I wish I was kidding. Actually, I wish I didn’t notice things like the following anymore. They drive me crazy. In any case, when I was back in KC a few weekends ago, I noticed that an entire section of the Kansas City Star was devoted to the upcoming 2017 solar eclipse. Apparently it’s a unique one. And apparently somewhere in nearby Missouri the duration and totality of the eclipse is going to be singular, so folks are already planning on how to best view it.
I am at a loss for how to explain to all the ultra-educated science nerds who take behavioral cues from the sun that their (and my) primitive ancestors used to do this. The thing is primitive people used to do it while also worshiping wood and stone–which nearly all today see as backwards in every sense of the word. Yet, it is forever in the history books that early man used to worship wood and stone.
Not all of them of course–the patriarchs of my faith didn’t. Moses–who actually spoke with the LORD–talked about this nonsense all those years ago when he warned his people, The LORD will bring you and your king, whom you set over you, to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone.
There’s more. These self-same contemporary leaders of knowledge insist that because of their calculations (new AND improved wood and stone) they can be certain that Jesus Christ did not resurrect from the dead and that my prayers are meaningless and unheard etc., and yet they have no trouble joining the masses of humanity–past, present, and certainly future–who have denied the Living God His due Glory even as they wonder at His creation.
But I’m not finished. Here’s the kicker. In one such article about the upcoming August 21st eclipse, the writer commented that even the animal kingdom is affected by the event. You read that right. Many members of the human race are already making travel plans (two months out!) to see the eclipse and it’s news that the animals change their behavior? Is anyone else’s head spinning? It’s probably a good idea to hold onto to your child’s hand a little tighter at this point. You never know when the sun god will require a child in exchange for rain. Sheesh!
By all means, enjoy the eclipse. Just let it be an arrow in your brain that points to the LORD; let the temporary darkness bring to light a response like David’s, whom the LORD sought because he was a man after His own heart.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him?
And the son of man that You care for him?
…O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
1. Somebody once wrote (believed) that only the fool has said in his heart, “There is no Triune god.”
2. If we deny claim 1, we devalue whoever it was that wrote it (believed it) to an inhumane level.
3. A human being is more than flesh, a human being is capable of belief.
4. Therefore, (a) if we admit claim 1 above, we necessarily endow the human who wrote it with their humanity and we realize the Triune god lives.
5. Therefore, (b) the Triune god is worthy. We should glorify the Triune god.
I’ve shared on here before that when my ex-wife and I were going through our divorce we used a mediator. We were luckier than many couples. Some couples are forced to use a judge. In either situation, however, it is clear that when two people disagree, the best–sometimes the only–solution is for an outside party to make the decisions.
This last week the seminary put on both a seminar and an evening service on the topic of racism. Racism is like a divorce proceeding; except that in racism every single human ever is a petitioner. Who is wise enough to act as judge? Who is impartial enough? Who is not the victim or the perpetrator?
I’ve also shared on here that I am in a Christian apologetics class right now. We’ve moved on to Christian ethics, but there is still a heightened feeling of pressure to constantly evangelize. This feeling, for me, has been accompanied by a unique thought. Every once in a while I think to myself, “Boy, this evangelism would be so much easier if I could do it without using the words “Bible”, “God”, “Sin”, “Jesus Christ”, “Resurrection”, and the like. Those words, to most of us, are so hot-button that people can’t think clearly after they are uttered, moreover, people often don’t want to think about them at all .
Back to racism as a divorce proceeding involving the entire human race.
Do you understand that there actually does exist an outside Judge and Mediator? Do you understand that sin is the only reason you and I segregate ourselves? Do you understand that a book many people take to be the very revelation of God–the Bible–says we are all created in God’s image and likeness? Do you understand that this necessarily implies that our self-segregation means that we’re willfully looking away from divine beauty? Do you understand that the outside Judge and Mediator–the concretely risen Lord and Savior of you and me, the very Son of God, Jesus Christ–made his ruling on racism known to the world in the Bible? And do you know which race he singled out as worth dying for? The human race.
George Clooney has a great line in “O Brother Where Art Thou?” in which he says of the devil, “Well, there are all manner of lesser imps and demons, Pete, but the great Satan hisself is red and scaly with a bifurcated tail, and he carries a hay fork.” To this description, the escaped convicts’ new-found, soul-less, hitchhiking, black companion replies, “Oh, no. No, sir. He’s white, as white as you folks, with empty eyes and a big hollow voice. He likes to travel around with a mean old hound. That’s right.” If I was given a turn in the conversation, I’d describe Satan as Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park when he is picking up the barbasol shaving creme can with which he’ll steal the dino DNA. Remember that? His entire body jiggles in a giddy laugh at how easy the theft will be.
Can you understand post-enlightenment, post-age-of-reason, what the satanic is? The satanic is anything other than the truth. It is lies, distortions, half-truths, diversions, and denials. Take racism. Even widespread knowledge of science’s revelation that “pure” races don’t exist hasn’t helped the problem of racism. The only possible solution to racism must come from some manner of transcendent being. Christianity goes to great lengths to announce that this transcendent being is the triune God who created the universe and sent His Son to die for the sins of mankind some two thousand years ago. Resurrecting from the grave on the third day, Jesus the Christ gave us the victory–if only we choose it.
So, no, Satan (the adversary), I am not going to water down the gospel. The good news is only *and precisely* that Jesus Christ is risen. And it is only through Him that humans can be free.
“I guess it had to happen sometime. Wait, no it didn’t. I can’t believe it happened at all. Can not,” he said, over-emphasizing the tuh in not. The car slowly pulled away.
“Was she pissed?” G- asked.
“Huh?” he responded, waking from contemplation.
“The old lady you just talked to,” G- clarified.
“Oh, no. Well, not about her car wash. That’s the weird thing. But she called me a pussy,” he said, still working his way back to reality.”
“What?” G- asked.
“Not just me, actually,” he said.
“So what happened?”
“Let me see. I guess the best place to begin is with the fact that it is supposed to snow tomorrow. If we start there, the next step is to divide the residents of this city into two groups, for the purpose of this story. Group one: residents who, today, think, ‘Gee, it’s a great day for a car wash.’ Group two: residents who do not. Now, G-, you and I are clearly in group two, right?” he asked.
“Right,” G- answered.
“That old lady, on the other hand, is in group one, right?” he asked.
“Yep, she sure is,” G- responded, enjoying the banter.
“Good. It’s important that we agree,” he began again. “Anyhow, I’m sure you heard that she had a dog with a pretty ferocious bark. When I saw the guys signal that her car was ready, I trotted towards it, meeting her along the way. I was hoping–as usual–to use engaging small talk and piercing eye-contact to distract her from inspecting their work. So intent on my mission was I, that I forgot my surroundings; forgot them, that is, right up until the dog that was now standing directly at my side let out another very loud bark, unexpectedly. This startled me, as I think you can imagine. I mean, quite literally, I jumped at the sound of it. Then I began laughing at myself and recounting the moment to the old lady. I told her, ‘Man that scared me.’ All I got back was a look that I couldn’t place. I ushered her towards her front door, and that’s when she stopped and said dryly, ‘I think you all are kinda pussies for being scared of my vicious dog.'”
“She actually said ‘pussies’?”
“What’d you say?”
“Before speaking, I looked at her hard, because, remember,” he paused for effect, “she’s in group one. Then I decided her imbalance wouldn’t likely result in violence, and frankly said, ‘Ma’am, I don’t think I deserve to be called names today.'”
“What did she say back?”
“I could tell that she felt my meaning with her heart, but she didn’t back down much at first. Then she went on to explore, in a dry, lamenting manner, how it surprised her that her dog could cause such fear in so many people. I explained that I didn’t mean that I was scared of her dog, but startled nonetheless. It seemed that maybe I wasn’t the first person to comment on the animal today, and she remained in a state of silent query after my explanation,” he continued. After a breath, he resumed, “I then tried to clarify that, perhaps, unlike the other people she dealt with earlier, I just don’t like dogs anyhow, nothing against hers. Admittedly, I couldn’t help myself and added, ‘I don’t understand you people anyhow. Toting your dogs around in your cars and all that.’ I mean, seriously, G-. Did I tell you I saw a lady with a litter-box, as in a functioning, full of kitty litter litter-box on the floor beneath the passenger seat in the front of her car earlier today? Dubble-yoo tee eff?”
“How’d she take that?”
“Judging by her expression, I’d say she was genuinely shocked to discover that there exists a human being whose conclusions differed from her own.”
Laughing, G- responded, “Sounds like a pretty big moment for her.”
“We can only hope that the depth of the experience compensates for the brevity.”
People who were raised in incredibly strict households, especially religious households, make for incredibly interesting friends. (Yes, I’m talking about you Andy.)
There is a singular, unparalleled feeling of joy as a child innocently and repeatedly exhales into your ear as they try to develop the secret that just had to be whispered.
Fruit punch soda. Where have I been? It’s amazing. Instead of going flat, it turns into Hawaiian Punch. Yum.
If you need to drink Red Bull or any other energy drink to make it through a day of skiing, you’re missing the point.
Some people’s kids. The high for the last two days has been five degrees. Yet over 150 people chose to get their car washed. What is it about people with cash to burn that they can’t be talked out of spending it? Seriously. Here’s a couple insights into the 21st century city-dweller’s mind.
- In response to a woman telling me she’d like to go ahead and get a car wash, despite the temperature being below the point that third-graders learn water freezes, I inquired, “Will you give me a chance to talk you out of it?” She replied, smiling knowingly, “No.”
- After a lady complained that the outside of her car was not very clean, despite the fact that the water froze before we could dry it off, we said, “Well, it is difficult to wipe off frozen water.” She responded, “Well then you shouldn’t be open today.” More surprising than her belief that she made a valid point was that even after re-washing her car she left unsatisfied.
Have a good weekend.
“Please, please don’t talk to me today. Not today. Can’t it wait?” he thought to himself. The big boss was scheduled to arrive any minute. The day was a slow one, and that meant plenty of random tasks could be accomplished. The problem was he was looking for new work. No, that’s not quite it. The problem was he hated lying. He had tried it a couple times in his life. It never felt good. And he could tell that today was going to be no different. He wanted to know what kind of situation work is that it forced him to lie.
The big boss being there is what bothered him so. In order to keep his job he’d answer the man’s insincere question with, “Good. Things are good. How about you?” Inside, though, he’d be thinking, “Not great. In fact, I can’t think of a single reason why anyone would do this work except to get paid. And that’s just not how I’m going to live.”
The moment came and went without much excitement. He had done it. He had looked a man directly in the eye and lied.
Leaving work as soon as they let him, he went home and laid down. Waking up three hours later, his stomach was still in knots. Like when in the aircraft his hands began maneuvering the machine away from danger before his brain concluded there was danger ahead, he knew that he had to trust his body’s language now. It was saving itself.
Pete couldn’t remember meeting her. He thought that was weird. Then again, a big sister would’ve always been there, wouldn’t she have? I guess he did have some early memories of her. There was the often told bike incident with little Steven. Oh, and for some reason he could remember her displaying shyness whenever it was clear she liked a certain boy. And he’d never forget his favorite memory of their childhood. It was the day he, ahem, stumbled upon a certain diary entry which contained a baggie of gum that she saved after she was given it–handed–directly from the mouth of a crush of hers. (Not having much time for fear of being caught, he only found it because it prevented the book from closing properly).
He was so selfish that he always took credit for initiating his own desire to live with integrity. Today, however, Pete finally took a minute and realized she necessarily would have been a founding influence, even if just subconsciously. She did the ‘right things’ as a child, and not only stayed out of trouble, but was rewarded for it. Rewarded with high grades at school, with being well-liked by everyone who knew her, and with achieving success in her passions. Those were only a few of the things he unwittingly observed growing up with her.
She also never questioned or interfered with his dreams and pursuits.
Their only moments of tension came when he was too evangelical about the need for everyone to be like him. Oh, and the morning when she criticized the smell of the slightly burnt scrambled egg-whites. He was pretty upset at her for that. What could he say? Egg-whites were one of his only meals whose flavor he enjoyed some 60 days into the restrictive pre-contest diet, and she just had to say something, didn’t she? Oh well. On this day he is in no mood to hold grudges–he’s just sayin’.
These days he sees how she raises her family. There is a lot of stress, there is a lot of yelling, there is a lot of frustration. But what her children will remember is that there was a loving mom. Always. And that constancy, Pete and his sister (and their brother for that matter) knew from experience, was priceless. In this moment of contemplation, he realized that her continuing to live with the values she demonstrated as a child should have never surprised him. Either way, for him at least, the story only gets better.
There came a time when he needed help. He needed someone he could rely on no matter what. He needed a partner who wouldn’t judge him and who would hold him accountable. His mind raced through the names of everyone he knew. There was one name with which he couldn’t find fault, one name which he couldn’t dismiss, one name he knew he wouldn’t lie to out of respect, one name he knew would not let him off easy, and one name who would respect him through the journey. There was one name whose unfailing love blinded her to weakness leaving only strength.
That name was Kate. Thank you Kate. And “Happy Birthday!” All Good.
(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)
“You have a sister? What’s she like?”
“She’s cool. You’ll like her.”
“Do you guys look alike, notwithstanding she’s a girl?”
“Not really. She’s a lot lighter than me. It’s actually kinda funny. My sisters are all light brown, while I’m black–even though we have the same parents.”
“I knew someone who had the same problem.”
“What problem? What problem is that?”
Lucky for her, he asked this only moments before bursting into one of the most contagious laughs imaginable. Lucky for her, he had one of the best senses-of-humor available. His ability to laugh transformed a moment more serious souls might have let become negatively charged into one filled with the glorious sounds of laughter. Laughing uncontrollably, even she was unable to successfully join enough words together to mount whatever self-defense she had in mind.
Instructions for How To Laugh:
Step 1 – Resist all temptation to believe people actually think before they speak.
Step 2 – While smiling, immediately exhale the full amount of whatever air happens to be in your lungs.
Step 3 — Inhale as able.
Step 4 – Appropriate to the situation, repeat Steps 2 and 3 with ridiculously nonsensical rhythm.
(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)
He couldn’t be sure, but it seemed there was at least a correlation between the two. He thought it was more likely cause and effect than correlation though. But he knew it didn’t have to be. He knew that laziness was the real culprit.
Of course, he couldn’t blame anyone in particular. It certainly wasn’t the aggregators fault; they were just amassing the information. Likewise, it wasn’t the people who provided the information’s fault. All they did was volunteer knowledge–itself a pretty harmless action at worst.
There seemed to be no other option. It had to be the individual. Was the individual person the guilty party? Yes. He was sure of it. He knew it all along. He tried to pretend the responsibility didn’t fall on a single person’s shoulders, but it was clear now. As much as he wanted to shrug off the burden, a singular sensation passing through his body signaled that he was right. Everyone was accountable for the lack of respect permeating the culture.
In an instant, his mood changed. He felt cheery and seemed to see the world in a different light. If the problem had been identified, there could now be a solution. Of all people, he should have seen this bright conclusion earlier. It mattered not. He wouldn’t allow these thoughts to dampen his mood.
Up until recently, there did seem to be a direct relationship between how much information a person knew, and how wise they were. Naturally, the information age has saturated mankind with data. As a result, everyone acted on the belief that there were answers to life’s problems. People thought that information was wisdom. The mistake is forgivable. Nonetheless, it must be addressed. The starting place, is re-learning how to respect another person. He knew this point was tricky, as not every person behaves in a way that deserves respect. He also knew that people rise to the occasion, and in this country every person has the same inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In this manner, at least, all people deserve respect.
So how does one give respect? See below.
Instructions for How To Respect:
Step 1 – Listen.
Step 2 – Ask, “What are you going to do?”
“Censorship is murder.”
Too strong? I thought so at first. Then again, this was an assignment for college and I wanted a good grade, so I decided to run with it.
The task that lay before me was developing this radical thesis. So I thought and I thought and I thought. I asked my housemate what he thought. So he thought. Then we both thought. Here’s the result: Censorship is murder because I believe that “to be a human, as opposed to all other known life forms, requires an unfettered ability to communicate one’s value (in the form of words, images, or music) to other humans. And an external restriction of a person’s expression of value is the same as telling them they have no value. In other words, it is a malicious attempt to end their life.”
It was beautiful.
After developing my thesis, the next assignment was to write about my first experience with censorship. What I discovered was frightening. Even now, I am afraid of the implications.
187. 68. 32. Those are the amounts posters and/or pictures of The New Kids on the Block my cousin Jenny, my sister Kate, and I had on our bedroom walls, respectively, in the summer of 1990. I feel like I should be embarrassed to admit this. I would be if I led the bunch. That I was a distant third clearly showed I was just trying to fit in.
For those of you who don’t recall, The New Kids on the Block were it back then. Their top single, “Hangin’ Tough” spent 132 weeks, that’s nearly two and a half years, on the Billboard charts.
Despite the New Kids’ success, all was not well in households across America. Mine was no different. My memory gets fuzzier by the year, but this much I do remember. My sister was taking piano lessons. She was three years older than me. She was 12, I was 9. Mrs. Misty Bolton, the wife of our church’s pastor of music, was her piano teacher. Even a cool lady like her couldn’t see the storm brewing on the horizon.
I can hear the nice, neat, well-timed piano playing now. Whatever my sister may have lacked in expression, she made up for in crisp playing–just like an older sister to show how its done.
At this point in the story, it’s important that you join me in the room.
You’re already at the front door of the house? Good. Open it. Once you make your way through the front door, you see a hallway to a kitchen table straight ahead. You discover that what you thought was the right wall of that hallway is actually the left side of the staircase which leads to the second floor and a little balcony. Turning all the way to your right, you see the room where the piano is. You know the piano is in the room, not because you see it, but because you can see a reflection of it in the wall sized mirror that hangs opposite it.
This room, unlike any other in the house had a name: the “blue room”. It was named for its predominant color, beginning with the blue carpet, extending to the blue walls. The blue carpet was a plush, thick, luscious carpet that incurred my mother’s wrath if it was needlessly tread upon.
“Key-an’t you go around?,” she’d exclaim. She could be rather vain about carpet.
Do you see me yet? Good. Here it comes.
“Mom! Comeeer. Misty, I mean, Mrs. Bolton says she’ll teach me to play the New Kids on the Block songs if we buy the book! Can we? Pleeeeease?,” my sister begged.
Our mom was no push-over, but it seemed like such a simple request involving learning to play piano didn’t necessitate that kind of begging. It turned out that no amount of begging could overcome the music snobbery we were about to witness.
“Nnnnoooo, I’m not going to hee-ave you playing that garbage! It’s bee-ad enough I hee-ave to hear it and see it all dee-ay long as it is. I will not buy thee-at book for you. Nice try though.”
Crushed! Devastated! If my sister wasn’t crying on the outside, she was on the inside. Try as they might, my boy arms lacked the strength to lift her out of her misery.
-Fast forward to the next lesson-
Guess who showed up with the sheet music book for the New Kids’ latest album “Step By Step”? Mrs. Misty Bolton. This was a bad idea. She obviously had not spent much time in our house. Suffice it to say, my mom was not happy. And so after my mom let Mrs. Baldwin know she wasn’t happy, she made my sister pay for it out of her piddly allowance and then she took the book away and hid it. No piano of hers was going to play the New Kids’ music, and no piano teacher was going to defy her wishes!!
Well, there you have it. My first experience with censorship.
What’s that? You thought I was supposed to be explaining how this experience led me to believe censorship was murder?
But don’t you see? I just did. My mother censored the “Step By Step” album. You still don’t understand? Okay. Okay, quick reminder then. How did the New Kids follow their “Step By Step” album? Don’t remember? That’s because the New Kids on the Block never released another original studio album. By the time those five guys did release another original studio album, they weren’t the New Kids on the Block anymore. They were NKOTB. Still not with me? Fully connecting the dots now– a simple writing assignment in which I was asked to defend my original thesis, that censorship is murder, led me to stumble upon the frightening revelation that the New Kids on the Block died after my mom censored their “Step By Step” album. Therefore, my mom killed them in an act of what appears to be cold-blooded murder! This is the same woman who raised me to do the right thing and all these years she’s been hiding this secret! She, too, must pay for her crime. And I have to turn her in. But how do I turn in my own mom??!
I guess, I’ll just have to take it step… by… step.