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Monday, August 31, 2015

Big Brother vs Brotherhood

Would you rather be a big brother, or have a big brother? Why? Who served as a "big brother" in your life? Was he the kind of big brother that teased and tormented you? Or the kind that defended and rescued you? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 92).


Big Brother, personification of the power of the state in 1984 (1949) by George Orwell
a :  the leader of an authoritarian state or movement
b :  an all-powerful government or organization monitoring and directing people's actions

In everyday discourse it is clear that "big brother" has come to have a negative connotation.  It is someone who is domineering and controlling. A Big Brother enjoys coming across as a self-centered bully.  The term has lost the meaning of "defender and protector" for that of "tormentor." I can have a kind and considerate "older brother," but must beware if I have a brother who acts like a "big brother." The ideal relationship is surely to be simply "a brother" (an equal).

In international affairs countries need intentionally seek to mitigate an urge to be unrelievedly dominate--a stance too often conceived as an unassailable indicator of strength.  Much as in the home, a big brother aspect can demand the attention that bullies always get; but lack the respect, even affection, that underlies long-term steady and coherent relationships.

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Unemployment as a Cruel Form of Detention

What childlike quality do you need to recapture? Why? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1354).

Sometimes I think adults can be way too hard on themselves. They mope about having lost childhood innocence and the childhood sense of play. I call this into sharp question. When I was a youngster, I planted butter beans in the backyard and set on the steps waiting for them to grow. This is an example of childhood innocence all right – childhood ignorance of plant growth. It also points to typical childhood fun which is often outside in playgrounds or the backyard. We do not need to feel that we have failed as adults because we do not spend an inordinate portion of time in the yard discovering each neat hiding place. I contend that adults play constantly at work – I know I did and had tremendous fun discovering new things and enjoying people. So the next time you see an adult crying in their beer because of lost childhood traits, consider the underlying satisfaction adults get from their responsible duties.  In fact, the real tragedy of unemployment is the forced withdrawal from employment's undergirding harmony with childhood play. Unemployment is a cruel form of detention.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Beguiling Sense of Remoteness

Why do people react instantly to physical threat, yet seem indifferent to spiritual threat? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 528).

The key differences in perceived proximity and immediacy are the determining factors in response magnitude. Even physical threats that are perceived as remote can have little impact (for example): an unhealthy diet, a possibly approaching storm many miles away, or smoking tobacco. Due to a deceptively abstract aspect, spiritual matters can appear on the distant horizon, when, in fact,–like an unhealthy diet–the impact is subtle yet immediate.  While spiritual discipline is hands-down preferable to complacency and sloth, spiritual inertia (like its twin, physical inertia) is hard to overcome due to a disarmingly deceptive sense of remoteness.   

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Friday, August 28, 2015

In Some Ways a Psychological Mess

Apart from eating, drinking and sleeping, what can you look back and say you've done "all your life"? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 870).

I have striven – despite paranoid tendencies to the contrary – to withhold judgment when viewing others while being stricter on myself. It is a fact of life  that not all people have good will in their hearts, that all are not manipulative, and that not all have high ethical standards. Thus a nature that reflexively withholds judgment can be open to "got you" paranoid moments when proffered trust is abused. There is a tendency for the pendulum to swing suddenly from trust to distrust of others and compounded harsh self-judgment for playing the fool. There is no way to save me from this long regnant condition, other than to abjectly rely on the redeeming grace of God.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Striking Absence of Many Honeyed Words

Do you find a lot of "humility" rings falsely? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1176).

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. ... Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:18 & 21).

An equally valid question: "Do you find a lot of "praise" rings falsely?" The perfect storm of hypocrisy is when both "praise" and "humility" ring false.   There's a saying that "birds of a feather flock together."  There can be pressures within the Christian flock to deny self to such a degree that modesty becomes artificial and simple honesty is betrayed by phoniness.  There is no need to stand like a deer in the headlights when offered a modest and realistic compliment. I would like to show an instance of this receptive grace by citing a scene in which Jesus responded to such a measured compliment--trouble is, I can't find any, except perhaps for a centurion. (Surely preachers who face a barrage of compliments following a sermon could wish that the Bible recorded lavish praise given after the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus's model response.) Maybe the absence of abundant compliments flowing to Jesus in Scripture suggests that we should encourage one another by support and faithfulness rather than many honeyed words. 

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Identifying the Deity in Public Affairs

The rulers of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon only saw themselves as working to build up their power, yet they were actually accomplishing God's plan to reach all types of people. Do you think it is legitimate to view political movements and upheavals in our day from a similar perspective? Why or why not? What examples might you use as evidence for your position? What cautions need to be observed? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1022).

What can possibly be the downside in seeing God behind major events or situations? Actually due to the capacity for rationalization within the human mind, there is a tremendous danger presented. The first danger is to find the status quo hunky-dory no matter how inhumane or unacceptable. Could not Christ have refrained from healing the sick or helping the poor if he had taken upon himself to interpret sickness and poverty, by its very existence, as the obvious will of God?  In short, to see God's endorsement behind everything existing is to endorse the status quo and rationalize blanket inaction.

A second major danger is related to the first. I can say, using a stark example, that if God did not want me to kill, he would not have given me the gun to do it. In international affairs this can mean that military action is reflexively preferred over diplomacy--diplomacy being an involuted option inherently more abstract than ready stockpiles of armaments.  In short, I can justify any action by the fact that God has given me the resources to perpetrate it; as I can justify any inaction by saying that if God had wanted me to intervene in this matter, he would have given the ready means to do it.

All this reminds me of the politician that stridently affirms  "The American People" desire this or that without the slightest proof that there's any unanimity at all about the matter.  Public opinion, elusive as it is, is often more reliably measured than a self-serving politician's confident assertions regarding the mind of God.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

In Praise of Gutsy Fun

As a child, who was your favorite super-hero? What could he or she do that you wished you could:  Fly? Display superstrength? Always win? Talk his way out of anything? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1673).

As a child I listened to radio, then (when it came out) watched TV.  The superheroes were such men as The Lone Ranger, Wild Bill Hickok, and Superman – most of these shows aired on Saturday.  Their main attributes were action, power, passion, and cool rationality in the face of the enemy.  It was satisfying to see the bad guys always lose and the good guys always win. I even more greatly admired a far less glitzy hero--Brer Rabbit.  What he lacked in naked power was more than offset by his ready wit, fast talking magic, unassailable ego, and courageous faith.  In my later years Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy in the Beverly Hills Cop series, who was likewise outmatched in brute power) became one of my favorite staples.


Brer Rabbit is a trickster character in folktales of African, African-American, and Native American Culture. Brer Rabbit is the consummate trickster, who typically matches wits with Brer Fox, whom he always bests.


Brer Rabbit and the Triumph of Wit

"Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please," said Brer Rabbit. "Only please, Brer Fox, please don't throw me into the briar patch."

"If I'm going to hang you, I'll need some string," said Brer Fox. "And I don't have any string handy. But the stream's not far away, so maybe I'll drown you instead."

"Drown me! Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please," said Brer Rabbit. "Only please, Brer Fox, please don't throw me into the briar patch."

"The briar patch, eh?" said Brer Fox. "What a wonderful idea! You'll be torn into little pieces!"

Grabbing up the tar-covered rabbit, Brer Fox swung him around and around and then flung him head over heels into the briar patch. Brer Rabbit let out such a scream as he fell that all of Brer Fox's fur stood straight up. Brer Rabbit fell into the briar bushes with a crash and a mighty thump. Then there was silence.

Brer Fox cocked one ear toward the briar patch, listening for whimpers of pain. But he heard nothing. Brer Fox cocked the other ear toward the briar patch, listening for Brer Rabbit's death rattle. He heard nothing.

Then Brer Fox heard someone calling his name. He turned around and looked up the hill. Brer Rabbit was sitting on a log combing the tar out of his fur with a wood chip and looking smug.

"I was bred and born in the briar patch, Brer Fox," he called. "Born and bred in the briar patch."

And Brer Rabbit skipped away as merry as a cricket while Brer Fox ground his teeth in rage and went home.


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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Now Broadly Wagging My Tail

When is the last time you changed a long-held opinion of yours? What do you now believe? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 828).

I once believed that self-important people who demanded--and sternly expected-- submission and abeyance ipso facto deserved it. I would flinch in their presence. While I continue to believe that all human beings deserve respect, I have traveled many, many miles from the view that self-important people bent on intimidation are inherently more worthy than I, and that before whom I therefore should automatically tuck my tail in submission and shame.  I now consider their threatening self-righteous demeanor of self-importance a weakness bordering on mental illness and deserving pity rather than fear.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Profound Implications of Choice

Who are your spiritual authorities? Is the church a democracy? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 502).

I grew up in the Methodist Church situated within a democracy. Since it was situated (in my case) within the American democracy, the congregations were largely self-selecting. For example, if you were an atheist you were free not to come to church, and few if any ever did.  The rule of self-selection largely obtains to all organizations within a democracy-- whether a service club, an upper level educational institution, or even workplace.  To a greater or lesser extent, one is always free to participate or not to participate in any specific organization.  Additionally,  the values of democracy are largely incorporated within its encompassed organizations; thus we find micromanagement operating at a minimum. That is, purpose and accountability predominate over legalistic specificity and goose-step rigidity.

The Methodist Church has The Book of Discipline, but its primary utility in predominant practice is to adorn bookshelves and to give a sense of rectitude.  In my experience the principle business of the Methodist Church is to share in the love of Christ– all else is merely a tool used to implement this overarching purpose.  So I perforce conclude that the church, like other organizations situated within a democracy, experientially find the values of democracy profoundly subversive to occasional flights of autocratic fancy no matter how staidly defended as righteous.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

The Central Role of Accountability In Reconciliation

I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. (Luke 15:18 NIV).

Accountability plays a central role in reconciliation. If we look at the foundational underpinnings of any Christian life, we there find repentance – a persistent and empowering expression of individual accountability.  Accountability serves as a powerful antidote to assuming the role of victim and blaming everyone but oneself.  In the archetypal Parable of the Lost Son, the son rebelled against all that his father had taught him while at home...except for one lesson of abiding value. If he had not learned well the lesson of accountability, he would not have returned in repentance but instead would have cried out curses to his father from the pigpen. On his return home, effective reconciliation was actualized due to the father's adherence to the values of charity and forgiveness.  Thus, a mutuality in accountability was struck based upon abstract but essential spiritual values.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

When God Greases the Skids

How do you feel when you see a promise of God coming true in your life? Describe an instance where this is happened. (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 337).

Often the spiritual dilemma that arises at a decision point can be framed in two questions: 1) is the contemplated action an instance of our stepping out ahead of God, or to 2) should we relinquish all reluctance and step out with faith based upon our perception of God's general assurances? My adventure in selling my house was the latter kind of decision. The adventure started after my seeing an individual walking down the street surrounded by a penumbra.  I felt directed to sell my house at once, though never having thought of it before. I felt God was strongly beckoning me to move out in faith, which I did. The subsequent real estate transaction must go down as one of the smoothest ever made. I serendipitously discovered that a Christian friend (of times past) and his now grown daughter were both currently real estate brokers.  They assisted even in my clearing out the house in preparation for sale. My brother who has a very busy schedule was free at an opportune time. When the house went up for sale, it sold the next morning to a young couple at a sizeable margin over asking price.  One of the prospective owners by coincidence had worked with my nephew at Warren Willis Methodist Youth Camp. The buyers efficiently handled all their responsibilities and made no attempt whatever to chisel down the price. Yesterday's closing went well. Their realtor – a personal church friend of theirs – suggested that we close the meeting with prayer, which we did. If ever God "greased the skids" on a real estate transaction, this was it.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

When Caught Behind a Slowpoke

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).

Crucial impatience occurs for me in traffic, especially if I'm running late for an appointment. Initially, I complain vociferously when finding myself trapped behind a driver that seems to be creeping along. Even though nonbelievers may well consider this a copout, in such circumstances I then intentionally consider that God is in control and he knows more than I can possibly understand. Redemptive contingencies, decidedly in my favor, can undergird delays in traffic, career, or planned events.  Most people of experience can recount times when unexpected delays obtained to the benefit of all; and thus they have come, however reluctantly, to regard patience as a decided virtue firmly incorporated within the broader wisdom of God. 

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Home on the Range

In your dreams of the ideal life, are you more like the pioneer (always pushing on) or the settler (settling down)?  (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1634).

I like to look at this question first by exploring the processes of the brain itself.  The healthy brain is always curious (pushing on) and is always learning (settling down).  As the ideal brain contains  both attributes, so does a healthy life.  In religion we combine eternal verities with fresh perspectives timely induced by the Holy Spirit.  In business we gather and establish resources and disperse them in research and development.  In science we make discoveries that naturally lead to new fields of study.  Democratic governments combine change and allegiance to foundational principles.  In sum, vital human enterprise incorporates foundational mental and spiritual aspects that push on and settle down concurrently.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Secret of Resilient Self-Confidence

What is the difference between pride and confidence? How can you develop confidence without pride?  (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1261).

When I think of supreme confidence without pride I think of such people as Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, or Robert Kennedy. I'm sure that the typical schoolteacher often wonders why some of their young students bask in self-confidence while others cringe at the very thought of self-affirmation. I think the average person gains in self-confidence with advancing years. They become comfortable with themselves knowing better their strengths and weaknesses and, while accepting their original callow premise of inadequacy, they now fully appreciate that so is everyone else--everyone without exception is familiar with feelings of inadequacy and everyone makes blunders and mistakes; no one is different even should they live in palaces. They have learned to value others despite their limitations and not infrequently, paradoxically, because of them.  They have learned, in other words, the hard lesson that imperfection can be downright endearing as it fully serves to encompass the circle of our shared humanity.

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

What Is Unity?

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Today I bought a thermos glass made of shiny stainless steel.  Around the top third of the glass is a broad green strip with two coconut palms printed in white on one side, and on the opposite side, another palm with the words: "Living in Paradise."  There is, of course, a sense in which paradise is never achieved on earth; for instance, consider the occasional toothache.  Yet looking back over my 71 years, there is a real sense in which I have always lived in paradise.  I have never been without love or friendship (AND have never missed a meal!).  By the way,  just today a friend gave me a glass with the Great Seal of the United States' eagle emblazoned upon it.  The eagle holds in its beak a banner with the words: E pluribus unum ("Out of Many, One").  An abiding aspect of any conjectured paradise is unity.  I think we all have to agree that even in the United States we often woefully lack true unity. This evening while I was thinking about unity and how it is characterized, my brother Bob and sister-in-law Linda gave me a call from Georgia (they are both retired Methodist ministers).  They had some great ideas about unity.  Here are some of them contributed by Linda:


I Corinthians 1:10  Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.

Wayne was talking about his blog and trying to define unity.  I thought of Paul's letter to the Corinthians, calling them to be united, and the word study I'd done while in seminary. It's fun to look at the various words used in the translated scripture to see if there is a deeper meaning.
The word Paul used was a form of katartismos, meaning either to adjust or put in order, to restore; or to equip or prepare.  It's also a medical term, used to describe the setting of a bone, being perfectly re-joined. Paul could have used other Greek words, more religious words, that might have evoked a spiritual unity.  Instead, he used the word that would evoke action.

A form of katartismos is used also in Mark, Jesus calling the disciples as they were mending their nets.  So a fish net is a metaphor for unity.

My husband, Wayne's brother, likes to throw his cast net to try to catch mullet.  When he's successful, the net covers the fish and they try to scatter.  As they swim to the left, the rest of the net responds; as they swim to the right, the net responds.  However, if there is a break in the net, it's not worth anything.  As united people, when someone hurts, the rest of us respond  with compassion. When someone rejoices we respond with congratulations. But, when there is disunity;  when there is hatred, jealousy, bitterness, fear, anger,  then it's like a big rip in the net and we're not worth anything as a community.  (By the way, look at the last five letters of community!)

Thanks for the opportunity to participate in Weiner World!

Linda Standifer, United Methodist clergy, retired

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Friday, August 14, 2015

The Bully and the Balm

When faced with a big bully in the schoolyard, you were trained to: (a) Keep a safe distance? (b) Report him to a teacher? (c) Turn the other cheek? (d) Punch and run?  (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 617).

A bully seeks to castrate you. But someone can hector you while still not being a bully--they can in essence be challenging you to step up to the plate (that is, in a real sense, attempting to empower you or to get you to empower yourself).  I do not take well to castration and generally counter it head on – for example by not keeping silent when someone seeks to talk over me.  But I cannot help loving those who challenge me to step up to the plate.  Whenever I enter a new social situation- say, visit a new church– my antenna are aware of two basic approaches. The people are (1) seeking to intimidate me by implying that they are better than me or (2) they are loving, empowering, and seeking to encourage me.  I sometimes get the impression when sitting at a dinner table that the person sitting across from me garnered all they are telling me about art, music, literature, social issues, and science not out of a love for it, but solely as a tool to intimidate and castrate others.  Such people I consider intellectual bullies. I generally seek to avoid such people.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Donald Trump and Instinct

A defiant Donald J. Trump suggested on Sunday that he had been singled out for attacks by the hosts of Thursday's Republican presidential debate and again threatened a third-party White House bid if he was not treated "reasonably fairly" by party leaders. (  He later added that we can discern fairness instinctively.


How do you react when you don't get your fair share of something? Suffer in silence? Pout? Have a fit? Demand your rights? Other? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 337).

In several illustrations Jesus warns us not to sit in judgement on the fairness of God. He tells approvingly of the story of the landowner (God) who paid  discriminatory wages, and notes that God sends rain on the just and unjust.  Jesus's ministry in many ways fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah regarding  a savior who would "give sight to the blind, bring prisoners out of prisons, and bring those who live in darkness out of dungeons." (Isaiah 42).  That is, Jesus was far more interested in unbounded redemption over calculated justice.  Redemption by its very nature is inherently based on grace and mercy rather than justice.

It is worth noting that in signal ways justice looks backward while redemption looks forward with hope. That is, a society that is solely interested in justice and not in redemption is exponentially impoverished.  I would agree with Donald Trump that we perceive justice instinctively. However I would note a difference between "instinct" and "informed instinct."  Informed instinct is the instinct that can see the forest for the trees and is characterized by a social perspective. We often call this point of view "maturity." We see the little child pitching a fit because he cannot monopolize a toy. With maturity the child will be introduced to the concept of sharing. This is simply another way of saying that he will be inculcated with the Golden rule which will thereby inform his instinct and redeem "fairness" from blatant selfishness.

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The Privatization of Justice

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice...and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (US Constitution)


This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice...' (Zechariah 7:9)


In many instances, America's civil and criminal laws strongly favor rich and prominent people. We have more people in prison than any other nation on earth, and most of them are poor, members of minorities, or emotionally ill..... It's hard to imagine a wealthy white man being executed. (Through the Year with Jimmy Carter, page 217).


The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in 1990 under William Clinton, when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes. (

It goes without saying that the government cannot do everything. Its primary function is regulation, security, fostering health and creativity, and the establishment of justice.  We have largely privatized justice in America. Just yesterday I explored the possibility of an retrial for a son of mine. The lawyer said that preliminary legal work would cost approximately $7500 and the trial itself $100,000.  To the extent that justice can hinge on retrials, it is patently clear that justice is far from established in the United States except for the powerful and wealthy. It is widely thought that public defenders for the indigent primarily exist for the convenience of the court and not for the true realization of justice.

Justice ultimately depends upon the quest for it in a myriad of private transactions – that is, a spirit of justice must pervade the hearts and minds of the citizenry.  Yet despite this – even because of this – a keen interest in civil and social justice must equip the state for the genuine establishment of it. Establishment of justice is a clear responsibility of the state and cannot be abdicated with abandon for Siren songs promising a complete and facile march to the privatization of justice.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Benign Neglect – The Antithesis of Goodwill

In what way, small or large, did you "make peace" with someone this past week? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 856).


Psalm 122:6-9 (NIV)

 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    “May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
    and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
    I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
    I will seek your prosperity.


[Benign neglect] is today more widely known as a type of laissez-faire policy, in which a lack of regulation or investment is allowed in the belief that it will improve, or at least not hurt, the interests of the "neglected" group. Benign neglect is also used as to mean divestment from under-served communities, with the implication that resources will be diverted to preferred communities, usually suburbs. (

It's interesting how we can assert that "benign neglect" is advisable in areas that are hard to track (such as nuances in relationships), while no one would suggest that "benign neglect" would be helpful in terms of house maintenance--fixing the roof or keeping it painted. Goodwill inherently includes the concept of steadiness.  "Hit or miss" goodwill is tantamount to implementing in relationships a policy of gradual structural degradation. Turning that around, as  occurred in my life last week,  depends upon appreciating  this simple fact.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Outflanking the Warped and Sinful Within Ourselves

I would ask that each of us  in this  encroaching political season read Titus 3 daily. We need to acknowledge  our communion in the universal human experience of imperfection whilst tirelessly yearning for redemptive endings only possible  through sharing in the intentional disciplines of generosity and goodwill.

Titus 3:1-11 NIV

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always... [to show true humility] toward everyone.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Called to Act While In the Dark

Jeremiah obeyed God instantly, without questioning. How willing are you to go along with things that you don't understand? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1067).

There was once a little boy who lived in a family that was having difficulty paying the rent. The little boy said instantly "Here's my piggy bank daddy, use it to pay the rent." The father had to explain that 74 pennies would not satisfy the rent obligation.  I have at times seen myself as this little child with a few pennies confronting a need greater than my limited resources could possibly fill.  It is at this point that I've had to understand that God does not require that I have controlling leverage, but that I be faithful. Such matters inherently involve great risk. There is no clear understanding how the situation can be helped with my comparatively few resources. The charge becomes to obey God--and proceed mostly in the dark--with faith.

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Friday, August 7, 2015

On Breaking Promises - The Bottom Line

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40).

We should control our anger when a friend stands us up for a promised luncheon. Our friend's first duty is to God, not to us.  We are not to judge the significance of a preemptive mission. It need not look important in our eyes to be of singular importance in God's eyes. What person has not failed to keep a promise to himself because of a more important preemptive mission. One must allow unto others what he allows himself. God commitments come first; human commitments are of secondary importance.  With the bark off, that's the bottom line. Maintaining humility and goodwill are the keys to happiness.

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My Best Friend

Who [is] the best friend you ever had? What [is] special about him or her? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 864).

First I list my descriptive characteristics of a best friend:
  • They are solidly there
  • They have integrity
  • They are straight shooters
  • They are optimistic
  • They have an indomitable spirit
  • They are loving, patient, compassionate, and kind
  • Yet, they tell it like it is
  • They have a smile that lights up a room
  • They offer essential guidance and spiritually informed advice
  • They have a healthy interest in...and expend Herculean efforts towards... their own ambitions, dreams, challenges, and skills
  • They are responsible
  • They are self-confident
  • They are courageous
  • They are open and accessible
  • They "believe in you" and are respectful of your dreams
  • They respect and honor law enforcement officers, military personnel, and first responders
  • They have an unblemished track record of personal loyalty
  • They have a healthy respect for the power of symbols
  • They love the church
  • They are energetic and enthusiastic
  • They are not perfect, but they are the best...being God-sent.
Based on these characteristics,  I without hesitation name Kunte Kinte Lueallen as my best friend.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

What "God's in Control" Means to Me

Once I was freaked out because of coincidences which were too coincidental to be coincidental. This catapulted me into periods called "mental illness." I have regained stability  principally through understanding that God is in control. I do not mean that I feel I am a robot.  But I do feel that God provides opportunities broadening the possible scope of action and opening up possibilities of redemptive choices. Let me give a recent example. Late Tuesday afternoon I was in my car and over the car speaker phone an acquaintance was threatening my life. The acquaintance did so repeatedly and with increasingly vehement hatred and rage. I happened to be parked in a parking lot and a police car happened to be parked nearby. I happened to have a friend in my car. I asked my friend to go fetch the police so he could listen in on the threats. My verbal attacker quickly began to calm down when he realized that a policeman was listening in. (The acquaintance has since apologized and we are reconciled.)  It is my view that the policeman's presence not only helped secure my life, but intervened helpfully for the broader good of my attacker. I don't think the multitude of happenstance involved was merely an accident, but was in the will of God. I have to tell you "coincidences too coincidental to be coincidental" are a constant occurrence in my life and happen multiple times in the course of daily living. I have learned to accept all of them as minor miracles of God.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

A Rapid Rebound to Almond Joys

What childhood secret have you kept from your parents to this day? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 547).

I had a a wonderfully congenial Uncle Will. He was father's brother, a recent widower, and he came for a visit when we lived in Oviedo. I was seven or eight at the time and admired his love affair with life. He chewed on cigars and would tell tall tales ending with a humorous twist. One time after he left to go back to Tuscaloosa, I went into his room and found in the front of a dresser drawer a new, wrapped cigar he had left behind. There was nothing to do but to try that cigar out. Rather than chew on it, I lit it up.  I suppose I turned several shades of green – at least that's how I felt.  I never told my parents of this early excursion into adulthood.

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