27 July, 2007

Minesweeper - The Perfect End

Yes, it had to happen. I got a tough one. 203 seconds into it, there were 9 boxes not yet revealed, and 4 mines somewhere within them. It had been a slow, hard slog. 242 seconds and one guess with the odds, there were 4 boxes left in the exact center of the board. It's almost never that the last boxes are in the center. The whole struggle emanates from that foundational place, and it is always resolved.

Not tonight.

There were 4 boxes in the exact center of the board, and 2 mines hidden within them. The 10 boxes around them were in a perfect pattern, the likes of which I'd never seen. At each of the 4 corners was a flag, and between each flag was a pair of 2's. If you start in the northwest corner, and work clockwise, the pattern was:
flag (again)

The exact mirroring of clues was both unheard of, and crippling. It was mathematically impossible to determine the position of the final mines. That, of course, is not too rare, but to be flummoxed by order instead of chaos? That's some serious hen's teeth there!

The final position of the mines was assuredly at opposite corners. If the NW corner were mined, then the SE corner would also be mined. Or, if the NE corner were mined, then it would be the SW corner that held the other mine.

The trap was perfect.

There were no clues left. All that remained was gut instinct.

And I guessed ...

... wrong.

My life simply cannot be lived by luck. In the words of that most famous of songs, "If it weren't for baaaaad luck I'd have no luck at allllllll."


26 July, 2007

The Holy War - 1972

John Bunyan wrote a book a few centuries ago called, "The Holy War." In it, he likened the battle for the human soul to the defense of a walled city. The city had an ear gate, eye gate and mouth gate, and the town leaders made all sorts of debatable decisions. I don't remember much about the book, except the metaphor. I don't even remember whether Mr. Bunyan made the key point, the point I want to make below.

I would invite you to travel back in your mind, and picture your own salvation story as a secret struggle for your soul. What was it like for you? Here's mine. I won't kid you, this is kind of long and definitely "unique." My only defense is that it's all true.

I was 7 years old at the time.

Part I
The city of Codepoke was only beginning to have commerce with the rest of the world, and recently it wasn't doing very well. It had fallen from grace in the eyes of its peers, and was trying to cope with suddenly being one of the unpopular cities. Stock in Codepoke was low and dropping, and the town Lairds were trying to set new policies for what kind of imports and exports would define its economy.

A young city trades in simple goods. Insults and compliments, laughter and games, hurts and withdrawals had been traded through the ear and eye gates as recently as a mere year ago. Now, the little town was under embargo from all its neighbors. Not knowing what else to do, Codepoke began gathering all its resources for an extended siege. Life was no longer idyllic.

One day an emissary arrived from a whole new land called, "Church," with which to trade. It was new and different, and any trade beat a siege, so the Lairds of Codepoke agreed to try out some of their imports.

Facts about God and Christ flooded the ear gate.

Packages of divine Truth were stirring up the Emos in the emotional quarter of the city, challenging the Brainiacs of the intellectual borrough, and firing up the Willies of Park and Gymnasium of the Will. The Lairds sat at council and considered the new goods and their options. Trading with this new land was really trading with God, and that was a tough decision.

That God Himself might be willing to open commerce with Codepoke was highly flattering. In return, Codepoke would have to restrict trade in certain "bad" things forever. Nobody knew what Codepoke would be missing if they blocked all forbidden trade so young, so giving up those options seemed like a pretty steep price to pay. All in all, though, it looked like a good deal in the long term. Also, there was destruction by fire promised to those who did not trade with God, and that head to be considered. Mix in the instant increase in societal standing, and the deal looked like a sure winner. It probably beat everything else Codepoke had a chance at, and it would be a welcome relief from the siege.

Still, the eternal nature of the contract gave the Lairds pause. One did not contract with the Almighty God and then renege; it was a good deal, but it seemed possibly better to wait a while. God declared an irreversible curse on those who contracted and turned back, and the Lairds did not want to have to answer for that. So, the decision waited.

Sensing an opportunity, the enemy came in those days. The city was young and the walls were weak, so the enemy crept up to them with their sapper tools. Wielding lies like drills and threats as dynamite, the enemy began its work. "God is merciless," they said. "God punishes everyone who fails Him." "Most of his economic partners break their contracts before they die, and end up consumed by raging fire anyway." "Nobody can live under His law for long." Threat after lie after threat chipped away all night long.

And it was always night in Codepoke.

The wall collapsed.

The enemy entered Codepoke, and began ferreting out all the recently placed packages of Truth filling the city.

The guards rushed to the breach, and stood there wondering what to do. Three carts of goods flowed in through the crumbled defense for every one that left. Filled to the brim with packages, these carts brought popular and exciting hopes, and the guards just could not find it in themselves to turn them away. The city that traded in these goods would have no trouble setting up trade. People would beat a path to its gates.

But the Lairds had been warned that this would happen.

The breach had happened in the emotional quarter. The Emos there were quickly taken in by the shiny baubles of the enemy, and had started a party in the streets to celebrate their new toys. Maybe if Codepoke started trading in the nasty pranks and cruel insults filling the city, the other cities would reopen trade. Or maybe Codepoke could intimidate them with the threats so cheaply being traded for the packages from Church, and gain status again.

The Lairds issued a quick (and quickly ignored) order that all the new goods be burned. When that didn't happen, they brought in some of the more willing Willies from their exercises in the park to force all the Emos back into their homes. Then they called in a few of the Brainiacs from the intellectual borough, and had them disassemble all the chintzy faux gifts of the enemy. Once broken in pieces, even the Emos could see that they had been deceived.

The fact that the attack had come exactly as predicted convinced the Lairds that they had best throw their lot in with God, and sooner rather than later. The Lairds of Codepoke signed the eternal contract with God.

Codepoke joined Christianity.

Part II

At first, Codepoke imported goods from God as quickly as they would fit. The ear gate was only so big, though [and Codepoke could not really read yet, so the eye gate was not much use beyond flannel-graph Moses.] And eventually, more important matters came to the fore. There were football games to watch, football scores to memorize, football players to idolize, football moves to perfect; you get the idea. The town was mad about Franco Harris, and the Lairds of Codepoke were feeling it.

Two or three months later, a smaller than usual package arrived from God. It was delivered by a preacher, and it was different from all the other packages before it. The Lairds had distributed the other packages as they saw fit. Some they sent to the Willies, some to the Brainiacs, and some to the Emos, but all at the direction of the Lairds. This one burst its wrappings, lifted itself into a sudden wind, and glided off down the largest avenue.

It looked like a blood-red watermelon with smoke wafting off its "head." This smoke was like no other, though, because when the wind caught it, it didn't blow away. Instead, the odd smoke pulled the watermelon along like a sail pulls its boat. The breeze from nowhere sped the melon down the avenue directly to the Borough of Intellect. It flew wildly, like some dandelion seed in a March wind, but directly to the burough. In the dark of night, before a firm wind, the burning melon left an edgy fear in its wake.

Upon arriving in the Intellect Burough, it stopped in the middle of the central square and smoked some more. People began to whisper about it, and then to talk, and finally to grab their neighbors and friends. When enough of a crowd was near, the melon shouted in a loud voice:
It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

The Brainiacs of the borough mulled this one over and could find no hole in its logic. The conclusion was irrefutable. Over the last months, the contract with God had been broken. The city had traded without regard to its heavenly agreement, and stood in breach. The penalty was clearly stated, and would be justlyperformed.

A delegation to the Lairds was assembled to carry to them the message of their doom, but that plan never came to fruit. No sooner were they gathered than the wind kicked up again, pushing the flaming watermelon toward the Emotional Quarter. The delegation glanced at each other, then hoofed it after the flaming melon for all they were worth.

A party was brewing in the happy quarter, but had not yet really caught hold. The evening news would ignite the real revelry when they rushed through the scores of all the games played that day. Then there would be football to consider and replay and learn from. Until then, everyone was priming themselves to giggle with glee at the fates of all lesser teams.

The arrival of the flaming watermelon was a welcome distraction from the waiting, at first. With a crowd already gathered, though, the melon did not wait before dropping its bomb. Again, it shouted in a loud voice:
It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Silence proclaimed the depth of the buzzkill.

Someone tried asking about the Oakland Raiders' chances, but no one answered.

None of the Emos knew what to feel.

Suddenly, someone had a stunning idea. "Let's ask the Brainiacs!"

A murmur, and then a general agreement passed through the crowd. A delegation had just been selected when the Brainiac delegation came panting into the center of the square. "Save your breath," they said as they tried to catch their own. "We've already heard it's message, and it's bulletproof. We're damned."

When that last word hit the mob of emotion, a single voice shrieked ... just before every last pair of lungs went to wailing. In moments, the entire quarter was swimming in tears, and a certain watermelon was lofted again into the wind toward the North. The delegations from the Brainiacs and the Emos both looked once at each other, then charged off right behind the melon.

When the melon arrived in the Park of the Will, the buff (if pasty - it was always night, after all) bodies of the gym dwellers were pumping iron and running laps as usual. The Willies were always prepared to handle anything, and they barely deigned to notice a puny flaming watermelon or a little breeze. The melon waited. When the requisite quorum of hardbodies had gathered, the melon shouted in a loud voice:
It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

A general laughter ensued.

An over-achieving watermelon was damning them all. Sweet!

The closest he-man sneered, "Hulk smash," grasped the little fruit in a not-so-friendly bear-hug, and constricted a pectoral bulk that could bench 400 pounds. The little melon waited quietly in his arms as in the comfiest of feather beds. The squeeze didn't discomfit the melon at all.

The he-man's questioning gaze was priceless, but he was not flummoxed. He raised the offensive melon high over his statuesque head, and cast it to the cobblestones. Eerily, the melon neither shattered nor bounced. It hit the ground and just stopped perfectly still. It then waited as if it had never moved before and never would again.

The crowd stared in nervous wonder. This little melon was starting to worry them.

From the shadows came another man of steel and darkness. Dressed in black from head to toe, and quiet as a zephyr on a starry night, the man silently slid a razor sharp sword from the scabbard on his back. From behind the unmoving melon, the ninja began his patient stalk of death. At the perfect moment, with his chi centered in a kundalini node, he struck a perfect blow from right to left through the heart of the melon. With perfect efficiency, exactly one melon-width of the blade touched the melon. You could tell, because when he was done exactly one melon-width of the blade lay smoking on the ground next to the unperturbed melon. Apparently, the melon was sharper than the sword.

The he-man and the ninja were joined by a marathon runner. The melon could be picked up. Maybe he could carry it back outside the walls, he suggested.

That's when the Emos arrived. They took in the scene, and commenced to wailing their awful wail all over again. The Willies tried to shut them up, of course, but this time the emotions were entirely too overwrought, and they'd have none of it. If all the strongest strength of the will couldn't do anything about this melon, then they truly were damned.

The Brainiacs arrived a little later (already exhausted from their trip to the Emo Quarter) and confirmed the worst. The Emos were right. The melon was ironclad.

Codepoke would burn.

Part III

The Lairds arrived at the park late and breathless. From the moment the flaming messenger blew away, they had been arriving at each place just after the action had ended. Finally, on their third stop, they laid eyes for a second time on the melon of doom.

Around them, everything was in chaos.

The Willies were listless. They could not find the heart to do anything, since it would all just be consumed by flames in the end. The Emos were beside themselves, and useless for all decision making purposes. Only the Brainiacs could come up with anything useful to do. They rehearsed to the Lairds everything that had happened since the melon had escaped them.

The Lairds listened in silence, asking only the briefest of questions. Did it ever say anything else? Did it respond to anyone who spoke to it? Their probing came up empty, though. The melon was inscrutable.

The Lairds quaked, but with a depth unmatched in any of the townfolk. They grasped eternity, and they grasped the import of the flames. They knew the depths of the terror that engulfed them now was of far more risk than merely the end of a city. Mostly, they knew they had to do something. Lairds could not sit still, and wait to see destruction fall on the heads of all in the city. They needed to try to find an answer.

As one, they turned to the messenger melon from God and crossed the park to meet him.

Before they were half way there, though, they were intercepted by a delegation from all three of the city ghettoes. They argued amongst themselves, and seemed at first to ignore the Lairds. The Willies in the group wanted to get drunk, and tear up the town. Since there was nothing to build for, why not spend the last of their days tearing everything down? The Emos made their peace with their grief, and wanted to hold a giant, really cool wake to mourn their coming demise. And the Brainiacs were powerless to decide between the arguments. Logic seemed to tell them that either answer was equally good.

The Lairds had no patience for such gibberish at this moment, and they started to press past the nuisance.

That steeled the city-folk, and the Brainiacs spoke, "Ignore the melon," they said. The Emos grew silent (for once) and nodded, and the Willies gave a sneering smile of agreement. Whatever happened, the Lairds should just go back up the hill to their tower and ignore the pesky melon. It would go away on its own.

None of these men were unknown to the Laird's, and none of their reasonings were hidden. These men had all profited from trade with the enemy, and one of them was even harboring an emissary of the enemy in his own home. Somehow, the opposition even made them stronger in their resolve. They looked at each other, and wordlessly fortified their resolve. Their only hope against the doom lay with the melon that brought it. Leaving was no option. They dismissed the gathering, and resumed their journey to meet this messenger themselves.

The melon met them with the same indifference it had shown to every other inhabitant of Codepoke. The Lairds encircled the smoking gourd, and then they bowed. In the presence of every inhabitant of Codepoke, they bowed their heads to the cobblestones of the street, and one of them produced the selfsame contract that doomed them, the one that bore each of their signatures.

And they waited.

The pronouncement of the messenger of God was true. Their guilt was sealed. So, they humbled themselves before the word of God and waited. Around them the pandemonium increased. The tears and wailing of the Emos swelled. The Brainiacs kept mulling over the possibilities and opposing each other about whether this would work. The Willies just threw themselves on the ground in apathetic disgust. And the Lairds of Codepoke waited with their heads on the ground, hoping against hope that there might be something they could do to avoid damnation.

Other messengers from other towns came and went, offering their advice as they passed through. They had all heard this message before, and they spouted their recommendations as gospel, "Just resume normal trade in godly goods again. Everything will go back to normal," they said. "Just pencil in an addendum to the contract apologizing for your forgetfullness, then start importing from God. Trade will pick up again, and you'll forget this ever happened."

If the Lairds heard them, they showed no sign. They kept their heads planted on the cobblestones. No one was sure that the melon could hear at all, and it betrayed nothing while these emissaries droned on. It sat immovable, unmoving, and ominous, smoking in quiet confidence.

It was all the Lairds could do to keep hoping.

In the middle of the chief park in the city sat a smoking watermelon surrounded by the highest ranking members of the city, all with their heads on the ground and holding out before them a copy of a damning contract. It was a little much to believe.

Everyone startled when then the wind blew the contract out of the Laird's hand, and up against the melon. In one brief flash, the Laird's cursed contract was reduced to ash. And the melon lifted up in the breeze and lofted away again - this time up the hill to the tower of the Lairds.

The Lairds leapt to their feet and raced to catch up with the melon again. All the city surged behind them, everyone pressing to learn what the melon would do next. Hope seemed a little too distant to grasp, but maybe there would be a little up on that hill after the melon did whatever it planned to do.

The melon grew brighter and brighter as it careened toward the tower. By the time the melon hit the summit, everyone in town was able to see it from a rooftop, or even just by standing in an avenue. The mysterious messenger did not disappoint. It was blown straight into the air, and then driven straight into the ground, embedding its bottom in the soil of that hill. Just near the tower, it was half-buried in the land and began to beam a burning white light that illumined everyone.

The Lairds and all the city stopped running.

Blinded by the brilliance of this little melon, they stopped and looked around. For the first time, they learned that they had never been able to see before. It was always night, until now. For the first time it was day in Codepoke. They were suddenly able to see the rags everyone had called called tuxedos and the filth clogging all the gutters, but nobody looked. Instead, every eye focused on the amazing purity of this Light. God had sent pure Light, and in it they would finally, fully, gloriously, vibrantly live.

Life was in the air, and the whole city of Codepoke knew that it could never distrust God again.

The Lairds resumed their charge up the hill with renewed vigor. Upon arriving at the melon, they found the top had stopped smoking. Instead, a little vine was spouting, and a little stream was trickling. One by one, each of the Lairds took a taste from that stream, and was transformed. The Life of the Water opened their eyes even wider than had the Light. They looked up, to find the Lord their God at the door of the tower, waiting for their return. Jesus Himself waited to welcome them home.

How long He had been there, they did not know. They only knew that it was He Who had sent the messenger, He Who had first allowed them to fail, and He Who had placed this Well of Life in their hearts.

... because it was He Who had loved them; it was He Who had done everything while they contrived pointless solutions to the wrong problems. Everything was new now, because of the Love of the One God.

And they fell again on their faces.

He raised them up with a warm and delighted smile, then led them back to the tower.

The surprises of this morning were not quite finished yet.

The Lord of the Universe deferred to His hosts. He insisted that they enter the tower first, and invite Him in. No service to God had ever been more quickly or joyfully rendered. Soon they all stood in the vestibule, wondering what would happen next.

The now-familiar wind blew again. It seemed to trail beneath one of the doors of the east wall and whisper, "Come." Shock arrested the Lairds, because this door had never been here before. This was not just a door, though. This was the Door. And it had only just been installed. At Jesus' glance, the nearest Laird opened it and all beheld the Father sitting upon His throne, and His train filled the temple.

Jesus waved them in, explaining that He had washed them by the Word, and that they were welcome before His Father. In the madness of new love and joy, they did not hesitate, but advanced to love and worship the Father Who had saved them.

Codepoke was reborn, and this was the first morning of forever.

23 July, 2007

Evolution of the Eye

Given our recent discussion, I just could not resist quoting this from Scientific American:

After all, a reflex reaction to a poke in the eye does not necessarily mean that eyes had evolved to perceive sudden jabs.

I doubt that makes you bust out laughing like it did me, but I love it when impeccable logic is brilliantly conveyed. :-)

21 July, 2007

Carbon Copies

Self-organizing systems are cool.

Picture a flock of starlings. If you start with a couple hundred starlings on the ground and startle them, you are quickly going to have a single flock of starlings in the air, moving as one. They naturally organize themselves and as a group they do the right thing for everyone's survival.

The same is true of lots of stuff in creation.

Salt forms beautiful crystals when the water around it dissolves. Ant colonies find food brilliantly, even though not one ant is smart enough to feed itself. There's even clay that causes certain compounds to self-organize into something that could support life.

It occurs to me that the church is a God ordained, self-organizing system for creating the most perfect image of God ever.

When you put two or three Christians together, they connect in a God-revealing way. And when you put enough of them together, they flock into something brilliantly capable of proclaiming the character and nature of God. And as much as He did with the ants and the starlings, God made us that way for His own glory. It is to His praise that we naturally gather together, support each other, and look like God in flesh.

This is not new, if you hang around here, but I was mentally riffing on it, when I noticed something new.

Carbon is self-organizing.

Any individual carbon atom will combine with nearby carbon atoms every chance it gets. But what kind of chance it is really, really matters. If the chance happens under the dark pressure of miles of rock, it gathers itself into diamond. Elsewhere, it is graphite. Or in a laboratory, with every condition controlled, it is buckyballs, or carbon fiber. Carbon can even form something as all together useful as charcoal. To quote from Wikipedia:

+ Diamond is the hardest mineral known to man, while graphite is one of the softest.
+ Diamond is the ultimate abrasive, while graphite is a very good lubricant.
+ Diamond is an excellent electrical insulator, while graphite is a conductor of electricity.
+ Diamond is an excellent thermal conductor, while some forms of graphite are used for thermal insulation (i.e. firebreaks and heatshields)
+ Diamond is usually transparent, while graphite is opaque.
+ Diamond crystallizes in the cubic system while graphite crystallizes in the hexagonal system.

Being self-organizing does not mean that we will always organize into the same thing!!!

You probably cannot imagine how unbelievably, gargantuanly, hugely huge that sentence is to me.

I am amazed at how I worship the Lord with His saints in my current traditional church, and equally amazed how I could worship the Lord equally with His saints in my old home church. I am amazed those two churches are oil and water (or maybe oil and matches.) But, if carbon can be both diamond and graphite, then the church can be right both in a building and without one. Even though the traditional church will call the home church cultlike eventually, and the home church will call the traditional church a whitewashed sepulchre.

Of course, I immediately want to figure out how to make the buckyball church, but that's always going to be me. :-)

Eph 3:10 takes on mega-cool new layers for me with this thought in mind:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

It is not just that God delivers the church, but that He creates a beautiful variety of churches from one element - Christians. And each manifestation of the wisdom of God does something very different from all the others, and does it perfectly.

I have no clue what to do with this. Rom 14 just begs to be looked at again. I have always taken that chapter to mean that we all need to be in a single church per neighborhood, but maybe not?

Flashes of insight are always unsettling and exciting. And sometimes dead wrong. But this one just seems too obvious to be wrong.

So, now what to do with the title of this blog, I wonder.


20 July, 2007

A Group is its own Worst Enemy

Some day I am going to write a little bit about this. I will be extending this post with more links, I think, and then adding content to it. But, in the meantime I thought I would go ahead and just give the link. It's seriously geeky, not very amusing, long, and spot on accurate about the things that make Internet social groups so hard to run.

A Group is its own Worst Enemy

HT: Joel Spolsky

19 July, 2007

The Rating Game

From the Dating Game, I guess.

I figured I'd play when KB posted this. Then I figured I'd wait until I'd put up a couple more posts to see whether I got better. Nope. 'Twould appear that I am not suitable for Christian ears. But then, most of the known world seems to have figured that out already.

I wonder how I'll rate after the Remarriage post falls off the front page.

Free Online Dating

Mingle2 - Free Online Dating

As expected, once the Remarriage posted drifted away, my rating changed a little bit.

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

17 July, 2007

Teaching Evolution

Quicky tonight.

I am for teaching evolution.

I don't exactly believe in it, but I still want it taught. And I don't mean as some kind of museum thing to remind us how dumb evolution was, either. I want to be taught how species differentiate, how things happen.

I don't believe Adam and Eve evolved. Beyond that, I don't have much to say on the subject that's very smart. I've heard lots of whacky theories from a shifting speed of light to full-blown deistic evolution, but straight, scientific evolution has some things going for it that none of the other theories have.




Scientists have built the many little details they have found into a compelling narrative that successfully predicts new discoveries, and allows us to make generally sound decisions about things. You can USE evolution to decide stuff.

Ancient pagans developed no science largely because they believed everything was spontaneous. If a bunch of capricious gods kept randomly deciding to throw droughts and floods at you, you could only placate them and survive. If you tried to beat the gods, they'd just beat you back even worse. What they wanted was what they got, and despair was the only hope.

Christianity came along and taught everyone that there was one God, and He was reasonable. Droughts came, but they were not biblical. You could irrigate, and take control of the environment, and God would not rise up and send something worse at you. Instead, you could make your crops yield twice a year with a couple little ditches, and God would not send Wormwood to dry up all the seas.

Science, though, took it a step further. Christianity leapfrogged paganism, but science has lept over us. They measured the results of their experiments, and found better ways to everything. They self-criticized, and found truths they didn't want to hear. Peer-review made the most brilliant scientist smarter, by making him dig deeper to find the real reason things happen instead of the first thing that convinced everyone at the local pub (or cathedral.)

Christianity is based on Truth, but it's based on truth, too. If we are going to pass science back again, we need to start showing a little courage in that area. We need to start submitting to review and correction. We need to let the facts trump our ancient dogmas, and find the truth that the Truth laid out there.

Evolution explains the world I live in better than young earth creationism.

Admit it or top it.

Don't rail against it.

13 July, 2007

8 Random Facts, Well, Random Facts

The random facts meme is making a second round, and I've been tagged again by KB and Weekend Fisher. That's pretty cool, and thanks! I cannot come up with 8 things about myself that are both random and interesting, though. And it's not the "random" part that's giving me fits. Yeah, I'm a big draw at parties.

I figured I'd go for one random story instead, and then go entomb myself in amber after I capture in text just how blazingly dull I really am. Maybe I'll be able to compete with billion year old mosquitoes some day.

I bought a pair of pants the other day. They were green. (See, the random part is pretty easy.) I was replacing my other pair of green pants. This was kind of a normal pair of green pants, but it deserved to be replaced. Foremost, it deserved to be replaced because I have green socks, and I would hate to throw them away just for lack of green pants. More to the point, I would be physically unable to throw them away. They're still socks, so why should I treat them as garbage?

Socks need to be thrown away only when they have holes in them. And by holes, I don't mean the little holes that show up where your big toenail meets the shoe leather and wears that little hole in the top toe of the sock. That hole gets whip-stitched and back into the washing machine the sock goes. Socks need throwing away when the hole cannot be whip-stitched like when the hole's in the bottom of the heel or up in the part of the sock you pull on. I guess they call that the top of the sock.

I remember throwing away a pair of socks once. I think it was about three years ago.

Other than that, the natural deselection process of drying the socks and one disappearing every now and again is my only natural sock disposal instinct. Whenever half of a perfectly good pair of socks (and they're all perfectly good, right) disappears, the survivor goes into the bottom drawer to await the reappearance of its partner. Right now, I have about the same number of socks in the top and bottom drawers.

4 of the socks (that would be 2 pairs of them) in the top drawer, though, are green. They have not lost their partners (so they know what to do, skip to their lou their darling) so they cannot find their way to the bottom drawer. But if they're in the top drawer, then I need a pair of pants to go with them.

The pair of pants that has gone with them for a long time is the green pair. It's made of some kind of odd plasticy knit substance. It was a scary thing for me to pull them out of the dryer the first time, because irons never mix well with odd plasticy knit clothing. I've tried it before, and the iron gets kind of black and plasticy on the bottom while the clothing becomes a little more see-through than I'm comfortable with in little triangular shaped areas with black edges.

And I had never failed to iron a piece of clothing that I wear while being paid a salary.

The green plasticy pants said they did not need to be ironed.

Somebody was obviously either stupid, ridiculously optimistic, or didn't know me. Of course the odds of the latter are about 6.6 billion to 5 or so, and since I know the 5 people who know me don't make green pants, we'll assume pants makers are part of the 6.6 billion. That assumption's much more charitable than the idiot thing anyway.

But, I was up to the task. I figured out (quite brilliantly, if I do say so myself) that if I always ironed the green pants first, I could set the iron low enough that it would not create that smell that meant a premature purchase of new green pants. Then, when it was time to iron the other pants, I could turn the iron up to its customary setting of, "Max steam/heat/cotton/toast dark," and get down to business.

That worked for a period of months or years or something. I really have no idea when I acquired those pants, but I know I got my first salaried job in 1998.

My pants were wrinkle free when I was done - rest assured of that.

After a while, much longer ago that I can accurately recall, one of the cats had a moment of affection for me. You can always tell when a cat is feeling the love, because it hurts you somehow. In this case, it pulled up a couple loops of plasticy thread from the front of the thigh of those pants. That was the last time the cats were allowed in my lap while I was dressed for earning a salary unless I have a pillow in my lap. There's always a pillow somewhere near the computer now just in case I need to blog and get a cat to quit rubbing up against first one ankle, then the other, then the first, then the other, then the first, then the other, then the first, then the other, then the first, then the other, then the first, then the other, then the first, then the other, then the first, then the other, then the first, then the other, then the first, then the other, then the first, then the other, then the first, then the other, then the first, ... QUIT IT, CAT!!! Get up here!

So, my loopy, plasticy, green pants served me faithfully for an unknown period of time when I noticed that the creases in my other cottony pants had see-through creases. It was a funny thing to note. I went to iron them for the XXXXth time (It was certainly more than the Xth time, but the XXth time looks funny and it certainly was not the XXXth time, so it must have been the XXXXth), and somehow I held them up to the light in an unusual way. All the threads that go up and down the pants were fine except right at the crease. There were no up and down threads there. There were only right to left threads, and if I put my eye up close enough, I could watch TV through the crease in my pants.

That explained why it was getting easier to iron the crease into the pants, but it probably was not appropriate for someone who was earning an actual salary. I mean, for an hourly worker who gets paid only for what he actually does and for every hour that he is doing it, it might make sense to spend more time doing stuff than making sure that his clothes all have all the usual threads. But for a salaried worker who gets paid for breathing, and is expected to do lots of it, but gets paid the same no matter how much breathing he actually does, it's probably more important to have the accepted thread count all the way around the pants leg.

So, I bought new pants to go with the green ones. And the new pants said "no-iron" also. Which put me in a quandry. The iron might be too hot by the time I got to the third pair of no-iron pants. I gnawed on my toothpick and scratched my noggin as I cogitated on this little horse nugget. And that was pretty much the last time I ever ironed a pair of pants. I decided no-iron was going to have to prove it, and never looked back.

Over the weeks or years or months, or whatever it's been, that little green pair of pants kept right on keeping on even without being ironed every other week.

Then the zipper got stuck in the down position. That was probably just a few months ago. I stood there in the stall at work, wondering how I was going to earn my salary without leaving the bathroom - then comforting myself that the word, "earn," never really applies to salary. Then magically the zipper went back up. Phew. Over the weeks, I learned that if I kind of held the right panel up a little higher and pulled to the left, the zipper would usually cooperate eventually.

I considered putting a whip-stitch in the zipper so that I could never zip it down past the point that it seemed to stick. I had green thread, of course, so it was an option. But who knows whether something bad might happen, and so far I had always managed to outsmart the zipper when it mattered, so the needle and thread stayed put. Now, you might ascribe that to procrastination, but if you did I'd have to award you some kind of prize for astuteness, so please don't.

Besides, I was having bigger problems with my keys falling out of the hole in the front left pocket. If the keys would fall out completely, it wouldn't be that bad, but they never did that. They fell half-way out, then kind of got hung up so I could neither get them out the bottom of my pants leg, nor out of the top of the pocket. One day it got to be a little too much for even me, so I flopped the pocket up out of the top of my pants and deployed the sewing kit. Yes, right there at work. Doesn't everyone keep a sewing kit at work? I carefully rolled the pocket up so that the hole itself was inside the roll, and then whip-stitched the roll in place.

I think maybe the whip-stitch is more parts philosophy than sewing technique, but that's probably another post - a vaguely insulting post with lots of discordant undertones.

Anyway, the front left pocket was now shorter than it was before, but my keys stayed in it. It felt so strange at times that I actually considered putting my keys into my front right pocket.

No really. I gave it real thought. I bet you didn't know I was flexible enough to consider putting my keys into my front right pocket instead of my front left pocket, but I am. I'm an unpredictable wildman, really. Of course, I decided against it, but only for the most rational of reasons. If I put my keys into my front right pocket, I would have to deal with the frustration of first switching my laptop case from my left hand to my right hand, so that I could get the keys out of my left pocket, then remembering that the keys were in my right pocket because these are the green pants and switching the laptop back to my left hand to grab the keys, then switching the laptop back because I always unlock the car with my left hand anyway. See? It just wasn't worth the psychic investment and effort to start keeping my keys in the wrong pocket.

And all day long my left leg would be telling my head that I had lost my keys, and my head would not know to ask my right leg whether the keys were actually over there, so I would start patting myself randomly wondering where my keys are. And just about the time people started looking at me, wondering whether I was going to sprout tomatoes from the top of my head or something, I'd remember that the keys were just in the wrong pocket and I'd have to get that sheepish look and explain that I "thought I'd lost my keys, but they were here all along. Ooops." Heck, just having the shorter pocket made my left leg ask my head where my keys had gone a few times a day. But my head could always kind of tell my leg to at least look twice before complaining, and then it and my head and me would all remember that my pocket was a little shorter and we'd all share a chuckle together, and nobody else would be looking at me like tomatoes were going to grow out of my head.

So my green pants that were no longer being ironed, and that had a couple of loops pulled into them by the affectionate cat, and that had the sticking zipper, and that had the short pocket went with me to work two days every two weeks and we earned our salaries in relative peace and comfort.

The odd thing is that all the other pants that said, "no-iron," now need ironing. What's that all about? The green pants still don't need to be ironed, but the tan pants come out of the dryer looking kind of like I lost my pillow in the middle of the night and I decided to just sleep on my pants instead. Only I'd gone to bed wearing them, so they were kind of wrinkly anyway when I took them off to use them as a pillow. Then I had a dream about fighting a dog-sized origami monster, but I won when I folded it down to the size of a "forever" postage stamp, woke up in a sweaty mess, realized I was late for work, threw them on, and ran out the door.

I figure they were "no-iron" because of some chemical they laced the threads with, and that after a mere year or two the chemical all goes away. Even drying the pants with two of those magical dryer sheet thingies didn't help.

So I had to decide whether to start ironing my no-iron pants again, or to stop at a store and leave money there in exchange for new pants. That's a painful experience for me, so I thought the best thing to do was to sleep on the question for a few more months. Eventually the answer would come clear to me.

Then the front left pocket of the green pants got another hole in them.

So I went out and bought another pair of green pants. The new green pants have an expando waist band in case I quit playing tennis or something. What a dumb idea.

Anyway, I figure it was about time for a new pair of pants.

Like I said it's pretty easy to come up with random stuff but really hard to come up with anything interesting. Now. Where do I keep that embalming amber?

10 July, 2007

The Creeping Things

The subject of the demonic was on my mind last week, and not by happenstance. By coincidence, it was on Milly's mind too. Odd that. At any rate, I figure I should post my thoughts, but I am going to have to do it quickly, because I am just so tired these days.

I won't waste any time doing more than pointing out that demons are real. They are active spiritual beings with a malicious intent toward God's creation. I don't think they particularly care one whit about humans, except that getting at us gets at God. We are mere pawns to them.

Matt 17:14-21
And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart *, and said, Why could not we cast him out ? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

The testimony of the father is that his son is clumsy. The reality is that the son chooses to throw himself into fire and water because the demon has rendered him senseless. I contend that the boy is acting with his own will, but that his will under the constant oppression of demonic suggestion. The voices of demons are so deeply buried in the child's mind that to resist them causes psychic, almost physical, pain. The boy chooses to obey the same way that a slave chooses to obey a violent master. He makes the choice that is no choice.

So, I don't believe in mindless possession. I believe in mindful oppression by the demonic.

The first thing I point out is that Christ casts out the demon, even though the disciples could not. Jesus gives solid reasoning for why the disciples could not cast out this demon. I recommend that we all ignore that reasoning for most purposes. It's true, and it's truth today, but I still recommend we ignore it.

At the same time that Jesus was casting out demons all over the holy land, he was healing people, raising them from the dead and walking on water. There was a time for this kind of dramatic display of God's power, and that time was during the ministry of the Messiah and the formation of His kingdom on earth. Those days are past, and trying to imitate Christ in this method in America in the 21st century is best attempted after having proven you can walk on water and raise the dead.

Our day looks more like this:
2 Cor 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

My beliefs about demons are largely formed from Jessie Penn-Lewis's (unabridged!) War on the Saints. Her core point (as I recall it from 25 years ago) is that demons use lies to fool us into passively laying down our will before them. Once we lay down our will, they are able to insert their lying suggestions vastly more deeply into our minds. As Christians, the Truth lives in us, making it much harder for them to lie with impunity to us, but any human is capable of being fooled by a lie. Any human is capable of laying down arms and surrendering to being led by the whispers in his mind.

It is no coincidence that every major superstition on earth centers itself around the idea of letting go of the consciousness, and allowing one's self to be led by [fill in the blank.] All superstitions major in the release of the will, and they defend the action by a multitude of lies.

It is not a good thing that "centering prayer" is so popular in the church these days.

The demons speak lies to get us to stop resisting them, to lay down our will. When they succeed, they are inside our head and can speak more directly to us. The more lies we believe, and the more we accept their decision making for us, the louder their voices become - the more powerful, the more painful to resist.

But, resist we can according to Christ.
Luke 11:24-26
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

There are questions about this passage. It is written about Israel, and not about an individual, and it does not describe why the demon decided to leave the house in the first place. Still, I take it to mean that a man can resist a demon to the point it leaves, and he can set his mental house in order. And it can all be for naught.

In order to clean the house, to rid the mind of demonic influence, one must resist the demons via the will. "Casting out" and "exorcism" are as much a part of our American experience as the healing of those blind from birth. I ain't never seen it here. Christ will never overshadow His church with mere miracles, but this is not the post in which to explain that statement.

Assuming that we can actually clean our house though, we have accomplished only the first step. The demon will merely come back with reinforcements and overcome us again. The house must be defended with the Truth, and filled with the Lord Jesus.

If Christ is living in that house, no demon will be.

I know that seems to contradict my statement earlier that Christians can be oppressed by demons. Let's just leave that seeming conflict unresolved. If Christ is in a mind, no demon will take up residence there, but that is not to say that no demon will pick on our weak grasp of the Truth or jelly-reinforced willpower.

There is a reason to learn to use the weapons of our warfare, but most are confused about what those weapons are. Those weapons are not loud shouts of Christ's authority and demands to know some demon's name. Our weapons are Truth and the will wielded in the power of the Spirit of the Lord.


That concludes my thoughts on the subject, but I'll say a quick word to Milly's post.

Yes, demons possess people in the bible, and yes it's evil. What's more, they still do it today. When a man goes on a killing rampage, the odds that demons were not involved is less than zero. But the demons were not joy riding in the man's body against his will. They were whipping him into a frenzy because of the many times he'd surrendered his will to their lies. They were taking the advantage that he had given them, by absorbing their lies and laying down his will. The Spirit was not there to fight off the lies and he didn't have brothers in the Lord to support his wavering will during all the years the demons moved in and out of his life. This is a major failing, but not unexpected.

Man was put on earth to protect it, and to take authority over the demonic. When man fell, he retained the responsibility and even the tools, but lost the power of Truth. Men now lose to demons. When that happens, the man does not suddenly become innocent of the crimes he commits. It's still his will to do the things to which the demons torment him. It's still his responsibility to take authority over them. It's still the man that goes on the rampage. It's still the man who will be judged; the demons will just be judged along with him.

That man needs to hear about the power of Christ, and the love of God and the church for him. He needs to repent and be converted, and let the church circle around him and rebuild the fallen walls and establish the Truth as his guardian.

Miracles still happen, but now they happen by the love of the church.


Somewhat out of the ordinary for this blog, but I hope it was profitable.

09 July, 2007

The Match

Hey ya'll,

I hope you'll forgive my lack of posting. How busy am I? I have not even read any of the blog comments about the recently concluded Wimbledon tourney. I've made the time to read a couple professional articles about it, and this is the best.

Real Men Don't Dance

The author has a heart of Gold, and a heart for God. With this piece, he made me cry - again. He writes the things that matter about the things that don't.

A lot has been made of Nadal's injury. I just finished my ironing and watching the match at the same time. Nadal's injury was not of the sort that took away from his ability to play. The match was pure gold from beginning to end. It will be remembered until their very next big one.

Of course, one might ask why I didn't see the match live. It would be a good question. Simple, really. I stirred the hornets' nest too thoroughly in Sunday School last week, and there was no way I was going to miss the "rebuttal."

Sure enough, attendance was up, and everyone was ready to pick up where we left off.

Have I mentioned that in every college course I ever took, every professor said at least once to the class, "Does anyone agree with Mr. Knox?" I have no clue how I always manage to end up being the only person on my side, but it never changes.

In this case, the discussion was on Heb 4:12. We are going through Hebrews, and I would not be budged on one point. Hebrews 4 does not tell us to work to please God. It tells us to rest in Him. It tells us to strive to rest in Him, but for nothing else. When we enter into Christ, we enter into our Sabbath rest forever.

So, when we got to Heb 4:12, I commented that this verse is about resting, too. That was too much. I maintain that the word of God separates soul from spirit in order to learn who is resting and who is trying to please God. Everyone else in the room contested that the whole testimony of scripture is that we must work to please God. I read the book of Galatians at length to everyone last week, so I didn't feel the need to reiterate.

Anyway, it was pretty wonderful. I distinguished between works that please God and works that flow from love. Someone else distinguished between earning salvation and working as someone saved. Then we all kissed and made up.

Roger played what may have been the match of a career, and the burst of emotion that flowed out of him when he laid down on the court would have had me bawling. But I'd skip it again and again and again to press forward with brothers and sisters into the kingdom.

I love being with saints.

07 July, 2007

Karl Barth Dreaming

I wandered into the library to kill 10 minutes. Of course, that's it's weird enough to kill 10 minutes that way, but I decided to look for theology there by NT Wright. And just in case that wasn't weird enough, when I stumbled upon Karl Barth's commentary on Romans I just had to snatch it up.

When getting to know someone completely new, I sometimes start in the middle. With Barth I started in Romans 9. You'd have to be stone-cold dead to fail to write something amazing about chapter 8, but chapter 9 is fraught with danger and I want to see what he does with it.

So far I'm only on verse 5, and the man has already proven himself unique. He seems bent to make sure he drives everyone nuts. :-)

I'm sure his spiritual wealth shames my own, but he seems like exactly the theologian I wished I was twenty years ago.

If I may summarize my first impressions of Mr. Barth's position, it goes like this. God is too massively real to be known. His immense perfection and absolute eternity crush our hopes of knowing Him. And yet we continue to imagine that we do know Him, when really we barely know a couple surface trivialities about Him. And every time we try to speak something in mere words to contain this hyper-infinite God we end up creating "Church."

Church is awful. Church is a lie that doesn't even know it's lying. Church markets itself as the very place God where has chosen to reveal Himself, when really, it is just the chief place that the spiritual sins of men naturally express themselves. Church always fails.

And Paul will never leave the church.

He won't reform it, nor abandon it for something better. To do either would be a waste of his time. God is just too much to be contained, so rejecting the Church for failing to contain Him is an even greater offense than the failure was. Neither the fiery reformer nor the anti-denominational, home church advocate is spiritual. Anyone can find fault with the faulty. The spiritual man pours his heart and soul into the Church as it is.

(Mr. Barth does not think much of me.)

And, yes, Barth derives all these thoughts from the first 5 verses of Romans 9. He looks at Paul's continued, present tense identification with Israel, and finds in that nation the simple pattern for all "Church" of all time. Israel had everything Church has now, and the Church has nothing Israel lacked. Therefore, the horrible failings of Israel as recorded in scripture are the same failings the Church is making even now. Paul doesn't reject his people, so how can any of us reject our Israel?

I find a lot of truth in what I've read, and a lot to question.

I have not forgotten that I am talking about fewer than 10 pages of this man's thought. I have no idea whether I'm reading something indicative of his thinking, or more of a one-off for him, but it sure seems like he's comfortable with what he's saying. I also don't know yet whether I like what he's saying, though I have to love his over-the-top passion and overuse of adjectives. He's quite serious about everything he says, and I adore sincerity in all its forms.

My biggest question is whether Barth is right that we cannot know God. I believe that we can, though the entire Eastern Orthodox Church joins with Barth in calling me deceived and a danger. It's a solid point of contention, and Barth contends for it strongly. If he's right, my whole theology and ecclesiology need to be torn back to their foundations.


05 July, 2007

Divorce, Reconciliation, Remarriage and Remarriage

I shared this after one of our bible studies, and figure it's worth capturing in magnetic bits. At the time, it was in response to a couple of really bright questions; I didn't just decide to start making categorical declarations about divorce and remarriage. Here in blogville, I will be making statements out of the blue, but I hope you'll understand.

Divorce a hot button topic for most committed Christians. It might not be quite as hot as abortion, but it's in the same oven. People recognize divorce as an evil sweeping America and the world, and they want to stop it. The root cause must be found, and the usual suspects are are: lack of commitment, lack of moral fortitude, lack of commitment, lack of biblical headship, lack of commitment, lack of spiritual growth, and maybe lack of commitment.

I would like to add another cause. Lack of discernment regarding who is a Christian. In all the divorces I've observed personally, one or both of the partners was not a Christian in any real sense. Marriage is hard. Marriage without Christ is brutal, and it's brutal on both people. My sympathies lie with the Christian, but make no mistake, everyone bleeds when divorce comes.

My first point is this: If you want to slow divorce in the church, train your kids to know when someone loves Christ as opposed to just being a member in good standing of a church.

That said, it's important to admit that no one divorces over religion. My wife didn't leave me because I was too perfect a spouse, or too Christian. Everyone divorces because of real pain. And almost everyone divorces because one lover has found another. Someone has "outgrown this relationship" and is ready to move on - usually to a draft pick already waiting in the wings, or maybe not even waiting any more.

That moment is evil.

The moment that someone decides to leave their lover and even their own flesh and blood is an eruption of evil. The two were one flesh, but a third lover is brought to the union - and to the parenting. The one flesh union is both mystic and physical, but it's pragmatic, too. There are children - they are the "one flesh" made of love. If you know anyone who needs a reason not to divorce, I can recommend an incredibly depressing book about the effect of divorce on children - even children in their twenties and thirties. My ex and I read it a year prior to ever mentioning divorce. It didn't stop anything, but at least we knew what to feel guilty about. The book was right.

Divorce is evil.

I want to write about Jesus' words on divorce. It won't be easy. Not personally, and not grammatically. Grammatically, it's hard to talk about a thing that happens equally to men and women without saying "he or she" ad nauseum. I'm here going to apologize for the confusion below, because I am going to use "he" to refer to everyone involved. Since it's not clear whether the man or the woman is the offender in a given case, please understand that "he" means "he or she" for the rest of this post.

Is Divorce Allowed?

Matt 19:7&8
[Jesus said:] "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." [The Pharisees] say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? [Jesus] saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

Marriage is a human mingling of heart, body and life. It is an investment at the deepest level, and the garden from which you take your every nourishment. Two people throw in with each other their need for daily bread, their need to reproduce and to nurture a family, and their deepest need to have a reason to get up in the morning. Their hearts hope to become reliant on each other. In marriage they became more than just one flesh, but one person.

The seeds of their hopes for love and life are planted in each other's hearts and "with this ring" they cannot be recalled.

Only they can can be recalled.

You wake up one day to find that your lover has poisoned the seeds he planted in your heart. They're dead. And you gradually realize that he's already planted again elsewhere, and that he's watering those seeds faithfully.

From the moment of that realization forward, divorce is a mercy.

I'm afraid I must be a little clearer here than courtesy usually affords. By seeds, I don't mean wild oats. I'm not refering to sexual union when I say "seeds," though sex is certainly one seed. Seeds are all the dreams, sweat and victories that we pour into each other's lives. Seeds are the strongest years of our lives, given to someone else who will remind us of them when we are enfeebled. Seeds are the joys of dreams coming true. Seeds are the hope that in later years, there will be fruit enough for two. But then, in one day, the seeds upon which you staked your future are lost forever.

[Jesus] saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away

Moses gave permission to divorce. He only gave it because of the hardness of our hearts, but our hearts are hard. To forbid divorce is to pretend our hearts are soft, when they aren't. They just aren't.

Divorce is a mercy granted by God to the innocent. When one of His children is forced to watch the seeds of his love walk away, and that field be planted by another, God grants the mercy of release. God permits the one abandoned to unlock those treasured bindings. Entirely appropriately, the divorce is usually initiated by the one who leaves. The divorcer cannot be truly "free" of his mate until the law of the land says he's free, and since he wants another so badly, he files the paperwork. And so, usually, the vicious mercy of divorce is dealt upon the victim whether desired or no. Sometimes the victim has to file when the other party wants a back door open, but this too is allowed by Moses.

Is Divorce Allowed By Christ?

Christians agree that Moses allowed divorce. They stumble, though, at the possibility that Christ revoked the permission Moses granted. Christ made anger a capital crime, when Moses set that bar at murder. Does He now allow the rending of one flesh in two? Or did Christ overrule Moses, and forbid all divorce?

Matt 19:9
And I say unto you *, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

I don't think it takes a lot of analysis to show that Christ allows divorce here. I'm sure you all already know the Jews had ruled that divorce was permissible for any reason. Jesus cut that laxity off at the knees, and said there was but one certain reason that was appropriate - fornication. In so saying, Christ allows that for one reason divorce truly is appropriate. Now, all the stodgy old ministers of days past were careful to say over and again, "This does not refer to one-night stands." And they are probably right. Falling into bed with some other, vulnerable partner is not even on the table in my discussion. When one partner poisons all the dreams of his victim and starts a new life with a new lover, though, then divorce is the only recourse the victim can have. And Christ allows it.

If there is any doubt whether the Lord gave us divorce as a mercy, it should be resolved by remembering that even He availed Himself of its sad release.

Jer 3:8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

The victim of a fornicating abandonment does not sin in filing for divorce.

Let me deal with two objections:

Objection 1 What about the complaints of the one who leaves? (Allow me to call that person the faux-victim.) No one walks away from a marriage without justifying his departure. Continuing my sad little "seeds" analogy, there's two ways for a seed to die. The seed can be planted in bad ground, or it can be tended poorly. The faux-victim asserts that the seeds were tended poorly by the true victim, and that those seeds were long dead before he ever walked out.

This argument is defeated by scripture's wisdom. Love does not "move on." Love forgives, and in so doing, love heals. Yes, the victim surely failed his partner in very real and painful ways, but the the faux-victim doesn't forgive and heal. The faux-victim finds another lover who has not failed him (yet.) Fornication is, therefore, not so much the breaking point as the final nail. If both partners decide to give love, to forgive and to work to heal the other, then divorce will not come to pass. They might imaginably fail to build a living marriage, but they will not divorce. They will continue to forgive and make room for hope, even if separation comes. You will know they both were true in heart when neither seeks out a new lover.

The complaints of the one who leaves are given lie by his his actions.

Objection 2 What about mercy? We are commanded to turn the other cheek. Shouldn't we extend that eternal forgiveness we receive from God? Shouldn't we not divorce even when offended against, just as Christ extended mercy to us by dying for us while we were yet enemies?

No. In case of fornication, we should divorce. If you have gouged out your own eye, or cut off your own hand, then staying married to an active fornicator will make the same kind of sense. To remain married in such a case is an offense against justice, and one that God Himself did not allow. When Israel fornicated against Him, He was slow to divorce her, but divorce her He did.

Yes, show the mercy of God in giving a clean divorce with humility and peace. Yes, turn the other cheek for years by dealing mercifully with the one who dealt wrongly. But don't hinder justice by holding out hope that a dead marriage will be resurrected.

Is Reconciliation Allowed?

De 24:4
Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

God is against taking back the defiled. The scripture is against taking back the defiled. Do not counsel for it. No good can come of this thing.

Christian divorcee, if you find yourself laboring to believe God will bring back your spouse, give it up. Be done with it. I know in the old days they counseled that reconciliation was your only hope for remarriage without sin. They were wrong. This is an abomination.

I will not shut the door forever on the thought that God might work a miracle, and He might find a way to do something amazing. Hosea took back his wife, and God offered to take back Israel, so yes there are 1 in 1000 exceptions to the exception, but please don't believe you're one of them lightly. There are successful reconciliations, but there are many more flaming failures. Don't throw good years after bad. Let the Lord restore the years of the locusts, but Deut 24:4 says He'll do it another way.

Is The First Remarriage Allowed?

When a couple divorces, they can both remarry. And we know that in some cases those remarriages may be sinful. Jesus says that whomever remarries first is guilty of adultery, as is his new partner.

Matt 19:9
And I say unto you *, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

The first partner to re-mate reveals where his heart was all along. The first partner to re-mate sunders the one flesh relationship visibly that was already dismembered in his heart. Until that moment, the victim hoped. After that moment, there is nothing but a gaping wound where love used to be. No child of God does that to another. No child of God remarries first.

(BTW, I say, "re-mate," above not merely to insult any first remarriage, but because pragmatically that first remarriage is often not a marriage at all, but a cohabitation agreement, or a steady relationship with "committed" sex. If it's not marriage, it's still fornication. The fully legal remarriage, the bed sharing, the committed rendezvous, or serial one-night stands; it all fits into "except it be for fornication.")

whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery
And Jesus confirms this stricture. The victim of a divorce without fornication is an adulterer in remarriage. When the departing spouse remarries, he causes both himself and his new partner to commit adultery. He probably doesn't care one whit about that, but it is the truth.

Is The Second Remarriage Allowed?

I will argue in a minute that the second remarriage is a blessing allowed by God, but before I do let me set my expectations on any remarriage.

I have not experienced a second marriage, but it seems it must be a different thing entirely. There are things I gave away in my first 17 years that I will never be able to give to anyone else. The children I love will always be the "one flesh" from a union that died, and there will be no more for me. Other second marriages may be able to build on a second family. That's not an option for me. I could not again bring the idealism of my youth to the table - though that's probably a blessing in itself! Instead, I would bring fears and scars. Remarriage seems very different from marriage. Marriage is a chance to build dreams into a profitable fortress of family. Remarriage seems a conscious agreement with God that it is good that people not be alone.

I am not here trying to argue that remarriage is anything but an aberration in God's plan. I am, however, going to argue that it is a good thing, profitable for all and worth pursuing. Remarriage is a chance to make war against the nightmare effects of sin.

Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery:

"...except... "

Except for the hardness of our hearts. Except for the reaving of fornication. Except for the devastation of sin.

Jesus permits the freeing dismemberment of divorce and provides the healing of remarriage. When the hard of heart abandons his first love, joins himself to another, and leaves the victim to rebuild the shattered pieces of a life, then Jesus says, "except." This remarriage, the second one of the original pairing, is not adultery.

Many for whom I have great respect believe all remarriage is adultery. With them I must humble myself, and support them. If they were to remarry without faith, it certainly would be adultery. And so I support their decision. Except for God's mercy toward the hardness of men's hearts, and except for fornication, all remarriage would be adultery. But to ignore the, "except," and to ignore the hardness, and to ignore the fornication, seems to ignore things the Messiah was willing to heal. After the finality of fornication, there is the newness of remarriage without adultery.

Matt 19:10-12
His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

I'm a pessimist, but with each year the thought of lifelong singleness looks less and less daunting, more and more survivable. Does that mean I have been given the gift of eunuchdom? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe I was made a eunuch by an ex-wife. We'll see.

My current default position is that I will remarry, but my standards have been informed by my experiences. The fears my pain taught me are real, but so is the wisdom. I will not again marry a person on the scant evidence that they profess to be Christian. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that to slow the tide of divorce, we must teach our children how to know whether someone truly loves Jesus Christ. I recommend looking for someone with a track record of having surrendered treasures to the Lord and loved Him more deeply after suffering the loss. I know a lot of Christians who resent the Lord for things He's taken away, and there's no future with them, whether they're saved or not. If there's a better thing to measure, I'm all ears. Right now, it's the best I've got.

for the kingdom of heaven's sake.

The kingdom of heaven is forever. Marriage is only for a lifetime. Remarriage doesn't even last that long. When it comes down to what matters, all things are subject to the sake of the kingdom of God. If I can be single for the kingdom of heaven's sake, then sign me up. Right now, in my life, I see no additional value to the kingdom in my "freedom," but my eyes are open. Mayhap the Lord has something surprising in store. All cannot receive this saying, and I don't know which camp I'm in.

For most, remarriage is the thing best for the kingdom of heaven. If gardening is a glory to God, then sowing the seeds of love again in another's heart has to be a more glorious thing. If flowers are cheering, then smiles and warm glances have to be encouraging, and even inspiring. If a successful marriage is a glory to God, then a successful remarriage must be like the widow finding her lost teacozy. Heaven surely does not rejoice over a remarriage like the welcoming in of a new child of God, but the triumph of love where sin had ravaged cannot be a thing unnoticed by angels. Entered into with wisdom and courage, remarriage is a beautiful thing. I know of a couple gorgeous remarriages, one of 25+ years, and the kingdom is truly blessed by these four saints.

Let us think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. May the Lord bless each of His children.