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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Blog as Seen in the Light of Nine Basic Principles

According to Basic Principles of Speech 4th Edition (Sarett/Sarett/Foster) there are nine effective speech principles.  They are:
  • Effective Speech Reveals an Able Person.
  • Effective Speech Communicates the Meanings Intended by the Speaker.
  • The Goal of Effective Speech is Interaction.
  • Effective Speech Presents Significant Ideas.
  • Effective Speech Shows Clear and Cogent Organization of Ideas.
  • Effective Speech Develops Ideas Through Critical and Creative Choice of Language.
  • Effective Speech is Adapted to the Listener and to the Speech Situation.
  • Effective Speech Makes Skillful Use of Voice and Gesture.
  • Effective Speech is Marked by a Distinctive Style.
I have written blogs almost daily since May of 2010.  Most of these blogs can be seen as brief essays.  I would like to substitute the word “Essays” for “Speech” in the above principles and discuss my blog in relation to these principles. 

I will begin with the first: Effective Essays Reveal an Able Person.

Allowing for the inevitable–a distressing number of readers who find my essays ineffective and thus prima facie evidence of an unable person–I will even so mount a dogged defense.

In regards to the first principle,  let’s define “Able”.  Relevant definitions include: Adjective:
  1. (usually followed by 'to') having the necessary means, skill, know-how or authority to do something
  2. Having the skills and qualifications to do things well
  3. Having inherent physical or mental ability or capacity  [WordWeb Pro]
I unabashedly affirm my essays reveal necessary means, skill, know-how or authority to write effectively. They reveal necessary skills and qualifications including mental and physical ability and capacity.  Beyond this definition, I think most agree that an “able person” also suggests someone who is steady, persistent, and reliable.  Since to date I have 1,987 posts, I will be the first to admit that scattered among occasional excellence is occasional dross.  But my general rule is to let unevenness stand without endless revision–though I may spend as much as an hour revising a single sentence at the time of writing.

In the nine days ahead, I look forward to considering my blog in relation to these principles. 

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Choosing Life’s Superior Course

With what area of your life is trust in God wavering?... (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 254). 

Sooner or later in the knocks and bruises that life inevitably brings, we come to a fork in the road. Then we are confronted with a critical choice. Then we must decide which way to travel.  One direction leads to bitterness, self-loathing, and despair; the other to self-confidence, vigor, and competence.  It all hinges on how we come to see ourselves.  Will we see ourselves as hapless victims–would-be winners if not for an endless train of “Them’s” that constantly afflict us; or will we see ourselves as increasingly capable survivors?  The first is the way of resignation, defeat, and resentment; the second is the way of hope, mounting strength and achievement.  No one need see themselves as a vapid loser, but it is essential first to muster the courage to survive and prevail–to travel down life’s superior course boosted by a determinative decisional moment to become one intrepid survivor:

Even the wisest man grows tense   
With some sort of violence   
Before he can accomplish fate   
Know his work or choose his mate. 
(W.B. Yeats: “Under Ben Bulben”)

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

To Be Continued

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV).

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:  
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star....
(William Wordsworth “”Intimations of Immortality”)

I am at that age when younger people ask me “Why do you care about this issue, it will not be decided or resolved until long after you are dead?”  I answer very simply “Because a concern for this issue has been placed upon my heart.” I cannot say for certain precisely the process by which my consciousness takes some ownership of this issue.  I only know that it does so and that I am absolutely certain that such concern is valid and right, however seemingly improper. (As a believer, I say that God has placed this concern upon my heart.)  It is a signal trait of mankind–this desire to connect and contribute to a future in which one will not personally participate.  It is one of the more beautiful traits of mankind and testifies to persistent intimations of eternity.                  

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Stand and Deliver

How do you explain why God sometimes delivers you out of hardships, but at other times he allows you to go through them? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1527).

Sometimes God expects us first to get our act together–in other words, peace and tranquility are partly our responsibility, a responsibility requiring work...not the least of which is work that engages thought and imagination.

It is in this spirit I address the impasse that currently afflicts American politics.  It is an impasse that begs for an alternative to the present options given of a welfare state vs private capitalism.  Both of these directions, while in part born of good intentions, have brought us to this tortuous pass.  We must not expect God to zap us with new ideas, but he has given us the opportunity to work together and to envision something better.

At the outset it must be recognized that the playing field today is international and that current governmental regulatory structures do no adequately reflect that. Nevertheless we must ask, what can nation states do to resolve social and political conflict?

A central matter to be addressed is the impact of capitalism on public life.  Capitalism posits a fictional distribution of private property and tends to ignore community-wide public contributions and costs in the creation of wealth.  Nevertheless, capitalism beyond argument is an essential parent of creativity.  But we must recognize that creativity has benefits and costs that far outstrip current allocations of wealth.  Its costs are far greater than any private Research and Development budget and its benefits far surpass private profit margins.  We must merely reflect on computer automation to recognize this.  That the benefits we all enjoy cannot be neatly contained is obvious.  Likewise the cost of creativity includes severe contortions to any given status quo.  There are numerous distortions and displacements whose cost is best met by being spread over many industries (as indeed are the benefits).  Let us take for example the “buggy whip” industry that met the creative efforts of Henry Ford and his workers that introduced revolutionary innovations into economic life.  Certainly we would not expect only the Ford motor company to help retrain and relocate buggy whip workers. Such specificity would discourage creativity and unfairly allocate cost without regard for the huge social benefit of automobiles.

Therefore we see that neatly and assiduously allocating costs and benefits is impossible and fictional.  Of necessity we need broader and more realistic visions of the nature of creativity, cost accounting, and governmental taxing and funding.  It is our place to meet this reality responsibly while bravely transcending prejudices that hamstring and balkanize us.  Then, we must prayerfully turn to God to bless our best efforts.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Fear Not

Do you think it is possible to know God’s will every step of the way? Why or why not? What are some of the ways we can attune ourselves to God’s will for us? Which of these will you be incorporating into your life now? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 251).

Must we always be presumptive in identifying God’s will for us?  Is the human mind so susceptible to rationalization that our proclamation of God’s will shall of necessity always be suspect?  While cognizant of these questions, our perception can yet be such that we have firm conviction as to what we should do based upon our best lights. In the mature mind, risk and the fear of it bears upon many grand decisions.  It is an interesting phenomenon that sometimes we delay and sometimes we do not.  Fear can not only cause delay, it can also press for urgent action.  Typically when fear is removed as a barrier to great decisions, I attribute this remarkable lack of fear to the Holy Spirit–when I no longer fear not taking an action or conversely take significant actions without fear. I hasten to add that not all outcomes from these decisions are ideal from a human perspective–nor must they be.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Actualizing the Fruits of Pragmatism

For what reasons might someone be suspicious of you and withhold their trust? How do you win over those who are suspicious of you? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 595-6).

Where I live (in America) most are ultimately a pragmatic lot.  The clincher to any speculation is always the question–but will it work? My principal message is essentially and consistently the necessity of the disciplines of love (one can say “effective nurturing”) beginning with the individual and extending to all societal institutions.  It is evident to me that society has refused to consistently and effectively address this necessity even in the family unit, much less regarding governmental and creative sector responsibilities.  It is in my emphasis on this need that I get into the most trouble receiving trust–for pragmatism and love are often seen as opposites–oil and water just don’t mix (the fancied practical “hard” and the fancied impractical “soft”) and to believe otherwise is not practical and sinfully not “hard” or “trustworthy.”  Since I consider this view tragically mistaken and believe that effective nurturing is the greatest need today, there appears that nothing but integrity can save me from distrust.  Ironically, in my view, the disciplines of love and effective nurturing are the ultimate bases for actualizing the fruits of pragmatism.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Lacking Direction

As I kid I watched my father prepare for extended car trips.  The first step was for him to obtain a road map at the local filling station.  The map (provided by the oil company) was free.  Dad would carefully map out a route taking special note of the location of road transfers along the way to our destination.  Typically, each state had its own map.

Now things are different.  First no free road maps.  In fact, no maps at all as we have come to totally rely upon the GPS for extended directions.  Friday morning at the close of our vacation in the mountains, Connie and I ate breakfast at the Huddle House with Bob and Linda.  Following breakfast Connie and I said goodbye and headed for home, depending upon our GPS to lead the way to Saint Petersburg, Fl.  As we wanted to avoid Atlanta, our route of necessity would be circuitous with many roundabout road transfers.  While still in Cleveland, the map on our GPS suddenly started spinning and the device started barking nonsensical directions. The malfunction continued after I rebooted the GPS and removed and reinserted the memory chip.  Without the GPS, we were more than directionally challenged–we were completely lost.  I stopped at an auto parts store in the immediate vicinity.  The store did not carry GPS’s, but the associate pointed out that it was just a few blocks to Walmart. At Walmart I purchased a GPS called Tom Tom. We then continued smoothly to Florida.  The incident is remindful that life, with its many twists and turns, is critically problematic if lacking reliable direction.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

At the Breakfast Table

Which role best describes the image of God you had as you were growing up: Grandfather? Executioner? Benefactor? Politician? Coach? Lifeguard? Spy? Scrooge? Other? Today, what roles would you use to describe God to a non-Christian friend? (Serendipity Bible, 10th Anniversary Edition, page 725).

My training growing up was significantly Christ-centered.  We looked to Jesus as a guide and touchstone.  David Miller, a United Methodist preacher, not too long ago as my pastor pointed out in a sermon that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples not as a showboating act of humility, but as an overflowing act of love.  This reminded me that when my mother, a modest woman, performed multiple chores for our family; she too did so not to parade groveling acts of humility, but as an act of love to enrich our lives. This was the spirit with which she daily filled our home.

While preparing breakfast this morning in Cleveland, Ga; my sister-in-law Linda made the following reflection in response to an ongoing conversation: How does God feel after creating our planet and all the wonders and blessing that surround us, if we should reject them all saying we are “unworthy” to receive any of them? Perhaps she was thinking of how she would feel if we stubbornly refused to eat her scrumptious breakfast and instead went on and on about our being “unworthy” of it while everything got cold.  Of course nothing can sufficiently “earn” kindness.  Her work was a gift given out of love and generosity.  It completely misconstrues and eviscerates everything if I think I can meticulously “earn” her love before I can receive her blessings (gifts).  In fact, the very definition of a “gift” precludes my earning it.  The fact of the matter is that my sour refusals to enjoy her breakfast would not be born of humility, but of self-righteous pride and ego-centered selfishness.  All this is to say that God loves us and bestows upon us wondrous gifts and our role is graciously to accept and enjoy them.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Character Assessments

How did you react to the first death among your significant friends or family? What did you learn about yourself from that? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 257),

When I was in elementary school and later in high school my grandmother stayed with us.  At the time of her death (when I lived in Bowling Green, FL and attended high school) she passed away in a home for the aged in Jacksonville, FL.  When she died, I took the news very much in stride–perhaps some would say too much in stride. Many people have fond memories of their grandmother “spoiling them” in many ways.  My grandmother was seriously disabled and could not do such things as baking cookies and the like that would no doubt have contributed to a closer bonding.  In any case, when my grandmother died I found that life goes on–that frankly was my response. 

Regarding lessons learned “about yourself,” I often consider the regular literary theme of young people spreading their wings in order to leave home, explore the world, and to learn its hard lessons.  The most important lessons divined  from such adventures are time and again not about the world at all, but about the revelations such youths confront about themselves–lessons that can only be learned by individuals coming face to face with the pressures of the world.  Such characters commonly elicit the viewer’s laughter, empathy, and tears.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Unto These Hills

What do you like most about mountains? Trees?  Which mountain is “chief” for you?  What is your tree of choice? Why?  What is your favorite anti-war slogan? Why this one? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1290).

Today (Monday) we spent riding the tight winding roads traversing mountains in north Georgia and North Carolina.  Towering on each side of us stood dense stands of trees plotting our way or warning us by their sudden descent that a few feet off the pavement lurked deep precipices which now and then dropped off to rushing rapids. For a flatland resident of Florida, mountains display the grandeur of God.  The occasional abandoned, dilapidated human structures along the way testify to the swift transience of even momentous human events (the Civil War, for example) compared to implacable eons of time. It is worthy of note that North Carolina has made significant progress in developing solar farms.  Nestled within transitional dales are rows of solar collectors–their upturned faces revealing man’s capacity to appreciate the sanctity of God’s world rather than thoughtlessly and cravenly exploiting and ravaging it. The mountains majestically beckon us to “Give Peace a Chance” within the wide spectrum of human endeavors.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

What’s Wrong with My Sex Toys?

When have you felt spiritually “at home”?  Are you at home now, or still journeying toward “Zion”? Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 504).

To feel at home spiritually, a fundamental requirement is to identify less with the things of this world and more with the spiritual purposes that underlie them. For example, a national infrastructure can go begging since there is no personal ego trip readily affixable to them. Public projects have a larger community purpose of meeting society’s needs.  When choices center on “what can it do primarily for me?” rather than “what can it do for us?”–a question founded upon the Golden rule–our actions are covet-based and are sure to reinforce and accentuate feelings of anxiety and estrangement. 

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Cornered Human Being

What works for you in handling an angry associate or roommate? What does [Proverbs chapter 22] suggest [in verse{s} 24 {and 25}] “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared (NIV).”] (Serendipity Bible 10th Edition, page 916).

First I would like to point out that a fundamental concern of the Bible is human freedom.  The Bible deals with the many ways we can become ensnared.  A chronic bias for anger is certainly one of them. The Proverbs warning not to make friends with volcanic hotheads is the only way I have found to deal with extremely volatile personalities.  I certainly lack even a smidgen of capacity to deal with the drunk and the short-fused–both desperately striving to avoid worthlessness.

Tennessee Williams on such matters
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - Trailer

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Overcoming the Restraining Demons

Where is God calling you to persist, even harass, until you get what you want?  Ask yourself: Is that what God wants for me? (Serendipity Bible, page 386).

It is not safe to assume that we have a retiring nature even if we show all signs of being an introvert.  Today I don’t think for a moment I have a retiring nature...nor ever did. Yet there were years in which I was constrained to the point of introversion.  These were difficult, uncomfortable years in which I was a tied statue, or as I wrote in another poem during those years:

Oedipus Saved

He would be a tall performer,
Paying gladly the awful cost,
An actor for the tragic moment,
The very Titan of his age:
But his role was chosen for him,
By the decision of a horde,
So in this one-time drama,
He cried a monkey's part,
Limping, swaying, laughing, raging--
Mere diversion in a cage.

Faces gazed without pity or terror,
Till intelligence dawned a grin,
Upon old Oedipus fettered
In a shepherd’s pen.

I quickly add that the “horde” mentioned above were internal demons, not externalities.  They tied and fettered me. You may be thinking you have seen similar circumstances in someone you know and are eager to find out how those demons can be banished.  I don’t know for sure how spiritual freedom is achieved.  I know it is complex and depends upon experience and insight. Let me list a personal few: I followed the leadings of the spirit; I found intimate volunteer work a generator of outgoing generosity; I became a friend of children; I became certain of the reality and the direct immediacy of God; I enjoyed successful years at school, work, and marriage; I came to see myself as having capacity for contribution.  For me it has proven to be a long, winding road.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Facilitating Factors of Forgiveness

Let us begin by considering those factors that make forgiveness and mercy difficult:

  • The self-righteousness of the victim
  • The heightened seriousness of the hurt received
  • The planned/intentional/willful nature of the hurt
  • The injured party has/had no love for the perpetrator–consider your attitude towards termites destroying your home
  • The injury received was in no way justified or countervailing in nature
  • The injury was inflicted without any aspect of self-defense
  • The close proximity of the injury to the present
  • Those inflicting the injury were recipients in their lives of advantages, privileges, and blessings–it is difficult to argue that they were driven by need or by circumstances beyond their control
  • The general absence of extenuating circumstances
  • The injuring party seems to have no redeeming characteristics–it is nearly impossible to empathize with them on any level
  • It is a repeated, ongoing offence–the hurt continues to be inflicted in an unabated fashion
  • The introduction into the hurtful offense a great number of emotional factors–especially those that drive prejudice, jealousy, resentment, retribution
  • The perceived insincerity in expressions of repentance or regret by the perpetrator(s) 

Factors that facilitate forgiveness and mercy:

  • The injured party knows the power of forgiveness for they are deeply aware of having been in need forgiveness themselves
  • One loves the perpetrator–consider a puppy that damages one’s house but is readily forgiven 
  • The hurt received was comparative trivial in nature
  • The hurt was inflicted accidentally and unintentionally
  • The injury occurred in self-defense
  • The general abundance of extenuating circumstances–the hurt can be rationalized as being in some sense understandable or justified
  • The hurt was long ago or in some other way remote
  • The one(s) inflicting the hurt themselves lived in a hostile environment beyond their control
  • The injuring party readily elicits empathy despite what they have done
  • The injury is not ongoing but is isolated and receding to the past
  • The injury arouses few angry emotions
  • The perpetrator(s) express sincere repentance and regret

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What Patience Means

From this story and your own story of God’s detours, what do you learn about God’s promises? About patience?....(Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 246).

In my experience patience is another name for faith. For when I insist on immediacy, it is like being a child that’s in a store demanding something of their parents right now–right this very minute!  At the bottom of this wild demand for immediacy is a conviction that if I don’t get it right now, I will never get it.  If I have a strong faith in God, I am content to await his will for me in alignment with his determination of necessary background processes and of my best interest. In this sense, an exercise of patience is no less than an exercise of faith–of mature faith.  

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016


In the cycle of good and bad kings and their effect on people, two major compulsions are evident in 2 Chronicles: (a) The compulsion of tyrannized people to assert their freedom, and (b) the compulsion of free people to self-destruct. How is this cycle and these two compulsions evident in your world? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 647).

Cycles occur due to limitation restraining excess.  This is evident in the physical world, but no where is it more evident than in human affairs.  The particular genius of stable states is not the elimination of cycles, but the regulation of their amplitude so that excess is dampened by law. As we have seen in America, the absence of regulation in the economy is an incentive...not for creativity...but for metastasis.  The basic problem is the influence of groups that flourish under excess, and these groups assert their influence to increase rather than moderate unsustainable distortions.  Tyrannized people rise to check unregulated authority, and “free” unregulated societies soon come to be regulated by the systemic hand of implacable reality.  It is an indelible rule: mankind must either regulate excess by enacting laws or else come to be regulated the hard way by the exacting demands of relentless physics.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Drawing Crowds

What do you think the crowds were looking for in Jesus?  What do you think he was looking for in them? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1383).

Jesus could be a crowd magnet. As crowds are composed of many individuals, crowds can also encompass many needs and motives.  Some look for healing of the body, some of the soul, and some of the nation.  Like any crowd magnet (even a rock band) we look for our attendance to make us feel better.  Perhaps we tell ourselves that we are looking for unsurpassed talent; or for camaraderie with fellow admirers; or for confirmation of our beliefs; or for new insights; or for the thrill of passion; or for simple curiosity and a sense of anticipation.  One thing for sure, we attend with our own (even if not unique) set of expectations.

Jesus was fully aware that many that followed him (including his closest aides) did not understand what his mission to bring light into the world would entail. Hate IN THE SHORT RUN not infrequently defeats love, but Jesus revealed that love in due season conquers hate.  Now this understanding is ultimately a matter of belief and faith, and Jesus as an embodiment of love became the symbol that one either comes to embrace with hope and faith or turns aside from in sadness or cynicism.

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Close Place

What situations, if any, would ever justify wrong acts to achieve something right?...(Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 100).

Wrong defined: Contrary to conscience, morality or law
"it is wrong for the rich to take advantage of the poor"; "cheating is wrong"; "it is wrong to lie" (WordWeb Pro).

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NIV)


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain

Miss Watson your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. HUCK FINN
It was a close place. I took it up [letter to Miss Watson above], and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

"All right, then, I'll go to hell"- and tore it up.

It was awful thoughts, and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for a starter, I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.

There surely is no more eloquent statement in all literature than that of Huckleberry Finn when resolving for himself the conflict that occurs when moral codes of a society conflict with the inner leadings of conscience as to what is transcendentally right.  Though Huck’s culture endorsed slavery, Huck’s conscience could not let him betray Jim.  In order to do right, he had to do terrible wrong in the eyes of the culture in which he was embedded.  Thus the deceptively facile answer to the question posed at the outset of this blog is that doing wrong (in one context) is justified if the culture’s code of morality is itself wrong.  It is a deceptively facile answer, that is, for the consequences of defying the perverse values of one’s culture can be painfully severe if not fatal.  

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Putting the “T” Back in “Trust”

What authority figures do you still trust completely? Which do you distrust? Why? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1403).

Following the 2013 Ghouta attacks, Secretary of State John Kerry told a news conference in Geneva on September 14, 2013 that the United States and Russia had agreed on a framework to dispose of Syria's chemical weapons. He said "President Reagan's old adage about 'trust but verify' ... is in need of an update. And we have committed here to a standard that says 'verify and verify'." (,_but_verify).

Christians are taught a hard truth, in the last analysis it is “In God we trust.” We are taught that all humans–even your best friends–even members of your own family–can let you down. There should be no surprise here, for only God has the ability to love completely, to know completely what that love must entail to serve your best interest wherever you are.  So in the end, only in God can we “trust and trust” (re: Kerry quote above).

Now then, this does not mean we must constantly be in a paranoid state of distrust.  We typically look for behavior that takes on a symbolic character to set our minds at peace when dealing with others.  For example, I attend a men’s discussion group.  Such groups are only truly fun if grace abounds.  The presence of this grace can largely depend upon the leader–does the leader make sure everyone has a chance to contribute and no few individuals dominate?  In short, good discussion groups need a democratic yet forceful leader.  In this context our leader (Don) will ask a member who has been silent if they have something they wish to contribute. This may happen only a few times during the discussion, but stands symbolically as the standard under which the discussion proceeds. 

In contrast to democratic leaders, even in a democracy we can have despotic leaders who are selfishly concerned only with themselves.  All things are bent to serve their own purposesfirst the simple truth and then anyone or anything else that get’s in their way.  Thus we see we must necessarily operate within a continuum extending from “trust and trust” in God to “trust and verify” with most to “verify and verify” with despots.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Sex and Individual Sanctity

Where are you most likely to have problems separating the sacred from the secular?....(Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 190).

Yesterday in our men’s discussion group the subject of transgender personal identities became a topic of discussion.  It was observed that our easy transition to this subject would have been unthinkable some half-century ago. What has freed us today to broach such matters without embarrassment or phobic fear?  One may point to today’s easy access to sexual subjects, even internet pornography, as a freeing agent. In my view it is because during my lifetime we have triangulated to a developing perspective of the sacred which progressively extends to sexual identity.  As a personal and private matter, gender is seen to reside within a sanctuary of individual identity which bestows respectful latitude (as with all matters, so long as the condition of no public or private harm is met).  When I was in prison I learned from the prison staff an important lesson–while behavior can and must be regulated, this need not extend to violation of the soul and individual rights.  That is, even in a highly regulated environment, some things are marked sacred and untouchable.  The sanctity of the individual should come as no surprise to those of us living within the steady application of the Bill of Rights. 


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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Essential "DO"

What are some modern cultural practices that could erode the purity of the Christian faith? Which of these two you consider the most dangerous?... What does it mean to be zealous for the Lord in today's culture? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 255).

First of all, without question the Christian faith has its purity. It is a little disconcerting, however, to discuss the Christian faith in this way due to its highly ethical character – its insistence on everyday application. Jesus was anything but what usually goes for remote piousness – consistently dedicated as he was to street ministry. Likewise, the Christian today is called to apply his faith whenever and wherever he is active in the world. In short, we are called to witness 24/7 where "the rubber meets the road."  Hence we come to a key way of thinking that threatens Christianity–a Showboat Christianity devoid of its central ethical call to practical application. It substitutes instead a stylized showroom glass menagerie designed to impress rather than achieve. In such cases all that is lost is the essential DO in the Golden rule. 

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Three Things: Then and Now

As a teenager, what did you desire to do most: Career-wise? Sports-wise? Relationship-wise? How have your desires changed since then? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1696).

As a teenager I had no clue about what career path I wished to follow. I did not know enough about myself or the world of work to have any compelling preferences. I did not like sports unless it was afterschool "sandlot" sports. My favorite game was impromptu orchestrations of basketball. I enjoyed the exhilarating exercise and the friendly competitive camaraderie. Having no close friends in high school, I felt a vacuum in the relationship area of my life.

Now at 72, I am content with the career that I proactively courted in computers. Actually I got into computers hoping that my information skills would lead to a management position, but this never occured. My favorite activities in the computer area were customer service and the pristine joy that comes with the intense focus and concentration of programming. Over the years I have come to appreciate the many lessons that sports teaches regarding the indispensability of diverse roles. As for playing sports now, I seldom do it; and when I do, it is more likely than not to be a game of tossing beanbags. My world has immensely changed for the better in terms of human relationships. I think people would recognize a greater confidence and self-assertiveness in my demeanor today, greater joy generally, and the noticeable pleasure I now find in social situations. Blessings abound and I am grateful for them all.

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Parsimonious Moments

What commodity (time, money, possessions) are you least likely to be generous with? Why? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 435).

I am least likely to be generous during focused moments.  That is, when I am focused on a project or task (or feel that I should be), I can be very intolerant of interruptions especially regarding matters I think can be addressed at a more opportune time.  At such parsimonious moments, I can be an assiduous clock-watcher.

Most often the task at hand requires some aspect of discipline and creativity--no matter if it be writing a composition or setting up a spreadsheet. If one could see my office during these times, they would be able to see telltale signs of my obsession.  For example, a scrap of paper can lie on the floor for days. Picking up that paper is outside my focus zone and paying attention to it would introduce a discordant element. It would be understandable if an observer looking on concluded that here is a person desperately marshaling significantly limited mental resources. 


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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hometown of the Heart

What hometowns do you still connect with?....What concerns you most about changes in this hometown? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1275).  

A hometown close to my heart is Bowling Green, FL.  It is a rural and agricultural area with many cattle and orange groves.  We lived there as a family from 1958 to 1962–during my teen years.  Angelo, Connie and I visited Bowling Green First United Methodist Church today.  We visit only every 6th Sunday as the town is some 65 miles from where we live in Saint Petersburg.  I strongly connect with the church there and the town not only because I have lived there, but because I much admire the humility of the local residents that comes from working the land when so much depends upon variables outside one’s control–the weather, pests, plant diseases, and the like.  One’s point of view is quite different under these circumstances than if one gets a pay check every two weeks come hell or high water.  The church is wonderfully friendly and loving and the minister Amy is a truly great lady and inspired pastor.  She maintains focus on the little things, while not ignoring the expansive fundamental values of Christianity.  It is a true blessing to keep such a hometown in one’s heart.

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