Dec 12, 2007

No Nie-jerk reaction

Institutions can never conserve without betraying the movements from which they proceed. The institution is static, whereas its parent movement has been dynamic; it confines men within its limits, while the movement had liberated them from the bondage of institutions; it looks to the past, [although] the movement had pointed forward. Though in content the
institution resembles the dynamic epoch whence it proceeded, in spirit it is like the [state] before the revolution. So the Christian church, after the early period, often seemed more closely related in attitude to the Jewish synagogue and the Roman state than to the age of Christ and his apostles; its creed was often more like a system of philosophy than like the living gospel.

... H. Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962), The Kingdom of God in
America [1959]

Nov 27, 2007

My proposed epitaph.

"We can not have all things to please us,
no matter how we try.
Until we've all gone to Jesus,
we can only wonder why."

-- Gillian Welch

Nov 19, 2007

This is an important point to remember.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is not for the well-meaning:
it is for the desperate."

--James Denney, D.D. (1856-1917), Scottish theologian and preacher.

Are you truly desperate (sinfully so), or are you comfortably desperate (theologically so)? It makes a very big difference.

Nov 13, 2007

Single Malt Whiskey

"TEN" does indeed indicate that this is a 10 year old bottling. Nose shows damp earth, rot, ripe persimmon, cheap apple juice, peat smoke, seaweed, kelp beginning to rot on a beach. Less integrated than older Ardbegs. Palate shows strong earthy notes along with phenols, tar, old books, lavender, and peat. The finish shows tar, pine pitch, vintage port sediment. An excellent and highly recommended bottling.

What's not to like? It's on my shopping list.

Nov 6, 2007

Gentleman, choose your weapon.

Following up on the previous post, perhaps a change in implements is the intended course of action.

Perhaps I should consider less of this "driving the plough" approach...

...and more of this "gardening can" method. Soaking prayer as opposed to grinding labor.

Nov 4, 2007

The Dust Bowl

Yesterday, while in prayer with others, this is the image that was given to me about my evangelism efforts based at my home church. Dry fields, rocks, and just a few sprigs that soon wither for lack of water, while I relentlessly push a plow over the same empty furrows time and time again. Sisyphus meets the Dust Bowl.

Whereas the Romans plowed salt into the fields of Carthage so that the Carthaginians could never again feed themselves, this field seems to have had spiritual pride plowed into the soil. Spiritual pride is a desiccant that draws all the moisture and nutrients out of the soil, and causes the refreshing rain to simply run-off instead of soaking in.

The field is not without harvest, but the harvest comes from the far edges of the field, from the edges that are closer to other fields.

This was a disturbing image placed into my heart. Was it placed by the enemy as a discouragement? Or was it placed as a sign to shake the dust of this field off my feet?
I'll be unpacking this visual metaphor for a while, and prayerfully seek guidance.

Meanwhile, its Sunday morning, and I have a harness to put on.

Matthew 11:29-30

Oct 23, 2007

Two foreign phrases popular with Conservative Christians you won't find in the Bible (and for good reason).


Status quo.

P.S. I'm not calling out Liberal Christians here because they just claim to find stuff in the Bible to suit their purposes... whether it's there or not..

Oct 22, 2007

Miller Time.

The Great Disappointment occurred on this day in 1843. It's my favorite Religious Commemoration (remembering Karl Barth's observation that authentic Christianity is not a religion).

Celebrate The Disappointment today!

Oct 19, 2007

We have other priorities.

The World is burning before our eyes. The smoke brings tears.

In response to the rising smoke, we (the churches of man) are adjusting the water temperature as we prepare our comfortable baptismal baths, in lieu (we think) of our coming baptism of fire.

"Jesus come. Burn the whole thing down."
-- Over The Rhine, Changes Come

"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.
-- Revelation 3:15-17 (The Message)

Oct 18, 2007

Who am I?

Who am I? They often tell me

I stepped from my cell’s confinement

Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

Like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me

I used to speak to my warders

Freely and friendly and clearly,

As though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me

I bore the days of misfortune

Equally, smilingly, proudly,

Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I myself know of myself?

Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

Struggling for breath, as though hands were

compressing my throat,

Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,

Tossing in expectation of great events,

Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,

Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,

Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

Dietrich Bonehoeffer

March 4,1946

The Wisdom of Willimon.

Though I could not have known it at the time, a momentous event in my faith journey occurred on a Sunday evening in 1963 in Greenville, South Carolina, when, in defiance of the state’s archaic Blue Laws, the Fox Theater opened on Sunday. Seven of us -- regular attenders at the Methodist Youth Fellowship at Buncombe Street Church -- made a pact to enter the front door of the church, be seen, then quietly slip out the back door and join John Wayne at the Fox.

Only lately have I come to see how that evening symbolizes a watershed in the history of Christianity in the United States. On that night, Greenville, South Carolina -- the last pocket of resistance to secularity in the Western world -- gave in and served notice that it would no longer be a prop for the church. If Christians were going to be made in Greenville, then the church must do it alone.

There would be no more free passes for the church, no more free rides. The Fox Theater went head-to-head with the church to see who would provide ultimate values for the young. That night in 1963, the Fox Theater won the opening skirmish.

from Making Christians in a Secular World

by William Willimon

Oct 17, 2007

Can you see where I'm going with this?

Some people like my advice so much that they frame it upon the wall instead of using it.
- Gordon R. Dickson

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
- GK Chesterton

Oct 15, 2007

A note to the Building Committee...

"Let all our chapels be built plain and decent; but not more expensively than is absolutely unavoidable: otherwise the necessity of raising money will make rich men necessary to us. But if so, we must be dependent upon them, yea, and governed by them. And then farewell to the Methodist-discipline, if not doctrine too."

-- John Wesley, from his instructions to American Methodist churches.

Sep 28, 2007

Bad salt and bad leaven.

The underlying problem with the Episcopal Church is simply that there are so few real Christians in the denomination (sad, but true).
Between the Liberals (who are really Unitarians in Drag) and the Conservatives (Republicans with Liturgy), there is almost no commitment to the life-changing aspects of the Gospel.

One of the reasons that the African and 2/3rds World Primates have been unwilling to leap to the Conservatives side more than they have, is a concern that the Conservative Episcopalians are more like the Pharisees of Jesus' time than like the Disciples of Paul's time (this was told to me by an African bishop). Too much love of mammon (including bricks and stained glass), and too little love for the lost and suffering.

Sep 20, 2007

Too important not to repeat.

Instead of always being one of the chief bastions of the social status quo, the Church is to develop a Christian counter-culture with its own distinctive goals, values, standards, and lifestyle--a realistic alternative to the contemporary technocracy which is marked by bondage, materialism, self-centeredness, and greed.

Christ's call to
obedience is a call to be different, not conformist. Such a Church--joyful, obedient, loving, and free--will do more than please God: it will attract the world. It is when the Church evidently is the Church, and is living a supernatural life of love by the power of the Holy Spirit, that the world will believe.

John R. W. Stott (b.1921),
"Obeying Christ in a
Changing World"

Sep 17, 2007

Poetry, in both kinds.

The sun has riz,

the sun has set,

and here I iz,

in Texas yet.

It takes one and a quarter hours per pound to smoke a brisket. You do the math.

Sep 6, 2007

Properly oriented.



I've referenced my James Avery crosslet ring before. Originally a gift from my late sister that I literally wore out, and then a new one as a re-gift from my wife and daughters.

For the first roughly twenty years I wore this ring, including both pre and post conversion, I wore it with the cross facing me. Oriented this way it served as a reminder, and as a comforter, to me. It was aimed at me for my benefit.

However, after I assumed my "evangelical" identity, the next two decades have found the ring rotated so that the cross now faces away from me towards other people. Instead of being a private devotion, it is now an outward proclamation.

The ring's position on my hands reflects my own metamorphosis from inward pietism to outward evangelicalism.

BTW: There is no "correct" orientation for the ring. I only speak of and from my own experience.

Aug 10, 2007

For no reason.

I have gone through my life with a sense of only skimming the surface, hanging around the periphery but never really getting into the nitty-gritty details of existance. This is in spite of having certainly had my share of "life experiences".

Existential angst, perhaps. This photo, of my youngest step-daughter and I, seems proof that I have not remained above the fray, and yet the qualifier betrays the distance.

But what the Lord of Lords has done in my life (and with it) renders that angst obsolete. And yet, in my human condition, it remains.

Aug 6, 2007

August Sixth, always.

And I heard as it were the noise of thunder
One of the four beasts saying come and see and I saw
And behold a white horse.

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts
And I looked and behold, a pale horse
And it's name it said on him was Death
And Hell followed with him.

-- The Revelation to Saint John, via The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash

Aug 3, 2007

June Anne la Grab

June Anne LaGrone (granddaughter) makes her first grab of Pop's hat.

Red letter day.

Jul 27, 2007

Satanic opposition

"The world’s opposition (to the gospel) is strong and subtle. And behind these things stands the devil, bent on ‘taking men alive’ and keeping them prisoner. For the devil hates the gospel and uses all his strength and cunning to obstruct its progress, now by perverting it in the mouths of those who preach it, now by frightening them into silence through persecution or ridicule, now by persuading them to advanced beyond it into some fancy novelty, now by making them so busy with defending the gospel that they have no time to proclaim it."
-- John R.W. Stott, from “The Message of 2 Timothy”

Jul 25, 2007

Product Recall

Office of Information and Public Affairs
Vatican City, Rome

Vatican Recall Hotline: (800) ASK-RATZ
July 10, 2007

VATICAN CITY—Pope Benedict XVI today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer products. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

Name of Products: African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.), Amish, Anabaptist, Anglican, Baptist, Calvinist, Christian Science, Congregationalist, Episcopalian, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Huguenot, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Moravian, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Puritan, Quaker, Seventh-Day Adventist, Shaker, and Zwinglian Christian sects (frequently labeled "Protestant").

Name of Products: Albanian Orthodox, Bulgarian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Czech Orthodox, Cypriot Orthodox, Estonian Orthodox, Finnish Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Latvian Orthodox, Macedonian Orthodox, Montenegrin Orthodox, Polish Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Slovak Orthodox, and Ukranian Orthodox sects (frequently labeled "Eastern" or "Oriental" Orthodox).

Manufacturer: The devil (listed on the New York Stock Exchange as "Angel of the Bottomless Pit," "Beelzebub," "Belial," "Dark Prince," "Evil One," "Fallen Angel," "Foul Fiend," "His Infernal Majesty," "Lucifer," "Mephistopheles," "Mr. Applegate," "Mr. Scratch," "Prince of Darkness," "Satan," and "Tempter").

Hazard: Can fail to achieve salvation on contact.

Incidents/Injuries: Widespread reports of salvific malfunction and consequent exclusion from the Kingdom of Heaven. Users complain of being rerouted to Purgatory and in a few instances to the Fiery Pit.

Cause: Because Jesus Christ subsists only in the Catholic Church of Rome™, adherents to other faiths that self-advertise as Christian must rely on infrequent guest appearances. Although He is omnipresent, He can't be everywhere at once.

Sold at: A complete list of retail outlets has been unavailable to the Church for the past five centuries. We continue our efforts to compile one and will post it online when we can.

Manufactured in: Wittenberg, Germany; Canterbury, England; Zurich, Switzerland; Istanbul, Turkey; Alexandria, Egypt; Boston, Mass.; Palmyra, New York.

Remedy: Consumers should desist adherence to the abovementioned sects, now proven unreliable, and transmit their souls to the Catholic Church of Rome™. United States residents may use this Catholic Church locator. For those who are already deceased, and therefore ineligible for salvation, the Church has commenced discussions about reopening Limbo, which the Vatican decommissioned in April.

-- Slate

Jul 23, 2007

Schoepf's in Belton.

On this last weekend's trip to Kyle/Austin, I drove down 35 on a Friday mid-day. It took over six hours due to heavy rains and slow traffic. Highway hell, I assure you.

But I also stopped for lunch in Belton. I've heard about Schoepf's BBQ, but I'd never seen it. I had a general idea of where it was, so I exited before the Killeen split, and drove into uncharted territory. I drove by the campus of Mary Hardin-Baylor, saw the Bell County Museum (I'm going back).

Schoepf's is an "open pit purchasing" style place. You go to the pit and select your meat(s). Then you go inside and pay, either by the pound ($8 to $10 a pound), or as a prix fixe plate. Sides are available, as are breads and desserts. The brisket looked too grey for my tastes, so I chose ribs and sausage (which came from Elgin, the throne of Texas sausage making). The available sauce was a tomatoey/astringent affair that wasn't without merit (I couldn't help but think that served cold, with a few slices of avacado in it, it might make for an interesting gazpacho). The ribs and the sausage don't need the sauce. Perhaps the brisket and pork chops do.

Good stuff. I'll re-visit another day.

Jul 12, 2007


THE PACK - Joseph Beuys

"If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over
our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms
about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for."

-- C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Regarding the basics of being a follower of Christ Jesus, there is so much confusion, dissension, error, and ignorance held as truth and taught by “churches”, that it is no wonder there are so few actual “followers” of Jesus.

A few points to clarify:

  1. God does not condemn us to a fiery Hell. The “Lake of Fire” in John’s Revelation is a place for the Serpent and his demons. Hell, in the way Jesus spoke of it (Gehenna), is something more akin to a landfill where the garbage is taken and burned (although the fires burn forever). Our willful separation from God is what sends us to the “dump” at the end of our lives. It’s not so much our “punishment” as our reasonable end... to be thrown out with the rest of the useless garbage. When I throw out the garbage, or put an old, un-repairable TV on the curb for rubbish day, I don’t rise from my chair and say “Damn you trash to Hell!” But if the broken item or trash can be refurbished or recycled, I keep it from being thrown into the landfill. As a redeemed sinner, I have been “recycled”. And as someone in whom God’s Holy Spirit resides, I have been “refurbished” (born again).
  2. We do not save ourselves, (i.e., by being good and doing good things), nor are we saved by the actions of others (i.e., ceremonial baptism). We are saved by being united with God via his Holy Spirit’s presence in our selves. Grabbing a “big donut” will not save a drowning man. The buoyancy of a life saver will keep him above the waves so he does not drown. It is the life saver that effects the salvific work. The drowning man merely reaches out to it. But he must decide to quit thrashing, and reach for it. Repent = Reach Out. Failure to reach out to Jesus for rescue results in an eternity in Gehenna (see above). You don't want to go there.
  3. The Holy Trinity is a concept meant to say more about how we experience God than about the nature of God. The Trinity is a concept based on our understanding of God in our dimension. He is a Unity experienced by us as a Trinity. This is one place in orthodoxy where it is indeed “about us”, or at least about our experiences. God (Yahweh) is not so much "Three in One", as he is "One as Three", from our limited observation point.
  4. A vengeful God did not require the brutal murder of his son. The Atonement – how God himself died so that our sin could be removed as a barrier between our Creator and ourselves – is a deep mystery. But the key to it is that God himself became human and suffered a human death at the hands of evil. Somehow, his human death and human resurrection re-established the link between God and mankind lost at the Fall. By becoming human and dying, God somehow set up a way for his Holy Spirit to live in us. I don't understand it, and neither does anyone else here on Earth. Yes, blood sacrifice in pagan cultures is an archetype for God's atoning sacrifice, but Jesus' death on the cross is not the same thing as Polynesian priests throwing virgins into a volcano to insure a good harvest.
  5. The Roman Catholic Church is not the one "True Church", although it is part on the one (there is only one body of Christ), holy (set apart from the world), catholic (universal), and apostolic (derived from the teachings of the apostles) church. Where do they get the idea that the Roman Catholic Church is the sole franchise? It's just Turf Wars fought trying to re-make God in our own image (although in the Roman Catholic Church's case, it does have a lot to do with the fall of the Roman Empire and the "Church" taking on the identity of the Empire). All denominations cling to versions of this popular heresy (The Church of Christ is a prime example). Thank God (truly) we are entering a new, glorious, post-denominational period for the Church. Perhaps the owner is about to return to inspect the property. Trash and useless furniture will all be sent to the dump.

Jul 11, 2007

Farewell to a Lady.

1912 - 2007

Lady Bird Johnson

May the faithful departed rest in God's light eternal.

Jul 3, 2007

Classical Music.

It's certainly classic, and it features strings and woodwinds.

In commemoration of the 67th Wedding Anniversary of June and Harry Summer. Thanks, Folks!

Jun 30, 2007

Great Performances: The history of a venue.

Went to a club last night to hear a group called the Mojo Men play. The bar/club is called "Stout", and it has certain trappings of an Irish pub.

For years, it was a club called "Poor David's Pub" (which has since relocated to a larger space in a trendier area). As Poor David's, I heard many fabulous acts/artists perform there, including (but not limited to):
  • Richard Thompson
  • Leo Kottke
  • John Fahey
  • John Cale
  • Ashley Hutchings and Robin Williamson
  • Bo Diddley
  • Townes Van Zandt
  • John Renbourn
  • Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady (Hot Tuna)
  • Dan Hicks (and his Hot Licks)
But none of those performances has been as important for me to hear and see as last night's group was. What was it that made the Mojo Men so important?

It was their bass player, Marcus Baker.

He is my wife's brother, the one who was hit by a red-light runner about two months ago. After a month in ICU, we were told he probably wouldn't live. The doctor was wrong.

Ask me why.

Jun 23, 2007

Too Good Not To Share.

If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over
our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms
about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed

... C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Jun 3, 2007

How I spent my Sunday afternoon.

The music of chicken basted in butter and Tabasco Sauce over a mesquite smoked fire, with supporting vocals of a Spaten being swallowed.

It's ALL good.

May 20, 2007

Two perspectives on baked-goods.

"I am the bread of life."
-- Jesus, the Christ

"Then let them eat cake!"
-- Marie Antoinette, the Queen

Much of the church that Jesus established, especially here in the West, has taken his living gospel of good news and replaced it with a confectioner's delight. The chewy wholeness, the simple ingredients, the unrefined grains, and the natural elements were deemed too old-fashioned, unappealing, and just simply too plain for contemporary tastes.

Instead, we have concocted beautiful cakes using many of the same ingredients. Only now, we change them to meet our modern tastes. The new recipe calls for bleached wheat, refined sugars, artificial colorings, blended with lots of air to make it easy to chew. The "modern" church has taken away the chewy bread of life, and given us party cake.

Instead of being outraged, we happily consume all we are given, even as others die for lack of simple, life-nourishing, whole-grain bread. With fewer and fewer customers, we look in disgust at the "bread lines" forming on the streets where the homeless gather.

This world is not my home.

May 18, 2007

From an angry soldier.

I can't vouch for its authenticity, and it's not a happy thing, but here goes. It is powerful.

PS: Just because you read it on the internets, it doesn't mean it's true. It just means it got posted.

May 3, 2007

Don't Look Back.

"We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there."

"You can't have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time."

"You can be sincere and still be stupid."

-- Charles Kettering

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

-- Jesus of Nazareth

Apr 28, 2007

Correction and clarification.

Two posts to the Washington Post's blog.

I must have missed something.I could care less about Gonzales firing 8 or,(like Janet Reno did)93.What law is it exactly that the democrats have said he has broken?
I mean of course besides being a republican?I am not a Bush fan,nor did I vote for him but I have noticed,the democrats voted for the war and then backed away when it didn't go well saying they got different intel.Bull!Now they have created a scandal where there isn't
one,and the republicans stand idly by and don't call them on this.What kind of half-ass dog and pony show is this?The democrats criticize and attack everything that goes on in the White House.Are they hoping noone will notice they have been in office 5 months and haven't done a damn thing except go on vacation.They don't have any ideas or plans about anything.
Passed a resolution that is worthless and A bill that is loaded with pork the president said he would veto.I don't think we're getting our moneys worth out of these bunch of whiners and quitters.That would make them losers that I believe will lose big in 2008.They can't fool even democrats forever.But,I don't know,Clinton did!

Posted by: Clay2046 | April 27, 2007 05:50 PM

Clay2046, Well, you're talking about two unrelated issues, that's part of the problem.

How many U.S. Attorneys did George W. Bush fire when he first came into office? 92 is the count that I have. How many did George H.W. Bush fire in 1989? 93. And Reagan? Same story. So the Clinton firings were consistent with precedent.

When presidents first come into office they replace the U.S. Attorneys wholesale. This is part of the political spoils system. Although there is a check here too: The replacement attorneys are confirmed by the U.S. Senate--which serves as a vetting process. It helps to keep marginally qualified, and flatly unqualified candidates out of the selection pool.

Politics may play a role in who gets hired, but it has never come into play late in the process to determine whether a person stays or goes. In the over 140 years since the creation of the Department of Justice U.S. Attorneys are generally only removed mid-term for malfeasance or incompetence.

There has never been a case in our history where a president has fired this many attorneys for reasons that clearly have very little to do with those non-political performance standards.

There are actually a number of other things at work here too--including the removal of appointment provisions from the Patriot Act renewal which cut the Senate and the Courts out of the appointment process; resulting in the appointment of U.S. Attorneys by this administration with little to no prosecutorial experience. That's an issue, because these U.S. Attorneys wield a great amount of power. Had these U.S. Attorneys received Senate confirmation, the Bush administration could at least point the finger of blame, but now this one pretty much falls on them. It's saying something that Bush didn't even feel entirely comfortable running these "interim" appointees through a friendly Senate in 2006 to receive confirmation. I believe the U.S. Attorney for Utah was the only one who went through the normal appointment process in 2006.

At least one area which is likely to come into play is obstruction of justice. The White House and the political staff at the DOJ have asserted that these firings were not done with the purpose of interfering with specific cases, but there is circumstantial case that could be made here. The White House hasn't helped its case much either by its stone walling, continually shifting explanations, the disappearance of relevant emails (in reference to White House political staff), the withholding of evidence; and the embarrassing fact that no one at the Department of Justice, which oversaw this process, is able to state who recommended prosecutors for firing (or removal from the to be fired list), and because of that no one seems to know, or recall, why those names were put on the list in the first place. That's problematic.

The Iraq War spending bill is another entirely different beast. As far as the "pork" goes take a look at the previous war supplementals which have gone through. It seems a little bit odd to develop a conscience over this issue at this stage in the game--especially when the "pork" items in this one are about one-tenth what has gone through in previous bills. In fact the alleged "pork" items in the bill would account for roughly a day and a half of Iraq War spending (we're spending a rate of $7 billion a month--the alleged "pork" items that I've seen in this bill amount to a little under $500 million). If you're a fiscal conservative you'd probably be better off asking about the $800 or billion that has been spent so far, with out-year medical and replacement costs pushing the estimated final price tag to about $2 trillion dollars. Like I said though, that's an entirely different beast.

Posted by: JP2 | April 27, 2007 08:47 PM

Apr 20, 2007

Hot or Not?

Hot. And hot-tempered, too.

But mostly cute, sweet, and adorable.

Apr 18, 2007

"I looked down."

"I looked down."

Those were the words of the driver of a pick-up truck that ran a red-light Saturday morning, striking the car my wife's brother was a passenger in. The seat belts in his Toyota Camry failed to tension immediately (my opinion), resulting in his body travelling a few inches after the violent impact before being restrained by the belts. Had he not been wearing his seat belt, he would be dead. Instead, he has twelve broken ribs, two collapsed lungs, small fractures of his vertebrae, internal bleeding along his hip (although his hip and pelvis are not broken).

He is in the ICU at the best trauma hospital in Texas. His full recovery will be slow, but barring complications, will be full.

His wife suffered a concussion and was knocked unconscious. She was driving, and the airbag in her steering wheel did a better job of keeping her in place.

The driver of the other vehicle was/is full of remorse and accepts responsibility for running the red light. But his/her statement to the police haunts me.

"I looked down."

UPDATE: 4/30/2007
My brother-in-law is improving, but 17 days later, he remains in ICU. Do you pray? Pray for Marcus' healing in body, mind, and spirit.

Relapse yesterday. Day twenty in ICU

Day twenty-eight. Some improvement this week after they performed a tracheotomy to help him breathe. Still in ICU.

My brother-in-law was transferred from ICU to a criticalcare hospital last Friday. Saturday night, he had breathing difficulties and a high fever and was transferred to ICU again. At 3:30 Sunday morning, he stopped breathing and his heart stopped. He was resesucated, but by 8 AM, the doctors were saying his chances were poor. By 10 AM, his chances had improved to over 50% (said the doctors). As of yesterday, his improval has been dramatic, but the roller coaster ride continues.

Ventilator removed. He's back to breathing on his own. Prayers! More prayers!

Apr 9, 2007

Bunny tries to kill Pascha, but fails.

"It is not experience of life but experience of the Cross
that makes one a worthy hearer of confessions. The most
experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows
infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian
who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest
psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp
this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what
distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know
the godlessness of men. And so it also does not know that man
is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by
forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of
a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a
Christian brother, I can dare to be a sinner."
.. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Life Together

Apr 8, 2007

Easter, but not Holy Pascha.

From Wikipedia:

In most languages of Christian societies, other than English, German and some Slavic languages, the holiday's name is derived from Pesach, the Hebrew name of Passover, a Jewish holiday to which the Christian Easter is intimately linked. Easter depends on Passover not only for much of its symbolic meaning but also for its position in the calendar; the Last Supper shared by Jesus and his disciples before his crucifixion is generally thought of as a Passover meal, based on the chronology in the Gospels.[1] Some, however, interpreting "Passover" in John 18:28 as a single meal and not a seven-day festival,[2] interpret the Gospel of John as differing from the Synoptic Gospels by placing Christ's death at the time of the slaughter of the Passover lambs, which would put the Last Supper slightly before Passover, on 14 Nisan of the Bible's Hebrew calendar.[3] According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "In fact, the Jewish feast was taken over into the Christian Easter celebration."

The English name, "Easter", and the German, "Ostern", derive from the name of Germanic Goddess of the Dawn (thus, of spring, as the dawn of the year) - called Ēaster, Ēastre, and Ēostre, in various dialects of Old English. In England, the annual festive time in her honor was in the "Month of Easter" or Ēosturmonath, equivalent to April/Aprilis[4]. The Venerable Bede, an 8th Century English Christian monk wrote in Latin:

"Eosturmonath, qui nunc paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a dea illorum quae Eostre vocabatur et cui in illo festa celebrabant nomen habuit."

Which means: "Eastermonth, which is now interpreted as the paschal month, was formerly named after the goddess Eostre, and has given its name to the festival."

In most Slavic languages, the name for Easter either means Great Day or Great Night. For example Wielkanoc and Velikonoce mean Great Night or Great Nights in Polish and Czech, respectively. Великден (Vělikděn') and Вялікдзень (Vjalikdzěn') mean 'The Great Day' in Bulgarian and Ukrainian respectively. In Serbian and Croatian, however, the day's name reflects a more particular theological connection: it is called "Uskrs," meaning 'Resurrection.'

Happy Pascha!

There is more than one name by which humans may be saved. It's a long list. These are them. End of list.

Accept no substitutes.

Apr 5, 2007

Thursday in Holy Week: Maundy or Money? Mammon or Yahweh?

The New York Times

April 4, 2007

It Didn’t End Well Last Time

Not since the Roaring Twenties have the rich been so much richer than everyone else. In 2005, the latest year for which figures are available, the top 1 percent of Americans — whose average income was $1.1 million a year — received 21.8 percent of the nation’s income, their largest share since 1929.

Over all, the top 10 percent of Americans — those making more than about $100,000 a year — collected 48.5 percent, also a share last seen before the Great Depression.

Those findings are no fluke. They follow a disturbing rise in income concentration in 2003, and a sharp increase in 2004. And the trend almost certainly continues, spurred now as then by the largess of top-tier compensation, and investment gains that also flow mainly to the top. For the bottom 90 percent of Americans who are left with half the pie, average income actually dipped in 2005. The group’s wages picked up in 2006, but not enough to make up for the lean years of this decade.

Sensing a political problem, administration officials from President Bush on down have begun acknowledging income inequality. But in their remarks, they invariably say it has been around for decades and is largely driven by technological change. Translation: “We didn’t cause it, and trying to do something about it would be silly.”

Let’s get a few things straight: First, the economic gains of the last few years have been exceptionally skewed. From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, the gap between rich and poor widened considerably, but produced nothing like today’s intense concentration of income at the very top. And from 1995 to 2000, the long trend toward inequality was interrupted by general prosperity. The richest Americans did best, propelled by stock market gains. But the lower rungs also advanced.

Second, government policies do matter. Part of the reason for the shared prosperity of the late 1990s was an increase in the minimum wage and a big expansion of the earned income tax credit. During the same period, a strong economy coupled with fiscal discipline — including tax increases, spending cuts and binding budget rules — conquered budget deficits and furthered job growth while providing a foundation for reasonably adequate social spending.

In contrast, the economic policies of the Bush years have failed to benefit most Americans. The tax cuts have overwhelmingly benefited the richest. As a result, the tax code does less to narrow the income gap now than it did as recently as 2000. At the same time, important social spending has been cut. That exacerbates disparities, because middle-class and poor Americans use government services more than affluent Americans.

The nation needs an administration that will offer solutions for the scourge of income inequality.

Apr 4, 2007

Wednesday in Holy Week: How to Follow Jesus.

When Jesus asks us to take up his purpose in the Great Commisiion, it is like asking a drowning man to become a lifeguard.
And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you'll trust him
For he's touched your perfect body with his mind.

Leonard Cohen, Suzanne

Apr 3, 2007

Tuesday in Holy Week: How Not to Follow Jesus.

I had lunch with a friend today. In our far-ranging discussions about urban and sub-urban planning issues, she discussed her attempts (along with her husband) to get a Homeowners' Association started for their suburban neighborhood.

They had a block party, organized interest, and created a temporary name: Briarcreek Homeowners' Association. Enthusiasm ran high.

For their next meeting/event, they sent out announcements, only now one of the organizers had changed the name to something that sounded friendlier to him: The Briarcreek Neighborhood Fellowship.

Almost nobody came.

The overwhelming response through follow-up phone calls was, "I saw the name 'Fellowship', and thought it was a church." In a mostly Anglo middle-class community, where perhaps 70% of the people do not attend a church, anything that even sounded like a church was the kiss of death.

Lesson: If you want to reach the un-churched/under-churched with the Good News of Jesus Christ, don't invite them to church. "Church" is itself the kiss of death.

Apr 2, 2007

Monday in Holy Week: How Not to Follow Jesus.

I saw this bumper-sticker on a car this morning as I was leaving my men's Christian accountability small-group meeting. At first, I liked it, but within a few moments I began to see it differently. I began to see it as someone who didn't just come from an early morning meeting of disciples of Jesus. I saw it through the eyes of a lost soul, and my enthusiasm drained away.

This may well be the least "Christian" bumper sticker I've ever seen. Much like Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the Publican praying in the Temple, this message combines Triumphalism with Works Righteousness into a deadly "one-two" punch.

This message confirms the opinion many non-Christians have that Christians are judgemental, self-righteous, and intolerant, while possessing a victimization complex, too. Instead of being "as gentle as a dove, and wise as a serpent," this sticker announces someone as being "gentle as a snake, and wise as a pigeon."
It was bumper stickers like this that led me to produce the Jesus Prayer bumper stickers – "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on Me, a Sinner."

See the difference? Repent and proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord. It's a big difference from the message behind "I Pray. Get Used to It."

I once considered making bumper stickers for today's Pharisees: "I'm Saved. To Hell with You!" The message on that little Toyota may well achieve the same effect.

Morningside 1980

I took this picture of the sunlight refected on a wall in my driveway in 1980, not knowing for sure what I was taking a picture of. I can see it today.

Can you?