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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Presence and Function of the Trinity in a Messy World

The goal of the Christian way is not human purity, but divine fellowship. Our task is not to sweep and beautify the house so that there is not a speck of evil dust to be found, but to invite our Lord to dwell with us and fill the house with the laughter of forgiveness and the conversation of grace. (From A Year with Jesus (page 125) by Eugene H. Peterson author of The Message).

This passage by Eugene Peterson brought immediately to mind the structure of the “Little Joke” ( The reality in this situation is not a fantasy world of the immaculately clean (the world, after all, is in a siege of “muddy rainy weather.”) The objective while within this mess is for the presence of the Trinity to fill our lives with forgiveness and grace so that steadiness can prevail in the midst of ambiguity, conflict, and strife—something only possible with the presence and strength of the Trinity—of Blessed Assurance embodied.

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Principalities and Powers

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV).

Clearly one of the greatest errors we can make is to frame issues solely in terms of a material dimension – of discrete conflicts of economic interests or of political power. There are principalities and powers that with great expansiveness become pervasive overarching human affairs. Some might suggest I am opening the doorway to the demonization of one’s opposition. There is an old saying that when you point your finger in judgment of others, three fingers point back at you. This is absolutely and always true. We should always assume that the most susceptible person in the room to the influences of principalities and powers stands squarely within our own shoes.

We must all rely on the grace of God to extricate us from this dilemma. In a sense, a proper frame of mind is the starting point for effective problem resolution. We must throw ourselves upon the mercy of Providence to deliver us from ourselves and our tendencies of abeyance to the dark forces that encompass and surround human affairs. While this line of thinking can seem morbid and demented, the frank recognition of a powerful spiritual dimension (both for good and ill) influencing human action or inaction is the surest path to deliverance and triumphant attainment of abundant life. Materialism, despite our lust for solid symbols of no-nonsense rectitude, will never get us there.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Needed: Fundamental Honesty Regarding Capitalism

What fear keeps you from “climbing mountains”? Do you find the small group a safe place to express your fears? Do the members: Listen and accept? Try to fix it? Analyze you? Approve or disapprove? What do you need when you’re being vulnerable? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1202).


It seems to me that America is faced with a mountain that virtually all fear to climb regarding the ill distribution of wealth. It is my belief that this is not only a problem in the United States but elsewhere as well. I am very encouraged by the pervasiveness of love in the American culture. Often I think the depth of this force is given too little recognition or credit. We have only to look at the advances we have made in race relations to realize that America is a very special place destined to be the one to lead us out of this dilemma we and other nations find ourselves in. It will be possible here because people will address the issue with hearts of love and empathy – thus with humility and honesty. This is after all one of the greatest benefits that love provides – people can be honest with one another without destroying each other.

Essentially what we must do is understand the limitations of capitalism to distribute wealth fairly and equitably. Clearly it does not do so as the video above demonstrates. But where are we to begin this discussion to eventually realize a course correction? I would like to begin by questioning basic assumptions often made. It is often assumed that it is the promise of unlimited riches that stimulates entrepreneurial endeavor. I think this is baloney. Entrepreneurship is a character trait that would find expression whether or not being a billionaire was possible or not. In my view it is a trait that is fully recognizable by the time one is age 9 or 10. It is simply a trait that deserves recognition, encouragement, and expression like any other socially indispensable trait.

Why, we may ask, does the cat have our tongue when it comes to frank evaluation of this subject? I think it is because we fear that to discuss it would make us look like we are eating sour grapes. The other reason is that key institutions which should be objective and vocal—like universities and the church—look to deep pocket donors to make a go of it. I can just image the pressures that my father as a minister would have felt to address this issue if the church budget required deep pocket donors who might bolt with any hint of social criticism regarding the distribution of wealth.

The discussion of the failures of capitalism to distribute wealth in a healthy way so that all can thrive will surely come sooner or later. The hope of mankind will depend upon responsible acceptance of the task by societies in which goodwill, love, and mutual respect prevail.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Better than I Deserve

Does God treat you better than you deserve? Worse? Pretty fair? What does this show you about God’s character? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1202).

Once I had a Sunday school teacher whose name was Andy Hines. I have overheard people asking him on various occasions how he was doing. He would sometimes answer “better than I deserve.” Since then, I have used this reply often myself when asked a similar question. It seems to me flat-out appropriate. Jimmy Carter said regarding his father “I longed for the kind of relationship in which I would never have to prove myself or be afraid to tell him I’d done something wrong” (Through the Year with Jimmy Carter, p.117). We imperfect creatures long to be loved and blessed and have permission to be simply honest. We have a heavenly father that provides exactly that relationship. Additionally I have found this to be true extensively within my own family and extended relationships. So quite apart from material blessings, I have been unspeakably blessed with anchored loving relationships at home and elsewhere.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

What the Good Book Says

A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything (Ecclesiastes 10:19 NIV).

This evening I will focus on the above quotation from Ecclesiastes and address what it says about money. What I will consider is how isolated texts of Scripture by themselves through myopic application can lead to a form of extremism or radicalism in any faith.

The first possible response of a faithful believer to this passage—a misguided response in my opinion—can be to assert that the Bible is never wrong, period. Therefore an attempt is made to rationalize the statement that “money is the answer to everything.” They might say something like the following: money here is another name for resources and it is a tautology that everything in one way or another depends upon resources. That is, for example, the air we breathe is really not free, but is dependent upon a measure of purity that requires resources in one form or another that can be in theory or practice monetized. I find this sort of dealing with the phrase “money is the answer for everything” a little too strained to be reassuring.

Another approach is much more difficult for me to quibble with for I engage in it frequently myself. This approach recognizes that most any statement can be made defendable if it is tagged with the phrase “in a sense.” That is, though I am nearly 70 years old, I can always assert that I am a young man…in a sense. Or, for that matter, that I am a child, low even an infant… “in a sense.” One might even say the devil is an angel “in a sense.” “Money [it can be said] is an answer for everything” in the sense that everything requires some effort that is readily obtainable through exchange using the common and liquid medium of money. Contrarily, there can be a sense in which “money is the answer for everything” is dead wrong due to the effect of diminishing returns and the hard-earned experience that throwing money at a problem can be counterproductive.

The purpose of this blog is to consider how isolated texts of Scripture by themselves through myopic application can lead to a form of extremism or radicalism in any faith. How can I assert this with such confidence ignorant as I am of many faiths? It is because I am well aware that any complete sentence and even sentence fragment can lend itself to interpretive abuse due to the perversity of human perception that too often sees what it wants to see. And religion is particularly vulnerable to this as it deals in certitudes of convictions and belief. There is a phrase that says “where one stands depends upon where one sits.” It is also true that how and what one sees depend upon ones mental prism. Rationalization and the penchant for seeing a statement imbued with the color of one’s own prejudices can be determinative in assigning meaning. For example, a greedy, hateful SOB mean as hell will surely see the statement “money is the answer for everything”differently from a generous philanthropist who has seen miracles realized through funded distribution of vaccines in afflicted countries. In short, what is on the page in Holy Writ can be less important than what is in the head of the true believer. The stimulus derives not so much from the page but from the heart imbued, as it were, with light or darkness.

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Prospectus for Tomorrow

A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything. (Ecclesiastes 10:19 NIV)

Last night I slept through my blog writing time. This evening I will focus on the above quotation from Ecclesiastes and address what it says about money. What I will be thinking about is how isolated texts of Scripture by themselves through myopic application can lead to a form of extremism or radicalism in any faith.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hearts of Stone & Bleeding Hearts

Which institution do you hate to deal with the most: Bank? Post office? Motor vehicles? IRS? Supermarket? Social security? Which bureaucrat gets the “Heart of Stone Award”? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1201).

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” (Matthew 11:25-26 NIV).

Bureaucracies can be the expression of either of two extremes: “the Heart of Stone Monolith” or “the Bleeding Heart Cascade”. I think it is obvious that neither one of these extremes will do. A bureaucracy is in many ways a professional organization that shares certain characteristics with a college professor. A professor, as with a bureaucracy, is a repository of expertise and specialized knowledge. The professor ideally will receive respect and a good measure of abeyance from his students. Anyone who has gone through school will recognize teachers with traits manifesting two extremes: a teacher with a heart of stone versus a teacher with a bleeding heart. The heart of stone professor has a closed mind and closed ears. He is absolutely and always totally right and the students had best keep quiet and absorb and do everything the professor says exactly without questioning anything. The other extreme is the bleeding heart professor who endlessly compromises on everything, is totally solicitous of his students, and—if the truth be known—is full of self-doubt as to whether he has anything valuable or substantial to offer. In the first instance the student as customer is always wrong. In the second instance the student as customer is always right.

The ideal professor will be neither one of these extremes. He will of course have expertise and specialized knowledge, but he never assumes the stance of complete rectitude – one who has cornered the market on knowledge, understanding, and perception of truth. He always stands ready to accept that students can have interesting questions and can cast a new light on accepted truths. He has neither a closed mind nor closed ears. He is readily assessable but retains standards and backbone. In contrast, the two extremes are essentially artificial, inhumane, and dishonest. We sense intuitively that something is wrong, delusional, and untrustworthy about them – something that cannot pass reality checks. The need is for bureaucracies (and college professors) that are for real.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An Inescapable Chain of Events

Oedipus Rex
Were you ever envious of anyone when you were young? Who? Why? What is your attitude when you see nasty people get what they deserve? What should it be? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1201).

Envy and admiration are very different emotions. When we admire someone we like them very much and wish them well. When we envy someone we tend to dislike them and at a certain level wish them ill – wishing to see them meet with their comeuppance and enjoying it when we hear that they have been bereft of their advantages.

When we see people we envy lose, our thinly cloaked elation shares much in common with the attitude we have when we see nasty people get what they deserve – we exalt in their misfortune.

The Christian seeks to find what is in the best interest of others. The vehicle for the exercise of this attitude derives from empathy. Thus, even when we find that the misfortune of others is in some sense just, we nevertheless temper our satisfaction with the knowledge of the pain that is concurrent with losing. We can share short-term grief with the loser even though we acknowledge the likelihood of long-term benefits. That is, we recognize that the victim was guided in their actions by their best lights. We feel sorrow when these best lights prove fundamentally misguided and delusional. Such passages are sad states in human experience and something to which we are all vulnerable.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Irony of Good and Evil

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17 NIV)

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)

After a tragedy I sometimes ask, “If God is of love and is in control, how could this have happened?” From this point of view of pain and loss, it is easy to see God as a mindless thug. If he is in control of man within nature, how could this storm have occurred, or this accident/illness, or this homicide?

In response to this question I begin by asking what I frequently ask when I find myself more concerned with the role of others rather than myself—the question for me is how can I (rather than someone else) help redeem the situation? What should I pray? What should I do? How can I help? It is always too easy and more justifying to ask what role God (or others) should play rather than asking what helpful role I can play? Stepping back, I ask what redeeming role would God have mankind at large play?

Yet, due to my conviction that life must make some rational sense, I go a step further and consider God’s role after human conflagrations of evil. Because God lovingly imbued man with dignity and honor, he did not make him a robot, but endowed him with a window of discretion and will. Because man is too often short-sighted, God’s role is to redeem his divine purpose through mop-up operations necessitated by the pollution of man. This was the Savior’s principle role. Jesus’s ministry on earth was to head up a mop-up operation in the aftermath of human evil. He came as a light unto the world to dissipate self-delusions and to provide thereafter the Holy Spirit as comforter and counselor. Too often mankind finds itself in a garbage dump of its own making, and Jesus comes as a humble worker sorting through the garbage to find and redeem that which is good.

That still leaves the issue of natural disasters. While I do not go so far as to hold that God is a clock maker who designed and created the universe then set it ticking never to intervene again. I nevertheless hold that in the nature of things some discomfort is unavoidable. For example, living in Florida I greatly wish that hurricanes were unnecessary. Yet it is clear to me that if hurricanes were cavalierly stopped, there would no doubt be hurtful implications somewhere down the line. That is, I think even God confronts a type of dilemma that is no stranger to mankind—since there is no ideal outcome, how can the pain be most minimized. It is completely tenable to me that a loving God even while in complete control does not always have easy and painless choices. The prime example is that of giving man discretion when robotics would have been in some ways more satisfying—however incompatible this would have been with the nature of God’s love.

Richard Cory
--by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
'Good-morning,' and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich - yes, richer than a king -
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Sword of the State – A Beautiful Thing

This week in America has been one of tension as the perpetrators of the Boston bombings were sought. The public assisted in bringing closure by supplying information and support. The state used its resources—including the sword of the state—to bring the perpetrators to justice.

In America we have an ongoing debate as to the proper role of individuals in law enforcement. Many hold that the 2nd Amendment relegates law enforcement to individuals—they are literally assigned the duty to become the sword of the state and determine and effect justice individually.

It is my firm belief that this was never intended by the 2nd Amendment which was directed at providing for a state militia. It is something else again when a militia is morphed through misguided individualism into vigilante justice.

Thank goodness we did not see vigilante justice at work this week in America. The sword of the state performed with awesomeness and beauty to effect its proper role as arbiter of justice. How sad it would have been had we been witness to a spectacle of individuals roving about taking justice into their own hands. As the state must assume its role with humility and grace, so also must the citizens of the United States. Civil justice is an inherently social product best realized though the God-given institution of righteous government.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Laws in Need of Immediate Passage


What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
(Psalm 8:4-5 NIV)

I have heard the arguments why we cannot have national health care (especially now in a troubled economy) and I have heard why we cannot have gun control legislation (especially now when we do not want to make props of grieving parents). Since none of these laws are therefore appropriate or timely, I have concluded that the following legislation is crucial and in need of immediate passage.
  1. Be it so resolved: No person who is marginally employed, hovering at poverty level, not covered by any type of health insurance benefit by an employer, or any like situation or condition of certainty or uncertainty; by decree and by law shall not willfully or unwillingly not knowingly or unknowingly become ill or in need of medical treatment. Any violator of this provision shall be considered a felon and the perpetrator immediately subject to imprisonment for not less than 10 years or until they shall have become deceased. Violators shall be removed from public view and awareness. Any violators of this privacy provision shall be imprisoned for an additional 10 years or until they shall have become deceased. Be it understood that there shall be no age limits in enforcement of this law.
  2. Be it so resolved: No gun shall be used to harm others—violators being subject to penalty of law. If a gun is so used, the people injured shall be immediately removed from public view and awareness by imprisonment for not less than 10 years or until death whichever shall have occurred first. Be it understood that there are to be no age limits in the enforcement of this law. A ritual of regret shall have been established and applied pro forma and uniformly with appropriate gravity at time of promulgation of sentencing or death whichever shall have occurred first. The worship of God instead of the 2nd Amendment shall be strictly prohibited.
I think you will agree that these laws are not only logically necessary, but conform to all principles of public compassion as we have come to define them.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Gentle Reminder about Alcohol Consumption

We are only just beginning to uncover the immense intricacies of the brain with its nearly 100 billion cells. Today I would like to caution that we have no idea as to the long-term implications of alcohol consumption and its effect on brain structure and functioning. To assume (as is often the case) that a buzz is the only consequence of drinking is based upon complete ignorance and fraught with risk and perhaps tragedy for the individual and society. Now we have no excuse if we focus entirely upon the short-term and ignore the probability of long-term impairment to this vastly complicated matrix of structures and processes yielding a possible consequential impact upon emotion, conceptualization, and finally upon perception itself--however pronounced, subtle, or insidious.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Violence: Impotence’s Holy Wrath


The alabaster city gleams
Beneath the clear spring sun
And cherry blossoms, pink and white,
Snow down where joggers run.

The White House and the Hill seem clean
As though all here were good,
But dross and glory both meet here,
Iron men, and men of wood.

Yet nations are but man grown large
And in each of us dwells
A little bit from Heaven caught
And also some from Hell.

So when the quorum bell rings out
And votes cause you to fear,
Remember that these are our own
And that we placed them here.

(From Time and the Kite by Andrew H. Hines, Jr.)

Violence is all around us and takes many forms. Rape is a form of violence; it is an escape from the fear of impotency. But so also are bitter votes cast in Congress. We need not look disapprovingly at others in condemnation of violence; we need look no further than ourselves. One of the most common forms of violence is a flagrant disregard of reality. We can feel helpless before it, so lash out in resentful rebellion. Violence is a thrust of self-affirmation arising from a sense of desperation and despair. In acts of violence, hope always takes a back seat to fulminations of wrath—a surrogate of it.

God has attempted to help mankind by establishing the institutions of family, government, and the church. These institutions serve to help structure and formalize paths to potency. The government, for example, has a department of justice. It is designed to curb feelings of impotence and channel it into judicial processes of justice. Family is designed to nurture a sense of competence and acceptance while the Church nurtures a sense of transcendental worthiness.

My prayer today is that with the help of these institutions and disciplines of love we come to better understand that God is merciful and creative and does not simply mirror man’s destructive ejaculations of wrath.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

The Whole and the Parts

Is it good to rely on others or is it wiser to be as independent as possible? How would you define: (a) Dependence? (b) Independence? (c) Interdependence? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1192).

Think of any analogy to a human social community and you will find that interdependence is a product of independence and dependence. Take for example a car engine. A functioning engine requires a high degree of active interdependence. But this interdependence would not be possible unless all parts of the engine maintained integrity and were in a sense independent and self-reliant. But the parts alone would make little sense and would accomplish little as isolated parts. It is through dependency that all parts function well towards the end of transforming one form of energy into another.

This observable reality is why it is possible to make all of the following arguments: Independence is the key essential; Dependence is the key essential; Interdependence is the key essential. Since all these arguments are defensible in a social setting, politics is unavoidable as the various arguments attempt to exert influence. The successful society is one that can incorporate conflicting points of view and derive strength and system integrity through the working out of different philosophical proclivities. But this inevitably requires a degree of trust and even a kindly nod to mysticism.

There is a sense in which the God hypothesis advances and underwrites the conceptual resolution of logical tensions. It is a way to transcend conceptual impossibilities. It makes tangible (though the disciplines of love) the creative dynamism of the squared-circle, the inexplicable actualization of Trinity. All believers (as do I) additionally are given the set conviction that the Trinity transcends any human conceit.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

High Five Pride

Why do you think God hates pride so much? Why is he so jealous of his role as the only God in the universe? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1190).

My first response to this question is a little antagonistic. I say if someone has carefully planned, planted, and tended a beautiful garden; should they not justifiably take pride in it? I think they should, but it is very important how they define their role in the creation of it. For example I have been doing blogs now for several years and have posted over 1000 of them. Perchance a few of them may be remarkable in some way or other and achieve a measure of excellence. Naturally I take some pride in these blogs. However, I never have nor will define my role as “author” or “creator”. First off, I have been blessed with many resources throughout my life many of them contributed by others. Because of the frailty of my memory, I may not have attributed an idea to its true source. But this is only the start of it. When one looks at it head-on, it is silly and downright absurd to think that I deserve credit for any perception at all since the human brain has evolved over many eons. How can I possibly claim credit for any product dependent upon this extensive and essential chain of events? In a real sense I deserve absolutely no credit for my consciousness and awareness. That is why when I created a personal card with my blog address on it, I listed my role as that of “articulator.” What more can I possibly claim? And even “articulator” probably overstates my role in the matter. When we consider the vastness of the universe and its evolution over billions of years coming to our present point where on planet earth consciousness has arisen, how is it possible that anyone can take self-serving pride in anything at all? This is why I think God hates pride so much. It is absurdly and ridiculously boneheaded. It results in an attitude of entitlement that leads directly to arrogance, selfishness, greed, despoliation of the earth, and the traducing of all things holy.

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Jesus as a Status Symbol

What is your favorite status symbol? How do you let people know you are successful? Do you prefer to appear unsuccessful? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1190).

Noun: status

The relative position or standing of things or especially persons in a society
"he had the status of a minor"; "the novel attained the status of a classic"

A state at a particular time
"a status of disrepair"; "the current status of the arms negotiations"

[WordWeb Pro]

I wear two pendants about my neck—one is a cross (given to me by my wife) and the other is a an anchor upon which is affixed a crucifix (an identical one is worn by my son). These can be viewed as status symbols. They show that I am not a lost loser, but a found winner in Christ. Writing about Ezekiel Jimmy Carter says that in effect God tells the prophet “Accept me totally. It's the only way you will succeed in [your] difficult task.”** Whether Ezekiel succeeded or failed in this task, the people would know that a man of God had been among them. Thus, in a sense even if he failed he would be a winner where it counts.

This is no doubt why “losers” are attracted to Christianity. There they find that in Christ they have a special role only they can fill—to serve the Lord in their own special way, to fill their unique calling, to flourish in sustaining purpose daily.

Why do humans spend an inordinate amount of time on status? Because all have some anxiety deep down that they may be in fact losers—with nothing special about them, that they are as gray and dull as dirt. Ineluctably we are redeemed from this state only by a sense of purpose. Some purposes are too easily attained, and on attainment of them we feel hollow despite our success. The eternal verities of Christianity leave room for daily growth for a lifetime—and not for this only, but for eternity. Christians share with other saints—even those long gone—a tie that binds kindred minds quite unlike that found anywhere else.

** Through the Year with Jimmy Carter, p.103.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Complexity’s Lament

If you were writing a lament for your city, what items might appear in the verses? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1188).

My country embodies a bifurcation of compassion based upon a sense of what is appropriate. On a face-to-face person-to-person basis Americans are one of the most compassionate people on earth. This is based upon a sense of what is appropriate for this level of intercourse. The other day my brother and I were riding down 34th street and noticed that someone had collapsed on the sidewalk. We parked and ran across the street. By the time we got there, people were already calling in to 911 and several people surrounded the person, one had their hand under the person’s head and was talking to the victim in an attempt to bring her out of unconsciousness. In such situations no one seems to question whether it is appropriate or not to express compassion or indeed how to express it.

Once this intimacy is lost, however, Americans tend to fear the exercise of compassion and see it as inappropriate and even dangerous as an influencer and determiner of public policy, finding it fraught with difficulties. Public policy, it is deemed, should not be based upon intimately sourced compassion, but upon individual responsibility and a desire to underwrite it rather than indulge in public largess. Here compassion, it is held, still exists; but in a different form—one appropriate for the occasion. This form holds that it uncompassionate for public policy to encourage inordinate dependency which can lead directly to abject subservience. Thus American politics is often conflicted as compassion is employed to encourage self-sufficiency—a stance that on the surface can appear contradictory due to short-term necessity vis-à-vis long-term objectives. An inordinate amount of debate regarding public policy centers on whether or not a certain policy is truly compassionate in the end-–whether it tends to build self-sufficiency or subservience--an action ending in independence and health or leading to a form of slavery.

My lament is that life is not simpler and more direct, more intimate and less complex and less fraught with unintended consequences, and much less ripe for rationalization.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Self-Actualization Contrasts with “Little Joke”

Maslow's Hierarcy of Needs

Little Joke

There is a marked difference between the apex of the two contrasting structures—self-actualization in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and the “Little Joke”. The “Little Joke” cantilever resolves any question as to allegiance and purpose and profile of self.

For background of “Little Joke” see this link:

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Indictment of Happiness

Monday I traveled to the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport to meet my brother who flew in from Georgia. I arrived early for I like to “people watch” and to get a sense of the stir of an airport with people coming and going, greeting one another or saying goodbye, and seeing the panoply of life situations presented from families with children to singles to senior citizens to young people with fresh relationships just beginning and locked in embraces of greeting or farewell. I watched as a young man arrived and greeted his waiting mate. They embraced and kissed, and then repeated the kiss. I felt an identity with them and thought warmly of the cherished days that Kathy and I enjoyed together. Then I thought what it would have been like to witness such affection had my life always been isolated and alone. Rather than feeling empathy with the young couple and their joy, I would have felt envious and painfully deprived and left-out of the best fruits of life. I came to the realization that the absence of such negative feelings can be attributed to the fact that I have had a full life of my own. When we hear of mass killings it often comes to light that the person who commits the atrocity is a loner. Could part of the reason for the tragedy be that for the killer the happiness of others is too great a burden to bear and lashing out in envy and resentment is the only way to resolve this personal tragedy within—that of stark loneliness and emptiness—an abyss filled only when humanity rushes in at last to surround him with focus and passion.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

How Is It that Our God of Love Is Full of Hatred


Then they came to Jerusalem. And [Jesus] entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS’? But you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” (Mark 11:15-17 NIV).

Christians can sometimes rather flippantly say that we are to “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Thus we find ourselves with remarkable ease applauding the assassination of Osama bin Laden—facilely obscuring the identities of sin and sinner. At these times we must consider that if God hates with a human hate, he had a strange way of showing it—by sending his son into the world to be the crucified redeemer of mankind.

Let us consider an important event during Jesus’s ministry—when he drove the money changers out of the temple—when he obviously was beside himself with anger and even used a whip in his anger (John 2:15). If we had a snapshot of this scene and a close-up of the visage of Jesus when so righteously indignant, would we not see the very picture of hatred on his face?

Perhaps I make a distinction without a difference; but I see, in this instance of Jesus at the temple, a perfectionist who has encountered something absolutely unacceptable. In my view this is significantly different from an unleashed emotion of hatred.

Once in a while I will try my hand at poetry. It is almost crazy the extent to which I disallow what I see as imperfection in sound or sense. Thus for a brief moment on a small scale I share the notoriously tempestuous spirit of a great artist at the moment of precision's induction.

Having said this—that Jesus was a perfectionist—it is essential to point out that Jesus was not a prude. He easily ate with tax collectors and sinners and had disciples who were relaxed about washing their hands before eating. Jesus was an artist of the spirit—of the heart—and hurtful attitudes in this realm greatly troubled him.

I have difficulty forming a visual of Jesus assassinating Osama bin Laden. On the other hand, I’m certain he raged about heaven on 9/11 at the sometimes unlimited cruelly of man and his ability to despoil the perfection of God's spirit.

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Most Basic Form of Knowledge

The other day I wrote a blog in which I mentioned that in the United States we had much rather attribute our actions to pragmatism rather than righteousness, and that this ethos reflects Christ’s admonition not to parade righteousness—which when done tends to immediately transmute into self-righteousness (a form of hatred).

One of the most powerful arguments against evil is that it is ineffective and simply doesn’t work in the end. It is just too great a burden to bear—which is precisely what MLK said about racial hatred: 

l’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and I've seen hate on the faces of too many sheriffs, too many white citizens‘ councilors, and too many Klansmen of the South to want to hate, myself; and every time l see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear.**

The most elegant argument for morality is its pragmatism—it is what works and endures—it is in the end what's most effective and efficient. Again as MLK said, “we must finally believe in the ultimate morality of the universe, and believe that all reality hinges on moral foundations.” Quoting Carlyle he said “No lie can live forever.” Thus, if one chooses not be believe in God, at least one should believe in moral laws and principles out of practical self-interest. Even if one does not know the creator of the game we are in, it obtains to one's benefit to know the rules.

** From: A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. “A Christmas Sermon On Peace”.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Here I Raise My Ebenezer

What about the “days of your youth” do you yearn for? If you could turn the clock back for one day, which day in your youth would you like to relive? Why? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1182).

(--From blog of February 9, 2012--)
Personal Gethsemanes are characterized by a sense of foreboding that excruciatingly painful, tough times are ahead. Nevertheless, the divine presence is palpable accompanied by the sense this is God’s will and entails his purpose for one’s life—that he will be with one throughout and that after long tribulation will come victory. This occurs when one is alone; when God is having a private time with his servant. It becomes an unforgettable set piece and portends the future in general rather than specific terms. My personal Gethsemane occurred on the University of South Florida campus in 1965. It was towards dusk in the parking lot of the humanities building. I was walking across the lot and was stopped dead in my tracks. I found myself alone. I sensed the presence of God and the love of God. It was like a father sorrowfully warning me that unspecified tough days were ahead, sad days; but he would be there with me throughout the journey and that joy would await on the other side. In the following years I was frequently in over my head. I was jailed for opposing the Vietnam War; I endured tough times at universities and felt somewhat alienated; I intentionally moved into a neighborhood that was full of unacceptable tragedies; I underwent repeated episodes of mental illness; I felt stymied in my career and sensed the inexorable passing of time. Yet joy has come to characterize my life. After drinking from the proffered cup, in many ways I have experienced victory and have been given a gift of peace. I feel that God had a job for me to do, and that I did not shirk from it. One could approach his later years with a lesser sense of faithfulness in pursuing assigned tasks.

The personal Gethsemane described above is the point in time I would most like to relive. It was a moment full of sadness, yet of great promise. It was not only a Gethsemane moment but, because it was filled with promise, an Abraham moment as well. It was a one-on-one with God. In years since I have felt the closeness and the reality of God many times, but these times have had more of a routine maintenance aspect and lacked the landmark covenant character encountered in 1965. Thus, it is here that I must in gratitude erect my Ebenezer. ([ Meaning of “raise my Ebenezer”]

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Losers and Underdogs

Loser: A person with a record of failing; someone who loses consistently (WordWeb Pro). : a person who is incompetent or unable to succeed; also : something doomed to fail or disappoint (Merriam-Webster)

Underdog: One at a disadvantage and expected to lose (WordWeb Pro); a victim of injustice or persecution (Merriam-Webster)

In a way an “underdog” would seem to have much in common with a “loser.” But as soon as this assertion is made, we sense a vast difference between them. The concept of loser carries with it the idea that the person in question is CERTAIN to NEVER win—that is, he is destined and doomed to failure. On the other hand, an “underdog” could well win if given a fighting chance. The underdog shows courage, initiative, and discipline while the loser lacks these qualities. The self-concept of a loser is typically negative and poor. The underdog has great spirit and confidence. In the end we come to feel that the loser DESERVES to lose, while the underdog DESERVES to win ( is only just...) and will win provided we give him sufficient encouragement.

I think the above is generally true. A major exception is Wile E Coyote—the loser who always wins our hearts.

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