen in years.  I prefer watching series from the '50s, '60s, and early '70s such as Hogans Heroes, Garrison's Gorillas, The Rat Patrol, Mission Impossible, Get Smart, The Six Million Dollar Man, Big Valley, Black Saddle, Wanted Dead or Alive, and the Andy Griffith Show.

9. Favorite Sport?  Ping-pong, volleyball, soccer, and chess (if you can call that a sport).

10. Would you rather go camping or spend the night in an RV?  I'd rather go camping.

 If you are nominated for the award and would like to participate, please answer the questions below; then nominate your own list of bloggers for the award, and ask them 10 questions.  

My nominees are:

Gabriela at Under Grace
& if anyone else would like to participate, feel free to nominate yourself!

Always enjoy reading you ladies' blogs!  Here are my questions:
1. How did you become a Christian?
2. What is your favorite Bible verse?
3. What's your favorite color?
4. What are your favorite sports or other hobbies?
5.  If you won $10,000 what would you do with it?
6.  What are your favorite shows/movies?
7. What are some of your favorite books?
8. What's your favorite animal and why?
9. What's your favorite season and why?
10. What was one time you were in a very difficult situation and the Lord helped you?

Good Friendships

Having good friendships makes life happier!  We can't always expect others to be good friends, but we must make sure we ourselves are trustworthy.  Below are listed a few qualities which can be found in the greatest friendships of the Bible.
Two of my forever best friends and I under the St. John's Bridge
1. Fellowship and Encouragement: "The Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend."--Exodus 33:11 "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."  --Proverbs 27:17  "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel."  --Proverbs 27:9

God created man to have fellowship with Him.  Abraham was called the friend of God.  The Lord wants to talk with us and wants us to talk with him; He wants to be our Friend.  Our friendships with other people should glorify the Lord.  We need to "encourage one another and build each other up" in the Lord.  Our conversations should help each other progress on life's way.

Biblical examples: Jesus is the premier example; he loved his disciples and spend his time talking with them and telling them about the Kingdom of God.  

2. Faithfulness and Trustworthiness: "Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not."  --Proverbs 27:10

Be a faithful friend, not a fair-weather friend.  Never betray anyone.  Your first allegiances should be to God and your family; you should always be trustworthy.  Be someone who can be depended on.  A true friend is one who is always there, even when the going is tough.  

Biblical examples: Ruth's name is nearly synonymous with faithfulness.  She left her homeland and all she held dear to take care of her mother-in-law Naomi; she never deserted her.  God rewarded her for her faithfulness.  Jonathan was faithful to God and David even when his own father was trying to kill David.  David's friend Hushai helped him when he was running for his life from his son Absalom.

3. Caring: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful."  --Proverbs 27:6.

It's important to care enough for your friends to tell them truth, even if they don't like it.  There are "yes men" in the world who flatter and agree with everything, but they are not good people to be around.  Don't be like them.  Always speak the truth in love.  Constructive criticism can help people--but be sure to keep it constructive! 

Biblical examples: In Galatians 2:11 Paul tells about his disagreement with Peter because Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles when other Jews came to visit.  Paul "withstood Peter to the face," because he believed what he did was not right.  They both were servants of God, and it appears from other books in the Bible that they remained friends.

4.  Joyfulness: "When she hath found it, she calleth her friends and neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost."  --Luke 15:9

One of the best parts of friendship is happiness and rejoicing together.

Biblical examples: After God delivered the Jews from the hands of Haman, Mordecai and Esther proclaimed a day of rejoicing and giving gifts.  The Bible says "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice."

May God bless you with many happy friendships!

Bad Friendships

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I recently decided to make a quick study of friendships in the Bible.  Below are listed a few types of friendships/friends which seem advisable to avoid.
1. Friendship with the world: "Know ye not that friendship of the world is enmity with God?  Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."  --James 4:4

God has called us to be a holy and peculiar people.  The world hated Jesus and will criticize anyone who preaches the truth.  The devil is the god of this world and to please the world a person must bow to him.  Stand up for what's right.  Never compromise with the devil even if you are ostracized, persecuted, and hated. 

Biblical example: When Pilot was trying to find a way to release Jesus the Jews told him, "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar."  Pilot bowed to their will and crucified Jesus.  Who cares if you're Caesar's friend?  You don't want to be friends with the devil.  

2. Friendship with the wicked: Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul" --Proverbs 22:24-25

Don't make close friendships with bad people--even "to reform them."  Bad habits, like the flu, are contagious.  Do not tolerate evil.

3. Fair weather friendship: The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends."  --Proverbs 14:20  "My lovers and friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off." --Psalm 38:11

Some "friends" will desert you as soon as any problems arise.  They'll be there for you when you're rich, having a good time, and famous, but will be gone the moment things turn sour.  Even worse, they may betray you to save their own skins or make a little extra money.  This type of friend is dangerous!

Biblical examples: Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver is the most well known example.  Others are the "friends" at Samson's wedding who cheated on a bet and later stole his wife. Jeremiah prophesied that in the fall of Jerusalem, people would "eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friends in the siege."  Does that make you feel like being more careful about choosing friends?

4. Job's friends: "Miserable comforters are ye all."  --Job 16:2

Some friends are determined to straighten you out for "your own good."  They have good but mis-directed intentions.

Biblical examples:  Job's three friends are a perfect example of this.  They came to comfort their good friend Job, and instead ended up accusing him of being a terrible bad sinner who needed to repent.  Their "comfort" made him even more miserable than he was before (God said Job was a perfect and upright man).  Another example are Jesus' friends who thought he had lost his mind and needed mental help (Mark 3:21).

Thankfully there are also examples of wonderful friendships in the Bible:
Stayed tuned for my next post about good friendships!


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Here in Iowa the weather is extremely capricious.  One year we had a day in March reach 90 degrees; 2 days later it was below freezing again.  Some years we plant in March, and other years it snows 6 inches in May.  We never know what to expect.  
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever; he never changes.  We are supposed to be "changed from glory to glory" to be like Him, but not "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine."  A person who changes his beliefs and way of life to please other people will always be changing and always confused because it is impossible to please everyone.  

It's important to know that what you believe is the truth, not because someone else said so, but because you know for yourself.  As Paul said, "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he has able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."

People are often well-meaning but misguided.  Listen for good advice and ways to improve, but take everything with a grain of salt and weigh it prayerfully against the Word of God.  You will be miserable and regret your decisions if you change your life just to make others happy.  

People fail.  Trends change as quickly as Iowa weather.  Don't base your beliefs solely on what other people say; if you do, you will be disappointed.  There will be a new trend tomorrow. Base your beliefs on the Word of God.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  Jesus never fails.  He is the solid Rock and foundation on which we must build our lives.  

Truth or Hypocrisy?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

During the holiday season we bought some eggnog which was advertised as made with nonfat milk.  While we were drinking it, we read the ingredient list.  Sure enough, nonfat milk was the first ingredient, but cream was the second!  Advertising can be honest (yes, it was made with nonfat milk), while also deceitful.  Another time we bought Raspberry Juice only to see the first ingredient was apple juice--though somewhere down on the ingredient list there were raspberries. 
Hypocrisy is rampant in advertising, except in television commercials for medicines.  These commercials tell how the medicines will cure your minor ailments such as restless leg syndrome, heartburn, or a cough, but if you experience any side effects such as rashes, dizziness, fainting spells, or shortness of breath, contact your doctor immediately as you may be at risk for tuberculosis, stroke, paralysis, or death.  However, the medicine is guaranteed to heal your cough within 24 hours.

I and many others would certainly prefer to drink the creamy non-fat eggnog and watered-down raspberry juice over taking honest medicines which we know could kill us.  Unfortunately for us, many politicians have noticed this trend.

People like to be told what they want is good for them, whether it's eggnog or government handouts.  Consequently, most often a politician would have a better chance of winning if he dished out empty promises and told the people life will be easy.  If a candidate told the voters the cold hard truth about the problems this country faces and the measures that would need to be taken to solve them, chances are he would not be elected.  People do not like to hear the truth when it is unpleasant.

When you vote, don't just read the front page where the candidates tell you what they want you  to hear.  Take a look at the ingredient list--their voting record, the books they've written, and their lives.  Make sure you know what you're voting for.

Most importantly, embrace truth in your own life.  Only say things you mean.  Don't waste time ignoring or avoiding your problems, acknowledge them and face them.  Read the Bible and know Jesus who is "the way, the truth, and the life."

The truth must be heard.  If a problem is never acknowledged it can never be solved.  As the Bible says, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Broken Pawn Reserve 2014: Part 2

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We finished lunch, and I joined my fellow chess players to play bughouse.  Some of the players in the expert division, including FM Awonder Liang, joined us for a few games.  The bughouse games were fun, but all too soon it was time for Round 3.
My opponent this time was Chirag Jain (1157).  He played the English opening, one of my favorites since it used to be my main opening.  Unfortunately he dropped a pawn and then lost a rook for a bishop and the game was over quickly.  

Since many games were still in progress, I had plenty of time to watch games in both the expert and reserve sections.  I had brought Silman's Reassess Your Chess with me as reading material in case I had some extra time, but watching the games proved to be more interesting.

In the final round, I found myself matched against Edin Divonavic, rated 1920, who had easily beat me in spite of 5 to 8 minutes time odds against him at the Des Moines Time Odds Blitz in June.  I was hoping for revenge, since a win would give me a chance for placing in my rating division. 

I won only by an unfortunate oversight of the Q+B team (Bishops can be useful on the back rank!).  I was surprised, and am sure I will need to do a lot of studying to survive the next time I'm matched against Mr. Divanovic in a tournament!  He's a skillful player and oversights aren't common at his level. 

Papa also managed to win his last game for a score of 2 wins out of 4.  I asked Awonder Liang for his autograph to add to my collection, and he graciously complied. 
My autograph collection currently includes State Representative Pat Grassley, U.S. Representative Steve King, Former State Representative Annette Sweeney, FM Paul Truong, Paul Truong Jr., Anu Bayar, GM Susan Polgar, Columnist Mark Shields, Musician Phil Gould of Sugar and Spice and his wife Debra Gould, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassely,  Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and FM Awonder Liang, as well as piles of notation sheets featuring the autographs of (by now) probably most Iowa chess players.

The last game in the Reserve section ended, and Tony Dutiel and Tim Crouse were crowned co-champions.  Papa tied for first U1400, and I tied for first U1600 (each winning $25).  Papa and Hank played a few interesting games of Ping-Pong.  The expert section games were still in progress when we left; Awonder Liang, Kushan Tyagi, and Robert Reynolds eventually emerged victorious.

On our way home, we went shopping at Mernards for a new thermostat for our central heating, which had stopped working.  We found one and were thankful that it solved our problems--it is less than pleasant to be without heat on a night when it's 20 below zero (F) outside! 

We had a great time at the tournament; many thanks to Hank Anzis for directing!  It was nice to have a tournament so close to home and to see so many chess players we've met at various tournaments over the years.  I'll be hoping for another Broken Pawn tournament next year, if not before!

Broken Pawn Reserve 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

One chess tournament I didn't want to miss this year was the Broken Pawn U2000 tournament held on February 8th in conjunction with the $1150 Expert Open directed and organized by Hank Anzis and  NM Tim McEntee.  My papa, Iowa Reserve co-champion Tim Carson, also thought the tournament sounded fun, so we left home at about 8:30 and headed toward Marshalltown.  
There was a light blanket of snow over the road, so we decided to take the gravel route where we would have the road all to ourselves; for a good part of the way we were the trailbreakers--there were no tire tracks ahead of us.  

On the way I read Isaiah 50-52.  One verse I really like is Isaiah 52:10 "The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God."  Whenever I'm ready to get down to serious business whether in a ping-pong game, gardening, or washing dishes, I roll up my sleeves.  Someday God is going to roll up His sleeves and say, "That's enough!" to all the sin and suffering in this world, bring judgment on the wicked, and save the righteous; every eye will see Him.

I finished reading just as we reached the outskirts of Marshalltown.  We pulled into the Salvation Army.  I settled in to a practice game with Seth, one of the regular Marshalltown chess club attendees.  The practice game helped me get into tournament mode. 

Soon the first round started, and I found myself paired against Cliff Yates who was playing his first rated tournament.  One never knows what to expect when paying unrated players, so I tried to be very careful.  The game was tough to start with, but eventually I managed to pull through a victory.  Mr. Yates, who is a part-time photographer, posted an awesome Youtube video of the day in photos here

I watched other games still in progress and talked with a gentleman who was playing in the Unrated Team Iowa meet-up, held in the same spacious room as the Reserve tournament.  This was his first over-the-board tournament after a 30 year hiatus from tournament play during which he had maintained his skills through correspondence chess.  Papa was playing on board 2 against someone rated in the 1700s.  He fought valiantly to the last second (literally), but lost in the end.

Round 2 started and I found myself on board 2 facing Joe Meyer, rated 1768.  The last time I played Joe was about a year ago at the Panther Open; I was slightly nervous as he had won both that game and our game at the Iowa Blitz Championship in 2012. 

I fell for an opening trap which would have lost a piece, but he overlooked it at as well, and I survived to see an interesting mid-game.  My position seemed good for part of the game, but my skillful opponent managed to worsen the situation for me.  At the end of the game I was low on time (And wishing for the 45 second delay we have in Team League).  The tournament's 45 5 time control is more practical for over-the-board play, but it can still be tough when playing against a difficult opponent.  The position shown when I quit notation is not completely lost, but it's far from ideal and quickly crumbled.

After round 2, it was time for a lunch break.  I was starving, so Papa (who won his second round game) and I unpacked the lunch Mama had sent with us and enjoyed sandwiches and yogurt with cold water to drink. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 which will be posted soon!

Running the Race

Friday, February 7, 2014

The opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi will be held today as the world looks on.  Olympians will be watched by hundreds of thousands of spectators in the stadiums and billions more on television (An estimated 4 billion people watched at least some part of the London Olympics in 2012).  The athletes represent their countries to the world in what is intended to be an international display of sportsmanship, competition, and goodwill.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, Paul likens our Christian life to a race:

"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?  So run, that ye may obtain.  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible."

The athletes at the Olympics have worked very hard and endured hours and hours of practice and training to ensure they represent their countries well.  We are ambassadors, representatives of the Kingdom of God.  Do we represent the Lord well?  

The prize for which we strive is much more important than a gold medal.  Eternal life, the gift of God, can be ours through faith in Christ Jesus.  We must not let anything distract us from doing His will.  We need to read the Bible and ask the Lord to open to us the Scriptures, so we can understand how He wants us to live our lives.  

The Apostle Paul's work was not applauded by men.  Billions of spectators were not there to cheer for him as he preached the Good News of Jesus Christ.  In fact the only time thousands of spectators cheered for many early Christians was when they were fed to lions and other wild animals in the Colosseum.  Paul was beaten, stoned, persecuted, and finally beheaded; he did the will of God regardless of the consequences and regardless of whether anyone else approved.  Before he died he was able to say with confidence, 

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."  
--2 Timothy 4:7-8

Be bold in your work for the Lord and represent Him well.  God has wonderful things prepared for those who love Him and confess Him before men.

Happiness... Today!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ecclesiastes 6:9 says, "Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire."  It's important to have goals and "Ponder the path of thy feet and let all thy ways be established" as Proverbs 4:26 says, but it's also important to enjoy today and what you have and see now.  
What good would it be on a hot summer day if we sat roasting in the sunshine thinking of how wonderful it would be to someday be a millionaire, have a built-in swimming pool in the back yard, a maid to bring us cool (freshly imported Parisian) lemonade, and a servant to hold our parasols and fan us.  Chances are that this "wandering of the desire" would end in a horrific sunburn.  

I think most of us would agree it would be better to squeeze a couple lemons and make lemonade, and go swimming in the nearest lake or river (nevermind the leaches), or a 15'x36" swimming pool from Walmart.  

The sight of our eyes is usually not perfect and often a lot of work, but the key is to enjoy it!  Riches and fame don't bring happiness; only God can give true happiness.  The Apostle Paul said, "I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."  That doesn't mean he did not work to improve his circumstances, it means he was content no matter the situation.  An unhappy and pessimistic person will remain miserable in the brightest of circumstances, but a person who is filled with the joy of the Lord will be able to persevere in the worst of circumstances.

Appreciate the good things, dear people, and happy moments you have today.  Peace, love, and joy can bring you more happiness than wealth and acclaim. As Walt Whitman said, we must have "Happiness, not in another place but this place...not in another hour but this hour."