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Monday, September 30, 2013

Washington--the Tormented Seat of Woodpecker Purgatory

Ever watch a woodpecker drilling away at a dead tree trunk? Well that’s what we have now going on in our nation’s capital. Congressmen are steady at it boring down on one another judging one another mercilessly with beady eyes and a pecking staccato style until the blood flows. Hell hath no torment like the strident, never-ending den of rabid criticism and squawking, judgmental arrogance. The sad thing is that humanity desperately needs woodpecker behavior as exemplified by the steady pecking into problems with objective incisiveness. No doubt the cure of cancer will arrive accompanied by a cadre of selfless researches humbly baring the facts hidden from easy surface observation. The woodpecker phenomenon is an essential aspect of human behavior when it turns away from righteous excoriation into creative discovery. But in Washington human incisiveness has been perverted by shrill cries of personal vituperation.

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On the Verge

Once I heard it said that the experience of sex is one of the few things mankind has universally in common. That was a good one. But tonight I would like to offer another commonality—all mankind are on the verge—as in the “limit beyond which something happens or changes.”* Tonight I envision my cohorts across the planet—some awake, some busily involved; some young, some old; some rich, some poor. The truth is that none of us are entirely in control here. The “best laid plans o' mice an' men gang aft agley."** One thing we all have in common is that we are all on the verge.

This raises the question—the verge of what? Some would answer this in strictly material terms, while others look to abstract values and spiritual matters—not only to a landscape of things, but the meaning of things. Clearly both are important for us even in the simplest terms. But assignment of meaning can be extremely hazardous. We are only too well aware that this is an oppositional universe—the forces of light and life in opposition to the forces of darkness and death. Both can equally attribute meaning—much as a single tool can be seen and used for good or ill. Man as a creator made in the image of the Creator can choose either to affirm life or to destroy it. The forces of darkness are master deceivers well aware of the nature of man and often cloaking themselves in parodies of light and life. It is only through God’s grace that we can discern the ploy. Thus, overwhelmingly, the greatest challenge throughout our lives is to pray daily for God’s grace to see clearly and for courage to assign meaning truly and courageously.

*WordWeb Pro Dictionary
** Robert Burns in poem “To a Mouse.”

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Prediction: The Devil Will Remember the Night He Played the Titans

In the movie Remember the Titans, playing in a game fixed against them the Titans overcame the seeming inevitable and won a game the devil should have won—except for the steel integrity and web of love underlying and surrounding the Titans. At a key moment, the assistant coach said he didn’t care about worldly honor if being in the state Hall of Fame meant being a cheater. But with this simple courageous decision he sent the devil packing.

This movie flows from the root of American culture and I believe it portends disaster for the devil in his attempt to rend God’s nation asunder. The central problem we have at the moment is wealth distribution and the inability of the capitalistic system OWN ITS OWN for realizing the divine mandate for justice and mercy. While capitalism is a necessary condition for realizing this dream, it is not a sufficient condition because it fails to award the true value of labor in many cases.

American will meet head on this issue and come to affirm “It is what it is; let’s deal with it.” I have talked with the affluent middle class and I have talked with the economically deprived, and though I’ve heard anger and resentment on both sides, I have never heard hate. The devil knows his plans are doomed so long as this condition prevails. America is fundamentally a nation of love and truth telling, not hatred and deception and this is giving the devil fits.

Paradoxically, the goodwill of Americans can foster ill-will. For we are very much like the couple that don’t want to antagonize or hurt their spouse, so refrain from flat out stating something like “I wish you'd help me out with washing the dishes once in a while.” Rather, we bite our tongue, but with the passage of time resentment grows even greater towards hatred—giving the devil much hope. But I predict that the time is not far off when Americans will not avoid or seek to escape the underlying problem (with the consequence that only symptoms are addressed), but rather will successfully meet the underlying issue head-on. And like with the Titan movie, it will not be a free ride of ease and indulgence, but will require a measure of conflict. But this conflict, due to its necessity and testimony to frankness, will please the Lord.

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Without a Whit of Shame

Galileo: "vehemently suspect of heresy"

Have you ever been singled out or summoned to the office of your principal or boss? How did you feel? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1327).

About two years ago I had the temerity to ask for a car allowance—not whole hog, mind you, but a prorated amount based upon actual usage. (I was the sole employee specifically designated for desktop support for a dozen or more facilities spread throughout the city.) I carefully compiled actual usage from mileage records and executed cost analysis. I submitted the request to my manager. My supervisor and I had sometimes impassioned discussions about the matter. Several weeks after I had submitted my request, I was summoned into the manager’s office. Sitting at the table were the head of the department, my manager, my supervisor and myself. They told me that I was being given indefinite leave (they had multiple leave forms and papers compiled before me). I was not to return until a psychiatrist verified that I could. The next day I saw my psychiatrist and the following day I was back at work.

In my view the meeting held in the manager’s office was designed to put me on the defensive. It was clear to me that my position as an employee was threatened and the powers that be wanted to make darn sure I understood who was in the driver’s seat. Forgive me for being dramatic and heroic, but I felt kinship with others throughout history who have displeased authority and have been called on the carpet and expected to abjectly yield to power and keep quiet and shut up, and, in Galilean and Lutheran terms, recant. I feel my experience was not unique in any way but is repeated untold thousands of times when authority and the keepers of the status quo feel threatened by those under their power. Bald intimidation is exercised without a whit of shame. It is not a pretty scene.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

The Trouble with Quoting Scripture

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:12-17).

Too often when a believer quotes Scripture non-believers just roll their eyes. And from their perspective for good reason. They see you as trying to win an argument by quoting what they take to be an arbitrary edict written in an alien ancient culture by alpha males. We sometimes need to communicate by looking past the law to the reasoning and assertive reality behind the law.

Take adultery for example. “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14). Let us forget for a moment forget that this is one of the Ten Commandments. This in no way changes the prohibitive nature of adultery. Let me show you what I mean.

I think most of us raised in stable, loving homes on consideration would have to admit that if had we come home one day after school to find one of our parents dressing just after having sex with a non-spouse partner, we would never be able to look upon the adulterous parent in the same way. It would simply be impossible no matter how hard we tried. We would feel betrayed—both for ourselves as well as for the parent that was betrayed. There would be something profoundly unsettling about it. Though the power of what we felt would be beyond words, we would find thoughts and feelings that there had been a betrayal of love, commitment, and trust. We would see the parent as weak and unprincipled, selfish and inconsiderate—an outright phony. There would be a sense that stability is lost and perhaps even physical violence might follow the violence perpetrated on love itself.

Thus we come to see that the 7th Commandment is really not a commandment so much as an observation regarding the realities of human cognition just as the prohibition of murder addresses human behavior and ideation within the context of societal structures and the chaotic interjection into them of the human drive for unlimited reciprocity.  In short, the most direct way to state these matters is though a simple statement of prohibition saying in effect “we won't go there, period.” Holy Writ is in many ways an ongoing synopsis of human behavior.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Footnote to the Peace that Passeth Understanding

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9 NIV). 

A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33 NIV). 

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:42-44).

How many times with great envy have I looked at an accomplished quarterback pulling back to throw a pass. Despite intense mounting pressure from the opposing defense, he moves with focus and grace surveying the field for the most appropriate pass receiver. I know full well what a scatter-brain and bundle of nerves I would be in such a situation. In my mind there is no doubt but that I am watching a master quarterback in action epitomizing for the world to see what “grace under pressure” looks like.

In viewing my own painful distress under pressure, I recall my Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane where in anguish he sweat “great drops of blood.” He let the situation “get to him” and I can identify with him because of it.

The dilemma for Christians is that though we have an eye on eternity, nevertheless we cannot shake the realization that the short run can be very painful. Thus, without losing faith we still undergo fear. Today I was talking with a dear friend at work who is tackling a new job assignment. Only those familiar with the gargantuan pressures that an office environment can bestow fully appreciate her situation—she has literally taken notebooks of notes detailing her new responsibilities. At lunch she asked me for a Scripture passage to give her peace. Big help I was, I could only think of Jesus in anguish sweating great drops of blood.

I must conclude that God wants us to be earnest players. Being an earnest player sometimes means that we simply cannot avoid being “on edge.” Otherwise, we wouldn’t be earnest players. In a sense, the only way we can be completely tranquil is to not give a damn about what happens—to not be an earnest player intent on accomplishing a worthy goal.

Therefore, what I must do sometime is to find a Super Bowl quarterback and have a little chat with him. After I told him I noticed that he played with complete absence of stress, I greatly suspect he would look at me with wonder as to how anyone could be so hopelessly out of touch with reality. Utter lack of stress and tranquility simply do not reside on the road to achieving the Super Bowl ring. The peace that transcends all understanding does not eliminate fear or pain, it simply makes it (and us) meaningful in the broad sweep of events.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

To All Those in the Pizza Party

The “Little Poem” was given to me here:

For The “Little Joke” see:

The “Little Poem”
Out of synch
with the band
You aren't sent
down below ------
when you blow-it.
Clashing bashing
puts the player
in the

The “Little Poem” like the “Little Joke” are extremely significant and important for me personally. The “Little Joke” helped guide me through some difficult years and will continue to do so. However the “Little Poem” describes what will predominate during the second stage of my life. It presages a time of controversy (Clashing bashing) in which I personally will be involved. I'm “Out of synch with the band” (or counter-cultural in some ways). During this time I will not be silenced (“sent down below”). Rather I must be “[an earnest] player” whose heart is vitalized intellectually and emotionally to be highly motivated (in the Arrhymiattic). I don't know why God chose me (....for that matter, why did he choose you?). I only know that I will do my best to be pleasing to God and his Kingdom.


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Monday, September 23, 2013

When Leadership Is a Non-Issue

Deangelo, Alyssia, Wayne

Families Can Make the Question of Leadership Nugatory


What would be three top qualities you would look for in a leader (a) Vision? (b) Integrity? (c) Service record? (d) Promises made? (e) Looks? (f) Other? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1324).

  1. A leader should be helpful. Sometimes this requires assertion and action; sometimes it requires silence and forbearance.
  2. A leader should be a good follower—listening to and following God and with discretion those around them.
  3. A leader with the help of others cultivates a family feeling so that everyone gets to enjoy fulfillment of the equal/special paradox. A basic human need is to feel part of a family—that one abides in loving and caring relationships. In churches I have attended this is achieved in many ways but a principal one is that all share a common ancestry in the characters and stories of the Bible. Without banning criticism entirely, loving families share support—lifting up and encouraging rather than engaging in mean-spirited criticism. Paradoxically, the curtailing of such criticism actually cultivates a habitual and refreshing honesty characterized by consideration, frankness, and love. As the old saying goes, “A family is where you can fart with pride.”

Notice my quick sketching of three principal leadership qualities is significantly quiescent in a way. If anything, it is understated in “leader of the pack heroics and dramatics” and is devoid of dictator penchants for hogging the stage. The leader, in short, leaves it for others to find the commendable trait within him; it’s not something he assumes or asserts himself. Often the question of leadership is made nugatory by the pervasive spirit of participatory democracy—at which point heaven seems to intercede.

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The Problem with Self-Help Books

Self-Help books too often peddle a philosophy—even theology—that is disastrous for social groups. Many of them teach that we are to become self-centered and self-focused. They posit happiness as the defining goal—which when derived from righteousness is one thing, but quite another when meant as a type of reverse asceticism in which we essentially are directed to worship ourselves with blatant egocentrism embedded within a hard outer shell of parsimonious egotism. An affront to God almighty and a sure prescription for profound mental depression, it sets aside justice and mercy (social goals) for self-deification and self-absorption. The philosophy is essentially a total sham that ignores the pressing need for social justice and mercy in foundational human happiness and erects in its place neurotic tributes to randism’s and idiosyncratic greed.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Unequal Air Time

Ed Standifer in pulpit at Ellenton
Methodist Church, circa 1956

As a kid, how did you picture Satan? Now how do you envision him? Why the change? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1321).

It’s not that I don’t believe in “principalities and powers” It’s just that I believe man’s heart of darkness really doesn’t need much outside assistance in doing evil—“I can do that myself, thank you!” On the other hand I know full well that there is a God of grace and forgiveness for I have been guided from above despite my worst efforts and most adamant self-centeredness. Man’s relentless pursuit of selfishness can transmute the greatest evil into the greatest good, or so he thinks, through the magic of blindness. Man’s perceptions tend to coalesce around and support his innermost desires. Therefore his darkest deeds become white as snow in his own eyes.

My father was a Methodist preacher, and I recall he largely preached the Gospel (good news) and spent little time lifting up the devil. It’s like he knew we were well enough acquainted with evil and the devil, so he spent his time lifting up Jesus and his love and vistas of redemption. Now I know that all would not have approved of Dad’s sermons intent as people can be on espying evil everywhere and desiring obsessive focus on it, but I have come to see my father’s homilies as nurturing showers of love bestowed on congregations thirsty for hope and courage to meet daily life.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Political, Economic, and Personal Freedoms Buy Time

So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:14 NIV).

In American I think all would argue that political, economic, and personal freedoms are inter-related and correlated. Absolutely essential for the existence of these freedoms is the paradoxical need for extensive regulation. As I have said before, this paradox is to my mind a significant indicator that we are getting near the heart (and truth) of the matter. That is, on a personal level it makes no sense whatever for me to have unlimited freedom for that would impinge upon the freedom of others. Political freedom in America is tightly regulated though an arrangement that divides central government into three parts and fractures power extensively by devolvement of power to state and local government—all underwritten by the ballot. Very few would advocate a more monolithic or less democratic governmental arrangement. Economic freedom is ensured though multiplicity and diversity and through supporting legislation that benefits the commonweal. Personal freedom depends most directly upon the ethically wielded sword of the state—yet personal freedom can be rendered significantly nugatory under conditions of habitual wealth maldistribution. Insufficient wealth distribution leads to anemic economic activity and consequential underemployment and general economic deprivation even amongst the most fundamental producers of wealth.

No one in their right mind wants to see all eggs of power and influence in one institutional basket. Just so political, economic, and personal powers in concert imbed a mutual check on each other that is beneficial. Since America significantly strives to be a land of mutual respect and equality—of brotherly love—the ingredients are there to foster essential goodwill and trust. Therefore, the American system is characterized by second-chances and extended forbearances. Since the ground beneath our society is constantly shifting, its social system is inherently dynamic and the disciplines of love form the essential components ensuring America’s longevity and cohesion even during seismic discord and stress. May God continue to bless us with creative riches in the days ahead.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

“Your mission Wayne, should you decide to accept it"

What vision for your life have you received through studying God’s word? How does that affect your day-to-day decisions? Your long-term decisions? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1318).

The end result of my study of Scripture is to see my role as an instrument of God’s love. As long as I am in this role I am free in scope of word thought, and deed. I have no bounds; I have no barriers. My commission as an instrument of God’s love means that risk takes on a whole new character for self-interest beckons that I accept short-term risk within the context of long-term assurances. That is, short-term anxiety and fear are put in their place by long-term commitments. I need fear no man nor be intimidated by them for I do not look at restrictions but freedoms of spirit yielding profound implications for the structure of relationships. I worship no man no matter what their rank or status. I worship only God and am committed only to his interests. This is possible because I realize that divine will seeks the good of mankind not its ill. His object is abundance of life in full panoply not restrictive mendacious ploys arising from greed and selfishness. Therefore, I am not ashamed if I am smeared with the accusations of others for “…I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12 NKJV).

Now we must ask in all frankness if danger lurks within assurance. Cannot one go off the “deep end” and through delusion turn treacherous even to the will of God? It is this question that forces one into a corner in which God’s grace is the only escape, for it is beyond any mortal to underwrite certainty rather than to live by faith. Does one persist in the fruit of the Spirit? That is the key accountability question that can be asked in stark pragmatism by anyone.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Recommendation Based Upon Our Experience

Tonight I wish to say a few words to honor a company with which we do business. It is my hope that the company will deem at least some of my remarks worthy to place on their website.

The Leisure Services Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Saint Petersburg, FL maintains and sponsors many facilities and programs. An extremely important program involves free tutoring offered to children. The City has some 142 computers designated for educational use located throughout the city's spanning neighborhoods. An integral part of the system is proprietary software that enables widespread public computer use without inadvertent negative changes in essential computer performance. This protective software (“locking software”) allows the public to use computers without the possibility of a host of complex negative side-effects.

For approximately five years we have used SmartShield Software created by Centurion Technologies. The initial software set-up is straight-forward. The software provides the means for servicing and controlling computers remotely from our administration center. As computers now and then must be “unlocked” for routine software changes, it is important that this process be smooth and trouble-free. Occasionally we have needed technical support from Centurion. Many factors known all too well by IT departments can make this relationship problematic. Essentially it boils down to whether the tech support provider willing takes ownership of the issue of inquiry. Is tech support available and do they communicate and assist effectively? Based upon our experience with Centurion, this has never once been an issue. In light of our experience with SmartShield and Centurion Technologies' products and staff, we highly recommend them for any environment similar to ours.

Centurion Technologies:

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The “All-Business” Bully

 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 NLT).

Who are the bullies or “horns” that you fear? In what ways has God helped defeat and subdue them in your life? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1319).

The bullies I most fear are the “All-Business” Bullies. These are persons who would put down anyone who seeks to connect with people in other than a severely restrictive manner. I suppose a stereotypical snapshot of this is the stern surgeon who shuns any human contact whatever except through the blade of a knife. While no one wants an incompetent surgeon, it is a major error to assume that a friendly, empathetic, informative surgeon is incompetent while one completely devoid of human kindness and thoughtfulness is by fiat competent. Sometimes the “All-Business” Bully is also the disposition of those with a military background. Their military air is essentially a ploy to intimidate others and to assume unquestioned command themselves. Only they, their attitude suggests, are at all competent to zero in on the true importance and significance of the issue at hand while you, sadly, can never measure up to the task. It is necessary to nip this ploy in the bud. The “All-Business” Bully is in the generalized category of those who seek to intimidate by various strategies no matter how that intimidation may be cloaked.

God has helped me defeat and subdue such bullies primarily through presenting me with a different perspective. I see that effectiveness more often than not requires human communication on several levels. A wire cage of carefully selected “facts” often completely disregards broad realities essential to effectively addressing issues. It is difficult to ascertain justice while using monolithic vision, for example. I have learned that “All-Business” Bullies must be met with adamant strength and conviction. The air of command and intimidation must be squarely challenged by an inveterate sense of equality.

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