29 October, 2007

A Better Christian Symbol

There were a number of Christian symbols in the first and second centuries. None of them was a cross. We had a fish (not the Ichthys fish, but just a fish) and a boat. They both symbolized life surviving in the ocean of death. There was the anchor, and the Shepherd, and I believe there was a meal. Fortunately, I've mislaid my copy of "Ante Pacem", so I don't have to engage in any real research or anything for this little post. :-)

Either way, the cross didn't hit its stride as the exclusive Christian symbol until Constantine shamed us by joining our club under his banner. Once the emperor said it was under that sign he conquered, we fell hook, line and sinker for it. I rather doubt he was motivated by Paul's exhortation to glory in naught save the cross - maybe the crass, but not the cross.

For years and years I've thought our ultimate symbol should be of the resurrection.

And so I present the newest Christian symbol:

The Empty Tomb

It's the tomb with the stone rolled away, and the empty table upon which Christ's shroud lay. Sure, it needs a little explanation, but so did those two sticks nailed to each other before Constantine made it "a star."

I like the way it looks a little like the infinity symbol.

21 October, 2007

Trapped - A Book Review

I saw a mosquito tonight. It will be a little hard to describe where I saw him, but let's give it a shot.

Above my sink is a bright light. And to the left of that light, I hang a hand mixer for protien drinks. On the mixer, my son hangs a cup. The cup is clear plastic. So, picture a little to the left and below my sink light, an inverted, clear cup.

The mosquito was hopelessly trapped inside this cup.

He was pulling a "moth" and flying toward the bright light, when he stumbled into a clear plastic prison. He immediately set to work trying to get on with his life, I imagine, though I was not there to see his first actions. When I arrived, he seemed to vary his path a little bit flying first to the left, then up, then down, then right and mixing the pattern up creatively, in hopes of finding a hole through which he might escape from the prison he could not even see.

The 4 inch hole at the bottom of the cup never figured into his escape plans.

I watched him for a minute before I walked away and finished cooking dinner. (For those of you keeping score, yeah he's still alive somewhere in my house.)

He was trapped by nothing but his own wiring. In order to free himself, he would need to travel 120 degrees away from the bright light and in the right direction - down. I never saw his path drift more than 60 degrees from the light, and I never saw him go down much at all.


In related news, I finished reading "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" today. It's the true autobiography of a 16 year old girl in the 50's who was committed to an insane asylum for schizophrenia. The book had the same effect upon me as did watching "A Beautiful Mind." It left me a jibbering idiot for a little over an hour. Every time I read about schizophrenia, I lose a touch with reality for a little while. It's quite unsettling.

I was still suffering from that straightjacketed thinking when I saw the mosquito.

The parallels are far too obvious to draw, but I'll do it anyway. Insanity arrives when our hard wiring comes in conflict with an invisible trap. People who think they're pithy say foolish things like, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result each time." These pithy, cruel people cannot see the trap. They sit outside the cup telling the victim to "Just fly straight up. Watch, I'll show you how it's done."

They say brilliant things like, "With the right drugs, you can live a normal life." Maybe with the right drugs the tormented quit bouncing their heads off the top of the cup, instead of sitting there half-asleep on the side of their invisible trap, but it's no normal life. Either way, the cruel don't know that and shoot their mouths off none the wiser for their pith, and none the kinder for their helpfulness.


So with this post, let my recommendations be 2:
1) If you find yourself beating your head against an invisible trap, seek competent help and ignore foolish helpers. They're everywhere.

2) If you want to know what it's like to be helplessly tormented by your own mind, and if you would like to cry repeatedly for pure tragedy, pick up a copy of the book, "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden." It is a brilliant self-portrait of one girl's journey through the darkest hell earth offers, and of the people she learned to appreciate along the way. The book will freeze your heart with its portrayal of insanity, and melt it with the story of those who endure it - themselves, their parents, and their doctors.

20 October, 2007

Of Gardening and God

Scene 1:

Codepoke out in his flower garden. It's the first time he's ever gardened flowers, and doesn't really know why he's doing it. There are not yet any flowers in his garden. There are only sprouts.

And some of the sprouts are weeds.

Codepoke is kind of conflicted on the subject of killing. Once he killed an animal, and even though it was the right thing to do, he still feels remorse. But he would do it again. He was once kind to cockroaches, and still has to consciously overcome guilt before killing a spider in the house. Sometimes he pretends he doesn't see them so he doesn't have to end their lives.

The weeds in the garden seem somehow noble. Unbidden, they find a way to carry on. Despite all the machinations of man, they thrive. And with that tender green that only a new-sprouted herb has, they are breaking out all around the bare earth where Codepoke's planted flowers.

Scene 2:

Adam is no longer hungry, and neither are Eve, Cain, or Abel. It's been twenty or more years they've been out in the wild world, the world beyond the garden. For the first couple years, they gathered fruit and nuts that fell out of trees. Gradually, they learned about grains, then they figured out about storage, and finally about planting enough for a year. God helped them figure this all out. They would not have made it alone. But now, their tummies are full every night and were even through the winter. It's all because of farming.

The spring is well upon them now, and Adam wants his family to be full through the next winter as well. He and Cain are standing in the field they planted last week and surveying their coming bounty. Adam takes Cain through the field, careful to step in the unplanted places, teaching Cain how the weeds must be kept under control. They are alive and sometimes beautiful, but each weed reduces the grain they have for the winter. He teaches Cain to leave the weeds closest to the seedlings, for fear of pulling the wrong sprout. And he teaches Cain to pull the big weeds right away, and all the sprouts in the wrong places, and all the weeds at the borders.

God promised him, those twenty years ago, that he would be able to feed his family. It was later he learned what those thorns and thistles and the sweat of his brow really meant.

Scene 3:
Luke 13:6-9
He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

This really is not about a conclusion for me. It was just three mental pictures I connected with back in July when I was planting my flowers. (BTW, I planted way too late, and planted 5 areas/things. 4 of them were successes. The Xinia's were the most ridiculous. They did not show flower pods until mid-Sept, and didn't bloom until the very end of Sept - and that was just 4 flowers. Indian summer has been so merciful around here, though, that I have like 30 Xinias going strong and it's almost halloween. There should be some kind of law against that, but it's really cool.)

The main "moral" that came to mind for me was that ever since God allowed mankind their rein, He now eats by the sweat of His brow, too, just like us.


Wikipedia features a different article every day. This makes perfect BlackBerry bathroom reading at work. Isn't technology great?

Anyway, back to the point. On Wednesday or so, the featured article was "Truthiness." The first sentence from the article is:
Truthiness is a satirical term created by U.S. television comedian and Presidential candidate Stephen Colbert to describe things that a person claims to know intuitively or "from the gut" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.

(I'm pretty sure the part about Steve being a presidential candidate was added recently, since he just announced. And checking that out, I just learned that he is only 3 days older than I am. My inner astrologist is suddenly wondering what might have been.)

Steve's point, of course, is that Bush's decisions should be trusted, because they always have a high degree of truthiness. The article makes hay of the truthiness that informed his Iraq decisions and the nomination of Harriet Miers, saying:
Consider Harriet Miers. If you 'think' about Harriet Miers, of course her nomination's absurd. But the president didn't say he 'thought' about his selection. He said this:

(video clip of President Bush:) 'I know her heart.'
Notice how he said nothing about her brain? He didn't have to. He feels the truth about Harriet Miers.

Funny, pointed, and routinely brilliant stuff. Truthiness is a rich and insidious insult, and I love it. (One of my favorite lines, though, shows Colbert photoshopped into a picture of a bunch of militant mullahs with the caption, "One place Steven Colbert won't be speaking truthiness to power.")

But like so many insults, once you get past the humor, it is only helpful internally.

My thoughts of truthiness wandered naturally to doctrinal discussion. Colbert is hopelessly right. When we approach a doctrinal discussion, we come with a gut-full of truth. Our truths are established by the strongest possible of proofs - we have survived because of them. They have taken us through fire and flood, and promise to take us to a sunlit future. Even when they don't really work.

I have personally been carried through trials of self-condemnation by legalism. And afterward I held more tightly to my legalism, even though I would never have gone through the trial in the first place had I completely released my need to please God. I faced a crisis of faith, and was forced to lay back upon my doctrine to move forward, and I made it through. And I erroneously believed legalism carried me. Really, I made it through because a deep acceptance of God's mercy worked under that false surface of rigid attempts to please His justice.

In my gut, I knew God was judging me, and that motivated me (falsely) to make it through my crisis. Forevermore after that, I was less likely to release my legalism. And with each trial I survived, my false doctrine was more deeply established. Apart from any scriptural or practical evidence, I knew in my gut what I should do. I should fear God, fear His standards, and push for perfection.

And here's the kicker. When anyone accused me of truthiness (in essence, even though they sadly lacked the pithy palaver), I had pseudo-facts with which to fire back. I could quote verses, string logic, and present the best side of my reasoning. It doesn't help to accuse me of truthiness, unless I do it myself.

May I, and may we, learn to see truthiness in the only place that matters.

18 October, 2007

The Cure for Everything

I saw this quote today:

"The cure for anything is salt water --
sweat, tears, or the sea." Isak Dinesen

You have to think about it a second, and it's brilliant. That's the best kind of quote. I was quite immediately impressed with it.

But, as is my wont, I thought about it some more.

Sweat was a part of the curse of sin on the land.

Tears are a result of sin, and will be erased in the coming age.

Sea is the symbol of death, the final foe vanquished by Christ.

So, really Isak is saying the cure for sin is in its curse. Sweat opposes everything sin takes from us in labors. Tears oppose everything taken from us loss. And the sea takes from us all the poisonous that can be soaked out by rest.

So maybe she's actually right, outside of Christ. It's certainly a powerful insight.

Just thinkin'

14 October, 2007

The Vision Given to Jesus

We call the last book of the bible, "Revelations," but it is named the revelation given to Jesus to show to His servants. I read a little of it last night and was crushed by the first three chapters.

John was alone in the Spirit when he heard a loud, commanding voice declaring that He was the Alpha and the Omega, and that He had words for John to carry to seven churches. When John turned around, he did not see a vision. John saw a Man, maybe 5' 11", standing in the middle of some very real candlesticks.

This Man was like no other, but John knew Him because He was the same Jesus he'd known those fifty or sixty years ago. Now, though, this Jesus looked the part of a King. His robe was bound by a golden girdle, His hair was pure, and His eyes gave a flaming light rather than waiting to receive it. His exposed feet were tanned such that they glowed the light back that had bronzed them. His voice overrode every other sound, like a waterfall covers every noise in the forest.

Jesus meant business. He came to talk to John about seven churches. He carried a light from each church in His right hand, stood in the middle of them as they lit the Holy Place, and spoke with the menace and directness of a sword.

This was Jesus, the One Who had proven Himself ever-loving and Who had purchased a kingdom for His Father. This was the Desire of the Ages in the flesh, and the One Whose love is most to be treasured.

And He reveals Himself to John because He is not happy with the churches.

Reading the next two chapters is not easy.

This high and beautiful One looks at us, the churches, and says, "I have this against you," and our hearts melt away. If we read about Jesus' complaints and praises of the churches, we learn some things. But if we see the One Whose face is like the sun shining in his strength turn those eyes of fire on us and say, "I have something against you," we collapse in terror and shame. We know that whatever He has against us is true, and that we are guilty before Him and His Father, guilty of every word.

He comes to Ephesus and finds they've let their love cool. He walks in Pergamos and finds them greedy, immoral and enslaved to religion. Thyatira is immoral. Sardis is barely alive. These are churches directly taught by the very apostles, and maintained by men the apostles hand-picked as the best and most spiritual of all in a dark, dark time. Ephesus was set to rights by Timothy, but they yet receive a letter from Jesus Himself telling how He is displeased by them.

They will hear these words, and the room will grow cold. The blood will rush out of the faces of hundreds of people at once as they see Him and hear Him. Their spirits will see the Man with the golden girdle and the face like fire, and their hearts will hear His threat, "Remember from where you have fallen and repent. Do the first works over again, or I will come quickly and discard you," and they will faint.

But Ephesus heard praise. Every church heard praise to bouy their spirits and to give them hope, except only one. Laodicea heard only rebuke. They heard only that they would be spit out of their Lord's mouth. They heard only that they bragged to be rich when they were poor, that they stood as pure when they were filthy, that they claimed to see everything when they were blind.

The Laodiceans heard their report last, and I can imagine the room. They heard each pronouncement against their brothers and sisters elsewhere and each person's heart went through melodrama after terror after hope. They knew they were not small like Philadelphia, and hoped to avoid the warnings given to faithful Smyrna. When His anger was breathed out against those who eat food sacrificed to idols, they thought back over the last months, whether any of their number had taken to buying cheap meat. Were any fornicating? Were they dead while they lived?

And with the fear was mingled hope. Might the Lord be proud of the songs they'd written? Might He praise the way they'd kept themselves from the world? Would He commend the visions they'd shared with the other churches?

When the man chosen to read this letter in Laodicea got to this paragraph, the tears he could not restrain would give away the contents before he read the words, before he said their name, "Laodiceans." When he finished telling them that they were truly wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, every fear was multiplied and every hope put to shame.

But Jesus next words had to have done something in the room.

He told them how to become rich, how to become pure, and how to see truly.

Nothing more than that. The anger was over, and the judgement. Immediately there came the answer, the encouragement, the true hope. And the hope was this, "As many as I love..."

"As many as I love..."

Jesus loved Laodicea.

As many as He loves, He rebukes and chastens, so He encourages them forward to repentance. It is to these whom He loved that he stood outside the door and knocked. It was with these He wished to share dinner. It was with these He wished to overcome and sit beside His Father. There was no hesitation on His part, no waiting to see whether His people would repent. Jesus wants to be with His children.

I'm sure Jesus has something against the church of the Americans. When I read these first three chapters of the revelation, it's with just fear. 5 of the churches are commanded to repent, and those were the best founded churches of all time. What hope have we who are awash in money, declare ourselves the moral majority, and publish our wisdom for the ages faster than we can count?

We need the Spirit to come and reveal to us where we can buy gold and garments and eyesalve.

Jesus would come and dine with us.

13 October, 2007

Survey Help Needed

I meet all the criteria for Barb Orlowski's doctoral thesis, so I am going to participate in her survey. I heard about it through Christians for Biblical Equality, and will make sure any of you who have had similar experiences get the chance to give her some feedback.

Maybe some day I will tell my experience in an authoritarian church.


Hi Everyone, Oct. 2007

My name is Barb Orlowski. I am on the Doctor of Ministry program at A.C.T.S. Seminaries in Langley, B.C., Canada. In order to conduct the research necessary to complete my dissertation, I could use your help. I am conducting a survey among Christians who have experienced emotional and spiritual distress under authoritarian and controlling church leaders and have recovered from this experience.

Here are the criteria that I am looking for in participants:

1. Christians who have experienced emotional and spiritual distress under authoritarian and controlling church leaders and who have ceased to be associated with those congregations;
2. Christians who subsequently have recognized and processed their spiritual grief and pain and have experienced spiritual recovery;
3. Christians who are willing to share how they have processed their negative experience and have recovered spiritual harmony; those who can share what has happened since this painful episode. Christians who can answer this question: What factors have helped you to restore your confidence in God and His people?

If people feel that they fit the criteria for this study, please contact me.
I will give you further details about this study, and then I will send you the questionnaire along with the consent information. The responses given by those participating will be kept confidential. Your responses will be put in anonymous form and may be kept for further use after the completion of this study.

Thank you for your interest and participation in this study. I appreciate the time and effort that it takes to complete a questionnaire.

In Him, Barb

Barb’s contact email: churchexitersq@telus.net

* Comments and questions are welcome.

· When you respond to this request by emailing me--
· please let me know which site you saw this information. Thanks.

10 October, 2007

Opinions sought on a fresh analysis of Christ's words about Divorce

I read this post on Divorce and Remarriage this morning, and it has been rattling in my head all day. I am not ready to express any opinion on it, but if anyone is I'd love to hear it.

HT: Suzanne McCarthy in Complegalitarian, a new blog dedicated to civil discussion of the complementarian/egalitarian issue.

08 October, 2007

Celebration - An Example

I was answering KB, and got carried away. Here's what I'd recommend.

If I had my way, the 12 closest churches would all get together, rent the local football field, and have a potluck. This potluck happen at 7:00 AM some Sunday morning in July, and it would be a black tie affair. Everyone would bring cold delicacies worthy of a King. There would be bread and wine in the style and manner of each church on every table in wrappers saying, "Please open when asked." The placemats would have printed on them the doxology and Thou Art Worthy

Each church would bring a flag on a 10 foot pole, a unique flag that would represent their church. Each church's tables would have miniature versions of this same flag on them. Each placemat would also have a sticker on it showing another church's flag. (They would be in triplets. The placemats at Church A's table would have three stickers for church B in a row, then three stickers for church C, then 3 for D etc.)

The food would be placed on the tables, and everyone would follow their flag to a place just behind the their end zone. 6 churches would be circled around 6 flags in the south end, and 6 in the north end. Each church would be advised to place seats behind the end zone for those who were not able to stand for 90 minutes.

An MC with tophat and tails would run to the center of the field precisely at 7:00 announcing that we were here to worship our King. He would then pull a name out of the hat, and call that church to the tables in the center. They would let out a practiced cheer then walk to the center of the field while singing a chorus - into which everyone could join. A representative of that church would then stand to the mic, and deliver a 2 minute prayer of praise and allegiance to the King. Then the MC would call the next church forward.

That process would take an hour and a half.

After the last church had entered, someone with a strong and steady voice of pleasant range would lead everyone in "Thou Art Worthy." followed by a praise of God for the riches on the table, and free everyone to begin eating.

A minister (chosen by lots well prior to the meeting day) would deliver a message on the meaning of the bread, and the unity of the body of Christ. 5 minutes tops. :-) At that point, he would free the assembled body partake of the bread together. Each church would observe their customary respects toward the elements in administering to their own people. Then a second minister would follow the same protocol with the drink.

At this point, the ministers would all sit down quietly, and enjoy the meal with everyone else.

When everyone had eaten, the flag bearer of each church would be asked to return to his place in the end zone, and everyone would be asked to rally around, not their own flag, but the flag that matched their placemat sticker.

With the people all nicely mixed together, a caller would lead everyone in a responsive recitation of Psalm 122 (probably in the Message translation). After the caller spoke each line, the assembled body would shout it back to him. When the Psalm was done, and when any spontaneous shouting died down, our singer would lead everyone in the doxology.

At that point, the flags would do one more turn around the field, and as your church's flag passed you, you would fall in line behind it and head for the parking lot.

It should be right around 10:00 AM by this point, and the sun should just be starting to get too warm for black tie outdoors. I would recommend there be a couple RV's in the parking lot for people to change out of dress clothes into work clothes, and it would be time to break down the tables and chairs.

07 October, 2007


OK. I absolutely have to turn off KB's Impossible Dream recording. I cannot type while enthralled. [And while I'm mentioning things KB, his session with Jon Stewart is incredible, too. I know I'm supposed to be all conservative and all, and not like ol' Jon, but the man is brilliant, funny and honest. If you didn't see him gut, fillet and grill two conservative talk show hosts some time last year (I remember neither the show, nor the hosts, but I remember he single-handedly took them off the air with his one interview) then you've never seen the power of wit. Not quite Man of LaMancha stuff, but worthy of respect.]

I cannot hear The Impossible Dream without wanting to change the world all over again. And what's more, I cannot want to change the world again without imagining a way to try. I will fail, but I wouldn't bet a stale donut against me presenting this post to my pastor before too very long. Or writing a book with Celebration as its theme.

Let me start with the back story.

I went to the opera with two young couples from the church Friday night. Puccini is a little light for me, I think, but that's not much of a surprise. Granted, most people probably think having the heroine die of TB at the end of La Boheme is anything but light, but I want tragic tragedy! If I wanted conversational opera, I'd stay home and chat with my buds. I want climactic agony, and notes that reach the depths. I grant that Puccini shifted gears quickly, within the space of even a single line going from conversational to epic in tone, but when I find a composer that stays in high gear the whole way, I'll have found true love. The fever-pitch of Impossible Dream sings right to my heart.

The interesting thing about the evening, though, was the people with whom I attended. I was dressed in my best business casual, since I own nothing else. I wish I could have been more dapper because the sisters were dolled to the nines, and pumped. Both of their guys were dressed smartly, but trepidacious. They didn't get it. Opera was to them both boring and intimidating, and they made it clear that they would rather be watching football while we the torture was still hours away.

OK, so young men are boors and act boorishly to their significant others. This is not news. I think I was able to keep their macho negativity in check and everyone enjoyed the evening, even the poor disappointed ladies. (It's really cool being the old guy.) What's more, I think lessons were learned by all.

But there's something bigger in this than just boorish guys and disappointed ladies. Those ladies were living out an important part of being human that those young men failed to perceive. When we say, "Moses," we tend to think of a certain 10 (or maybe 630-ish) commands, and that is appropriate. Still, there are two other things I wish we'd think of when we remember him, Worship and Celebration.

Worship because of the tabernacle. Every provision of God for all of history is portrayed in that tabernacle and its duties. Huge pages of Leviticus are taken up in the description of that badger-hide tent, because it was a mobile memorial of the exact ministry of heaven. Hidden within the lists of things the tabernacle did for Israel, things the priests did for the tabernacle, and things the people did with the tabernacle was everything the Father, Son, Spirit and bride are doing today and will do forever. Displayed before Israel was everything the Son would do on earth, and everything He continues to do in heaven.

The law tells us about God, but the tabernacle tells us about relating to God. The one teaches us His holiness, and the other teaches us His care. When we balance the teaching of the law and the tabernacle, we need not argue that our God was nice even in the old testament. His care cannot be missed.

Celebration because the largest portion of Israel's interaction with God was celebratory. Almost 2/7's of every obedient Israelite's life was spent celebrating. Every 7th day and every 7th year and every 7th - 7th year + 1 (every 50th year) was spent celebrating the end of God's labors and end of their own. And 7 times every single year, Israel celebrated some victory of God's, both visible and invisible. Celebrating the Passover, for example, was celebrating the moment of deliverance from Egypt. At the same time, though, it was celebrating the yet-to-come deliverance of all God's people from sin forever in the Lamb.

Dressing up for a night of high entertainment is a deep part of being humans. Celebrating each other, high art, and the Most High God all spring from the same fount of God's image within us - or could if only we had the imagination. If the Israelites could build booths to God and in their millions shout at once with upraised palm-branches to God, could we not do something high and glorious to celebrate our Ascended Lord of Life? Could we not conceive of a celebration to transcend weekly liturgies, and declare with exuberance and passion the glory of the Reachable Star?

Our churches languish because we fail to reach for God, to declare Him in all the richness we can risk. Until we relate to Him in holiness, worship and celebration together, we'll remain boorish young brothers, afraid to leave behind our veneer of machismo. We'll pass the years of our Christian walk stuck in our blue-jeans and t-shirt relationship to the Most Elegant God, hoping He'll just accept what we find courage enough to give Him.

But one liturgy's not good enough for the God of all variety, is it?

Let's find a way to reach for true celebration of Him.

06 October, 2007

Meeting Meet Mates

I don't know. I've heard that even slight brain damage can alter a person's accent. What could have happened to me to elicit alliterative addiction eludes me, but I guess I'd best run with it.

I said yesterday that there was something positive in this month's Touchstone Magazine for us to talk about. I don't know of anyone reading this blog who is actively "looking." And you know what I mean, don't you? :-/

Touchstone ran a symposium on dating, courtship & marriage this month with 4 of their familar authors. They called it:
Helpers Meet?

If you have the time and inclination, do please read these 4 brief, brief articles and come back. I'll still be here.


If you subscribed to the paper mag, you saw one more little paragraph in blue halfway through the article. It said,

Your Turn

Dating and marriage being such crucial matters to our readers, single and parents alike, and of such importance to the health of the church and society, we invite readers to send responses to this forum, for possible publication in a future issue.

The responses should be written directly and concretely, no more than 400 words long, and received by October 26th. Please send them to me at editor [you know the symbol] touchstonemag [and this one too] c0m.

I may not be in a position to "look" right now. Life is complex like that. But look I do, and think on the subject I do. Here is what I will email to yon editor (if I have not worn out my welcome) after a little editing with you'uns help.

(And [Insert Exclamation of Amazement HERE] how do they expect me to say ANYTHING in 400 words. :-)

The history of God’s people is replete with "she was pleasing, so he married her." Every bit as surely, it is peppered with regrets in some of those marriages, though not all. This method, while exciting, seems a bit spotty in its execution. And while the full-blown arranged marriage is problematic, I need help. I know men and I can tell whether a man is faking pretty quickly, but put me across the coffee table from an eligible sweetheart with big hair, and I’m just another sucker.

I favor, and am actively advocating in my church, romantic introductions being initiated by selected elders (and this is key) across church and denominational boundaries. First, I need to talk to a wise, elder woman who has known my big-haired prospect much of her life, and who can make a wise recommendation to me. Second, I’m in a bit of a rub. My church has 80 people, none of them single ladies, and I am not leaving. I refuse to join a mega-church to meet chicks.

But what if my deaconness "Kathy" knew deaconness "Jane" at the nearby Presbyterian church, and regularly inquired whether there were any single women of X number of years in the faith, solid reputation, and willing to attend a church potluck to meet Codepoke? Both churches should profit.

Of importance to this idea are several details:
1) Jane and Kathy (or Dick or whomever) must be deacons of known reputation, filled with the Spirit and common sense.
2) Jane and Kathy must know about each other, and should really know each other personally if possible. I recommend coffee from time to time.
3) The churches must be nearby. Why not start to build relationships between churches via wise marriage? Can anyone think of a single negative to this happy possibility?
4) When the young lady (for example) begins to have doubts about the young man, she should be able to approach that man’s presenting deacon and express doubts about his reputation and possible intentions.

Even in my youth, I think I could have accepted the help of a caring deaconness gracefully. I ended up marrying a young lady of some reputation and character, but who apostasized. I’d bet Kathy would have steered me clear from day one. Hindsight reveals things to me she’d probably have seen from the start. Today I’d do better, but I covet wise counsel.

(And yes, it's exactly 400 words. I don't know how I cut it down so much!)

04 October, 2007

Manly Man Meme

Alright, I'll play a meme. It's from Popular Mechanics and is making the rounds. I think it's called the "he-man" meme or some such.

Before I start my bragging, I have to tell you that no one has ever accused me of being a man's man. In fact, I have spent most of my life thinking of myself as something of a pantywaist. 75 million peers can't all be wrong, right? I have to admit that taking this little meme was something of a pleasant surprise to me (or I wouldn't have shared it - I'm as vain as the next guy.)

1. Patch a radiator hose
I can tear the whole engine down to bones and rebuild it to spec within probably double the time requirements guideline without purchasing any new tools (though I'd have to borrow back my torque wrenches from Dave.) Or I can get you home with some 100-mile-an-hour tape.

2. Protect your computer
Without wrapping it in thin rubber, I assume? While doing it using your choice of my recommended tool cost/performance solutions, I can why explain worms and trojans are more dangerous than viruses, why Microsoft should be known as the Buffer Overrun birthing grounds, and how WinAntiVirusPro self-replicates to defeat Norton and McAfee, but falls to Kaspersky in one patch.

3. Rescue a boater who has capsized
If they mean how to right a capsized canoe or sailboat, I can do that. If they mean uprighting some boater's feet that happen to be sticking out of the water, I'm not sure righting him is needed so much as sobering him up.

4. Frame a wall
Does digging the footings, laying the foundation, plumbing, wiring, framing, roofing, and finishing our house with my father count? I was just weekend help, but I still know how to inset the windbrace in every wall, which a lot of people that know what "24 inch center" means have never heard of doing.

5. Retouch digital photos
I only know how to do this with the old manual blur/sharpen/etc stuff in Paint Shop Pro. I don't know how to use the "one-button fix" tools that are so popular these days.

6. Back up a trailer
I used to blind-side 50 foot trailers into 10 foot wide slots with a 55 foot approach area (yeah, that means I had to come in sideways, and whip the front end out 40 feet while sticking the backend in the slot blindly). I still have my CDL with A classification. So, I can legally drive anything with rubber as long as there are no hazmat certs or bus certs required.

7. Build a campfire
One match in a steady drizzle without fluids. Proved it repeatedly last summer during a week long trip with no amenities but water.

8. Fix a dead outlet
I've already covered this, but I have pulled wire through existing walls without gutting them and added circuits to my box without killing anyone. I did ask for help to wire up 220v. In my experience, asking for help when you need it should be counted as a manly point, too, but I don't think that will ever fly. Maybe I should also mention that I've worked 440v 3-phase electricity hot 1 inch away while a diesel generator mechanic. A year of that was enough, and went back to working on trucks.

9. Navigate with a map and compass
Through two trips at the National Training Center desert at night and in daylight. I can still get you where you're going with the stars alone, given sufficient motivation. I got pretty badly lost my first night, but I got us all into our beds after a couple extra hours and never turned too soon again.

10. Use a torque wrench
Well, they're on loan.

11. Sharpen a knife
You'll think I'm kidding, but I'm not. I was too embarassed to ask for a razor, and my parents were too ... something ... to admit that I needed one, and I was being laughed at for the fuzz. There was only one answer. So, for the first two years of my shaving career I shaved with my pocketknife. Give me any stone, and I'll give you a blade with which you can strip your face - even if it's not the closest, most comfortable shave you'll ever have.

12. Perform CPR
I did not have to actually perform the 15/2 exercise, but while out in the desert I did correctly diagnose my motor sergeant's congestive heart failure and get him to medical attention without him ever knowing anything was wrong. I figured if I told him he was having a heart attack, he'd have a heart attack, so I quietly came up with one excuse after another to get him back to the unit medics and called the shot correctly. I've had all the classes, including knowing that they no longer recommend the rescue breathing.

13. Fillet a fish
Why would anyone do this to a perfectly good knife? Still, I have dressed just enough fish with someone else's knives to prove I can. Namely, I dressed out several hundred grunnion(?) running out at the beach one night for smoking. Fillet, though? Nope. They've got me there. Ain't gonna fillet no water-breathers.

14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
I've maneuvered a street motorcycle on pavement out of a two-wheel skid (among other, less-interesting types). I also laid the bike down three times, but only once showing off for a chick. Car's are child's play. I've driven for blocks without ever letting car come back out of a skid. My son has gotten to the point of saying, "You know, this NEVER happens when I ride with my sister or mother." Last time, it was because I was in a little bit of a hurry in the rain and dished the rear end out coming off the freeway. That could happen to anyone, of course. The thing that rattled him was that I was paying no attention when it happened, and my immediate, instinctive reaction on feeling the fishtail was to floor the gas. It was, of course, the right reaction but not a lot of people do it. FTR, it works in bobtail tractors, too. I got stuck 4 times the first weekend I drove in snow, and never have been stuck again.

15. Get a car unstuck
Well, here we are revisiting previous points again. I've "unstuck" Hummers (military version, not the civilian toys), Deuce and halfs, and a 10 ton+ Goer using nothing but a rope. Yeah, I can get my rig out of anything it can be gotten out of.

16. Back up data
Some people think this is too easy, but do you want it backed up to tape, disk, USB, SAN, NAS, or optical WORM? Do you want it backed on or off schedule? Full backups or deltas only? Error reporting? Or do you really want RAID striping and redundancy or maybe high availability clustering? Are you talking about disaster recovery or business continuity with failover? People who think this is easy just aren't thinking hard enough.

17. Paint a room
Presumably they want the drywall mudwork finished and the sheetrock taped, the surface primed, and the fixtures removed as opposed to just slapping on some paint. I can go either way.

18. Mix concrete
I didn't really mix the concrete for our house, I just helped pour it. But, I mixed the concrete to rebuild my front steps when they crumbled under the Columbus freeze/thaw cycle. I learned a couple things in the process, but don't remember what they were now. I guess I'll have to learn those lessons all over again when the next opportunity comes around.

19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
Hmmmm. I can armorer strip an m-16 and field-strip an m-60 machine gun, and clean both to IG standards. I wonder if that counts? Because all I own is a muzzle-loading rifle, a lever-action rifle, two revolvers, one semi-auto pistol and one cap and ball pistol. All but the semi-auto pistol were inherited (no fetish here) but I grew up shooting and probably always will enjoy it, even if I don't live in a place where it is cheap any more. I qualified expert marksman with an uncorrected astigmatism in my shooting eye. I will always wonder whether I would have qualified for the base shooting team had I known there were not really *supposed* to be 2 front sights to aim with.

20. Change oil and filter
If I'm nervous, I'll cut open the filter and read it like a CSI to tell whether my engine really has anything serious going wrong inside it.

21. Hook up an HDTV
Wouldn't know where to start, except by reading the manual. I'm probably going to use the mandated conversion to HD as my excuse to fall off the television landscape entirely.

22. Bleed brakes
Lot's of car stuff in this list. Anyone can bleed brakes with a partner. I can bleed them alone with a stick or with a pressure or vacuum bleeder. I'd have to read the procedure on any antilock brakes, but most people don't even know the procedures can be very different.

23. Paddle a canoe
Hehehe. For amusement, I have been known to drift down a lake in a 25+ mile-per-hour blow, and spend the next half-hour paddling back. If your nose drifts more than 5 degrees to the left or right, the wind will catch it and throw you around facing the wrong direction again. By the time you muscle your way back around, and get a good head of steam built up again you've lost 50 yards. River canoeing is a lot more exciting, of course, and I've done both. The J stroke is the only one I can call by name.

24. Fix a bike flat
Yeah. And car flats and truck flats, too. Though getting the split-rim apart on a truck tire has to be one of the most physical jobs around. Inflating a split rim after fixing it can actually be death-defying, too. But in a pinch, I know how to re-inflate a truck tire using ether and a match. I've never done it, and I'd hide behind a concrete wall if I did, but I know how.

25. Extend your wireless network
I assume they mean buying a repeater. This makes you a man? If they mean anything more interesting than that, then I fail in this criterion. More interesting would be to ask how many men know which wireless security protocol to use, and where to set up the password so your neighbors can't sniff out everything you're browsing or use your connection for free.


So, as long as being a man does not involve fish or TV, I can keep up with most of them according to Popular Mechanics. But I'd like to fire back.

For starters, Robert Heinlein had a MUCH better list of things a man should be able to do. I'd like to see how many of their macho men can keep up with this list.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Heinlein was a sinner's sinner, but he was a man's man, too. He'd make my shameless bragging above look like amateur hour, and I'm cool with that. He impressed me because he knew everything that mattered was warm and tender. If a man doesn't know that core fact, he's just a paper man - even if he can bench press his car.

Looking beyond even Heinlein's man, the warmest, tenderest, most precious thing on earth is the bride of our Lord. A brother in the Lord should also be able to:

Comfort the broken hearted
Resist sin
Mortify his own evil desires
Strengthen those who are tempted
Bless those who mistreat him
Submit himself quietly to the discipline of the Lord
Mourn with those who mourn
Laugh with those who laugh
Speak always with grace

May the Lord bless His sons and daughters

03 October, 2007


Talking to my boy again. I love it when they head out into the world to teach it how it should really work.

Today's lesson was courtesy.

He said, "You know, Dad, how you always say courtesy is critical? Yeah, well, you're right."

That was music to my aging ears, of course, but beyond that he made some very solid observations. The chief was that no man under 40 will make eye contact with him or otherwise acknowledge him beyond whatever is necessary to complete the purchase. For those of you who missed my last wondering post, he is running a register at Target. The upshot is that he spends several hours of each day being bored for money.

(Things can be a lot worse than IT work. :-)

I have always said courtesy is the lubricant of civilization, keeping us from rubbing each other to nubs. Now, he loves 60 year old men coming up to his register, because they will engage him a little bit. They will talk to him and break the monotony of an 8 hour register day out of simple courtesy, and he suddenly appreciates it.

He was kind enough to tell me that I'm just twenty years more courteous than my age and that was pretty cool.

Then I gave him a new thought.

Those same young men who will not engage him in any way engage EVERY young female register worker.



So, no man under the age of 40 who speaks to a young lady is doing it for courtesy's sake. This was a new way of looking at the world for him, and a very sobering one.

Our lack of courtesy is one of my mainest gripes. (Air travel seems to stir up my crotchety side. Sorry.) I get irked at our mailman, because he speaks to me with iPod earbuds going. He's just mouthing words to me that even he cannot hear. I'm tempted to blather inanity back to him, but I would be too embarassed to be caught being so discourteous.

So going back to the way younger men seem to treat women.

I offered to carry a lady's bag up the stairs from the plane today. She looked at me, grabbed her bag, and started up the stairs. Then she felt so bad that she flattered me the whole way up. These little scenes are all so complex! And they shouldn't be. :-(

All healthy social interaction requires a safe foundation of courtesy, or the simplest interaction threatens to be de facto sexual approach. It was hard enough to strike up a conversation with a woman twenty years ago, but now that nobody expects simple courtesy every conversation might likely be deeper exploration. So I guess it's simple caution, as a lady, to assume every younger man making conversation with you is on the hunt.

A culture without courtesy worries me.

Ecumenical Egalitarian Exclusionary Ethics

Yeah, my favorite part is picking the title. I figure I'm the only one who gets my joke sometimes, but when I don't see your distressed faces I can blithely assume everyone enjoys 18 syllable alliterations.

But this particular title is not a joke.

I am a subscriber to Touchstone Magazine. It's an ecumenical publication (meaning they want to bring all Christians together under one big tent) that seems to be primarily Roman Catholic in tone, financing and authorship. I read a lot in it by the different protestant denominations, and a good bit by orthodox clergy, but it still jolts my ear to hear the occasional Catholicism spoken like that good-ol' religion.

As I have read the mag, I have found about 30% of the articles are challenging and profitable (and yes, the Catholics are doing a good job, too), 10% of the articles are misguided, and the remaining 60% are the usual fluff. I mostly keep the subscription to keep my finger on several pulses at once, and it works well for me that way.

(Some day remind me to comment on a pair of articles they wrote concurrently on Anorexia Nervosa if you're interested - WOW stuff.)

There is one subject on which they regularly offend me, and I mean regularly and I mean offend. The world's ecuminicists all agree together that the only group they can bash as one are egalitarians (those who hold that women are often called by God to minister the gospel, and should be allowed to do so). People who agree to respect each other's opinions about 1) the elevation of the virgin Mary to veneration, 2) whether the Lord's Supper is the real body and blood of Christ (about which subject hundreds chose to die at the stake scant centuries ago), and 3) whether salvation can be found within each others' respective churches AT ALL have - [get this] - united in disdain for anyone who shows the slightest sympathy to the possibility that a woman might not pollute a pulpit if she spoke truth from behind it.

(I'm sorry if you had to read that sentence more than once to follow it. It takes a sentence like that for me to even begin to nibble at the edge of how truly irked I am.)

But I have said nothing until now, because I might be a little thin skinned on the subject. I happen to suspect an anti-egalitarian under every frock, so I gave them the benefit of my silence, if not my doubt.

Allow me to quote a paragraph from an actually quite nice lead editorial of the October 2007 issue (I looked for a link, but they only displayed one article. I will comment on that soon, and much more favorably.):

We draw a firm line between us and the skeptics, modernists, liberals, relativists, and others whose adherence to their own traditions is partial or corrupt, and a thin and flexible line between us and those conservative believers who accept some apparently worldly ideology opposed to the shared Christian heritage, egalitarianism being the most obvious example. Hence our ability to draw together people who disagree about whether infants can be baptized but our mutual decision to leave outside the circle (if often just outside the circle) those who declare that women can be ordained.

This paragraph is more irenic than most, but peace-loving though it may be it simply makes explicit the mutual decision of the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox editors of this ecumenical effort to exclude those who hold with firm conviction that the bible requires women to preach the good news when so called.

And that brings me to my fourth E, Ethics. (My sole, lonely two syllable E.) I should not be surprised to find ecumenicists pandering like this - they need to beat up on someone after all, or they might not feel like a religious organization at all. And beating up on girls has been a politically safe move for millenia, so why not continue it in this fine example of their "ability to draw together people who disagree about" all manner of less important matters - like how people are brought to know God.

I cast shame on Touchstone Mag for taking pride in the ethics of heaping abuse on the abused in order to fudge - I mean forge - unity.


I was in Boston for the last couple days learning all about passwords and how to keep them happily humming along quietly in the background. One does not want to think about passwords, and one definitely does not want the CIO to be thinking about them. It was a very good couple days that way, and I even met a couple fun people. All was good.

It was not until riding the last shuttle to my car that I wanted to strangle my first people. The parents of some poor, cute little munchkin were training him on how to sit on a bus. They figured he should sit with them, straight, and facing the center. All in all it was not a bad plan, but the child wanted to sit away from them, one his knees, facing the window. This was also not a bad plan. The problem, of course, was the little disagreement between the parents and the central authority of the family.

Eventually, the parents came to see the light, and the kid watched the scenery go by very happily.

Here's the deal. I think your kid is cute. Your kid is not bothering me. I could listen to children giggle, bicker, explore, query, and cry all day. It's all cute to me and I love being around children of all ages. The little newborn I sat beside on the way to Boston was darling (It never hurts to be reminded how endlessly fascinating pint-sized people find their mother's eyes). The grade school dynamo who whiled away two hours playing some probably very boring game on his mother's phone was a tarzanian wonder and a real charmer. This little blond winner was pretty fun to watch, too. Everything was wonderfully interesting to him.

It was his parents who were complete boors. Once you have clearly communicated your instructions to us (their son was not listening at all) a single time, we are done. We KNOW what you wish your son would do. Please quit telling us. Please.