Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chat Pack Question #2

What is the best $100 you have ever spent in your life?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Questions From The Chat Pack

I have this new game from someone called "The Questions Guys"*. It is called The Chat Pack: Fun Questions to Spark Conversations.

Let's see. Here's one:


Look for more questions anon.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

In The Hole

Friday night's Bible study at the local prison provided this tale:

Wyatt, who has spent a total of seven years incarcerated and has never had anything negative put on his record, was transferred from a room with a loud and abusive roommate to a new room, one with four beds. His first week there, one of the guards found a cell phone charger sitting in a public part of the room, and none of the four would claim it. So. Into the hole for seven days went the four of them.

Wyatt had just gotten a day job on the outside, a really good job that paid well and which was going to stake him to some funds for when he is released next year. Being thrown into solitary cost him his job. By his own admission, he spent two days increasingly upset at this injustice: the cell phone wasn't his and the owner wouldn't confess for another several days. As his distress grew in solitary he began to cast about for some explanation for this evil imposition. Why him; why now?? And everything had been going so well up till now! There had been for him a dim light at the end of the tunnel of stupidity and confinement that had been his life to the present time.

They let you have four items of printed matter when you go into solitary. He asked for his two Bibles, his dictionary, and another novel. As he sat stewing, trying to wrap his mind around this present disappointment, he found himself poking around in the book of Proverbs. (I've found that most of these guys, once they've familiarized themselves with the overall scope of scripture, spend an inordinate amount of time reading Proverbs. I think it is just the reassurance and clarity of reading that there is a way of wisdom and a way of being a fool). Somewhere, he ran across the work "meek" in his readings, and suddenly had an urge to better understand what the word meant. He turned to his dictionary and read something like the following definition: "To respond to misfortune with patience and without resentment."

Wyatt told us he then sat back startled and deeply impressed. It was as if God had spoken to him about his present misfortune! It made all of the difference in the rest of his time in solitary confinement. He told me there are heating ducts that connect the cells, and he was able to speak the gospel to the guy in the next cell over the next few days. Amazing tale.

So. Some advice: The next time you get thrown in the hole, be sure you have a Bible and a dictionary with you. You never know when you'll really, really need to know the meaning of a word.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Our theme for Advent this year has been the Incarnation, and incarnational theology has sprung fully to life from the pulpit of the church I attend. We neglect this integrated approach to our spiritual lives at our peril. Pastor Bill Mack has been writing waayyy above his pay scale, sermons to delight and give thought. Here is a taste from last night's sermon, a copy of which I snatched from the pulpit before leaving church.

Joyfully rejoice in the Lord; after all, he clothes you in himself. That's the faith. Righteousness and salvation are worn, not earned. That's Christianity. He has clothed me with salvation clothes. In Hebrew, it says "Jesus robes." I don't mean robes that belong to Jesus. I mean robes that are Jesus. Jesus robes. "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious...about your body, what you will put on. Is not...the body more than clothing?" (Mt. 6:25) Way more important! These bodies were made to wear salvation, to wear Jesus.
"The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." (Rom. 13:12). What is "the armor of light"? Or shall I ask, who is the armor of light? [John] came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light." (Jn. 1). Jesus robes are the armor of light. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
Receiving righteousness and salvation never looks like payday; it looks more like a wedding. "He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." (Is. 61:10)...
...We know the garments of our own righteousness are filthy rags. We know we should "put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (Rom. 13:14)
So why don't we "joyfully rejoice in the Lord," why don't we let our being exult in our God at the prospect of being wrapped in the very righteousness who is God?...Because we possess that righteousness, by faith; not in a way that is appealing to our flesh. So we rejoice, but not joyfully. We may exult, sort of, but not with the full resolve of our being, our whole spirit, soul, and body that God the Lord created from the dirt. The call to rejoice in him for the garment of salvation that we can't feel and the robe of righteousness that we can't see is not enough to call up the faith to praise him and exult in him. That he said we are clothed in him and therefore blameless should be enough to make us rejoice. But it isn't enough for sinners who can't manufacture the faith to believe it. If you're a sinner like me, and you think it's up to you to somehow get that robe of righteousness on and make it fit, it isn't enough to make you rejoice.

But I know what is. "For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up. so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations." (Is. 61:11) How does righteousness spring forth like a garden plant? The same Isaiah told the wonder: "Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground." (Is 53:1-2).

Yes, righteousness turns out to be one blameless Man. But how does that righteousness get to me? How do I end up wearing it like a wedding garment? How do I end up blameless? Paul tells us, "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." (1Thess 5:23-24).
He will do it. God the Lord will clothe you in Himself, by clothing himself in you. That's the incarnation! This is not God possessing a man for a while. "And the angel answered her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God," (Lk 1:35). The incarnation did not happen in Bethlehem, inside a stable. That was the nativity, the birth of Christ. The incarnation happened in Nazareth inside the Virgin Mary. That's why she said, "For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name" (Lk 1:48-49). There was never a human nature of Christ apart from the union with the divine nature of God who was always being fathered by God.
"For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Col 2.9). This is God taking humanity up into himself; your humanity. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). He wrapped himself in our humanity, he took our humanity into himself, into God!

But anyone who knows they are a sinner is waiting for the other shoe to drop. You may say, "God takes my humanity into himself. But there is more to me than just my humanity. I have my attachments. I have baggage. I have sins! Don't tell me he's wrapped himself in my sins too!" Yes, beloved. Your sins too. We call this His humiliation.
He says, "He will surely do it." One of the reasons God the Lord took our humanity into himself was to make himself killable, to make himself a ransom. When Isaiah wrote these words of Christ, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me" (Is 61:1) that is a completely different thing than the incarnation of God the Son. Isaiah was talking about his office as Christ, anointed by the Spirit to bear the sins of the world. God the Holy Spirit was upon God the Son, who was already incarnate--very God--who had already taken our humanity into himself. And now he would wrap himself in our sins, too!

Today's Old Testament reading began, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion--to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning" (Is 61:1-3).
To heal our brokenhearted humanity, our captive humanity, our humanity bound by sin, our humanity in mourning, our humanity in ashes. And so, "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily," in him who came swaddled in strips of cloth, was bound and scourged and wrapped in our scarlet robe of shame, and wore a priestly headdress made of thorns, captive, mourning the Father's absence; our righteousness like a young plant sprouting up as he was crucified, and wrapped in our grave-clothes. Even risen from the dead, the only jewels Jesus was decked with were you.
And he exults in that! He will rejoice over you with loud singing!

And as the man who is God, Jesus dresses you in the comfort of salvation clothes that is he himself, the consolation of a robe of righteousness that is he himself, the beauty of wedding clothes you are going to need (may it be today!), and the joy that is he himself, bread and wine that is not only bread and wine, but his body and blood, and not just body and blood, but body and blood that has already been taken up into God. Now, here, for you: to take into yourself.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wisconsin In Winter

Porcuppine Mountains Ski Hill

Last night another three inches of cold dry snow fell, enough to have to clear the driveway in preparation for what promises to be the Mother of snowfalls coming tomorrow night. We're to expect six or even ten inches, maybe even thirteen inches of snow.

I love it. Let it come. Anke the German Shepherd snow dog is fully in her element, two ridiculous layers of fur keeping her snug. She can sleep all warm and tucked in in her inside kennel, or sneak out the two-way door into the back to roll in the snow.

For the humans living here at the ranch, the snow is most welcome: out in the country; the furnace works great; the pantries are stocked. My shop is filled with interesting jobs to distract me during the day, and no one has anywhere to go.

I take a daily walk with Furperson down the road to the pass (I call it the pass; it is just a small rise where the trees on each side of the road converge, exactly one mile south from our house)
and back. The walk to me is perfectly representative of the Wisconsin countryside: large hollow bowls of cleared fields and long ridges of thick woods. A few large farm houses. I never tire of what I see--surprising isn't it?

The dog in winter gets some time off the leash to hunt odors and the occasional road kill. This pup of eighteen months, and I are slowly coming to terms with each other. Furperson is much too intelligent for her own good, and it keeps getting her into trouble with her owner. She gets a look in her eyes: sly, conniving, energetic. This only happens when she's outsmarted me and is off without a leash: FREEDOM, MY OWN MASTER!

It almost always ends badly.

The Childe Robin, snowbound

Monday, December 15, 2008

The New Standard of Excess

When you are spending several thousand dollars a night to stay at one of the world's most prestigious hotels, the last thing you need is burnt feet.

We used to joke that cocaine was God's way of telling you you make too much money.

It is time, I guess, to update the joke. Dubai, ayyy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


...and how to fix it.

Fred Thompson, cigar and tongue in cheek, weighs in.

HT: Another Kerner

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I'm introducing my daughter to the silly charm of RED DWARF, the SciFi farce produced by the BBC some years ago. In turn she's now been introduced to the now-ancient punk pejorative SMEG, as in "You're a smeggin' loser, Hallie!" The funniest stunt of the first few episodes, which briefly cover 3.5 million years, is that the cat evolves into a black, James Brown character, OWWW! Totally funny.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Advice for the times

Ha. Do you think that whatever current economic hardship--or impending hardship--you are undergoing is not of your own making? Does it seem that unseen men in Washington D. C. and on Wall St. and in banking conference rooms around the country have conspired to enrich themselves and their friends at the expense of you and your children and grandchildren?

Seems a little like that to me too: subprime mortgage lending, companies piling on to get their part of the bubble economy before it bursts. But the Psalter reading for this morning brought a bit of a grin to me as I read:

Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of those who
cheat me surrounds me,
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of the abundance of their riches?

A good reminder that the times we live in are not substantially different from the times in which men have always lived since The Original Odd Couple got tossed.
The Psalmist later goes on, putting into perspective our brief lively sojourn:
Their graves are their homes forever,
their dwelling places to all generations,
though they called lands by their own names.

Man in his pomp will not remain,
he is like the beasts that perish.

But God will ransom my soul
from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Tail Wagging The Dog

Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,
or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?

As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,
or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!
Isaiah 10:15

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Isaiah and Mariah in the time of Advent

So timely, after all these years:

The people did not turn to him who struck them,
nor inquire of the Lord of hosts...
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still...

Dropping my wife Deb off at the airport for her flight to San Diego at her mother's death, I stopped for coffee at the only place open at 5:30 in the morning: Denny's.
There I was accosted by the very worst of the secular Christmas season: modern poppish jiggly soft-rock seasonal songs, all with the same themes:

a. Christmas is the time for peace and love.
b. We're going to party till dawn.
c. Can't we just all get along?


d. Not a whisper of Christ.

From my little Christian cocoon, it is quite a shock to stick my neck out, have a listen, and see what Christmas has actually become for the vast majority of people: a sticky-sweet emotional storming of heaven.

I know, I know. I should know better. I got caught--swilling coffee in a booth at Denny's--in a vulnerable moment. I hate when that happens! It was a further shock to arrive home to morning prayer, where I read Isaiah 9-10, summarized above. And to then read in Psalm 55 of a "friend", whose speech is smooth as butter, words softer than oil, yet these words are drawn swords. Whew. I think I have been guilty of that this year.

It must be the seaon of Advent.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Libertarian Alert

The Washington Post has an article detailing a plan to deploy military troops on American soil in the event of a terrorist attack. I wonder what my friend over at Bi-Coloured Python-Rock-Snake has to say about this? A snippet from the article:
The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.
Here's my thought: These things start out so simply and innocently. The intent is good, but it can go bad so easily. If not substantially, then symbolically it is the wrong move. It conjures images that have seldom--Kent State comes to mind-- been a part of the American memory. Apart from the singular evil that was the American War Between The States, the idea of military troops bearing arms in the homeland (apart, of course, from training, which has always been closely confined to military bases) is a relatively new one.

Questions abound: How do military troops interact with other security and police forces within the country? The federal law known as posse comitatus was passed during the period of Reconstruction at the end of the civil war to restrict military presence and activities in the southern states that had attempted to secede from the Union. How far the interpretation of that law has extended to its application today I don't know. At first blush it doesn't apply, but it may have morphed into more extensive interpretations which would restrict the sort of thing the military has planned now. An opinion on the state of the statute here.

A further snippet from the article:
Domestic emergency deployment may be "just the first example of a series of expansions in presidential and military authority," or even an increase in domestic surveillance, said Anna Christensen of the ACLU's National Security Project. And Cato Vice President Gene Healy warned of "a creeping militarization" of homeland security.
The "innocent" aspect to this is just that the military appears to be in a better position from a funding and training perspective to react to the extreme case of a terrorist nuclear attack. To not plan for such an event is foolhardy, and it appears Congress has been pushing the military to come up with substantial scenarios for some time, to which this plan is a response.