24 February, 2007

Blog Stardom ;-)

I got to post a fun little piece over at Tennis World. It's a fun blog populated by tennis addicts and truly colorful people, and it sounds like I may get some much-needed help on dealing with my mental yips.

Chokin' 'Poke

22 February, 2007

Pixie Dust

I was one of the lucky souls who got to hear a presentation today by IBM. It was truly boring, except in that they reminded us that there really is no pixie dust. No company was going to be able to make all our electronic fantasies come true by waving a magic wand. It so happens there are some things in my life these days begging for pixie dust, and there's none to be found.

I was already BlackBerry-ing about something totally unrelated to the meeting, so I could not write a post on pixie dust right at that moment. Drat! I scribbled myself a quick note about this second distraction, and went back to distracting myself with the first distraction.

As I finally get to sit down to right this post, it's second inspiration is your comments on my post about happiness versus satisfaction. They were wonderfully thought provoking. Corrective, actually. I had posted about how satisfaction is a goal to strive for, while happiness simply is not. The comments, in one way or another, each suggested that even satisfaction often eludes us through no fault of our own.


Pixie dust ain't real.

And to prove that assertion, I thought of Joseph. I was taught Joseph's story years ago, but I learned it wrongly. Here is the version I learned.

He was imprisoned for years unjustly. Within the walls of an Egyptian prison, there was no satisfaction for Joseph. He cried out to God, and nothing happened. He was innocent, and God did not defend him. He wanted to serve God, and he could not. Finally, God sent a miracle to rescue him, in the the baker and the other guy, and his rescuer forgot all about him. So, Joseph rotted for another two years.

But, at least he had his doubts to torment him.

Had he sinned against God in some way? Were his brothers justified in wanting him dead? Was his arrogance that offensive to God? Was he now rotting in this prison only because his brothers were merciful? Maybe they were even more merciful than God wished? Maybe he was only alive because God's will had been thwarted? Maybe Potiphar's wife was the handmaiden of God, sent to fill up the justice his brothers had failed to deliver.

Beneath all his doubts, though, Joseph was faithful. At the deepest core of his being, he never quite lost hope in God. When the day came that he was delivered, he learned that all his doubts were for naught. His faithfulness was given its perfect reward, and his trust in God was vindicated.

Imagine my surprise to read an almost opposite story when I went back to Genesis 39 & 40.

Was Joseph rotting in a horrid dungeon?
It surely does not sound like it. Yes, when the time comes that Joseph is brought to Pharaoh, he is pulled from a pit and shaved, but before that scene we are given a very different picture. Joseph was placed in charge of the prison while he was there. "Whatever he did," it says, "the Lord made it succeed."

Did Joseph fear that he had lost God's favor?
When the king's cupbearer and the baker are confused by their dreams, Joseph says, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me." (I love that he said, "Please," :-) These are not the words of a man living in a state of doubt as to his place before God.

Maybe there is something beyond pixie dust. Maybe satisfaction can exist in prison.

Joseph was pulled from a prison pit, but he had spent his years there in the favor of God. Are we any less loved than Joseph? Are we any less in God's favor?

Ro 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?


Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

We are that reward for which Christ suffered.

There is a hope in the pit. It is that we remain in the center of God's favor, even if it has not yet been revealed. It really is the time for hopeful expectation for us. He will vindicate. He will deliver. He will lift us up. His love toward us is certain, and it was revealed in Christ 2000 years ago, but soon it will be revealed in our lives, too.

And in hope, the weary knees find strength. The thought that the dawn is coming lifts up our eyes to search the horizon, and it puts some steel in our backs. The King returns soon, so we labor to be ready, and our labor is in joy.

No prison - NO prison - has befallen us, but He will deliver us.

It's not quite pixie dust, but I think I can go on with just that for comfort.

20 February, 2007

The Happiness Dilema

First, let me say that I was just a little surprised that nobody really enjoyed "Havidol". That was one of the best parody sites I've ever seen. I don't know exactly who that joker is, but s/he did a fantabulous job of using common medical jargon to mock the medicos. I spent a half-hour out there laughing at all the little details worked into the spoof.

I mean, the trademark name of drug is, "Have it All," but the chemical name is "Have a Fine Time HCI." How rich is that!

Anyway, today's post is not a spoof.

I always read Scientific American's Michael Shermer. He is their local skeptic and atheist. I don't read him to keep up with "the latest attacks" on Christianity. I read it because the guy is smart, and has a great eye for the ludicrous. This month, he nails happiness right on the head. Here is one of his quotes from Gregory Berns:

"While you might find pleasure by happenstance--winning the lottery, possessing the genes for a sunny temperament, or having the luck not to live in poverty--satisfaction can arise only by the conscious decision to do something. And this makes all the difference in the world, because it is only your own actions for which you may take responsibility and credit."

Another example:

Most of us imagine that variety is the spice of life, ... subjects in the no-variety group said that they were more satisfied than the subjects in the variety group.

I cannot tell you whether I am happier than I was 10 years ago, but I know I'm more satisfied.

Ummm. Might be nice if I included a link to the post I'm blathering about.
(Can't get no) Satisfaction

17 February, 2007

FHC: The Church of Tomorrow - Wrap Up

I'm glad that some of you enjoyed Jim and Brenda's little trip through the church in 2027. I really enjoyed writing it, especially because of all the surprises you threw at me! Long about episode 5 or so, when Jim first visited Corner Church, and ya'll told me it sounded cultish, I was blown away. But I was also intrigued.

My biggest thought in starting this series was to show how the church might have to change to be meaningful to Gen Y. It would need to be more involved, more challenging, and more involving. But along the way, I threw in every dreamy idea I could come up with. CC was absolutely my current idea of the best compromise church in the world. It seemed to me to take the best of both worlds, the free wheeling home church, and the moneyed church that has survived eighteen centuries.

You saw it differently. :-)

And that's where it all would have stopped, had coincidence not gotten spooky. That same day, another blog identified me as sounding cultish (easily poo-pooed as bleed-over from someone who might have read comments at this site). Then someone told me the same thing IRL (in real life). And when I told my spiritual mother about all the discussion, she says, "Yeah. I've been meaning to tell you for years that the church should not be that involved in each others' lives." 4 hits in 8 hours or so.

Suddenly, your concerns were huge and growing.

Suddenly, I had concerns. :-)

I won't kid you. I'm not yet convinced I'm wrong, but I'm looking at the possibility harder than ever.

I pretty much decided when my mom in the Lord spoke up that I was going to have to explore what it might mean if CC really were a cult. I could not quite bear to say it had been a cult all along, but driving a stake through its heart was an option. So, Derek emerged from the shadows. And Derek came with the agenda of a true cult leader. I did not have to invent Derek, though, because there's a Derek in every church. Whether he's the young, charismatic leader who has a goal, or the old, sincere gentleman who wants to stop the church's tailspin, he's always there and always pressing.

It sounds like we've all known Derek, and the way he captures hearts and minds.

Corner Church was susceptible to Derek because they lacked the protection of bureaucracy. Since they didn't have a denomination to whom to answer, and because their structure was soo flexible, Corner Church was able to move with the passion of the moment. It cost them.

I've seen it happen, and it sounds like several of you have as well.

The conflict is that I still love Corner Church, and I would still join it in a heartbeat.

After this whole series, I find I'm pretty confused about the church. Who is she? What should she look like? I watched a loving bunch of Christians get sucked down with a sinking church, so I know the benefits of safe churches. I just cannot love a safe church.

Please bear with me while I go on a bit about what I cannot release.

The church is organically fitted to intrigue the omniscient God.

She is made up of the least predictable building materials in the universe, us. She is alternately described in scripture as an army, a bride, a body, a gathering, and a bunch of baby chicks. She is a throng, and a single city as large as the eastern half of America. Mostly, though, she is reward enough to lure the omni-blessed God to the death of the cross.

Do you ever read about her in the Song of Solomon? That whole book is about the delicate dance between her and the Son of Man. I dare you with all that's in me to read that book, and as you do, picture a drive across town to indulge in three services a week.

Picture in your min the worship leader asking everyone to stand and sit and stand and sit while you read how the Shulamite says, "I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek Him Whom my soul loves. ... I found Him Whom my soul loves. I held Him, and would not let Him go ..."

Picture to yourself pews full of believers while you read how the King describes her as, "... built in rows of stone; on [her neck] hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors."

I can't do it.

I have not read many love poems, but I cannot remember a one that suggested that a policy of boring repetition, week after week after week. Is our Sunday service what has caused the King to say, "You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, ..."?

God made each of us different, so very different, from each other. And yet every church is the same. We know some people engage in soaring art every chance they get, and others bake cookies or shovel snow. Some get lost in crossword puzzles while others need to be surrounded by the buzzing of life.

But all across America this Sunday morning, everyone will sing 3-5 songs, give a tithe, hear a truth (with three subpoints) and receive a benediction. The artist's gift will be listening to a sermon and singing. The baker's and shoveler's gift will be listening to a sermon and singing. The crossword puzzler's gift will be listening to a sermon and singing. Guess what the people-person does.

And these are not just gifts. These are their gifts to the Lord. They received gifts to construct the body - to edify her. The artist could draw a timeless depiction of some truth for the visual learners, but her services will not be needed, thank you very much. The crossword puzzler could piece through the obscure details of 1 Cor 15's grammar, but the church doesn't encourage such things. The baker and the shoveler could warm dozens of hearts, but a church is not a home and it's hard to connect in a big building like that.

Praise God, the people persons cannot be kept down. They will get everyone together for lunch after the service, or they'll know the reason why. :-) (People who need people are the luckiest people in the world, I hear.)

I cannot think of one verse in the new testament that looks like an American church service. Not one. I cannot think of one thing about human beings that commends the church service to their edification. OUr pastor is doing a great job, but if I were sitting under Charles Haddon Spurgeon every Sunday, I would not be a happy man. Not until the church has a hope of profitting from every member will I be content.

I heard and still appreciate all your concerns. I registered that my mother in the Lord is concerned. And I loved this whole discussion. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and fears with me. I am more confused on this subject than ever before in my life, but that's a good thing.
I'm still looking.

There's an old Don Williams song that comes back to me over and again, year after year. It's about a country boy that tried his best to do life right. Here's the last verse and chorus.

Good Ol' Boys Like Me

When I was in school I ran with the kid down the street
But I watched him burn himself up on bourbon and speed
But I was smarter than most and I could choose
Learned to talk like the man on the six o'clock news
When I was eighteen, Lord, I hit the road
But it really dudn't matter how fah I go'd

I can still hear the soft Southern winds in the live oak trees
And those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me
Hank and Tennessee
I guess we're all gonna be what we're gonna be
So what do you do with good ole boys like me?

I May Have Found An Answer

Havidol is the first and only treatment for DSACDAD.

They have a self-assessment tool on their website.

14 February, 2007

A Moment of Focus on 30 Years

So, this is my first post back after a nearly two weeks break. That's always a tough call, but more so when I have not been posting largely because there's so much on my mind. And an especially hard thing when the things on my mind are big. I have thought about this post for seven days and worked on it for four. That's a bunch for me.

Circumstances with a friend of mine have given me the opportunity to learn a little bit about anorexia nervosa. It's an odd little disease, and probably the deadliest of psychological diseases. It's fatal in 1 of 10 cases. Like everything psychological, it's not fully understood and especially not by me, but one take on it goes something like this. My life is out of control. People I trusted hurt me, and I am helpless to fix it. If I didn't have so many needs, I would not be so hurt. I can control my needs with logic and will. See this food? My body says I need it, but I know better. I will control this need, and prove that I am in control of all my needs. I will take my life and my death into my own hands, and wrestle it away from those who hurt me. By disregarding my need for something as elemental as food, I prove I am in control of my whole life. Obviously body image and the cult of thinness play into the issue, too, but without the drive for control anorexia does not take root. Fighting pain with control seems to be the seed of this disease.

You can see why anorexia is so deadly. The more you hurt, the more you hurt yourself.

This next statement makes no sense to anyone, not even to the person suffering, but anorexia is a toolset for dealing with life. It is a way of coping with life, stress and pain and enables the person suffering to make it from day to day with those minimal feelings of security that we all need.

We see Anorexia Nervosa as a disease, but its victims see it as a set of tools working for them in dealing with life's agonies. Until the anorexic finds a better toolset, they will continue to use these ones.


The moment I heard that sentence, I repeated it to myself slowly until it sunk in really deeply.

What an amazing insight into the problem. Identifying why Anorexia Nervosa is unhealthy doesn't actually help anyone. Even identifying a better eating strategy won't help anyone. Recovery is a long, hard process of coaching someone to a new use a whole new toolset that feels awful and dangerous. Nothing less than a lifelong commitment to nurturing new strengths has any hope at all.

Learning new strategies does not feel like "healing" to the anorexic. It feels completely foreign. I am learning to play tennis left-handed (mostly because I like doing weird things), and even though I can hit every stroke with style and power, I suck with my left hand. Nothing I do over on that wing feels natural, and I am naturally almost ambidextrous. It should be easy for me, but 35 years of practice and grooving of strokes on the right wing have made the left wing feel all wrong. If I am losing, I quit fiddling with that left hand and pull out the big gun again. The anorexic who begins to learn the tools of "trust and boundaries" instead of "control" is going to feel awkward and exposed and weak and might fall back to old strategies the moment stress levels rise.

Those thoughts were all very frightening, and quite heavy. And then a new thought hit me between the eyes. I was on the inside looking out with this problem. I have all the preconditions for anorexia, but never made eating my toolset. I have that strong need for control, and a strong will to implement those needs, and implement them I did. The only difference is that I did not turn my power against food. I turned my willpower against thought.

Religious fanaticism is my anorexia.

It is odd to gain this insight just as I am so far along in the process of walking away from my fanaticism, but it is still overpowering.

Let me take a close look at what I mean by fanaticism.

A fanatic shuts down the faculty of reason outside of a single dimension. When confronted with a hard decision, the fanatic doesn't collect facts and struggle with hard, contradictory options. He consults whatever his touchstone might be, the bible in my case, and accepts the answer as gospel. His reasoning on any subject amounts to a single question, "What would Jesus do?" He answers it from tradition, proof-texts and direct revelations. And thus he gains control. God said it, so he cannot be wrong when he believes it. Nobody on earth can hurt the fanatic without challenging God. God will bless him because he moves entirely within His will, so he feels secure.

And, of course, most of the time people will agree with the fanatic, or even admire him for his strength - much like they do the anorexic for their body. The fanatic transcends most common temptations, and even ascends to fine works and great commitment to his thing. It's a free ride! He gains control over a thousand pains and the admiration of dozens of distant acquaintances. Of course, those friends closer to the fanatic question the thinness of his decisions, and even their correctness from time to time.

It is a cause for dismay when the fanatic learns that his best friends think he is about to make a mistake on some important matter. Sadly, he lacks the tools to react appropriately to their concern. Instead, he feels threatened by their opposition, and runs back for a fresh supply of divine revelation, scripture, history, tradition, the Spirit, or whatever other religious answer jumps to the front of his mind. He will dress his guess up in the cloth of reason, but it's still a guess. He denies himself, and comes off as spiritual. He comforts himself that he is still moving within God's will. He may feel out of control, but finds peace because God is in control as long as he "trusts and obeys" blindly enough.

The fanatic ought to establish a boundary such that none of these people can tell him what to do, but at the same time trust that they are worried "for" him, not "against" him. Given that trust, he should question himself, and research the decision he is about to make. He should pray for wisdom, and then find out all the risks he is really about to take. Only after investing himself in this process of making a mature decision should he allow himself to feel a peace that what he wants is God's will, and not just good emotions running a little wild.

Instead, the fanatic will revisit his decision, basing his evaluation upon whatever facts swayed him to the wrong conclusion in the first place. Guess what revelation he is most likely to reach? He will engage in all his personal religious rituals, be they prayer or bible study or plinking, and thereby make himself feel safe in counting God as an accomplice in his decision. He will, in fact, be fully assured that he is following God's will.

He is not.

He is starving himself of those nutrients needed for a healthy Christian life in hopes that he will be a lean, mean religious machine for God. Rather like the anorexic who expects their mate to cherish them for the sacrifices they've made for "sexiness," the fanatic expects God to nod approvingly at the denials he has willingly made for the Truth. Those closest to him see an emaciated human, devoid of strength and resiliency, but he sees himself as a paragon of commitment and love for God. And when his friends' contrasting image of him makes itself felt, the fanatic will withdraw from them.

At seventeen, I'm pretty sure I was might' near a perfect fanatic. I don't know whether I made a single decision without perfect blind faith. As a matter of fact, the first real decision I may ever have made was to drop out of college. It's rather a dear one to me to this day. Don't get me wrong, I had to couch it in plenty of religious garb to be able to allow myself that indulgence, but it was a real, human decision merely dressed in fanatical clothing.

The time from 17 years old to 23 years old was the worst I have ever known. If you've ever wondered whether people who really love Jesus can commit suicide, yes, they can. I did not, but only because I was too religious to admit to myself how close I was every day to pulling that trigger. Looking back, I see how few tools I had available to me. I see how very damaged my thinking was.

Slowly, different areas of my life have healed. Oddly, I quit being a doctrinal fanatic a couple decades ago. That's a teeny bit backward, as near as I can tell. People seem to be most fanatical about their doctrine, but I released doctrine first. I think it helped with everything else. I released behavioural fanaticism a little while later, and even moral fanaticism not too long ago. Making my moral decisions based upon scripturally informed reason, instead of pure denial, still feels like line dancing on the edge of a ledge in a gale sometimes, but it's better.

I have to tell you. Sometimes reasoning through a problem feels like eating must feel to an anorexic. It feels like a defeat, and it feels like ugliness incarnate. I used to trust God apart from anything I could see. For the last 20 years, as I have been growing into humanity everything is different. These days, I actually expect His guidance of my steps to make sense. I still weather a deep instinctive fear that God is disappointed because I don't trust Him any more, but more and more I trust He is proud of me for growing and learning to live life. More and more I know living is the way He meant for us to be. Under stress, I might still reach for the comfort of blind faith.

The little revelation that I was a religious anorexic brought three decades of aimless struggle into sharp focus. Oddly, of course, I love that I got to work through it the hard way. The Lord must have known I wouldn't mind. :-)

And I still have three decades left.

It's not too late to learn to live.

08 February, 2007

Blogging: Well, they forced me

This blog is now on blogger2.

For the time being, you will know me as odepoke, but I will convert it to Codepoke somehow, sometime. Deep in my heart I'm one of those codgers who just has to make everything hard, I guess.

I did not have time for this tonight!

'Night all.

Life: If you thought my Superbowl ads post was shallow ...

... you probably want to avoid Puppybowl completely.

And I don't really even like dogs.

I want to pick up a couple threads that I've left dangling, but I don't know when I will be able to. Please forgive.

07 February, 2007

Life: Hold your breathe ...

... and maybe your nose.

Yes, I am about to post a link here that some of you may seriously not appreciate. The message is so accurate, though, that I am going to do so.

Here is the Southpark episode, "Tsst"

There's just too much to say about how spot-on accurate this episode is. And I am too very out of time to go much into it. But if you want to see:
+ The problem with how we raise children
+ The solution to it
+ And why we fail to implement the solution

... this is a fantastic 20 minutes.


If you would rather not spend 20 minutes watching some pretty vile comedy, here's a summary.


Erik Cartman is the ultimate spoiled brat. His single mother simply cannot control him, and in fact, relies on him for much of her self-image. Finally, though, it's too much, and she hires Nanny 911. Cartman has 2 nannies for breakfast. In a fit of desparation, she brings in the Dog Whisperer.

Deep spoiler:

This guy's got it right. Seriously. Everything he says is spot-on. He encourages mom to quit being a wimp, and exert true, meaningful dominance. I have only heard one other man get it so right, and he was a dog trainer too. The point is not to treat children like pets, but to expect reasonable respect without being played like a kazoo. Mom is able to do so with a little coaching, and her son begins to experience real, valuable, and edifying change.

Final spoiler:

It turns out she was able to take control of her son, because she thought she was getting close to the Dog Whisperer. As soon as he leaves for his next gig, she turns to her son for comfort, and undoes all the good that had been accomplished (thereby saving the show from ending.)


Moral: To the degree we are unable to bear the mantle of parent, our children will pay.

06 February, 2007

Engaging God: Daddy Moments

The angels stand before the throne, and fly above and around it, singing, "Holy! Holy! Holy!" They praise the Lord night and day, and we enter into that praise.

We enter into it, and then we blow right by it.

There is praise available to us that the angels cannot know. We are not His servants, as the angels are, but His children. We are healed by the tenderness of His love.

The vast emptiness of space knows His enormity. The heat of the galaxies knows His power. The balance of the solar system knows His architecture. The cycle of life on earth knows His precision. The wild animals know His provision. The angels know His purity. But from the smallest microbe to the vastness of the universe to the greatest of His spiritual servants, none of
them can add to His praise the things we experience of Him.

He lavishes His care on us.

Tender! Tender! Tender, is the Lord God our Daddy!

Life: Dad skills

(You can ignore this post. I just felt like bragging.)

So, I told my son that I had turned the heat up a little bit (to 67 from 62 - Let's splurge, huh?) and then I took off for 4 hours of errands.

When I return, it takes me a while to notice, but the house is frigid.


He must have decided that my act of kindness was emmasculating or some such.

But, the house is just that little bit too frigid. I like the cold, but this is cold. Sure enough, it's 55, and the thermostat is actually closer to 70.


That's not good.

The heater might be 35 years old, so one is a little nervous. And winter has indeed finally gotten here. Poke things all over the place, and look for a big on/off switch in the off position, right? No dice.


When the thermostat's little mercury switch switches, there's no spark. There's always a spark when the mercury switch switches.

Disassemble the thermostat, looking for signs of broken or disconnected. Nope.

Disassemble all the electrical stuff at the heater itself and look for volts with the meter. There's no volts. Check the switch and the breaker. They're both on. Look harder for volts. Disassemble the switch. There's volts on one side, but not the other, no matter what position the switch is in. Turn off the breaker, and take the switch apart, and sure enough - infinite ohms with the switch off, and random, bizarre numbers of ohms with it on. The switch is bad.

Bypass the switch, and voila!


Total cost:
$30 for a new thermostat because I was less than polite when troubleshooting the 1950's model thermostat we had. I could have successfully gotten it all back together and working, but I've wanted a new one for a while. Besides, it's an excuse to get out, and I wanted to get out.

$2 for a new switch whenever I get around to it.

Being the only Dad my son knows who could have figured that out and fixed it, Priceless.

(And I should get bonus points for being able to use a pair of visegrips as a substitute for a thermostat to get the house back up to temp until I could get out and buy the new unit.)


(Finally, Ohio weather feels normal. -1 degree in the morning, and 3 inches of snow out there right now. And I got to drive in it three times. I have not lost the ability to drift yet. :-) The year is not complete unless I've gotten to change lanes sideways, and drop 'er in perfectly without ever letting the rear tires gain traction. It's the only time driving is fun any more.)

05 February, 2007

Life: Opinions of Evil

A survey.

This may be tough. You tell me. Of course, I doubt any of us have a high opinion of evil, but I'm curious where each of us believes evil begins. Is some bad stuff evil, and other bad stuff emotional damage? I expect that if everyone is honest, the answers to this survey may be all over the board.

The idea for this post and its followup came because of a frank discussion of a problem I'm having, but it was only a rabbit trail from the discussion. In other words, there are things on my mind right now, but oddly, none of those things are why I am curious about this subject.

So tell me whether each of these degrees of problems is Evil or Unhealthy. I look forward to some of the funnies that may come from this, but I am on the edge of my seat with curiousity about your answers.

Your spouse comes home after a frustrating day it work, and -
Berates the dog: Unhealthy
Kicks the dog: Evil
Berates you: Evil)

+ Your spouse obsesses about a hobby, and -
Makes you listen to long stories about it for years:
Devotes far too much of his time to his hobby:
Schedules hobby events during your only free time to avoid you:

+ Your steady boy/girl friend -
Says he'll be somewhere and is not three times in a month:
Says he wants to marry you someday then backs off 3 times in a month:
Leaves you and then begs to come back three times in a month:

+ Your best friend is forced to see that he may be wrong on a subject and becomes -
Inordinately sullen:
Inordinately loud:
Inordinately loud in public:

+ Your best friend is deeply hurt by something that does not involve you, and -
Starts putting in long hours at work:
Withdraws from everyone:
Invests in his alcohol of choice:

+ Your spouse is having a hard time getting motivated, and -
He forgets to do things he's promised:
He promises to do things he knows he's going to forget:
He stops doing things he likes if he suspects you like them too:

+ One of your friends is worried about the time two other married people are spending together, and -
Calls to ask you to spy on them:
Calls to tell you his observations and conclusions:
Calls to tell you who agrees with him about this:

Superbowl Ads, if you are into that kind of thing


This lets you run a bracket and see which ad you like the best. I'm going to rate mine by 1) Funny, 2) Effective if I get the chance.

03 February, 2007

FHC: The Church of Tomorrow - Conclusion, Together

Corner Church struggled hard with the can of worms Derek had opened. The whole church struggled, that is.

One of the things that set Corner Church apart was that everyone could play a tiny part of struggling through those worms. The elders (the den mothers) would make the final decision, but because every elders' meeting was recorded (dictaputers were very cool,) they could publish the whole discussion to everyone. Not everyone read or listened to the meetings, but anyone could. And when an issue like this came up, almost everyone had something to say. Everyone could and did give their den mother their thoughts as this drama unfolded. It may not have been true Athenian democracy, but it was something.

Jim and Brenda were split on Derek's idea, so they read the meeting minutes together each week just as soon as they were published.

Twice the elders gathered in as many weeks. They were committed to deciding how the church would reach out to their neighbors, but that was not the real question any more. The question had morphed into whether the church needed restoration from a sloppy unholiness. Derek wanted to lead Corner Church to repent and seek God as a body, and the church was torn over whether to give him the reins. Derek was confident that leading the church to a focus on holiness would bless the church in every way, including experiencing more power in reaching out to their neighbors.

Derek was silent in those elders' meetings. He observed while the other elders presented their convictions. Each week, a few more elders presented why they had taken up Derek's position. Each week the recorder submitted a minute for acceptance stating that the sense of the meeting was toward holiness. Each week, a group of elders would not accept that this was really the sense of the meeting. Each week they published the minutes, and agreed to take the issue up again next week.

Twice Jim and Brenda sat on their couch, and debated between themselves which arguments were strong and which were lazy. Now that Brenda was working, and Lacy was in preschool, free time was scarce, but the time to talk this out was budgeted first. Jim was sure he could persuade Brenda that the pursuit of God required sacrifice, and Brenda was sure that if Derek won, some elder would be calling them about Lacy being in preschool.

It was the undercurrents between them that were so draining, though. Jim was fighting not to think about how afraid he was. He seemed to be married to a woman who did not respect his opinion on anything. And Brenda feared she was married to a man who only cared about his hobbies. Today it was holiness. What would Jim obsess about tomorrow? When would she and Lacy ever become his priority?

They were discussing the elders' meetings, and thinking about the future of Corner Church, but they were both far more afraid than that. The elephant in the room was whether their marriage had been a mistake after all. They were both looking at the escape hatch, and wondering whether they shouldn't get out. Neither of them knew how to be married to someone so wrong. Running away was an appalling thought, but it was there, and had been ever since Derek stood up to turn the church back to God.

The elders gathered again for a third try at the topic.

Together, they would wait on the "sense of the meeting." All the elders had reflected on scripture, and on everything their brothers and sisters had said over the last week. They would each speak from the heart, and if there was a sense that they now had the same heart on the subject, then the church would go that way.

The sense of the meeting was always open to the Spirit's leading, and anything could happen, but the sense of the neighborhood would usually tell the story to an open ear. And the sense of the neighborhood was clear. Tim and Thom were the last two den mothers who did not want to go where Derek was leading.

Derek might have been silent in every elders' meeting, but he had been active between them. He had plied each undecided den mother with free lunches, and helpful conversation. He offered them a chance for "fellowship," and relaxed discussion. And since he was a persuasive man, and more so one on one, each of the elders who accepted his offer came to see what the church really stood to gain in rededicating themselves.

Tim and Thom had no need to be charmed, and declined Derek's gracious offers. Instead, they stepped into the elders' meeting more firmly convinced than ever that this was a bad idea.

When the third meeting ended, and the minutes were published, Jim and Brenda found themselves on the couch again, 'puter in hand. As it worked out, Tim spoke first.

Three weeks ago, brothers, most of you did not feel that the church was failing in holiness. Now, you have decided to take Derek's feelings on the subject as prophecy, a word from the Lord. I question this. I am not convinced. When Derek spoke three weeks ago, the Spirit did not witness in my heart that the things I was hearing applied to us. I don't fear a lack of holiness for myself, and I don't fear it for Corner Church.

Be that as it may, I would caution you there is a risk in going where holiness leads.

Holiness leads to police work - thought police work. It leads to one brother confronting another about things on which scripture is silent. Scripture says that one man can observe a day as holy to the Lord, and another can ignore the same day equally to the Lord. One can eat what another cannot, and both still have holy mouths to the Lord. But policemen never say things like that. Thought police always have to say the same thing together. Either it is holy to watch a football vid or it is unholy. Policemen cannot see that what is degrading for one can be inspiring for another.

And holiness policing will always be that way. If men were silent on everything about which scripture is silent, there would be nothing for the thought police to say, nothing to do. We already know we should abstain from fornication, drinking blood, and moving in with a stepmother. It's not a complicated message, and Corner Church is not supporting anyone who does any of these things.

But what suffers if we focus on holiness? What good things go unnoticed because we are straining at gnats? You cannot enforce, "Love your neighbor as yourself," but that's the only thing that matters. While we turn our eyes into our navels, our neighbors will go on wondering who we are, and why we don't introduce ourselves. And then they will forget about us. And the same thing will happen to our brothers. When your brothers are spying out your holiness, will you seek them out in joy? Or will you slowly begin to lock yourselves in your homes, away from prying eyes?

[The dictaputer recorded a pause here.]

That's my peace, brothers.

Jim stopped reading, and looked at Brenda. He was a guy, so he did not see her swallowing back her cheers. He was barely looking at her at all, really, because his mind was whirring. Tim's speech cut through something in his head, but he was not yet sure what to make of it.

They went back to the meeting minutes, and kept reading. Den mother after den mother stood up after Tim, and each said the same things they had said the week before, and the week before that. Jim even had a hard time concentrating on what he was reading.

When the presentations were done, he was surprised at just how little the other brothers had addressed the things Tim said. Of course, that was the whole idea of the elders' meeting; each brother said what was on his heart without answering anything any other brother said. Still, love trumped holiness and none of the other brothers made a case for love.

Finally, Jim spoke. With so much happening in his head, it was not easy, but he wanted to hear what Brenda thought before they read what the final sense of the meeting was.

"I see why you agree with Tim," Jim said.

"Thank you," Brenda answered. "The biggest thing Tim said to me was, 'I'm not worried about my holiness.' That was just amazing to me, because it's so true. Our holiness is something we get from God, not something we do. But it's so bold to just say it like that! He's my new hero." Brenda smiled.

Jim grinned back. "Yeah," he said, "That took some stones, especially in that crowd. They didn't want to hear that at all.

"I don't know whether I've changed my mind yet, but I'm wondering now," Jim offered. "If it turns out that Tim's right, that there really is a thought police, then I guess I'll want to leave, too."

Brenda answered, "I don't want to leave, Jim. I just want to love the Lord without strangers meddling in my life. If Karen says something to me about Lacy, it will be because she knows me, and loves me, and loves Lacy. It won't be because she's my den mother and thinks she's supposed to keep me in line. When Joy told us about home schooling, it was just wierd. I know she's a den mother and all, but I hardly knew her. I really DO NOT want to leave, but if anyone thinks she can tell me how to raise Lacy just because she's some kind of honcho around here, she's got another thing coming. And she didn't even sound like she liked home schooling!"

Jim nodded in agreement. "If anyone tried to tell us how to raise Lacy, I'd be right with you."

They went back to the meeting minutes, and kept reading.

The dictaputer faithfully reported the recorder entering the meeting minute for the third time. "The brothers of Corner Church presented each other with their impressions of scripture and the leading of the Spirit regarding the future direction of the church. It was clear to everyone present that the Spirit is leading the church into a time of repentance and increased diligence in our obedience to the Lord. Over the next month, Corner Church will ask Derek to share with the church everything the Lord has laid on his heart regarding repentance and holiness, and we will enter into this time as fully as we can."

Brenda could not help but choke a little at reading that, and Jim had to pause to let the full import sink in.

The transcript reported that the minute was submitted to the brothers for acceptance, and that it was accepted unanimously, with two abstentions. Tim and Thom evidently figured they should quit holding the church back.

Jim was just about to tell Brenda that now they would see what was really going to happen when the phone rang. He clicked over to answer it, and it was Joy.

After the niceties and greetings, Joy said, "We talked a couple weeks ago about how I home school Darren and Dawn? I was wondering whether you guys might like to talk more about home schooling over dinner next week? I'll cook?" she chirped.

Jim did not even glance at Brenda.

"You know, Joy," he began, "we haven't announced it yet, but we're probably going to be shopping around for churches over the next few weeks, so I would feel awkward imposing on you for dinner. Thank you for the offer, though."

And just that quickly, it was over.

They set the vidputer aside, and had a good cry. Both mourned something, and both rejoiced for something, but they weren't exactly the same things.

It didn't matter. They were together on this one, and that was enough for both of them.


PS: There was one more minute recorded to the meeting that Jim and Brenda did not quite get around to reading.
"The brothers of Corner Church, with one heart expressed a need to be more comfortable speaking their full hearts and minds to each other. They found, these recent weeks, that knowing their every word was being transcribed made this difficult to do. It was clear to everyone that not reporting the full text of every elders' meeting would make this much easier for everyone, so it was agreed that these would be the last full meeting minutes reported from the elders' meetings."

The minute was accepted unanimously, with two abstentions.

Life: The Washer's Clean Now

Yes. I was really happy that the washing machine did not experience any balance problems doing that load. I just went to switch it out, and noticed that all three piles of laundry were still sitting on the floor waiting to be put in the machine.

What's cool is that as I am listening to the machine fill with water now, I am more impressed than ever at how smart it is. I noticed how quickly it filled with the first (empty) load. This time, it's actually taking some time to fill with water. The machine advertised that it auto-sensed how much water was needed. I guess it was telling the truth.

Still, hmmph. The signs of insanity are piling up quicker than I can explain them away.

At least I don't talk to myself, now that I can blog about things like this instead. ;->

On the plus side, I found my toothbrush motor a couple days ago. Yep. That means that it was missing for over 3 weeks. I have no idea how it got behind the easy chair in the living room. None.

And I did eventually stop brushing my teeth, every night.

Life: What is it about cellphones?

I think we hate cellphones because they impose a pecking order.

First a disclaimer: Cellphones very nearly never bother me. When I'm on the highway next to someone using one, I pay a little closer attention, but that's about it. When I'm in the grocery line, and someone is chattering away, it doesn't even register. When I'm talking to someone and they, "have to take this call," nary a blip.

And yet, I see a lot of people who just despise the little doohickeys, and anyone who raises one to their ear.

Now, I did say, "very nearly." So, yes, I have been bothered by them on occasion. And so, I asked myself what it was that bugged me about the experience.

Most people don't mind someone walking up and interrupting a conversation. And a cellphone call is nearly the same thing.

So what's the difference?

We cannot interact with the person on the other end of the cellphone.

When a stranger walks into our conversation and interrupts us, they give us a nod and more or less ask permission to interrupt. When a stranger calls and interrupts us, the receiver of the call may never even admit that we are there. They just duck their head, and start talking. Suddenly, we are excluded even though we are standing right there.

The receiver of the phone call is making a second social connection, while we are actually being "cut" (socially ignored as an insult) during the connection we already had. The person on the other end of the phone just became more important than we are, and we may never even learn whom it was.

Of course, restaurant cellphone use is offensive for another reason entirely. Or is it? Everyone in the restaurant is talking, so it's not the talking that makes it bothersome. And nobody cares that the guy is cutting his girlfriend, or whatever the story might be. Instead, it is the inappropriate volume that gets to us. The phone conversation has to be as loud as it has to be, and it is not influenced by the environment. If he has to yell to be heard, we are going to hear his side of the conversation all over our own. The dude on his phone is cutting all of us by saying the person on the phone is important enough to interrupt every last one of us, and that without apology.

I bet it will not be too much longer before a form of etiquette will be found that makes it all cool again. Granted, us codgers won't cotton to it, but what else is new. Teens already explicitly recognize taking a call as a social cut, and aggressively punish each other for overmuch cutting. It cannot be too long before they come up with a way of taking a call and not offending their peers. It will probably involve the call receiver physically walking away, because that way he releases the ignored person from responsibility to hang around. Or the ignored person will be allowed to walk away without remorse.

Just thinking again.

PS#1: I thought about this as I was taking BlackBerry email at a restaurant. I was wondering if anyone hated cellphones enough to hate that a person alone at a table might use one.

PS#2: I wonder if the reason the phone use does not bother me is that I already consider myself to be at the bottom of the pecking order? I'm simply not high enough on the pecking order to be offended when one of my superiors takes a call. You see, one of the times that I do get miffed by the phone is when my daughter takes a call while we are talking. Maybe I'm just not ready to take that cut yet?

PS#3: Here is some cowboy cutting, if that kind of thing interests you. I happened upon it while searching for social cutting.

01 February, 2007

Treasures in Heaven

Just a brief thought. It's a little late for me tonight, but I wanted to get this out of my system. [And a day of crises kept me from finding out the details of Jim and Brenda's fates. That almost guarantees they will not be up until Sunday. :-(]

I have always wondered what treasures I should be storing up in heaven? What are the talents that I should be multiplying? What are the fruits that I should be bearing?

I've always looked at context and come up with either good works, or souls led to Christ. Which makes me a complete zero. And that is depressing in a number of ways, but that's not what this post is about.

It occurs to me that the treasures might be moments of love.

The moments in which we have truly given love, God's love, love from that place in us that only God could have created.

As I rolled that around on my tongue, it occured to me that treasures are things we are going to want back some day. A treasure is not just a cipher somewhere, but a thing that we deposit for later withdrawal.

And so it might be with acts of love. We deposit love into someone, and love is there paying back to us for all eternity. That would be a treasure in heaven. And that gets me away from seeing God as the Great Arbitrator of reward and withholding. That makes it more like planting seeds to grow and bear fruit forever than trying to stay above some eternal performance metric to receive my end-of-year bonus. That love would pay in love is just, what's the word I want? Whole.

Just thinking.