Dear Lee: I can't determine who is more demented: the people committing incest or the people excusing such behavior by placing the blame on the devil. The people who committed the criminal act of incest have to accept their own responsibility for the deed and not excuse such behavior on mythical spirits.
It is not Satan causing the trouble in the world; it is people. If we accept the pathetic excuse that Satan is the cause of our problems, then there is little we can do about such problems. We might as well let the criminal go free and tell him, "We know it wasn't your fault; it was Satan's."
People don't need a god to behave responsibly -- just a spine and a realization that they are responsible for their own actions. -- Doug in Kansas
Dear Doug: Yes, NO one -- believer, agnostic, or atheist -- should excuse their behavior by blaming someone else, the devil, or their upbringing.
In the "Journey of Faith" letters from people who believe that the molestations perpetrated upon them were motivated and used by Satan, never was the blame placed ONLY upon Satan; no one absolved the sexual predators of their responsibility. Truly, believers who acknowledge Satan's existence are not "demented," but simply understand that there is an evil one who manipulates and uses our choices and behaviors to spread wickedness and attempt to diminish the impact of God's good, loving guidance in the world.
As my psychologist-relative states, our childhood experiences and models DO help shape our adult values and affect our behaviors and choices. Nevertheless, we must accept responsibility for our actions. Discerning and reviewing the long-term effects of the roots of our attitudes and behaviors does indeed help us grow and change.
Dear Lee: I thought I'd share something that happened to me in 1976. I had to have surgery. I had a cut which was 28 inches across my belly. Earlier, the doctor had told me that it wouldn't be but 6 inches long!
That day, I just gave up. I put myself in the Lord's hands. He was the only one who could save or take me.
Then, I saw my Lord that day! He stood next to my bed, and he saved me and forgave me. Thanks, and God bless you. -- Joyce, Decatur, Ill.
Dear Joyce: Thank you for sharing this event. No wonder you fell into despair, when you discovered a much longer surgical incision than you'd expected. God was so gracious to send you this comforting and encouraging vision. Your story teaches us to put our full trust in God -- even when we're experiencing the deepest fears of our lives.
Dear Lee: I think the Y2K problem means we are in the End-Times. Don't you? -- Anonymous, Bettendorf, Iowa.
Dear Anonymous: It's possible. However, rather than focus on predicting or worrying about the "End-Times" -- which refers to the tribulation that Christians believe the world will experience in its final years -- Jesus Christ urged his followers to live righteously and gratefully.
"Y2K" means "Year 2000." Millions of computers have software programs that use two (not four) digits to designate the year (hence "1998" becomes "98"), and might malfunction when their calendars change from "99" to "00" at midnight, Dec. 31, 1999. Some experts believe that many businesses will be Y2K-compliant by then -- but possibly one-third of the date-sensitive mainframe computers will still require updating. Pray that God shows us ways to ensure our safety.
Dear Readers: The holidays are lonely and painful for people without friends, family, or faith in God. Please write now to cheer them this season with your holiday memories of love and compassion. Through your inspiring letters, God can transform their lives.
-- Lee Thomson is an ordained Lutheran and syndicated columnist. How did God bless your favorite Thanksgiving? Write "Dear Lee" at PO Box 6256, Rock Island, IL 61204-6256; or call 1-309-786-5957; or e-mail DearLeeCol@AOL.com. Lee MUST have your name AND telephone number, but can publish your material anonymously.