Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

This blog will be written from an orthodox Christian point of view. There may be some topic that is out of bounds, but at present I don't know what it will be. Politics is a part of life. Theology and philosophy are disciplines that we all participate in even if we don't think so. The Bible has a lot to say about economics. How about self defense? Is war ethical? Think of all the things that someone tells you we should not touch and let's give it a try. Everything that is a part of life should be an expression of worship.

Keep it courteous and be kind to those less blessed than you, but by all means don't worry about agreeing. We learn more when we get backed into a corner.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Opus 2011-253, On the Street: Opening Remarks

Teachers on my district have just gone through two days of preparation and the students are scheduled to arrive Wednesday to begin the new year.  Tuesday was our day to prepare our room and do the final things we need to do.  Monday was the great wasteland.

We have a new superintendent of schools.  Our last one did the thing that every tax payer is complaining about.  He came, stayed a few years at a much inflated salary, and retired at the high level.  It is called spiking.  No teachers I know of can do it but the top three administrators on our district just lived up to the stereotype of educators.

The new guy decided to revive the tradition of having an all district meeting the first day.  We were all sitting in the high school auditorium, janitors, bus drivers, office workers, teachers, administrators.  I was trying to figure out who the new guy was.  The only problem was that he wasn’t there and no one knew where he was.  He finally arrived about 20 minutes late and said he had a flat tire and then missed the off ramp from the freeway.  Right.  Did he ever hear about that modern invention called a telephone?  He could have called, or answered the one the district provided him with.

So he gave his speech.  I have been teaching 25 years and I keep waiting for them to come up with something new.  It still hasn’t happened.  Let me see if I got all his points.  Failure is not an option.  Students will rise to the level of our expectations.  Self esteem is key.  And at no extra charge he complained about how much we are spending on prisons.  Those are all wonderful sentiments that are totally worthless when it comes to running a school district. 

By “failure is not an option” he explained that no student should be “allowed” to fail.  If they do no work we are supposed to keep coming back with new strategies until they kick in and become self motivated dynamos.  He implied that the day was coming in which the entire teaching team would have to agree that a student should fail.  The measure would not be "did the study try."  The measure would be did the teacher try every single possible strategy to make them successful.  I wonder what flavor kool aide these people drink.

By having high expectations they mean that we keep making it easier to pass.  In other words, we establish high expectations by lowering the bar.  For instance, last year we were being told that we should make 20% a passing grade.  Another example.  The text books we use are a much lower reading level that the last.  And the kids still can’t understand them.

And of course, self esteem.  I will admit some people have some issues but not the students they are talking about.  They are supposed to learn to feel good about themselves no matter how lazy and incompetent they are.  I personally think it might help if we taught them some skills that they could be proud of, but I am a dinosaur. 

That was just the first, all district meeting.  Maybe I will get into our local meeting some other time.

Let the new year begin.

homo unius libri

Monday, August 29, 2011

Opus 2011-252, The Need for Change

If you have the time go dig out your copy of The Screwtape Letters and read letter number 25.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  If you don’t have a copy get one.  If you won’t get one then you will need t take my word for what it says.  If you have only time to read C.S. Lewis or me, go with Lewis.

This is a part of the book where I found myself copying entire paragraphs.  I will try to respond to what Lewis says, not just copy him.

I think a good Bible quotation Lewis might have used was:
(Proverbs 24:21 KJV)  My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:
First Lewis points out that God made us to enjoy change.
“To experience much of it, therefore, they must experience many different things; in other words, they must experience change.  And since they need change, the Enemy (being a hedonist at heart) has made change pleasurable to them, just as He has made eating pleasurable.”  p. 136
Then Lewis balances it with our need for stability:
“But since He does not wish them to make change, an more than eating, an end in itself, he has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence.” p. 136
The balance is presented as rhythm and gives an example.
“He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm.  He gives them the season, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme.”    
We are built so that each year Spring is new to us.  I have been through it over 60 times and yet the smells and weather are always refreshing and renewing.  Have you ever had one of those days where there is something about the day, you just can’t put your finger on it.  Then you realize that in the middle of winter you found a hint of spring.  Picture how boring it would be if every day were spring. 

Why can’t we learn that lesson in our music?  We just finished VBS.  (That is Vacation Bible School for those of you who have no cultural background.)  As we were waiting for the closing program to begin the piano was playing all of the songs I had sung as a kid.  When my children came along we continued with many of the same choruses and added a few to enrich the mix.  I looked around and every adult in the sanctuary had that silly smile on their face of fond memory.  When the program began that was the end of memory lane.  All of the songs the kids sang were new.  Nothing existed from the past.

That would not necessarily be bad but I asked myself, “Will these kids be smiling in thirty years when someone plays one of these songs?  Will they remember the impact they had on their lives?”  I doubt it because they couldn’t even remember the songs that Sunday morning.  You may not have noticed but the music now comes with a taped accompaniment.  That you might have noticed but what you may not have been aware of was that the voices you heard coming over the PA were mostly from the tape, not the kids you were watching.  The price we pay for novelty is that the performers become spectators as well as the audience.  What they have not learned they will not remember.

When my kids were at the VBS age Maranatha Music put out a series of tapes featuring Psalty the singing Psalm book.  They worked the Maranatha magic.  They took old, established choruses and spiced them up.  They were new and old at the same time.  They mixed in some selected new songs and built them around a lesson in Christian character.  We would pop those in the tape deck as we drove and the entire family would enthusiastically join in the singing.  To this day, all you have to do is start singing one and the adult children will remember.

Change can be good.  Permanence can be good.  Lets learn to embrace them both. 

Lewis, C.S.  The Screwtape Letters.  Norwalk, Connecticut:  The Easton Press, 2002.

homo unius libri

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Opus 2011-251, On the Street: Man’s Noisiest Friend

Yesterday I was waiting for someone to come to the door.  Their dog was barking at me from the open window.  Since it was smaller than my shoe, I wasn’t worried.  The neighbor’s two dogs, much bigger, were acting like the neighborhood alarm clocks next door.  Since they were behind a strong fence, I wasn’t worried.  Since I wasn’t worried I had time to be irritated.  I started asking myself, “Why can’t those dogs lose their voices?”  Really, who ever heard of a dog going hoarse from barking too much?

The voice of my Original Sin whispered that it would be fun to go over and torment them to see how loud and long they could bark.  The voice of my inner scientist told me it could be a chance to put the scientific method to the test.  The coward in me screamed, “What if the owner opens the gate!”  Being a Christian and wanting to be kind and gracious, I listened to the coward.

But the question remains.  Why can dogs bark all night and feel no pain?  I guess we could also ask how our neighbors wife can talk all day and feel no pain?  Notice I am talking about my neighbor’s wife since I would know nothing about this personally.

Maybe dogs feel the pain but instinct overrules it.  I have heard of horses being ridden until they drop.  If it doesn’t kill them it makes them useless to ride.  A human would stop and refuse to go any further.  This could be a mark of the image of God that is built into people.  We don’t just react by instinct.  We have instincts.  They prompt us.  But we also have a mind, an intellect.  We have a sense of right and wrong.  We are not dogs.

That still doesn’t answer my question, but tomorrow is another day.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-250, Written Prayers

I was raised in a tradition that always prayed extemporaneously.  That means that you did not write your prayer out before-hand.  You may have had a general outline in mind, but you would stand up and start and expect the Lord to lead you.  As you can imagine this led to some long and totally disjoined rambling as well as some powerful intercession.  Another downside was that it tended to discourage new Christians in matters of prayer.  But it was assumed that only liberals read written prayers.

My liturgical friends used to be in awe of my ability to pray extemporaneously.  I could never figure out why they felt that way until I realized how dry and formal public prayer was in their churches.  Often they had prayers read that had been written months before, miles away, by people who never knew who they were.

I have had a revelation in this area.  Our associate pastor is in charge of the pastoral prayer time.  It took me a few weeks to realize that she was reading prayers that she had written out ahead of time.  It did not take me long to get over my shock because the prayers were really powerful.  She did not just throw something together.  She spent significant time deciding on how to word what needed to be presented.  She is a gentle soul.  She has the gifts of mercy and helps.  Behind the pulpit during prayer time she is transformed into an advocate.  She brings up things that I would hesitate to mention.  She talks politics.  She reproves, rebukes and corrects.  She calls them as she believes God sees them.  She also soothes and reassures.  It is a time of power.

So I have grown.  In September I am going to fill in for her as she goes on sabbatical.  I have already decided that part of my spiritual growth is to learn to present written prayers.  I am looking forward to that. 

I have broached the idea with her of posting the prayers she writes on my blog.  She is not interested in starting her own.  She seems open to the idea.  We would clean them up to protect identities and such but I think you might benefit.  If I can get her to do it.  I am not going to put on a lot of pressure, but I am hoping it will be something she would like to do.

Time will tell.  Meanwhile I am listening to her to try to get a feel for what makes her efforts so meaningful. 

Growth comes in many areas.

homo unius libri

Friday, August 26, 2011

Opus 2011-249, Body Attitudes

Wesley met two types of attitudes, the sheep stealers and the life boaters.  One disrupting, the other sharing.

As I have been reading his journals I occasionally come across entries like this:
April 28, 1782 “Coming to Congleton, I found the Calvinists were just breaking in, and striving to make havoc of the flock.  Is this brotherly love?  Is this doing as we would be done to?  No more than robbing on the highway.  But if it is decreed, they cannot help it:  So we cannot blame them.” (Emphasis in original)
We see the same attitudes today.  The guilty parties can be Calvinists, Arminians, Pentecostals, Catholics, you name it.  They are people who have serious disagreements.  I disagree with most of them, but they all believe in a core of basics such as the divinity of Christ and salvation through grace.  (Yes, even the Catholics believe in salvation through grace.  The disagreements are on how and why, not what.)  Instead of going after the cults, pagans and atheists, they raid the folds of neighboring shepherds.

Wesley also ran into the opposite attitude.
November 1, 1785, “When I came to Northhampton, the new Presbyterian meeting house was offered me, twice as large as our own.”
This is the way it should be.  This is why so many Sunday worshipers cooperate with Saturday worshipers.  This is why non-English congregations are allowed to rent space. 

John Wesley was an Arminian.  George Whitefield was a Calvinist.  They had their disagreements and some serious head butting.  But they always came back to seeing each other as brothers in Christ.  In fact, Whitefield had Wesley preach his funeral. 

Brothers and sisters, lets stop the sheep stealing and get to changing the world.

Wesley, John.  The Works of John Wesley, Volume IV, Third Edition.  Kansas City:  Beacon Hill
    Press of Kansas City, 1979.

homo unius libri

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Opus 2011-248, Headlines: What Is a Jihad Social Club?

I followed a link from the Drudge Report about the fighting in Israel.  In reading  I came across this paragraph found HERE.
"The IDF responded in force early Thursday, killing two Palestinians and wounding at least 20 in an airstrike on what the army said was an arms depot in the northern Gaza Strip. Earlier, Palestinian sources said the site hit in the strike was an Islamic Jihad social club."
My guess is that we have a lesson in synonyms here.  It would seem that an arms depot and an Islamic Jihad Social Club are the same thing.  Maybe a sign on the door says, “Rockets R Us.”  Their motto could be “bring us your tired, downtrodden and poor rockets, yearning to be set free.”

Is anybody listening or are all heads in the sand?

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-247, Be a Giant

I believe I have mentioned before my gratitude for the shoulders of the giants that we stand on.  I think of my reading.  Some you have heard of such as Wesley and Bonhoeffer.  Others walked paths you have never crossed such as Herbert Schlossberg.  There are enough giants to go around.  I think of my daily walk.  I touch giants as I sit in church or as I listen to pod-casts.  I thank God for the giants

How many giants are out there today?  I don’t mean the big names, I mean the ones that are faithfully passing on the wisdom God gives them.  Some are pastors in small churches.  Some are teachers.  I wish I could say many, but most follow the drum of the world.  Then there are voices on the internet.  I think of ones I have discovered such as Gorges Grouse, Christian Ear to name two that make me think on a regular basis.

How many Giants were not aware?  I don’t think most of them were trying to be giants as much as simply being faithful.  Did Paul know he was writing for eternity or was he mainly concerned about correcting the local churches he wrote to?  Did Wesley know that people would be reading his journals hundreds of years later?  Did Brother Lawrence know that he would be an inspiration for millions?  Did Tchaikovsky know that the Nutcracker Suite would become a Christmas classic?  Did Jesus..., well, yes, I guess He did know.

How many great artists were not famous until after they died?  How many parents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, strangers on a bus have passed on influence that they were never aware of?

Are you a giant?  Will you be a giant?  Probably not if that is your goal.  Part of being a real giant is selfless servanthood.  Remember when Jesus was talking to the faithful.  Remember their response.
(Matthew 25:44 KJV)  Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Be a giant today by being faithful and obedient.  Allow the Holy Spirit to use your life to make an impact.  You probably won’t know about it until half way through eternity but God will know now.  The person standing on your shoulders may not even be aware of it, but God will let him know when the time is ripe.

homo unius libri

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Opus 2011-246, Discernment Watch: Musical Heresy?

Yesterday morning during my personal worship I was listening to the mix of music on my I-pod.  Sometimes the music will penetrate through my thinking, touch my soul and I will have a Pentecostal moment.  At other times I get really irritated at the foolishness I am hearing.

Today was a foolishness moment.  I was listening to a medley and some words jumped out at me:
“God is too good to be unkind.”
The harmony was good, the accompaniment was powerful, the surrounding ideas were uplifting, but this beautiful thought is full of problems for anyone listening to the words instead of feeling the emotion. 

What does it mean in your mind to be unkind?  I know that I get pictures of kicking the dog, eating the last chocolate chip cookie, vacuuming in the living room during the Super Bowl, you know, things like that.  Most of us view it that way.  Is it fair to say that a righteous, holy, jealous God is not unkind by that definition of the word?  This is the God that kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden for one little mistake.  This is the God that allowed a virgin to go through all kinds of social rejection just to have a baby.  This is the God who sent His innocent Son to a cruel death for a bunch of ungrateful malefactors.

We have problems when we link the goodness of God with our idea of kindness.  Good exists.  Only God is truly good.  He defines goodness.  In that goodness He allows believers to suffer.  He allows injustice.  He allows wars.  In spite of that we accept He is good.

And God is kind, but that kindness does not always fit our definition.  The kindest thing that God can do is allow us to go through a hard experience that will help us to grow.  We don’t like it at the time.  We don’t consider it kindness.  We are wrong.

So, yes, God is too good to be unkind.  But always remember that His goodness is steeped in holiness and righteousness, not sympathy and warm fuzzies.

homo unius libri

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Opus 2011-245, Sabbath Observations: The Family of God

One of the traditions at my church is having a member of the congregation pray before we receive the Lord’s tithe and our offerings.  Today’s prayer touched me.  It included the following:
“Thank you for being able to have a family reunion every Sunday.”
She meant that the church was her family and each time we gathered was special to her.

It would be a blessing if we all could give that as a testimony.  Let it start with you.  Be part of the family.

homo unius libri

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Opus 2011-244, Christian Cliches: Are We Having Fun Yet? Then Stop.

Every once in awhile I meet someone who criticizes Christians because we are so dull.  We can’t have any fun, according to them.  I ran across a quote by C.S. Lewis that responds very well.  If you are unfamiliar with The Screwtape Letters, keep in mind that it is a senior demon writing to a junior demon.
“He has filled His world with pleasures.  There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least - sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working.  Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.  We fight under cruel disadvantages.  Nothing is naturally on our side.”  (Emphasis in original)  p. 118
The list Lewis gives us is surprising and short. 

It surprises because it includes things that we might not include as fun.  Washing is fun?  Think about it.  After a long, hard, sweaty day doesn’t a hot shower bring great pleasure?  Think of the joy of making love without having to worry about STD or guilt.  Are you one of those few people who can’t enjoy a Sunday afternoon nap?  Really?

It is short because of all the things that are not listed.  Take any activity that does not involve excess in alcohol, drugs or violence and it is probably something that Christians can do.  And since they won’t be influenced by alcohol or drugs they will actually remember they did it.  Such things as sky diving, skiing, hunting, and hang-gliding come to mind.  I have never done any of them, but they are on that long list of options that are open.

What happens is Satan takes the good things God has given them and twists them.  In Proverbs one of the words used for people who follow evil is crooked.  In fact that is the meaning of perverted. 

So take your choice.  Do you want to have fun and live eternally to talk about it or do you want to spend your time in Hell knowing that all of the stories you hear are lies because you have been there.

Lewis, C.S.  The Screwtape Letters.  Norwalk, Connecticut:  The Easton Press, 2002.

homo unius libri

Friday, August 19, 2011

Opus 2011-243, How Will People Quote You?

Misquotes are common.  When we hear something we like we try to act like we are quoting Abraham Lincoln or Jesus.  When we don’t like it we pick our favorite specter and give it to them like people attribute Joe Biden foolishness to Sarah Palin.  Usually we are not concerned because we don’t care who said it, it makes sense.

Misquotes attributed to Benjamin Franklin are legion.  It works both ways.  Often when people quote the Bible they are really quoting Franklin.  In case you did not know, the Bible does not say,
“God helps those who help themselves.”
Let me suggest some reasons people quote.  The first is because what is being said has value.  The quote is put in a pithy and clever way that grabs your attention and delivers a message.  In this case it is not always important who said it, it is still true.

The second reason is to add clout to what you want to say.  If you are talking about physics and can quote Einstein, you are half way home.  If you are talking about morality and can quote Jesus you have made your point with some people and destroyed it with others. 

A third is that people will find your point hard to swallow.  It is just your opinion and, as Rodney Dangerfield would say, “You don’t get no respect.”  If someone they respect says what you are advocating, it might get them to listen and maybe think.

How will people quote you?  You may not be aware of it but people repeat what you say.  It may be as low a purpose as gossip.  It may be life changing.  But it happens.  Wait until you hear your children repeat something you said.  You might even hear your spouse repeat you, but accept the fact that you will not get credit for it.

homo unius libri

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Opus 2011-242, Green Pieces: Who are we saving the earth for?

I believe that Yellowstone was our first national park.  Teddy Roosevelt was the name associated with that.  Since that time the federal and state governments have been active in setting aside certain locations to preserve them for future generations.  I can see value in that.  I am glad that the Grand Canyon has not become the Exxon Canyon and that the Everglades have not become PETA Park.  I have stood under the giant redwoods.  I have driven through the Bad Lands.  I have no problem with a reasonable effort to preserve beauty and grandeur. 

But now the elitists are trying to shut down our access to these places.  They want to limit the number of people who can pass through. They want to do away with the lodges and recreational facilities.  Groups like the Sierra Club are in favor of making ever larger areas of land off limits to anyone except a select few.  Of course they are in the select few.

The elites are taking over this great country.  Let me give you two examples I have experienced.  The first took place in the Great Smokey Mountains.  Upon entering we saw signs declaring it a U.N. Biosphere.  What?  When we got to the visitors’ center we noticed a sign that declared a “free speech zone.”  What?  At that sign and for a few yards around it we were allowed the freedom of speech.  Beyond that limit it was revoked.  I understand that we get tired of people passing out literature and getting up on soap boxes but since when does the park service have the right to remove our Constitutional right to free speech?  Has our Senate signed a treaty that removes our rights in selected areas that have been turned over to the UN?  If the Smokey Mountains visitor center today, why not your city park tomorrow?

The second example was about ten years ago on the edge of what used to be Everglades National Park.  It is now also a U.N. Biosphere.  After coming back from this foreign country in Florida we stopped at a roadside stand to get a key lime shake.  It was the closest thing to perfect I have every had.  It had so much pucker power I wasn’t sure I would be able to get the straw out of my mouth.  I may never have one again because I was told that the government was expanding the Everglades and forcing people who had been there for years to sell and move.  After driving out the American citizens, do they turn it over to the UN? 

It is wonderful that we are preserving nature.  Some of this work makes sense.  For much of it I wonder, who are they saving it for?  What would be the point of taking the world’s greatest art and locking it up in a vault so no one can see it?  Oh, wait.  That is what art thieves do, isn’t it.  When a child hoards something they can’t use just so noone else can have it we call it immature.  When a government takes away our heritage because they are saving it from us we call it saving the environment. 

I don’t want to cut down the giant Sequoia redwoods.  I don’t want to pave over the Grand Canyon.  I don’t want to drain the Everglades.  I do want them to be available for the most people for the longest time.  Current policy seems to be more anti-human than pro-nature.  If you are an evolutionist then remember that people are part of nature too.  If the redwoods don’t survive then remember it is the survival of the fittest.  If you are a Christian, remember that you are to manage the world as God would have you manage it, not for your own sinful use.  Also remember that it is there to be used.  Enjoying beauty is a use.  Building walls around the forest is sin.  Either extreme says current policy is misdirected.  Change it.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Opus 2011-241, Monday Pulpit: Paul Broke the Rules

Sunday the theme was witnessing.  The pastor was working through the different methods that Paul used to spread the gospel.  The title was “Paul Broke the Rules!”  How did Paul break the rules?  One way that stood out to me emerged from this verse:
(Acts 16:37 NAS77)  But Paul said to them, "They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out."
We are taught to be meek and mild.  We are taught not to stand up for our rights.  We are to turn the other cheek and so forth.  Following that paradigm, Paul would have quietly disappeared into the shadows when they turned him loose from prison.  That is not what he did. 

Paul was a Roman citizen.  He had been mistreated.  He demanded that the Roman officials come and humble themselves after they had mistreated him.

It is possible that this could be taken too far but I think the present situation has gone the opposite direction.  We have certain rights.  We have rights guaranteed in the Constitution and yet when we are told to take off our crosses or hide our Bibles we meekly comply as if we lived in some banana republic run by a tin pot dictator.  Not that there is anything wrong with bananas or tin pots.

There is a time to turn the other cheek.  Jesus told us to do so.  We are to be servants and have attitudes of forgiveness and patience.  We also need to understand that there are times to stand up and be counted even if it makes other people uncomfortable.  There are times to be aggressive.

Pray that we will not avoid confrontation out of fear and not seek it out of pride.

homo unius libri

Monday, August 15, 2011

Opus 2011-240, Discernment Watch: Confucians Work Ethic?

This is not a post about diabetes even though that is where I begin.

I was reading an article on a website that deals with issues of diabetes written by David Mendosa.  He was commenting on how hard the people of Korea work.

First of all he laid the background for his observation:
The Koreans have wrought an economic miracle. I don't know of any other country that has developed so rapidly. Just four decades ago, gross domestic product per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. My Korean friends say that Korea was poorer than Ethiopia then. 
Then he makes a statement that can only be the result of a public school education:
The miracle owes a lot to this country's indomitable quest for education and willingness of its people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. That quest in turn owns much to the Confucian work ethic. 
I have no quarrel with the hard work and success of the Korean people.  I do have a quarrel with the politically correct interpretation of why they are now having that success.

There are two factors that are totally ignored in this statement:  Capitalism and Christianity.  I am not an expert on Korea but I think that one difference between the North and South is that the south has free market capitalism and the north has government run socialism.  My guess is that the Korean miracle began about 50 years ago at the end of what we call the Korean war.

I would also guess that the time we are looking at was the beginning of the massive increase in the number of Christians and churches in Korea.  Again, the south has a strong Christian presence and the north is an atheist state.  Some of the largest, if not the largest, churches in the world are now in Korea.  Korea is sending missionaries to the United States and other areas. 

The ideas and teachings of Confucius have been around for centuries.  It never seemed to produce an economic miracle before.  I would also like to know if anyone else has heard of a “Confucian work ethic.”  Confucius taught respect for authority and I guess that hard work is a part of that but we generally think of the Protestant work ethic associated with the Puritans.  It could just be my parochial education.  Is it any coincidence that the major church in Korea is Presbyterian which has a lot in common with the teachings of the Puritans?

Too many people are willing to ignore the obvious effects on the quality of life that free market capitalism and the moral foundations of Christianity bring to a culture.  While we are on that, how about another country that is much more associated with Confucius than Korea, China.  It is also going through an economic miracle.  Guess what you find in China at this time.  A turning to capitalism and tremendous growth of the church. 

In case your were wondering, that lump in the middle of your face is a nose.

homo unius libri

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Opus 2011-239, Healthy Insights: Electric Wheelchairs

One of the negative side effects of losing weight is you become more aware of fat people around you.  At least you become aware of the candy bars in their hands or the bag of chips they are consuming.  I think it is an envy thing.

You also become critical.  This is a bad place to be.  If my focus is on others it is doubtful that I will keep the weight off. 

I have noticed that everywhere I go I see people in those little electric carts.  Some really make sense to me.  Someone with real issues on coordination or an amputee can be set free by having wheels.  It can give people more independence and let them live better lives.  Well and good.

I have also noticed that most of the people I see are grossly overweight.  I don’t know them so I don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg.  Are they in a wheel chair because they are fat or are they fat because they are in a wheel chair?  It reminds me of a description of a crowd at a football game:  90,000 people desperately in need of exercise watching 11 men desperately in need of a rest. 

I have questions that apply to my concerns about diabetes.  Many of these people have legs that are extremely swollen.  Is this a result of the epidemic of diabetes or is there another ailment that is sweeping the country?  Is this what is waiting for me?  Or is it simply a matter of lack of self control.  Is it because they have not dealt with their diabetes?  I remember reading that about sixty percent of the people who know they have diabetes do not take their medication.  If they don’t take their medication, which is easy, I doubt if they are exercising or watching what they eat. 

Part of my spiritual journey involves my judgmental attitude.  If I can’t get victory in that area I doubt that I will have long term success in the food control.  Every step, every bite is a part of a total package.  Spiritual maturity is a war on many fronts.  I don’t want to be flanked when I am preparing for a major thrust forward.

Blessings in your battles.

homo unius libri

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Opus 2011-238, Never Too Old to Learn

I am approaching what would be considered the standard age of retirement.  I doubt if I will ever find out what retirement means.  With the current state of the economy and major questions about health care I am currently planning on working until they have to call 911.  I expect to leave with a gurney, not a gold watch.

That means that I need to stay sharp.  Or I guess you might say, put off the dullness as long as possible.  What brought this to mind was a recent discovery about my computer.  You may have known this for a long time.  If you did, why didn’t you tell me?  You know the bar on the right with the button that shows how far you currently are through the file?  I am used to clicking on it to advance or retreat a page.  I know to hold down the left mouse button while the curser is on the button and I can move quickly.  What I found the other day is that if you place your curser on the bar away from the button and hold the left mouse button down it will scroll the page.  Amazing.

It has been an “new experience” summer so far.  I have tested a Kindle.  I am impressed.  I have been introduced the Chipolte Bar and Grill.  I love it.  I learned how to use a miter box and made a cabinet door.  It looked good.  I watched my first zombie movie.  Ho, hum.  I discovered snow peas and sweet peas to spice up my salads.  Using the word “spice” in regard to snow peas shows you how exciting my salads are.  I made it through a trip back east without falling down the stairs.  Broken traditions are better than broken bones.

Keep learning.  Keep changing.  Keep growing.  Share it with others.  Your neighbor may not know that his computer needs to be plugged in to work.

homo unius libri

Friday, August 12, 2011

Opus 2011-237, Spiritual Gifts: Mercy

(Romans 12:8 KJV)  Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

Mercy.  I understand the concept.  I am willing to extend it at times.  I have let spiders live, as long as I am outside on their turf.  I don’t kick dogs.  But I must confess I do not understand people with the gift of mercy.  They confuse me.  That may be their purpose.

I can them mercy people.  They always see the good side of people and things.  If someone cuts them off on the freeway, they assume they are rushing to the hospital with their pregnant wife in the back seat, the baby half way out.  If they get short changed, they assume the person just made a mistake.  You know the kind of person I speak of.  They voted for hope and change.  I once was talking to a teacher about the moral problems of Bill Clinton.  She admitted that she know about that.  Yet she voted for him twice.  When I showed my confusion she said, “I thought he would change.”  That is the gift of mercy.  Perhaps you are one of them.  If you are, I do not understand you.

People with the gift of mercy have one important role in life.  They need to balance out those of us who think that discernment demands we punish evil.  All the time.  Every person.  We have a tendency to get carried away.  Mercy people are what keep the church from becoming what all the pagans claim we are.  It is a part of the balancing act God gave us called the body of Christ.

So I don’t understand.  Fine, but I accept.  Someday the mystery will be clear to me, but don’t count on it happening in this life.

homo unius libri

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Opus 2011-236, DEFCON for Mere Mortals

I have been attending DEFCON 19.  I think I have been going for about 10 years.  It has become an annual trip that I make with my family geek.  I am not a geek.  I am more of a nerd.  I can work a computer.  I am not afraid of technology.  I have loaded my own software and know that the solution to many things is to reboot.  Much of what happens at DEFCON is a total mystery to me but that is okay because much of what happens in my world is a mystery to the hackers.

DEFCON is the inexpensive alternative to a security conference called Blackhat.  That runs in the thousands of dollars to attend, DEFCON is affordable for people who are not on expense account.  It started out very small and was viewed as an excuse to get together and get drunk.  When I first started attending the booze was still a major theme but the sessions were an acceptable balance.  At this point the booze is still a big factor but it is going on more and more behind closed doors.  Gone are the days when a panel of four would have a gallon of hard stuff on the table with beer chasers interspersed. 

The sessions are across the spectrum.  At one end you have the detailed, acronym laced tech talks that are of interest only to the initiated.  At the other end you have presentations by an apostate mainline ex-pastor into the philosophical questions of the universe .  In between you have politics, law and social engineering.  I have always found enough to attend and make it interesting.

It has been fun to watch the evolution and maturing of the core group.  I got in on the end of the childish phase.  Booze, sex jokes, the F-bomb and scatological references ran non-stop.  I felt like I was in a red-neck bar on a Saturday night.  Let’s see, booze, foul language, more booze, unwashed bodies, more booze - I apologizes to the red-neck bars.  In the midst of this I have seen what I can only view as one of the great hopes of the country.

Buried under all the facades is a real desire to make a difference.  These guys might deny it but most of them want to make the world a better place.  They want to be founding fathers of a new, freer generation.  They see the growing potential for evil control by a government that has lost the understanding of limited government.  They understand how computers have the latent ability to bring us to 1984. 

I hope and fear that the sleeping giant will wake up.  I hope because they have the ability to hack into almost any computer system that exists.  After all, they are the ones who put them together.  More and more they are the ones who keep them operating.  They have the skills to bring the government to a standstill.  In their younger days they had a tendency to “own” the hotel they were using.  That is why they were not invited back and had a hard time finding a new venue.  I remember going to one session where a hacker was explaining how, with a little bit of equipment, you could get into the hotel management system and do just about anything you wanted.  You could order room service and charge it to another room.  You could adjust your bill.  All of this from the TV set.  We found three movies charged to our room yesterday when we were looking at our bill.  Imagine what they could do to the IRS.  You may have heard about the government of Egypt turning off the internet.  These guys could do that too.

That brings up the fear element.  That kind of ability could also lead to a life of crime.  One of the themes of sessions is showing how they find ways to access vulnerabilities in software.  They do what they call “penetration tests.”  Yesterday I listened to a guy tell about how they were able to access all the financial records of an “island nation.”  All of them.  So far it is considered wrong to take full advantage of that.  I fear that may change.

The DEFCON hackers are growing up.  They are concerned about leaving a good impression at the hotel so they can come back next year.  As one guy said, “Isn’t it nice having rooms that are clean?”  They are getting married and having children.  This year they added a track called DEFCON Kids for their children.  They are buying homes and investing in the future.  That brings the blessings of maturity and the curse of calcification.  The blessing is that they will be concerned about the future for their children and invest their talents to build.  The curse is if they get their piece of the pie and decide to withdraw from the game.

So far I see little of what I would consider spiritual maturity.  If revival could ever hit this group the world would just sit back and say, “What happened?”

homo unius libri

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Opus 2011-235, On the Street: The Fertilizer of Life

I was sitting, minding my own business at the coffee bar.  I had finished my initial Bible study and was thinking about themes for a post.  Suddenly I was greeted by a lonely senior citizen who saw in me a kindred spirit with a lap-top.  I got no more work done that morning.  It’s okay, I need to get out more and talking to people I don’t know is good for me.

In the course of the conversation he shared a quote that he attributed to Benjamin Franklin.  I had my doubts, and further research has it as an unknown source, but it was a good quote anyway.
“The best fertilizer for your garden is the gardener’s shadow.”
I like it.  It says a lot to all of us.  In case you miss the point it is reminding us that the best path to success is hard work and effort.  We can’t sit around and wait to hit the lottery.  We at least need to buy a ticket, although I hear lightening insurance pays off better.

I remember when I was working my way through seminary.  At the time I was mowing lawns in a condo development.  One day a couple of my co-workers talked me into joining them on one of their frequent breaks and we went to the local convenience store to get a snack.  Inside a guy was furiously stocking a shelf.  He was moving like his job depended on it.  One of my co-workers said, “I don’t see why he is working so hard.  He is the manager.”  I didn’t share with him that the reason he was working so hard was because he was the manager.  Or you might say he was the manager because he worked so hard.  My break taking co-worker would never understand.  That lack of understanding means he will never be a manager.  The only exception I know to that is if you work for the government.

It reminds me of something I believe Thomas Edison said about success being one part inspiration and ninety-nine parts perspiration.  Effort is the key to success in life.  It is nice to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth but we can’t all be George Bush or Barak Obama.  Consider where Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan came from.  One of them you don’t like but they both started low on the spectrum and made it to the top.  Both will be remembered.

What will you be remembered for?

homo unius libri

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Opus 2011-234, On the Street: People Watching

I am in Las Vegas as I write this.  As I sit in the casino a couple walk by that look like they just emerged from the senior citizens pot luck at the local Baptist church.  Who let Harry and Mabel out of Three Corners?  I was sitting at the coffee kiosk trying to do some Bible study in Sin City.  It can be done, but only if you ignore Harry and Mabel.  I made a note to come back to it and went on with my Bible study.

If you don’t gamble and have extra time it is easy to get into people watching.  There is no stereotype of Las Vegas denizen.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  Shapes and sizes makes me mindful of the spandex crowd.  Too many bodies belong to the guy who should never wear a T-shirt in public.  Some bellies are better left to the imagination because my imagination doesn’t go in that direction.  His bride is wandering around too.  She tends to think that skin tight leggings will make her look like a ballerina.  It doesn’t.  And the combination of low-cut stretch material and a push-up bra cause more nightmares than zombie movies.  I would prefer that they dressed like desert nomads not dessert nomads.

Then we have the age factor.  I am getting up there.  The kids at school keep asking me when I am going to retire.  I tell them usually around 10:00 P.M.  Some of these people look like they are so fragile that a loss at the slots will make them shatter.  I thought I was watching Sesame Street when the walking C walked by.  He was really bent over but it did not keep him from the tables.  Then I saw Burl Ives at a slot machine.  He was not winning.  I never realized how many styles of walkers, canes and electric carts existed.  It is wonderful to see how mobile people can be when they really want to get somewhere.  When I am walking through the casino I feel like the guy in a sports car on the freeway, cutting and weaving like crazy.  Don’t forget Woodstock.  You wonder where all the hippies went?  They are aging well in Las Vegas, and still resisting the barber.  Just think what it would do for our economy if all the old guys with pony-tails started getting haircuts.

Middle America is well represented.  Mr. and Mrs. Apple pie are here.  Some have brought their children and are introducing them to the things needed to dull the desire for hard work and success. 

The security guard who doesn’t look secure.  I figure there are secret ninja bouncers that are doing the real security.  Nothing I see would make much difference in a crisis.  They do seem to know where the bathrooms are.

You can’t tell a book by it’s cover, not always.  But I must say we have quite a library being checked out here in the casino.  I wonder what they think of me?

homo unius libri

Monday, August 8, 2011

Opus 2011-233, All Sin is not Equal

Jesus once said something that stressed the seriousness of ignoring the law.
(Matthew 5:19 KJV)  Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
James took it a step farther.
(James 2:10 KJV)  For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
It seems that one of the articles of faith found in Protestant Christianity is that no sin is any worse than any other sin.  We have the verses quoted above that would seem to back that up.  You may remember the parable Jesus told about the man who hired people through the day to bring in his harvest.  At the end of the day he paid them the same.

We also find this makes sense because we have an understanding of the enormity of sin.  All sin flies in the face of God.  He finds it offensive.  Only the sacrifice of the Perfect Lamb of God was adequate to pay the price of sin.  So far, well and good.

We fail when we try to apply this to the world around us.  Just because all sin is offensive to God does not mean all sin is equal to God.  Just because we are all sinners, that does not mean that we are to accept other sinners as simply wayward children.  All sin is not equal in the eyes of God.

To demonstrate this, lets look at the foundation of what we believe, the Old Testament.  It is here that we have the account of Adam and Eve and the introduction of sin as an act and a condition.  We see man cast out of paradise.  But as we read we see that all sin is not equal.  In the OT different sins required different sacrifices and punishment.  All may lead to death but are not really equal in the eyes of God.

As a beginning look at the sacrificial system set up to deal with sin.  You have a variety of offerings and sacrifices.  Some require grain, some blood.  Some require restitution, some demand death.  If all sins were the same, all rites of atonement would be the same.

An example of this scale is found in Proverbs.  I came across this in my daily devotional reading.  Notice two different sins, both listed in the Ten Commandments.  First, we have stealing.
(Proverbs 6:30-31 KJV)  Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.
Then we have adultery.
(Proverbs 6:32 KJV)  But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.
First of all, both are acknowledged as wrong.  Neither is condoned.  Both require payment.  But notice that in one case we are to be understanding.  In the other case the punishment is eternal damnation.  I would say that is a different response to different sins.

A different scale can be found in the NT.  Remember when the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus.  He was very gentle and forgiving but don’t forget that He demanded that she change her behavior and not sin again.  How did He respond to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees?  Wrath and denunciation were the order of the moment.  Totally different responses.

This should help us to understand that when we look at our world we respond differently to different sins.  We cannot afford the kind of moral equivalence that puts litter on the level of abortion.  Even worse we live in a culture that is offended it you don’t recycle the can but yawns when you kill the baby.

We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.  I read that somewhere.  Some of us have believed and are not on the Perish Train.  I read that, too.  That does not mean that all sin is equal or that all sinners are equal.  Not only does that not make sense, it doesn’t make good theology.

homo unius libri

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Opus 2011-232, Christian Cliches: Why Me, Lord, Part VI

How should we respond to calamity.  Start with the assumption that whining and complaining are not the answer.

Ask for relief.  There is nothing wrong with being honest with God.  Let me share a little secret:  I have yelled at God.  That is the bad news.  The good news is He didn’t strike me down.  Instead, He seemed to respond with, “Okay.  Now you have that off your chest.  Are you ready to talk?”

Be honest with God about your feelings.  Remember Jesus in the Garden.  He was in agony just thinking about what was to come.  You think you have problems, imagine being the One who was without sin and becoming sin on our behalf.  What did Jesus pray?
(Luke 22:42-4 KJV)  Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.  And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Notice that Jesus asked for a rain check.  He would have loved to move to plan B, but the key was His spirit of obedience.

Or consider Paul and his thorn in the flesh. 
(2 Corinthians 12:7-9 KJV)  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
It is acceptable to ask but required to obey.

Ultimately you might have only one hope:  Repentance and change.  Or is that two hopes?  Whatever.  Going back to the OT for an example:
(Exodus 23:25 KJV)  And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.
Is there sin in your life?  Are you being disobedient?  Are you like Jonah, running in the opposite direction?  Then either enjoy the suffering or begin the repenting.

Are you young enough to have heard the old song “Trust and obey”?  It is still the best advice.  It doesn’t matter is life gives you spaghetti and meat sauce or liver and onions.  Trust and obey.

homo unius libri

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Opus 2011-231, Predicting the Whether

In the past month I have experienced all kinds of different weather.  It has been gloomy.  It has been bright.  I have seen downpours and thunderstorms.  I have been in the desert.  Variety is nice.  I have noticed that any kind of weather gets boring.  The same is true about life in general.  You have heard how we should stop and smell the roses.  That is to give us perspective and variety.  You might also get tired of the rose smell.

Proverbs points out this part of our personality. 
(Proverbs 27:7 NASB)  A sated man loathes honey, But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.
It is hard to think about bitter being sweet and sweet being bitter, but the contrast makes it possible. 

Are you old enough to remember the TV series “The Twilight Zone”?  When I was young and foolish I spend a fair amount of time with the TV.  This was one of those programs that determined how I would plan my week.  It was a must. 

One story told about a criminal who was killed by the police.  When he wakes up there is a guy there that he calls “Fats.”  Fats begins to fulfill every wish the criminal has.  He brings him babes and booze.  The guy can’t figure out how he has died and gone to heaven.  He assumes that Fats is his personal angel, assigned to serve him.  This goes on for awhile.  The crisis comes when the criminal decides to do some gambling.  He puts a coin in the slot machine and hits the jackpot.  He is ecstatic.  He puts in another coin and hits again.  This goes on for awhile.  He tries the roulette wheel.  He wins every time.  He calls fats over and complains that it is no fun winning every time.  Fats tells him they can change that.  Just tell him when he wants to win and when he wants to loose.  He can have anything he wants.  The criminal gets disgusted and says that if this is the way heaven is, he wants to go to the “other place.”  Fats just starts laughing and gives the punch line:  “This is the other place.”

Hell was described as a place where you always get what you want.  Always.  There was no real variety.  No chance.  No mystery.  No life.

Be grateful for the variety.  I know it seems a bit much but it keeps this world from being “the other place.”

homo unius libri

Friday, August 5, 2011

Opus 2011-230, Immortal Quotes: “The power to tax is the power to destroy”

I have often heard this quotation used in explaining why churches are tax exempt.  The logic was that if the government could tax churches, it could destroy them.  I find that logical.  If it weakens business and drives jobs out of the country it could certainly cause problems for the corporate organizations called churches.  It would have not effect, obviously, on the true universal church that is made up of the redeemed. 

What was interesting as I researched this was that the original phrase had nothing to do with churches, but with banks.  And the banks involved were federal.  The source I found most useful was a site called “The Freeman.” 

If you want to look at the article the part that relates to the general quote is found in the first few paragraphs.  The author goes on to discuss many issues and implications.

The quote comes from a Supreme Court case, McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819.  Maryland was trying to levy the same tax on the Bank of the United States that it applied to other banks from outside the state.  The logic of John Marshall and the court was that the state could not tax a part of the federal government because that would involve the power to destroy that government.  Makes sense. 

The ominous implication is that taxes can also be used to destroy other persons and organizations.  Taxes can take the form of direct taxes or of regulations and fees that produce the same results.  I once asked a salesman why I could not find any golf clubs made in the US.  He informed me that the environmental regulations made it almost impossible to produce them here.  I don’t know how accurate his information was in reality, but it matched up with what I see and know.  This is how regulations from unelected bureaucrats effects our lives every day.

Remember that all tax and spend issues begin in the House of Representatives.  Remember that these people are up for re-election every two years.  How long is your memory?  Do you want to have some hope?  Next time vote for change.

homo unius libri

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Opus 2011-229, Book Review: The Witch Doctor

Occasionally you run into a sci-fi author who is not afraid of Jesus.  Christopher Stasheff is one of those.  He has written a number of books on the theme of people being transported to alternate universes in which magic works.  In all of his stories there is also the existence of the Roman Catholic Church.  He has an interesting blend of the two forces and makes them work together quite well.  Although all the traditional elements of fantasy are alive and well so are grace and repentance.

I came across one quote that I thought was really great.  The protagonist is struggling with what he believes and he says,
“I was a devoutly agnostic Protestant, and the God I didn’t believe in was Calvin’s...” p. 55
Many of us have the residue of the truth in us.  It was placed there by God.  Unfortunately we use that residue as something to fight against, even when we don’t know what it is. 

If you like sci-fi and fantasy and are tired of the emphasis on evil, give Stasheff a try.

Stasheff, Christopher.  The Witch Doctor.  New York:  Ballantine Books, 1994.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Opus 2011-228: On The Road, Yet Again.

I am leaving to attend a conference.  It is a conference for computer hackers.  Because of this, I may not be trying to access the internet for the next few days.  The family Geek may provide me with a way around that but at this point I am guessing there is a good chance I will be out of contact.  I have scheduled a few posts for the time period and they may appear.  That depends on the whims of the Google gods.  I may not be able to respond to comments.  Don't feel neglected.  Feel free to leave a word.  I will respond when I can.

This will give you a chance to visit the rest of the internet.

Grace and peace.

Opus 2011-227, Christian Cliches: Why Me, Lord, Part V

What about the times that it seems like God is not rewarding the righteous?  I blew out a tire when I hit a pot hole on the freeway.  It was raining hard during rush hour.  I was on my way to work.  I could have asked, “Why me, Lord?”  To be honest, that was my first inclination.  But the Holy Spirit started whispering in my ear.  I could have been in the middle of a multiple car pile-up with people dead and crippled.  Instead I marveled that I had come through the experience with nothing but a ruined tire.  It was even changed and I was on the road in 15 minutes.  I even found out I had a road hazard warranty.  I could have been plastered over the guard rail or under the front bumper of an eighteen wheeler.  Instead I was joking with the guy changing the tire. 

I think I wrote this somewhere before, but I still ask the question, “Why me, Lord?”  But what I mean by that is why was a spared.  What was it that let me drive away, unharmed in a few minutes?  Why has God blessed me and not the other guy?  It comes down to guardian angels or simply the grace of God.

How many times has God shielded us from major tragedy by allowing a little discomfort into our lives?  How many times have you been a little slow and if you had been moving at your normal speed you would have been broadsided by someone running a red light?  I can’t believe how many times my car has broken down just when I am pulling into my driveway.  My son had a brain tumor.  We were able to obtain the services of one of the best specialists in the country.

Sin abounds.  Calamity abounds.  Right now unemployment abounds.  But grace aboundeth more.

To be continued...

homo unius libri

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Opus 2011-226, Discernment Watch: Dress for Impress

Does God care what kind of clothes we wear?  Does He care if we wear a lot of jewelry?  Does it matter what we wear to church?  As with so many other questions the answer is “yes” and “no” and “it depends.”  Life is never simple.

We are traveling and when we were packing I made the comment that I didn’t need to take any special clothes because no one dresses up for church any more.  At the church we visited this Sunday I commented that a certain person on the platform was probably a member of the pastoral staff.  He had shaved his head and was wearing jeans with his shirt tail hanging out.  I was right.  I noticed many styles of dress from beautiful suits to people who would not dream of looking so sloppy anywhere but at church.  Does God care what we wear to church?

Some would say, “No.  He just wants us to be there.”  There is some validity there.  It is better to be in church looking like you shopped in a thrift store than to be in the mall on Sunday morning buying the latest fashions.  Actually I think everyone could agree with that.  The problem is that the person looking down on his luck probably spent as much, or more, money getting that look as the guy wearing the fancy suit.  One of the terms for it used to be “grunge.”  It is an actual style.  People pay good money for clothes that look abused.

So what hints do we find in the Bible?

The smallest detail in the dress of the priests was laid out in the OT.  It seemed to be important.  Read in Proverbs 31 about the excellent wife.  She dressed a certain way and made sure her people were taken care of.  We find that Jesus wore a seamless robe, the best available.  Lydia was a trader in purple, a color reserved for nobility.  How we dress is a statement.

There are certain factors in how we dress.  What are the reasons we wear clothes?  A few would be modesty, protection from the elements, group identity, class identity, showing mourning or celebration, broadcasting attitude. 

Sometimes clothing makes a statement.  Hats can mean defiance and rebellion.  I remember one Sunday a young man came into church wearing his baseball cap.  It was worn at just the right angle.  Some people said he did not know any better.  They said it was not big deal.  Wrong.  I know that for years, from Kindergarten through 12th grade, this young man has been told to take off his hat.  He has had hats confiscated.  Time and time again he has been confronted on this issue.  He knows that wearing a hat is a sign of “in your face.”  When he wears it into church he is telling you and God what he thinks of you.  Deny this reality if you want.  I work with this type of young person every day.

You would think Jesus would not care how we dressed.  Take a look at the parable about the kingdom of heaven found in Matthew 22 starting in verse 1.  You are probably familiar with the story of the king who had a son getting married and was having a big wedding celebration.  When it came time for the banquet everyone began making excuses for not being there.  What I want to look at are a few verses at the end of the parable.
(Matthew 22:11-13 KJV)  And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:  And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.  Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This is obviously about more than a suit of clothes but the issue presented is coming to a wedding improperly dressed.  The result was eternal rejection.  I don’t think it was about how expensive the clothing was.  Obviously even poor people could dress correctly.  In some cultures it might be something as simple as wearing a sprig of green.  Attitude was reflected in clothing. 

Does God care what kind of clothes we wear?  As with so many other questions the answer is “yes” and “no” and “it depends.”  Life is never simple.  Neither is holiness.

Why did you dress the way you are dressed?

homo unius libri

Monday, August 1, 2011

Opus 2011-225, On Lemons and Toast

I hate it when I don’t hear the toast pop up.  Have you had those moments?  You put the bread in and decide that you will spend your time at something more important than toaster gazing.  Then you get so wrapped up in what you are doing that you don’t hear that distinctive click that says, “Your toast is ready.”  In case you have not caught on, it just happened to me.

You have heard the question about “What do you do when life gives you lemons?”  Maybe we need a new one, “What do you do when you don’t hear the toaster?”  As this roars across the internet, going viral, remember that you heard it here first.

I would suggest the best thing to do is give the toaster the finger.  I don’t mean the middle one, raised in defiance.  I mean whichever one you use to push down the lever again.  Remember the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  The guy that first said that had been making toast.  Have you ever noticed how one quote just leads to another?  That is a question for another day.

When your toaster gives you cold, hard bread, push again.  Sometimes that is all it takes.  When your computer won’t work properly, try again.  Sometimes the second time is the charm.  If all else fails, don’t call the Geek Squad, reboot.  And don’t forget to check to see if it is plugged in.  Life does not need to be complicated.

Depending on your personality you may need to put in fresh bread or decide to have yogurt instead.  The important thing is, don’t give up.  Somewhere in your future there is a perfect piece of toast.  Trust me on this.

homo unius libri