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What is truth? October 30, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.
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Hey gang, I have an article on truth published here. Feel free to check it out. The “excellent” photo of me is worth the price of the click.


October 27, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

For several years now I have been hearing this phrase in conversations: “Itís a ________ (fill in the blank) thing.” An ambiguous discomfort fills me when I hear someone use this kind of language. For years I have tried to ignore this uneasy feeling, but it hums in the background of my psyche with the annoying persistence of a mosquito I just canít swat. Iíve had all I can stands and I canít stands no more (Popeye voice). So, rather than continue to be dogged by this menacing language, I am taking it head on right here and now.

The first thing we need to do in unlocking the mystery of this “thing” language is to figure out what this phrase means. There is a clue to the meaning packaged in how people fill in the blank. I have heard the following words used to fill in this blank: girl, guy, black, white, gay, straight, Baptist, Pentecostal. Surely there are others, but these are the inserts I have heard.

It appears that there is a little linguistic posturing going on here. For example, when I hear a female, among a group of mostly females, say to a male, “Itís a girl thing,” in response to a question or perplexed facial expression he has, I generally translate it like this: “Of course you donít understand, (you poor thing), youíre not capable of knowing what we know. I donít hold your incompetence and stupidity against you. Right now, your best move is nod and smile and not say a word, OK shmoopy-boy?”

Now, when we get beyond the faux-compassion expressed for the apparent plight of the guy on the receiving end of this comment, we realize that although he is not directly insulted or formally shunned, he has no meaningful retort at this juncture. His presence in the conversation has become superfluous. Nothing he contributes to the conversation at this point, whether there is logic, sense, or meaning to it can possibly be received with any credence. Any attempt to speak now would only serve to prove that he is indeed stupid and deserves an even stronger chastisement than he has just received.

Ah, but this phrase can be turned the other way as well. Supposed that a guy, among a group of mostly guys, says to a female, “Yeah, thatís a girl thing.” She, then, is the one who is suddenly out-grouped. The phrase this time is a masked insult to the female and not a statement made to her social advantage. The translation this time would be something like this: “We all know thatís the way women are Ė uh-hem – irrational, petty, weak-minded. But hey, they canít help itĖ theyíre women. Hey toots, just sit there and be pretty Ė thatís what youíre here for anyway.” What is she going to say after that? Any attempt by her to speak at this point will only invite ridicule.

Again, any sense of compassion within this statement is merely a mask for the true intent, which is not at all charitable. The female just got ex-communicated from being a true equal in the conversation. She was demoted from full member to object.

Regardless of which of the above ways this phrase is used, it serves the very same purpose. It clearly marks social distinctions and in-groups some while out-grouping others. It also serves as an effective silencer of the out-group. It is a clear and undeniable assertion of social power meant to make the more powerful group comfortable at the expense of the less powerful group.

In short, this phrase is used to mask religious bigotry, homophobia, heterophobia, sexism, racism, and lots of other kinds of Ėisms by bundling it into a socially acceptable linguistic package. Once again, prejudice has found a way to reincarnate itself within the common vernacular.

Walter Scott’s Five Finger Special October 25, 2005

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This guy’s name is Walter Scott. He is not to be confused with Sir Walter “Oh what a tangled web we weave” Scott, the Scottish novelist and poet. No, this is the American Restoration Walter Scott. He was an Alexander Campbell groupie. OK, I really like this guy, but at the same time he was a little nuts. Richard Hughes, in his book Reviving The Ancient Faith, tells on Walter Scott a little bit.

So, I like this guy because he was culturally relevant. He knew that his audience back in the 1800’s was mostly illiterate. So, rather than pumping out voluminous book, chapter, and verse, Scott gave them an easy five finger memory help.

1. Hear
2. Believe
3. Confess
4. Repent
5. Baptism

>>>Depending on where you live you might have a different order

Rick Warren could not have said it any better. And it is all good, right? Well, it was fine when it was a neat memory trick. The problem is that I didn’t learn it as a neat memory trick. I learned as The Gospel. I doubt many people of the American Restoration Movement these days learned it as merely a neat memory help. What I thought was rock solid, undeniable Biblical truth was really something that had to do with how many fingers I have on my hand and a Bible quickie.

Had Scott just left it alone, left it as a memory help, I think we might have been OK. But he didn’t. No, and this is what I do not like about him, he had to go and say stuff like he had completely restored the ancient gospel with this five finger special. When he went and did that, he turned from a clever and culturally sensitive guy to freakin’ nut case.

I know that it was the spirit of the age and he could never have known how much damage his overstatement would cause. And in all fairness, it did a lot of good. It must not have sounded so arrogant and naive back then like it does now. It must have been an invisible thing that got glossed over and made so much sense in that day.

But I still have a little heartburn about it. I was taught that the Bible and salvation could be reduced to a little formula. Slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am, you’re saved! I mean, the stupid memory trick doesn’t even mention God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.

I think there is a lesson here. Our words, whether with our children, friends, co-workers will have a legacy. Having said that, I am a litlte concerned about saying Scott was a freakin’ nut case, but I am going to stand by that one. More than our words, though, it is our life and the direction we go and the force with which we go in that direction.

What’s your five finger special you hope doesn’t get overstated?

Best Ever October 24, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

I’m not going to lie to you, Batman Begins is the single greatest comic book movie ever. Do not even try to argue.

Linguistic Posturing October 24, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

What does it mean when someone says, “It’s a guy thing,” or, “It’s a girl thing.” Or how about “It’s a Black thing,” or what about, “It’s a God thing.”

What is meant to be communicated by this “thing” language that seems to pop up in conversations?

And what about when people preface their opinions or responses with unusual disclaimers?

“Look, I’m not going to lie to you…”
“You won’t believe this…”
“Now hear me out…”
“You’re probably not going to believe me, but…”

What are we to make of these?

Relative Free Will October 22, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

The beat of a person’s heart is an involuntary action. It is not up to the person to will this action to happen; it happens no matter what. Now, a person could do something to stop the beat of the heart through some extreme means of self-destruction. For the most part, though, it is a given.

When a person bends the elbow, it is an intentional and voluntary action. It is used as needed and stays quiet when not needed. Now, there are situations in which the elbow just does whatever it wants to. A person with a disability may lose control, or perhaps someone recovering from a stroke. But for the most part, it is a given.

Then there is the type of action that goes both ways. Blinking is such an action. If I forget about blinking, I blink. If I try to blink, I blink. If I try not to blink, I don’t blink for a good while.Of course, I pay a price for going too long without a blink. My eyes get talking to me.

For each of these three kinds of actions there are various levels of will required in order to put them into action. Each seems to fall on differnet spectrums of willfullness and are to some extent dynamic as it relates to where they will land on the scale at any given time. At the same time there is a typical place where they would land on such a spectrum.

Could it be that there are various levels of free will in different areas of a perosn’s life? Could it be that some people have more free will than others?

Calvin (or more so his followers) would say that there is no free will as all is predetermined. God has absolute and total sovereignty over every single action ever taken and every one that will be taken. Deists would say there is total free will within the laws of physics. God’s allowed sovereignty to rest with humans, or the strongest of all species. Neither of these extremes is attractive. Calvinism is depressing to me because my actions ahve no meaning since they can make no difference. Deism is depressing because I know I am incapable of doing enough good to make enough of a difference.

I wonder if God does not so much judge according to what you did on a flat scale in comparison to everyone else, but rather judges against your own unique scale.

Here is an example: will the humble and successful missionary who introduces 1000’s to the Way of Jesus with many following be judged the same as the person who was abused badly as a child, abuse which left him emotionally and spiritually disabled who does his or her best to even believe that there is a God? Is their equal free will in this scenario? It is unlikely that there is an absolute either way, but to what extent?

Could the abused person exercise a greater expression of free will by praying, “God, if you even exist, I’m really pissed at you. I want better,” than the missionary who tells the truth about Jesus to 50 people and convinces them? What if that prayer was a terrific leap of faith while the missionary felt more at ease and comfortable with the Jeus conversations and required no leap of faith?

Now, that might be an extreme example, but it does make the point that every person has what he has and none of these life packages is the same as any other. There is no real way for anyone to know for anyone else what was pleasing to God, or how pleasing it might have been.

If this relative free will concept holds any water at all, then judging people is completely arrogant. We suppose that we know something about that person and about God that we do not and can not.

Saved By Doubt? (maybe?) October 21, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

Mike Cope got the ball rolling here with a post on doubt. I’ve included my comment below.

Doubt may be what saves me from unbelief – or maybe I should say misplaced belief.

If it were not for doubt, how many false beliefs would I maintain with the certainty that they were actually reflective of God? And what is belief in something false but an insidious and dangerous kind of unbelief?

My experience, riddled with doubt as it is, tells me that God gives us the gift of doubt so that we will have good faith and not settle for bad faith. He allows doubt in ours lives not because he takes any pleasure in our suffering, but as a way of loving us away from that which would cause a much greater suffering.

Reflections of Shattered Glass October 19, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

This morning I leaned over in the parking lot of my workplace with little broom and dust pan in hand to clean up some broken glass. It was my glass, but I didn’t break it. It was the remains of the rear window of my mini-van. The nearby brick, the timing of the incident (3-6 PM), the location (lots of middle school kids travel this way after school), and the fact that nothing was stolen gave me some clues as to how this happened. It was probably an 7th grader with an unrestrained curiosity who found a brick lying around . “I wonder what would happen if…” CRASH. And away he goes.

So, this morning as I was cleaning this mess up, I thought to myself, “why isn’t the janitor doing this or the kid who violated my van doing this?” Then I answered myself, “because there is meaning in this work.”

As I swept up the tiny shards of glass I had this feeling like I was doing this poor kid a favor. I was not angry (haven’t priced out a new window yet), I was not bitter. In fact, I didn’t even consider it the kid’s responsibility. It’s my glass afterall. Somehow, even though this kid will never know that it was I who cleaned up the mess he made, or even care if he did know, I was showing him love.

I want you to know that this is not my normal line of thinking.

I kept sweeping, carefully looking for little pieces of glass hiding under the orange pine needles. I relaized that this is one special little opportunity for me. I get to a little glimpse into what God does for me all the time. For the most part, I am a decent guy, but then again, I have this unrestrained curiosity that gets me to making messes. Many of these messes I will never know who cleaned them up, but I know it wasn’t me. Many of these messes I never realize the cost to someone else.

I kept sweeping, doing my best clean up everything. I needed to clean up everything. It was important to know what it is like to clean up someone else’s mess

The Gift of Fun October 17, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

My daughter is in 2nd grade. Her school gave her a nice looking T-shirt with the school logo on it and a bunch of sponsors on the back. She was very proud of this shirt. Her sweet and delightful way of invitng me into her excitement over the shirt was great. There was no way I was going to be allowed to give her a mere “yeah, that’s nice.” No, this shirt deserved much more than that.

So, she asked me to name her shirt.

“Name your shirt? You mean like, Sherrie or Bob?” I asked.

“No. A made up name.”

“Ah, right, let’s see. How about Gerfiffle?”

She asked me how to spell it and wrote it down.

“OK, I need another name.”


“I am getting names from everyon in the family and then I will decide what to name the shirt.”

“Right, uhmmmm, How about Shamma-lamma?”

“How do you spell that?”

I spelled it for her.

“Thanks dad,” she said and went to find her brother.

She got some names from her kindergarten aged brother and her mother. Then she came back to me and asked of all of the names given which two did I like the best?

“Hmmm, I like Tukey and Sherdy.”

“OK, thanks, I really need to think about it.”

I went outside to mow the badly neglected lawn. After a few minites of mowing the back yard I heard the familiar yelling, “Daaaaaad!” My kids always have something important to say during the mowing of the lawn.

“Dad,” she said with her brother standing right next to her, “the name of the shirt is Sherdy.”

“Hey, that was your brother’s idea.” My son beamed. My daugter beamed.

I turned to walk back to the lawn mower, but stopped. Something had captured my mind in that moment.

“You know what?” I asked.

“What?” she asked back.

“You gave us fun. Thanks for giving the whole family the gift of fun.”

You should have seen the look on her face. It looked like she realized that she had this incredible power that she never knew about, and the power was good. She put fun into the family. Oh, it was one of those very special moments.

Lost in a Taize October 16, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

Sunday evening I went with a group of friends to a Taize (tay-ZAY or T’ZAY) worship offering at the Holy Communion Church (Episcopal) in Memphis.

We entered the building. Instantly we were greeted by the sound of a flute and harp. A harmony of beauty and peace could not be avoided. We entered the sanctuary from the rear. Lighting was medium-dim with lots of candles, dozens of them, in the front. Their littles lights dancing, speaking almost, the prayers of the saints.

There were about 75 people scattered in a sanctuary that could hold 300 -400.

It was liturgical with lots of repeticious chants. Now, that would sound to me boring, but having been there, it was anything but boring. It was calming, soothing, relaxing. There were moments of silence like I have never experienced in worship, ever. Beautiful moments of silence.

We communed at their open communion. I didn’t know how to do it without the little crackers and juice cups brought to me. But I followed along. We made two lines down the center aisle to receive communion. I took the wafer from the women and she told me that this was Christ’s body broken for me. I then went to another woman who held a goblet of wine (real wine I tell you) and she told me that this was Christ’s blood. Watching the people commune before me I learned that there were sippers and there were dippers. Sippers drank winde from the goblet while dippers dipped their wafer into the wine. I learned tonight that I am a dipper and definitely not a sipper.

At another point in the service we lit candles representing our prayers. I thought of someone I know who needs to know of God’s love. I let my prayer for her go up to God in the candle. I really liked doing that for her.

Every single word was not only written and read, it was available to us in a brochure. We sang in English and Latin.

This was a healing and refreshing experience for me.

Sadly, I couldn’t help but think that the different kind of communers – dipper and sippers – would have created a split in some restoration churches with a fight over whether Jesus dipped or sipped at the last supper. There is evidence that goes ways you know.

In the prayers and words spoken, there was a real sense of love and peace and reconciliation. It was a real departure from the “bless me” mentality that is so easy to fall into in evnagelical worship.

This was a rich experience and without powerpoint. I felt this connection to God that could never have happened in my church gathering.

God, thanks for this wonderful communion with you and with friends and with your church.