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Monday, November 30, 2015

The Usual Case of Limited Knowledge

Which of these gifts would you give your best friend – fame, wealth, or long life? Which would you like most? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 483).

Not expanding on the available gifts beyond those given in the question leaves out some important options. Nevertheless, confining my answer to these three finds much will depend upon the current state of my friend’s circumstances. If he already has wealth or fame, what better thing to wish for than long life? If he is currently greatly stressed for resources, I may well wish for wealth. If he is chronically depressed from a feeling of worthlessness and abject anonymity, I might well wish for him a dose of fame.  If he is typically in good health but presently in the hospital with a life-threatening  illness, long life would be my wish.

Today this will become more than theoretical as I travel to Deland, FL to visit my friend who last week was admitted to the hospital with multiple issues including heart congestion. I must now expand beyond the question and pray for whatever is best for my friend admitting my own towering ignorance as to what that is.  I pray likewise for myself.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tied Statue

Recall a time when you were quite “tongue-tied” or speechless. What happened? How did you recover? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1147).

I suspect I was about 13 years old at the time living at Ellenton, Fl.  The Methodist Youth Fellowship (the MYF) met every Sunday evening and it was my turn to have the devotion. It was just a small group of us, maybe eight or so, but I was terrified, literally terrified, to stand up and give the devotion – which was merely a reading from the Upper Room.  I stood stiffly with my eyes fixed upon the shaking page of the book and sweating profusely. I had everything going for me you might say: I was on home turf, in my home church, among friends, in an informal atmosphere, before a small group I knew well. This snapshot of me frozen before a small, informal, friendly group speaks reams about my personality at the time. At this time of year, people often pose the question “Would you like to be young again?” I can answer “definitely not!” unless I can have the perspective I now have of my place in the world.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

The Nut to Crack

Which word comes closest to describing you – skeptical or gullible? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 358).

I would like to pose the question “How is it that the skeptical are gullible?” I have watched with chagrin over the past seven years the incessant display of gullible skepticism in which Barack Obama is acerbically viewed. An inherent flaw with being the “loyal opposition” is that you at the outset must assume a prejudiced position. A stance of charity is forthwith abandoned in exchange for wearing not rosy eyeglasses but distorted ones in which the subject opposed appears as if reflected in a hall of mirrors. The nut to crack is the task of maintaining competitive charity–a task that looks first not to personal interest but to communal interest. This is an art that can only built up over a lifetime through repeated trial and error experiences at the aspirational level among working relationships.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Balm of Abundance

The Standifer gathering for Thanksgiving today will be in Leesburg, FL.  There will be a new celebrant his year–Connie Kline, my new romantic interest.  We will leave from Saint Petersburg about 9:30 am for the 2 hour trip.  Going with us will be my long-time and trusted friend Angelo Lundy.  We will be taking two pies (sweet potato and tropical cheesecake) and a smoked pork chop casserole.  

We will be celebrating amidst a balm of abundance.  Humanity is susceptible to rude importunities of scarcity and pain. The abundance of family and friends (and food) serves as a balm to assuage the sterner and less happy aspects of life.

I wish you this day fields ripe for harvest and overflowing with balms of abundance.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Christianity vs Platitudes

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:17).

Take 30 seconds to reflect on how 4:17 is true for you. What situation comes to mind? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1686).

Sometimes Christianity is taken as a cure-all, an elixir, for all that ails you. There is a sense in which this is true – the relational and forgiving love of God is fundamental to healing and hope. There are times, however, in which Christianity is taken as a nifty list of bromides which, when repeated, can magically divine instant cheer. Let us say that a child is killed in an accident. It is a misuse of Christianity to pretend that sonorously intoning the phrase “God has another flower in heaven” can help at all in mitigating the depths of grief felt by the family. Sometimes the most a loving fellow Christian can do “is be steady and be there” as my friend Andy Hines often demonstrates.  Since grief resolution requires profound workings within the interlace of reason and emotion, it simply is not touched by cure-all platitudes.  Christianity is a cure-all only to the extent that it opens pathways to reality (as opposed to escapism) and underwrites the complex of social and individual integrity.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Nature’s Altar

Recall an event in your life when you felt like you were “standing on holy ground.” What was sacred about that moment? How has that moment served to establish a right relationship between God and you? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 125).

In about 1952 when I was eight years old, our lawn was bordered on one side by woods. It was in Oviedo, Florida.  For someone eight years old, the woods are fascinating for they are filled by young plant growth as well as decaying trees that are regularly drilled for insects by resounding redheaded woodpeckers. There are plants and animals of all types--large and small, fascinating and beautiful. Neat trails led here and there throughout the undergrowth. At the end of one of these trails was a sanctuary we boys had edged out of tall green grass that was tall as our heads. Towering trees surrounded the perimeter.  Sometimes several of us would quietly meet there, and sometimes in silence I would be alone. Recently in one of my blogs, I referred to standing alone before nature’s altar. This was the spot I had in mind. The sense of sacredness and awe was suffusive and unforgettable.  

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Monday, November 23, 2015

The Irony of Arrogance

Why is humility a prerequisite for asking God to grant a request? How do humility and weakness differ? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 864).

When one lacks humility one ascribes to smug rectitude–my answers are ipso facto right.  The end result is that arrogance curtails rather than extends one’s options.  It closes ones future rather than expanding it with new opportunities and perspectives.  A person with humble faith in God thus has an open-mindness not available to those with a simpleminded faith in themselves.  A believer will ask “If it be your will God, may x, y, or z occur.”  A person without humility of belief will say in one way or another “I know my ultimate needs so it must be my way or the highway–I know what’s best.”  Thus, it is with great irony that those who assume the restricted, vulnerable, and weak position of arrogance; condemn the humble believer for weakness.

A vis-à-vis contrast of humility and arrogance.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Back Off Buddy

When have you been ridiculed because of your faith? What did you do? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1489).

I am aware that some will dismiss me right off the bat because my blogs often begin with a question from the Serendipity Bible–as if “Bible” were not bad enough, insult is added to injury by it being “Serendipity.” They will think, “How can anything written here be worth the time of day?” This is especially true for those who preen themselves on their credentials in advanced education–as ironic as that is. Surely, wisdom suggests, even if I should get my ideas from this work, I best cloak it in a question that does not attribute the source.

For obvious reasons, one of my favorite scenes from Good Will Hunting appears below:


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Friday, November 20, 2015

Bowing Down to a Brave Heart

I have a friend Kunte Kinte Lueallen that this night participated in a talent show.  He sang two songs–Empire (Queensryche) and I Won't Back Down ...(Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers).  He has been planning this performance all week and today I downloaded music sheets for use by the band. He knows the lyrics by heart.  (By this time next week his performance will be on Youtube and I will add it to this blog when it is available.)  Kunte meets every challenge and surmounts every barrier life throws at him, and he never gives up. Lord I pray that I may emulate my friend’s passion, courage, focus, stamina, and persistence.  I here honor not only my friend, but all similar heros who daily put the complacent and self-satisfied among us to ignoble shame.    

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Ideology Matters

Upon what rock-like structures might you be basing your security... (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1267).

How is it that ideology divides us?  Let’s map it out a bit.

Let us take an example: ideology about the basic legitimacy of government action.  Some believe that government should be minimalist–it legitimacy extends primarily to matters of national defense and law and order.  Others believe government’s legitimacy extends to activist social programs.  Notice in both cases people BELIEVE something, and their divergent belief divides them.  Since it is the nature of man to believe, we are guaranteed a rocky ride.  We may ask, what are some characteristics of belief? Let’s create a bullet list.
  • Belief helps us organize the world.
  • Belief gives us a sense of meaning and purpose.
  • Belief is an anchor in times of trial and turmoil.
  • Belief is a human psychological need.
  • Belief gives us a security blanket.
  • Belief simplifies decision-making eliminating stultifying complexity–it clears one’s desk of “extraneous” matters.
  • Belief is a bonding mechanism forming groups of like believers–thus is a source of extensive social significance sometimes spanning centuries.
  • Belief gives us our own shared language of words and symbols (which can estrange us from other groups).
  • Belief gives one a sense of identity–you may pride yourself is sharing the beliefs of your parents (or contrarily–you may pride yourself in rejecting their beliefs for what you take as more worthy ones.)
  • Belief can profoundly unite or divide generations, nations, etc.
  • Belief frequently afflicts mankind with feelings of superiority (which precipitates great cruelty).
  • No one is immune from the prejudices that accompany belief–even within mild mannered institutions intense and bitter rivalries exist.
  • Belief begins at an early age–not infrequently very young children and their parents have different views regarding principles of appropriate behavior. 
  • People hold their beliefs sacrosanct–they perceive their beliefs to have inherent legitimacy even though others (with an air of superiority) consider them the epitome of illegitimacy.
  • No one is immune from the need to believe, thus all are vulnerable to the nobility (or ignobility) of belief.
  • Belief triggers the fundamental attribution error and vastly escalates the tendency to judge others unfairly.
No doubt you could add to this list based upon you own observations and experiences.  I suppose the perennial question that confronts us is how to tame the more explosive aspects of divergent belief.  It seems to me that the essential thing to do is to realize that we are a brotherhood of believers (however radically we stand in opposition) complete with all the vulnerabilities this inherently entails – the principal one being that we can be reflexively  dismissive of others and hold them in contempt as being less than deserving of elemental human respect and consideration.  Let us always note that when we point a finger at others three fingers point back at us, and that the faults of others are mirrored (in one way or another) within ourselves.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Good Old Days of Indulgent Ignorance

The prophets often see the image of God living in the midst of a peaceful city. Why hasn’t it come to pass? Do you think we humans are called to build the “beautiful city,” or is that a job only for God? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1207).

Why do our “cities on a hill” seem to leach so much pollution? We do our best, but that is never enough. Partly of course it is due to the nature of things. We cannot control so many elements in our lives – the forces of nature are an obvious example. The other element is that we have not learned to embed true costs within products – especially social products. Injustice is typically focused on victims and individual perpetrators out of desperation for we know not how to calculate and assign the true cost of injustice. The task has been too large for us, but perhaps with time the necessary tools will be invented to make such huge and subtle data crunching possible. In the meantime, we rely on free choice (as pitifully fictitious as it is) to be the byword of justice. 

I speak of justice because in the peaceful cities of God justice always flows like never-ending streams of water. Some of us comfortable with exhortations of free choice and its many victims may find the factored cost of true justice not to our liking. The “shining city on a hill” may find us paying taxes, fines and fees and yearning for the good old days of indulgent ignorance.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Natural Thing to Do

Many modern governments still use the tactics of assassination, cruel and inhumane punishment and sentencing without trial. This does not support the notion that modern society has improved in the past few centuries. In what what sense can it be said mankind is making progress in human rights? In what sense are we no further advanced than the ancients Israelites? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 482).

Mankind is hugely affected by environment–this is common knowledge.  Do any of us dare for a moment to say that under no circumstances would we lie, cheat, or steal?  I know myself only too well...I could never say that. So the task becomes to control the environment under which we live.  Now the recent killings in France show that controlling one’s environment totally is impossible.  We must be forever diligent and do the best we can.

The United States has the Bill of Rights but with facility engaged in inhumane punishment and sentencing without trial when faced with terrorism.  We were not going to stand by and be goody two-shoes while international terrorists were picking us off like flies.  In the end, we must expand the structure of peace founded upon human rights.  The United Nations represents a symbolic attempt to do this. Symbols in the end cannot substitute for solid structure enforced by the police power of government.  Concurrent with every world war we profess to be interested in such a structure, but end up only with the symbol–much as if the US Bill of Rights were professed in words only but were not backed up by the sword of the state.  Would we not then be excused for our cynicism? War may not drive us to internationalism, but everyday facts surely will.

Nation states are anachronisms formed before international travel and communication, resources, and a sense of equality were widely shared.  With greater translation ease, even language is a shrinking barrier; mainline religions are converging on a common core of values. When the brotherhood of man becomes more fact than lofty goal, international structures will coalesce with dispatch. It’s the natural thing to do as can be seen by the once appropriate accretion of nation states.  Surely the current cynicism by US citizens regarding the government in the United States is one indication that in many ways nationalism is now inherently ineffectual. Structures must be created in which responsibilities can be realistically assigned and results realistically evaluated.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Does Size Matter?

Do you tend to despair over what is? Accept what is? Or pray for what should be? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 665).

Few would argue that the size of the human brain matters.  The billions of cells and circuits surely matter, surely are necessary for human intelligence as we know it.  A bird brain (given the nature of biophysics) simply is not large enough to contemplate the theory of relativity.  So size matters.  Yet, we can also say that size is largely secondary.  A cabbage is the size of the human brain, but lacks the structures and processes necessary for abstract thought (so far as I know).

Now many argue that the size of government as a regulative entity is too big.  I would argue that it needs to be big, yet it is not size that largely determines whether I like it or not.  It is not size, but tenor that largely matters to me. How does government shape-up under to the following questions? 
  • Does it have a tenor of arrogance rather than service?
  • Does it seek to usurp the legitimate power of other societal elements through micromanagement?
  • Does it cultivate psychosis among its power-wielding actors? (Let's assume this is a bad thing.)
  • Does it accept and perform its duties and responsibilities?
  • Does it worship conformity and the status quo at the expense of creativity and innovation?
  • Does it talk too much and listen too little?
  • Does it believe in itself--that it has a worthy and necessary role to play?
  • Does it accept the legitimacy and limitations of all God-ordained social institutions, including itself?
Let us rejoice that government can help order and nurture the human family wherever government is resourced to the necessary size and constituted by the necessary tenor.  

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Baptism into the Brotherhood of Humanity

How would you score on a spiritual sight exam" 20/20? 20/80? Colorblind? Why? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1444).

To address racism in America it is necessary to begin in an area we still know so little about–the yet to be discovered workings of the brain. I begin with my own experiences which have found me on the long path to better race relations. Nevertheless, it is still possible for the “n-word” to automatically pop up in my mind now and then. This is very much a reflexive thing and is directly counter to my will in the matter. I don’t doubt for a moment that there are those of another race who look at me sometimes and the “cracker” word comes to mind despite their best will in the matter. So we are really talking about the reflexive aspects of the human brain over which we have little or no control. With this in mind, it is very easy to put either of us on a guilt trip, for at our very core is perfidy against our own best intentions and even spiritual commitments. There are those who would call this discordance the workings of the devil, but I prefer to see as yet dimly understood workings of the human mind that all of us share... not only as to race, but to many other matters as well.  All we know is that in the deep recesses of the brain are lodged very intractable and despicable forms of data that run counter to our best intentions, interests, and desires.

It is in these times that forgiveness – even of ourselves – becomes important to the extent that our hearts, minds, and actions are set on the future and are moving on into parkland concerts of love, goodwill, and brotherhood–all designed to restructure and wash out for good vestigial traces of prejudice. 

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Signifying Joy

What kinds of things do people today “boast” or take pride in? What do you tend to boast about? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1061).

Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. (2 Samuel 6:14-15).

Have you ever thought of joy as a type of boasting?  When I think of Allan J Bury (my chaplain in undergraduate school) I think of his irrepressible joy.  His was a transformative boasting about life and its immeasurable blessings.  It was not puffed-up or simpleminded; just the opposite.  It was an informed joy that boasted in spirit of God’s love for him and everyone else.  Have you noticed that those in love (young or old) are full of joy (they can’t help it; they overflow with expansive fun)?  It’s time to exchange greed for generosity.  Let’s dance before the Lord today.

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Playing with Your Mind

Where do you go (or what do you do) when you are facing difficult situations? Do you prefer to be alone at these times, or in the company of close friends? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1408).

The United States has been the “most powerful country on earth” for a good number of years and this has resulted in a psychologically hazardous situation not only for ourselves but for others. I would not like to pick on any nation here but let me choose, perhaps because I like the sound of it, the Netherlands. Contrast the psychological landscape over the past decades of a resident there compared with the American resident.  Do you have any idea what it can do to one’s mind to wake up every day knowing that you as you embody your country are the strongest of all nations?  The results of this are not always pretty. A certain amount of arrogance almost inevitably seeps in.  We become kind of like the guy who can never ask for directions. A tad of “my way or the highway” can seep in.  It is not always good for a child when he knows that his dad is the “most powerful honcho in town.”  Bad things, sometimes paradoxically, can happen to the little gray cells. Thus for the benefit of all Americas as well as the world, the time for unilateral action regarding many, many issues has long-since passed.  Now we are facing a terrorism crisis in which (as is typically the case) lawlessness cloaks itself with self-justification, even righteousness. For everyone’s mental health and the global commonweal, let us act and abide in the company of close friends.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

The Gospel Truth

How difficult is it to tell the truth no matter what? To family? At work? To members of this group? To God? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 624).

The hard truth is that telling the truth is not always the most helpful thing.  Actual human behavior frequently places helpfulness above truthfulness.  This is because of the limited nature of our understanding.  We know that truth can be phantasmagorias of our perception, whereas helpfulness (or it’s opposite, hurtfulness) can be immediate, practical, and all too real.  Thus we look to ultimate impact rather than moral legalisms.  That may all sound a bit scary, but it is (take my word for it) the Gospel truth.


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Thursday, November 12, 2015

My Daily Plots

What would you say is your guiding principle in decision-making everyday? How can knowing God is with you whenever you make a decision affect your decisions? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 625).

My guiding principle is to do whatever fills the greatest need. A lot rides upon the definition of need at any given time – which of course can change constantly. Perhaps the question I really ask is: 1) given my needs and that of others and 2) given a tenable scope for action, with these in mind (and heart)...what should I do right now? Sometimes, like yesterday, this can mean watching a movie (Evan Almighty) and at other times, like today, it can mean taking people to the doctor and participating in discussion groups.  Actions can have special symbolic significance that require careful prioritization of when to act (or not to act).

Life often takes on the quality of music so has a flow that is uninterrupted by plodding thought.  That is to say, though a formulaic mapping of decision-making is possible, it is often discerned after the fact (if at all) and not during the process of decision-making itself which tends to be considerably more natural and organic. Thus one’s basic religious commitments (as well as assumptions and prejudices) are important to the extent that they elicit reflexive action.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Main Thing

(From: Through the Year with Jimmy Carter. "A Worthy Call" page 311).

       My favorite theologian is Reinhold Niebuhr. When I first became involved in politics, I read a book of his titled Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study of Ethics and Politics. It describes how to conduct one's self in public affairs. How do you apply Christian principles when engaging in a competitive campaign, when confronting political adversaries, or when working in some legislative body?
       The purpose of politics, Niebuhr says, is to establish justice in a sinful world. Justice means guaranteeing human rights and treating everyone fairly. According to Niebuhr, this is the highest possible goal for a political leader.
      Yet Niebuhr insists that this high goal is not nearly so exalted as the Christian’s central calling: to love one another, especially with agape love. This is self-sacrificial love for someone who may not deserve to be loved, who refuses to love you back, love that brings no recognition for your efforts. It is the kind of love that Christ personified.

Jimmy Carter references the view of Reinhold Niebuhr that the purpose of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world–“guaranteeing human rights and treating everyone fairly. According to Niebuhr, this is the highest possible goal for a political leader” (ibid, emphasis mine). First I point out that there is a contradiction here.  For guaranteeing human rights involves more than delimited justice, it inherently involves love and the Golden rule – I will treat you as I want to be treated.  When King Solomon sought to administer justice in the case of the disputed child, clearly it was more than justice served as he drew upon wisdom from a loving heart.  FDR’s Four Freedoms (freedom of speech; freedom of worship; freedom from want; freedom from fear) do not look myopically at justice, but seek to nurture mankind in a loving society that accommodates the human spirit. We must remember that the “rugged individual” is always really a child at heart.  In my view (one shared by many), our responsibility as citizens is to ensure that state justice is always inextricably enmeshed with love and mercy so as to help redeem the long human tapestry of fear and pain.  

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sure to Put Us Under

What warning do you habitually ignore which puts you at greater risk: Speed limit? Seatbelt signs? Warning labels on cigarette packs? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 547).

Note that all of the example warnings mentioned in the above question have to do one way or another with limitations. We frequently do not want to acknowledge plain limitation. This is especially true in those situations where we are planning for the future and our hopes are highest – when our faith is strongest. We then can actively discount and ignore all limitations. In one way this is powerful and good. For example, would I have attended any graduate school had I known fully the arduous nature of the task and then in advance pessimistically listed all my pitiful limitations? No, I think it’s quite clear that sometimes being actively stupid in evaluating limitations can be a very beneficial thing for sometimes we do not know our own strength nor the resources that will be made available for us.

Yet, it is quite clear that human beings habitually and daily go out of their way to harmfully ignore limitations.  Somehow we learn that success largely depends upon ignoring the poor opinion we have of ourselves or situations and to aggressively assume risks. Then, perversely, a potential good gets screwed up when we contrarily and almost in spite apply it to harmful matters – such as overeating and smoking.  Then we fool ourselves by thinking the pleasures and razzle-dazzle of brash symbols are more important than the hidden workings of indelible facts–a conflict whose resolution is sure to put us under.

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Monday, November 9, 2015

What’s Neat About the Bible

Imagine that for generation after generation we have a common reference work.  This work is noted particularly for its uncanny grasp of unadorned human nature as well as for man at his noblest and most inspired.  It has stories about how best to practically live out one’s life; it illustrates those values central to creativity and positive accomplishment–it shows us how to be happy while avoiding sabotage by desultory short-cuts leading to entrapment: it is a steady light shining upon freedom’s arduous path.

Add to this the fact that it is a work that invites analysis by all-comers.  It is open to endless iterations on the one hand, yet is uncompromising in its central message of forgiveness and redemption.  It is a resource always at hand for mid-course corrections and three-dimensional navigation. 

It can be confounding, but this leads to our appreciation that life is confounding and that unity is not possible without forgiveness and assent to a common bedrock of basic values that include the deceptively idealistic sounding concepts of justice, courage, truth, equality, humility....all facets of the disciplines of love central to making societies viable.

Since there is such a book, we must learn to revere it...not worship it.  For the living God is ever-present, not frozen and fixed in type.  

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Man That's Cool!

To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images. (The Republic (Plato) Book 7.)

What “enemy” or “false god” in your life would you like to have God topple? How will you take steps this week to cooperate? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 399).

My toughest challenge has been to grapple with the god of appearances. Starting particularly in my teenage years, I became obsessed with appearances. I wanted to be seen riding in a cool car, wearing cool clothes, having cool friends, possessing cool intelligence and education, worshiping a cool religion, behaving in a cool way, liking cool things, buying cool things, spending time in cool places, having cool friends. Don’t let the word “cool” fool you. This was way more than a callow youth preoccupation, but hounds me even today. This forms the primary challenge to personal integrity. I want to “appear right” even if it means self betrayal – even if it means a lie.

A particularly challenging area in this regard is what must be called “social graces”. That is, I can justify any untruth by telling myself that prevarication in word or deed is the price of social grace. Though I disagree with you about a matter to the extent that it reaches to the depth of my being, I can justify “polite” lying and deceit by telling myself I am doing this all for “your benefit.”  Never is it done out of selfish regard for my own safety or status. The essential betrayal in all this is in substituting long-term validation for short-term expediency. Short-term expediency is the heart and soul of “appearance worship” for long-term interests always align with truth.

The way out of this quagmire of deceit is wholeness and personal integrity. As we once yearned to be “cool” in appearances, we must yearn to be loyal to long-term interests which always include expressions of truth. To put it bluntly, we must confound the inherent insecurity of man: we must work to make truth-telling more “cool” than prevarication by identifying with the “coolest” of teams.  We must come to see the team of Socrates and Christ as more “cool” than the “gross” lovers of short-term interest. 

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Why the Disciplines of Love Are Not Idealistic

What "sea monsters" (pressures, temptations, opposing forces) seem to be chasing after you these days?...(Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 982).

I bristle when people say that to speak of love is idealistic.  This is a totally purblind position. Look at the family unit for starters. Take love away from any family unit and see how practically it operates. I tell you it will crumble in disarray. The same goes for society. In the midst of cruelty and alienation, creativity and innovation will not flourish.  The nation will not flower. It will fragment and decay. Dare we speak of economics as if it were the solution to every problem? Dare we neglect the fact that nurture imposes strict disciplines, demands, and requisites upon families and nations only some of which are economic?

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Assertive Poppycock

In your family, who tried to keep the peace? Mom or Dad? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1572).

In fact, we must be both [appreciative and demanding]. Appreciative and demanding of ourselves and others. This is the only approach that allows us to fully exercise the disciplines of love which undergird all successful human relationships.  (Blog of 10/27/15).

There is a political correctness that says we must not be demanding, only assertive. This is poppycock. We must indeed be demanding of ourselves and others. The key to not being riled over receiving demands is an appreciation of legitimacy. Most bosses understand very well that demands do not only proceed from the top down in a hierarchy. A good boss recognizes that he will be receiving many demands from his employees – they will be looking for consistent, reliable support: this implies that there will be steady demands.  These requests for support (while yet demanding) must be simultaneously appreciative of the boss's role. That is, the demand is real and certain but draws upon assigned accountability. The employee may say to his boss “I am having difficulty with this project, do you have any ideas regarding aspects X,Y or Z?” Contrast this with “Boss you gave me an impossible project, just what do you want to do about X,Y or Z.” The first approach is a legitimate call for the boss’s support responsibilities, the second approach would have the boss entirely solve the problem himself.  This of course is illegitimate for it would have the employee usurp the role of the boss in the name of support while simultaneously abdicating employee responsibility. Micromanagement in any form is essentially usurpatious. 

Many things begin in the home and my view of the subject began there. My parents operated in spacious realms of mutual accountability... which in no way diminished the actual demands involved.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Break in the Storm

If you could save one day of your life in a bottle to live over and over what day would it be? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 328).

What is one to do with a question like this? How many days we cherish. How many spots of time define us. How our hearts yearn to revisit those spots of time. Could it be those vacation days with family? Could it be that day we were married? Could it be that distant day in the woods alone before nature’s altar? All those days cry out to be relived. I see a day on Iron Mountain when the children and I arrived during a storm. We huddled in the truck waiting for a break in the weather and then traversed Bok Tower Gardens and fed the squirrels and watched the goldfish in the dark waters. It was, alas, but a break in the storm.

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