Saturday, September 30, 2006

And what is love?

And some of the question may be answered in the expressions of love we see.

A man sitting by his grandmother and letting her know what was going on since he had one of the easiest voices for her to hear. That's an expression of love.

An aunt telling her nephews to ask this and that question of the doctor everything they called to report news about their dying father. That's an expression of love.

A clerk letting someone stay in the lobby for a few minutes to warm up. That's an expression of love.

But then there are people who think that they have to hug you to show their 'love' without realizing that some people don't like hugs.

But then there are people who think that they have to comment on someone's accent to help them improve without realizing that a different accent doesn't mean that one is better than another.

But then there are people.

And some of the moves are good and some are bad. Do we see the good in people or do we look for the bad? We don't have to be a Pollyanna always seeing the good, but a little bit of looking for the the and/or the bad, whichever we don't usually see, isn't all bad.


For me the love I feel for each person is different. But there are similarities. My father was, in many ways, a great flirt. He enjoyed the company of women and made them feel beuatiful and appreciated. But the great love of his life was my mother. I, too, enjoy the company of women. But the love I saw between my parents is the reason I didn't marry a woman, though I came close to marrying a couple of women. I just didn't have the same class of love fore any of those women that I came close to marrying that I saw between my parents. Realizing that I would only feel/find/experience the same sort of care and partnership that my parents had with each when I started looking for the right man was one of the greatest gifts of God in my life.

And love is one of the things I think everyone should experience. Whether it is the love of parent and child, the love of two partners in a lifetime relationship, the love of siblings for each other, the love of human for God that love enriches life. Then again love as in the greek language (eros, philia, adelphia, and I'm blankning on the fourth) aren't as easily separated as C.S. Lewis made them out to be in his book "Four Loves", the elements cross over and there are clear useages that show that cross-over in classical and koine greek. Yet there are and should be boundaries in the expression of those loves. My dad appreciated (and flirted with) women, not by groping them or giving unwelcome hugs, but by enjoying their conversation and personality as well as their looks. The sexual desire may have been present in the admiration but that didn't mean that he intended to act on that desire.

I think one of the great misfortunes brought about by homophobia is the fear that brotherly love will turn into something different. Or that showing love and affection to another man will be onstrued as sexual interest. That has deprived men of the nurturing relationships that they need with both men and women. That has confined men and women to roles that aren't God-given, but a cultural imposition.

And homophobiais one of the reasons we don't separate love and sex the way that we can. One can love and be sexually attracted without acting on that sexual attraction. There's a difference between enjoying the beauty and thinking one has to take action. For heterosexual misogynists the sexual attraction they feel for women is devoid of love or understanding, but for heterosexual men like my father the sexual attraction they feel for women translates into actions that support them and help them become more fully who they are.

To talk of love without mentioning sexuality is as flawed as talking about sexuality without mentioning love. But sexuality is more than inserting one body part into another. And love is an experience that should not be missed. There are people for whom the experience of sex can be somewhat divorced from love. (Dan Savage has a good take on someone who wants sex with and without love and without telling) But that's beside the point. Sexuality in its richest form is part of a loving relationship with a lifetime commitment and so both should be in the same conversation.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Symbols and chapels

A friend recently wrote about a conflict in his community. The hospital has had a chapel with several Christian symbols for years, but someone from a Missouri Synod Lutheran congregation has started lobbying for all symbols to be removed. That started me thinking about one of the classic Lutheran and Reformed divisions. That is our position on adiaphora. Are things not forbidden permitted. Or are only things permitted to be done. In the chapel case it seems that the Lutheran and Presbyterian have switched positions.

But it is more than that. How do we interpret scripture. The traditional formulation of literal doesn't always apply. Is the crucifix a graven image and the cross not so? And what about using only those musical instruments mentioned in the Bible vs using only voice to praise vs any instrument? And was the waltz lascivious because bodies were pressed against each other any more scandalous than some of the dance moves of today (I can't remember what they're called).

Certainly some changes should be opposed. I think the leeway we in the USA are starting to give on torture is abominable. But I just can't get too worked up about symbols. The actions behind those symbols yes.

I'm thinking also of the debate over putting a wigwam symbol on a soldiers grave that was happening a few months/years ago. Yes for many that particular symbol is one of devil worship, but the wicking I have met don't believe they are worshiping the devil or a devil or the demonic. I tend to think the demonstration of that symbol happened as a result of Christians persecuting those of another religion rather than actual devil worship - though some of the latter people persecuted may have taken that symbol as devil worship as a result of the prior persecution - and just can't get all that worked up about it.

Yet symbols are important. For many people the visual representations help them begin to pray or approach God. For me, as someone who learns primarily through hearing and movement, visual symbols just can't be as important. I get more irritated over poor and insipid music than any piece that is primarily visual.

What gets me going is a lack of tolerance for little things like symbols and a tolerance for actions that harm another. Torture - that is what we should be spending our energy opposing. This or that symbol or none at all is adiaphora, even what music or dance is less important.

Torture, degradation, calling someone names, bullying - those are the things that are important to oppose. Giving the thirsty a cup of water, finding a room for the homeless, visiting those in prison, comforting the sick, supporting those in need, caring for the widow, orphan and stranger - that's what is important to support.

Where do we spend our time?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I'm one who thanks God daily and who also tries to live out their faith in every action. I profess Jesus as my Lord and Savior. But I'm always a little suspicious of those co-religionists who profess Christian alues. It's not that Christians avoid values and morals, but too much emphasis on one's values being Christian reminds me of some other who claim their ground was in Christ. One example:

Today Christians … stand at the head of [this
country]… I pledge that I never will tie myself to parties who want to destroy
Christianity .. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit … We
want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the
theater, and in the press - in short, we want to burn out the *poison of
immorality* which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of
*liberal excess* during the past … (few) years.
[The Speeches of Adolph Hitler, 1922-1939, Vol. 1 (London, Oxford University Press, 1942), pg.

Thanks to a commenter on Think Progress for pointing me to this link.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Good, quick explanations

I tend to be somewhat academic, but for a good explanation of a couple of greek words that have been used to claim homosexuality is a sin go to exgay watch.


My parents must not have known what they were doing. I played in the Rio Grande and the irrigation ditches when I was growing up. But now I've been told that 75 degrees Farenheit is too cold, our heated pool should be at 80 degrees. Certainly that's where we try to keep the pool according to the recommendations from several of the pool foundations, etc., but I think the water in which I played was a little bit colder. The Rio Grande came through my grandparents farm in Colorado. At that point it was fed by snow melt. I don't believe it gets anywhere near 75 or 80 degrees. But I do remember a lot of fun. I do remember warming up as we ran back to the house. I do remember my parents letting us learn by falling down and getting cold and running around and getting hurt.

There's certainly a balance between not caring and being overprotective. I think complaining about five degrees difference in the pool temperature might be one of those overprotective things. If my parents had left us by ourselves at the Rio Grande they might have been on the side of not cautious enough. As it is I think my parents did a pretty good job of getting the right balance.

Of course, I'm a little prejudiced.

Free Speech

I always thought that free speech was about what the government could and couldn't do. My understanding was that my employer could regulate my speech. As a manager I tell my employees what they can and can't say. They have a specified greeting for the phone. They are told not to use swear words or derogatory language. Evidently training someone to work in a hair salon is a different matter or so says a teacher. She should be allowed to give her students pamphlets that say homosexuality is a sin according to her suit. Hmm. Would she have the same opinion if I approached her and said something differently as a teacher?

The sticking point is that employers and employees or teachers and students don't have the same rights and responsibilities as the government and the governed. The teacher is perfectly free to hand out her pamphlets in the public byways and thoroughfairs. But that situation changes when

But the classroom situation isn't a public area and employers can set limits. And one of those limits is setting an area free of sexual harassment. In fact, employers can be sued if they don't provide an area free of sexual harassment. Giving someone a pamphlet that says that they are a sinner because of their sexual orientation when you are their teacher is clearly sexual harassment. It's not in the same order as groping and touching and asking for a date, but it is simply not appropriate. The teacher is in a position of power over and using that to judge what is clearly not in her area of teaching. A gay hairdresser? Who knew? Wait, isn't that one of those stereotypes?

Historically accurate

One fo the gubernatorial candidates this year made a foolish statement that one man one woman was the historically accurate marriage pattern. It shows he doesn't know history and doesn't know the Bible. There's more than a couple of stories from the Old Testament about patriarchs having more than one wife or also having children with the servants. In fact one of the ancestors of Jesus was called righteous by her father-in-law after she dressed up as a prostitute and seduced him. I could go on with more examples but Dipatches from the Culture Wars does a better job.


Are things getting better or worse? The World Bank reports on governance values. A summary and a link to a download here.

Free press, free speech, due process

It seems to me that we in the USA are digging ourselves into a hole. For all our vaunted freedoms that make us better we aren't doing a very good job of sticking to them elsewhere. The New York Times, not usually considered a fringe journal, has another report of a journalist being jailed and held without trial while doing his job. What is happening to us when there is not any indication of an overwhelming swell of outrage. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, due process are all things I thought we held up in opposition to terrorism. But we seem to be giving them up for immediate gain and a complete loss of those values for which we supposedly stand. If we can give these things up so cquickly they aren't what we really value. And I am saddened for all of the people in my family who have fought in war after war for this country and the consititution. Their sacrifices are in vain if we don't keep holding to free speech, free press and due process no matter the cost.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A little too far

I certainly understand statements that one politician or another will energize their opponents. Hilary Rodham Clinton is one such polarizing figure. But I think it's going a little too far to suggest that your opponents would rather vote for Lucifer than for Clinton. But that's what Falwell said. Doesn't sound like much of a Christian if you'd rather vote for the devil than a human.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


erbs 31:10-31
A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The
heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks
wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of
the merchant, she brings her food from far away. She rises while it is
still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her
servant-girls. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her
hands she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and makes
her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her
lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and
her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches
out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid for her household when it
snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson. She makes herself
coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known
in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land. She
makes linen garments and sells them; she supplies the merchant with
sashes. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the
time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of
kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call
her happy; her husband too, and he praises her: "Many women have done
excellently, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceitful, and beauty
is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her a
share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the
city gates. (Proverbs 31:10-31, NRSV).
Whenever Ir ead this passage I think what fools there are that think a woman in scripture just sits and home and tends to the house. This woman conducts a workshop and business affairs. She's involved in the community. Sounds like a feminist to me.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Double Standard

There are many things that I have a problem with, one of them was expressed to me by a cousin when she found out I was gay. She said that my being gay wouldn't affect our relationship but she 'just couldn't understand us wanting special rights." I asked about those special rights but never really got an answer. What I would like is to be able to marry someone with whom I fall in love. I would like my spouse to have the right to determine my medical care and to stay with me. I would like for my spouse to inherit without question. Nothing really special except those same right that apply to heterosexual couples when they marry, even if they do so for less than a day.

And I'd like to not be forced into celibacy. In my reading of Christian literature when celibacy is praised it is also mentioned as a gift that not everyone has. Chastity is certainly expected of every Christian married or not. But life-long celibacy is not. There are a couple of religious traditions that do expect their members to be celibate, most notably Shakers, but the vast majority of Christian traditions just plain think celibacy is a gift that not everyone has. Ex-Gay watch has an article about the double-standard ,that places gay men and lesbians in a predicament, when celibacy is expected of some but not all.

Not even a slap!

Torture is torture and there are many problems with it ethically, morally and the ineffectiveness. Andrew Sullivan has an article (short) on Begin's attitude. Many in my generation will remember that Begin's reputation was none to clean, but... he had the right idea.


Christians are some of the best people coming into my motel and some of the worst. The best are polite and make sure that they are treating the service people correctly. But some of the worst are on 'mission trips' and seem to think that everything should be there. It doesn't matter that my web site and all the places I can put it have that some of our rooms aren't supposed to have a rollaway. They want the rollaway and at no extra charge since they are on a mission trip. To thank my housekeepers for good service they try to save their sould by presenting them with a tract instead of a tip - and they have no idea whether the housekeeper is active in a congregation or not nor do they realize that the pamphlet isn't in the primary language of the housekeeper (and I've seen spanish pamphlets given to english speakers and english pamphlets to spanish speakers). There are some who call themselves Christian who seem to believe that if they are on a mission trip the others they meet should bear the 'missionaries' cross as well as their own. "I've followed so someone else will pick up my cross for me" is the attitude I experience. Instead of following the example of bearing the roman soldiers burden an extra mile that is taught in scripture, they want someone to bear their burden a mile or more.

Yes, there are some great Christian examples of people doing mission and I welcome them. But it may be wise to ask what sort of Christian example am I setting. Some of the examples by people who call themselves Christian are less than pretty.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Calm and certain

John 12

[27] "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say--'Father, save me
from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.

Every once in awhile I hear something about how Christians should be calm and untroubled becasue of the certainty of the resurrection or some such nonsense. I heard in the midst of depression, "how could you, as a minister, be depressed?" and more. But this passage indicates the peace that passes understanding and the peace that comes from knowing Jesus aren't the same thing as a sense of calm or a lack of depression. Jesus, in this passage, finds his sould troubled and asks the cup to pass from him. it is not a lack of concern that gives the Christian peace, but a willingness to go beyond the troubles and concerns to seek God's will. It is an acceptance of the consequences of one's actions and a willingness to follow the truth, our God, righteousness wherever they may lead. Not without regard, but to be as God wills us to be.

Torture and the truth

Molly Ivins is a better writer than am I. She has a recent editorial that truthout has placed with some other's on the same subject. In the Christian tradition there is a saying that the seed of the church is the blood of the martyers. Acts has a passage or two about one person being persecuted and because of that the believers spread the word to a number of different places. What's going to happen to the reputation of the U.S.A. when the blood of those tortured is the seed of many stories? I pray for my country.

Fair Trials

I always thought that it was an american tradition that we have fair and open trials. Wasn't that one of the thing about which we complained that brought on the American Revolution. I know it's not always been done - we haven't always lived up to our ideal of a fair and open trial, but to see the national government blocking information as it has done in Guantanomo is egregious. But some of the information is coming out. A federal judge has ordered the pentagon to identify detainee abuse cases. We shouldn't have had to have a trial to get this done, but better to start working on doing the right thing later than to never do it at all.

Not in my tradition

The Traditional Values Coalition supports Bush's redefining what can be done to those in custody? I'm sorry, Bush's proposals are not the values with which I was raised. Allowing the waterboarding and stress positions is something I thought we didn't do in the U.S.A. Please don't take this the wrong way, but if those are your traditional values, then those values need to change.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ethics and corruption

For more than just a report on how senators and representatives are voting, the Citizens for responsibility and ethics in Washington have released their latest report on corruption. I didn't like reading it or the other links, but I suspect I should. And unlike Mary Poppins I have no spoonful of sugar to help this medicine go down.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Corrective to Power

Jim Wallis has it right when he wrote a book titled "Why the Right is Wrong and the Left doesn't get it." The task of the church is not to be aligned with the powers of this world, but to be a corrective and a call to action. Certainly christians should be active in the political sphere, living our beliefs and changing the world. Yet there is something off-putting about followers of one who refused the temptation to rule the world going and trying to rule the world.

It is a balancing act. Even though I disagreed with a number of his positions I thought Danforth got it. So does Wallis. But some of the more recent activities of Christianists, such as promoting their own version of prayer in schools or equating Intelligent Design arguments with science, just aren't the right thing to do. Christians of good character disagree on abortion, stem cell research, end of life issues, homosexuality, war, and many other issues. To say that one religious party or political party has the answers is to avoid the questions that Jesus set before those who claim to be his followers.

Who did Jesus condemn? The religious and political leaders. Who did Jesus support? The outcasts and poor. The answers to what we are called to do are simple and take a lifetime.


There's some excerpts from an article on Clinton at Huffington Post.
I'm tempted to buy the whole article because of some of the quotes.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sing aloud

Evening: Psalm 81
[1] Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob. [2] Raise a song, sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. [3] Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our festal day. [4] For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. [5] He made it a decree in Joseph, when he went out over the land of Egypt.

This is a psalm that I can really get behind. I am a musician - baritone who can sing bass to 2nd tenor, a flutist (or flautist), and tinkle on several other instruments - and here's a psalm that tells me to praise with voice and percussion and strings and horns - this one may miss the flute, but it's included in other psalms - and calls to rejoice.

What can I say that hasn't already been said. Praise God, praise God with what you have, praise God.

A progression

Matthew 5:21-26

[21] "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' [22] But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire.

More than one commentator has noticed a progression. In Genesis we have someone saying for any injury I will repay sevenfold. Then as part of the laws from Moses we have an eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth. Later we have cities of refuge and other means for those who have accidently killed someone to avoid being put to death. And now, if you swear at someone, call them names, you are put to judgement.

And yet I still hear people who call themselves Christian saying things like 'We should do unto them before they do unto us." and those people are not restating the golden rule. Those people are seeking a proactive stance towards violence. Or get them before they get us. That's not the Christian way. It is a very human response, but we are challenged to be better than that.

It is interesting to note that the greek word that is translated here as 'fool' is not one for which we have a clear meaning. At least a few scholars think that it is a sexually loaded epithet. The point for Christians is not whether we have the exact meaning of this word, but whether we live to the way that is taught in this story.

So I ask myself, am I the person who calls their neighbor a fool? Or am I the one who strives to be better than some of my very human impulses? That's a question for all who call themselves Christian.

Danforth and religion in politics

John Danforth, a former senator for Missouri, is one of the people I've admired since I lived in Missouri. There's a good article on his views of religion and politics, which are similar to mine, at

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The answer isn't what we want

Job 38

[1] Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:
[18] Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you
know all this.
[19] "Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the
place of darkness, [20] that you may take it to its territory and
that you may discern the paths to its home? [21] Surely you know,
for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!

Job kept on demanding an explanation for his trials. His friends gave one acceptable answer after another. But for Job none of the answers made sense. And then what happens in the answer from God. Job's questions are left unanswered.

Sometimes we want to have our explanations nailed down with every detail stitched into place. But the answer may not be one that we can comprehend. And, perhaps, even more surprising, Job goes away satisfied. Even more surprisingly, those who gave answers are those for whom Job has to plead.

The one's who cry out in anger and pain are considered justified. While those who give pat and simplistic answers (even if those answers are supported by those in charge, those who are religious, those who are accepted) are left bearing God's wrath.

Job's friends did the right thing as they sat beside him in silence, then they opened their mouths and spoke. I suspect I should sit in silence with people more often and make fewer attempts to provide answers that are not sufficient when one is hurt.

Psalms again

Psalm 19

[1] The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
[2] Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
[3] There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
[4] yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

I love reading through Psalms because of the praise they offer. Last week I was talking about how they tell of the sme emotions that I have. The psalms are very human. And that is one of the reasons I go to them daily, but I also read them for the praise and joy contained.

One of the suggestions for people in turmoil is to rewrite the Psalms to express their own feelings. Whether it is from Psalm 22 where the psalm opens with "My God, my God why have you left me?" or in Psalm 142 which sets forth the idea that everyone is against the author, the psalms speak to the depth and breadth of human emotion and thought. And rewriting a psalm to express one's own feelings is a way of finding out that God can deal with all of our feelings.

(I do hope however that most of us refrain from imitating the Psalm 119's academicism of using the different words that center around the law from Hebrew for each verse and each verse uses one letter of the alphabet. I can admire the work, while I'm bored by the result.)

Does it seem strange that someone who claims to love reading scripture doing so for enjoyment, prayer, reflection, study and more would find a passage boring. Well, not entirely, but it is more of an academic exercise for me than light reading. It is like the texts of scripture where name after name is listed and deciphering why those names are important seems a sisyphean task.

All scripture is suitable for study and reflection. All scripture can lead one to God. But that doesn't mean that all people will understand every bit of scripture. We will have the places that we understand immediately, places that will make us work to understand, places that we may misunderstand, places where we need the help of others to understand. Our task is to continue to study and reflect, to pray and meditate, to work for that understanding that ultimately comes from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Doing that work with scripture is and should be a joy. Finding the nugget that helps after struggling with a passage, as though training for a race, is enjoying and serving the one who creates us. We may pass through a refining fire in getting to the understanding, but in that fire are transformed into what God calls us to be.

We are creatures of praise and study, of reflection and joy, of celebration and sorrow. The psalms help us through all of those different occasions.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Torture, yes it is torture

The President is just plain wrong. The techniques that he wants to allow are torture. It's not just wrong morally, it is wrong because torture is ineffective. People who are tortured will end up saying what they think the torturer wants to hear. We are, supposedly a light to the nations. I could quote several presidents, many statesmen and people from before we were a nation if I wanted to look it up. But it is just wrong. For a good analysis of the latest speech go to Balkinization.

Conceptions of God

Awhile back I wrote something about how we view God determining how we relate to reading scripture and dealing with each other. There's an article at Blog Around the Clock that does this much better. So much for my writing skills, but better for the reader.

Intelligent Design

A great article on Intelligent Design. Please read if you're at all interested in education.

Freedom of Speech

Fred Phelps is not one of the people I want to meet. His protests at military funerals and at those of gay people (especially Matthew Shepherd) I find detestable. Yet... with all that hate-filled rhetoric... we still need to let him speak. And that's because to defend my right to free speech I need to defend the rights of other people.

We are not in a theocratic society where the views of one triumph over all. We look to Jefferson and his beliefs about the state not supporting a particular religion. We look to the people who left one state or another to go to Rhode Island and set up a place where one religion wasn't given priority by the state.

And that affects how we talk in the public forum. My religious views affect what I vote for, what I support, what I do. But when I talk to those outside of my religion and vote I look for reasons that aren't determined by my religion. I mention these to ideals - freedom of speech and freedom of religion - because in my mind they are coupled. Our ability to worship as we choose is the mirror image of our ability to speak freely.

Friday, September 15, 2006

She will be missed

Molly Ivins wrote a piece about Ann Richards and this story from the article is one reason we'll miss her whether we were Republican, Democrat, another party or independent.

At a long-ago political do at Scholz Garten in Austin, everybody who was anybody was there meetin' and greetin' at a furious pace. A group of us got the tired feet and went to lean our butts against a table at the back wall of the bar. Perched like birds in a row were Bob Bullock, then state comptroller, moi, Charles Miles, the head of Bullock's personnel department, and Ms. Ann Richards. Bullock, 20 years in Texas politics, knew every sorry, no good sumbitch in the entire state. Some old racist judge from East Texas came up to him, 'Bob, my boy, how are you?"

Bullock said, "Judge, I'd like you to meet my friends: This is Molly Ivins with the Texas Observer."

The judge peered up at me and said, "How yew, little lady?"

Bullock, "And this is Charles Miles, the head of my personnel department." Miles, who is black, stuck out his hand, and the judge got an expression on his face as though he had just stepped into a fresh cowpie. He reached out and touched Charlie's palm with one finger, while turning eagerly to the pretty, blonde, blue-eyed Ann Richards. "And who is this lovely lady?"

Ann beamed and replied, "I am Mrs. Miles."


Psalm 142
[1] With my voice I cry to the LORD;
with my voice I make supplication to the LORD.
[2] I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
[3] When my spirit is faint,
you know my way.

In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
[4] Look on my right hand and see--
there is no one who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for me.

I like the Psalms, but I don't really think they are nice. The psalm I read for evening today talks about traps being laid. Other psalms are more graphic and there is poetry in other places that is not suitable for unprepared ears.

But I'm glad that the Psalms aren't always nice. Because those passages that aren't nice do speak to me when I am in the depths. And life isn't always nice. And that the Psalms aren't always nice means that they do speak to all of life.

While I go by the phrase, 'never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence' in several of its formulations, I don't confuse that with making life nice. And that is even for the best. A nice life may be calm, but we don't really get anywhere unless we're willing to take a chance that we might experience the depths.

Paul talks of us training to run a race. Athletes know that they live with pain as they strive to get ready for the game. And they're not the only ones. Musicians practice until their voices, hands, lips ache. One description of writing is opening up a vein and dipping in the pen.

And then there are the times when we're not training and something just happens that shakes our world. My depression was situational. And it was the sort of thing that if one didn't go into depression they would have had worse problems, IMO.

My mother died.

In a car accident.

I was driving.

We were going to a funeral.

It was for an uncle.

I was named after that uncle.

Depression was a comparatively healthy response to that. (should I mention that one of the insurance companies stopped paying and there were three lawsuits around that accident as the insurance companies fought it out?)

For awhile I felt as if creation itself was against me and all I experienced was hurt and pain. And that is one reason I like psalms that just aren't very nice. Now I did get out of that depression. I recognized it, started therapy, started medication, asked for prayers, worked on getting better and needed all of those together. The psalms give a range of emotions and ways to talk to God. The different psalms complain, praise, whine, rejoice and more. The psalms, indeed all of Scripture, talks of life with all of the warts and joys included. And for that reason I give thanks to God.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


There are times when I wish my brain worked a little bit more quickly. A little while ago I got into a discussion with someone after they found out I knew a little Greek. And they were talking about how the New Testament was inspired by God and how this was shown in the special Greek used which was different from the rest of the documents we have. And I was drawing a complete blank.

Then they mentioned that this person who 'proved' the similarity of language in the New Testament and differences from the rest of the Greek language wrote his book around 100 years ago. And I went 'oh that must have been before many of the recent discoveries of papyri and pottery shards. And they didn't know what I was talking about. I still couldn't come up with why what I had learned was so different. Until after they left.

And then I realized I had heard mention once upon a time of the author and book. And it was discounted because the Greek manuscripts used were from classical Greek sources and the New Testament is in common or 'koine' Greek. One set of manuscripts were written by the educated for the educated, the other was what was used in the marketplace (agora in Greek) and city streets.

Now I suspect much of what I do is more akin to writing for the elite than talking in the marketplace. Who but an educated elitist would spend their extra money on buying books from the Loeb Classical Library and rather have that than an expensive meal. But, still, there are lessons. Philology and the study of language has changed because of more recent discoveries so that we can more clearly understand what was written. But sometimes our opinions are stuck back in the Reformation or before.

And I wonder if that's related to our view of Scripture. If we talk about Scripture as without error or a timeless understanding then we are more likely to treat previous generations as more correct than our current generation. If we talk about Scripture as the story of a faith journey, as the record of struggles, then we can look and examine what was done in our past as we go to the future.

I certainly don't deny the saints of the past who have taught me and others. As I think of the grandmother I knew and my mother I resonate with the letter to Timothy talking about his mother and grandmother. As I read Calvin again and again I recognize the faith and learning that went into them and am inspired to return to scripture once again. And as I read the confessions and creeds of my denomination I am reminded that councils may err and we are called to examine the past to make sure that we are not repeating the mistakes that they made.

The work in examining scripture needs to be done and redone since we are still learning and are like those looking in polished silver or bronze at our reflections. For Christians our golden age lies ahead in that realm towards which we work. We build on what the past has done, but look to what still needs to be done and what needs to be corrected.

What Kind of God?

David Pack, of one of the many organizations that seek to prove creationism or intelligent design or the truth of scripture, writes:

What kind of God would write an Instruction Book about how to live, command that it be followed as His Word and then offer no PROOF that it is? It insults whoever is God to even believe Him capable of such inconsistency—and unfairness! On what basis would He—or even could He—require obedience to such an Instruction Book, if He left no proof that it was authentic?

While he meant the question to be rhetorical I think it deserves an answer. Perhaps a God who created us with minds and wants us to make a choice for him would create a Scripture that demands faith rather than evidence. Perhaps a God who gave us free will wouldn't want to put something in the way of our exercising that free will by making the evidence proof.

And, perhaps, what Peck is doing is making God in the image of what Peck expects and wants God to be. And what we should be doing is let God come in whatever fashion God wants to come to us. And, perhaps, scripture is the way it is so that we can come to God with our heart and mind and body and soul. And we should be asking what does scripture call us to do and be rather than can I prove every jot and tittle.

What Peck does is make a false dichotomy. The Bible has to be what he wants it to be or he cannot believe it. The Bible must be true in every aspect or it is false. But those oppositions that Peck has don't ring true for every believer. The inconsistency that Peck mentions doesn't seem to be inconsistency to everyone and I suspect even a simple majority of Christians would say that his inconsistencies are of his own making.

Perhaps, what God wants is not blind obedience. And that is what would happen if the Bible could be proved and if everything was literally true. Perhaps what God wants is faith that is beyond proof and a living experience that changes and grows. Perhaps what God wants is thinking service and enjoyment of the creation. Perhaps what God wants is a people who can grow and mature. Perhaps.

I see the Bible in very different terms than Peck and I don't find it unfair or inconsistent. Whether or not Sodom and Gomorrah existed is irrelevant to my faith. I look for what the stories have to teach me about living a good and faithful life rather than whether they have historical accuracy. Somehow I think I'm happier doing that than if I spent my life dotting every 'i' and crossing every 't' (jot and tittle) to see if I can prove the Bible is true.

No Subject

Acts 15

[1] Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."

[10] Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? [11] On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."

This passage is one that I think of often when people say "You can only be a Christian if you " Whether it is "speaking in tongues" or "believing in creationism" or "the five fundamentals" those are understandings of what it means to be Christian and what saves us is not those understandings but the grace of our Lord Jesus.

It is not how many good deeds I can do that will save me. It is not saying the right prayer that will save me. It is not having the right beliefs that will save me. It is not understanding God correctly that will save me. It is through God's grace that I am saved.

This is what Paul is talking about when he says that we are no longer slaves to the law. The law is not made unimportant, but it is in the proper place. The law is from God, but is not God. We are saved not by our adherence to a set of rules, but through grace and love. The sacrifice on the cross becomes more than just an offering for sin but a love that transcends all time and space. The law may have convicted me and convinced me of my need, but my needs aren't met in the law. My needs are met through God's grace and in that my burden is lifted and my heart set free to sing God's praise.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I was looking up logical fallacies and found a site on the holocaust that I appreciated. The Nizkor project. I love this finding something I never knew existed through different links.

This is better?

A recent news report is about someone, not associated with the national Republican party, supporting the Republicans by holding Catch an Immigrant party.
Republicans on Tuesday distanced themselves from campaign activities that encourage college students to "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" and shoot cardboard cutouts of leading Democrats with a BB gun or paintball gun.

I'm not sure where the responsible discourse is in this. The article goes with one Republican comparing these actions to the democrats calling the Republican Party 'a white, Christian party'. I just don't get this sort of name calling, but certainly calling each other names is a different level than putting up targets of prominent politicians and shooting at them.

I seem to remember a time when there was a discussion of issues. In fact I was raised by a member of the Republican party and a member of the Democratic party. One year they both got asked to attend the statewide caucuse for their respective political parties, though neither attended nor ran for office. I'd like to see something that isn't a child's display of "You're soft on terrorism" "No, I'm not." "Yes, you are." "No, I'm not." repeated until one person is called home by their parent.

This rhetoric is from both sides. I don't care whether it's the aforementioned shooting at a democrat or Sean Penn calling Bush a Beelsebul. I'm just tired of it and would like to go back to at least some discussion.

Of course this is nothing new. There's been smear campaigns in more than a few elections. One of my favorite historical examples is when opponents sang "Ma, ma where's my pa. Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha." about another of our presidents. It's much more amusing when it's in the past. Today, liveing with it, just isn't quite as nice. Maybe if they started singing songs instead of yelling at each other I'd feel better, but probably not.


As you can guess, from the title of my blog, 'latifundialization' is one of my favorite words. So when I come across it or a cognate I have to recognize it with a quote or other mention.

The eighth century BCE was characterized by national prosperity, which brought in its wake urbanization, latifundia (the rich swallowing up the land of the poor), and other social injustices decried by the prophets (cited above) and solved (in theory) by the priestly...

from Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus: A Book of Ritual and Ethics (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004), p. 217.

Unfortunately this prosperity, that Milgrom mentions, disappeared quickly. A reminder that we shouldn't put our trust in riches or strength of arms or any of the other things bewailed by the prophets. Yet too often we seem to put our trust in things rather than God. An article in a recent issue of Times illustrates this. (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for pointing me in this direction in his post titled 'Blessed are the Rich'.)

The reason latifundialization has meaning for me comes from my parents. My teacher, Mr. McCullough, went to make a point one day by asking 'What would your parents do if someone pulled up to the house and asked for food?' To the destruction of his point I raised my hand and answered, 'They'd be given food and my dad would see what else they needed.' In the same community my dad was a help to some refugees, getting them jobs, dragging me to some of the classes in english - since I had some french as did they - and more that I never knew. The transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich was something against which they stood.

Certainly my parents weren't perfect. I remember those classes in English where dad's voice would get louder and louder as he tried to make the students understand what he was saying. Yet the lesson he taught, in his example more than his words, was that I should welcome the stranger within the land, that I should care for the poor and homeless, that I should look at each person as my brother or sister, and that wealth coming by stepping on the backs of another is something that his family wouldn't do. So I studied the Elijah - Elisha cycle and learned a word to describe what I'd been taught already and will keep that word as a favorite for a long time.

And we're not expected to be perfect. But in the midst of recognizing our imperfections we can learn to work with and enjoy each other - even those who are different from us. In the middle of our seeking to be better we can look at our mistakes and learn. In the jumble of our daily tasks we can take time to see the stranger as our brother and sister. We're not asked to be perfect, but we are asked to love as we are loved. And loving each other is something that we can do.

Let us also go, that we may die with him

John 11
[14] Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. [15] For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." [16] Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."

A few weeks ago I was referred to a web-site that sold pajamas that were to teach children about the armor of God and help them feel protected. Today I read about, not for the first time, churches growing in numbers as they preach a gospel of health and wealth. But then I read gospel stories such as the raising of Lazarus. And, yes, Lazarus comes out of the tomb. And, yes, the disciples aren't killed. But the disciples are asked to follow and believe they are risking death. And because of Jesus' actions in raising Lazarus plots are laid to put Jesus to death. (John 11:53)

It is foolishness to expect health and wealth because of the gospel (at least not health and wealth as they are so often used). But one can find a greater joy in service to God than comes through being one of the 'right sort of people', having health, or having wealth. The right sort of people, in the eyes of God, are those who treat each other with love. The health one can expect is not just bodily, but a wholeness that comes from living your life with God. The wealth of money is nice, but it does not compare with the wealth of being loved by family and friends.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This is a day that shall live in infamy

September 11 is a day that defines a generation, but my generation remembers the day J.F.K. was shot as one of those days. My parents remembered Pearl Harbor. And the list could go back to the sinking of a civilian ship by the Germans in WWI or the day the British burned the White House and Dolly Madison saved a portrait.

We humans forget. Tragedies happen and life, if we want to live our lives, moves on. For some of us the memories keep coming in regular and irregular fashions more frequently, for others those moments of remembrance become less frequent (though not necessarily less painful).

Perhaps it is less important to remember the particular event, than to remember those events happen. Lamentations talk about how the city has fallen and the hands of compassionate women boil children for food. Many may not know the event that called forth this lament, but the lament is still felt.

And perhaps it is more important to ask how these events affect our values. Do we become more compassionate? or more fearful? Do we attempt to escape over the backs of another? or help those around us? The values we profess are held up for examination in the light of tragedy. And we are faced with whether we live up to those values.

Do we continue to seek to give everyone a quick and speedy trial? Do we honor the values of free speech? Do we make sure we have evidence and review before we search and seize private property? Do the despised among us have the presumption of innocence?

The values we profess but give up in our grief show the values we truly cherish. What values have we shown the world?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Jefferson and Religion

"Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; ...
that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it...
that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.
Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities," - from the Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom, by Thomas Jefferson.

Did I do something wrong?

It’s rarely correct when someone says, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” In my experience that phrase is used to deny responsibility for the breakdown of a relationship. Certainly one or another person in a relationship may be more or less at fault, but “I didn’t do anything wrong.” That’s usually a response that denies culpability and the statement is wrong.

It may be that we made a bad decision in getting into the relationship before we knew enough about the other. But more often than not there are a series of comments or dropped phone calls, or missed appointments, or lack of consideration, or a multitude of other little things adding up to one person or another saying, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Coming from the perspective of one raised with the Westminster documents the idea that one could come out and say “I didn’t do anything wrong.” seems simplistic. One of the documents teaches about the ten commandments. Most of the commandments have separate questions for what is commanded by this commandment and what is forbidden by this commandment and some commandments have more explanation than that. The lists go on for more than a couple of items.

While some of the answers are less than clear to the modern ear (I love that the keeping of stews (1) is forbidden) they still have the effect of letting each of us know that we have failed in the keeping of even one of the ten. And that is one of the points of the gospel. We all have fallen short.

That we have all fallen short is not something that I can convince another of. I’m more likely to be asked the question of ‘why does anyone need to be saved?’ if I talk to someone who’s not in the Judeo-Christian tradition. And if we spend more time trying to talk other people into believing that they’re sinners than focusing on the ways we ourselves sin we’ve got the message turned around.

We are the people in the race to follow Christ and it is our work that should be important to us, rather than how someone else is doing. In many ways ‘I didn’t do anything’ is more than just an incorrect statement it is a sad commentary. We should be doing something. We should be working on our relationships with family, with God, with friends, with strangers, with the person passing by on the street. We should be out visiting the prisoner, healing the sick, binding the wounded, feeding the hungry, treating the person next to us as our friend, treating the person we meet as our brother and sister.

Instead of saying, “I didn’t do anything wrong” we should be asking “What have I done right?”

(1) A stew, at the time the Westminster documents were written, was a type of brothel or whorehouse.

God is in the divine council

Reflections on Psalm 82

[1] God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
[2] "How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?

This is not one of my favorite psalms. I don't want to return to the idea that God is only one among gods. And if you go back to the Hebrew the capitalization with which we differentiate God from the gods is not evident. But it does show us something of the journey of the Hebrew people from polytheism to monotheism. And it does provide me amusement when I talk with people who stress the inerrancy of Scripture.

Me: So you believe that Scripture is without error?

Them: Yes, that's right.

Me: And you also believe that God is one God and there is only one God.

Them: Yes, that's right.

Me: And so what do you do about passages that talk about God sitting among the gods.

Them: - - -

At least so goes my ideal. It's so much easier to have these sorts of discussions when I can put words in the other person's mouth. Yet my discussion isn't really fair since I believe scripture to be the unique and authoritative witness to God and to be without error when correctly interpreted. I'm more trying to expose the logical fallacy when people assume that without error means without error in anything it talks about. And my dream discussion doesn't allow me to get that point across it only leads to fights and arguments and closed minds. Still I can dream about what I want to say.

[3] Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
[4] Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

[5] They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk around in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

And when I get to this section of the Psalm I find more of what seems useful in my daily life. The call for justice resonates with me as I've worked with people who are treated differently because of the way they speak or the color of their skin or other characteristics. Prejudice isn't as it once was, but that doesn't mean it's disappeared from the cities and towns where I live.

I talk to people who think my sexual orientation comes from my father being weak and my mother being domineering. Now my mother was a strong woman and my dad could be very gentle. I've seen my mother face down bullies and she weighed about 115 pounds. I've seen my father take a crying child in his arms and quiet the child to sleep in moments. I just don't think neglect or being overbearing or any of the other parental issues people give caused me to be attracted to my own gender. Yet some people pick and gnaw at every scrap of information until they say, "It's your parents" or something similar.

We are who we are and should be judged by what we bring to the table of our God. Humility, love, care for the widow, nurturing the orphan, and all the gifts of the Spirit are more than the way we speak, the color of our skin, our sexual orientation or our knowledge.

[6] I say, "You are gods,
children of the Most High, all of you;
[7] nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
and fall like any prince."

[8] Rise up, O God, judge the earth;
all the nations belong to you!

And. perhaps, this conclusion is where I should find my rest. It is not up to me to judge, but to serve. I'll let God sort out the righteous and unrighteous, the wicked and the good. I will see wrong and it is my task to correct it, to work for a better day. But it is also for me to leave the fate of another in the hand of God. Trusting in God to do the sorting and judging and leaving me in adoration, praise and other service.

Some tips for your stay at any motel

Don’t put the eggs in the microwave – they will explode - they are already cooked.

Even if you land feet first – a flip is still a dive. Our pool is posted no diving.

The safety equipment is for emergencies. It is not a toy. I mean what the signs say about asking you to leave the motel if you use it as a toy.

The Asian guy whom you called boy was the owner.

That employee wasting time on the computer was solving a problem from a previous guest.

Stopping me, just before breakfast starts, to tell me what is missing doesn’t get the item to the breakfast bar.

Please don’t touch the switches – you turned off the waffle iron and now it has to reheat.

Please don’t touch the switches – you turned on the coffeemaker and that’s why it’s overflowing.

If you yell at me before telling me the problem I’m less inclined to be helpful.

If you ask a desk clerk for a date, please take his/her ‘no’ gracefully. S/he doesn’t want to date you, s/he isn’t allowed to date you, and the owner will find out if s/he sneaks off and dates you.

Yes, I'm gay and no I don't mind your questions, but don't ask me to date the other gay man you know. Why? See why the desk clerk won't date you.

Would you do that in your own home? Then why do so here?

You might do that in your own house, but please don’t do that here.

Yes, we allow thongs in our pool area. And, yes, people will stare. If you don’t want the stares, then don’t wear the thong.

If you smoke in a non-smoking room I will charge you for doing so.

Rose petals don’t vacuum up. They have to be picked up by hand. This is one time I’m not going to tell the housekeepers not to use that sort of language. And the potpourri you put on the bed sheets has stained them so that we cannot reuse them. I think I may use that sort of language.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Dear Anonymous:

I'd be more impressed with your comments if they related to the posts where they are located. But since they seem to be about going to some site or another rather than a reflection I am irritated. So I've, if I've done it correctly, turned on word verification. If I see any more like this I'll delete them.

keeping the law

James 2
[10] For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in
one point has become accountable for all of it. [11] For the one
who said, 'You shall not commit adultery," also said, "You shall
not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder,
you have become a transgressor of the law. [12] So speak and so act
as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. [13] For
judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy;
mercy triumphs over judgment.

I think there's more meat in Philemon than in James. Actually I think there's more to discuss in almost any book of the Greek or Hebrew Testament than in James. But the book is still valuable, more valuable than any of the gospels, letters and other writings that I've read that didn't make it into scripture. And this is one of the massages that I go back to understand how I should treat people. This is one of the reasons that James is helpful.

And this advice is for Christians who sometimes get caught up in whether not the other is doing everything correctly. It is advice that is found in other places such as Romans 2. In Romans 1, 2 Paul get the reader caught up in saying 'Oh yes, they're so bad, Oh yes, and they're even worse" and then traps the reader with "And when you judge them, you're just as bad." And the prophets have used the same technique with listing the errors of the countries around them and then telling the people of Israel that they're worse.

As a childhood taunt goes when you point a finger at me, more are pointing at you. The Christian's task is not to seek the problems in other people, but to look within ourselves and rest knowing that to those who show mercy, that mercy will be received.

Protecting marriage

Besides the studies showing that gay marriage doesn't harm marriages in general - several of which have come out of Holland and the Scandinavian countries over the past few years - there's anecdotal evidence. Brad Pitt says he won't marry until everyone can. The Independent Gay Forum has an excellent article on this.

And the question remains, "Who exactly is harmed by letting people marry the partner of their choice?"


There's a good article at truthout on Bush's speech about the secret CIA prisons and torture. There are moral questions about torture, there are ethical questions about even going near to torture and threats, there are legal questions with us being signatory to several treates such as the Geneva Accords and then the question of whether torture even works. If we are to be a light to the nations, then we need to not only avoid torture but the appearance of condoning torture. It seems this administration thinks rhetoric will serve as a shield. At best the rhetoric is a shield of tissue paper.


There are some commercials that I just don't get. Foremost among them are the 'male enhancement'. The way they suggest that they're going to enlarge your package without ever saying so makes me suspicious. And also I don't see what the big deal is over size. While I am without any partnered experience it seems to me that unless there's an extreme variation from the norm it's not the size that matters but the communication.

While I enjoy the view of a nice package, it's the inside that matters. Confidence and other good traits aren't increased, in my experience, by an outward change. Working on both the inside and outside is what matters. If there's a problem in the relationship some work with cuddling, talking, fingers, toes and other methods are more important than an unhealthy obsession with the size of body parts.

If you want a health dose of self-esteem, a boost of confidence, respect from your neighbors, a satisfied partners, then working on your inward qualities will get you there faster than any increase in your package. An outward appearance without the inward work is a front that will quickly be discovered to be a stage prop. Good relationships need more than a painted screen to last. I'm not against working on the outside, just not at the expense of the values on the inside.

Avoidance and denial

I'm quite good at avoiding that with which I don't want to deal and denying that about which I don't want to think. Not really a good trait. There are, of course, times in which it is a good thing to put off something for which you're not prepared, but like jumping in quickly - a trait I rarely have - it's best to do in moderation.

I do think that being in denial about my sexual orientation was life-serving, though not entirely healthy, during my high school years. In that time and place.... but staying in denial until I was in my mid-thirties was not as life-serving and unhealthy.

I do have to say that the avoidance and denial wasn't all on my part. I learned as a young child to start separating myself from my feelings when my parents followed the best advice of the day on how to prevent a pre-homosexual child from turning out to be a homosexual. And while I think allowing a child to be what they want to be is what is important rather than channeling them into some idea of what will make them heterosexual, I don't blame my parents as they did what they thought was best. I, too, have made mistakes.

The denial and avoidance do make patterns that are easily followed no matter how aware of those habits I am. That's why self-examination is an important part of a spiritual life. And the self-examination shouldn't be just for those superficial sins and problems that are easy to spot, but the reason some particularities are easier for me than another (or you than another).

Each of us has our own particular temptations. I know some of mine and seek to know more. Do you? Do we? A spiritual life is one that seeks to know God. The ability to know the one who is Truth comes from seeking the truth in all areas of our lives, especially our temptations and our weaknesses. It's not an easy task to look for the problem areas, but it is worthwhile and eventually fulfilling. I know some of my wekanesses. Do you know some of yours?

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Moral Instinct

From the Daily Transcript
The greatest myth within religious communities is that religion is the basis of all morality.

This idea that religion is not the only means to moral behavior is not new. And it shouldn't be a new idea in religious circles, yet some seem to never hear of other ways to moral behavior such as philosophy and genetics. Some religious people dismiss the idea without reflection. There's a new book out by Marc Hauser has a book, which I haven't yet read, called "Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong" that is giving more foundation to the idea that morals are not from religion only, but from other factors.

Really religious people ought to get over the idea that religion is the only source for moral codes or ethical behavior. Philosophers that are non-religious have discussed, pondered and probed ethical and moral behaviors with no reference to religion for years. And then the idea that people will fall short of moral behavior if they're not religious is equally ridiculous. One of the tenets of the Greek and Hebrew Testaments is that we will all fall short and go astray.

And in many ways the most important aspect of religion has nothing to do with morality or ethics. Religion is about worshipping, serving, knowing God. Morality and ethics comes after that. The primary calling of a Christian, to paraphrase the Westminster Catechism, is to serve and enjoy God. (1) To make religion about morality is to miss the awesome relationship with God. If the relationship is just about doing the right thing then we will miss the moments of joy in service or in glorifying God.

I'm not a very good painter, but when I paint I make a mess. I enjoy myself thoroughly and alse feel like I am glorifying God. When I sing I don't make a mess and I'm a better vocalist than painter. Yet I still glorify and enjoy God. Yes, for both, doing it well takes practice and patience and work and more work. The same is true with living a moral and ethical life. But morality and ethics are in the same relationship to serving and enjoying and glorifying God as is painting and singing and working where I'm employed and many other things in life.

If morality and ethics are the sum or the purpose of religion, then there's something missing in the religion. Religion is about God, it is about the relationship between God and human, it is about worship and adoration but reduced to ethics and morality (something that may come from religion but is not limited to religion) is but a poor reflection of what religion can be. Morality and ethics are certainly a part of religious life, but they come in after worshipping, enjoying, glorifying, and serving God.

(1) from the Westminster Larger Catechism "Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God,1 and fully to enjoy him forever"/blockquote>
and from the Shorter Catechism "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."

ABC docudrama

I don't have the answers, but I do have a couple of related questions. ABC is reportedly changing the docudrama it is presenting on the events around 9/11.

If they made it correctly, then why are they changing it?

If they made it with a bias, why didn't they do it correctly in the first place?

Either way ABC comes off looking badly. Either they are swayed by the winds of bias in the first place or the winds of public pressure with the change. What happneed to the idea that we should be accurate in the first place and keep to our course if we are right? Something stinks and the reported changes make it worse.


I'm not really sure that I was a patient child. I am sure that I'm not all that patient as an adult, though I think I hide it better.

Once upon a time one of my Uncle's was teasing me. I knew he knew that I was a twin and what that meant, but he kept asking this five or six year old, "And what day were you born. And was your twin born on the same day?" and I finally went to my mother and said, "Uncle ... is a little strange, isn't he?"

I'm still a little perplexed when people are obtuse. I hope I hide it better. The other day a customer tried to work our waffle maker. She put down the lid and was waiting. I went in and mentioned, 'If you're making a waffle you need to rotate the iron to start the timer." Her reply, "I'm waiting for it to heat up." And so I said, "It's already hot, you just need to spray the iron, pour in the batter, close the lid and rotate the iron to start the timer." "But don't you need to let it heat up first?" "No, it's already hot." "But it's still beeping like it needs to heat up." "No, it's hot, the beeping is to tell you to turn over the iron so as to start the timer. Look here's the directions." I guess my word wasn't enough. After she read the directions, she opened the iron, sprayed it, poured in the batter, and rotated the waffle iron.

Then there was another day when someone tried to help out by shutting off the waffle maker. He thought that it needed to be off when the waffles weren't being made. That the switch is in the back of the machine didn't bother him. Nope, he was helping us save electricity. And to help matters along, that day while I was out of the room but had a sign up saying, 'please don't use the waffle maker as it isn't hot yet.' someone went past the sign to get the waffle batter and poured some into the machine. I didn't appreciate the cleanup.

But I'm more confused by other things. Why would someone want to take the ironing board cover? Go to a dollar store and you can get one that hasn't been used. Or why would you take the extension cord that's behind the dresser? All that does is leave a lamp unusable since we can't plug it in until we get another extension cord. Towels I somewhat understand as they are useful and one can wash them. Nightlights I suspect are unplugged and then just swept up with the rest of the toiletries. how one fits an ironing board or luggage cart into a vehicle is beyond me, but I've had those disappear as well.

Sometimes what irritates me is not the big things like loss from the motel, but little things like trying to help. I give directions to people all the time with the map upside down. At this point if you turn the map away from you, I have a more difficult time. I'm trying to help you and the way I place the map will probably help both of us. Or when I give receipts and registration cards, I'm used to grabbing them from the way they're facing across the counter. If they're turned around to face me, my hands will automatically turn it around and it will be the wrong way. It doens't help to help. Or replacing the cap on a pen. If you're taking it with you, that's fine, but I have the cap on the base rather than the tip so that people can pick them up and use them. I've had people pick up every pen and change where the cap is. I can understand your automatically putting the cap over the tip on the one pen just used, but going through the whole pile and changing the way I've presented them (since they're usually in a patterned arramgement) doesn't help.

So my irritations have changed from teasing to other things. The question at the end of the day isn't about whether or not I get irritated but the response I have when the irritations happen. Some irritations I just have to live and can respond by being pleasant, others I can deal with the problem. The question is which are which. Someone who 'helps' by turning the papers the direction which I'm not used to having them isn't going to change if I snap at them. Someone who lets the waffle iron beep isn't going to learn if I bark the directions at them, but might if I ask politely and point to the sign. Someone who smokes in a non-smoking room probably isn't going to change, but I can charge them for the cean-up and that might make them a little more wary the next time and leave the next motel owner with less of an odor.

What can we do when we're irritated. Sometimes nothing, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Hopefully we can figure out which is which and act accordingly.

Getting one's sight back

John 9

[18] The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received
his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received
his sight

Once upon a time I read an ancient church father saying something like 'Nothing is as damaging to the faith as those Christians who say something is true contrary to what pagan and Christian can observe.' I'd like to find the quote again so I could get it correct and attribute it, but for now I'm stuck.

This blind man in the gospels was stuck. He saw for the first time and yet problems remained. Some wouldn't believe that he'd been blind. Others distanced themselves "He's an adult, so ask him." and this formerly blind man was left in limbo.

Job 19

[1] Then Job answered: [2] "How long will you torment me, and break me
in pieces with words? [3] These ten times you have cast reproach upon
me; are you not ashamed to wrong me?


[14] "My relatives and my close friends have failed me; [15] the
guests in my house have forgotten me; my serving girls count me as
a stranger; I have become an alien in their eyes.

In Job we also find a similar lament. In Job the problems come and Job feels as if his friends fail him. In John the family desertion happens when the healing is in an unusual fashion. The solution to our problems isn't always in the healing of the problem that is seen. Sometimes the problem that is seen is the tip of the iceberg. In family systems therapies the goal is to look at the whole situation rather than just the identified problem. What in the circumstances makes one person act out and what benefits do others in the family get from having one person act out?

In Job's case his troubles illuminated the problem with conventional answers to suffering (and some of the answers of Job's so-called friends are still used today). In the blind man of John the healing of the identified problem brought into clarity the problems in the whole community.

Healing of a physical problem may bring to light other problems and disaster may make clear the limitations of what we've believed. It may be more important to our well-bing if we consider how to meet the situations in which we are involved rather than to look for the obvious solution. In tragedy Job found that the superficial answers of religiousity didn't meet his needs. In being healed the blind man found that his sight showed more problems.

Healing, shalom, wholeness isn't just about whether everything looks right, but about the physical, spiritual, emotional and mental realms all being correct. What are we and our communities avoiding? Where have we mistaken the way? Are we so focused on the way the healing happens that we forget to celebrate the healing? Are we so focused on blaming the tragedy on someone that we forget to comfort the one who is hurt? Do we look at the symptoms or look for the real problems?

The questions we ask may be more important than the answers. The friends of Job did the right thing when they say while Job mourned. It was when they give some of the same answers we give today that they fell short. In the end it is the one who cried for relief, the one who told his problems must come from his sin, who was right before God and the ones who give the religious answers who were in the wrong.

We need to be careful that we don't blame the victim. We need to be careful that we aren't giving the religious answers that ignore God. We need to look for where God is leading us, rather than the answers that are in our comfort zone. We may have our sight, but the question is do we really see.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I found out about what would happen if Al Queda took President Bush's rules on torture. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish for pointing me to this direction.

Sites to visit

Since I had a mother who survived cancer and lived with a blood clotting disorder, a father who had several heart surgeries and parkinsons disease, a brother who survived a stroke to undergo a heart operation correcting the problem that contributed to the stroke, I loved the shirts at I haven't yet decided which one I want to buy for me. But for my brother (the twin) who was a caregiver for many years and my brother (youngest) the stroke survivor. I've got an idea.

Next step is to figure out how I'm going to pay for what I want.

Name changes

Creation science, no, Intelligent Design - no that's now been thrown out by the courts as religion has a new name...

In the Beginning
In the beginning, there was biblical literalism, and it was good, but not enough.

Then a great prophet came into the land to lead God's people. Henry Morris created creation science. That worked for a while.

I didn't notice this right away so you may have to scroll down to get the rest of the article at Red State Rabble, but for a good laugh.

Appeals to irrelevant higher authority

A long time ago, at least it seems so, I was working in an emergency food and clothing program. I answered phones, distributed food, sorted clothing, raised money, supervised volunteers and more. But I was almost always the person approving and disapproving issues. We had some guidelines that I could and did break without having any of my supervisors object. But I learned that if I wasn't going to do something, e.g. allow someone more food than the guidelines, I could often finish the discussion with an appeal to the rules.

Somehow people stopped arguing when I said, 'it's out of my hands'. When I was the one making the rules, they felt the discussion could be prolonged. When I realized I wasn't going to hear anything new and nothing that had been said was convincing, then I appealed to an irrelevant higher authority and allowed both of us to go on to do something else. In my case it may not have been productive since I was still learning many things, but at least I didn't feel trapped in a cycle of 'Please, do this.' and 'No, I won't.'

I'm glad to see that learning that response has continued. I don't mind if people come in off the street to get warm. But I also don't want to have them around to long. I've told this to my desk clerks and leave it up to their discretion whether or not someone, to be specifically a tramp or hitchhiker, can come in for a few minutes. And they, sometimes, appeal to an irrelevant authority. "My manager's coming in, so I can't have you staying any longer." is their response when they don't want to have a discussion about how long it's been.

Having learned how to appeal to an irrelevant higher authority makes me suspicious when people in government or the church try to fob off answers with things like, "We're fighting a war on terrorism, so can't answer that question." or "We just need to give up civil liberties for a little while until things are better" or "The Bible says so and if you knew the Bible you wouldn't have to ask where, so shame on you for not following scripture." or .... Well, the idea is clear.

There are times and places when the answer, 'because I said so' is and should be sufficient. There are times and places when any attempt to answer with 'because I said so' should be met with derision and opposition. The idea of holding prisoners in secret camps so as to fight terror is one of those times. There is no excuse for anyone in a country that rebelled against the idea of unlawful search and seizure for supporting or being involved in holding prisoners in secret, without due process or a quick and speedy trial.

We should be holding ourselves to higher standards rather than seeking to find with how much we can get away. Terrorists seek to solve their issues with destruction and chaos. If we give up our civil liberties then we are on the way to despotic rule and injustice that are a hallmark of terrorism from those in leadership positions. If we give up civil liberties, if we give up respecting people whether or not they are the citizens of our country, then we give up what we are fighting for in the war against terrorism.

Who is the sinner?

John 9

[1] As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. [2] His disciples
asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was
born blind?" [3] Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents
sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in

Often we have the idea that some tragedy is the result of God being against us or because of our sin. I've seen this often in comments such as "God is against homosexuals and has punished them with AIDS." That ignores the fact that most people with the virus are heterosexuals and that homosexuals who are women are one of the least affected groups.

The common wisdom of Jesus' day was that blindness or other defect reflected sin in a person's life. The burning question was not about that but whether the one blind from birth was affected by his own sin or that of his parents. The common wisdom asked the wrong question. When we use tragedy to ask who's the sinner or blame the one affected, we are like those blind fools of Jesus' day who concentrated on the wrong question.

The question is not whether AIDS is a punishment but how have we helped those in need. Are we providing resources that will effectively prevent the spread of AIDS and other STD's? That seems to me to be closer to the answer of who is saved in the last days. The passage about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, healing the sick from Matthew 25 suggests that our task is not to call someone a sinner, but to work so that another person's life may be made better.

AIDS is but one example of how we, who claim the name of Christian, have failed to follow the one whose name we claim. We who claim to be religious should look to the harshest words in the gospels. Those words of disdain were reserved for the people who were considered most religious. The ones who were commonly know as sinners - tax collecters, prostitutes, lepers - were given words of kindness and compassion. The Saducees, the pharisees, the levites were called hypocrites, white-washed burial caves, and more.

The one who was blind from birth recieved sight. But what about those of us who have blinded ourselves and stopped our ears and shut our mouths ... the cure is in our control. We have but to listen to the word and repent of our own hypocrisy and closed minds, then go forth to heal the sick, visit the prisoner, clothe the naked, feed the hungry using our gifts and joys to meed the deep needs of the world.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

When in the dark

When through the dark of night in pain
I wander through the fields of rain,
when nothing seems to be worthwhile
still you are near through all the miles.

I walk in sunshine and still the woe
eems closer than a breath and so
I pace the miles within a room –
the room of mind that’s full of gloom.

Yet in that gloom there is a spark
of unseen hope in midst of dark
a smell that fire again may light
snd bring perspective to my sight.

A memory left both faint and dim
when I could feel and sing a hymn
of praise to God and joy in life,
though all I have right now is strife.


I used to think I wasn't competitive. I didn't realize that not competing in athletics had little to do with my competitive streak. But I am. I just hide it. In card games I can recount the order of play, sometimes for several games and go back to see what I could have done better.

I don't like the idea that I'm competitive. But I think it's sometimes a human trait to find disgusting in others is either that in which we have no interest or that which we are trying to deny in ourselves. And so for a number of years I avoided obvious competition and ignored some of my own nature.

Yet there are good things in competition, even though I don't like some of the aspects of my own nature that are competitive. Preparing for a race can help encourage one to stay healthy and fit just as overtraining for the race can break down one's health. taking the competition in the proper spirit can lead to benefits and overdoing the competition can lead to a sense of failure.

My competitive streak was hidden for me by my perfectionistic streak. I didn't do many things because I couldn't do them right. My saying that I'd done an adequate job was what most other people (the non-perfectionist type) would consider excellent. And ahving to do things perfectly keeps one from a lot of joyous experience.

I now paint, badly. But I enjoy it.


Nothing much will be posted today of any note. I worked 7am-11pm yesterday and came in at 4:30am until 3pm. I suspect anything I say will be verbose and irrelevant.

Fair warning.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Christian idiocy

I did not live in an era or place where prayer was led in schools. I'm thankful for that. If and when someoene prays publically they are expressing their particular understanding of God and faith. And there are a whole lot of Christians who believe differently than I do. I don't want the public arena to be an area where one or two Christian views are expressed. And that means I support religious clubs in school that are open to all, but not putting up signifiers of a particular religion or religious expression.

Certainly I've prayed in schools. I've prayed that I'd do my best before written tests and oral exams. I've prayed not to be humiliated in the lunch line. I've prayed that I could get through a solo. No one has ever attempted to ban those sorts of prayers. But it's the public support of a particular Christian viewpoint that gets to me.

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars says it better than I do.

The situation has nothing to do with "apologizing for being Christians". You have an absolute right to be a Christian; you do not have a right to have the government endorse your Christianity. Your right to religious freedom hinges on the fact that the government has no authority to prescribe or proscribe which religious beliefs they are going to endorse and promote. I say again: if this has been a picture of Muhammed, all of those arguments about religious freedom would be turned into hysterical outrage. Just another example of the rank hypocrisy at the core of accomodationism. It is only their views that need to be accomodated, no one else's.

There's a longer story by the Charleston giving more description of the debate that Brayton talks about. But it boils down to replacing a picture of Jesus with an inscription around a mirror. Some people just don't get the state not supporting a particular religion.

Oh well.... there are reminders from people who want to avoid the appearance of a theocracy no matter how benign the expression. The ACLU is to be commended.


The older I get the more I realize what oddities there are among people. I'd heard the word synesthesia for many years before I realized it also applied to the way I function. Spelling bees were not a problem for me because I heard the word before I was asked to spell it. But sometimes at work I ask for someone's name and they spell it.

When the word is spelled first and/or not said I have trouble alphabetizing it. I hear the letters in a different form and have to write them down before I can get it together. The word as spoken comes to me in different form than when it's spelled. My brain will easily go from the word to the letters, but translation the other way, while not impossible, is more difficult.

Being odd is not a problem. Expecting everyone to be similar is.

I try to be particular in my questions. I ask for the last name rather than the room number, because people know their last name more often than what room they were in last night. I ask for the spelling only if I can't find the name, but not until after I've heard the name. After I've heard the name spelling it sometimes works, but there are days that I've got to write down the spelling before I can find the word as someone keeps on spelling their name rather than pronouncing it.

My suspicion is that if I had experiences like one of my friends who doesn't see I'd be even more frustrated. She has stood on a corner trying to figure out what she wants to do (I do the same - stopping in the middle of something to process what's going on) and had people drop coins in her coffee or grab her arm to help her across the street. That would cause me to say some words that I don�t normally say. It's easier, or so I suspect, to deal with people who don't answer the actual question asked rather than those who invade personal space. It doesn't matter that they're trying to help. If what is being done is not what was asked for it remains less than helpful and sometimes offensive.

Having differences is not a problem, having to act as if those differences don't exist or being forced to accept the help the other wants to give is a problem.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Hand Ironing

I may be the manager where I work, but that doesn't mean I escape chores. Today I was folding laundry and realized I do some things I learned as I child. Hand ironing, fluffing the sheets are both just habits from when I ironed regularly. They are little things that make for more and less work.

Most of the sheets I fold in the air - they never touch a table. An important step is shaking the wrinkles out or fluffing the sheets. But the pillow cases I have to have a table. It just doesn't feel right to me unless near the end of the folding process I can lay the pillow cases on the table and smooth away the wrinkles.

I suspect most of my guests will never notice that I did such. The flat sheets with their corners all together and the fitted sheets with the pockets tucked in aren't readily noticeable even if one is looking at the laundry in stacks on the shelves. Most guests only see the sheets and pillow cases unfolded and on the beds. Yet taking the extra time on those steps isn't wasted.

It's not wasted because it is part of doing a good job. Learning to take care in even the steps that aren't seen makes it more likely that I (or my staff) will take care in the things that our guests do see. If the sheets are folded neatly, then the housekeepers can find the corners more easily. If the tags on the towels are tucked in, then the guests don't see odd bits that look like loose threads.

And it's not just for the guests that I do these little extras. It's part of that presbyterian heritage with which I was raised. We do everything for the glory of God. That 'glory for God' idea can be abused which is why I call myself a 'recovering perfectionist'. We may think, at times, that we do everything perfectly for the glory of God and anything that isn't perfect does less than glorify God. We can confuse that striving to do everything well with the idea that we've got to keep working and forget that the Sabbath rest we take is also for the glory of God. We can go astray. Yet even with those possibilities of confusing our desires, our perfectionistic streaks, our workaholism, or some other sin, there is still a joy in trying to do everything to the best of our ability.

And the root of doing everything for the glory of God is doing what we are involved in as best we can. I paint. But I paint for my own self because I'm not very good. Yet when I paint I do the best job that I can do. I sing. And when I sing others find enjoyment as I've got a trained voice and have sung semi-professionally. Yet when I do so with less than I have ability whether or not others find pleasure is irrelevant. If I do less than that of which I am capable then I am not glorifying God no matter what others may think of my performance.

Hand ironing, fluffing sheets, painting, singing or whatever I am doing can be done for the glory of God. When I do those things, or anything else, to the best of my ability then I am in worship, in prayer, and glorifying the one I seek to serve.