Thursday, September 30, 2010

Marquee Madness 4

Does anyone besides me find it slightly disturbing that these events are occurring on the same day? 




Just meditate on that one for a bit.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wordsmith Wednesday

Alright. Time for me to educate all you people out there who don't know how to properly use the 3 "Y's".

NOTE:  I had decided way back in December 2008 not to publish this, but recent complaints by my friend, Alicia, motivated me to resurrect it from the draft archives.  You can thank her for this snarky little tongue-in-cheek post.

What ARE the 3 "Y's" you ask?  They are:  Yea, Yay, and Yeah.

Yea - is an archaic word used to indicate agreement or affirmation.  In other words, its an out-dated form of the word "yes."

Its modern uses should be limited to the historic (quoting a primary source), poetic, and humorous (for effect or emphasis). 

In pop culture (i.e. social networking sites) this word is commonly - and mistakenly - substituted for the next "Y" word, which is:

Yay -  This word is an expression of excitement and cheer, such as, "We won...Yay!"  It is interchangeable with other joyous sentiments such as "Woot!"  "Yippee!" or, as Aunt Riesa would say, "Hot diggety dog!"   If you cannot appropriately substitute one of these phrases for Yay, then you are most likely misusing the word.

Yeah - This is the most flexible of the 3 "Y" words.  It can be used as an informal "yes" (as in "Yeah...I'm going"), but it can also be used in the expression of joy (i.e. "Yeah, baby!").  In both cases, it means YES.  When in doubt about which "Y" word to use, use this one.

Now that you know...do us all a favor and GET IT RIGHT.  (that was compliments of Alicia)


Monday, September 27, 2010

My Daddy

He is an intelligent, hardworking man who remains dedicated to his family. 

I'm proud to say this statement reflects the truth about my daddy.  But, there is a greater, more significant  truth about him which makes me not proud, but thankful.

Through all kinds of tempation and trials, Daddy has been an example of patient endurance.  He always practiced what he preached.  He lived out what he believed and taught.  He never turned aside to the right hand or to the left.  Now, that is remarkable in and of itself, but the TRULY remarkable thing is that when I have failed to follow his instruction and example, when my practice and life have NOT measured up, he has never forsaken me.  No matter what...he has been for me.

The ever-elusive "they" say that our opinion of God is closely connected to our relationship with our earthly fathers. I believe "they" are right. The world was designed such that we are supposed to understand God in light of relationships with those creatures who bear His Image...especially those which are correlative to His relationship to us, such as the Father-Child connection.

I'll say this: if God is like my Daddy, I want to know him.  I want to be known by him.  Why?  Because when I have rejected his teaching by straying from the path, when I have played the fool, even when I have brought public shame on him (which I have done more than once in my adult life), he is there.  Not with a scowl or harsh words of reproof, but with open arms and words of compassion, forgiveness and edification. 

In those moments when every vestige of glory has been stripped away, he has held me in his arms while assuring and reassuring me of his continuing love.  I'm certain that "Tough Love" has its place, but it has been Daddy's tender, forgiving looks and words that have spoken volumes to me about God's faithfulness, His mercy, and His unconditional love. 

My Daddy turned 68 today.  The man has experienced his fair share of heartache, but he is a rock, a strong tower into which I can run and be safe.  He is truly a man of God, and even though my life has not always brought him honor, I hold him in highest regard and hope to honor him with these words today.

I love you, Daddy.  Happy Birthday.

An Icon of Self-Government

I went upstairs to deep clean Eric's room, and found these adorning his bulletin board:





He determined of his own accord to eliminate soda and doughnuts from his diet...at which point, I feared he might die of starvation!  But, as you can see, he has managed just fine and has kept himself on track. 

The last photo shows him keeping track of the physical feats/requirements he has to achieve in order to be accepted into West Point.  Even though that is still years away, he is steadily working on improving his strength, agility, etc. to meet them. 

This kid is delightful.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Psalm 139

Psalm 139

O Lord, Thou hast searched me out and known me
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising
Thou understandest my thoughts long before;
Thou art about my path and about my bed,
And art acquainted with all my ways.

For lo, there is not a word in my tongue
But Thou, O Lord, knowest it altogether;
Thou hast beset me behind and before
And laid Thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge it too wonderful and excellent for me,
I cannot attain unto it.

Wither shall I go then from Thy Spirit?
Or whither shall I go then from Thy presence?
If I climb up into heaven Thou art there;
If I go down to hell, Thou art there also.
If I take the wings of the morning
And remain in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there also shall Thy hand lead me,
And Thy right hand shall hold me.

If I say peradventure, "The darkness shall cover me,"
Then shall my night be turned to day.
Yea, the darkness is no darkness with Thee,
But the night is as clear as the day!
The darkness and light to Thee are both alike.

For my reins are Thine;
Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
I will give thanks unto Thee
For I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Thy works
And that my soul knoweth right well.

My bones are not hid from Thee
Though I be made secretly and fashioned beneath in the earth;
Thine eyes did see my substance yet being imperfect,
And in Thy book were all my members written.
Which day by day were fashioned
When as yet there was none of them.

How dear are Thy counsels unto me, O God;
O how great is the sum of them!
If I tell them they are more in number than the sand
When I wake up I am present with Thee.

Wilt Thou not slay the wicked, O God?
Depart from me, ye bloodthirsty men!
For they speak unrighteously against me,
And Thine enemies take Thy name in vain.
Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee?
And am not I grieved with those that rise up against me?
Yea, I hate them right sore
Even as though they were mine enemies.

Try me, O God, and seek the ground of my heart;
Prove me and excel in Thy thoughts.
Look well if there be any way of wickedness in me
And lead me in the way everlasting.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Eve's Daughter

Though it may not be immediately apparent, I have labored over this composition for eight months now and still remain unsatisfied.  I finally decided that perfection is unattainable and this is the best I can do...so here goes:

Eve's Daughter
by: Lori Shaffer

I.
Scarlet hues caught and held my gaze -
Heavy with nectar,
Ripened to perfection,
Enticingly within reach.
Previously-ignored hunger heightened,
Demanding satiety.
Soft and warm in my palm,
Its sweet aroma ascended,
Forcing my palate alive with anticipation.

"Beware nature's deception," conscience warned.
"That which entices the eye,
Poisons the blood."
Sense dominated reason and bid me taste.
Ah, perpetual bliss!
Treachery cannot be so sweetly disguised!
Each bite intoxicated more than the first,
As a pervasive contentment settled me
Heavily in a hypnotic reverie.

II.
O wretched, writhing, endless agony!
Can beauty breed death?
Or satisfaction birth destruction?
The soul's windows thrown open
Yet strangely blind,
Shrouded in darkness.
Heaving and pain hollow my insides,
While memories of the honeyed nectar
Linger...haunt...drive.

Devoid of strength, I crawl to the vine
Which stands naked
Mocking me in its barrenness.
Craving persists...intensifies.
In desperation, I seek and devour again
My first misery.
Like a soulless dog returns to its vomit,
I am captive to The Forbidden.

O aching, joyless existence!
O lethal deception!
Who shall deliver me from this
Body of Death?
I awaken to a dreadful reality:
Terrible in its shining ferocity,
The sword-armed Angel forbids my return.
I chafe under the threat of his burning gaze,
But weakness paralyzes and prevents escape.

III.
Diverted eyes irresistibly drawn back,
This time to an altered vision:
A Man in white,
Flaming eyes and outstretched arms, invites,
"Come to Me and I will give you rest."
"I demand satisfaction, not rest!" I rebel.
"He who eats of Me will never hunger."

An echo from the past stirs within:
"This is My Body, given for you,
Take and eat."
Could it be this colorless, odorless morsel -
This "Bread of Life" - is aptly named?
I take.  I eat.
The balm of Gilead washes my soul, 
Soothing, filling the void.
As death is swallowed up,
I rise and walk in newness of life.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

9 1/2 Weeks

That's how long I have spared you my obsession with Ms. Browning's poetry, but I can resist no longer.  Her work is too good not to share.


Sonnets from the Portugeuse #8
by: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

What can I give thee back, O liberal
And princely giver, who hast brought the gold
And purple of thine heart, unstained, untold,
And laid them on the outside of the wall
For such as I to take or leave withal,
In unexpected largesse?  Am I cold,
Ungrateful that for these most manifold
High gifts, I render nothing back at all?
Not so; not cold, but very poor instead.
Ask God who knows.  For frequent tears have run
The colors from my life, and left so dead
And pale a stuff, it were not fitly done
To give the same pillow to thy head.
Go farther!  Let it serve to trample on.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wordsmith Wednesday


At Restore St. Louis, the theme this summer was Health & Nutrition.  During the week I volunteered, the emphasis was exercise, so as you might expect, one of the students' vocabulary words was "endorphines."  When the teacher asked if anyone knew the meaning, the most adorable 8-year-old from Burma raised his hand and said, "Isn't that when a boy or girl doesn't have any home because their parents died?"   It was simultaneously pitiful and hilarious.  We grown-ups all looked wide-eyed at one another and contained our laughter as the teacher gently corrected him.   I simply had to make it my Wednesday Word!

Endorphine (n) - fr. endogenous morphine - neurotransmitters that are produced in the brain and have a pain-killing effect

Monday, September 20, 2010

Condition & Promise

From a beautifully encouraging sermon by William Bridge in A Lifting Up for the Downcast:

You may say...I find that God's promise runs upon some condition, and I cannot perform that condition.  I do not find that condition in myself; therefore, I fear that I may not go unto these promises, and that I have no right to them. 

What if the condition required by one promise be the thing promised in another promise?!  Will you then fear the promise does not belong to you?  Now...SO IT IS that the condition in one promise is the thing promised in another promise.

For example: in one promise, repentance is the condition of the promise II Chron. 6:37-38, Joel 2:15-19.  But in another promise, repentance is the thing promised: Ezekiel 36:26, "I will take away a heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." 

In one promise, faith and coming to Christ is the condition: "Come unto me, all who labor and are weary-laden and I will give you rest."  Matt 11:28.  But in another promise it is the thing promised, John 6:37, "All that the Father gives me shall come to me."

In one promise, obedience is the condition of it, Isaiah 1:19, "If you consent and obey, you shall eat the fruit of the land."  In another promise, it is the thing promised, Ezekiel 36:27.  "I will put my Spirit into you and cause you to walk in my statutes."

In one promise, perseverance is the condition, Matt. 24:13, "He that endureth to the end shall be saved."  But in another promise, it is the thing promised.  Psalm 1:3, "His leaf shall not wither." or Jer. 32:40, "I will put my fear into their hearts and they shall not depart from me."

In one scripture of the Old Testament, the coming of the Deliverer is promised to the Jews upon condition that they turn from ungodliness; Isaiah 59:20, "The Redeemer shall come to Zion and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob."  But in another scripture in the New Testament, turning from ungodliness is the thing promised; Romans 11:26, "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob."

Now...if the condition in one promise be the thing promised in another promise, will you fear that the promise does not belong to you because you have not performed the condition?

What if the condition of the promise be performed for you better than you could perform it?  The Lord Jesus Christ HAS performed the condition for all His seed!

Now, if all these things be true:

First, that a man may go to the promise, the conditional promise, with acceptance, although he has not performed the condition;

Second, that the condition of one promise is the thing promised in another promise;

Third, that the Lord Jesus Christ has performed the condition promised for you better than you can perform it;

Then, have you any reason to be discouraged and keep off the promise? 

If you put yourself within the compass of the commandment's Thou, God will put you within the compass of the promise's Thou.


Marquee Madness 3

This Divine Science church stands a couple doors down from my Church and provided the original inspiration for this series:


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hymn of Comfort

O Jesus Grant Me Hope & Comfort
by: Johann Franck

O Jesus, grant me hope and comfort;
O let me ne’er in sorrow pine,
My heart and soul, yea, all my being,
O Jesus, trust alone in Thee.
Thou Prince of Peace,
Thou Pearl from heaven,
True God, true Man,
My Morning Star!

O come, Thou precious Sun most radiant,
Thy beams illumine my heart and soul.

O Jesus, with Thy advent quiet
My restless soul and anxious mind.
In true humility I welcome Thee,
Jesus Christ, my Joy divine.
My thoughts, desires,
And all my longings
I dedicate,
O Christ, to Thee.

O come, Thou precious Sun most radiant,
Thy beams illumine my heart and soul.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hymn of Confidence

Christ Who Knows All His Sheep
by:  Richard Baxter, December 19, 1682

Christ who knows all his Sheep
Will all in safety keep
He will not lose his Blood,
Nor intercession:
Nor we the Purchased Good
Of his dear Passion.

I know my God is just.
To him I wholly trust
All that I have and am,
All that I hope for.
All's sure and seen to him
Which here I grope for.

Lord Jesus, take my Spirit:
I trust thy Love and Merit:
Take home this wandering Sheep
For thou hast sought it.
This soul in safety keep
For thou hast bought it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Interaction

Les, over at Faith and Life, asked his readers to "interact" with this syllogism and the statement from which it has arisen.  So...here I am interacting.  I'm just cooperative like that.

1.  If a perfectly good god exists, then there is no evil in the world.

2.  There is evil in the world.

3.  Therefore, a perfectly good god does not exist.

(Epicurus) Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

First of all, a disclaimer (I'm fond of those!):  whole books have been written about the problem of pain and suffering, and I could not hope to address the issues exhaustively here...or anywhere.  But I will attempt to give a bare bones argument against the logic of the syllogism.
 
It seems to me that this syllogism is fundamentally flawed...something isn't right about its form which automatically makes it invalid, but I cannot immediately identify it and don't have time to get out my logic textbooks and figure it out!   But, I suspect the technical "form" of the syllogism is not the primary question in this case anyway. 
 
So...supposing the argument were sound in form, the next step is always to determine the soundness of the material...is it true or not?  The first task in determining its soundness is to define the major terms, which in this case are "perfectly good God" and "evil."
 
Neither of these terms are definable in and of themselves and can only be understood in light of presuppositions which involve belief rather than verifiable, objective definitions.  If an agreed definition cannot be reached, an argument cannot be satisfactorily refuted or confirmed in its conclusion. 
 
Here is the basic problem:  the ideas of good and evil necessarily assume the existence of a fixed moral standard.  Apart from this, no action or lack of it can be considered morally superior (good) or morally inferior (evil).  Apart from a standard, good and evil become subject to personal or social interpretation, both of which vascillate significantly from person to person, era to era, and culture to culture.  Apart from a standard, these terms remain purely subjective, arbitrary, and in continual flux, thereby forfeiting all truth value.
 
Bottom line: If an objective, fixed moral standard does NOT exist, there is no such thing as inherent good or evil...only personal and social acceptance or rejection of particular behaviors.  If that is the case, the argument cannot be proven or disproven because the terms cannot be defined.  End of discussion.  Refutation or confirmation of this argument requires the acknowledgement that this standard indeed DOES exist and the terms must be defined accordingly. 
 
If we agree that an immoveable, uncompromising, unchanging standard exists, where does it come from?  It can only derive from a Supreme Being (i.e. God) who in His nature and by His works has determined the standard.  If the source is not authoritative and unchangeable, then the standard cannot be authoritative and unchangeable.
 
Why does that matter?  Ask yourself this: Is it evil to burn a toddler with a cigarette lighter in order to subject his will to yours?  Very few humans would say "No," but based on what?  WHY do we consider that evil?  Who says it's wrong?  Me?  The toddler?  Society?  If we cannot trace our judgement back to a fixed moral that issues from the nature of the God who set the standard, then it is simply a consensus of society to call it evil in this time and place, but the act itself cannot be inherently evil.  Unless we acknowledge a universal standard, we have no solid ground on which to judge any act as good or evil.
 
Am I making any sense at all yet?  Is it clear that this particular syllogism lives or dies on the definition of its terms and that their definition requires a fixed moral standard, which requires the existence of God?
 
I think I figured out the problem with the syllogism's form...though I still can't name it.  The framing of the argument is faulty in that it assumes a definition of "goodness" that is characterized by actions that APPEAR to be kind, sweet, patient, or happiness-inducing.  It eliminates the possibility that REAL goodness comes not from sweetness but from sacrifice, not from a frivolous happiness but from suffering.  One can only accept this altered idea of goodness if he affirms and embraces the Truth of The Gospel.  One has to believe this God before he can see that in allowing suffering, God is bringing about ultimate good...that it is the only path to life, resurrection, peace and joy.  One has to reject the notion that if it causes me pain, it cannot be truly good.
 
We know instinctively that good often comes from pain.  We know it in the simple experience of exercise, as manifest in the popular phrase, "No pain, no gain."  But we know it's true on a more profound level as well.   As parents, there are things we do to our children that, to their immature consciences, seem cruel.  We withhold things.  We require things.  We even make their lives very difficult at times.  But WHY?  Don't we have the power to remove their troubles?  Often we do.  Don't we have a kindly disposition toward them that wants to remove obstacles and pain?  Of course we do.  BUT...we KNOW that too often their best interest and their final good lies in drinking bitter medicine or enduring hardship.  We recognize these experiences as necessary for their ultimate joy and for them to grow to maturity and wisdom.  With this understanding, we both allow and even impose "suffering" on them.  This is truly GOOD, even though it is painful, because it is done to bring them to a place of true rest.  So it is with God.
 
He determines what is good, not our subjective experiences.  Afterall, He sees.  He knows.  He understands. He will use all means at His disposal to guide us into true goodness...and in that place we begin to define good and evil differently because on some level we have begun to see with His eyes.
 
I feel the insufficiency of my arguments, but this is what I tried to say in a nutshell:
 
1.  In order to confirm or refute the syllogism, we must define our terms.
 
2.  Defining "good God" and "evil" require the admission of a fixed moral standard.
     a.  If this standard does not exist, the terms cannot be defined, making the argument void.
      b.  If this standard does exist, the terms must be defined accordingly.
 
3.  A fixed moral standard can only derive from the fixed nature and works of a Supreme Being, i.e. God.
 
4.  Good and evil then are determined, not by our subjective experience and limited vision, but by the objective God and his unlimited vision.
 
5.  Because of our limited vision, we are not always able to discern rightly between good and evil.
 
I am well aware that dozens of theologians have addressed these issues more thoroughly, logically, and eloquently, but it's still good for me to have to think about and attempt to articulate it for myself.

Thanks for wading through...

End of an Era

For 2 1/2 years, Aunt Riesa has been an integral part of our daily life.  Her room now sits empty...lifeless...noiseless.  And it makes me sad.

A variety of circumstances led to the decision to return her to an assisted living facility.  Primarily, this move put her in close enough proximity that her mother is able to see her at will.  That's a good thing.

Riesa came to us with special needs (obviously), and her presence in some ways complicated our lives.  It required at least an additional 20 minutes to get ready to go anywhere...hoisting her wheelchair in and out of the car...extra trips to the bathroom...remembering to always bring along an extra set of clothes...etc.   In small ways, our lives were inconvenienced and our "ease" lessened.

But more than all of that, Riesa brought joy and laughter to our home.   Even her grumpiness could be a source of entertainment.  And her hearty laughter, which rang through the whole house when she watched episodes of "Andy Griffith" or "I Love Lucy" made us smile. 

She left her mark, that's for sure.  Grant will remain "Scrant" and Julian will always be "Garfield."  But she left her mark in more significant ways too. 

I was privileged to watch my boys serve her without complaining.  Never ONCE did they express any regret about her presence with us.  We regularly called on them to stay home with her so that we could attend adult functions.  They willingly did all that we asked...without a single complaint in word or attitude.  That right there made the whole thing worthwhile for me. 

When Grant would come home, more often than not, his first stop was in Riesa's room to say Hi or give her a hug.  And I was amazed at the way he could bring her out of the foulest moods and make her cheerful again.

Eric put up with a lot from her.  Riesa spent the first year or more being irritable and bossy with him.  But he endured it and never became resentful.  By the time she left, she was treating him with warmth and kindness too.

Watching Julian take to her and love on her was another joy.  He loved making her smile and getting hugs and kisses from her.  He even loved being called Garfield by her!

I hope we were a blessing to her life, as she was to ours. 

I went to visit her at her new home last night for the first time since moving her in.  We talked and laughed and made silly faces at the camera.  I gave her a foot rub while we watched "Master Chef" together.  She seems happy and settled.  She's been swimming and bowling, and she has returned to her old "school" where she has many friends.  She gets to spend a lot of time with her aging mother.  And she has a fair bit of independence.  Those are all good things.  And as Riesa would say: 

I'M GLAD!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It Is Finished

Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul when he says: "He hath made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us."  They were all put there, every one, there is no limit, there is nothing left.  All the sins of His people are there, every one of them.  He said it Himself on the Cross:  "It is finished," absolutely finished. 

All the sins were dealt with finally and completely, everything.  There is nothing left undone, there is no qualification concerning particular sins...they have been dealt with and God has blotted them out as with a thick cloud.   When you go to Him it is the blood of Jesus Christ His Son that is going to cleanse you.

This does not only mean that your sins are forgiven, but much more.  It means that he clothes you with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  You are hidden, you yourself and your whole personality and life stand in the righteousness of Christ before God.  I say, therefore, with reverence and on the authority of the Word of God that God sees your sins no more; He sees the righteousness of Christ upon  you.  Lay hold of that.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression

Wordsmith Wednesday

The all-authoritative "They" say that English is one of the most complicated languages to learn.  The sheer number of rules and exceptions can be overwhelming for those who claim it as their native tongue, so I suspect that "They" are right in this case.

Do other languages have homophones, homographs and homonyms?  What about heteronyms?   Do YOU know what a heteronym is?  Well, let me tell you.  

Heteronyms are specific types of homographs (words with the same spelling but different in meaning or origin) in which the different pronunciations are associated with different meanings.  Specifically, when you change the accent from one syllable to another, everything changes!  Many heteronyms are the result of one pronunciation being a verb and another being a noun.  For example:

REcord / reCORD
OBject / obJECT
CONverse / conVERSE
PROject / proJECT
COMpact / comPACT
AUgust / auGUST
ENtrance / enTRANCE
PROceed / proCEED
ATribute / aTRIBute
CONduct / conDUCT
CONtent / conTENT
REFuse / reFUSE
SUBject / subJECT

How confusing that must be since we don't write with accent marks?!  These are just a few of dozens...can you come up with more?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Great Commission

I have talked myself out of writing this post several times over the past 2 years - partly because the content is uber-critical and I do not personally know those responsible for what I am going to criticize.  They are likely very faithful and sincere Christians. 

On one of our annual trips to New Orleans to participate in disaster relief, the house we stayed in had an impressive and rather random collection of coffee mugs.  Yes.  I am blogging about a coffee mug.   What can I say?  I've lost my muse and am searching desperately for content.  ;-)  This particular mug was put out by the missions arm of an orthodox denomination.  While I don't recall the logo, I definitely remember the words:  Go.  Connect.  Engage.

Pardon my cynicism, but is there any particular reason someone decided that the original Great Commission wasn't great enough and needed to be altered?  I understand The Church's desire to be culturally relevant, and I suppose sporting a catchy slogan probably seemed a fairly innocuous way to appear that we're not stuck in The Dark Ages. 

But really.  Think about it.  We have already been given our mission... by none other than Christ Himself!  How can we possibly hope to improve on that?!  He has designated His means of bringing in the nations and it cannot fail to bear fruit if we follow it.  Our own little modernized formula carries no power whatsoever!

That mug is simply a manifestation of a broader mindset within evagelicalism which views The Church as another business (albeit a "spiritual" one!) and therefore assumes we must adopt  and apply successful corporate models to our own practices.   I am not suggesting that we arrogantly assume we have nothing to learn from the "secular" corporate world.  We can and should borrow from (plunder!) them in areas of practicality that make life function more smoothly, but I take great exception when we think we must borrow from them in areas that have already been clearly delineated for us!!  Such as our mission.

There is Truth and Power in "Go. Baptize. Teach." that will never exist in" Go. Connect. Engage." 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Seven Pounds

Even though it has taken me more than 2 years to watch this movie, I was able to do so without anyone revealing its big "secret."

SPOILER ALERT:  If you haven't seen it, but intend to, you may not want to read this post.

Initially, I viewed Tim's final act as noble, but on further contemplation I recognize its utter futility.  Guilt and a driving need for redemption drove him to inflict upon himself "an eye for an eye" as a means of self-atonement. 

Yes, he lays down his life for the life of others, but only because he cannot find peace and redemption any other way.  However virtuous it appears on the surface, his is a desperate choice made apart from the Grace of The Gospel.  A tragedy in the truest sense.

Very good story.  Very well acted.  Well worth my time.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Useless "Skills"

Have you acquired any special skills or abilities (AKA: Stupid Human Tricks) which contribute absolutely zero benefit to self or society?  I have a couple of those.  But if I'm gonna share MINE, I expect a little reciprocity...means "you share too."  You can simply describe your skill but I strongly prefer a visual demonstration via photo or video.  (hey...if I can put myself out there, so can you!)

My first useless skill was inspired by my Grandma.  As a child, I was unimaginably impressed that, while cooking with her one day, she up an' said the alphabet backwards without stumbling or hesitation.  I determined to do the same.  And I do...but I have surpassed her...because I can do it fast.  I've slowed it down here so you can actually hear that I'm saying them each correctly!  My record is like...2.3 seconds.


My other useless skill:  I can recite the names of the 50 (or is it 57?) United States...in alphabetical order...in one breath. 



Wow.  I barely made it that time.  Maybe I should lay off the skinnies.

So there.  What random, useless thing can YOU do?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nullification

Thomas Woods, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, recently published another book that I hope becomes "all the rage" and is taken seriously by the populace.  This book is called Nullification.

Woods is proposing that we revive a long-forgotten and forbidden idea.  Namely, that the 50 states use the means of nullification to reclaim the power that has belonged to them from the beginning.  He demonstrates how we might beging to actively resist the federal tyranny that we have accepted passively for far too long.  We have lain idly by as the federal government continues its invasion into every corner of our lives.  In the beginning, the powers granted to it were few and limited, yet man, at his greedy best, instinctively threw off those limitations and immediately began grasping for more than what he had been granted. 

So, here we are today in a climate where the government believes the people are beholden to them instead of the other way around...where our leaders feel justified in spending as much of our money as they want in whatever way they want...where they feel entitled to our trust and obeisance...and where we are expected to passively submit at all costs.

There are a couple reasons I am embracing the idea of nullification.  First, it makes good common sense.  It is not simply an emotional, reactionary response, but a well-reasoned, historically-based and principled idea.   Second, it is in keeping with biblical principles.  It is not about individuals rising up in rebellion against the God-ordained authorities; rather, it is about one branch of God-ordained civil authority fulfilling its obligation to protect its people from the tyranny of another branch of civil authority.  Does that make sense?  In my mind, it runs parallel to the difference between taking personal vengeance for a crime committed (forbidden), and allowing the civil authorities to execute justice for the crime (demanded). 

Quite simply, nullification is based on the belief that when the federal government exercises any authority outside the very limited powers with which it was specifically endowed, their actions are to be declared invalid, null and void, and are to be ignored by the States.  This is the way to prevent federal tyranny.  But now that we've allowed ourselves to live under it for so long, can nullification be effective?  Can we ever really reverse the process? 

I say yes.  But it will require a new mindset...in politicians and in the people...a mindset that is the opposite of what we have been deliberately taught or what we have passively accepted as the norm.  It will require patient, diligent, and persistent effort.

To be cont'...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Talking Politics - Oi-Vay!

I grew weary decades ago of standard political discourse.  In fact, the appellation "discourse" is much too generous as it connotes an exalted level of thought and language of which the public dialogue has been unworthy.  Even those whose conversations may be supported by a modicum of intellect and common sense, resort almost exclusively to vitriolic words and condescending tones, making their point of view unpalatable and easily-ignored.

Each political party is adept at accusing the others and pointing out their failures, but rarely is there any serious, substantial talk about the erroneous philosophies that fuel their opponent's actions.  I am not suggesting that all conversation has to be sugary sweet.  As a student and teacher of composition, I recognize Invective as a valid mode of rhetoric, especially in the world of politics, but when isolated from other meaningful aspects of discourse, it becomes petty and tiresome...like a whining, self-absorbed toddler vying for attention and gratification.

For years now I have avoided politics entirely...partly because I have an aversion to mud fights and partly because I think its importance has been over-valued among American Christians who, for generations, have expected cultural transformation to come about through the vehicle of civil government rather than through Christ's appointed means, The Church.  The primacy of The Church must be re-established before we can rightly categorize the function of politics and government.

Recently, I have begun to hear a few refreshing voices of reason and substance, whose instructive and intelligent thoughts dismantle the idea of government as we know it without taking a single "pot-shot"!  Imagine how effective it might be to lead folks to decide for themselves, based on finely-tuned, effectively-defended, graciously-presented  political philosophy, that our current ways are untenable and that there actually are ways to go about changing the destructive trajectory on which we find ourselves!

The road will not be short or easy, but few worthwhile journeys are.  Thomas Woods offers one particularly lucid and gracious voice that is piercing the darkness with a ray of light.  That ray is called "Nullification."

To be cont'...  

Friday, September 3, 2010

Food of Fools 5

For another take on the deception of flattery, listen to this excerpt from Geoffrey Chaucer's The Nun Priest's Tale:



Of course, we all know what happens from this point, don't we? 


"Chanticleer began to beat his wings.  He stood high on his toes and stretched his neck, closed his eyes and crowed loudly.  At once the fox jumped up, grabbed Chanticleer by the throat and carried him towards the woods." (from Barbara Cooney's version for children)

In real life, the danger of flattery isn't always as obvious as it is in these tales.  Afterall, we all like to hear positive words about ourselves.  We want so badly to believe what we are hearing that we allow ourselves to ignore any warning signs that accompany the words.  The wisdom of a meek and humble heart acts as a guard to help us recognize and resist the lure of flattery. 

May God grant us and our children this wisdom!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Name That Flower

Food of Fools 4

Here is another of Aesop's fables on flattery.  Mr. Carryl has cleverly converted it from prose to poetry:

The Synchophantic Fox & The Gullible Raven
by: Guy Wetmore Carryl
A raven sat upon a tree,
And not a word he spoke, for
His beak contained a piece of Brie,
Or maybe it was Roquefort.
We'll make it any kind you please -
At all events it was a cheese.

Beneath the tree's umbrageous limb
A hungry fox sat smiling;
He saw the raven watching him,
And spoke in words beguiling:
"J'admire," said he, "ton beau plumage,"
(The which was simply persiflage).

Two things there are, no doubt you know,
To which a fox is used:
A rooster that is bound to crow
A crow that's bound to roost;
And whichsoever he espies,
He tells the most unblushing lies.

"Sweet fowl," he said, "I understand
You're more than merely natty,
I hear you sing to beat the band
And Adelina Patti.
Pray render with your liquid tongue
A bit from Gotterdammerung!"

This subtle speech was aimed to please
The crow, and it succeeded;
He thought no bird in all the trees
Could sing as well as he did.
In flattery completely doused,
He gave the "Jewel Song" from Faust.

But gravitation's law, of course,
As Isaas Newton showed it,
Exerted on the cheese his force
And elsewhere soon bestowed it.
In fact, there is no need to tell
What happened when to earth it fell.

I blush to add that when the bird
Took in the situation,
He said one brief emphatic word
Unfit for publication!
The fox was greatly startled, but
He only sighed and answered, "Tut."

The Moral is: A fox is bound
To be a shameless sinner.
And also: When the cheese comes round
You know it's after dinner.
But (what is only known to few)
The fox is after dinner too!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Food of Fools 3

The Leopard & the Fox
by:  Aesop

A Leopard, being no longer able, by reason of old age, to pursue his prey, feigned illness, and gave out that he would confer great favors upon any animal that would cure him. A cunning Fox heard of the proclamation, and lost no time in visiting the Leopard, first making himself look as much like a physician as he could. On seeing him, the Leopard declared that such a distinguished looking animal could not fail to cure him. This so flattered the Fox that he came near, and at once fell victim to his vanity, being unable to flee because of the disguise, which fettered his limbs.

MoralFlattery is a dangerous weapon in the hands of the enemy.

Psalm 5:9 - For they do not speak the truth;  their stomachs are like the place of destruction, their throats like an open grave, their flattering tongues like a steep slope leading into it.