Friday, February 23, 2007


“Knowledge is true opinion.” Plato

I cringed. While listening to a recording of the New Testament, I heard something that made me wince. In a crowd around Jesus, a few sideliners voiced untruth and slandered John the Baptist and Jesus.

When someone shares an “opinion,” they express their view, their judgment, and their estimation. Even though John the Baptist lived an austere life of fasting and tee totaling, the street buzz became, “He has a demon.” He’s crazy.

Jesus ate with the elite and also dined on bread with the common man and outcasts. And the opinionated complained, “He is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners’” (Matthew 11).

After history weighed in, it’s plain to see the truthful character of John and Jesus. And, yet, many voiced false statements about them.

Whatever happened to the adage, “Wait and see?”
Much of media, masquerading as newsworthy, could be silenced if people waited to gather facts.

Jesus made a statement after he confronted the opinionated people around him. “Wisdom is proved right by her actions.” Eugene Peterson in The Message rendered Jesus’ words, “Opinion polls don’t count for much.”

Opinion polls are a nickel a hundred in 2007. Cranky opinionated people are numerous, too. Obviously some poll questions are trite and just for fun, but others seem to stir boiling cauldrons and the contents are splattered on those around the pot. Well, at least that’s my opinion.

When practiced, the sage advice James gives is powerful. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness of God” (1:19-20).

Listen. Be slow to speak. Be even slower about becoming angry. It’s a proven formula for ushering in the righteousness of God. In that slow processing of information, there’s also time to utter a prayer for help.

Coins have two sides. As William Ralph Inge said, “It’s useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism, while the wolf remains of a different opinion.”

Listening, slow answers, controlled anger—good advice for both sides of any coin.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sweet Home

A recent close encounter with a skunk reminded me of a pair of skunks on this same property some years back. Then, we lived in a 150-year-old farm house with a crawl space beneath. The frame rested on wooden and cinder blocks.

Night after night, a pair of skunks ventured under the house. Perhaps our home simply lay in the path to the watering hole. Or maybe they liked sneaking up on our cats and the dog Bengie. We usually heard the mêlée of critters before the nose-wrinkling smell assaulted us. They cavorted, bumped water pipes and caused a ruckus under the house.

After the skunk pair awakened the snoozing guard dog, he responded to their capers, and a rancid odor drifted up through the old wood flooring and linoleum rugs. David and I didn’t relish the idea of shooing skunks from under the house, but we planned to defend home turf and devised a plan.

The next time we heard or smelled them, we’d go outside with the old 12-guage shotgun. I’d hold the light, while David shot under the house, close to the dirt, hoping to scare them away permanently.

On a cool fall evening near midnight, the skunks arrived. Bumping, thumping, jumping noises were the alarms that awakened us. In our PJs, we sneaked out the back screen door and around to the side of the house. A brisk wind skittered leaves about our ankles.

After the flashlight beam made a few sweeps beneath the carriage of the house, we spotted the pair and their question-mark black and white tails.

I cowered behind David, dreading a possible dousing from a skunk in close combat. Our children slept soundly while their fearless parents fought to keep our home unsullied by the night marauders.

Ka-boom! Bird shot sprayed beneath the house, kicking up spiffs of dirt.

Fortunately the skunks didn’t retaliate with any smelly ammunition. They scampered out the other side of the house. We never sniffed evidence that they were under the house again.

Our children, lulled to sleep with a sense of security, had slept through the entire night-capades. We asked them the next morning if they’d heard anything. They both answered “No.”

Parents can be the buffer zone between children and harm. And more than just defending the home turf, parents can create an atmosphere of learning the basic tenets of family life. The family IQ Center lists the traditional basic tasks in life as work, play and love.

Defend home, protect homes, of course, but also create a haven where work, play and love is adequately practiced and learned.

“Home, Sweet Home,” the best smell for any culture.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Impossible-February 9


Alden, barely four years old, said to her granddad. “I love three things.”

Granddad asked, “What three things do you love?”

“I love God . . .” With the naming of the first, Granddad’s heart became happy.

Alden listed her second-love. “I love Jesus . . .” Granddad grew even happier.

Alden finished the list, “. . .and I love money!”

When my friend told me the story about her granddaughter, I chuckled. But, Jesus met adults who still believed they could love God and money with equal devotion.

A rich young ruler thought he wanted to follow Jesus, but when asked to give his inheritance to the poor and follow Jesus, he grew sad. The young man chose the god Money. He followed the scent of wealth, the jingle of coins, preferring slippery riches over an ever-present God.

Jesus told about an impossibility. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24).

This is a strong statement, a strong contrast, a line drawn in the sand of Israel, a call to make a decision because fence-straddling is soul dangerous.

Much earlier, God warned the Israelites and aliens living among them that heart-idols separate them from God. Jeremiah 14:7 tells how a broken relationship with God is caused by any who “sets up idols in his heart.” Here, the original phrase for idol is “large idol, what is rolled about.” These were gigantic altars where sacrifices were made.

Eugene Peterson in The Message says people with massive heart-idols are those who sacrifice the good things in life and “install the wickedness that will ruin them at the center of their lives.” Godliness wilts when camped in the shadow of an idol.

Deceitful things pay cheap rent and move into hearts. Even good things can become cunning idols—careers, goals, sports, politics, wealth, personal appearance, food, acquaintances, money, possessions or hobbies. It’s the nature of idols to grow and take up more and more floor space in the heart.

God made promises to those who put him first. Just as he feeds robins and fashions shimmering dress for flowers, God will provide his children with daily needs and will be present as a genuine companion.

Thank you, little Alden. You made me think about Who is at the center of life. Now, I’m off to reflect on the three things I really love.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

"But, first . . ."

In the time of Jesus, many Jewish teachers roamed Galilee and Judea. In outdoor settings and synagogues, they told parables, taught the Law of Moses, and gave extra “rules” on how-to live out that law.

As they traveled, they took note of potential disciples, observing those who wanted to further learn and might later qualify as teachers.

But among the itinerant rabbis, Jesus was supreme because he alone was the Son of God. Jesus watched for sincere followers, who would trust God to take care of them while they engaged in enlightening others about God.

In one setting (Luke 9:57-62), three different people heard the call to follow Christ. If they accepted, they would literally traipse along, follow him around, and experience his training-on-the-go. However, each gave an excuse. They had something back at home that first needed attention.

When called to follow Jesus, the third said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”

Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (61-62).

Undoubtedly, Jesus valued devotedness to family and he didn’t imply never contacting family again. His response emphasized in farmer-terms that a good start with a plow involved follow-up planting and a harvest. He wanted visionaries who could see the big picture, not those who lived by whims.

Matthew Henry, born in 1662, wrote about this scene where Jesus called disciples, “They that take up a profession in a ‘pang’ will throw it off again in a ‘fret’.

In my own life, I’ve experienced false starts and failures. “But, first” is often thought or spoken. I’ll start eating better tomorrow, but, first let me eat this fudge-striped cookie. I’ll phone my sick neighbor, but, first let me mow my lawn. I’ll ask forgiveness for my cross words, but, first let me pout and nurse this grudge a bit longer.

“Love finds a way, indifference makes excuses.” Ouch. I’m afraid it’s true, at least in my own life, that my excuses are often anchored to that awful cement block of indifference. One can drown in excuses.

Jesus has promised we will not plow alone. He is beside his farmers in the furrows because he is the “author and finisher” of faith.