Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Capon on Fathers and Mothers

The following are some excerpts from Bed and Board: Plain talk about Marriage, by Robert Farrar Capon (now out of print, but available used). I have become rather besotted by some of Capon’s writings lately. I was first introduced to him through An Offering of Uncles: On the Priesthood of Adam and the Shape of the World, which I am now reading slowly for the second time. I have wanted to comment on that book here, but have been unsure exactly where to begin. I’m hoping that in the second reading it will become clearer to me.

The first excerpt is about being a father. The second about being a mother. I found them at Femina, a blog by Nancy Wilson, the wife of Doug Wilson, author of several other books on my influential books list, and of the blog with one of the coolest titles ever -- Blog and Mablog. I found these quotes so affecting that I deemed them worth pulling over to share with you.


Be their teacher. And expect a lot from them. Avoid, of course, the mistake of demanding they learn things you don’t give a hang about…But if you’re honestly wild about math or letters, music or shopwork, give them both barrels and make them sit still for it. They will gripe and you will get grouchy, but if you really love it, something will rub off that will stay with them like the smell of fresh bread. So don’t be afraid to demand your kind of stuff of them. They aren’t going to see that many people who care. It would be nice if their father could be one. It would be something to hold in their hands all their lives.

Be their Lover. Give yourself, your humor, your small talk, and the minor affections of your hands and eyes. Don’t keep it all in the solemn now-let’s-you-and-Daddy-talk -about-your-report-card vein. Give them the best of your offhand style. Let your sons grow up learning what a man who acts out his caring looks like. Let your daughters learn what it’s like to have a man around who works at quickening their response. It might just pay off in a decent son-in-law.

Be a just Judge. Children can stand vast amounts of sternness. They rather expect to be wrong; and they are quite used to being punished. It is injustice, inequity and inconsistency that kill them. Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, lest they be disheartened. It is precisely the sight of injustice that triggers anger, and it is precisely the helpless rage of inferiors that takes the heart out of them and produces most of the cynics, skeptics and smart alecks in the world. You are first of all the Guardians of the Law. Develop a passion for fairness. If you overdo anything, make it that.

One more. Delight in them openly. Speak your praise of them. Be their Priest. Look at them with the widest eyes you can manage, and don’t be ashamed to be seen at wonder. You will not see their like again. What a shame if they should leave without ever knowing they have been beheld and offered up by an astonished heart.”


“To be a Mother is to be the sacrament — the effective symbol — of place. Mothers do not make homes, they are our home: in the simple sense that we begin our days by a long sojourn within the body of a woman; in the extended sense that she remains our center of gravity through the years. She is the very diagram of belonging, the where in whose vicinity we are fed and watered, and have our wounds bound up and our noses wiped. She is geography incarnate, with her breasts and her womb, her relative immobility, and her hands reaching up to us the fruitfulness of the earth.

…The mother is the geographical center of her family, the body out of whom their diversity springs, the neighborhood in which that diversity begins ever so awkwardly to dance its way back to the true Body which is the Mother of us all. Her role then is precisely to be there for them. Not necessarily over there, but just therethereness itself, if you will; not necessarily in her place but place itself to them; not necessarily at home but home itself.
..But remember, you are a landmark…You are and remain the bodily link with our origin. You are the oldest thing in the world; don’t be in a hurry to forget any of your history.

..You are not only a link with something. You are the thing itself; and you are the sacrament, the instrument, by which we learn to love the things that are. Your body is the first object any child of man ever wanted. Therefore dispose yourself to be loved, to be wanted, to be available. Be there for them with a vengeance. Be a gracious, bending woman. Incline your ear, your heart, your hands to them. Be found warm and comfortable, and disposed to affection. Be ready to be done by and to welcome their casual effusions with something better than preoccupation and indifference.

…Children love fat mothers. They like them because while any mother is a diagram of place, a picture of home, a fat one is a clearer diagram, a greater sacrament. She is more there. I can think of no better wish to all the slender swans of this present age than to propose them a toast: May your husbands find you as slim as they like; your children should always remember you were fat. “

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Bitter and the Sweet

At the ripe old age of 42 I began drinking coffee. I had avoided it for years, since it tasted pretty much like burnt beans to me. While I love sour flavors, I have never been one to appreciate bitter flavors. Grapefruit, gin, many kinds of greens, any number of medicinal concoctions – all of them turned me off with their bitter astringency. So I avoided coffee even through college and the early stages of my career. Nevertheless, a few years ago I reached a point in my life and my business where I simply needed chemical assistance. Too many early mornings after burning the midnight oil. I viewed coffee as a delivery system for caffeine, and I found that with enough sugar and cream, almost anything can be made mostly drinkable. I still take my coffee sweet and light, but less sweet than I used to, and often less light, depending on how heavy I pour. I don’t know if I’ll ever take it black, but since I never thought I would drink coffee at all, I can’t rule it out.

In the past two years I have learned to actually like coffee. I not only seek it out for it’s medicinal qualities, but I’ve come to actually enjoy the flavor. I like it strong, too. Sweet, as I have said, but strong. I am of the opinion that there is no such thing as coffee that is too strong. Only people that are too weak.

Recently, my wife and I have been playing around with chocolate. Not the waxy cheap Hershey’s variety. We’ve been exploring the intense flavors of chocolate with a high percentage of cacao – that’s the pure chocolate stuff. Less milk (or none), less sugar, and more of the stuff that makes chocolate chocolate. In fact, we recently purchased a small bag of cacao nibs, little pieces of the actual chocolate bean. You can’t get more pure or direct than this – perhaps unless you melted it in a spoon, drew it up into a syringe and shot it directly into your veins.

As a food, chocolate is about 3000 years old. It was first cultivated in South America, and it’s properties were noticed and celebrated early on. It was a sacred food, and it’s eating was surrounded by myth and ritual. The Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs and Incas all drank chocolate, hot, unsweetened, spiced with chilis and poured out to make it frothy. I have also read that warriors and hunters would chew the beans, sometimes living on them for days with no other food. The fat content of the chocolate bean is very high (about 40% I think) and it’s high concentration of alkaloid substances make it an excellent energy endurance food.

The particular alkaloid prevalent in cacao is theobromine (C7H8N4O2, or 3,7-dimethylxanthine, or 3,7-Dihydro-3,7-dimethyl-1H-purine-2,6-dione for you organic chemists in the crowd). The figure on the left is Theobromine. the right is caffeine.

Theobromine literally translates as food of the gods. It is unclear whether this means food FOR the gods, or food FROM the gods. Either way is good, I suppose. Theobromine is a close analog to caffeine, an alkaloid with which we are much more familiar. Like caffeine, another member of the methylxanthine family, it is a stimulant, but it’s effects are quite different from those caffeine. Caffeine is like injecting nitrous oxide into an internal combustion engine. The effects are immediate, dramatic, and short lived. Theobromine is more like putting an octane booster in the gas tank. The effects are noticeable, but much gentler and longer lasting than caffeine. Theobromine does not affect the central nervous system, but it does dilate the blood vessels, reducing blood pressure. It stimulates the cardiovascular and muscle systems, as well as the kidneys. It produces a mild pleasurable effect on the body, and lasts about 3 times as long as caffeine in the blood. Yet the difference between caffeine and theobromine is a couple of extra hydrogen molecules.

So I am experimenting with eating the chocolate bean. I left for a run this morning with a wad of cacao nibs (broken pieces of cacao beans) tucked into my cheek. I wanted to see if they had any effect on my performance. This is not really a scientific trial – there are way too many variables unaccounted for. Nevertheless, I wanted to see if I noticed anything. I did, but not really what I expected.

I noticed that I seem to be coming to terms with bitterness. To chew on cacao beans is a pretty intensely bitter experience. A few years ago I would have spit them out. This bitterness still makes me wince a bit, but I get through it, and I even manage to note some of the other essences that chocophiliacs rave about – floral and berry flavors, hints of lavender and wine. I like the idea of eating a food that has been around for thousands of years, that has been used by warriors to sustain them over long periods. I’m not sure if they chewed on “nibs” exactly, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t have chocolate bars. These are all reasons for doing this, but what’s particularly interesting is that I am doing it at all. I don’t yet find the bitterness pleasant (as some people apparently do) but I find that I can tolerate it.

I suspect this may have parallels elsewhere in my life. There has certainly been a degree of bitterness in my world lately. Fear, anxiety, fatigue, uncertainty, all flavored by traces of anger and blame. That’s just the feelings around the circumstances. It’s not even the circumstances themselves. It all makes for some difficult pills to swallow, and it tastes pretty awful going down. Yet there is nothing else for it. Life is what it is and you eat what you are served when it comes around. Still, is it possible to learn to love the bitterness?

I think maybe it is. I think, in fact, that may be a good part of what spiritual growth is about. I think maybe this is where we find the difference between knowing God, and knowing about Him. I wrote in one of my earlier posts about my puzzlement over the apparent lack of Christian tradition around purposely cultivating a peaceful heart. We all know about the myriad of eastern traditions and techniques – zen meditation, koans, chi gung, yoga, ayurveda and so on. We seldom read about a technical approach to Christian enlightenment. How does one attain to the “Peace of Christ that passeth all understanding” exactly? It’s not that the Christian tradition is void of such things. It’s not hard to find, if one looks, various practices and rules – Desert Fathers in caves, ascetics sitting on poles, vows of silence, the Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans and Jesuits. Various mystics practicing many types of devotion. Yet such practices do not seem to have the same hold on Christian thought as they do on the eastern religions. Perhaps this is because ultimately our peace, our joy, our enlightenment does not depend on technique and it does not depend on us. It is about a Person, and it comes from Him and flows back to Him.

Christ enlightens the darkened heart. Christ brings peace from the turmoil. Christ turns the ugly soiled things of life into pure white linen. Christ makes it new, makes it bright, and enfolds it into Himself and in so doing gives it back to us as it was meant to be. Christ is Joy -- and our Joy, and Peace and Life is in Him and is Him.

There are kinds of knowing. This is a kind of knowing that is beyond the command of information. Jesus says “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” I am thinking that He did not mean that he shows the way, although He does. He means the He is the way Himself. And when we release ourselves to Him and His work, we join ourselves to Him and we come to know Him more.

I am starting, just starting, to glimpse how Christ takes the bitterness of life and turns it. He alone can take that bitterness and redeem it, turning it into all kind of goodness. How is it, on a cosmic, historic scale that He takes Adam’s disobedience and turns it into something even better than if Adam had never sinned? The Apostle Paul wrote, “the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” How much more did it overflow! How much more!

This kind of turnabout is His specialty. And if He can turn about a whole world gone wrong, what can He do with my life, my bitterness? Indeed, what WILL He not do with it?

So can I learn to love the bitterness? To love to see what life Christ will bring from it? Perhaps by His grace --perhaps I can. I chew the beans, taste them, swallow them, and thank Almighty God for them. They are His gift, bitterness and all.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hooh Rah! Red Sox!

Everybody loves a winner. I have no compunction about piling on. I am an admitted fair weather fan, one of those roaches that come out to cheer on the team during the championship game, but otherwise pretty much ignore them the rest of the season. At least I'm consistent. I'm the same way for all professional sports, without regard to...well, much of anything.

I have to say though, I KNEW the BoSox were going to win The Series the minute I tuned into game one. How could you possibly take seriously any team that would go out to play a Major League Baseball World Series game dressed like they had jumped straight out of a Jetson's cartoon. Really!

I also should note that the whole thing is just a little weird. I did grow up in New England. I do remember what it was like to wait just to see how the Red Sox would screw it up this time. It was a grand tradition. Now that we can say that 2004 was not a fluke, and now that the Patriots are truly dominating their sport, and now that even the Celtics are apparently showing signs of possible intelligent life, it seems to be a glorious time (leaving the Bruins out of it for the time being) to be a New England sports fan. Not that I'm paying any attention to any of this.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me what my guilty pleasures were. She was specifically referring to music, but it’s an especially fascinating question when you apply it to other areas. I define a guilty pleasure as something that you really like, but you don’t like to admit it. The reason for your reluctance to own up to your cravings really doesn’t matter much, but it is instructive. For instance, there are some things I keep quiet because they don’t really fit in with a certain image I have of myself…ok, a certain image I like to project of myself. Sometimes it’s just that you know that your pleasure is a lowbrow thing. In some cases (not mine) you just feel that it’s somehow morally wrong.

Of course, if it actually is a matter of morality, one should just stop doing it. But the kind of guilty pleasure I’m talking about is more a matter of taste.

And as we all know De gustibus non est disputandum, especially since Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur. So here is my basic list.

This is an easy choice. My guilty pleasure is ABBA. I listen to an ABBA tune once, and I can’t get those crazy Swedes out of my head. And I LIKE that I can't get it out of my head. Catchy tunes, scintillating harmonies, hooky hooks. And none of them could actually speak a word of English. You gotta admire that on some level.

I also like Gilbert and Sullivan and Burl Ives. I would have to include Sugar Sugar by the Archies. I can't help it, I like it.

I have to admit a certain fondness for most anything by Bernard Conrwell, especially the Richard Sharpe series. But those aren’t too bad really. Cornwell is a fine storyteller, does first rate research on his historical settings, and one comes to love his characters. If I truly come clean about actual guilty pleasures, I would have to admit that I have enjoyed any number of Dick Marcinko’s Navy Seal stories. The writing is horrible, the storytelling is completely formulaic, cliché-ridden and predictable – but I still enjoy it. For my money, it's hard to beat hard drinking, foul mouthed, bad ass former soldiers going renegade to save the world from being overrun by Tangoes. Guns, bombs, blood and dirt. That's some good reading right there, you betcha.

I have always been fond of Reader’s Digest, even as a kid. My kids seem to be picking that up as well.

I remember as a kid going to see a film called the Devil’s 8 in a Saturday Matinee at the Scenic Theater. I suppose it really wasn’t a good movie for kids to see, and I had never heard about it since. It was a total B movie (maybe even a C) but it made such an impression on me that I never forgot it. I can’t remember any of the plot, just that there were good guys, bad guys, lots of cars racing and flying through the air and guns. It was like, the coolest thing ever. I just looked it up on IMDB, and here are the tag lines.

They're the dregs of the prisons... scum of the chain-gangs... welded into a shock squad to smash an Underworld Empire the law can't touch!

All they had was a skill for violence and nothing to lose but their lives!

Nice! I’m sure my mother would have been proud.

On a more up to the minute note, I will say that I have no problem whatsoever viewing movies commonly pigeonholed as ‘chickflicks” with one proviso – that they are actually good stories. When Harry Met Sally, and Sleepless in Seattle are two that come to mind that I thought were pretty enjoyable. I wouldn’t rate them as best movies ever, but I enjoyed them because they were good stories about likeable people, well told. I did not cry at any of them, but I did laugh a lot.

For some time I followed the Highlander series. Immortal sword wielder defeats other immortals by chopping off their heads and receiving their power into himself in an orgy of lightning, thunder, screaming and roaring. Totally ridiculous. Lots of fun.

I never feel guilty about food. Ever. I eat what I want, and I don’t eat what I don’t want. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. Just means more for me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

God's Bombs

I recently had the opportunity to preach on a Sunday morning. Our Pastor was away, he asked me to fill the pulpit duties for him on that day. This is not the first time I have done so, but it is always a strange experience for me. The strangeness has nothing to do with standing up before a large assembly to speak – I do that for a living so there is no mystery there. It has much more to do with the nature of preaching itself.

Whenever I prepare and deliver a sermon, I am powerfully aware that what I am doing is akin to handling dynamite. The power inherent in THE WORD is always latent -- until it becomes manifest. And then all bets are off. Anything can happen. In Hebrews 4:12, the writer likens God’s word to a two edged sword, a devastating weapon. He compares it for it’s ability to cut through armor and clothing and flesh and bone, just as God’s message cuts through our defenses and into the very center of our beings. If the Writer were writing this today, he might choose a more powerful and modern weapon for his metaphor. Perhaps a Rocket Propelled Hand Grenade, or a Barrett M82A1 .50 caliber Sniper Rifle. One would certainly exhibit a great deal of care when handling an extremely sharp blade. How much more so with modern ordinance capable of extraordinary destruction upon the slightest press of a trigger.

But God's Word works as a kind of reverse dynamite. It can indeed blow up your life, but the blowing up only feels like destruction. What is destroyed is the former self. What emerges from the dust and rubble is the new man. It would be like building a house by tossing a couple of sticks of dynamite into a grove of trees. It wouldn’t work with dynamite and actual trees, but somehow, when you throw the Word of God into a grove of people, God uses the resulting explosions to build His kingdom. Go figure.

As I was pondering this most recently, it also occurred to me that if I’m feeling a little nervous about doing the preaching for this reason, then how should I feel about HEARING the preaching? After all, when I’m listening to the Word of God, the grenades are being launched at me. YIKES! Makes one sit up a bit straighter and feel more alert. One may not be able to avoid being shot at, but one might should pay attention to see it coming. I understand the soldiers in combat often develop a rather ambivalent attitude toward bullets and bombs, figuring that if it’s meant for me, then it’s gonna get me. There is no escaping, once God has you in his sights. His aim is accurate, and his weapons are unstoppable. If He means it for you, you are done for.

But NOT done for. In fact, if He means it for you, you are just getting started. You don't die -- you live more completely and more fully than before. Again, the metaphor is like the negative of the truth. It makes everything look strange because all the colors are reversed. God’s bombs heal us. God’s bombs put things in their right places. God’s bombs bring peace. The process may feel a lot like getting blown up, but the ultimate end is reassembly of the shattered walls of creation.

I think I’ll always be a little nervous when I preach. I think I’m learning to think more clearly when I receive the Word as well. I shall try to resist the urge, upon the reading of the lesson, to duck under the chair while shouting, “INCOMING!”

Red Sox

All who know me know that I cannot be counted as any kind of authentic sports fan. I like sports, and love athletics. I just do not find it especially interesting to watch professionals play. Not enough to sustain my interest over the course of a season. Certainly not enough to pay any significant attention to statistics like a real fan would.
I do however, love New England generally, and NH in particular. That, I think, will permit me to express a certain degree of sincere and heartfelt enthusiasm for our local baseball team on this particular night.

Yay Sox!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Broad Minded Turnips

I ran into this G.K. Chesterton quote while splashing around in someone else's blog. I liked it, so I stole it and dragged it over here. Read til the end for the punch line.

The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty. When we hear of a man too clever to believe, we are hearing of something having almost the character of a contradiction in terms. It is like hearing of a nail that was too good to hold down a carpet; or a bolt that was too strong to keep a door shut. Man can hardly be defined, after the fashion of Carlyle, as an animal who makes tools; ants and beavers and many animals make tools, in the sense that they make an apparatus. Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined skepticism, when he declines to a system, when he says he has outgrown definitions, when he says he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by the very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded."
--G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Working, Waiting, Watching

I’m at an odd place here.

I started this blog to provide a place to work out some of the random thoughts that come to me while driving, while conversing, while living, and expressing them in a more cogent and complete format. I did not intend to for it to become a Me-blog, full of self-disclosure and emotional auto-surgery. Throughout most of my writing here, I have been purposely vague regarding people I love. I don’t believe that a public internet space is the best place to reveal all manner of personal details. If you review my writing carefully, you can see that I never mention the names of my family, or post pictures of them (except the ones with my bride and I mugging for the camera at In and Out Burger). There are certainly no photos of the girls, as I feel especially protective of them, particularly when it comes to cyberspace.

But now I’ve gone and done it. I posted some of my personal drama for all to see. I certainly welcome the prayers and support of my friends, as well as the strangers that have apparently found their way to my writing. Thank you all. At this point, however, I feel I owe a bit of an explanation. I’m going to attempt to provide some detail, and yet still remain fuzzy on certain parts because I still want to maintain a certain cyber-distance here. For those of you who actually do know me and my family, I welcome you to call or write, and I’m more than happy to share details with you. For the rest of you who only know me through what I write here, know that I do indeed appreciate your reading. And I do appreciate the comments and kind words offered. Nevertheless, because I’m not really trying to open the entire book of my life for the entire world, I hope that you will forgive a certain terseness of expression and imprecision on certain details.

So…what’s the problem that has created all this ruckus?

It falls into three categories. First, my business. I have been engaged in a business for 4 years now. I have seen a certain measure of success in the beginning, and the last 3 years have been an up and down ride, mostly trending down -- at least trending well below the requirements of my life. I have poured my life into this business, expended great amount of energy and effort, learned much, and used up almost every penny of my savings. In the process I have ignored much that needed doing simply for lack of funds. I have come to a point of crisis. My frustration is such that although I can’t imagine what else to do, I also can’t quite imagine continuing on as I have.

Which brings me to the second category – my finances. Suffice it to say that I have nothing left. This is a problem which can be managed if one has a) high flexibility b)low responsibility c)good prospects for the future. My problem is that I have low to moderate flexibility, high responsibility, and after so much struggle to so little effect, I am finding it difficult to envision good prospects. A friend recently suggested applying for government aid and the idea repulses me. I can’t bring myself to do it. I have been carrying debt that I cannot pay right now, my cars and my house have some serious problems with deferred maintenance, my body likewise, and I’m left deciding which bills will not get paid this month. This has been going on so long that I am left feeling drained and just tired of the struggle.

What is the third? On top of all this, my wife has been struggling with health issues for some years. We have been living for the last three under the spectre of Multiple Sclerosis. Recently, some of this came to a head when she awoke one morning unable to see from one eye. To cut through the intervening events, it appears to be uveitis (inflammation of the eye) which is usually a signal of other conditions taking place within the body. Specifically it usually points to an auto-immune condition, or a rheumatic (inflammatory illness) condition. We are not sure what this may mean in the long run, but we suspect it will not be very good. On the other hand, we may be getting just a little closer to finding out what has actually been plaguing her for all these years, and find a treatment. The greatest problem is that we simply don't know. The possibilities for this range from the deadly to the chronically inconvenient. One tries not to mentally go to the worst case scenario, for while it may be true (or may not) dwelling there yields few benefits. Yet that is where the mind tends to want to go. It is a discipline to keep a firm grip on reality yet a strong focus on the best possible outcome at all times. For my wife, this raises all kinds of questions about what she needs to do to take care of herself, including considering whether she can continue to operate our home school. These are enormous questions. Mostly, we just want her to be well because we love her.

Of course, all this comes at a price. While I am glad for the doctors and the work they have been doing, the fear created by the news they are uncovering is heightened by the fact that I have absolutely no idea of how I am going to pay for all this. We have some health insurance (for which we pay most dearly – a significant source of our financial ills) but it by no means covers everything. By the time this is all done, I could foresee this doubling or tripling our debt. I’m just making that number up, but it seems feasible. Again, this would be manageable if I could see how I could make the money to pay for it. My challenge is that I do not seem to have the wherewithal within my current business to obtain to that.

So here I am. Something’s gotta give. And perhaps something is. We have been alert and looking to see how God is working in this. We know that He seems to like to work through the agency of the people around us, but we have also tried to be alert for outright miracles. We wouldn’t put it past Him. He has a history of that sort of thing.

Today we had a most candid conversation with a man who has been a good friend, mentor and teacher throughout this process. He brought me into this business. Today he listened. He asked a few questions and learned some things of which he was not aware. He promised to work with us to find a way to make things work. This conversation has been extremely helpful.

I have found a way to possibly reduce the cost of our family health insurance. I will be pursuing that immediately.

We have been amazed at how many people have responded by pointing us to resources, people they know who know something about this sort of thing. Others have stepped up to tell us (and show us) how much they care by actually providing physical help, taking the girls so we can go to doctor’s appointments, or accompanying my wife when I cannot. Others who cannot do that have offered innumerable words of encouragement and prayer, and we are exceptionally grateful for those. In a time when we find ourselves praying more than every, we especially appreciate the prayers of others.

The medication my wife is taking is helping. Her eyesight is improving as the inflammation reduces. We have been pleased by the physicians she has been working with.

These then, are the great dragons of my life now. We work, and we work and we work. That does not stop. We also wait and wait and wait. And perhaps we learn slowly, slowly, to trust and depend not on our own arms, but on the arm of the LORD to slay them. We learn slowly, slowly to live by the power of His Spirit, and in this to ascribe to the One True and Living God the glory due Him.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Arise My Soul, Arise!

Arise, my soul, arise,
shake off your guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice,
in my behalf appears;
Before the throne my Surety stands,
Before the throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above,
for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love,
His precious blood, to plead;
His blood atoned for every race,
His blood atoned for every race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears;
received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers;
they strongly plead for me:
"Forgive him, O forgive," they cry,
"Forgive him, O forgive," they cry,
"Nor let that ransomed sinner die!"

The Father hears Him pray,
His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away
the presence of His Son;
The Spirit answers to the blood,
The Spirit answers to the blood
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled;
His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child;
I can no longer fear
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And "Father, Abba, Father," cry.

Words by Charles Wesley

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Random Collisions

Lazlo's Chinese Relativity Axiom:
No matter how great your triumphs or how tragic your defeats -- approximately one billion Chinese couldn't care less.

Give a man a fire and he'll be warm for the night. Set a man on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
--Terry Pratchett

Most people want to serve God--but only in an advisory capacity!
-- unattributed

Some people are like Slinkies. They really aren't much good for anything, but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs.
--Kevin G. Barkes

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


As a rule, Dragon Slayers are not prone to whining. Most of the whiners are weeded out early in the interview process. It is simply not a trait conducive to effectiveness in saurian combat. So part of being a Dragon Slayer is a built in toughness, a tolerance for pain, a high concentration of grit and gristle and grin and bear it.

Even so, one might be excused for the occasional flinch, the momentary outburst, the reflexive grunt when struck. No one ever said that dragons die easily. In fact they are renowned for being tough, clever, persistent and crafty enemies. They will seldom go down without giving almost as good as they get, inflicting injury and harm wherever they can strike. So Dragon Slayers get hit. A lot. It goes with the territory. When you step out of the castle and onto the battleground, you give up the safety of the walls and you are fairly begging to take one on the chin. Does it really matter that much if you made noise when the tail whacked you? Or is it more important that you simply got up to go at it again?

And there is the real issue. It is one thing to stand there and take the hit. It is another to rise again after uncounted knock downs to attack with vigor and intrepid fortitude.

Teddy Roosevelt was a dragon slayer. He understood this well.

It is not the critic that counts – not the one who points out where the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. No, the credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood – who spends himself in a worthy cause, whose heart knows the great enthusiasm and the great devotions. If they succeed, they know in the end the triumph of high achievement; but if they fail they at least fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be among those cold and timid souls which know neither victory nor defeat.

Victory is not mine, yet. Let me just say….at least I am still standing, and that counts for something.

Bracing for the Next Blow

There are times when life strips you and empties you and all you can do is stand and wait for whatever is going to happen. It is a labor to acknowledge the reality of reality, yet maintain a firm focus on the best possible outcome. Rather than seeming full of promise and possibility, the future seems to bring one humiliating blow after another. One wonders where providence leads, what God is up to, and how this will all play out. There is a strong sense that it’s out of my control, and that all I can do is continue to work, but mostly just watch God work. It is, I suppose, a measure of the weakness of my faith that my confidence that I’m going to like the outcome is pretty low. It’s more like I’m bracing for the impact. Here is where I acknowledge that “liking it” isn’t really the point.

There has been much praying for strength, wisdom and grace. There has been much praying of the Lord’s Prayer. There has been much praying of Psalm 23. There has been much wondering if it is all being heard. There has been much wondering if any of it is being heard. There has been much wondering whether if it is being heard, what’s being done about it.

This is all cryptic to those of you who don’t know my specific situation. Suffice it for now that it involves loved ones, emergency room visits, medical specialists, lots of medical testing, limited health insurance, uncertain diagnosis and prognosis, a profound shortage of cash, and lots of medical terminology that does not bode well.

Yeah. I really don’t know what to do here. I have been struggling for so long to slay the dragons, but my quest has been confounded at almost every turn. So, I stand stripped and empty and I wait.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Just Answer the Question

One of my favorite things is to answer the question “How are you?” In our culture, this question fills the role of protocol. It is a social lubricant, not really a question, not even really words, just noise we make to signal to each other that we are social and generally wish to get along. A real answer is not expected. The custom is to return an appropriate corresponding social signal. Once the pleasantries are over, the business begins.

So it is a great delight to answer this question with a totally appropriate but wholly unexpected answer. I have several stock answers laid up, ready to use at a moment’s notice and I think I shall come up with a few more.

How are you?
Outstanding! (spoken with unnecessary gusto)

This is my most common answer. It is simple and direct and the tone carries all the meaning. It makes people snap to attention, smile, and often comment on how that’s the best thing they’ve heard all day.

How are you?
If I was any better, there’d be two of me.

How are you?
If I was any better, vitamins would be taking me.

How are you?
I’m so good I’m thinking of franchising myself.

How are you?
I’m just high on life! Oh Yeah! Thanks for asking.

How are you?
I’m enormously wealthy, thank you.

(When asked the inevitable follow up question, explain in a matter-of-fact tone that you are wealthy in love, family, freedom, etc. Watch their eyes roll back in their heads. It’s terribly amusing. When they say “I thought you meant money.” Say, “Oh yeah, that too.” You don’t have to tell them that you mean that simply by living in America and being better than federal poverty level, you are still likely to be among the 10% of the most wealthy people in the world. )

How are you?
Well, I have many super powers and a colossal bulk that frightens evil villains.

How are you?
Great. I killed 3 dragons today. I’m a little sore, but still…I’m great!

The possibilities are endless. It really annoys some people. Others really love it. Either way, it's good.