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Friday, January 30, 2015

To Die For

Is there a "dark" situation in your life? How can it be brought into God's light? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 865).

Psalm 5:4-6 (NIV)

For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome.
The arrogant cannot stand
in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
you, Lord, detest.

I have often been perplexed by the concept of a "closed mind."  Typically the closed mind is denounced in a derogatory fashion and roundly condemned. Yet it is obvious that a closed mind can be beneficial.  For example, I think that genocide is bad and I have a closed mind about it. Likewise I think murder and stealing are wrong as well as callousness and cruelty. I have a very closed mind about these things.  I also have a  closed mind about political systems.  I think the most amenable form of government for humans is democracy rather than plutocracy or despotism. I have a closed mind about liberty, human rights, and respect.  Certainly one of the great responsibilities in spreading knowledge is to develop closed minds regarding many fundamentals. It can be said that wisdom arises from foundational and absolute views regarding value essentials.  Even our survival depends upon development of closed minds; and if I am asked to die for a cause, I would hope that I have a closed mind about the importance of what I'm dying for.

So we come to the inevitable conclusion that a closed mind often derives from humility rather than arrogance.  It takes arrogance to pronounce oneself tolerant of all things.  To be thus tolerant is to spit upon selfless martyrs and patriots that have died paving the way for us.  In the end we must respect kindness and be closed minded about human treachery--however complacently and fashionably dressed. 

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hatred: An Acquired Taste

Like with strong beer, hatred is an acquired taste.  From the earliest years people need and thrive on loving and luminous environments.  Such is necessary for cultivating and appreciating liberty and the need for mutual respect.  But in every corner of the world, there are those who acquire a taste for hatred. Once the taste is acquired people no longer are at home without it and require a dense surrounding atmosphere heavy with its lethal fragrance.  This tendency towards atmospheric hegemony is an important characteristic of hatred.  It cares nothing for sharing, but seeks to dominate and conquer.  The management of this psychological poison becomes a major task of all enlightened civilizations. Though hatred's source ultimately resides in envy, the essential nascence of this emotion is still a mystery and its originating process in no way clearly understood.      

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When Under Fire

When someone "let you have it" for all the things they hold against you,  how do you feel? What do you do? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 953).

When we "let someone have it" there is often the assumption that we hold unassailable positions ourselves. This is so far from true as to be laughable. But, of course, I don't laugh when under attack--especially initially. More often than not I burn with anger. But as time allows me to gain a little perspective,  I come to appreciate the value of my critic  and often the motive from which their criticism derives which can be love on an elemental basis.  Since they love me and think highly of me, it frustrates them immensely when they find I have feet of clay. Therefore, ironically, I come to love them even more when I consider their love for me and their high expectations.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chords of Yearning

How can you spread the aroma of Christ in the environment of your home?  In your workplace? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1607).

The world cannot be abundant without a rich source of poetry in music, song, language, the arts.  Today is my 71st birthday; a time for looking back. I remember as a young man the enthralling music of Simon and Garfunkel. It is not too much to say that they helped get me through a turbulent and trying time. In an incredibly stressful environment, they brought a strong and steady measure of sweetness and poetry. Today I offer a prayer for all those layering our world with music and portraits of empathetic compassion.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Tell Me What You Really Think

Do you know anyone who is two-faced? How did he or she earn such a reputation? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1197).

In my view the world is crying out for authenticity based upon tested integrity and inner tranquility.  Isn't that what we all want--not phony perfection or plastic eloquence but a sense of texture wrought by the real pains and joys of life?  I cannot help but think of Huckleberry Finn and his sometimes bungling and tortured path even so far outstripped by his profoundly reliable ethical instincts.  Production of such persons is in my view a principle mission of countries cherishing individual rights and freedoms. 

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Jesus Example

Would you rather have God's game plan for you all laid out from the outset, or revealed on step at a time? Why? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 155).

While the sense of long-term purpose and mission is beneficial and necessary, it is not sufficient.  For the human mind, details are most effectively metered in manageable units.  Balance between pattern perception and analytic thinking achieves optimum productivity.  Analytic aspects must operate directly on the environment--hence the need for constant interplay and feedback.  Motivation derives from both long-term pattern recognition and short-term behavioral reinforcement.  In seeking to encourage and motivate man, God thus relies on immediacy and vision as exemplified in Christ Jesus.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

The Righteous as Profligate Spenders

...[Do] not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  (Romans 8:4).

The will of God can cost money however much this medium of exchange is associated with fleshly things.  Don't for a moment think belief is a nifty way to get off cheap.  All material things as vehicles of meaning have potential spiritual implications.  For example a spiritual attribute--simple justice--can cost taxpayers a significant amount of money.  Consider the plain cost of justice (and this does not even touch upon the broader concepts of socio/economic justice): the court system, the police power of the state, the penal system, and nurturing environments suitably adequate to raise up administrators and lawmakers of competence and integrity.  Remember as well the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume (Matthew 26).  Sometimes the right thing to do has little to no short term financial defenses--in fact it can seem downright scandalous. As usual, worldly, staid wisdom is confounded by Spirit-led generosity.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Way It Is

Are you "wavering between two opinions" right now with regard to obeying God's will? Which one will you follow and why? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 512).

For over a month I have been working towards compiling a collection of my blog essays for book publication.  In fact I have already contracted with Lulu publishing for the project.  The plans are to make the book available in the following formats: ebook,  paperback, and hardback.

The last several days my steady work towards completion of the project has been stymied by self-doubt.  The troubling question:  Is this primarily a self-aggrandizing ego trip?  If it is, I don't think this can possibly be in God's will as I have come to understand it.  There is, however, an alternative way of seeing it.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  --Joshua 1:9 New International Version (NIV).

William Blake's Glad Day
I can assess the situation as follows:

I am not on an egotistical joyride, but this simply comprises who I am--I can be no other. God created me to make a contribution to his world, and I intend to make it.  By the grace of God I have been set free from self-loathing and its rending curse of self-doubt supine before compensational egotistical idols.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Romper Room

In your life, where would you like to experience more self-control?....(Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 371).

Galatians 5:22-23 New International Version (NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The Christian forms the resolution of a paradox. The Christian seeks to do only the Father's will--but in doing so gains maximum self-control and spiritual freedom.  He gains control by relinquishing control.  This is readily understandable if one considers the typical worker in a democratic society in which micro-management is minimized. In such situations, a loyal and trustworthy employee by doing the employer's will maximizes his own freedom and latitude on the job. He escapes close management by taking ownership of the purposes, goals, and objectives of the organization.  Thus, once again, we can see that the most intelligent option relinquishes substantial power in order to gain it.  In fact, the weighty tome of work-rules and procedures (the law) is often unread and largely ignored by the best employees.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Function of Heartfelt/Exploratory Prayer

Do you believe the fate of your country depends on whether the political leaders look to God for guidance?  Why? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1064).

It is my opinion that political leaders need to engage in a good measure of heartfelt/exploratory prayer--heartfelt for such is desperately honest and exploratory for this minimizes prideful assumptions and facilitates openness to elemental causes and forces at work. It encourages riveting and impartial visualization of the practical consequences of policies including the impact upon nature and persons.  Heartfelt and exploratory prayer tends to quiet the strident imperatives of idolization and ideological dogmatism.  By definition, such prayer testifies to the need for divine guidance and assistance in human planning and implementation.  Like Solomon, officials thus reach beyond themselves for wisdom augmentation and political bombast attenuation.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Do I Hear "Amen"?

I think Martin would be the first to admit that the way was partially prepared for the Civil Rights Movement in the United States because of countless Vacation Bible Schools throughout the South and in other areas teaching very young children a simple and catchy tune.  I personally was raised in the Deep South and in a small rural town no doubt in many ways immersed in racism, we even so were taught to sing for our parents "Jesus Loves the Little Children"...thus implanting lasting etchings in our hearts.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Everyone's Got Connections

How large a social problem are "your poor, your hungry and your homeless"? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 389).

Looking at this from the reverse perspective--as a retiree with a comfortable income--I ask the question: To what extent is my prosperity due to my efforts?--very little it turns out.  Obviously if we all were "islands unto ourselves" we would not benefit from the wealth of our nation or our work groups or from the many advantages of fortuitous nurturing.  It is very clear to me that much touted "individual responsibility" plays only a secondary role in my present favorable circumstances. I owe virtually everything to others.

The reverse of my comfortable prosperity are those individuals who are poor, hungry, or homeless.  It is purblind in the extreme to see deprivation as a product of narrowly circumscribed islands of individuality.  Whether we like it or not, poverty is largely a social phenomenon woven with many recurring themes, most flowing with foreboding inexorability. Certainly this is a principle reason the Bible consistently and extensively defends the vulnerable and pleads for compassion. 

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Delving Roots

Are roots important to you?  Do you consider yourself settled down, or do you tend to move around? Why? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1120).

In Wauchula, Florida, we had a high school reunion yesterday for the class of 1962. The school we attended was Hardee County High School. At the time I lived with mother and daddy in the nearby town of Bowling Green. I left a little early for the reunion so I could drive around Bowling Green in deep appreciation for the part it played in my life.  My time there was an awesome experience and constitutes a priceless heritage.  I have lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, since the mid-70s. There are numerous areas in the city that move me to the core with memories of cherished relationships and significant happenings–many of them ongoing.

Roots therefore are very important to me. I am so psychologically configured that my strong sense of purpose and meaning impels me to take a historical accounting.  

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Fast Lanes

How do you explain your way to an unbeliever? With whom will you share this good news today? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 185).

I sometimes find it very difficult on the speeding thoroughfares of life to discern who is a certified Christian.  The informal religious test Jesus suggests we use is this:  "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” That is, there is no framed and mounted certification of membership that proves willy-nilly whether anyone is a Christian.  In fact, most have come to appreciate that certification in any field doesn't mean a whole lot--a lot of "accidents waiting to happen" can hold certifications.

So therefore the only reliable test is a practical one--does one live by the disciplines of love in various and sundry environments? A lot of people repulsed by religion and religiosity perform well on life's endless series of driver pop quizzes. Religion in many ways is irrelevant to the reality of belief.  

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Process of Worship

Since all we have comes from God, what is the place for human planning, preparing and hard  work? How have you taken credit for something that was in reality far more than you could possibly have pulled off by yourself? What did it take to wake you up to that fact? Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 998). 

The abundance of God's creation includes the creative capacity of man and his drive to meet and triumph over scarcity.  Scarcity as a part of God's creation is interwoven into all of life.  Its function is to provide purpose for all living things and in particular as a stimulus in man to partner in God's creativity.  That is, the activity of the Word is not finalized but is open-ended and is currently in process.  The partnership of God with man includes divine inspiration, insight, and creative resolution.   Wonderment is an appropriate and fitting form of dynamic worship in which God and man participate. 

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Order of Things

Are you ambitious for great things, or satisfied with very little? Illustrate. (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1111). 

My answer to this question hinges on clarification, so I ask for your help.   Please evaluate the following: the first clipped lock of a baby's hair; a photograph of your father as a young boy; a mother's creative handiwork tucked away on a shelf; the last anniversary card a wife shared with her husband before her death; the memory of a brother traveling miles to see a hospitalized sibling; memories of a vacation with friends long ago; the special time God spoke to one in an ordinary place; the night Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, the moment Martin Luther King spoke his first words, the flash second when one's first vote was cast; the little yellow flower with the sweet aroma found when playing as a child; standing on the bank of a winding river at close of day, Roosevelt's ringing challenge not to fear, the memory of children abandoned in a car, Fleming's moment of insight regarding antibiotics, Jesus's delivery of the Beatitudes...order for me the significance of these things and I will better understand where my ambition lies.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Bonehead Inefficiency?

When told, "Wait for it," how do you respond?  What's tough about waiting for dinner? For a bus? For a buyer? For Christmas? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1292).

Today I had occasion to visit an insurance office. The matter at hand  – insuring some jewelry – required that I deal with my current agent in Clearwater. Thus I could not do business with the more convenient St. Petersburg agent in whose office I was until my account was officially transferred from the agent in Clearwater.  Both were State Farm offices which led me to assume that transfer of my account would be a simple and almost instantaneous thing to do. I expected the transfer to happen online and take no more than 10 minutes or so. After waiting awhile I again called the Clearwater agent asking for the cause of the delay.  I was then told agent transfers had to go through State Farm headquarters and would require several days  to complete.

I am now 70 years old and still learning after all these years that to accomplish anything at all usually entails running through a process which can require a measure of patience while enactment of the process is completed.  I think particularly as an American I am thoroughly spoiled in this regard.  I am accustomed to substantially "off-the-shelf" items in which the processing has been largely completed before it reaches the consumer.  Tonight for supper I had scrambled eggs and bacon. The bacon was precooked and required only a few seconds in the microwave to be crisp and table ready.  Thus, when I encounter more atypical matters in which significant processing begins only after the consumer shows up – such as a doctor's exam or having my car serviced – the wait can seem interminable and is easily susceptible to cheap off-the-cuff accusations of bonehead inefficiency. 

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Get Use to Looking Foolish

What can you do to stand by Jesus even when it's unpopular? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1412).

The most difficult time to stand by Jesus is not when he is confronted by a frontal attack. Then you are fully aware that you're dealing with unbelievers who are adamantly beyond persuasion.  There is nothing insidious about their attack, but it is forthright and head-on.

But attacks on Jesus can be insidious and perpetrated by apparent believers.  They have all the trappings of faith, but lack faith itself. They are ever asking that worldly wisdom be judiciously applied and any leadings of the Spirit contrary to that be met with unease and profound misgivings.  There is no faith that God's way--even if apparently ridiculous and insane--can stand on its own .  They would counsel Joshua as to the absurdity of marching around Jericho and Noah as to the absurdity of building an ark.  In such cases one must stand and then to stand in the face of "wise" warnings of certain disaster and the clincher of all prognostications--the dire warning that one will look foolish.

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Thunder and Lightning

Can you talk when you're angry? How do you work through conflicts when you're angry at someone?  Do you let anger out or hide it inside? Do you prefer to act like nothing happened? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 815).

It's very simple really,  I tend to blow a gasket. One way or another, I try to be clear that I am angry.  Anger should be shared for one's own health and for the sake of honesty. If one feels strongly about something – and anger is a special case of this – it is important to let others know how you feel.  I first try to head off anger and graduate friction. Amicability is always best  – that is obvious. But sometimes anger cannot be avoided.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Settings of Love

If you had access to the "larger picture" in your life how would it affect your attitude heading into next week?... (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition).

When mother and dad were married they didn't have much money so dad bought mother an engagement ring with a very small diamond. But the diamond was ensconced in a finely wrought setting of white gold that gave beauty and context to the diamond.

Sometimes we must settle for very small  diamonds  – our daily bread can be sparse. But the larger context of our being and the love it represents validates the intent and meaning of our lives and bestows upon it deep assurance.  

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Who's the Bravest One of All?

How do you feel when your beliefs are contrary to popular opinion? On what issue do you need to stand alone?… (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1619).

As the wimp who upon seeing himself reflected in a gym mirror fancies seeing a muscle man reflected back, I like to fancy that I am a very outspoken person. Reality does not always confirm this fancy. Many times I will wait to see the drift of opinion before stating my point of view–I can be quite the weaselly wimp.

In project management we say that it is important to find a balance between effectiveness and efficiency. Pure effectiveness can be inefficient and pure efficiency can be ineffective.

In speech we must balance effectiveness with forthrightness. Sometimes to be effective we must hold our tongues – at other times forthrightness is essential for effectiveness.  As is so often the case, the bottom line measure is framed in the question--"Which approach is most helpful?"  It is beside the point to ask whether macho or reticence reflects the best leadership. That approach is best which is most helpful in addressing the issue at hand.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Never "Called on the Carpet"

When, if ever, did you receive a "bad report" in school? What for? By whom?  (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 97).

I have received several bad grades in school and many mediocre ones. I once failed Spanish in college and I made a "D" in high school geometry. Why did I earn these low grades?  Let's just say that in some ways I was a mess.  I simply had no passion for studying--I had no sense of direction, no clearly identifiable a sense I was waiting.

The most remarkable thing during all this was that my parents never lost trust in me, had confidence that I would eventually work it out, and never once pressured me to simply "buckle down." They sensed (absent any sarcasm on their part) that I was fundamentally searching for purpose and solid spiritual bearings through prayer and anecdotal trial and error.   I was learning where I fit into this world and into God's plan.  My parents showed great confidence in me and in their own security.  They did not let their internal "judges" scare them into thinking that I would fail, or that I would end up a sorry lazy bum, or that I would not successfully move into maturity.  This, of course, was a lasting gift and blessing for me.  There are minimal psychological scars in this regard.

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Why I'm Not a Jehovah's Witness

The other day I was talking with a Jehovah's Witness friend. When I  was explaining the holiness of the Trinity equally shared in my view by all members of it, my friend said with force "Why, that would demote God!"

The great gulf that divides his view from mine rests in the conception of the closeness of family.  While I clearly understand that God is Jesus' Heavenly Father and in this sense forever remains atop the Trinity triangle, it never occurs to me to see Jesus as in anyway unequal in divine glory or in anyway unworthy of worship.

What factor must be applied to the concept of the Holy Trinity Family to make the worship of Christ demeaning to God?  Clearly it must be a factor that makes the family less intimate and more regimented, even approaching a militaristic ranking system.  Potentate God must not fraternize with Captain Jesus--familiarity will surely breed contempt. This sort of conceit is completely foreign to me and is entirely unrelated  to my view of the Holy Trinity Family. Until my view of family changes (a view deeply influenced by my own childhood membership within a loving Christian family), I will remain a confirmed Methodist.

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

A pernicious evil has been the objectifying of economics – to see it as a clinical operation of abstract principles and forces rather than composed of the flesh and bone of millions.  In the name of clinical cant, huge personal pain has been inflicted with prudish and arrogant self-righteousness.

Only by personalizing the issue, by calling it sin rather than the play of impersonal economic forces will we ever get leverage on our problems. We need to confront boldly the fact that capitalism has failed and that the welfare state has failed to prevent outrageous ongoing harm to the populace. I know young adults who are being irreparably damaged  by demeaning and pumped up disability labels and welfare on the one hand and niggardly business greed on the other--all the while this shameful morass subsidized by erudite economic incantations. We must recognize that every job is necessary – including cleaning toilets in public facilities--and that people who do them deserve the dignity of a living wage.  Education – as much as I revere it – has been used as an excuse for huge injustices in pay grades.  It is time to recognize that necessary jobs are necessary; and to pay the persons doing them a living wage. If capitalistic dogma finds this inherent and simple necessity inconceivable, be prepared to devastate the self-esteem of millions in the mire and inefficiencies of a democratically determined welfare state.

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