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Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Narrow Gate and the Poor in Spirit


Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV).

From John 13:35, 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5:22-23, what is supposed to “mark” the Christian? What can you do to make your mark more visible? (Serendipity Bible 10th anniversary edition, page 1164).

John 13:35 NIV: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, you love one another.”

From 1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.... And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV: But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.


Saturday I was talking in the backyard with my Christian neighbor. I offered that though Christians are often taken to be narrow-minded, they in fact are not so because they believe that God’s will is more important than self-will. That is, Christians must always be tentative in the sense that they must always remain open to God’s will which can differ from their own. My neighbor, sensing my mind was open to the extent that wind was blowing through from ear to ear, asserted with some irritation that as a Christian he could be very narrow-minded.

This got me to thinking about Jesus vis-à-vis the scribes and Pharisees. For example, despite religious laws against it, Jesus performed work on the Sabbath – such as when healing the afflicted. This angered the scribes and Pharisees. This is a clear case where adherents to both positions on the matter thought they were doing God’s will. Jesus was doing the will of his heavenly father in perfect form. The scribes and Pharisees were going by their best lights. Here’s a case where both positions could not be right, even though both were firmly held by the deeply religious. In this sense both Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees held narrowly to their positions. But we can clearly see a difference between the two positions when a practical test regarding temporal benefit is applied. In one case the immediate well-being of the afflicted was helped and in the other case it was harmed—even though the scribes and Pharisees would no doubt argue that breaking a religious commandment was a sin and therefore harmful. We must return to pragmatism and the admonition of Christ that: by their fruit you shall you know them. Jesus set the example: he transgressed a religious law for immediate and tangible benefit.

So I must conclude that like my neighbor I can be very narrow-minded. I believe that the interest of individuals must precede everything else. The vulnerable as illustrated in the Sermon on the Mount are to be blessed. At the same time we can see that the scribes and Pharisees were also vulnerable but in a different way. They were vulnerable due to their self-righteousness. Jesus found it hard to help this type of vulnerability for it builds up walls against the grace of God.

As I as I have discussed in other blogs, all Christians can agree on what I quoted here from Scripture regarding the essential importance of love. We can sit together in church and all say “Amen” to the Scriptures just quoted—while at the same time differencing dramatically on such current issues as gun control, alcohol consumption, same-sex marriage, abortion, and the proper role of government—all areas where narrow-mindedness with a vengeance is common. We can ask what good is Christianity if it does not command uniformity on such issues? My answer is that the implications of love inescapably must factor in diverse perceptions, and that self-will inescapably plays a role in the interpretation of divine will. That is, divine will is filtered through the human frame and that with only Jesus was this done perfectly. For mere mortals complete self-confidence in one's total adherence to God’s will is here denied and our behavior always commands regular confessionals both individually and collectively. Our thoughts, words, and deeds (both in omission and commission) require the regular forgiveness of the Eternal.








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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Magic of Defining Goals

Thursday my coworker (while alone in the office) decided to do us a favor and defrost our small office refrigerator that had cooling coils which over time had become heavily built up with ice. When we arrived Friday morning he gave a picturesque narrative of his exploits. He reported making major headway chipping out the ice until he gave a major thrust and his tool punctured the wall of the small freezing compartment. All the refrigerant quickly escaped. We all laughed and then he said ”Well I did accomplished what I set out to do—I defrosted the refrigerator.”

Here we see an example of the magic of carefully defined goals. When focus is managed with sufficient discipline, it is possible to retrieve victory from the jaws of defeat. With similar logic I have seen many of the atrocities of war dismissed as irrelevant so long as a glittering form of success is carefully enunciated by highly placed officials. In the end, the experience becomes a trip into Wonderland.








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Friday, March 29, 2013

Justice as Blind to Variable Conditions

I See No Deprivation

Does it surprise you that God’s patience has an end? Why or why not? If God’s patience were limitless, what would his justice look like? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1162).

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:22-26 NIV).



While I strongly believe in eternal justice and that in due course God’s justice will prevail, a sense of temporal justice confirms my belief in the love of God and his involvement in our daily lives. If God were not love, everyday justice wouldn’t matter; but since God is love justice delayed can be seen as justice denied. Thus justice can be a matter of urgency. I also understand that God’s view of justice can be entirely different from my own—especially in regards to economic justice. As a comparatively wealthy man in this world, I am subject to a sense of entitlement born of complacent self-righteousness—something I tend to share with others similarly situated. As a man of property, it is extremely easy for me to mentally justify bald injustice; I have a limitless sense of entitlement to my wealth. I see it as it deserved and even showing the favor of God which cinches my purblind hold on it and confirms my self-centered belief that justice rests in the status quo—poverty is simply a judgment of God. Nothing testifies to the corruptibility of human nature more than the belief that wealth telegraphs spiritual superiority.








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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pollution and the Assumption of Arrogant Entitlement


Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out to the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food….The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (From Genesis 2 NIV).

For a vacation, would you rather go to the mountains or the seashore? Why? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1161).

BEER CANS ON THE REEF

The sea was rough, the day was hot,
And no fish were aboard
And so the crowd began to drink,
As men do when they’re bored.

So each one popped his can of beer.
Then each another round,
And overboard the cans they threw
Which floated all around.

And by and by each can filled up
And sank down to the reef
And rested on the coral there
ln that bright world beneath.

lt takes nature ten thousand years
To build a coral strand,
To shape in infinite detail
The boulders, fish and fans.

And beauty such as God can make
ls there for all to see,
With balance perfect in all things
As life was meant to be.

So often have l seen in life
The best that one could do
Besmirched by careless words or acts
By those who never knew.

Like beer cans settled on a reef,
The digs, slurs and complaints
Reveal how shallow is the mind
Of those whose souls are faint.

Who always cuts his fellow down
And grinds him underneath
ls like the fisherman who throws
His beer cans on the reef.

From Time and The Kite by Andrew H. Hines, Jr.


In virtually every case the ultimate source of pollution arises from a sense of arrogant entitlement on the part of human beings. There is no reverence or sense of being blessed beyond deserving—rather we hold arbitrarily that we are entitled to the world and it is our assumed right to abuse it in any way we damn well please for selfish ends. As Andy concludes in his poem above, this presumption doesn’t end at the perimeter of the natural environment, but pollutes human affairs also. Not only do we look at the world as open to the whims of our manipulative self-interest, we lose respect for others and besmirch them as readily as we do lakes and streams with the excrement of arrogant entitlement. 


  
Mother Courage- Meryl Streep



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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

We Have Chosen Life

Brother Lawrence in the kitchen

This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

"Life's a Bitch and Then You Die". (DancingQueen). 

Entropy: a : the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity b : a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder (Merriam-Webster). 

The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.” Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection – passage translated from the original French. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brother_Lawrence).


Sometimes technological advances do not thereby uplift the soul of man. Tonight I was washing dishes and felt some responsibility to choose a positive attitude as I did so. I pictured my mother and father doing dishes together at the kitchen sink after a meal when I was a youth. The dirty pots, pans, knives and forks were methodically washed and dried in a matter-of-fact but cordial and loving atmosphere. It dawned upon me that in this Easter season Christ intentionally chose to respond redemptively to forces of degradation. It is not stretching it in the least (in fact it can hardly be seen otherwise) that washing dishes participates along with many other chores in affirming positive redemptive forces over the weight of entropy. It occurred to me that the automatic dishwasher appliance acts as an interloper within the family circle displacing what in fact had been a shared daily ritual of redemption. If one cannot learn to do small acts of redemption joyfully and with a willing spirit, how can one expect to master weightier ones?








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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Diminutive or Demonstrative?


 
When have you “put your body on the line” to protest some social evil? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1159). 


Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)


In America we are the victims of the notion of full and public disclosure. Sometimes this reaches absurd proportions. The other day I responded to the offer for a credit card. The card came in the mail a few days later and was accompanied by 14 pages of small print disclosure. Our faith that the god of disclosure ensures righteousness is fundamentally wrong—being public about greed does not make it right.

I have deeply admired such people as Martin Luther King Jr. who have bravely demonstrated on the streets for social and economic justice. It may well have been his public assertiveness on the streets that enraged MLK’s assassin. I have been throughout my life pretty much a weenie in this regard. Perhaps it relates to an enduring timidity and discomfort in being the focus of attention. Most often I have chosen rather to scurry relatively unseen backstage in the darkness doing there what I took to be God’s will. In this regard I can admittedly be disparagingly labeled an “undercover Christian.” I hesitantly affirm that I’m a believer in the notion that righteous acts need not be validated by publicity—however full of pitfalls this point of view can also hold.

In America we hold as principle that others’ religious faith—or lack of it—requires absolute respect. Most especially I am not to inundate fellow citizens with propaganda they cannot in good conscience agree with. Most American’s are completely onboard with this disinclination and mutual reserve. Personal faith and convictions are inherently within a category quite unlike the plethora of ads seen for soap and beer where preference has little relation to convictional integrity. In the end Jesus’s call for secrecy in the implementation of righteousness can be seen to be deeply embedded within the American ethos. We prefer to attribute our actions to pragmatism rather than righteousness.









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Monday, March 25, 2013

Merely Slow or Simply Shackled: An Investigation of Spontaneous Repartee

Wooden Man
When Speech Was Fun
Photos from Basic Principles of Speech, 3rd Edition (Sarett, Foster, Sarett)


Recall a time when you were quite “tongue-tied” or speechless. What happened? How did you recover? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1159).


Repartee: 1) a : a quick and witty reply b : a succession or interchange of clever retorts : amusing and usually light sparring with words 2) : adroitness and cleverness in reply : skill in repartee (Merriam-Webster). 

I have often wondered which is more important and which trait comes first– spirit or intelligence? In my view skills in repartee open a window upon the answer to this question. Nothing comes close to portraying capability in human affairs more than the mastery of repartee. Think of any truly effective leader and you are certain to find agility in this skill. For most of us the manifestation of repartee has a strongly situational component. A child, for example, can be very timid and tongue-tied in public, but very outgoing and expressive within the safety and comfort of home. In other words at home the child is given “permission” for the exercise of a free spirit – a freedom that she does not enjoy within the company of strangers. This has immense and profound implications for the depth and extent of cognitive brain function. I have been astounded by the creativity and intellectual capacity of people (I initially adjudged second-rate) once they entered friendly environments—once they felt truly free. Certainly a major component of any leadership training will emphasize self-confidence and knowledge less and this spiritual dimension more. The most direct route to this result is the acceptance of the reality (nonbelievers would call it conceit) that God loves us and has made us unique for unique contributions—contributions that only we can make—and this permission to be free can occur literally anywhere and at any time for God is everywhere and never abandons us. In other words, there is no place (high, low, or in-between) that we cannot be spiritually at home and effectively free.

In this light leadership can be seen as telegraphing stability—but a very special type of stability. Not the stability of one ossified in habits or ideology, but paradoxically the stability of one firmly anchored by a spiritual freedom that enables creativity and openness to present reality. In meeting current challenges, for these people history is a guide providing principles of endearment and instruction without paralyzing them with the dead hand of precedent. The human role is seen as a vital exercise of creativity and consciousness upon the cusp of history—even a history that can be immediately personal and contemporary. I cannot think in these terms without remembering the press conferences filled with kindness and grace presided over by John F. Kennedy. The press loved JFK for the supreme compliment of equality he shared with every reporter—even hostile ones attempting to enshroud him in dark clouds of controversy. JFK’s repartee filled the room with light and goodwill. In this sense he charmed would-be venomous snakes and made them friends.














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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pass Me Not


As you review your life’s work, have you ever been aware of any special calling or “overwhelming” task from the Lord? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition page, 1159).


In my life I have known one unspeakable fear—not that my life would be unsuccessful in terms of a bank account, but unsuccessful in terms of meaning, in terms of making a significant contribution—in making a difference—of etching even a cipher upon this daunting world as telltale evidence that I had ever been born. It was a haunting fear that I didn’t quite measure up to being of much use. With this came a dull awareness of mortality, that time was running out. In desperation bordering upon despair, my prayer became an inarticulate plea that I not be passed by.







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Friday, March 22, 2013

The Volatile Fuel of Entitlement

Lincoln Steffens in 1894
Occupation: Muckraker
Have you ever found yourself under the authority of someone who wasn’t entitled to that authority? Summarize the situation and your reactions. (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1154).


I have become less and less enamored of the concept of entitlement. Barack Obama won the last election for president of the United States. If I could speak with him personally, I would plead with him not to become intoxicated with a sense of entitlement. He of course holds the position legitimately – he won the last election. My hope is that he will see his position in the light of legitimacy rather than entitlement. Legitimacy is earned every day through fulfillment of trust and requires ongoing vigilance and service. Entitlement unfortunately seems to suggest that ongoing commitment is unnecessary and that ownership is absolute. The fact of the matter is that ownership of any type is never absolute—and this includes the sacred roles of parenthood, property ownership…and president. The United States Constitution includes a Bill of Rights. When this is viewed as a bill of entitlements rather than a bill of responsibilities we get overwhelmingly shameful and stupid notions such as that everyone is unconditionally entitled to arm themselves with military assault weapons. Entitlements are viewed as unlimited. Nothing on God’s green earth is or should be unlimited. Entitlement in this sense is fundamentally delusional. When I became a member of my family through birth, I found love aplenty. But nothing sabotages loving relationships more quickly than self-righteous assumptions of entitlement acted out in spasms of childish petulance…or the corrupting volatility of adult egotism.







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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Towards Effective Prophecy




In this chapter [Lamentations, Chapter 2], the poet indicts the false prophets who did not expose the sins of Judah. Who are the false prophets we tend to “give ear” to: Politicians? University profs? Entertainers? Our peer group? Psychologists? “Health and wealth” evangelists? (Serendipity Bible 10th anniversary edition, page 1148).


We can contrast Dutch uncles with indulgent ones. Dutch uncles are caustic and critical, indulgent uncles refuse to criticize. It can be worthwhile to explore those conditions under which we find criticism more acceptable than others. For this purpose I will expand the idea of criticism to include faultfinding.

Several years ago I went to a doctor for what I thought would be a routine visit following a lab report of my blood analysis. The doctor informed me that the analysis revealed certain proteins present in the blood which could indicate bone marrow cancer. Of course, I did not become incensed by his identification of a possible physical malady. In fact, I found it hard to endure the wait until definite conclusions could be reached following a bone marrow biopsy. Even at the outset, I was pleased that my doctor was fully competent and could identify a possible lethal condition. [The biopsy finding was negative—no cancer.]

Now contrast this to when I am subjected to faultfinding regarding my character. Say, someone judges that I am lazy and confronts me with this evaluation. My response would include a measure of resentment totally lacking within the doctor’s visit. Why this different response?

Character evaluations heavily suggest a measure of freewill [and thus possible blame] which is largely lacking in physical matters. I can resent anyone criticizing my choices or intruding upon what I feel to be an area of my own prerogative [between me and God]. Of course the world of values is much more contentious than verifiable physical findings in a lab.

Additionally, my doctor reassured me with a hopeful prognosis. He said that if it turns out I have cancer, the specialist he was sending me to was exceptionally skilled and would handle proactively whatever he may find—the odds were in my favor. This encouragement is quite different from the faultfinder's condemnation that judges me incorrigibly lazy and on the road to hell.

An added factor is my perception of my doctor as a positive creator—a regular Michelangelo of medicine. That is, he is not just a destructive hacker always tearing me down, but a skilled artist capable of helping me realize my sculptured best.

Finally, there is the matter of privacy. The doctor did not parade my physical vulnerabilities before everyone. He told me privately in his office. Dutch uncles often do not show such sensitivity, but can castigate loudly in front of others. The fact that I chose to share my cancer anxiety with friends does not preclude my appreciation for the dignity and respect shown to me by the doctor in his regard for my privacy.

Now prophets are known preeminently for being critical of a nation’s character—by its very nature a public matter. Thus, inevitably their criticism frequently is done publicly. Such public critiques can be found by many to be greatly offensive when prodigiously negative.

Thus, prophets are most effective when they are not constantly hacking and tearing down, but when they become skilled sculptors capable of birthing hope and corrective good without sentimentality or pandering. Such prophets do well to draw a large circle of inclusiveness so that their criticism can be seen to have the verisimilitude of privacy—efficaciously one-on-one within the close kinship of the human family.







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Monday, March 18, 2013

The Absent Touch


If God did to you as you have done to others, what would be your fate? Do you sense a basic fairness in life: “What goes around comes around”? Or does life seem unfair or unpredictable? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1134).


One of my sweetest memories was weekly sitting in Sunday school class at Trinity United Methodist Church in Saint Petersburg, Fl during the 1990’s. The class was taught by Andy H. Heinz, Jr. Andy was an influential businessman trained in his university days as an engineer. He rose to the top of the corporation where he worked and also sat on many boards of other companies. He would often illustrate points within his lessons by drawing various schematics on the blackboard. For example, he would illustrate the scope of how our behavior might affect and influence others by drawing emanating waves as when a rock is thrown into a pond; or he would draw a curve illustrating how societies go through cycles varying from faithfulness to God vs turning away from him and the accompanying societal decline. Once he gave me a book of poems he wrote entitled Time and The Kite. Today I would like to share a poem found there pertaining to the above italicized questions. 


Where Were You When I Needed You?

Where were you when I needed you,
When all was going dim;
When trouble like a rising tide
Was making my life grim?

When all around was going down,
And nothing seemed to stand,
Then I reached out to feel your touch
And you withdrew your hand.

And yet I know you are my friend
And I a friend to you,
And when I search inside myself
I’ve done the same thing, too.

So when you rise in righteous wrath
For one who turned away,
Remember that in humankind
It happens every day.

And when your friend needs help the most
Be steady and be there,
And when your time of testing comes
There may be one who cares.

But still your friends may disappear
And you may stand alone,
Remember then behind the scene
God watches o’er His own.







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Eternal Security

Gamble Mansion - Ellenton, FL


What “eagle’s nest” (fortress mentality) have you built to feel secure your private world? How secure are you, really? How has God broken through that to bring you to himself? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1131).


A central function of religion is that of serving to meet fundamental security needs in human beings. We seek to attach ourselves to the Eternal One—someone who can be our Intimate-Other forever. As I heard it described in my youth, we look for Eternal Security. To get there we identify eternal values in which we can find security not only for today, but extending forever. In this way, meaning itself is born of security. Thus, we find that true security forms the substantial bedrock upon which reliable creativity and spontaneity flow. In a sense we arrive at Eternal Security by default. All other forms of security fail us in the end. My friend Angelo and I visited Gamble Mansion in Ellenton yesterday. It was constructed prior to the Civil War and is replete with large white columns invoking a sense of stability and security. It was ensconced when built upon a large sugar plantation. Yet some few years after it was built, the Civil War dismantled the basis of antebellum security—slavery. Today we have no sympathy for slavery; yet it is deeply saddening to realize that once a large community of people believed that security resided in this flawed institution—that they looked for safety and stability in a doomed and sinking vessel.


Angelo Lundy at Gamble Mansion





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Sunday, March 17, 2013

On Spirituality and Intelligence

  
How can intellect hinder spiritual growth? How can it help? What is the role of intelligence in your spiritual life? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1131).

But great things can happen when we humble ourselves enough to let God decide what comes after we do our best. (Through the Year with Jimmy Carter, page 64).


The essence of spirituality is the rendering up of control to God. The essence of intelligence is to increase control though determining cause-and-effect. From the get-go on this basic level the purposes of spiritual life and intelligence not only differ but are in conflict. Nevertheless, the ultimate shared goal for both intelligence and spirituality is abundant life. Without this fixed star guiding both, spirituality becomes a sham and intelligence a vehicle of perversion. For both, pragmatism in the end becomes the touchstone determining whether this overarching goal is being met--But by their fruit you will know them (Matthew 7:16).

Spiritual life and intelligence in concert serve to balance the extremism to which both can fall prey. Intelligence reveals the shams of spiritual life and spiritual life reveals the perversions of intelligence. Accordingly, the providential eye of God wells up with sorrow and joy.







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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Grim Reaper No More



Have you ever obeyed God's word to you at a time when all your gut instincts said "no"? What happened as a result of your obedience? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1121).


Let me begin by considering everyday chores. Now and then I come across a job assignment that is more difficult than the typical assignment. Inevitably, some fear, anxiety, and foreboding accompany such tasks. Yet, when I accept the assignment with determination and a "can-do" attitude, it never fails that upon completion of the task my sense of self-worth and confirmation of competence increases.

Likewise, God has given me assignments that have threatened life itself. My gut instincts signaled danger and sometimes my body trembled in fear. But when I have put the disciplines of love ahead of fear, I've always been confirmed in the faith and more willing the next time to do God's will. If one is afraid of death above all else, then he cannot serve the eternal God nor reap the joys even now of participating in everlasting life. To be much use to God, we must in the last analysis let love drive out fear—even fear of death itself.







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Friday, March 15, 2013

The Team Player Paradox



Once there was a basketball team that had a major problem—the team put team loyalty above effectiveness. Rather than making a basket, they always tossed the ball back and forth sharing basket-making potential equally among everyone. Thus they never scored because they put being a good “team player” above winning.

This is a metaphor for the pitfalls of socialism; but not for socialism alone, but for Christian humility as well. Effectiveness must always be a standard addressed even if that means individual achievement must now and then outshine team player modesty. True humility focuses on effectiveness and celebrates exceptional achievement even when others' support and service are not emphasized and in a sense become invisible.







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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Mythology of Rectitude



If violence only begets more violence, why do you do it? If running away from your problems or striking first doesn't solve your problems, what does? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1119).


We typically think that violence manifests hard realism and an aggressive tendency to "get real." But it can be seen that the contrary is most often true. Violence can be an expression of rampant escapism by both parties. The most fundamental form of escapism is that of failing to see your opposition as essentially a reflection of the same human nature you share. What you hate your enemy most for is no different from the proclivities of your own nature. A gang member, for example, may label all officers of the law as "crackers." This is simply a way of expressing a total lack of kinship. The law officers, on the other hand, may label all gang members as "thugs." Again, for the same purpose. It is said that "subtle differences make all the difference." Actually both "thugs" and "crackers" constitute pejorative stones thrown giving testimony to the commonality of human behavior--a marked tendency to render inhuman one's opposition. Surely the first step down any path of violence is the dehumanization of the opposition--which is itself a totally human form of behavior--something profoundly shared by all human beings. An additional indication of escapism is that conflict resolution can be a complex, painstaking, and resource demanding activity. It can require patience, tenacity, and an immense degree of quiet and non-sensational work. Is it any wonder that humans often opt for escape from these assiduous requirements of conflict resolution and choose instead the dramatics and heroics of violence? Again, what unites us is widespread and profound.

The fallacy of seeing ourselves as righteous compared to far lesser human beings has been made plain by Jesus when he discussed murder this way: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22 NIV). No one is exempt from the vulnerabilities of mankind, and we can be rest assured we fully share commonality with the totality of the strange mammalians called homo sapiens.







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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Abiding “Little Joke” Revisited



I first posted the immediately following paragraph on April 27, 2011:

Once many years ago (in 1980) I had a dear friend who gave me the following drawing on a small scratchpad piece of paper just before we left in his car on an errand one dark and rainy afternoon. It is not the original drawing, which I lost, but a reproduction to the best of my memory and like the original is drawn with a broad tipped pen in black ink. It is a very accurate reproduction for I immediately took it seriously though he said it was a “little joke.” Very early on I took the drawing to have spiritual significance and assumed it was the gift of a divine messenger. The writing beneath states (and these are the exact words) “A structure like this will please the dogs in muddy rainy weather.” I take this to mean a holy structure (the thrice divided triangle) with a cantilever extension indicating worship of the Lord and also being and outward extension indicating compassionate involvement in the world—a structure—which will please the dogs in muddy rainy weather—in other words, through our time on earth which is a period of “muddy rainy weather.” The “dogs” I take to be the Lord and all his minions. I am led to share this with you tonight praying that all might be inspired to live sturdy, structured, and holy lives.





From time to time I have experiences that add to my understanding of this figure. Yesterday evening I was filled with the spirit and the confirmed immense reality and presence of God. For the first time I came to appreciate the expanded significance of the “dogs”-- the Lord God and all his minions. (In truth I have usually focused on the pyramidal structure.) Dogs are not only “man's best friend” they can be also be “man's worst enemy” with sometimes lethal results. In short, for the first time it dawned upon me with all seriousness the fear I should have of God if I flagrantly betray his trust—usually in the form of self-righteous pride and arrogance. The God of the Old Testament is fully capable of chastening me to the point of death. In other words, if I seriously betrayed his trust (if the cantilever were not present) I could well not make it to the end of the block. It is important to remember that physical death is less significant to God than spiritual death.









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Monday, March 11, 2013

The Problem of Evil in a Nutshell


Let us say we are looking in on a typical home one Sunday afternoon. Mother and dad are in the living room with two of their boys ages 8 and 10. The detritus of the day has gathered in a pile of trash towards one corner of the room. Dad says, OK boys carry out the trash for us. Two avenues of action are now possible.

The boys can see themselves a team. They can with generosity and goodwill pitch in to quickly and efficiently take care of the problem—all the while bonding their relationship even stronger and bringing great love, satisfaction, and pride to their observing parents. The problem is taken care of almost immediately. It is the smart, commonsensical way to meet the issue.

The other option unaccountably too often occurs. After dad's request, immediately bickering breaks out and charges and counter-charges abound as to who should do this or that. Ill will as a contagion envelopes the room enshrouding even the adults. The bickering subsides and then re-surges all afternoon and well into the night. In the end with great bitterness, meanness, and anger; somehow the job gets half-heartedly done in an atmosphere that reeks of venomous spite and recrimination.

Even though the the former approach has clear and vast advantages and is a direct route to happiness, the latter is typical and characteristic of human behavior throughout history. In many ways it represents evil in the world and (considering its plainly evident disadvantages) it is a great mystery as to why it persists and rules in petty as well as great matters.












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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Persistent Belief


Have you ever persisted in a task for years despite legal opposition and a total lack of visible success? What would motivate you (or anyone) to persist? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1114).


Even though I have lived a limited life often filled with intimidation (perhaps because of this very fact), I concurrently have always held an indomitable belief that I will make a significant and broad contribution. Now that I am in my sunset years and should on all accounts be letting go of this belief, the conviction continues to persist. Perhaps God knows that I am a weak vessel that requires such an assurance to continue even minimal performance. I have long since ceased looking for a reason why this belief persists, I simply accede to its unrelenting sway and influence in my daily behavior. I am very much the backroom dishwasher cradling an abiding certitude that one day he will be king.







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Friday, March 8, 2013

Disdain or Kindness?



How do people today show disdain for God's word? Do you honor it? How so? (Serendipity Bible 10th anniversary edition page 1114).


Love and all its disciplines and manifestations can be significant irritants to those inordinately self-determined and self-willed. To them life is a zero-sum game. Mutuality from this point of view is only cynical accommodation and kindness a similar ploy. Such a mindset is antithetical to God's purpose of love and peace. Disdain thereby is shown for God's word. Do I honor God's word?--sometimes. Sometimes the reptilian legacy of the mind reacts with and expresses domination and power instincts. It is such times that I remember hymns of faith, such as “Sweet Hour of Prayer” in attempts to set aside anger and a bent for retaliation.






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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Requesting the Doable



Where do you think the world will be in 70 years?...What investment would God want you to make in the future of your world, as a testimony to your faith in God? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1109).





God never asks me to make an investment I cannot make. The spiritual investments he asks of me sometimes entail investments of material resources—but never outside the realm of what is doable. To put it in a crass way, he never wants me to purchase a million dollar yacht when all I can afford is a row boat. The row boat can adequately accommodate both symbolic and practical significance. To put it another way, God demands my best efforts within the realm of the doable, not the impossible.







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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reassessment Overdue

Proportionality: Harmonious arrangement or relation of parts or elements within a whole (as in a design) [WordWeb Pro]

Design: to have as a purpose [Merriam-Webster] 

Foundation: : a basis (as a tenet, principle, or axiom) upon which something stands or is supported [Merriam-Webster]


The concepts of proportionality, design, and foundation are interrelated. Foundation forms the basis from which design develops. Proportionality is an inherent quality of nature that can be seen in the human form itself wherein symmetry though not perfect is pronounced. To a certain extent we can deduce foundational purpose from the manifestation of design. Disproportionality as in metastasis is a cause for urgent concern as the implied purpose therein is untenable with life and health. Designs amenable with flourishing states also involve proportionality reflective of underlying purposes. Political economies do so as well. The presentation below signals a deeply troubling disproportionality—a deformity that cries out for a reassessment of underlying assumptions and purposes.







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