Thursday, November 30, 2006

Say Uncle

I watched the new movie by Peter Paige of Queer as Folk fame. And mostly I enjoyed it. The movie seemed insipid at times but there were a lot of great character actors doing great sketches. Unfortunately the talent was worth watching rather than the movie. I'd prefer both. But it's worth going to see for the great character acting.

Francis of Assisi

"The Bishop of Assisi once said to St. Francis, 'I think your life is too hard, too rough. You don't possess anything in this world.' And Francis replied: 'My Lord, if we had possessions, we would need weapons to defend them.'"
Through the Year with Francis of Assisi

How can I keep from giving?

For all that I can be suspicious and write some cynical stuff, most of the people I've worked with are great and really need the food./clothing/gas I ran a food program and clothes closet right out of college and found it a source of strength in other times to reflect on what I've been able to do for others.

I don't think I've told the story here, but once upon a time I had a teacher - Mr. McCullough - he was doing a class on prejudice. My twin brother had the same class later in the day and was told not to answer any questions that day as he entered. The example of my parents was the problem. Mr. McCullough asked the class what would happen if a stranger came to the door and asked for food. And I knew. I raised my hand and said that my parents would get them some. And Mr. McCullough started to describe someone diry and ragged and such and I started to raise my hand again. And was told to not answer the question. For some reason this high school teacher didn't want my brother to ruin his point in a later class the way I did.

My parents learned at home. One of the stories from the depression is that mother's parents always had a couple of hired hands. It wasn't because they needed them - not with five boys. But they had people show up and they 'hired' them - sometimes with just food and lodging because that's all they had - until they could get another job.

Or should I mention my cousin who appeared at her parent's house for dinner with several men in tow. They were migrant laborers who were planning to get their Friday paychecks and go home to New Mexico for the weekend. But the boss didn't pay them on Friday as he wanted them on Saturday. So they were out of money, out of food and she brought them home and her parents fed them.

I grew up knowing the joy of helping people out. That's why even though I can by cynical and disbelieving when people ask for help I won't stop doing it just because I might get taken. If I'm conned so what. There are more people out there that I've helped and that I've seen appreciate it and that have needed that extra moment of caring that enriches me more than it does them and so .... I keep on rejoincing and giving because that's part of what makes for a life that is worthwhile.

Vance Havner

"I heard of a preacher the other day who was asked, 'What's the size of your pastorate?' He said, 'Twenty-five miles wide and one inch deep.' That is what bothers a lot of preachers these days."
Vance Havner in On This Rock I Stand

Leslie Newbingen

"No belief system can be faulted by the fact that it rests on unproved assumptions; what can and must be faulted is the blindness of its proponents to the fact that this is so."
Leslie Newbigin in Foolishness to the Greeks

And even more about my life

There are times when I wish that I could read minds. As in being asked to bring up a couple of towels to a room and when I get to the room being berated because I only brought two. It seems the guest wanted enough for their whole family. That I double checked whether they wanted hand towels and washcloths when I took the request seems to have escaped, that I brought up two, when they said 'a couple' and meant four was present for about thirty minutes. Well – I exaggerated it only felt like thirty minutes between the time I found out they wanted more than a couple and I picked up more and brought the extras to the room and heard again about my poor service skills in only bringing two when they wanted more.

That's not the only time I wish I could read minds. When a guest asks for a double there are three possible interpretations. And I wonder, 'Do they want a room with two beds? for two people? or with a double sized mattress?' I don't know until I ask. And most people are pleased to explain, but then I get the 'you know what I mean – a double' people who can't imagine that their usage is not the only possible explanation.

But most of the time I don't really want to know more that what people are talking about in front of me. When I've heard about how their roommate/significant others snores/talks/ bothers them for the twentieth time I already have the details in mind. I don't need to read their mind. I already know more than I want.

And then there are the complaints and the praises where I don't want to know more than is being said. I've had a couple of suspicions that people praising me wanted something else. I think it's because one of them asked for my name and my card and told me what a good job I'd done and then sent a complaint to the national office about what a poor job I'd done. Since I get far more compliments through the national office than complaints I take those with a grain of salt, though I do look at them seriously and try to improve. And certainly I make mistakes. I do have a problem with complimenting me to my face and bad mouthing me to someone else. I'm glad I couldn't read the mind of that guest, since I might have shown them how sarcastic I can get. While I might do that with my friends I tend to believe that I shouldn't be sarcastic with a customer. I can be tempted however into doing that which I don't want to do.

Also in complaints is the mind of the woman who called my ugly, about to lose my job, lacking in customer service skills, and more. I think the fact that I'd asked her to leave after finding her with a dog in the pool contributed to the fact that she was upset. There is a no pet policy posted at our motel. Somehow that fact escaped her notice. At least she said that she hadn't been aware of that when I caught her with the dog in the pool. I think she misspoke since she complained to the national office and told them that she'd been told to sneak the dog into the motel by a desk clerk. I had a little trouble believing that since the desk clerk and I had searched for a barking dog for several minutes before we found the dog in the pool. Maybe it's my mind I don't want her to read, certainly she seemed to have spoken her mind fairly clearly, but it's certainly not a mind I want to know any further things about.

Breakfast time is another time I'm just as glad I don't read minds. I really don't mind the requests for items that I'm out of. I do mind some other things. The guest who argued over how to make waffles in our waffle maker – I don't mind being told that the guest had closed the lid and was waiting to for it to quit beeping, as then the iron would have heated up. I do mind being told that I was wrong twice in a row when I told her that the waffle iron was hot and the beeping was because the iron sensed it had been closed, assumed that she had poured in the batter and was wanting her to rotate it so as to start the timer. Finally, that guest read the directions and then believed me. Actually this is another time I 'm glad that guests can't read my mind.

When I've had someone come down to the front desk two, three, four times to tell me how much he and his girlfriend are enjoying their time at the motel. I don't want to read their mind. And I certainly don't want him to read my mind even if my question of "Why are you telling me if you're having such a great time? Shouldn't you be back in the room having a great time, if it is indeed such a great time?" might be enough to keep him from coming back and that would keep me from thinking longingly of sticking pens into my ears.

I really don't want to read the mind of the guest who talked to me about whether or not the housekeepers were stealing from her room. Those mentions of Hispanics being thieves didn't really appeal to me nor did her dismissal of my suggestion that sticking a stuffed animal in the doorway while she went to breakfast (so she didn't have to keep a key with her) was more likely to lead to a theft than the actions of housekeepers who had been with the motel for seven and six years respectively.

And speaking of housekeepers, it's not that I'm glad I don't read minds, I'm also appreciative that I don't know what words they're saying in Spanish some days. One of those days was when they went into a room where potpourri was sprinkled on the bed and flower petals on the carpet. I suspect (that means I'm absolutely sure) that if I'd known any of the words the housekeeper said as she picked up each petal from the carpet I'd have had to reprimand her for her language. But then I wouldn't have wanted to be a hypocrite as I was probably thinking similar things as I worked to get the stains from the potpourri out of the linens.

I'm glad the customer the other night wasn't reading my mind. He was telling me about how we could have handled firing a desk clerk better. If he'd stopped right there I would have been fine. But he mentioned how nice she was to the customers and my mind started thinking about how she was a little nicer to some customers than we expected. He said something along the lines of how maybe he didn't know all the problems and I was thinking I really hope you don't know the problems. I mentioned she'd been late a few times and he went but I've known people to keep their jobs when they run late and do extra things around the place. And I was thinking it's not just that she's running late even though that's what I mentioned and there are some extras that we don't want our employees to provide around the place.

Yes, on the whole, I'm glad I don't read people's minds. And I'm certainly glad that they can't read mine.

Garrison Keillor

"Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known."
Garrison Keillor in Lake Wobegone Days

Thomas Shepard

"A Pharisee's trumpet shall be heard to the end of the town but simplicity walks through the town unseen."
Thomas Shepard in The Parable of the Ten Virgins


Paul talks of those who follow Jesus, the one who is the Christ, as ambassadors for Christ. Since this is so, perhaps the image we should have of our buildings is that of an embassy. We are to promote our cause/country to the world where we are and should be a sanctuary for those fleeing in distress from this world.

Many of us in the USA have conflated the fact that we are a part of this country and are to speak to and for our country with the idea that we are citizens of God's realm. And we are citizens of both God's realm and the country where we reside. But, as the song goes, we are wayfaring strangers in this world. Our ultimate allegiance is not to this particular country, much as we are also called to love it, but to our home with God.

Our home is with God and we are to live as if we are in God's realm in the here and now. That means reaching out to the poor, the stranger, the one's who are taunted and more. In the realm of this world power, money, and recognition are important. In the world of Christ those are less important. When we walk in the halls of power the Christian is to recognize that they are to speak for the powerless. When we walk in the palaces of the wealthy we are to we who claim the name of Christ are to remember that he came to the poor and the outcast. When we have our faces in the news as pundits and are mentioned on the news as those with renown, then our notoriety is to be used for those who have been derided and mocked.

We are to be followers of Christ. Our real question is not 'What would Jesus do?' We're not Jesus. Our real question is, 'What am I being called to do?' The answer will change with the situation. Yet in that changing answer comes the call from Micah – to seek justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with our God.

We are ambassadors to a world that is still becoming a new creation. Let us act like it.

Helping out

How not to become too cynical is a good question. If we set our standards for helping so high that we'll never get taken, then we will miss some of those who need help. If we help everyone without checking their story out, we will run out of resources and energy. Finding the balance between the positions of helping no one or every one is difficult.

I have some personal guidelines. If the person doesn't want to give me information such as name and address, then they're conning me. If the person wants help only if I give it in cash, then they're conning me. But when someone is willing to go to the fast food place with me so that I can pay for their meal, then they want food. If they're willing to drive with me to the gas station so I can pay the attendant their, then they need gas. What I look for is people who want what I can give rather than wanting in their own priorities.

I'm called to use my resources wisely.

One of the rules at the order where Mother Theresa worked is that when people come during worship they finish the worship service before helping. It's not that the people don't need help, but that those who are helping must take care of their own needs in order to take care of the needs of others.

I take care of myself in order to take care of others.

I suspect that I've turned away those who need help and I'm sure I've helped those who were conning me. But my task is not to be perfect in my decisions, but to be hospitable to those in need. I work so that I'm not hard-hearted and so that I'm not an easy mark. I leave the rest in the hands of God.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

James Allen Sparks

"We can't plan for joy, or put a specific date and time on our calendars when we plan to savor it. Joy overtakes us while we're busy at something else."
James Allen Sparks in If This Pew Could Talk

My mother

Once upon a time my mother was heading out of town to a meeting. Since the foster child she was caring for couldn't go outside of the county borders mom was taking the child to a friend's house (another foster parent) for the day. Mom really didn't think the weather was that bad even though there was some snow. Then she got to a hill and all of a sudden was facing the other direction. The car had done a 180. The child threw up her hands and went 'Whee'. My mother wiped her brow and went 'Whew', then decided as long as she was facing the direction of her house she ought to go there and avoid driving in any more snow and ice for the day.

Mother Theresa

"I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn't touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God."
Mother Teresa in A Gift for God


Come down, O fire, enlighten all my life
and give my spirit breath through all the day
so I may come to life from cold, dead clay
prepared to go and tell of love in strife.

in fights that call the Christian drunk or mad
in days with minds that block the word of God
with steps both firm and calm so may I trod
the city streets or country roads as glad

to tell the words of love and of release
from sin and death and terrors of the night
that plague this world with fears and hates and greeds

Come down O Holy Spirit bring a cease
to all the world’s long night through God’s pure light
in love that reaches all the world’s deep needs

Sunday, June 04, 2006
©Roger Victoria 2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A W Tozer

"Many of the doctrinal divisions among the churches are the result of a blind and stubborn insistence that truth has but one wing."
A. W. Tozer in That Incredible Christian

Blind fools

The scribes and Pharisees are so particular about doing what is right.
They’ve got the Bible memorized and have figured out categories for each
action and each sin. They look at the mint that grows like a weed and tithe
a tenth of what they pick. They look at the small seed of dill and cumin
and tithe a tenth of the weight. They’ve learned when and how to make every
sacrifice except one. What they don’t know is about sacrificing themselves
for another.

The interest of the Pharisees and the scribes is so much on the particulars
that they canÂ’t see what is really important. They’ve studied every leaf of
the tree and ignore the roots and trunk. And the question for us today is –
have we become just like the Pharisees and the scribes?

Matthew 23:13-24

[13] "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people
out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when
others are going in, you stop them. [15] Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you
make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

[16] "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the sanctuary is
bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound
by the oath.' [17] You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the
sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? [18] And you say, 'Whoever swears
by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on
the altar is bound by the oath.' [19] How blind you are! For which is
greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? [20] So whoever
swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; [21] and whoever
swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; [22]
and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who
is seated upon it.

[23] "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint,
dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law:
justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without
neglecting the others. [24] You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but
swallow a camel!


"Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
in The Martyred Christian, by Joan Winmill Brown

Not much sympathy here

Twenty years ago certainly, ten years ago maybe, but today someone asked to
write a check and I didn’t have much sympathy. Unless you are known at the
location, most places these days just don’t accept checks. And at a motel
that is even more true. And today someone came in and asked to write a
check. The fact that it is snowing and the interstate is closed made me a
little more sympathetic - until I realized that they lived in this area.
We’ve had winter storm warnings and watches for the last couple of days.
This storm is no surprise. And then the person said something along the
lines of “I didn’t think I’d need my wallet.”

And that’s fine. I don’t mind that you didn’t bring your wallet. But I do
mind that you expect me to pick up after you when you just plain didn’t plan
for the problem. And the problem was easily foreseeable. This is Colorado.
If you travel even thirty miles from home you can get stuck away from it
for several hours or a night when a storm comes up. And the weather
channels have been forecasting an incoming storm for several days. And this
morning the forecast was for a nasty storm tonight. And I could go on.

And I did offer to help. I dialed the sheriff’s department. But you hung
up saying that they weren’t answering. If you really wanted help you would
have navigated the menu. You would have looked into what they could
provide. I know that the sheriff’s department will come out and help since
I’ve asked them to do so in times that aren’t emergencies and when someone
really needs help. But this timeÂ… you didn’t want help. Or you wanted it
in a way that allowed you to control the situation. And that just wasn’t
going to happen. So pardon me if I am less than sympathetic. What you
wanted just doesn’t rise to the level of necessity that would invoke my

Ambrose Bierce

From Ambrose Bierce's Devils Dictionary:

RESPONSIBILITY, n. A detachable burden easily shifted to the
shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor.
In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.

FREEDOM, n. Exemption from the stress of authority in a beggarly
half dozen of restraint's infinite multitude of methods.
A political condition that every nation supposes itself to enjoy
in virtual monopoly. Liberty. The distinction between freedom and
liberty is not accurately known; naturalists have never been able to
find a living specimen of either.

A tangled web

I go to a meeting on ecunet called 'Quotes to live with' quite frequently. I revisit some of the old posts and find them helping in my meditation on scripture and how to live my life. Today I came across the familiar 'tangled web' quote of Sir Walter Scott, it brought to mind some recent instances of hidden places brought to life. The ruination of Haggard when the hypocrisy of his preaching against the homosexual lifestyle while buying drugs and sex comes to mind as but one example. But what makes some of this incomprehensible to me is all the energy one would have to devote to keeping secrets and track of the lies. I simply don't have the energy to manage that. I can do avoidance of the whole truth, but then I don't have to keep track of what I've said. But lying - it just seems like more work than I want to go through for such little results. I've done denial - I spent most of my life denying my sexual orientation. But I still didn't have to keep track of everything, though I did ignore a lot of signs that became obvious once I admitted that I was attracted to my own gender.

So Scott's tangled web seems perfectly apposite to life as a Christian or life in general. It is just too much work to deceive ourselves or others, yet we do it. Perhaps it's because there is always something that we don't like about ourselves and don't want to have to admit it to others. Yet, if we really do want to follow Christ (rather than just call ourselves Christian) we will look to hold all of our life up to the light. We'll pry around in the dark corners and bring what we find into the open. We'll cut the Gordian knot and free ourselves from the things that keep us from fully knowing God.

A tangled web may be a comfortable place in which to rest, but sooner or later we'll find that we are stuck. In the light may be a little less comfortable, but will enable us to find new joys that are unknowable while still trapped in a web of deception. So come into the light, cut the Gordian knot, escape from the stuck places and learn to be free.

Sir Walter Scott

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!

Sir Walter Scott

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Leo Tolstoy

One can live magnificently in this world,
if one knows how to work and how to love, work for the person one loves,
and to love one's work.

Leo Tolstoy

Martin Luther

God rides the lame horse and carves the rotten wood.

(Martin Luther)

Leave the gate

Growing up with farmers and ranchers one of the rules was 'Leave that gate as you found it.' I learned it through example long before I could express it. I didn't need to know whether the cows were to be kept in or out or let wander between the fields. All that was important was to make sure that we kept the gates where they were to help granddad or my aunts and uncles do the work on the ranch.

That's not a bad rule for life. Unless you know what you're doing, leave things as you find them. The simplest form that I learned before kindergarten is just to leave things as they are. I didn't always follow it. Sometime when I was about three I wandered into the kitchen and found that things were in a different drawer than I remembered. So I took my time and switched them back to the way they'd been. My mother had to sit me down and explain that she had changed the places of her kitchen utensils. I guess that I might have been following the rule since I thought I should put things back in the way they'd always been.

I suspect I may sometimes have been irritating as a child since I wanted things left the way that I'd put them. My brother and I shared some of our books in music lessons. There was a time when he was teasing me when we were switching places at the piano for practice and he put one of our shared books on the top of the piano. I asked him (perhaps demanded) to put it back. He didn't. I left it there. And, until he found it, I kept telling him that he was the last one to have it. I told the whole truth, but I didn't tell enough to help him out. And I gored my own ox since I was supposed to practice from that book. But being a little bit stubborn I didn't touch the book since it wasn't where I'd arranged my books to be and my brother hadn't put it back. I suppose that's a case of being way to stubborn about leaving the gate as I found it.

My mother once said, 'You're the most amenable of my children and the most stubborn.' I wouldn't disagree. If I didn't think it was worth fighting over I'd go along. But once my stubborn side came into play – and I had to have what I thought was good reason – then I was stubborn as a mule.

And I was as stubborn as a mule my grandparents had while mom was growing up. This mule had a tendency to pull back and break the reins when it was tied up. A couple of my uncles thought they'd teach the mule not to do this. So they used a chain in place of the leather reins and hitched the mule to a telephone pole. The mule pulled back. The mule kept pulling back. The mule pulled the telephone pole down on its head. (Trust me, this story made it into the book of family stories that we collected for my grandparent's fiftieth wedding anniversary.) The mule was knocked out, but survived. My uncles learned not to hitch the mule up to anything.

After I was in college my mother and I were traveling with one of my brothers and an imp of the perverse caused my mother to ask my brother if he knew who had sat in the middle the most while we were growing up. My one brother said the name of my other brother. Mom and I both smiled at each other as she said my name. My brothers fought over who got the window seats and I sat in the middle for three times and then just got in and let my brothers continue to fight over the window seat. I just didn't want to fight and didn't think it was that big of a deal. For some reason my brother, even by the time both of us were out of the house, just hadn't noticed my stubborn streak, but mom had noticed both the amenable and stubborn sides. We're in our forties and I still don't think my brother (and this is my twin) has noticed how stubborn I can be at times. Oh well.

One reason I'm reluctant to use my stubborn streak is that it can be destructive. Yes sometimes is the time to get on one's horse and ride into the battle. But, as in the earlier example of the music book, there are times when it's just not worthwhile it harms me more than any goal that might be achieved. So I try to figure out what's a constructive use of my stubborn streaks.

One of the ways I'm doing this is just like my mother. Every year she read through the Bible. In the year that my parents went back to Germany to see where his mother had lived, my mother read through the Bible in German – as she was learning German for the first time. This year my goal has been to read through the New Testament in Greek. I took the language in college and in graduate school, but haven't used it much lately. So this year – it's back to learning how to read another language. Next year, I'm back to English, but for one year my stubborn streak served me well.

And I also try to use that stubborn streak along with the lesson of leaving the gate as I found it. One of my issues is conservation. Some things are more easily done than others. But at our motel we save the soaps and lotions that we can't put out and give them to people who need soap and shampoo. It's not much but it is something. We also work on reusing what we can. If a key card packet doesn't have anything written on it, then we can use it for the next customer. I may not be able to stop jump faxes – I tried calling the stop numbers and ended up with more – but I can cut them up, staple them together, and come up with note pads. Sure, it takes a little more time but those things make me feel as if I'm leaving the world as is came to me or a little better.

What are your inclinations that can be used for both good and bad? A stubborn streak, a tendency to jump in feet first, a tendency to hold back and see what's happening, something more?

Book Recommendation

I've been reading a book that may start to come up in my blogging. I recommend it.

Theodore W. Jennings, Jr. the man Jesus loved

Daughter of Jairus - Luke 8

How many ways in this story did Jesus violate the conventions for religious leaders? The woman with the hemorrhage was unclean, the dead body was unclean and more.

But this story is about going beyond the immediate to the real needs of people. In the bustle of a crowd Jesus noticed someone who was desperate. Menstrual bleeding for twelve years, that woman shouldn’t have even been in the crowd that day, she was unclean and was supposed to be out away from people so she wouldn’t make them unclean, let alone be around someone she respected, such as a teacher.

And yet this woman touched Jesus and he felt power leave and he responded to her. Even in the midst of another problem he took time for a nameless woman. Frankly I’m not like that. I get involved in one task and don’t really notice anything until that’s done. If I’m doing several things, then I’m probably not paying attention to much of anything other than those several things. I can walk and talk at the same time, but noticing what else is going on is beyond me.

And what we see in this story is someone rich and well known coming to Jesus in need. And what we see here is someone not so well known or popular looking to Jesus for help. And what we see is Jesus coming to both rich and poor in their time of need. We see a Jesus who has ruth and compassion for the least among us.

The miracle isn’t, in my opinion, the healing of the sick or the raising of the dead. The miracle is in the giving of self and going to the least among us. And Luke is all about helping the one’s who are weak, oppressed, different and more. In fact, there are a few scholars who believe that a woman wrote Luke. One of the reasons for that speculation (it is a very serious speculation) is that there are so many women in Luke and they play a prominent role.

Time and time again we hear that we are not to be like others. We’re not about searching for power or wealth. We don’t go to the people who like Jairus are leaders first; we go to the people who have little or no power. We don’t come to the powerful for answers; we take time in private prayer and conversation with each other. What does the Lord require? – see Micah 6:8. What is the greatest commandment? and the second like it? – see Luke10:27 and other places. Once we start concentrating on loving our neighbor and working so that the needs of those without power are met, then we are on the way of following Christ.

We have someone who overturned the tables of the moneychangers, who called religious leaders whitened tombs, who said that many who called upon his name would be surprised at the last days. The scriptures do not show our savior’s message as someone who wants us to be walking in the halls of power and saying ‘this person is voting our religious values and that person is not.’ They show someone who walks the halls of power and asks the people to account for their use of that power.

So do we walk with the powers that be congratulating ourselves on our relationships with those who can do things? Or do we walk as those who call the powerful and rich to be better than they thought they could be? Which one would Jesus do?

Does it come from God? or Testing the Spirit.

Does it come from God? or Testing the Spirit.

I’ve often heard people try to stop debate by saying, ‘but the Bible says.’ The problem with using that is often what is being discussed is the question of ‘what the Bible says.’ Whether or not scripture is infallible, inerrant, or nay of the other words thrown around is irrelevant to any theological discussion. That’s because the inerrancy, the infallibility of scripture doesn’t apply to any of us who are reading, interpreting and proclaiming the Word of God.

What applies to the word of God does not apply to those of us who lie under the authority of Scripture. We are called to test the words of those who interpret scripture. Whether the words come directly from scripture, from some authority on scripture, or our own sense of being informed by God as to the meaning of a passage, we are called to test the spirit and examine our understanding. Does what we are hearing and/or saying come from God or from another source?

To say, without context, ‘but the Bible says’ is to ignore one’s own responsibility to study scripture with both heart and mind. One scripture passage has been translated into English ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.’ That passage has been used to justify the use of a stick to beat children. But a more justified response would be to look at the passage in the context in which it was written in which case one finds that the ‘rod’ is a measuring device.

Scripture is read as I read anything else. Books that aren’t scripture I still read with the same tools. Prayer and reflection are tools that I use to read scripture and to help to understand every part of my life. Analysis and questions are what I use to understand fiction and non-fiction and then use in scripture to help in understanding better what God desires of me. A tool or method that is valid can be used on literature whether it is or isn’t scripture, a tool or method that doesn’t work on literature won’t work on scripture.

Reading the words in the Bible is only a start to understanding what they mean. When I go to scripture I begin with prayer and reflections. I go to tools that help me understand the words in context. I go to tools that help me understand the original language. I go to tools that help me to understand the culture in which the passage was written. I go to like and unlike passages of scripture. And I return to prayer and reflection.

When I read a novel, the words are only a start to understanding. I go with prayer and reflection. I go to tools to help me understand the context of the words. I go to language tools if I’m reading a translation. I go to tools that help me understand the culture of the author if it’s not my own (and sometimes if it is my culture). And, as with everything in my life, I return to prayer and reflection.

To suggest that I use the same tools for scripture and other writings is not to say that one is the same as the other. Scripture is my witness to God. It is my authority on how and what to believe. But even with prayer and reflection my understanding of scripture only begins with reading the words. My understanding should use all the tools that have been provided – archaeology, philology, literary criticism, like and unlike theologians, and more – so that I can come to a little more understanding of where God is calling me to go. The tools are not more important than the text, but they are important to help us understand the text.

The Orthodox test of a prophet/visionary is still valid today as we seek to interpret what comes to us in visions:
1. The vision/revelation/prophecy affirms and in no way gainsaysScripture.
2. The prophet/visionary doesn't profit from the prophecy/vision.
3. If anyone suffers the prophet/visionary suffers.
4. The prophecy/vision is ultimately proven true.

William Sloane Coffin

"We can build a community out of seekers of truth, but not out of possessors of truth."

-- William Sloane Coffin

C. S. Lewis

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You, too? I thought I was the only one."

--C.S. Lewis


One of the theological terms to which I return is ‘praxis’. It has other meanings from other disciplines, but in theology it refers to the movement between action and reflection or reflection and action. One does not act without taking time for reflection and one does not reflect without moving into action. The one is not better than the other for reflection without action is like a fly trapped in amber. It looks nice but is dead. And action without reflection is flailing around without direction, much may happen, but it doesn’t affect change.

I come to it again as I think about the Bush administrations use, misuse, and denial of using the phrase ‘stay the course.’ Stay the course is a nice sound-bite, but totally irrelevant to actually fighting a war. The objectives need to be defined and can certainly be labeled under staying the course, but the actual tactics to achieve those objectives must change as needed. Are the tactics being used in Iraq increasing the safety of those in Iraq and reducing the threat of terrorism both in Iraq and in the world? Yes or no. Even if ‘yes’ can those tactics be improved?

Alexander Smith

"Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in therecognition."

-- Alexander Smith

Andrew Sullivan

from Andrew Sullivan

There is no evidence that Benedict has ever broken his vows of chastity; but there is no evidence that he is heterosexual either. Hence the gossip; hence the jokes. When you're a Pope who declares that even closeted, chaste gay men cannot be priests, it's pushing your luck to clothe yourself in Prada, bedeck your Pope-mobile with luxurious Natuzzi Italian white leather, and surround yourself with assistants who look like they strayed from the pages of "L'Uomo Vogue."

Irish proverb

"It is in the shelter of each other that the people live."

-- Irish proverb

Stories of my family

In high school one of my teachers, social studies, recommended that we read a book by Barbara Ward called ‘The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations”. He said that, ‘there’s probably only one other copy in our town.’ I went home and mentioned this to my parents. My dad said, “I think I have a copy at the office” and my mother said, “I’ve got a copy downstairs that your aunt sent me and one upstairs that I bought at a conference.

My parents were also responsible for another social studies teacher having problems. I went into class one day and the teacher asked us, “What would your parents do if someone came to the door and asked for food?” Since my dad had been in charge of ministerial emergency funds in more than one community I put up my hand and said, “Give them food and if they needed lodging get them a room at the local motel.” So my teacher tried to make the situation worse and described someone dirty, ragged, and with a noisy car. I started to raise my hand and was told “Roger, don’t answer the question”. One of my brothers had the same class at another period and was told as he came in the door, “Don’t answer my questions today.”

This sort of story isn’t that unusual in my family. We have stories of my grandparents taking in people during the depression. Or in more recent years one of my cousins was working with some migrant workers. The boss put off paying them one Friday so he could get them back on Saturday. They had planned their money so that they could go back home on Friday and return on Monday. My cousin showed up at her parent’s house with several extra men at dinnertime. I might not always say that my relatives are nice, but I will say they set a good example.

I get some stubbornness from my family as well. One of my uncles got into a conflict with the college where he worked, or so I heard the story, and they thought they had him over a barrel. He quit. From teaching mathematics he went to tuning pianos. He made more money. A few years later he was teaching again – this time how to tune pianos.

At a recent family reunion one of my aunts mentioned that they didn’t know where the red hair in my uncle’s beard came from. I mentioned that my mother said it came from our great-grandfather K. She was surprised; my uncle – whom my mother had called her favorite brother – was surprised. Family stories get passed down different ways.

I sometimes wonder why all the criminal shows have people running up stairs. Don’t they know that they’re trapped there? Then I recall where my twin brother and spent many summer hours. We were up on the roof of the garage eating peaches. We were up on a limb of the locust tree. We were climbing the TV antenna to look at the purple martin house. Perhaps it’s not so strange that people flee to the heights.

Anthony de Mello

"The cure for loneliness is not company. It is coming in touch withreality."

-- Anthony de Mello

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Margaret Mead

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens canchangethe world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

-- Margaret Mead

This is the moment

For the moment I’m between jobs. The laundry and cleaning has finished –including all the folding – and the guests for the night haven’t yetarrived. There’s a pause where I can double check what’s going on and think about what I’ll need for the next day. It’s in these moments that I often remember to pray and give thanks.

Certainly there are other moments – other than these moments of in between time – where I give thanks, say a quick prayer for help and other things. But these times are the moments where I can just spend time in contemplation and without an agenda. These are the times for prayer inthe midst of a busy day. And that time for prayer, reflection, or meditation – whatever you want to call it – is important for my renewal.

Those moments are also scriptural. How many times in the gospels do we hear of Jesus leaving the crowds topray? And then tto prayre the moments as when Elijah left the scene of hist riumph over the priests to go to the wilderness andcomplain/reflect. The prophets spend time out side of their tasks to pray, to reflect, and to work on remembering their call from God.Where are the moments in your day to reflect or pray or take time to justbe? We all need them, but sometimes we get too caught up in doing torealize that we need to look at why we are doing what we’re doing. So find those moments where nothing is going on and take them for what theyare instead of filling them with one more thing.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Madeline L'engle

"God is always calling on us to do the impossible"

Madeline L"Engle
Walking on Water

Oblivious, Hypocritical, something else

Let’s see, Randy Thomas complains about being the subject of ridicule on Youtube. That’s because at one point he says, ” that we respect a person's right to self determination regarding what they want to do with their same sex attraction.” And then goes on to say, “Oddly enough, the video doesn't make a point that this was the parent's decision by their own initiative.” If the parents are making a child go to those so-called treatments that have not been shown to be effective and have been shown to cause harm, then that is forcing a person, and a child is a person, to do something that is not their own decision.

This is a subject fit for ridicule. Randy Thomas writes an article in which he contradicts himself in the same paragraph. At one point claiming that every one is allowed self-determination and then giving that power of determination over to the parents. It’s also what’s known as hypocrisy – claiming to do one thing and then doing something else. If it is someone else, including the parent, who is making the decision it’s just not self-determination.

I messed up on getting the link so have posted the whole article below.

I have been made the subject of a YouTube video.
The activist, someone I actually like when he is using his talents toward other non-destructive purposes, is upset that I said on the Adam Carolla Show, twice, that we respect a person's right to self determination regarding what they want to do with their same sex attraction. One of Exodus' Member Ministries, Love In Action (LIA) (one of the oldest ministries out of the close to 150 agencies who work with us) allows parents to enter their underage teenage children into their residential program. This activist features quotes from a two young men who were made, by their parents, to go to the program. Oddly enough, the video doesn't make a point that this was the parent's decision by their own initiative. He also highlights Jerry Falwell (who spoke at our conference in 2005). Falwell was quoted, according to a gay website, that he agrees it is ok for parents to make such a decision for their children.
Where this video fails is that it tries to make LIA's policy, an autonomous ministry incorporated as their own organization, as somehow a huge policy issue for Exodus and the other 149 or so agencies and churches we work with. He mentions that LIA is one of the oldest ministries, but conveniently leaves out that their program for young people is relatively new. The video also fails because it completely ignores parental rights afforded to the parent's by the state. It further fails because it assumes that teenagers can't think for themselves as obviously displayed by the young man in the video who came out of the program to determine he was going to pursue his identity centered around homosexuality. Plus, there are many others who have been helped by Love In Action. Exodus and Love In Action didn't go out and force anyone into their program. In the very few cases of people entering the program against their will (only two highlighted and I am not aware of any others) the parents came to Love In Action and entered their underage children...which they have a right to do according to law.

have been made the subject of a YouTube video.
The activist, someone I actually like when he is using his talents toward other non-destructive purposes, is upset that I said on the Adam Carolla Show, twice, that we respect a person's right to self determination regarding what they want to do with their same sex attraction. One of Exodus' Member Ministries, Love In Action (LIA) (one of the oldest ministries out of the close to 150 agencies who work with us) allows parents to enter their underage teenage children into their residential program. This activist features quotes from a two young men who were made, by their parents, to go to the program. Oddly enough, the video doesn't make a point that this was the parent's decision by their own initiative. He also highlights Jerry Falwell (who spoke at our conference in 2005). Falwell was quoted, according to a gay website, that he agrees it is ok for parents to make such a decision for their children.
Where this video fails is that it tries to make LIA's policy, an autonomous ministry incorporated as their own organization, as somehow a huge policy issue for Exodus and the other 149 or so agencies and churches we work with. He mentions that LIA is one of the oldest ministries, but conveniently leaves out that their program for young people is relatively new. The video also fails because it completely ignores parental rights afforded to the parent's by the state. It further fails because it assumes that teenagers can't think for themselves as obviously displayed by the young man in the video who came out of the program to determine he was going to pursue his identity centered around homosexuality. Plus, there are many others who have been helped by Love In Action. Exodus and Love In Action didn't go out and force anyone into their program. In the very few cases of people entering the program against their will (only two highlighted and I am not aware of any others) the parents came to Love In Action and entered their underage children...which they have a right to do according to law.
And, on an important technical issue also not clarified in the video, I don't represent Love In Action or Jerry Falwell, I represent myself and Exodus. I highly respect these other ministries. Even so, neither have asked me to represent them.
This video is an attack against me by fusing multiple issues into sensational soundbytes. Typical, and while visual (with great music in the background), not a very creative attack...except for the music. What I said is completely accurate to Exodus' thirty year position on self-determination.
We do respect a person's right to self-determination. Perhaps the maker of the video should be attacking state defined parental rights and the expression of religious liberties within that context ... instead of me. For some reason this person doesn't want to dig into the subject on that level and would rather attack me personally by reducing this personal and complex issue to name-calling (i.e. "liar".)
By the way, Tennessee, the state that was investigating Love In Action (LIA) dropped it's investigation after Love In Action sued them for religious discrimination. The state, fully aware of LIA's activities and policies, upheld LIA's right to operate as a faith based organization and settled with them out of court. The state even paid for Love In Action's court fees that resulted from their investigation.
Technorati Tags: Ex-gay, Exodus, Youtube, exgay, homosexuality, love in action, self-determination Posted by Randy Thomas on Tuesday

Yazid Ibrahim

"When looking at faults, use a mirror, not a telescope."
-Yazid Ibrahim

Those little lies

Today someone said something along the lines of 'Your breakfast closes early.' And I went, 'we keep it open until nine am.' And they continued along with, 'most places keep it open until ten' And I went, 'not around here.' Then the final word was, 'We've never seen a breakfast close so early.' And I sighed.

I know that the places around here close at nine am. I've been at a lot of motels where the breakfast closes at nine. It's just not that unusual. And to have someone say that they've never seen it before is either a lack of travel experience or a little lie. And those little lies add up.

I suppose that the person just wanted to be in the right. But a little lie is the wrong way to go about it. We all make mistakes and all of us have lied on ocassion. But the attitude that allows one to lie, just a little bit, just for a good purpose, just adds up over time into an attitude that allows lying at one's convenience. And that's why just a little lie is still wrong.

William Arthur Ward

"The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires."
-William Arthur Ward

And Tango Makes Three

I keep reading every few months about a library acquiring the children’s book “And Tango Makes Three.” Then someone gets upset that the book promotes homosexuality and then there is brouhaha about what books children should read. The biggest problem is, in my opinion, that the book is about a true incident. And it’s not just that this happens in zoos, but that it happens in the wild.

Male partners in more than one species will raise orphans and abandoned young of their own species. This is observed fact. Our children need to have this sort of factual information available. If it is in the form of a children’s story then all the better. The children will learn more about the natural world. It is foolish to argue that just because a book is about a same-gendered partnership that it is inappropriate. What is inappropriate is not teaching children about what is fact.


I recently saw an article about a church burning. No, this wasn’t because it was a black congregation. But it was because of their beliefs. And it was right here in the U.S.A.

Lussier, a student at a bible institute, stole from and burned down churches that didn’t meet his definition of Christianity. This is someone who doesn’t understand the meaning of Christianity and can’t read the Bible for all of his prejudices. Paul looked at the different altars in the marketplace before he began to preach. And then Paul used an example from one of those same worship places to begin the conversion process. He didn’t go around burning down the places of those with whom he disagreed.

Christians need to join together in crying shame on those who profess the name but do not act in accordance with the one the claim. Shame on you Mr. Lussier and shame on those whose teaching led you to burn down a house of worship.

Those who hear the word

Luke 11
[27] While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" [28] But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!"

What is really important in our life and faith? This is the question that is answered in the story where Jesus corrects a woman. There are many places where Jesus clearly respects the presence of women in a fashion equal to that of men. He listens to the Syro-phoenican woman and corrects himself because of her arguments. There are women who follow and provide for the disciples. In the New Testament there is mention of Junia as renowned among the apostles. This story isn’t about them. It’s about blessing a woman for whom she bore rather than for who she is. This story is about what is truly important in faith and that is those who hear the Word of God and obey it.

The ones who hear the word of God and do it are those who are blessed. Just having a famous child is not enough. Just having a famous spouse is not enough. Just having a famous parent is not enough. We are called out to do God’s will rather than wait for another.

The birth narratives, including the magnificat, make it clear that the mother of Jesus was one who heard God and did God’s will. Her acceptance of God’s will is clear. But that acceptance is the matter of import not her womb and her nursing of Jesus.

Yes raising children is important. Yet we have to ask the question what is of ultimate importance. For Christians who live out their faith family values are subordinate to following their savior. They will be like the women who followed and supported the disciples. They will be like the disciples who left their father and the fishing nets to follow Jesus. They will answer the call to give up their riches and go to those in need. We are called to hear the word of God and then go do it.

Groucho Marx

"All people are born alike -- except Republicans and Democrats."

--Groucho Marx

Due process is not just for the good times

Truthout has an article from the Editor and Publisher about how determinations as to who was/is an enemy combatant were made at Guantanamo Bay. It saddens me. This is not what my forefathers and mothers fought for.

gratuitous insults

My faith is an important part of my life. I think that it is one of the reasons I actually got through depression. But really is an e-mail about losing a political race to a Hindu the right place to say “Pay attention...this is very important, Satveer. Have you noticed Jesus for some moment in time, yet??? ...” According to the God I worship – whom in the second person I call Jesus – it is not about calling people names or some such when you lose a political race and that’s not the time to blame them for not being Christian. Frankly if I weren’t already a Christian I’d be leaving any possibility of becoming one far behind after such a message.

P.S. Look at Andrew Sullivan for another thought about this sort of Christianist response.

A week for new lows

I’m thankful for many things this week. But there are many things that just seem absurd. Who writes a book about the murder of his wife that’s called something like ‘If I did it’? And then who publishes and publicizes it? Or who in this day thinks it’s still o.k. to go off on a tirade and use the ‘n’ word about and to someone who is black? I’m not sure which is more delusional. I do think both are sick.

P.S. Scalzi on Nov. 22 has a scathing commentary on another commentator who looks at both these people.

A testimony to which I can return

The Elijah/Elisha cycle of stories have become more and more important in my search for understanding of scripture. I suspect I wouldn’t want to meet either of the men and would be uncomfortable in their company, yet they speak to me as a follower of Christ and provide an example of living in a godly fashion.

One of the reasons I love reading these stories is because Elijah and Elisha are so human. I can see myself in Elijah leaving the miracle of contending with the priests of Baal (I Kings 18) and then going into the wilderness to complain that he was left all alone (I Kings 19). I should repeat that. I can seem myself going out of some triumph to complain that everyone is against me. And so I love reading the stories as they illuminate my life and experiences and challenge me to go forth again.

A man I don't usually quote, but when he's right I will.

"If history teaches anything, it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly," - Ronald Reagan, 1982.

Helen Keller

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiencesoftrial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambitioninspired and success achieved."
-Helen Keller

Monday, November 20, 2006


"And in the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."

-Abraham Lincoln


"Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry."
-Mark Twain


"In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints."
Frederick Buechner

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Do not preach of these things

Micah 2:6 – "Do not preach"--thus they preach--"one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us." – is part of a larger piece that talks of what happens when people do wicked deeds. But one of the clear things that happen with evil is an attempt to muzzle people. It’s not whether it’s in the worship service or not. It’s not whether it’s of a pastor or not. But when people declare that it’s not nice to speak of things, or that it’s traitorous to speak of these things, or any of the other various ways to shut people up, then there’s a problem.

There are times when one can ask other’s not to speak of such. I tell my employees not to use swear words at work. But I don’t limit their speech outside of work and I encourage them to tell of problems, issues and things we should fix in the workplace. With good information one can make a bad decision, but without good information a bad decision is almost inevitable. The passage from Micah is not talking about keeping someone from yelling fire in a crowded place, but about limiting discourse to what is nice and neat and predictable and keeping the not-so-nice things out of sight.

But the not-so-nice needs to be talked about. The problems in society must be addressed in pulpit and park, in public and private, in season and out of season. There’s something about that ‘do not preach on these things’ that is kin to lying and telling untruths. We who are Christian are to seek out the truth and that can cause us to go to dark places and find out things we do not wish to know.

Those who talk about how things are getting better and better fool themselves. Those who talk about staying the course without any examination of what is happening delude themselves. Those who talk of the needs of the rich and ignore the cry of the poor are hypocritical. If the stock market is booming and yet many are without health care our priorities are in the wrong order. If tax relief for large estates is pushed and welfare funds are cut then we have not heard the cry of the poor.

Certainly there are times when one shouldn’t speak. In the U.S.A. we have clear rules for tax-exempt organizations. They can’t promote one candidate over another, not even indirectly. But they can and should speak out about what concerns they have on issues in this world and this nation.

When I hear something about not saying such things I remember the passages I’ve read about the prophets. They spoke in spite of being thrown into pits and dungeons, in spite of threats of torture and death, in spite of disagreement and derision. They spoke the truth in as many ways as they could in satire and show, in pun and riddle, in messages clear and obscure, in ridiculous ways and strait-laced patterns and more.
We’re called to do the same.

Ted Hughes

by Ted Hughes.

The Thought-Fox

I imagine this midnight moment's forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock's loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.
Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:
Cold, delicately as the dark snow
A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now
Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come
Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business
Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.


I saw this quote and thought has it really come to this?

"If you mean by 'military victory' an Iraqi government that can be
established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the
civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time
period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I
don't believe that is possible," - Henry Kissinger

Christianist views

Seems that there's a problem with the election of a Muslim to congress. He's not using the Bible to take his oath of office. He - wait for it - is using the Koran. The God I worship is more interested in whether we keep our oaths than in what holy book (or lack thereof) we use in making that oath. It seems to me that there are a couple of scripture passages on that (I've included one at the end of this note). The Jesus I read about has a real problem with the religious leaders imposing their beliefs on others and making a burden out of what should be a joy. If we want freedom to worship as we please we must give it to others. If we want people to respect our oaths on our scripture we should respect their oaths on their holy books. It is a misreading of scripture and a misunderstanding of Christianity to think otherwise.

Thanks to Dispatches from the Culture Wars for getting me to this article.

Matthew 23:13-24

[13] "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock
people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when
others are going in, you stop them. [15] Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make
the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

[16] "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the sanctuary
is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by
the oath.' [17] You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary
that has made the gold sacred? [18] And you say, 'Whoever swears by the altar is
bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound
by the oath.' [19] How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the
altar that makes the gift sacred? [20] So whoever swears by the altar, swears by
it and by everything on it; [21] and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by
it and by the one who dwells in it; [22] and whoever swears by heaven, swears by
the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.

[23] "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe
mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law:
justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without
neglecting the others. [24] You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow
a camel!


My chief want in life is someone who shall make me do what I can.
(RalphWaldo Emerson)

Greek and Roman thought

I’ve been reading a book by J. N. Adams called The Latin Sexual Vocabulary recently. It reminds me of how we bring our own preconceptions to reading scripture. The culture in which I live is very different from that of ancient Greece and Rome where the writers of scripture live. If I read with my own assumptions, then I can miss some important things.

It is clear that roman culture is not really interested in the gender of the people in the sexual activity so much as the status and who is in control. The problem with an emperor marrying a slave wasn’t that they were both men but, as the famous satire makes clear, that the emperor put on the clothes of a woman. The status of the people dictated whether they were expected to be the active or inactive participant (at least whether they should be perceived as such) rather than the sexual activity involved.

This becomes important as we read the prescriptions and proscriptions for marriage and sexual activity in the greek testament. It becomes even more important as we read the call for equality and leveling through the whole of the greek testament. It is that the whole culture was being changed from one of status importance to one where status is irrelevant. As Christians we are equal to each other. That one is an arm is true, that another is an eye is also true. But the different parts can’t do without each other. That message, that sounds old and tired after 2,000 years or so, is a radical message at the time of the writing.

We have become so familiar with scripture that we forget what a radical notion the greek testament brought. The letters we have were written for particular problems and situations of which we have little knowledge. There are four gospels in the document we have, yet those were chosen from a number of writings that the early church had available. The question, for me, today is ‘how do I find that radical nature so as to become the Christian that I am called to be?’


Is there anything worse than blindness? Oh, Yes! A person with sightandno vision! (Helen Keller)

Lest we forget

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?


Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning theintrument asone goes on. (Samuel Butler)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Synesthesia and such things

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’s stood on a corner trying to figure out what she wants to do 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 one’s person 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.

Tips from Christians

As someone who works serving breakfast, cleaning rooms, managing the front desk I sometimes get tips. But there are some tips that make me reconsider being a Christian. That is those tips from people that are a booklet or such on their denomination. I don’t care how much the book costs or how good that book is or even if that pamphlet is completely scriptural, the way to reward service is to give money.

If you like the person at the motel, the restaurant, the cruise or whatever, then give them money. But don’t give some pamphlet. That doesn’t promote your cause; it makes the rest of us gag. Here is a tip to other Christians from one who is also Christian. Stop with the pamphlets already. Please, just stop. Or, in some words from scripture, don’t bind the mouths of the kine that tread the grain.

Measuring rods, lines and staffs

Revelation 11:1 [1]
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told,

You don’t need to go outside of scripture to figure out that some interpretations are missing the point. As I was growing up the passage about ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ was quoted to excuse hitting a child with a stick or cane. The part that never quite got mentioned was that the Hebrew passage referred to a measuring instrument that wasn’t necessarily a stick or rod but could be more like a plumb line that one uses for measuring how straight a wall is being built.

The passage on ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ is about correcting a child, but not about beating a child. The passage is about training and example, but not about force and brutality. The passage is about leading a child into the path of righteousness rather than might makes right. As the passage from Revelations shows the measuring device isn’t the stick that some imagine.

Spoiling the child is a result of not providing standards rather than the not providing a spanking.


A parable is a small story with a large point.

Frederick Buechner

Torture is a moral issue

To raise your voice against torture go to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Need I say more?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Burial plans

I'd just as soon not have a grave site. I'd rather people remember me as I am instead of going to some site. But that's my preference. I have an aunt who would like to have her ashes scattered in the mountains. There are a couple of places she could be buried. One is with her first husband and a child they lost during their marriage. Another is in the plot owned by her second husband's family. But making a choice between those two places is not something she can do.

However for gay men and lesbians in a committed relationship the options are not as simple. A gay couple in Baltimore chose a site together. One of them died. The other faced a court battle in order to carry out his partner's wishes. Finally the decision came down that they could be buried together.

Those seemingly simple decisions that come along with a marriage certificate are but one reason civil unions or marriages or whatever you want to call it should be allowed for committed life partners no matter what the genders involved. It's a simple matter of justice. No special rights are being asked for, only that a couple be permitted to make decisions for each other without having to spend time, money and energy preparing documents that even then may be contested by family members who disapprove of who their relative has found as a partner in life.

Borat lawsuit

I probably won't go to see the new Borat movie. It just doesn't sound like my sort of film. But there's a ridiculous lawsuit against the movie. Evidently some young men are embarassed because of comments they made on film about slavery and minorities.
The movie features a scene in a motor home where Cohen gets drunk with
three frat boys who go on a racist rant about how they wished they had slaves
and how minorities in the United States "have all the power."
Frankly I think the 'frat boys' should be embarrassed about their comments and should feel humiliated. But they shouldn't sue because of those feelings. They deserve them. Being drunk is no excuse for racist comments or approval of slavery. If they didn't want to have those feelings they should have kept their mouths shut. Supposedly they're in college.... well if they're smart enough for that they should be smart enough to know what is and is not appropriate behavior.

Oh well, I guess they'll live and learn and college is certainly one of the places in which to do just that.

Deliver us from evil

I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to see the film ‘Deliver us from evil’ but I probably will if it comes to my area. What I’ve heard of it comes from a review in The Stranger. It sounds like a documentary that everyone concerned about child abuse should see. The film focuses on one particular man and his disassociative disorder – in other words he doesn’t put the pieces together about what he’s done and how it affects his victims.

Do I want to see the film? No.

But I still think I should, and I think you should also go see it.


The power of sin is centrifugal. When at work in a human life, it tends to push everything toward the periphery. Bits and pieces go flying off until the only the core is left. Eventually bits and pieces of the core itself go flying off until in the end nothing is left at all. "The wages of sin is death"is St Paul's way of saying the same thing.
Frederick Buechner

Dog in the pool?

I'm sometimes a little bit dumbfounded at what people think. The other day at the motel I heard a dog barking. I looked around and so did the desk clerk. Neither of us saw anything. So I went to get some fast food and came back to see a dog running around in the pool area.

I love service animals, they are always well-behaved and many times better than some of my human guests. But we do have a no pet policy. I set my meal down and then went into the pool area to ask the guest to take her dog out of the motel. First she argued with me saying it was a small dog, then she said it would take a few minutes. The guest started to leave and then asked for a refund of her money. I refused.

End of story?

Not quite.

The guest asked us to call the police to see if they would help her get her money back. And the police said it was a civil matter. I suggested that she could stay, but her dog wasn't welcome. I'm still trying to figure out why one would bring a dog into a no pet hotel and take it into the pool area. So the guest, who during this time has packed and loaded her stuff, leave the premises calling me names.

Is this the end of the story?

Not quite yet.

A day later I get a notice from the national franchise offices that she has filed a complaint. In the note is something to the effect that the customer became irate on the phone. Also in that note is a comment that the customer told the national line that she was told to sneak the dog into the motel - now remember that the desk clerk who checked her in searched for the dog when it was barking and that I found the dog in the pool area - and that she had left a deposit in case of damage to the room.

So I've now written a letter to the customer and I hope that is the end of it. But if not, I'll survive. With owners like this one I suspect that there's little question of why we have a 'No Pet' policy in this motel.


The other day I had some call the motel. That's not unusual nor was it out of the way that they asked for a guest that wasn't there. But then they asked whether there was a reservation for someone by that name. And that's something we don't disclose.

We actually don't even say whether or not someone's present in the motel we just transfer, by name only not room number, to the room. It's a matter of guest security and privacy. We'll transfer calls, unless the guest has given a name, but we don't speculate as to whether they've registered under a different name (though we do make sure that the credit card and driver's license is valid). But this time when I gave my standard speech about how I can't give out the information as to whether someone has registered the person on the phone got angry.

This isn't the first time that this has happened. It won't be the last. And when people get angry over the rules taht we don't give out information then I'm inclined to be a little suspicious. Are they a jealous significant other, are they a stalker, are they something else? I begin to wonder. And with cell phones so prevalent, couldn't they just call and ask their friend, relative, co-worker or other possiblity?

When a desk clerk says, "I'm not supposed to give out that sort of information." then it's not the time to go off on the desk clerk. There may be good or bad reasons for that policy, but it's not going to be changed because you're yelling at the clerk or threatening to take away your business. And it's just plain rude.

I may be alone in this, but I don't think I am. Rudeness doesn't make me want to serve you any more quickly, any better and if I witness it I'm not impressed. Certainly I understand a reasonable complaint. I'v made those myself and shwon progressively more anger. But not at the desk staff unless it is something that they are doing right then and there. A desk clerk who is ignoring me as I try to order is fair game for my feelings, but one who is enforcing a policy of the mananger/owner doesn't deserve my anger. And it is impolite for me (and you) to take out my being upset on someone who has no recourse or remedy at their disposal.

Scientific accuracy

Thoughts from Kansas pointed me to an article where some in the government seem to have difficulty with understanding what is meant by scientific accuracy


..The search for home is related also to the longing of the flesh ...which suggests that beneath the longing to possess and be possessed by the beauty of another sexually - "to know" in the Biblical idiom - there lies the longing to know and be known by another fully and humanly, and beneath that there lies a longing, closer to the heart of the matter still, which is the longing to beat long last where you fully belong. Frederick Buechner.


Chrichton isn't really one of the authors I read, but I love the website that I understand is from his new book. I saw mention first at genetics and health.


I sometimes wonder at how blind we can be. And I do include myself among the group of people who can blind themselves to what is because of what they want reality to be. One of the instances is in the case of Junia. For several thousand years the apostle Junia was considered to be a woman. But then she suddenly changed genders.

The textual commentaries and greek testaments all started referring to her as a man. And there are many today who still do the same. The evidence from the greek is clear – Junia is only found as a woman’s name. The evidence from the early church is clear – they refer to Junia as a woman. Yet in the 19th century Junia became a man and some would like to keep her as such.

Today we often conflate the word apostle with the twelve disciples of Jesus who are apostles, but in the early church it is clear that the office of apostle includes those who are not among the twelve. For one prominent example look at how Paul referred to himself in scripture – there are more than a few references – and clearly Junia is not the only one called apostle in Romans 16. Yet she is mentioned as prominent among the apostles.

I think that phrase about Junia being the one who is prominent among the apostles may be the point that sticks in the craw for some people. And by some people I mean those who do not consider women as equal to men. My experience is that every time talk begins of how women and men have different roles it soon becomes clear that the ‘roles’ of women are seen as less valuable than the ‘roles’ of men. And that is not scriptural.

Paul writes in Romans to men and women. Junia is not the only woman of prominence in the church. Paul writes of there no longer being male or female in the realm of God. The old roles have passed away and we are to treat each other as equals. We will have different gifts but those gifts are valuable no matter who bears them. And the gift and call is what we should be looking at rather than whether they are jew or greek, barbarian or civilized, male or female, or any of the other distinctions that are unrelated to what a person can actually do.
Our translations of scripture are sometimes blinded by our prejudices. This is clearly seen in the case of Junia. But we are called to go beyond our prejudices to see each other as God sees us. And that is as one who came to save the world rather than to condemn us or label us.

Darwin and Religion

Darwin’s Deadly Legacy

D. James Kennedy and Coral Ridge Ministry produced a program called Darwin’s Deadly Legacy. I haven’t seen it yet, but from the reports it links Darwin and Hitler. It seems that Kennedy doesn’t know history, but he also is less than conversant with the confessional documents of reformed congregations. (For those of you not conversant with the different strands of Christianity, there are several branches of denominations that arose during the Reformation, the Reformed Churches and the Lutheran Churches are two of the more widely spread. All Presbyterian churches are considered part of the Reformed branch)

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has as part of their constitution a Book of Confession containing a document from one part of the church in Germany. It’s the Barmen Declaration and was written during WWII. A minority group set up their own congregational structure in opposition to some stances supporting Hitler that were taken by the state supported churches. It is clear from the documents that the majority of Christians supported Hitler.

This claim that Darwin’s work led to Hitler is willful ignorance, not just bigotry. The sad truth is that Christians of all denominations supported Hitler. The shining example of a few, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, doesn’t mean that it was Darwin’s legacy that led to Hitler. Christians have a history that includes conversion via the sword, slanders against Jews, and persecutions too numerous to list. To blame Darwin for what is historically a Christian activity is just plain wrong.

The Barmen Declaration and the whole of the Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (USA) can be found at I don’t believe Kennedy is part of this particular denomination, but as it is my own.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Why latifundialization?

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 Time s 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 that 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.

Wilma Mankiller

Contrary to today's stereotypes, racists do not always chew tobacco and drive pickup trucks with gun racks. They wear silk shirts, treat women as possessions, and talk about human rights at cocktail parties far from communities of people of color. The men in pickup trucks are just as likely to be as warm and caring as the high minded liberals are to be racists.

-Wilma Mankiller (Former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation)

Simple pleasures


Most of the days I fold laundry without thinking about it and just admire the pile of folded terry and linen. But today the laundry took my mind occupied more than usual. Someone watching would just see me flipping the sheets around and coming up with a neat fold. But the ability to do that has been honed over a number of years of folding laundry and especially the last few years of working in a motel.

It is a simple pleasure for me in turning 25 lbs of sheets fresh out of the dryer into a neat pile. Many days I finish folding one load, turn around to pull the next load out of the dryer and find that the pile is disappearing with a housekeeper. It’s still a worthwhile activity. It is easier for the housekeepers to carry a load of folded than unfolded.

I could complain about how my work doesn’t seem to last. I could say that there’s no need to fold the sheets until I know the housekeepers won’t be taking them away. I could grow frustrated as there’s sometimes no end in sight of dirty laundry and I don’t get to see the finished piles at the end of the day. Yet that misses the point of doing a good job.

What I do is not for me and just for myself. It is for the motel. And when I work it is not for my glory but for the glory of God. I do the best job that I can, not because it will bring material rewards, but because I am a steward of God’s creation.

Folding laundry, like many other tasks in life, is something that can be boring. But it is also an opportunity – an opportunity to serve God, an opportunity to do good work, an opportunity to take pleasure in the way things can be put together, an opportunity to relax and think. There are some tasks that I’m not as sanguine about the opportunities, but I suspect that if you’re like me there are some tasks about which I’ve complained in which I could find some simple pleasures.

Start of a garland

The Word


The Word, the word, the WORD, the word, the WORD
took flesh, was meat and bone, left h’ven for earth,
descend to us and all the pain of birth
the pain of birth so all the world saw WORD!

What transformation of someone Beloved.
left Love to love, to show salvific care
Love’s love left all to come and show and dare
to show each part of earth that it is loved.

The WORD, belov’d, came down was born in love
Of woman, man – a human still divine
To save someone like you, like me from hell

The body not a fiction, not a glove
But born of flesh a body just like mine
words, Words, words, WORDS, words, WORDS, they cannot tell


words, Words, words, WORDS, words, WORDS, they cannot tell
the love that came to save this world from hell.
the streams of words may gush in flood pell-mell
yet never of the love begin to tell

when God, the Son, came down to earth for us
the emptied self that came as one small child
from glories lived to be the one reviled
the Godhead left to be with each of us.

that Word that came as human child not grown
that Word that we call human and divine
no words can be profound enough to tell

and words though wonderful could not have shown
the glories of the word as bread and wine
when God took flesh and saved us all from hell


when God took flesh and saved us all from hell
that love surrounded all the world with joy
creative power came as tiny boy
to tell each person all is really well.

and all is well within God’s world so good
though evil can seem stronger than God’s love
the serpent can be silenced by a dove
and God’s own Son who died upon some wood

God’s son who died upon some wood for me
God’s son who came to earth to show God’s care
God’s son is why I praise in song and word

God’s son who died that I might start to see
the love that emptied self of God to share
took on the woes of flesh yet still the Word

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Loren Mead in "5 Challenges for the Once and Future

"The task of the next generations will be to shift the power and ownershipstructures of the churches to allow laypeople to fulfill their apostolic ministries and, in so doing, free the clergy to be the catalysts of religious authority."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How we read

A supposedly true story of 3 Major League umpires goes that each was asked how he knows to call a pitch a strike.

The first says, "I call them as they are." (supposes an objective reality to which his perception does not contribute)

The second says, "I call them as I see them." (dismisses any external objectivity and relies solely on experience)

The third says, "It's nothing until I call it." (realizes that there is a reality apart from his, but that, the categorization--interpretation--of the pitch is his job, and depends solely on his judgement)


My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.I do not see the road ahead of me.I cannot know for certain where it will end.Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.Thomas Merton-Thoughts in Solitude


It is never possible to make others responsible by trying to make themresponsible, because the very act of trying to make others responsibleis preempting their own responsibility. -- Edwin Friedman, Generation toGeneration, (Guilford Press 1985) p. 211

Christian values and family values

I always love pulling out the passage Luke 14:25ff when someone tries to talk to me about Christian Family Values. Certainly there are a number of passages that celebrate family, but… family is less important than following God. Christian family values are centered around God rather than the family. Christian family values look to Jesus rather than to what the family looks like. Christian family values are those who take in the orphan, the widow and the stranger rather than those who throw away a child because they are in jail or have a different sexual orientation or are on drugs or are doing something that the ‘family’ considers unchristian. What is unchristian is an attitude that discards a person because they’re not living the ‘right’ way. Christian family values are those that speak out in truth and love to welcome those who might be despised or lost or forsaken.

Christian values aren’t family values. Once that little word ‘family’ is used as a modifier then the Christian part ceases. There are Christian values for families, but the emphasis should be on the one whom we follow rather than anything that might separate us from that one. I’m certainly not opposed to families having and teaching values. I just want to be sure that those values are properly labeled and taught. There are Christian values and family values and Christian values that impact families. But to speak of Christian family values dilutes the message of Christianity in a way that distorts the message of the Christ that is claimed. And that upsets me.

The Christ that I find in scripture welcomes the child and the widow – those who have lost the protection of family or of paterfamilias – but also when told ‘blessed is the womb that bore you’ corrects the comment with ‘blessed are those who hear and follow the word of God.’ And this is the point of the passage – all else is subordinate to the word of God. One who follows Christ is going to leave everything behind for God. No if, ands, or buts are welcome. A whole heart that goes to one end irrespective of family or anything/ anyone else that might get in the way of following God.