Bible Discussion — Ephesians 5-6

02/26/2009, 12:00 pm -- by | 3 Comments

This week, discusses the last two chapters of Ephesians, in our final Bible discussion!

Joining us for the last time are our special guests from both parts of Romans 8 — Capt. Steve Carroll, Rev. Dave Maxon, and Maj. Doug Jones!

Read it all here!

Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26
27-29 | 30-32 | 33-36 | 37-39 | 40-43 | 44-46 | 47-50
Exodus: 1-4 | 5-8 | 9-11 | 12-14 | 15-18
19-22 | 23-26 | 27-30 | 31-34 | 35-40
Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 (I)
Ch. 8 (II) | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15-16
Luke: 1:1-38 | 1:39-2:40 | 2:41-3:38 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
11 | 12 | 13 | 14-15 | 16-17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24
Esther: 1-2 | 3-5 | 6-8 | 9-10
Acts: 1 | 2 | 3-4 | 5 | 6-7 | 8 | 9-10 | 11-12 | 13-14
15-16 | 17-18 | 19-20 | 21-22 | 23-24 | 25-26 | 27-28
Jonah: 1-2 | 3-4
Ephesians: 1-2 | 3-4

Paul closes with a primer on living a Godly life, quickly hitting the major areas of most people\’s experience.

Capt. Steve:
Jesus railed so hard against the empty legalism of the Pharisees, because He was not offering a new system of rules but rather a relationship with the Creator through Himself.

These two chapters contain two sets of ‘rules’ — both are intended to show an example of the loving relationship that we can and should have with our God. But both sets are often misused: to further unloving and sometimes hateful agendas; to pursue a Pharasaical religion of accomplishment; and even to follow a lazy religion, because it is easier to attempt to follow rules with the safety net of forgiveness, than to develop an authentic relationship.

Maj. Jones:
It is my privilege to participate in this final Bible discussion in this forum. God has been glorified in these discussions.

The final two chapters of Ephesians offer a great resource for Christian living — they speak to men, women, and children and their various roles within families and the community. The teaching on “slaves and masters” is also very relevant if you simply replace those words with “employees and employers.”

Pastor Dave:
These chapters are a reminder of how Christians should act and think. Above all, we must stand against the wiles of the devil, those compromises the world would have us make to “fit in.”

As the Church took root in places like Ephesus, I’m sure many of the early Fathers must have desired — at times — for a return to the laws of the old covenant. Immorality of all kinds must have seemed so incongruous with the recent teachings of Christ, yet perhaps ran relatively rampant. Paul had to remind the early believers of their greater moral heritage without stealing any of Liberty’s thunder.

Chapter five was a great follow-up to our church’s sermon on Sunday, which was on light. We need to set our hearts to walk as children of light, and this chapter admonishes us to walk in love, light and wisdom. I believe that when we walk in the light, we’ll be in position to pick the rest of that up as we go.

Paul tells us in 5:1 to imitate God. I guess I’d always read that, for one reason or another, as imitating Jesus. One could make a convincing argument, though, that Paul meant it interchangeably — but if we were given the charge to imitate God without knowing the narrative of Jesus, the results would be dramatically different.

Capt. Steve:
Whenever you find a list of rules for righteous living in the New Testament, you invariably find a verse pointing to the heart of the law.

Pastor Dave:
When we die to ourselves, we are a “sweet-smelling aroma” to God.

Paul urges the Ephesians to specifically pray for him — of all people — for boldness in preaching the Gospel. He didn’t take anything for granted, even after years of faithful witness under persecution.

In verses 31 and 32 of chapter 5, was Paul saying a husband and wife becoming one was a mystery to all of us, or just to him as a bachelor?

Job: Leads to Debauchery
Josh: Talk of Fools
Pastor Dave: Shod Your Feet
Connie: Girded With Truth
Steve: Alert
David: Ambassador In Bonds (better than Alice in Chains)
Capt. Steve: Divine Imitations

Continued here!

One Hundred Words (41)

02/8/2009, 9:00 pm -- by | No Comments

“What are you? All religious and s***?”

My favorite question. A compliment, really, in its purest form. The s*** is the kicker: it signals that the questioner realizes you’re more than a churchgoing charade, a moon orbiting your parents’ beliefs. It betrays that someone who was “all religious and s***” once worked on the asker — and the s*** went after their spiritual jugular.

When I’m asked this question, I glow inwardly, with the keen joy early Christians must’ve felt at seeing a fish painted on a wall…knowing that kin were there before.

After all, you can’t spell “Christ” without s***.


Best of Job: Snow on Snow

01/27/2009, 1:00 pm -- by | No Comments

Originally published January 2008.

SnowflakePerhaps you’ve heard of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, a Vermont farmer, turned amateur photographer, turned amateur scientist, turned mild sensation. In the early 1900s, Bentley used his 5,000+ collection of snowflake photographs to prove in a series of articles in National Geographic that no two snowflakes are exactly the same.

This sparked a romantic intrigue in readers and scientists alike, and his assertion was later proven true — that no matter how hard storms may precipitate, blanketing the vast acres of land in Siberia, Alaska, Tibet or Vermont, no snowflake will ever have an exact duplicate.

This is a compelling idea to consider as we step on, shovel through and wipe from our windshield the relentless number of snowflakes that visit us each year. I was recently indulging in this mind-expanding exercise while I watched it snow steadily, in weather warm enough that it was also melting and dripping off the roof in a reflection-inducing rhythm. Once perfectly unique crystals, now joined with others in a similar globular fate, speeding their melted way to form a drop falling off an eave. Never documented, never looked at, and never to be seen again.

The intricacy of a snowflake’s formation is too intense to ever truly comprehend, but its fragility pounded home to a level this human could master. I thought of a fetus — how at its very conception, it is immediately distinct, unique, exclusive and unrepeatable. Fetus But unlike a snowflake, it is not made by the chance encounter of high and low pressure systems, but rather the massive chemistry of human biology, emotion and decision.

And unlike a snowflake a fetus is not meant to quickly melt but rather grow, breathe, emote, possess fingerprints, and wrinkle. Despite its small size, a fetus — like a seed — carries the complexity to burst out, to mature into something astonishingly more. In fact, this is its very design, inexorable and compulsory.

But perhaps a fetus is most unlike a snowflake because one snowflake doesn’t require others to see it through to maturation.

And perhaps they are most similar in that all snowflakes — and all fetuses — have the same end together, in the ground.

Best of Bweinh! — The Pope v. Billy Graham

12/2/2008, 12:00 am -- by | No Comments

Originally printed in April 2007, here’s a true interfaith dialogue!

In this corner, supporting Pope Benedict, is Mike J!

And in this corner, backing Billy Graham, is Job!

Sit down, Billy. The Holy Father is about to educate your behind.

Seriously, let’s think about this, people. In one corner, you have a backwoods preacher from the American South. Quite a dandy in his early days, Billy donned the white bucks and powder blue sportcoats for Youth for Christ rallies as far back as the 1940s. Two whole generations of evangelical women cursed Ruth Bell under their breath for shattering their dreams and taking Billy off the market.

Even today, women admire him and men want to be him; pianists want to play for him, and even Michael W. Smith and dcTalk knew they had hit the big time when Billy Graham asked them to play for a “youth night” in a late ’90s California crusade.

All of this makes Graham a beloved figure, a bona-fide American religious folk hero.

It does not make for a worthy battle.

Because in the other corner, resplendent in papal garb, his robes billowing proudly behind him, his miter defiantly piercing the sky, is Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Alois Ratzinger.

He’s not a folk hero. He’s a junkyard dog.

He was known universally as the Vatican’s “doctrinal watchdog” prior to his selection as the 265th pope of the Catholic Church. And as if his international reputation were not enough, the Catholics that knew him best, the ones from his native Germany, referred to him as Der Panzer Kardinal — “the Tank Cardinal.” Why? Because he’s such a ruthless defender of the faith.

But you don’t have to take my word for it! Ask the late Father Jacques Dupuis (if you could), or Sri Lankan theologian Tissa Balasuriya. The former had the temerity to suggest that God was active in non-Christian religious traditions, the latter the unmitigated gall to refuse to sign a Vatican-approved statement of faith. Dupuis wound up trashed in a document Ratzinger wrote; Balasuriya was excommunicated, before the ever-gentlemanly Pope John Paul II restored him to the church.

You can mess with a guy named Billy. You cannot mess with a Ratzinger. You wind up trashed, excommunicated…or worse.

The man’s first papal encyclical was entitled Deus Caritas Est — “God is love.” Notably absent was any statement of Benedict’s own feelings. The obvious message: God is love, and Benedict ain’t.

The man is a flat-out papal bull.

The very notion that Pope Benedict could somehow best Billy Graham is so ludicrous I almost asked to be recused. No chance in heaven! Benny’s only advantage is that if he gouged Graham’s eyes or hit below the belt, he could absolve himself on the spot while the Rev. filed all that messy Grace paperwork.

But I still don’t see it. Graham didn’t win prominence by an ancient tradition of selection by peers; he received it by the eons-old tradition of selection by God. And Graham’s a natural fighter; whether Nixon or Parkinson’s, he handles his problems personally with sleeves rolled up and pride rolled down. So l’approvazione, papa, lo porta! Let’s go to the arena floor…

In this corner, at a holy 210 — the man who put “I can” in Vatican, the Stonin’ Roman…Germany’s own Joseph A. Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI!!!

And in this corner, weighing in at a lanky 205 — The Master Pastor, The Great Wheaton Beatin’…Charlotte’s own Rev. William F. Graham, Jr.!!!

*ding ding ding*

“Look at Graham charge from his corner! I haven’t seen anything like this since Joel Osteen fought the Dalai Lama in that New Delhi kick-boxing match last June! The Pope is on the ropes, medallions flying everywhere!!”

“Bob, this is tough to watch. I think Ratzinger forgot to drink his holy water, and he’s gonna need a miracle.”

“Graham continues his crusade! An uppercut to the the Father’s midsection and a roundhouse to the nose!!!”

“Bob, it appears the Rev. is nailing all 95 theses to Ratzinger’s chin tonight! I’ll bet the Pope wishes he were still a Cardinal so he could fly far, far away!”

“Good call, Gary. Ooh, a stiff right hook from Graham, and the Pope falls to his knees in exhaustion — or is it prayer to Joseph? Patron saint of lost causes?!”

“Pope Benedict XV felt that one!”

“Hold the chariot, Gary, the Pontiff is up and he’s going after Graham with fury in his eyes!!! The Catholics here are yelling ‘inquisition, inquisition,’ as Benedict rains blow after blow on Graham’s head and body.”

“Wow, Bob! Nothing apocryphal about that last punch! But it’s amazing how Graham’s hair stays right in place!”

“Is that LA Looks he’s got in there?”

“If I gambled, I’d go with Dep, Bob.”

“Golly Gee! Now the Protestants are up as Graham delivers punishing blows to the caretaker Pope!! Everyone’s a Calvinist tonight; this is pure destiny!! The Pope is down for the count!!!!”

*ding ding ding*

“And it’s over — Graham by knockout!”


From the Phone 5

11/4/2008, 10:59 am -- by | No Comments

“And so we enter the great unknown”

“And, tomorrow, the re-education camps”

Presidential Haiku Prediction 5

11/3/2008, 2:56 pm -- by | No Comments

They say Mack can win
with some help from a redskin
I can blush, Meghan!

Best of Job — All Your Base…

10/28/2008, 10:00 am -- by | 3 Comments

Best of Job, originally published in February 2006.

I was reminded this morning of a prank I played in college. I was initially taught this genius by my brother Joel who would, of course, in his current pastoral capacity, deny it. But I had a giggle fit remembering it this morning, and now that the statute of limitations has passed, I will share it with you.

On one of the few occasions I was in the Houghton library, I noticed my arch-nemesis hanging out at a table with some of his henchmen, reading and carrying on. Armed with only a Russ Picardo, I felt the unholy, unhealthy urge to suddenly assert my dominance.

I made a beeline for the psychology section and searched for the most twisted title the shelves offered. I settled on “Homo-erotic Tendencies in Young Adults and Theories Toward Their Explanation” or something similarly-titled (ed.’s note: my search in the online catalog suggests it was “Homosexual behavior among males; a cross-cultural and cross species investigation”).


Rustler and I settled down at a table near the Pharisees and waited patiently. Finally my arch-nemesis and his minions went off to scope out the air-conditioned room upstairs for chicks to flirt with.

Quickly, and with Russ watching the stairs, I slipped the book into What’s-his-face’s bag, behind his binder and some looseleaf paper.

We moved over near the periodicals and waited. It was almost time for dinner. We would not have to wait long.

Here they came, laughing like drunken frat boys. Past the circulation desk. Towards the door. Through the scanners.


Looks of honest incredulity, as they tested themselves individually, narrowing it down to the evil one — who opened his bag at the circulation desk.

“That is NOT mine!”

It was a good dinner.

Trust me.

Best of Job: My Worst Teacher

10/21/2008, 9:30 am -- by | No Comments

Originally published in May 2007.

Whether holding my hand over the fire pit of his analogies or examining broken twigs on the trail of his meandering reasons, never track his logic could I.

I always felt like I was a few days behind him, pressing through the dark forest of my instruction — trusting, hoping that his point lay just ahead, around the bend. I never enjoyed the chase, and there’s a thin line between being challenged and harassed. I came to a particular point in my trek when I determined that when a point is that well-hidden and obscure… when it requires that much angst to merely understand it… only a fool would spend his time rotting in the woods trying to catch it. The best in life is easily understood, and truth despises fog.

My worst teacher.

A man who bristled at the notion that you might think differently than him, he sent you his own copious notes before class and asked that you not take any others. They distracted him. If a question endeavored to stampede the discussion away from his notes, the energy he’d employ to corral us back into line was almost pornographic. Bullying, effacing and no-kid-gloves sophistry were never below him.

Sadly, these tactics were never below me either, and we butted heads to such a degree that he eventually asked me to drop the class. Success in his class was conformity to his thinking, a convincing imitation of it, or the old B-minus silence — none of which seemed a workable solution to me. My parents had taught me to speak my mind and to be aware and wary of socialist thinking. To him I was ruined.

While he had earned tenure, a doctorate in sociology, and ample respect from his colleagues, in turn he asked his students to simply piggyback on his experiences, judgment and morality. To just trust him. Our own conclusions were not encouraged, but headed-off.

But perhaps in being the worst teacher of my life, he is slowly morphing more readily into the best. He is the one who taught me that when it comes to faith, love and logic, I will only embrace them when I am tracking the truth — not, alone, someone else’s version of it.

From the Phone 4

09/17/2008, 1:01 pm -- by | No Comments

“The McCain website should debut a feature where you can sign up to receive a text message when Obama picks a NEW running mate.”

Clash of the Titans LXXXVIII: Houghton and Point Loma

08/22/2008, 10:00 am -- by | 7 Comments

In this corner, supporting Point Loma Nazarene University, is Kaitlin!

And in this corner, backing Houghton College, is Job!

I\’d hate to disparage another school at the expense of my own, so I think I\’ll let Point Loma Nazarene University\’s merits speak for themselves:

”¢ The ocean. No matter where you stand on campus, the long, limitless horizon beckons, reminding you how insignificant you truly are. There\’s no better way to wake up in the morning. And it never grows old ”” stroll through the campus during any given sunset and you\’re bound to find scores of students staring westward, admiring the freshly painted canvas that fills the sky.

”¢ The location. The campus\’s oceanfront property includes beach access; Ocean, Mission, and Pacific Beaches are all within five miles. Downtown San Diego is just as close. Point Loma itself is an affluent peninsula with a small-town feel, giving a feeling of secluded island living while maintaining a comfortable proximity to all that San Diego has to offer.

”¢ The opportunities. All the travel spiels you\’ve heard about San Diego are true. It includes so much ”” Balboa Park, the Embarcadero, the San Diego Opera, playhouses, professional sports teams, and more. As part of a metropolitan area, the school has worked hard to establish a relationship with the community, creating an excellent platform for internships and networking.

”¢ The academics. From the outstanding nursing program to the renowned science department, the school\’s academic departments have few equals in the private Christian university circuit. Class sizes are almost always well below 40. Professors are knowledgeable and accessible, and they approach education thoroughly and rigorously. When I was a prospective student touring the Literature, Journalism, and Modern Languages department, I was impressed with the department head\’s reasoning behind labeling my major as literature. “We don\’t just study literature written in English; we study world literature.” The faculty are on the whole not only experts within their fields, but deeply involved and mindful of their students\’ personal well-being.

”¢ The extracurriculars. The school\’s sports teams consistently rank in the top of their leagues. The intramurals are vibrant and varied, ranging from soccer and basketball to surfing and rugby. The debate team consistently sweeps tournaments. The newspaper provides comprehensive coverage of school and community events every week. The numerous campus ministries devote themselves to the spiritual development of students, the local community, and even further through mission-minded outreaches.

Ӣ The programs. The Fermanian Business Center has instituted myriad programs that use a Christian approach to economic concerns, aiming to help people while making inroads in the business world. The Center for Justice and Reconciliation focuses on poverty and inequality. The Study Abroad Center guides students through international programs in whatever countries they would like to visit.

Ӣ The events. The school continually draws prominent speakers. Last year alone, the campus hosted Philip Yancey, Francis Collins, Gay Talese, Anchee Min, Jon Foreman, Greg Mortensen, a colloquium of French poets, and the 2008 Kyoto Prize winners.

I think Point Loma\’s advantages speak volumes. However, I will add that the library is open from 7 am to midnight, Monday through Friday, a full hour earlier and later than another school that I know of.

Let us come together, but for a moment, my friends, and speak of heavy things.

Truth, most of you reading this possess a college education, and on top of that, most of you were educated at a Christian college. And you know the usual players, do you not? If not, allow me to roll the credits of our shared context. Wheaton, Westmont, Calvin, and Azusa Pacific. Biola, Grove City, Gordon, Nyack, and Messiah. Bethany, Point Loma, Liberty, Houghton.

A stellar list, no doubt, but one rife with differences — theologically, financially, ideologically, and geographically. But one of those differences is very telling, and it finds its traction at Houghton College — for Houghton is one of the rare (popular and esteemed) Christian colleges that is not nestled in or near a major metropolitan area.

Gordon has Boston, Wheaton has Chicago, and Houghton has… a cornfield.

My friend Kaitlin has made a very convincing argument indeed…for a resort. But I think she has forgotten the purpose of a college: education. While I am certain that Point Loma has professors, donors, and sports teams to give off the appearance of an institute of higher learning, the school is really more interested in its beachfront cachet.

Their literature and website are filled with (mostly) pictures of San Diego’s trappings, the breaking Pacific and the tanned, smiling faces of the collegiately damned. Rare is the promotional shot of a student pondering anything of educational weight, and rarer still is the shot of anything with four walls surrounding it. Again, Point Loma would make a great summer camp (which it is, all fall, winter and spring), but is it an earnest mecca for the education-hungry, worthy of their pilgrimage? I think not.

But ah, Houghton. Remote, yet easy to find (just one exit from the major highway, 14 miles distant), and located in one of the poorest counties east of the Mississippi, Houghton has no city appeal. There are no movie theaters or beaches to frequent. No hotspots, bars, historical sites, or even McDonald’s. Houghton, as a destination, is only worth visiting for its express purpose: educating the young Christians of the future.

I cannot sway you with the impossible amounts of fun I had there, but believe me it was had indeed. I cannot convince you of Houghton’s intrinsic and organic properties, although our thorough separation from the world brought them out all the more. I cannot persuade you of Houghton’s lasting impression on all of its students because many, it’s true, couldn’t take it. Many tested the river that is Houghton only to turn back, stomachs in knots, knees scraped against the boulders of trial, serving to warn others from attempting to ford its rapids.

But this only makes my time on the other bank that much more fulfilling. I could have attended any number of the Jacob tent-dwelling schools — but I cast my lot with Esau, preferring the brambles and winds of a wilderness in a time that should not make us soft and well-recreated, but rather, hardened and mentally-fit.

And all that said — our girls’ basketball team could beat Point Loma’s men’s soccer team.


For Argument’s Sake

08/21/2008, 9:30 am -- by | No Comments

Christians love to talk shop. This isn’t alarming; it comes as no surprise, really. Any group of people who find something mutually yoking will almost invariably talk about it to the point of conversational exhaustion.

People of political persuasion will discuss candidates and pithy comments. Skiers talk slopes and are prone to waxing about, well, waxing. And fans of entertainment — TV shows, movies, bands, et al. — spend hours in circular conversation and unaggressive debate.

Christians are no different. Within our faith, we all know, lies an endless and renewable source of discussion on a vast range of subjects. We are encouraged, from an early age, to adopt certain viewpoints, and to be prepared to defend them.

Whether we like to admit it or not, there is a part in every believer that enjoys the exclusivity of Christianity: not in the sense that we enjoy the Faith being so different from the world, but rather that we enjoy having a different point of view for its own sake. We like our unique stances and are occasionally thrilled to run into another believer with differing positions.

The American in us would be sorely disappointed in Christianity if it did not allow us so much room for disagreement, and not just in the easy and obvious denominational breakdowns. I’d like to get under the hood and understand why we make it rain just to jump in the puddles that follow.

Best of Job: For Mr. Slevenzinkin…

08/11/2008, 10:00 am -- by | No Comments

Originally published here on March 27, 2007.

She and I had this game we’d play, you see. We called it “Tumult,” where we’d talk for lengthy periods of time about two different topics. It was a give-and-take conversation with pauses and eye contact as normal; you just weren’t allowed to engage the other person’s line of conversation at all. This included laughter, eye rolling, and — if I was “on” — even blushing. If you did engage the other person, you lost the game, and the $2.85 for the banana split. Banana

“So Ernie, from Sesame Street, died of AIDS,” she’d begin, turning her coffee mug in a slow circle. “Bert’s sad and all, but he likes the extra closet space.”

“It was like no other town I’ve been to,” I’d respond, flashing my eyes for emphasis and picking at imaginary lint on my sleeve. “The ’57 Chevys looked, for once, like they actually were from 1957. Rusted through, door hinges re-welded countless times, but still dutifully making their daily trips to the Circle K for cigarettes. The 15-year-old girls ever plotting their escape while unwittingly taking the steps that would inexorably keep them there forever. 40 ounces. 40 ounces can change a life, they say in Banning, California. Or, rather, can keep it exactly the same.”

“Gum?,” she offered, sliding the silver-wrapped piece out at me in a fluid motion. I was no fool.

“The President has his own movie theater in the basement of the White House, ya know? I bet he’s watching something right now, too; I know I would be. Newsies — the director’s cut.”

She paused, but not enough for me to claim. She always defended Newsies.

“Radiohead’s new album? I hear it’s just going to be 12 tracks of straight static. But angry, artistic static.”

I was the one that paused this time, but only because I contemplated claiming victory. I always defended Radiohead, and she was returning my volley, a plausible bungle. Not now, I cautioned myself. You can get a sure victory.

“See this?,” I asked, pointing to my forearm. “That’s where it bit me. Latched right on and started to roll, carrying me down into the dark depths of the swamp. I screamed and screamed, but still we sank, leaving my world for his — wanna know how I got out?”

“If something ever happens to me,” she responded, thoroughly unimpressed, “I want you to take this to a Mr. Slevenzinkin in Prague. Hotel of the Revolution, room 214.” She slid me a butter knife. “He’ll know what to do. Then head to Haiti and never look back.”

“Job? Never look back.”

She peeled the bananas by saying my name like that, looking me in the eyes. I knew I had to strike before she regrouped.

“That’s a nice shirt you’re wearing . . . does it come in your size?”



Laughing, eye-rolling, blushing and kicking me suddenly in the shins — all ice cream where I come from…

Girl Dumps Boyfriend To ‘Get Closer To God’; ‘God’ Apparently Another Guy

06/24/2008, 9:00 pm -- by | No Comments


B.J. Dillon’s romantic and theological worlds were rocked this week when his girlfriend of 8 months, Sara Ryan, ended their relationship after telling Dillon she needed to “focus on her relationship with God.”

But God, Dillon reports, debunking thousands of years of theory and faith, is apparently fellow Grove City junior business major Seth Nelson. Adding to the bruising emotional effects of rejection and loss, the religion major must now cope with recent revelations that God is younger than him by two months, nearly flunked biology last semester, and works at the gym snack shop.

Dillon is also grappling with the fact that he has hated God since freshman orientation weekend.

“When Sara suggested that we take some time off to grow closer to the Lord, I heartily agreed, hoping it would serve to more firmly establish our relationship,” Dillon reported from his dimly-lit dorm room. “Of course at the time I thought God was, like, the desert-dwelling, Philistine-smiting Dude from the Old Testament — not some jerk whose parents bought him a brand new Jetta freshman year.”

“Allow me to be clear,” he added. “I will not be growing any closer to ‘God’ during our ‘time off.’ ”

Despite Dillon’s reservations and religious confusion, his ex reported excitement with her blooming relationship with the Lord. “I will always care for Beej,” Ryan noted, applying her makeup with more attention to detail than she has shown in over 7 months. “But I felt our relationship was distracting me from my walks, in the woods, with the Lord.”

Ryan did report some anxiety about an upcoming weekend retreat at the Nelson family home in suburban Philadelphia, where she hopes the Lord will grant her the gift of tongue.

Best of Job: A War Too Civil

06/10/2008, 3:00 pm -- by | No Comments

Best of Job, originally published in February 2006.

This past July I ducked into Denny’s for some ice cream on the most obnoxious of hot and humid days. Claiming a booth and reading an expired USA Today, I settled into my peach dessert. By and by, a group of Revolutionary War re-enactors, still dressed in their period garb with artfully placed smears on their faces, came in and bivouacked diagonal from me. They ordered their meals and began commiserating about the Battle of Hubbardton, where all had just died, yet survived. You can imagine what a colorful treat this was for me.

They spoke of stirring deaths, gung-ho dives into tall grass, how old some re-enactors were getting, how great the smoke looked this year. You know — re-enacting type stuff.

With my ice cream an orange puddle at the bottom of a deceptively shallow bowl, I gave the war boys one last once-over with my eyes and left. I left, feeling sure that they would soon be in the dust heap of my memory.

But they didn’t retire so easily. The image bugged and dogged me for months. There was something about the situation that haunted me, and I racked my brain for an answer like I was trying to remember the last name of an old friend.

Finally, it hit me. I knew where I’d seen it before.

The patriots reminded me of Christians — and not pleasantly so.

Ever feel like our faith has become somewhat of a holy hobby? We love to talk shop and impress on each other our deep knowledge of muskets, field maneuvers and brilliant battlefield tacticians. We argue pre-trib/post-trib like a climber debates the nutritional value of Power Bars and Clif Bars. And we compare stats, never outright but just below the surface, like vicarious fantasy league fanboys — without any real athletic cache or sore muscles.

Church sometimes carries for me the uncomfortably queasy likeness of a Star Trek convention — we think a tiresome day in the battlefield is conversing with a Mormon over coffee in an airport diner, and we are more elated by the opportunity to share the war story with other believers than we were to share the Peace story with the unbeliever.

We stress about relevance in the world. We develop a complex if our music isn’t especially pleasing to human ears.

We’re petty and hypocritical. We’re competitive; we turn on each other.

We defend unborn children out of one blubbering side of our mouths, yet condemn a murderer to death out of the sneering other. An acrobatic feat worthy of those so well-versed in the game of Christianity.

We re-enact.

We quote Peter, and invoke Paul — still frames, never a movie.

The smears on our faces are for dramatic effect, never earned by actual warfare.

We re-enact.

And the most unsettling thing for me is that I am one of the worst. Granted an upbringing in a Kingdom outpost, given a stellar education, blessed with many gifts, and best of all, possessed of that beautiful itch for a fight.

And to use all that just to argue incessantly? I hate quitting and losing, but I’ve become a man who fights to win the argument, not the soul — a sophist who offers all rhetoric and no recourse. All cake and no bread. As James would call me, a waterless cloud.

But we’ve been called, friends. Not to re-creation, not to “name it and claim it,” but to an actual showdown with live rounds exploding around us. This is not a re-enactment.

But what a comfortable thing it is for us, eh? To wear the uniform for a moment, feel the fleeting thrill of the fight, then retire to discuss it over a hot meal before returning to the workday world and bundled Verizon package.

It’s so pleasant to live in the vicarious fog of an epic struggle, when we won’t acknowledge its demands for boots on the ground, rather than a roll call in the pews.

The Apostle’s battles were theirs.
These battles are ours.
The victory is His.

Clash of the Titans LXXXIV: Dressing Up

06/6/2008, 10:00 am -- by | 4 Comments

In this corner, opposing dressing up, is Job!

And in this corner, in favor of it, is Chloe!

I will have my own policies
I will sleep with a clear conscience
I will sleep in peace

— Sinead O’Connor, Emperor’s New Clothes

Dressing up is a fact of American life. Social, religious and vocational pressures demand conformity and attention to dress in varying degrees. We have terms to assess the severity of these demands: black-tie, business casual, country formal, etc. This is unavoidable, unless you endeavor to be a pariah, in which case consciously dressing down is as much a conformity as consciously dressing up.

But the hardest crease for me to iron out of this societal doctrine is the thought that dressing up is an attempt to separate one’s self, one’s workplace or one’s church from its human surroundings: to suddenly appear as more than we actually are. In short, to be something we aren’t.

I am a Seabee in the Navy Reserves, and as you might imagine, I have several uniforms that I must wear at times. If you speak to members of the military about their uniforms, the consensus would be that we wear our uniforms with pride and the feeling of having earned them. Furthermore, most would agree that when we wear them together, we represent something far greater than ourselves as individuals.

The same can not be said of the uniform of modern fashion — a constant and ceaseless competition, an exercise in poor taste and inadequacy. Dressing up has become increasingly uncomfortable, inefficient, impractical and at times blatantly immoral — if not through the exposure or enhancement of flesh, then by the consuming, metastasized materialism that boils inside those dedicated to looking “good.”

If your job has a dress code, then of course you must abide. If you need a false confidence to get you through the day and curry the favor of those shallow enough to reward your efforts at color coordination, then of course you must abide. But if you can dress practically, cleanly and cheaply while losing no sleep . . . then you should abide that with equal fervence.

I like to look pretty. I wear skirts and high heels and makeup and jewelry. I spend a lot of time getting ready, even if all I\’m doing that day is working a ten-hour shift at the restaurant. My reasons have more to do with the way I feel about myself than they do with the way others treat me, but I have noticed a big difference when I look nice.

Yes, sometimes I get unwanted attention from men (see “The Proper Way to Treat Your Waitress” from last summer), but they are never crude or inappropriate. And yes, sometimes people are still rude or impatient with me. But when it comes down to it, when I dress up, I get more respect.

Why is that? Well, when we see a poorly-dressed person, certain stereotypes tend to pop into our heads: they don\’t care about themselves, so why should we care about them? Or perhaps they\’re lazy, they\’re bums, they don\’t take care of themselves.

But when we see well-dressed people, we think of wealth and prosperity. We assume they\’ve worked hard to get where they are, and that they care about themselves. These associations make us relate more positively to them, and so we give them more respect.

Let me give you an example straight from my opponent\’s mouth. When Job came to visit Steve, he was dressed in his Navy uniform. The attendant at the toll booth saw his outfit and gave Job a significant discount on his toll. Job has found that when he dresses up in his uniform, he not only gets more respect, he also gets a lot of freebies and discounts.

Whatever Job may say, even he has found that dressing up is beneficial.


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