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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Unconditional in Religion and Politics

US Capitol Rotunda
What “gods” have people in our culture shaped for themselves? Why are people attracted to these false gods? With which ones do you struggle? How have you seen these false gods end up in oppressing those who make them? How do modern forms of idolatry help people ignore reality? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1021).

It seems to me the last question—How do modern forms of idolatry help people ignore reality—is the root cause of idolatry in the first place.  The scene in Exodus where Moses brings reality to the Israelites in the form of the God inscribed Ten Commandments only to find them worshiping pathways to escapism in the golden calf is the archetypical instance of idolatry.

If asked to identify gods on the political left and right what would they be?  The fierce passions of politics arouse unforgiving hearts and venomous charges of blasphemy.  We ignore at our great peril the religious nature of man and the tendency to establish false gods. As with the golden calf, the gods of today are punctuated by excess.  A principal characteristic of god worship is that it is unconditional—there can be no perceived extremism in it.  This serves to cause infinite mischief including stark degrees of self-righteousness and cruelty.

Business capitalism (free markets and the sanctity of property) and the welfare state (an indulgent government and the expendability of property) form the two principal idols operative today—one the brainchild of the right, the other the brainchild of the left.  Reality always returns us to the fundamental question—what is truly helpful in the cultivation of abundant life within and among individuals and within the culture at large (abundant spiritually and materially for all)?  Surely, we should be eternally humbled by this question and should pray to the one true God for guidelines.  If not so humbled, then chances are good we are worshiping in elaborately crafted cathedrals to gods of our own devising.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Redemptive Rationalization


Have you ever worked hard toward a goal, only to discover that it wasn't worth the work? How did you feel then? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Editon, page 1020).

I once had a professor (Donald C. Menzel) who said rationalization is important and necessary in the human enterprise.  It plays a big role in transactions and additionally in the way we come to view things.  Right off the bat I could appreciate the truth of this.  Have I every splurged on any purchase without some degree of rationalization?  And, of course, when I look back on pathways where I have somewhat dubiously invested irreplaceable time and resources, it becomes essential to rationalize to some degree.  This is so because it is essential to human survival and health to avoid bitterness and despair.

A key driver for me in this regard is to appreciate the limited nature of my understanding.  Therefore it is important to withhold final judgment about all matters that are not obviously hurtful to myself or others.  From this point of view, virtually no investment of time and energy no matter how unsuccessful can ever be considered useless and a waste of time.

An obvious example for me is that I have spent countless resources acquiring four college degrees—three of them masters—in addition to extensive courses at community colleges.  Today I earn my living as an application support specialist—working with computers.  A huge chunk of my education has nothing directly to do with computer work.  However, call it rationalization or not, I consider an essential aspect of my job that of functional pastor—someone who serves others and never forgets the human element—that all without exception carry burdens.  From this point of view every course I've ever taken can relate to this in some way—even if the course was a grind.  For, indeed, someone caught in a grind can be assured that I am not totally unfamiliar with such a situation and can therefore express some credible sympathy and understanding even of their unique predicament or condition.  In my book no experience should be considered a waste as lessons can be learned and identities of experience shared.  Through rationalization redemption lives even for nonbelievers.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Generic Prescriptions

Shohei Otani of Japan a 6-foot-4 right-hander 
who has thrown a fastball between 99 and 100 mph.

How do you typically let others know that you're a Christian? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1020).

At this point in my life the question as to how I signify that I'm a Christian seems a little weird. I might as well ask, “How do I signify that I have brown eyes?” or “How do I signify that I'm 6 foot tall?” It never occurs to me that I must signify about such things. Being a Christian is simply who I am. I suppose there were times in my life when I have been asked my height or eye color—say, some fifty years ago when I applied for a driver's license. Perhaps the question was asked to prevent me from lending my license to someone who did not meet my description. But now there's a photo on the license, and it's quite true that a picture is worth a thousand words.

That's pretty much where I stand about signifying that I'm a Christian. It matters little what I allege about myself, but it matters much the picture I project by my attitude, demeanor, and actions. “Brand” matters less than the faithful service of the product. I am content to be “generic” so long as the essential ingredients remain intact.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

The Limitations of Convictions and Agendas

There is much emphasis and accompanying literature on the art and practice of goal setting. Today I want to emphasize the artistic nature of goal setting—for often the wisest course diverts us from our most strongly held agendas and convictions, and it is only right and proper that it does so.

Some years ago when I started this blog I set a firm goal—to submit blogs daily or virtually so. I did this faithfully even when away from home on vacations accessing the internet from wherever I happened to be—be it the Atlantic coast of Florida or the mountains of north Georgia. Then from mid-October to mid-November of this year my wife became deathly ill. Suddenly my days seemed to have no moorings of any type—certainly no tranquil spots of time for writing blogs. So I stopped writing them regularly. Yet I view this breach of set plans not only proper but profoundly right. It would have been wrong of me and indicative of obsessive addiction to regime had I continued to blithely maintain the practice despite current realities.

The same sorts of things happens to millions of people daily. Whether it means the plans of the day must be set aside, or the plans of a lifetime—even those plans held firmly with conviction. I, of course, take a male point of view in this. How many men “footloose and fancy free” have found themselves a few years after marriage deep in family responsibilities filled with new commitments that completely derail once cherished old ones and their associated dreams? Yet, this apparent failure to follow through will prove to be the wisest and most rewarding thing the man has ever or will ever do.

Thus, the art of goal setting requires that we hold the exigencies of love (and God's will) more valuable than the accumulation of Pyrrhic victories and their vast array of hollow trophies. Often the right impulse is a hundred times more valuable and effective than a firmly set plan or a closely held conviction.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Focus, Leadership, and Prejudice

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

He is the best physician who is the most ingenious inspirer of hope.
----Samuel Taylor Coleridge

An effective leader is a person who has a clean focus on the task at hand. That is, when you are around this type of leader there is no sense that the signification of status and power is “what it's all about” for this person. Rather, there is a sense of comfort and relief that this will be a clean working relationship and not one freighted with a legacy of obsessive relational emotional conflict and turmoil. It is the difference between working with a bundle of fulminating dynamite on the one hand....and a pristinely focused camera on the other.

An interesting window into the role of prejudice in hereby evident. An effective leader looks externally for facts and reality and not within drawing conclusions and reactions from set prejudices and obsessions. An effective leader, for example, will engage in active communication and interaction with a target group while a leader of the old order relies not on first hand experience but upon indoctrinated prejudices. The first is founded upon love and reality while the second rests on hatred and assumptions—interestingly, even when the prejudices are groundlessly favorable.

Woe to any society that predominately cultivates and elevates either by design or circumstance delusional, self-absorbed leadership.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Skin of One's Teeth

Lehigh River Watershed

Last night Kunte and I went to a theater to see the recently released movie, Lincoln. The movie treated the excruciatingly close margin (7 votes) by which the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery passed in the House of Representatives. The effect of the Amendment was significantly helpful in permanently closing the door of slavery from further serious consideration as an officially recognized institution. (Obviously, due to Jim Crow practices the passage of the Amendment did not constitute a solution to all civil rights woes.)

Kunte set up front and I sat in the back of the theater. I was delighted to hear him cheering Lincoln on during his endeavors to get the Amendment passed. Certainly cheer is due whenever we witness an earnest player's anxiety and frustration as he approaches pivotal points which we know full well (if successful) will set in place sea changes determining what hereafter will be accepted as normal—a permanent alteration of public perception as to what is simply and obviously right. The legacy of such watershed moments help explain the passionate fervor that accompanies politics.

Major developments, I have come to believe, more often than not succeed by the skin of one's teeth.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

First and Last

Havasu Falls by Ryan C Malone

What “new thing” (v. 19) has the Lord done in your life? What is he doing now? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1020).

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
(Isaiah 43:19)

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)

Kathy's death was deeply revelatory to me. It made me realize the breadth and depth of my love for her—which was more entire than I had any inkling of before the sudden awareness that I might lose her. Secondly, her last days made me deeply aware of the importance of love's integrity as foundational to existence. Such love forms the touchstone by which we evaluate all behavior—it is the ground of our being, the seed of ethics, the source of meaning. The craziness of the world arises from losing sight of this. Things not done in love's service are in the final analysis diversion, escapism, and chaff; while even the most ridiculous of things becomes valuable and cherished when done in the service of God's holy love.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Heaven as a Political Entity

Cory Thompson: 1996-1997

With human nature being what it is we can fairly well assert that government which is substantially a democracy with guaranteed individual rights is significantly preferable to other forms in which some degree of despotism prevails (thus igniting within the human heart the set conviction that only my interests rightly should have sway). All other forms of government other than a democracy essentially are anti-social in this sense.

Now in heaven human nature is transformed into something else again. I like to think of it as a place that is inherently the reverse of our earthly tendency to become anti-social. This means that there God reigns in an environment that does not need or require the mitigation of selfish interests.

In order to help express this idea, an important element of the concept of heaven has always included abundance--”streets of gold.” Abundance is so prevalent in heaven that common questions here on earth as to the fair and proper distribution of wealth are obviated. This is simply another way of saying that hoarding of resources out of selfishness interest is completely foreign to the ways of heaven.

Thus God rules in heaven in a manner quite divorced from any type of rule experienced by mortals here on earth. Generosity and abundance completely depose greed and scarcity. In heaven as on earth, everything hinges on righteousness of spirit. But heaven is devoid of earth's contrapuntal ambiance found even within the universal church. In heaven we are forever and want to be “on the same page.” Concord, unity, harmony, kindness, and joy prevail within a state of abundance not modulated by wafting strains of want and death. God in heaven is no despot but instead enjoys playing the role (as MLK once said about himself) of a drum major.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

In Appreciation

To the staff of Saint Anthony's ICU – especially to those administering care to Kathy Franz Standifer in room 17.........

Thank you for being professional in your earnest efforts on Kathy's behalf during the weeks she was in your care.

We her family and friends were earnest players too—praying fervently for healing.

But gradually it became clear that that God had other plans for our dear Kathy.

Once I was visiting Kathy and had to leave because a sterile procedure was about to begin. The person preparing to perform it sensed my anxiety and, leaning over Kathy, said reassuringly to both Kathy and me (assuming she could hear through her unconsciousness) that “we are all family here.”

What I learned during Kathy's time in ICU is that exacting procedures, concern for the facts, medical knowledge, science, and the latest technological equipment are expressions of love as surely as are earnest prayers and tears.

Thank you for loving in these objective forms while sharing with us in our hopes, anxiety, fears, and finally grief. Being professional clearly does not require the abandonment of human sympathies but is instead an essential embodiment of them. Thank you for answering the call to service and doing faithfully an endless list of excruciating things necessary to
fulfill it.

With appreciation and love,
Wayne Standifer and all Kathy's family and friends.
Saturday, November 17, 2012

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Henceforth May Your Life Pay Tribute

Psalm 84:10-12 (NIV)

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
Lord Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you.

The funeral service for Kathy was held Tuesday, November 13, 2012. Visitation began in the chapel at at 11:30 AM and the service began at 12:00 noon. There were testimonials in her honor by family, extended family, and friends.

Today I would like to include two tributes of mine made that day. The first is a poem I wrote on her 50th birthday in 2010. It was printed in the funeral service program. The second is a poem I completed the morning of the funeral and shared by reading it during my tribute that day to Kathy.

To Kathy on her 50th Birthday

Like a fresh breeze on a stifling day,
You came into my life this very decade,
You brought your kindness and thoughtfulness,
You brought friendship and faithfulness,
You brought your love and gifted me,
With thoughts of you that never leave;
My life is now grounded in intimacy.
Thank God for bringing us together at First Church,
Where we shared smiles in Mitch’s class,
And enjoyed weekend dates like clockwork--and artwork,
And permanently set our relationship in place,
With a divinely guided wedding at North Beach,
Where our vows sealed us into a single family;
For once and always your birthdays will mean to me,
The beginning of everything fresh and free,
The end of paralysis, the arrival of peace.

Assurance of Authenticity

Kathy you made my days
By standing humble and true,
Your steady strength was incredible
Your major impact—you.

I regret when I have reproached you
For finding me--as you would say--”sweet”,
For now I see what sweetness is
It is what all should be--

It is your hopeful smile,
Your winning generosity,
Your simple grasp of facts
Filled with humility.

It is your kind insistence
That no worthwhile effort is void;
It is your reliable innocence
Saving me from despair;
It is your steady focus when at work or play
Trusting that passion's disciplines
Will reap abundant things.

My dearest you have gifted me --when all is said and done --
With love's powerful insights,
With childlike faith,
The assurance of authenticity.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

A New Adventure for My Beloved

On November 9, 2012 (Friday) Kathy my dear and loving wife passed over peaceably at 12:10 PM. Standing by her bed were her mother (Carole), her Aunt Ginny, her sister Tracy, her brother Jim and wife Miriam, my nephew Mike, and me.

Dear Kathy you will be sorely missed. Now rest within eternally loving and holy arms.

Kathy's (and my) favorite hymn.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wedding Day

This evening my wife Kathy remains in the intensive care unit of Saint Anthony's hospital.  This is the 13th day that she has been in an induced coma and administered air through an oscillating respirator.  She also requires daily dialysis and regular procedures to clear her lungs.

The following Covenant Service joined Kathy and me in September 2008.  The service was performed by my brother Bob and his wife Linda--both Methodist ministers.  It was held on North Beach at Fort De Soto with friends and relatives in attendance.  The text of the service was the joint creation of Bob and Linda with some reliance upon the traditional Methodist wedding service.

September 9, 2008

Few things in human life are more difficult to face than solitude.  Alone we come into this world; alone we shall depart.  Yet, while we live, we may hope to find another with whom to share our life, our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows, our beliefs and dreams.  We hope to find someone with whom we may “live happily ever after.”

This day, from different homes and backgrounds, from lives lived separately, Wayne and Kathy come together desiring to be made one.  It is our hope that their life together will be long and rich.

May the love and trust that have brought them together this day remain through all the days and years ahead.  And may all their shared experiences cause them to grow more and more completely at one with each other in love and understanding.

We intend, through this service today, to recognize the covenant which, in one form or another, has taken place countless times before, in all the places of the earth, through the long history of human relationships. Even in a world grown deficient in understanding, a world of uncertainty and change, a covenant remains a bridge across the barriers that separate races and nations.  It transcends boundaries and customs, and speaks to the hearts of all people everywhere.
God established a relationship with all humanity saying, “ I will be your God and you will be my people.”  This covenant cannot be broken.  God’s love is forever. This is the type of relationship we celebrate today; a covenant relationship between a man and woman, vowing to love each other, no matter what, forever.

A covenant may be honored by others.  But, a covenant can only be made truly honorable through the love and faith of the man and woman who undertake it.  Without that love and faith, what we do here today is an empty show.  Therefore, a covenant relationship must not be entered lightly.  It requires serious minds, loving hearts and generous lives.

Wayne and Kathy, I ask you, is it in this spirit that you have come today to be joined in covenant?

With God’s help, it is.


If I could save Time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day
'til Eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I'd save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go
Through time with


Wayne, will you receive Kathy into this covenant?  Will you live and work with her in building a Christian life?  Will you share with her your joys and sorrows, your needs and dreams?  Will you offer her the freedom and support she needs to fulfill her own life?

I will.

Kathy, will you receive Wayne into this covenant?  Will you live and work with him in building a Christian life?  Will you share with him your joys and sorrows, your needs and dreams?  Will you offer him the freedom and support he needs to fulfill his own life?

I will.

Scripture:  1 Corinthians 13: 1-8

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And, if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my   body so that I may boast, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.


Kathy and Wayne, these rings serve as the symbol of your covenant relationship.  They are the outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible love, which binds your hearts together.  As they are of the finest of earth’s materials, so your love is of the richest of spiritual values.  As rings are without edge or seam, having no beginning and no end, they symbolize the perfection of a love that cannot end.


Let us pray.  Bless these rings, O God, to be the visible sign of the covenant made here today, that the giving, receiving and wearing of the rings may ever be a reminder of the promises made here today, and that they also remind Wayne and Kathy of your love for them as they grow more in love with each other and with you.  AMEN


I Wayne, join with you Kathy in living a covenant relationship according to God’s purposes.  I promise to love and trust you; to speak the truth to you and to listen to you; to sustain and nurture you; and with you to receive each day as a gift from God.  As a symbol of our precious and eternal love, I give you this ring.

I Kathy, join with you Wayne in living a covenant relationship according to God’s purposes.  I promise to love and trust you; to speak the truth to you and to listen to you; to sustain and nurture you; and with you to receive each day as a gift from God.  As a symbol of our precious and eternal love, I give you this ring.


Wayne and Kathy, you are now joined together in a covenant.  Become one in love.  Fulfill the promises you have made.  Love and serve God and one another.  Because God has joined you together, no one can separate you.


"Wayne and Kathy, today you join your separate lives together. The two separate bottles of sand symbolize your separate lives, separate families and separate sets of friends. They represent all that you are and all that you'll ever be as an individual. They also represent your lives before today. As these two containers of sand are poured into the third container, the individual containers of sand will no longer exist, but will be joined together as one. Just as these grains of sand can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so will your covenant be."

(We will use sand from the beach and fill a clear glass heart.)


I love you not only for what you are, but what I am when I am with you.  I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me.  I love you for the part of me that you bring out.

I love you for putting your hand into my heaped-up heart, and passing over all the foolish and frivolous and weak things which you cannot help dimly seeing there, and for drawing out into the light all the beautiful, radiant belongings, that no one else had looked quite far enough to find.

I love you for ignoring the possibilities of the fool and weakling in me, and for laying firm hold on the possibilities of good in me.  I love you for closing your eyes to the discords in me, and for adding to the music in my worshipful listening.

I love you because you are helping me to make of the lumber of my life not a tavern but a temple, and of the words of my every day not a reproach but a song.

I love you because you have done more than any creed could have done to make me good, and more than any fate could have done to make me happy.  You have done it just by being yourself.  Perhaps that is what being a friend means, after all.


Let us pray.  O God, who gives life to all people and meaning to every moment; we pray that Wayne and Kathy may remain faithful to the covenant they have made.  May their relationship always be one of peace and love in which all may share.  May your grace and love be their constant companion as they fulfill their life together.  In their relationship, give them the understanding, patience and skills to fulfill your purpose in their lives.  We ask your continued presence with them that they may perfect the art of lasting love, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and glory forever.  AMEN

Now, go into the world and fulfill your lives.  Hold fast to your ideals.  Give one another new experiences in joy.  Challenge one another that you may grow together.  May your love now sealed with covenant mature and enrich your experiences.  May you live happy lives.  And may the Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make his face to shine upon you.  The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.  AMEN

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Limited Vision

What has God done in your past that you especially can look to as evidence of his presence with you? What “stream in the desert” is bubbling up for you now? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, pp 1019-20).

God blesses me in two principal ways—he places me in locations that he chooses to best serve his purposes and he puts people in my life that are immeasurable blessings. His wisdom in all this far surpasses anything that I—with all too human judgment and desires—could possibly reach on my own. For all too often, what I think is the best for me is the worst possible and that which I want to avoid turns out to be the source of boundless blessings. God's relentless pursuit of my best interest in spite of stormy admixtures of worldly passions and prolonged periods of muddy rainy weather have brought me at last to the realization that it is not for me to understand but simply to do—to do his will according to my best lights and exercise as much as possible a childlike trust. 

Lena Horne - Stormy Weather (1943)

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Please Pray for Kathy

My wife Kathy is in critical condition at Saint Anthony's hospital.  The hospital staff has done and is doing everything possible.  The nurses tell me she is now in God's hands.

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