Without Hesitation, I Pointed

I’ve had a short car ride to consider the matter and I have resolved that, next time, I will simply step out of line, open the luggage, and begin to rifle through the contents until you people learn.

But this morning, all I did was admit to myself that if it was a bomb, if today was the end, then I’d rather go out without panicking or making anyone else panic. And I was so close to the left-alone-luggage that I was actually happy that it would probably be instant, painless death, instead of painful injury, followed by opioid-addict life.

Truth be told, I only treated the situation as terrorist-dramatic because I like to test myself. Sure, the lady who just decided to stop pulling her carry-on right next to the 40-min long TSA security line was BIPOC, brown to be exact. I’d guess from India. Huge strike against her, and for travel terrorism. But she had a child with her. And she clearly was pissed at her husband. He was—somehow—the one lagging on the trip through the airport. In my experience, men usually drag their wives. But given the end of the holiday weekend, and given the packed nature of the airport, all I guessed was that she was doing the classic dumb-wife move of being mad that they might miss their flight (perhaps it was even his fault) and then compounding that anger with the fact that her husband was not reacting with the emotional interest that she expected. When exactly did remaining calm become an undesirable quality?

Anyhow, taken together, I was not afraid, but I was shocked. Dumbfounded. Who is left on this planet that is stupid enough to walk away from a piece of luggage at an airport?

That’s why I say that next time I will just attempt to shame the person by exposing their messy undergarments to the general public. If they haven’t learned nicely, then shame is the only remaining tool, in my book.

Today, however, I was consoling H- who, when we reached the “end” of the security line and discovered it was double-wrapped in a way we had not experienced before, had begun to cry. Despite my later-proved-to-be-accurate claim that “we’ll be at the gate before they even begin boarding,” I couldn’t prevent the water works.

Anyhow, that is what distracted me from going the “open-luggage-to-shame” route, and instead just notice it—notice it and focus unrelentingly until a worker came by shouting instructions for the line who then added, “Whose is this?” All I could do was point. But I pointed with a force that said, “That dumb mother fucker over there.” Then I laughed to myself and low-talked to H-, “I pointed! Ha. Didn’t even blink. Just dimed them out. Funny.”

Guess maybe I, too, was getting tired of watching a woman make stupid decisions after a long holiday weekend with one.

Oh well. At least you and I are ready for next time.

Don’t wait. Find out for yourself if it’s a bomb.

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Again, Machiavelli Has Resoundingly Won and Yet I’m Not Dead: A Short Account of a Good Day.

My YouTube feed includes political memes, for whatever reason.

I just watched one which had President Biden, back in 2006, stating adamantly that marriage was between a man and a woman.

Apparently today, in some form or fashion, he supported the opposite.

If you haven’t read The Prince by Machiavelli, I don’t know that I can recommend it to you. But to summarize it must be equally as bad, so I’m not sure what to do. Proceed at your own risk, I guess.

The rock and hard place that we live between may best be illustrated by calling your attention to this event (Biden saying whatever is necessary to win—even directly lying) and also to the decision and technological capability to comprehensively investigate the missiles which landed in Poland before invoking Article 5.

Machiavellian leadership is rooted in evil and yet we have remained short of WW3 in a world which is ruled by it.

At this point, I wouldn’t trade one for the other.

Hack Life Out of the Wilderness; In a Word—Work Hard

I married a woman from Ethiopia.

For the purposes of this post, the single cultural trait in focus is polygamy. Ethiopians are only generations away from the practice of polygamy. The mooslims still do practice it.

This manifests itself in the fact that they currently live in multi-family homes. I don’t mean apartments, I mean one larger home wherein many family members are supported by a few family members. My wife might tell me, “There aren’t enough jobs, so only my brother works,” to describe this particular living arrangement.

In our family, my wife and I’s current blended family here in the good ol’ US of A, it has become clear that she does not want to work hard. The way this has appeared is that she has chosen to take a minimal wage, part-time, night shift job rather than be a stay-at-home mom with her two babies.

Don’t mis-hear me. I’m admitting, confessing, and asserting that being a stay-at-home mom with two babies is hard work—far harder than any minimal wage part-time work. I’m knocking my own wife, to support the archetypical stay-at-home wife.

She hasn’t quite said the following, but indirectly she has indicated that if we lived in Ethiopia, then our two babies would be passed around all day, every day. “Okay, I need a break, you watch them. Okay, I need a break, you watch them. Okay, I need a break, you watch them.” Then rinse and repeat until they find themselves passing around their own babies.

As the dad, as the father, as the patriarch of my family, I want my children to be the strongest adults possible. Warrior poets. Scholar athletes. I want fearless giants. To be sure, I want pilots. (Forgive me, I couldn’t resist.)

I’m here to tell you that fearless giants are not possible if raised like an Ethiopian, fearless giants are not possible if raised by polygamists.

In the passing around of the children, something else gets passed around—responsibility. And accountability. The lack of responsibility and accountability is the direct manifestation of laziness.

“He did what?! That’s not how I taught him when I had him for two minutes of every morning,” the third cousin, twice removed on the mother’s side says, feigning to be indignant.

I didn’t see it coming when I proposed this marriage, but nearly every day of my life, I see more and more why American culture is the dominant one on Planet Earth. Today, I see it in terms of monogamy as the one and only producer of giants. Polygamy went away, not because of the New Testament or because of some other philosophy. Polygamy dropped off the earth because its offspring were weak and incapable of hard work. Polygamy is not practiced by Americans because the children raised by only two people, by only one man and one woman are more capable adults. Where did Americans learn to work hard? The wilderness. Americans hacked life out of the wilderness. And that took hard work. You should thank your national ancestors.

Children need to see—from their first breaths—that hard work is good, hard work is rewarding, and hard work is rewarded. And children cannot see that if they don’t see their fathers and mothers working hard to raise them—all day, every day.

As for this fearless giant, this pilot, as for this American? I’m a man who believes in hard work. So I married a woman from Ethiopia.

I’ll Say It Again, Trump Should Use Bird Signs This Time Around

The first bald eagle I saw this morning was orbiting dangerously close to traffic on the two-lane highway upon which I drove home after my night shift.

I’m telling you, the bald eagle has no fear. A glorious bird.

Then, I first saw what turned out to be the second bald eagle of the day from a much greater distance on that same drive. Here I confess though, with shame, that I didn’t immediately recognize the feathered sentry. But I have to believe that mistaking him for a large bird’s nest is fairly flattering in its own way. Like you, for most of my life the description “he’s as big as a house” has been reserved for use on only the strongest of us humans.

Add to this fact that in my own front yard, the fall season and the resultant leafless trees had revealed a rather large bird nest near the top of one of the trees and you’ll understand why at first—only for a second really—I didn’t recognize the winged friend for what it was. I figured, “Oh, a nest just like at home.”

But I was wrong. It wasn’t some random, unused, and derelict bird’s nest. It was a living, breathing, and rather chesty member of the stately, all-seeing protector of America.

Now as I approached I did my best to make eye-contact by leaning forward at just the right moment to briefly look up—while not losing control of the car.

I can’t report with integrity that we made eye-contact, but I can report that I saw the end of the slightest nod signifying “carry-on citizen” as he moved his gaze from analyzing my approach in particular back to the Minnesotan horizon in general. And I can definitely report that my heart warmed.

Your inescapable delight in reading the above over any other journalistic drivel is what ties this post to Trump. I like that he wants to be successful and wear the American countryside while doing it. All I’m suggesting here is he should model his campaign after this post and the rhetorical archetype itself, if he wants to seal the deal this election. It’s a gimmick, surely. But what isn’t in contemporary politics?

Finally, and with more than a merely temporal connection, I want to include that on this self-same commute, I was listening to a podcast in which I heard avant-garde writer Yuval Noah Herari exclaim, “What will the future history student’s answer be to the question, ‘What was America’s second civil war about?’ I mean the difference between the two ‘sides’ is nearly non-existent.”

I shook my head and thought, “Obviously this heady, wannabe-De-Tocqueville Mr. Herari hasn’t seen a bald eagle. The two sides are as clearly defined as sky and earth. Any true American knows this.”

But I can admit to my readers now that it seems that this vista only becomes apparent when one of these birds is in view.

You’re Next

That’s the title of a sermon I’d like to give.

“You’re Next?”

Intriguing, no?

“Next what?” you wonder.

Whoa, back up a sec, I say.

“Who am I giving the imaginary sermon to?” That’s the first question.

My answer: This is a real sermon, for a real congregation, at a real church.

Most folks in the audience, then, believe they’re “in”.

This eliminates my ominous assertion “You’re Next” from meaning (to these faithful few) something positive.

Instead, I mean, literally, concretely, and practically, that I believe I am talking to people who—like all the rest—are the next to leave Christianity.

“No I’m not!” some of you might respond.

“Now we’re talking!” I exclaim. “You’re not next after all. So why aren’t you gonna leave? Let’s talk about that and see if we can’t communicate all the reasons you’re hanging around to those who are not here today.

“For example, I’m not going to leave because I can read my Bible. And when I read the Bible, I see that, specifically, theology has mucked up what it says. Doctrine begins with Scripture. Doctrine does not prevent taking the claims of the Bible in kind.

“That said, you’re not going to hear me proclaiming ‘doctrine’. Not unless we do this together for decades and I need to speed up the point I want to make. Decades. Not this week. Not next week. Not next year. Not even next decade.

“Open your Bibles with me, then, to the Gospel according to-”

“-Excuse, me,” one of you interrupts. “But how will we keep false teachings out?”

“Good question. By using our god-given minds to determine what the Bible says. If this makes you nervous, it means that you’re not sure you know how to read. That’s fine. I’m sure I can teach you. More than that, I’m sure you’ll agree that you learned how to read.

“Any more questions before we begin?”

Life Doesn’t Have To Be Hard, It Turns Out

I think I enjoy the competition. I enjoy challenges. I like to prove myself. I like to prove that I am better than you expected.

Yes, I think that is why I have lived life in a way that I (and others) might sometimes define as “hard”.

Wearing a boy scout uniform was hard. Witnessing to non-christians as a pre-teen was hard. Being a diver on the swim team was hard. Going to a college where I knew no one was hard. Entering bodybuilding competitions as a teenager was hard. Getting good grades was hard. Becoming an Air Force officer and pilot was hard. Arguing with every living person has always been hard.

These activities have also been fun, but that doesn’t mean they were less hard.

But I have recently spent an inordinate amount of time with people from a different culture and I have come to realize that life doesn’t have to be hard.

The trick to this type of life, so far as I can tell, is to not understand anything.

My goal—if this post has one—is to distinguish “ignorance is bliss” from what I’m talking about.

“Ignorance is bliss”, to me, has always been said by those who are not ignorant. It has always lived in the same semantic domain as “the thing I like about high school is, as I get older, the girls stay the same age”.

I’m not claiming to have rediscovered that concept.

I’m talking about hard vs. easy. Like the “work smarter, not harder” realm.

And I’m saying here I have been living a hard life and enjoying it because I thought that over time I am working smarter and smarter which means more and more work being done, but it turns out, I’m still living a hard life.

And I’m admitting that I just came to the realization that life doesn’t have to be hard.

Let me put it this way.

In the “work smarter not harder” proverb, there is implied that if you’re dumb, life is hard.

There’s another proverb I’ve heard, “being dumb doesn’t kill ya, it just makes you sweat.”

With me yet?

I think I’m saying that these aren’t true.

If you actually don’t understand life, then life is easy. Lillies of the field easy. Birds of the air easy. You know, easy.

Just be and in most cases food makes it to the table.

Just be and in most cases the Nike outlet will have a marked down pair of shoes in your size and on the very day that you went shopping there!

Just be and your kid can’t possibly turn out with low character because he is also only a receiver of life.

Maybe I’ve misunderstood the “just makes you sweat” part and it has always meant “working hard is dumb” to the wise.

Or maybe, just maybe, I have been working my tail off to provide a good life for my new family and the only actual reward is the knowledge that they prefer their old, easy life back.

And to think that for all these years I thought life had to be hard.

Eagle Eyes

“Nose?”

“Yes, A-, that’s your nose,” I responded, unsure what prompted this resumption of the body parts game.

“Nose?”

“Yes. You’re right. Good job. That’s your nose,” I answered loquaciously, aiming for victory.

She took off running towards the open door.

“Hey!-” I started, futilely. “Why do they always need to go where they’re not allowed?”

She came back with a tissue at her nose and as I met her, I saw the box of tissue all the way in the far corner of our bedroom, on the nightstand.

I shook my head.

“H-!” I called to my older daughter. “You’re not gonna believe what A- just did. She saw the tissue box all the way from across the room and that’s why she started saying, ‘Nose? Nose?’ Ha. This kid has eagle eyes-”

“Watch out, A-!”

Before I could finish a father’s proud, ocular appellation, certain death in the form of unkempt toddler toys, almost met our far-sighted easy-breather.

Guests Cannot Speak. Not Even Me.

Earlier today I wrote, “Evangelical Christianity has a problem.”

Just now, I returned from attending the second half of the youth service that my wife and step-son’s preferred church puts on. I missed the games and whatever they do for the first hour. This means I arrived when the sermon began. Then it was small group time.

Twenty minutes is all they allot for the smaller groups time.

I’ve been to this church several times, and have been to a few of its members homes. And we sent A- to the youth camp two years ago etc.

I would never join the church, however, because it’s a “one church, many campuses” place that makes you watch a screen for the pre-recorded sermon.

Think of it. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Visual Illusion.

One of these things isn’t like the others.

Anyhow.

During small group time, the two adults (one is a paid, full-time youth pastor who I’ve spoken with at length and texted and talked to occasionally) were teaching the 7th and 8th graders (one of whom was dressed in full Spiderman costume, gloves and all) about not drawing lines when it comes to lust/pornography. As in, do not say, “I’ll go this far—and no farther.” Instead, the lesson was, “whatever is pure…think on these things”.

No problem with the lesson.

But the boys were not getting it.

The way the leaders, sermon guy and two in my group, spoke, barely anyone could’ve discerned what the heck they were saying. They were so general in their vocabulary that it was hard even for me to know what was going on. I wondered, “Were they instructed to never get specific? If so, that’s odd. But it fits these type of churches. Never actually offensive.”

Anyhow, the point is, the boys were saying things that didn’t fit at all and the adults were never correcting the boys or even seeming to care that the lesson was failing.

Finally, after 17 min, I said, “I’m not sure you guys get the line thing. Will one of you explain it? Can someone give me a specific example?”

Peter Parker spoke up, “It’s like you shouldn’t drink alcohol or do drugs.”

Before anyone could respond, the unpaid teacher actually answered me.

I was shocked. Not only did I not doubt that he knew the answer, I clearly didn’t ask him. And the protectionism he demonstrated was wholly inappropriate. I obviously was trying to help teach the boys what they, the teachers, wanted to teach the boys.

I repeated the question, albeit more specific, “What’s like a rule you have in your life right now?”

A boy spoke up, “Don’t watch bad tv.”

“Good,” I said. “Now what’s the very easiest way to make sure that you never, I mean never ever, see bad tv?”

“Read a book,” he answered.

“Perfect. That’s perfect. The line would be ‘watch only good tv’ but the better thing, if you never wanted to watch bad tv, would be to never watch tv period.”

Then the boys took over with other examples and the paid guy fed off the improved mood and everything came to a close.

Skip to the end…

The paid guy approached me and said, “Hey, so I just want to honor our leadership here and let you know that you need to wear a guest badge next time. You know, just so folks know you’re a parent.”

“Will do.”

“And,” he continued, “This comes from the heart, but we want parents to come and see what we’re teaching the kids, but you can’t talk. I mean, I loved what you said tonight and how it helped the conversation, but, again, I need to honor our leadership too and so you just need to know that you can’t talk next time.”

Boy Scouts really ruined me, I think.

In Boy Scouts, the adults taught skills. Like lighting a fire. We learned fire needed three things, blah blah blah.

All the adults either helped teach or were too embarrassed to help as they didn’t know what they were doing and not helping light a fire would result in no fire, so they just sat back and watched rather than shame themselves.

Can you imagine it? Many adults helping towards one goal?

Tonight, if the youth leaders wanted to teach the boys to light a fire, the analogy would work out as follows.

“Boys, here’s a match box. Take it. That’s right, there’s enough that every one gets one. Everyone have theirs? Good. Now you take a match and then strike it on the side and the match grows a flame. Your turn. Try it.”

And then one boy says, “This box sounds cool when you shake it.”

And another rejoins, “Yeah. Like moccasins.”

The teacher corrects, “You mean maracas.”

“That’s what I said. Maracas.”

All the while, the boys are all shaking a box of matches. But no fire is lit. No matches leave the boxes. No boys strikes up a match into a flame.

And the teachers just keep gently “handling” the ignorance.

Then I say, “Boys. Will one of you take out a match from your box?”

“I’ll do it!”

“Thank you. Now will you strike it on the side of the box and make a flame?”

(Shhhh sparkle flame)!!

The boys say, “Oooo. Ahhh. Can I try?”

Then, after the dismissal, the leader says to me, “Silence!!”

Tracking, dear reader?

Maybe I’m too old. Maybe I’m too eccentric. Maybe I have too much baggage.

I just have never been to so many organizations which have such lousy teachers as the Evangelical churches I have attended of late.

It’s not like I taught something different. I merely helped focus the lesson they wanted the boys to learn. In my opinion, I should get a medal for what I did tonight.

Evangelical Christianity has a problem.

Damely, A Review of Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, by Dane Ortlund

Evangelical Christianity has a problem.

We say the canon is closed, but then we keep writing and writing and writing. And encouraging to write and write and write. And read and read and read—everything about the Bible, but never the Bible itself.

Mr. Ortlund’s, or Pastor Ortlund’s, book was given to me last birthday by a good friend. We went to Seminary together. I told him I’d let him know how the book was after I read it. He clearly loved it, so this was an awkward setup for someone as critical as me. He knew that going in. I agreed because I thought I could use some light Christian reading and figured it couldn’t be terrible. And it wasn’t. It wasn’t even close to terrible.

But it’s for women. Dames.

Check out these sentiments:

We don’t use a word like benevolence much today; it means a disposition to be kind and good, a crouched coil of compassion ready to spring.

Or, …my swirling internal world of fretful panicky-ness arising out of gospel deficit…

The felt love of Christ really is what brings rest, wholeness, flourishing, shalom—that existential calm that for brief, gospel-sane moments settles over you and lets you step in out of the storm of of-works-ness.

(My bold.)

No man feels like that was written to him. We all just acknowledge that the Pastor has to include some girly stuff in order to satisfy the publisher, who knows that men typically don’t read anyway. But the book was filled with these and more. Too many. Nobody speaks like that, nor should they. It’s insulting. “Crouched coil of compassion ready to spring”. Sheesh. No need for gender-reassignment surgery here. Just learned what it feels like to be a woman.

Here’s even more truth. The introduction lists a few “who this is written for” descriptions, and the one (only one) that made me decide to go through with reading it was, “…suspect we have disappointed him [the Trinity].” That’s not feminine, neither is it far off from ideas floating around “upstairs” as my step-son says. So I read on.

But I confess that I never really thought the book was for me. And I still don’t. The Bible is for me. This type of book is not.

The problem with these books is their existence itself. You don’t need someone to come up with analogies to the Bible’s analogies in order to understand how to walk according to the Way. You really don’t.

I repeat: the canon is closed.

I have this argument with my wife often too.

The canon is closed. The minute someone creates a recording of what they said, some preacher/teacher, they’re implicitly suggesting that they are as inspired as the authors of the real Bible.

By contrast, I write these posts for me. I don’t believe they can help you in any way that meaningfully would be help. That’s partly because I don’t believe you need my help. You definitely have never asked for my help.

If anything, my theologically-oriented posts may help you understand what makes me tick, but I would never suggest they can help clarify the Bible.

Back to Pastor Ortlund.

If you’re looking for a good spiritual book, most folks would point you to the big ones. Gospel of John, Genesis, early Psalms, Ephesians. Acts is a winner. And that disappoints you. Because that’s not what you’re looking for, I suspect. I suspect that, when looking for a Christian/Devotional book, you’re looking to find a shortcut to the Bible. Bluntly, my gut tells me that you’re looking for a lazy-man’s Bible.

To that search I say: Good luck in your quest. I never have found one. So I stopped wasting time searching and started reading the Bible.

A Midwestern American Man’s Take On Ukraine

I took my two twelve year olds canoeing, here in Minnesota last July. It brought back so many memories. Just being alone on a river and hearing no artificial noise was well worth the price of admission.

Then, as if to further and more certainly confirm that the event was anointed, there was a moment when a bald eagle flew overhead into view.

Can we talk about the bald eagle for a minute? Is there anything good that a bald eagle doesn’t represent? Is there anything good that a bald eagle doesn’t call to mind?

When I see a bald eagle, I might as well see Jesus. Remember that “I Can Only Imagine” Christian song? It even made the Kohl’s playlist? Remember? “I can only imagine/what hmm mm mmhm hmm?…what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus!? Or in awe of you be still!?” Imagine nevermore. After seeing a bald eagle, I can tell you what seeing Jesus actually feels like.

Awe, then happy, then awe, then somber, then awe, then special, then awe, then at peace, then awe, then blessed, then awe, then talkative, then awe, then warm, then awe, then good.

On a river in Minnesota we saw a bald eagle. It felt good.

Then, to our surprise, we saw a second large bird playfully follow and engage the bald eagle. The second bird had a speckled appearance. It did not have a white head.

When we arrived home, I googled this second bird. It turns out, as you may have guessed, that bald eagles don’t have the white (bald) head until they’re fully grown.

Did I mention that I saw a bald eagle on the river that day? I did.

Truly, when I saw that bald eagle, I saw America.

The bald eagle is America.

The young bald eagle, then, is Europe.

Ukraine is a bald eagle egg.

Should the USA help Ukraine? Sure. We want more bald eagles.

But the USA should not send its own men and women to fight Russia, anymore than the adult bald eagle can get back inside the egg.

It’d be disingenuous. It’d be unnatural.

Ukraine’s real competition, if it were actually a country (I still say, ‘Ukraine is not a country’), is us—not Russia.