Dec 30, 2006

Dec 29, 2006

Dark of Winter Chili


1886 Chili

2 lbs cubed beef (stew beef works well, or brisket), 1 inch cubes
1.5 cups chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz chili powder (Gebhardt’s is best, or Adams, or your favorite bulk style… but no Durkee’s or other yankee powder.)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground Comino
1 10oz can of RO*TEL Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies
16 oz beer (Spaten Optimator is best. WARNING! The use of any Budwieser, Miller, or Coors product can result in severe abdominal cramps and/or diarrhea.)
1 tbsp Black Strap Molasses
1 tsp Masa Harina (corn meal will work)
1 dried Ancho pepper, crushed
1 smoked Jalapeño (large), chopped

Sear beef until grey. Drain off liquid. Add all ingredients to pot (or Crock Pot) EXCEPT Masa Harina.

Simmer 2 – 3 hours hours.
Skim grease.
Mix Masa Harina into a liquid paste and stir in.
Simmer for 1 hour, or until meat is tender.

Garnish with chopped white onions and grated cheddar cheese if desired.
Serve with saltine crackers. East Coast Liberals may use oyster crackers without penalty.

Serves 4 to 6 people. Adjust ingredients accordingly.

ACTUALLY TASTES BEST THE NEXT DAY AFTER SETTING IN FRIDGE OVERNIGHT.

WARNING! The use of any legumes in this recipe can result in intestinal gas, severe abdominal cramps and/or diarrhea.

Dec 27, 2006

On the third day of Christmas...

The Ring Cycle



This is the ring that my sister, June Ann Summer, gave me on my 21st birthday. It was made by James Avery Craftsmen in Kerrville Texas, back when they were a small operation that only sold through church bookstores. You can actually see the knife blade cuts that were made in the wax master. I've been told that this ring was James Avery's first product.

I've worn this ring for 35 years, and I have lots of stories to tell about it. It once got crushed while moving a Coke machine, but it saved my finger from being crushed (I had the ring repaired). It played a small part in my conversion from being an Episcopalinist to becoming a Christian, too. While shopping at Gabbert's for knock-down furniture in 1978 (Gabbert's was then sort of like IKEA), the sales clerk saw my ring and asked me if I was a Christian. "Well, I'm trying to be" was my reply. The young man said back to me, "I'll be praying for you." I got mad. How dare this fellow PRESUME to pray for me! Who was he to do that?

Well, it was few years later that I realized who he was. He was a Christian. I clearly showed to him that I wasn't ("I'm trying to be one.") yet a Christian. When I came to believe Jesus, and give him my life, I remembered that young man and his prayers for me.

When my sister turned 21, she died. Her death set in motion a chain of events that brought many, many people into a direct relationship with Jesus Christ... including both of my parents, and ultimately me. That motion continues today.

The ring broke last summer, and I had James Avery repair it again. They informed me that it was worn so thin, and had been so fatigued, it probably couldn't be repaired again. They suggested I consider having it replaced. But while the sentimental value was too high for me to simply replace it, it was also too high to risk losing it.




This is the new James Avery Latin Cross ring I got for Christmas. It now takes the place of the ring my sister gave me. It's almost twice as thick as my old ring, and the Cross cut-out is of a much more delicate design (long gone are the rustic marks of craftsmen at James Avery).

It was a gift from my girls, Linden, Anna, and Catherine, and that's what makes it a suitable substitute. It brought tears to my eyes as I beheld it Christmas morning... tears of joy and sorrow intermingled.

That's what Christmas is about. Joy and sorrow intermingled to ultimately become joy fulfilled.

Dec 21, 2006

Felix Navidad!



The Message

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
John 3:16-18

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.
Romans 5:6-8

Dec 14, 2006

We are not alone.


Here's a screen shot of the security window that popped up while I was accessing the Dallas Morning New's Religion Blog. Thought I'd share.

A second request to set a cookie came from the Moonie owned Washington Times. The Internets are such a fun place.


Dec 12, 2006

For Jennifer (R.I.P.) and Annie (S.D.G.).

A Very Cellular Song
By Mike Heron

Winter was cold and the clothing was thin
But the gentle shepherd calls the tune
Oh dear mother what shall I do
First please your eyes and then your ears Jenny
Exchanging love tokens say goodnight

Lay down my dear sister
Won't you lay and take your rest
Won't you lay your head upon your saviours breast
And I love you but Jesus loves you the best
And I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight,
And I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.
One of these mornings bright and early and fine.
Goodnight, goodnight
Not a cricket not a spirit going to shout me on
Goodnight, goodnight
I go walking in the valley of the shadow of death
Goodnight, goodnight
And his rod and his staff shall comfort me
Goodnight, goodnight
Oh John the wine he saw the sign
Goodnight, goodnight
Oh John say I seen a number of signs
Goodnight, goodnight
Tell A for the ark that wonderful boat
Goodnight, goodnight
You know they built it on the land getting water to float
Goodnight, goodnight
Tell B for the beast at the ending of the wood
Goodnight, goodnight
You know it ate all the children when they wouldn't be good
Goodnight, goodnight
I remember quite well, I remember quite well
Goodnight, goodnight
I was walking in Jerusalem just like John
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.

Who would lose and who would bruise
Or who would live quite prettily?
And who would love what comes along
And fill the air with joyous song

Who would go and who would come
Or who would simply linger
And who would hide behind your chair
And steal your crystallised ginger

Nebulous nearness cry to me
At this timeless moment
Someone dear to me wants me near, makes me high
I can hear vibrations fly
Through mangoes, pomegranates and planes
All the same
When it reaches me and teaches me
To sigh

Who would mouse and who would lion
Or who would be the tamer
And who would hear directions clear
From the unameable namer

Who would skip and who would plod
Or who would like quite silly
And who would ride backwards on a giraffe
Stopping every so often to laugh

Amoebas are very small

Oh ah ee oo there's absolutely no strife
living the timeless life
I don't need a wife
living the timeless life
If I need a friend I just give a wriggle
Split right down the middle
And when I look there's two of me
Both as handsome as can be
Oh here we go slithering, here we go slithering and squelching on
Oh here we go slithering, here we go slithering and squelching on
Oh ah ee oo there's absolutely no strife
living the timeless life

Black hair brown hair feather and scale
Seed and stamen and all unnamed lives that live
Turn your quivering nerves in my direction
Turn your quivering nerves in my direction
Feel the energy projection of my cells
Wishes you well.

May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide you all the way on.

Dec 11, 2006

"Bring out your dead!"



One of my favorite scenes from "Monty Python's Holy Grail" is the scene of a cart being wheeled along medieval streets, while the cart
attendant calls out for the people living along the street to bring out the bodies of those who have died recently. This is an historically correct scene (especially during the Plagues). The joke in the film is that "gramps" isn't dead yet, but his "son" doesn't want to miss collection day. "Not dead yet!" says the old man. "You soon will be" says the young man, bribing the cart attendant to smash the old man's skull.

It takes on even more meaning (the collection of the dead, not the Python skit) when we realize that one of things the Early Christians were known for was removing the dead from the streets, and treating the human remains with great respect. The term "Christian Burial" was meant to draw a distinct difference between what Early Christians did with human remains, and how pagans of the time treated THEIR dead. The Christians appeared to treat dead pagans with the same care they treated their own. God's having taken form as a human in Jesus Christ made all flesh sacred to them.

Which brings me to the travelling museum show from Europe of human bodies that have been skinned and dissected for our "education" (and entertainment). I'm against it, and so are these people (click here).

Bring out your dead, indeed.

Dec 9, 2006

Now is the time.

Now it is time to awake out of sleep,
for the night is far spent and the day is at hand.

Now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed,
for the night is far spent.

Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness
and put on the armour of light,
for the day is at hand.

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ
and make no provision for the flesh,
for the night is far spent and the day is at hand.


Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.


May the Lord, when he comes,
find us watching and waiting.
Amen.

Dec 7, 2006

A modest new BBQ pit.



I've been toying with the idea of getting serious about barbecue, either as a hobby, or as an activity for "Life After the City of Dallas".

The illustration above (of German origin... like me) is of a concept for an outdoor BBQ pit and restaurant that I could perhaps do on the family property overlooking Lake Texoma. I've been considering the name "June and Harry's", although "BarbarossaBQ" is a late entry.

Those little things are people (customers).

Nov 27, 2006

PMS' Darwin Award.




Sportsman Guide has these camouflage jackets on sale for $49. Perfect for the suicidal outdoorsman. A gift for that "someone special" on your Christmas List?

Nov 5, 2006

Haggard Existence

"The self-sins... dwell too deep within us and are too much
a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light
of God is focused upon them. The grosser manifestations of
these sins--egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion--are
strangely tolerated in Christian leaders, even in circles of
impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as
actually, for many people, to become identified with the
gospel.

I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that

they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in
some sections of the Church visible. Promoting self under the
guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite
little notice."

... A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), Pursuit of God [1948]

Courtesy of CQOD

Oct 17, 2006

Boca Redux.



Again.

Somehow I feel that Johann Strauss' "The Blue Danube Waltz" should be playing, and I should be wearing shoes with Velcro soles.

Oct 16, 2006

Batch'n it.



While the wife's away on extended new-baby duty, I've begun to dig deeper and deeper into the freezer for sustenance. Last night's foraging brought forth this Boca Lasagna with "100% REAL Soy Protein" (including real soy protein gristle). Pretty tasty, actually, and supposedly better for me than the frozen pizza and pot-pie I had for dinner the last two nights.

Maybe I'll do it again this evening (I think I saw its mate a little further back).

Oct 10, 2006

The Comfort Food Gospel. Is this the mainline church of America?


Pastor



Bishop



Evangelist

List of comfort foods

While any foods or beverages could be considered comfort foods, there are many in the U.S. that might be considered 'universally' accepted comfort foods. Most comfort foods in the U.S. are regional in nature, such as collard greens in the South, or a hotdish in the Upper Midwest. Following is a short list of some common universally accepted American comfort foods. The same rules tend to apply internationally, where nationality, regional history and ethnicity tend to define what foods are considered comfort foods.

Apple Pie

Bagel with Cream Cheese

Bagel with Cream Cheese and Lox

Baked Apples

Baked Potato

BBQ Ribs

Beans

Biscuits

Bread

Bread Pudding

Brownies

Carrot Cake

Cheese Danish

Cheesecake

Chicken Fried Steak

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Pot Pie

Chili

Chinese cuisine

Cinnamon Rolls

Chocolate

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cole Slaw

Collard Greens

Corned Beef on Rye

Cornbread

Corn Chips

Corn (creamed)

Corn Dogs

Corn (on/off the cob)

Crab Cakes

Cupcakes

Étouffée (Crawfish or shrimp)

Fajitas

French Fries

French Toast

Fried Catfish

Fried Chicken

Garlic Bread

Grilled Cheese

Gumbo

Ice Cream

Hamburger

Hamburger with garnishes of that individual's choosing

Hot Dish

Hot Dog

Key Lime Pie

Lasagne

Macaroni and Cheese

Mashed Potatoes

Matzo Ball Soup

Meatloaf

Milk Toast

Noodle Kugel

Oatmeal

Omelette

Onion Rings

Pasta

Pancakes

Peach Cobbler

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Pecan Pie

Philly Cheesesteak

Pizza

Potato Chips

Potato Latkes

Potato Salad

Prunes

Rice

Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Pudding

Roast Beef

Rotisserie Chicken

Scrapple

Shepherd's Pie

Soup (particularly Chicken Noodle Soup)

Spaghetti

Stir Fry

Stuffed Peppers

Turkey and Stuffing with Cranberry Sauce

Waffles


Isaiah 40

Comfort for God's People
1 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.

2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD's hand
double for all her sins.


There you have it. We believe we've earned our "comfort" from God.

We go to church to be comforted by indulging in a guilty pleasure. We come for a sweet-treat reward for our week of being "good". We clamor after spiritual candy, happily paying for a banana-split for the soul.

We know the fattening intake of empty calories is bad for us, so we limit our intake. We save God for a once-a-week indulgence ("Sunday morning Happy Hour"), or for "special occasions" likes Christmas, Easter,weddings, christenings, and funerals.

Longing for false childhood memories of "home", we have become spiritual-food junkies. We are loyal to our name-brand religions, addicted to their sugar-coated gospels, deep-fried discipleship, and a creme-filled christ on a wafer.

Where's the meat? We'd gag on the raw meat of Jesus. We need beef-jerky and salt-pork for our long journey, but we pack Snickers and fruit roll-ups (some who take their "religion" seriously take trail mix to keep their bowels regular).

In the Land of Plenty, we load up on Good-N-Plentys. Our bellies distend, our teeth become perforated. We sense a problem, so we switch to Diet Coke as a spiritual discipline during the week.

Enabled by the clerical Ronald McDonald, Jack, and the Burger King,
we are going to hell via the drive-through. Will that be cash, credit, or debit?

Did I mention the cost? It's cheap grace.

Oct 6, 2006

Meet June Anne LaGrone.



June Anne LaGrone in the arms of her Grandmother, Linden Summer.
June Anne, daughter of Catherine and Riley LaGrone, arrived yesterday at 1:20 PM (following about 12 hours of drug-free labor).

June Anne is named after my mother Freda June, and my sister June Ann. In Heaven, they take delight in this little earth-bound angel's arrival.

It is within the realm of statistical probablility that June is the 300th million American.

Oct 2, 2006

How we "do" church.



We "do church" mostly by keeping our eyes fixed on our rearview mirrors.

We focus on what used to be, and on where we've been. We watch it all shrink in size, and we flip the high-beam guard down should any "bright lights" come up behind us to pass.


We don't look where we are going. We don't look toward our destination. We swerve across the road, forcing others into the ditch.

We miss turns. We run red lights. We drive off the road, and see it as something in the past. We live our lives as the church in reverse.

We've forgotten where we're supposed to be going, mistaking where we came from for our destination.

WARNING: Objects in mirror are further away than they appear.

But along the way, off the wide road, people walk toward the destination ahead. Some are running. Many have gotten out of the broken down and wrecked cars that litter the roadside. Pedestrians have no need of rearview mirrors. They walk by light and compass.

Luke 9:62 (New International Version)

Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

One Hundred and Seventy One Years Ago Today.



Sep 29, 2006

iLud



Ludwig van Beethoven
7th Symphony


BBC Philharmonic
Gianandrea Noseda, con.

MP3 download from the BBC, played on my iPod.

Sep 26, 2006

This is a snowflake. Pure chance (sure).



Scanning electron micrograph of a capped column snowflake, with rime frost, a white ice that forms when the water droplets in fog freeze to the outer surfaces of objects, on both ends. When the riming process continues so that the shape of the original snow crystal is no longer identifiable, the resulting crystal is referred to as graupel.

Photo credit: Eric Erbe and Chris Pooley, USDA

Sep 14, 2006

Alpha in the House


We started our Safe House Alpha last night.
For various reasons (including but not limited to my personal near burn-out), we are doing our churh's Alpha Course in our home. The idea is to have an intimate, comfortable setting, home-cooked (or seemingly) meals, and a family feel.

Our house is a little small, but it seemed to work. I have some furniture re-arranging to do, and some schedule fine-tuning, but the format shows promise. Ideally, we would multiply these around the city, sort of like Tupperware Parties.

Aug 21, 2006

Does MADD know about this?


Houston Metro Bus Stop.

Sure, I can understand the problem, but I'm not sure this is the best way to get drunk drivers off the streets.

Aug 11, 2006

We are playing for "keeps".


Jesus chases the money-changers from his father's house, and the Pope sells indulgences there. Has anything really changed?

Do I really need to say anything more? Perhaps you'll listen to another, more authoritive voice.

"I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You're not cold, you're not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You're stale. You're stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, 'I'm rich, I've got it made, I need nothing from anyone,' oblivious that in fact you're a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.

"Here's what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that's been through the refiner's fire. Then you'll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You've gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see.

"The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they'll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!

"Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I'll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That's my gift to the conquerors!

"Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches."

The Revelation to Saint John 3:15-22 (The Message)

Aug 7, 2006

Jesus says: "Ask. Seek. Knock. Open."



Matthew 7:7-11 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

Luke 11:9-13 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Revelation 3:20 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

Aug 6, 2006

Chicken or egg?



A dear friend recently suggested that perhaps I should visit a counselor about my anger issues. Another opinioned that I'd make a great mentor if only I didn't have such a negative attitude. The sketch above is a self-portrait from about 1989, when I was trying to run a struggling advertising agency with partners who were less than, um, cooperative.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Today, in 1945.



A Roman Catholic church in Hiroshima, Japan. Auguat, 1945. For Roman Catholics (and many other Christians), today is the Feast of the Transfiguration.
Luke 28:31
About eight days after saying this, he climbed the mountain to pray, taking Peter, John, and James along. While he was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white.

Aug 3, 2006

The Prisoner.



All "baptized" Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. We are, as Paul says, a Temple for God to live in.


But too many Christians try to be less the Temple of the Spirit, than to be the Spirit's Prison, a place where the Holy Spirit is kept in a kind of solitary confinement...under lock and key. We prefer to see it as some sort of "protective custody", as if the Spirit is untrustworthy and incapable of being freed from our prisons of doctrine and fear. We set ourselves up "in loco parentis" as guardians of God's foolishness.

We only fool ourselves.

If we try to run a prison for He who can't be contained, we end up guarding an empty building, populated only with prison guards. We look into our hearts, see the guards and say, "Oh good! The Spirit is safe!"

The reality of the situation is this; all we have done is to try and make ourselves safe from the Spirit.

Foolish Galatians.

Jul 31, 2006

Taking notes in church.



When I was a kid, I used to keep myself entertained during boring sermons by drawing pictures on the Visitors' Cards.

As an adult, I've left that childish behavior behind.

Jul 28, 2006

Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.



"But when once Christ had called him, Peter had no alternative: he must leave the ship and come to Him. In the end, the first step of obedience proves to be an act of faith in the word of Christ.


But we should completely misunderstand the nature of grace if we were to suppose that here was no need to take the first-step, because faith was already there. Against that, we must boldly assert that the step of obedience must be taken before faith can be possible.

Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe."


-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Jul 24, 2006

The Question, "What Is an Arminian?"



Answered by a Lover of Free Grace
by John Wesley

1. To say, "This man is an Arminian," has the same effect on many hearers, as to say, "This is a mad dog." It puts them into a fright at once: They run away from him with all speed and diligence; and will hardly stop, unless it be to throw a stone at the dreadful and mischievous animal. 

2. The more unintelligible the word is, the better it answers the purpose. Those on whom it is fixed know not what to do: Not understanding what it means, they cannot tell what defence to make, or how to clear themselves from the charge. And it is not easy to remove the prejudice which others have imbibed, who know no more of it, than that it is "something very bad," if not "all that is bad!" 

3. To clear the meaning, therefore, of this ambiguous term, may be of use to many: To those who so freely pin this name upon others, that they may not say what they do not understand; to those that hear them, that they may be no longer abused by men saying they know not what; and to those upon whom the name is fixed, that they may know how to answer for themselves. 

4. It may be necessary to observe, First, that many confound Arminians with Arians. But this is entirely a different thing; the one has no resemblance to the other. An Arian is one who denies the Godhead of Christ; we scarce need say, the supreme, eternal Godhead; because there can be no God but the supreme, eternal God, unless we will make two Gods, a great God and a little one. Now, none have ever more firmly believed, or more strongly asserted, the Godhead of Christ, than many of the (so called) Arminians have done; yea, and do at this day. Arminianism therefore (whatever it be) is totally different from Arianism.

5. The rise of the word was this: JAMES HARMENS, in Latin, Jacobes Arminius, was first one of the Ministers of Amsterdam, and afterwards Professor of Divinity at Leyden. He was educated at Geneva; but in the year 1591 began to doubt of the principles which he had till then received. And being more and more convinced that they were wrong, when he was vested with the Professorship, he publicly taught what he believed the truth, till, in the year 1609, he died in peace. But a few years after his death, some zealous men with the Prince of Orange at their head, furiously assaulted all that held what were called his opinions; and having procured them to be solemnly condemned, in the famous Synod of Dort, (not so numerous or learned, but full as impartial, as the Council or Synod of Trent,) some were put to death, some banished, some imprisoned for life, all turned out of their employments, and made incapable of holding any office, either in Church or State.

6. The errors charged upon these (usually termed Arminians) by their opponents, are five: (1.) That they deny original sin; (2.) That they deny justification by faith; (3.) That they deny absolute predestination; (4.) That they deny the grace of God to be irresistible; and, (5.) That they affirm, a believer may fall from grace.
With regard to the two first of these charges, they plead, Not Guilty. They are entirely false. No man that ever lived, not John Calvin himself, ever asserted either original sin, or justification by faith, in more strong, more clear and express terms, than Arminius has done. These two points, therefore, are to be set out of the question: In these both parties agree. In this respect, there is not a hair's breadth difference between Mr. Wesley and Mr. Whitefield.

7. But there is an undeniable difference between the Calvinists and Arminians, with regard to the three other questions. Here they divide; the former believe absolute, the latter only conditional, predestination. The Calvinists hold, (1.) God has absolutely decreed, from all eternity, to save such and such persons, and no others; and that Christ died for these, and none else. The Arminians hold, God has decreed, from all eternity, touching all that have the written word, "He that believeth shall be saved: He that believeth not, shall be condemned:" And in order to this, "Christ died for all, all that were dead in trespasses and sins;" that is, for every child of Adam, since "in Adam all died."

8. The Calvinists hold, Secondly, that the saving grace of God is absolutely irresistible; that no man is any more able to resist it, than to resist the stroke of lightning. The Arminians hold, that although there may be some moments wherein the grace of God acts irresistibly, yet, in general, any man may resist, and that to his eternal ruin, the grace whereby it was the will of God he should have been eternally saved.

9. The Calvinists hold, Thirdly, that a true believer in Christ cannot possibly fall from grace. The Arminians hold, that a true believer may "make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience;" that he may fall, not only foully, but finally, so as to perish for ever.

10. Indeed, the two latter points, irresistible grace and infallible perseverance, are the natural consequence of the former, of the unconditional decree. For if God has eternally and absolutely decreed to save such and such persons, it follows, both that they cannot resist his saving grace, (else they might miss of salvation,) and that they cannot finally fall from that grace which they cannot resist. So that, in effect, the three questions come into one, "Is predestination absolute or conditional?" The Arminians believe, it is conditional; the Calvinists, that it is absolute.

11. Away, then, with all ambiguity! Away with all expressions which only puzzle the cause! Let honest men speak out, and not play with hard words which they do not understand. And how can any man know what Arminius held, who has never read one page of his writings? Let no man bawl against Arminians, till he knows what the term means; and then he will know that Arminians and Calvinists are just upon a level. And Arminians have as much right to be angry at Calvinists, as Calvinists have to be angry at Arminians. John Calvin was a pious, learned, sensible man; and so was James Harmens. Many Calvinists are pious, learned, sensible men; and so are many Arminians. Only the former hold absolute predestination; the latter, conditional.

12. One word more: Is it not the duty of every Arminian Preacher, First, never, in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach; seeing it is neither better nor worse than calling names? -- a practice no more consistent with good sense or good manners, than it is with Christianity. Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly of it? And is it not equally the duty of every Calvinist Preacher, First, never in public or in private, in preaching or in conversation, to use the word Arminian as a term of reproach? Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly thereof; and that the more earnestly and diligently, if they have been accustomed so to do? perhaps encouraged therein by his own example!


From the Thomas Jackson edition of The Works of John Wesley, 1872.

Jul 11, 2006

Life line.



Your little boat is caught in a raging storm, taking on water as it is tossed to and fro. You are clinging to the bulkhead for all your life, even though you boat is sinking. Drowning is imminent, either from being thrown overboard, or from going down with your boat.

Just as all appears lost, a hero comes by and attaches a life line to your boat. He works his way from his big ship to your small, sinking craft. He reaches his hand out to you and says calmly but forcefully, "Let go of your boat, take my hand, and I will save you!"


You feebly extend your arm and he grasps you securely, first by the wrist and then by the waist, as he begins hauling you to safety. He clearly will not let go as he carries you back to his vessel. Exhausted, you collapse in his arms. You have been rescued from certain death. You have been saved.

Once on shore at safe haven, there is a big celebration over your miraculous rescue. As people cheer and celebrate, you go on and on about the courage and strength of your rescuer, how he put his life on the line to save yours. The hero, however, simply says how glad he is that you put your trust in him and, at the decisive moment, you reached out to him and you let go of your sinking boat.

How foolish it would be to imagine that you saved yourself.


But it would be equally foolish to imagine that you didn't need to let go and reach out when called.

To be saved, one must let go. To win, one must surrender.

Jul 10, 2006

WARNING: I am not kidding.


Cute girl (my daughter, Mrs. Catherine LaGrone), and man with funny hat (me).

The picture above was taken at Green Mesquite in Austin (a nice, if mediocre, BBQ joint on Barton Springs Road). I've posted this picture to show me wearing my Kierkegaard ballcap. It's my favorite hat. That's the third ballcap that patch has been on over the last 25 years. Cap Number 4 is imminent.

Most people think it's either: A) Funny; "A Kiekegaard ballcap, how funny!", or B) a bit pretentious; "Oh, an existential philosopher's name on a cap. You want people to think you're an intellectual, right?".

They're all wrong. It's meant as a warning, a danger sign. "Danger! Stand Back! Unsafe!" it says.

Soren Kierkegaard recognized the complete decay of the institutionalized/established church, and saw that the only thing to be done was to tear it down to its very foundation and build it up again, but following the plans more closely this time. Less wood, brass, and stone, and more blood, sweat, and tears. A new reformation.


This is not what church leaders want to do (or hear). They want to continue the construction they have done, adding layer upon layer of decoration, paint, carpet, insulation, stucco. Laying on their efforts to stand above the efforts of their predecessors until the framework crashes down beneath the burden of weight.

So in the end, we both strive for the same result...but for different reasons.

Perhaps I should put it in a yellow diamond.


Jul 5, 2006

It's called the book of "acts" for a very good reason.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

The Actions of the Holy Spirit 1:8

Jul 3, 2006

semper reformanda

"Always being reformed."

A shortened form of a motto of the Protestant Reformation, Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda est secundu Verbum Dei ("the reformed Church is always being reformed according to the Word of God"), which refers to the Protestant argument that the church must continually re-examine itself, reconsider its doctrines, and be prepared to accept change, in order to conform more closely to orthodox Christian belief as revealed in Holy Scripture. The shortened form, semper reformanda, literally means "ever to be reformed", and the usual translation, "always reforming", is taken from a sentence where it is used in a passive Periphrasis construction.

P.S. Wiki is your friend.

Jun 28, 2006

No need for faith in the unknown.

I will not ask you to have faith in something you cannot see, except for the visible results of its presence around you.

I will not ask you to believe in something you cannot touch, except in how it makes you feel in your heart.

I will not ask you to have faith in something you cannot hear, expect for the sound of the rushing wind and joyful laughter in your ears.

If seeing, touching, and hearing are not enough, then I will not ask you to believe in something you cannot taste.

But I will ask you to taste and see and hear and feel. And if you do those things, there is no need to ask you to believe, because you will have faith not in what is unseen, unfelt, or unheard, but in what you have tasted.

Faith in the unseen that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes about is the Faith in the New Jerusalem, the coming City of God. The Kingdom of God has broken in, here, now, with ample evidence.

Taste and see and know. Now.

Jun 15, 2006

Three types of "Evangelism"


The Carney Barker: Televangelists fit this stereotype, but local preachers can emulate it. They love the "prosperity gospel" and the "world". Their god too often is mammon, not Yahweh, and their "evangelism" has more to do with their own power and wealth than with bringing in the New Jerusalem.



The Airline Pilot: This type of "evangelist" usually pastors a comfortable church of a main-line denomination. They could be Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, or Lutheran (Did I miss anyone? Sorry). The established Reformed churches are especially guilty of this type of evangelism. The model of the airline pilot is that of the captain of the aircraft (sky pilot?) who comes on the PA to announce how high above the toils of the earth the assembled group is flying, remind them of their destination, tell the passengers that everything is all right ("Just a little turbulence."), point out features "down below" ("We are now flying over the Mojave Desert, where it's 120 degrees."), and occasionally walk down the aisle to make sure everyone is comfortable. It's a nice flight, true enough, but the doors are closed. It's a sealed, pressurized environment.



The Doorman: He stands at the curb waiting for the guests arrival. When they arrive, he greets them, helps them with their luggage, opens and holds the door for them, and ushers them to the Registration Desk. If it's raining, he'll hold an umbrella. He'll offer directions, and make suggestions so that the guest's stay will be enjoyable. The most important thing he does, however, is he opens the door, holds it open, and even helps with the baggage. He is the Evangelist who oftens has the most "success" in bringing people into the Church.

Ideally, The Evangelist would be a mixture of the best qualities of all these types, and avoid the dangers associated with them. The Doorman wouldn't "screen" people, the "Barker" would make sure everyone heard the "invitation", and the Pilot would make sure the plane was full before "taking off".