Friday, December 08, 2006

A Pause ... and a Picture

It was a great Thanksgiving. Got to see my eldest... Got to fix turkey dinner in a tiny kitchen in a big apartment.

Had a great time... In DC. In a place where everywhere we turned, politics was there to remind us.

And we had an amazing event. The picture is attached. I can't talk much about it now, but will in a couple of weeks... Still, this is a great system of government where our leaders are still reachable.


Friday, November 17, 2006

None is not a choice...

Pick a party.

It's pretty obvious that my view of the world mirrors Thomas Sowell (see earlier post). I believe deeply that we are in a fallen world.

That man's heart never changes.

That left to his own devices, man will inevitably be selfish, self-serving, self-seeking.

That we are not getting better and better.

That we are in a constrained spiral.

That sometimes we are spiralling up to a point.

That sometimes we are spiralling down.

That the dregs of the Roman Empire and the depths of Nazi Germany and the horrors of Stalin's Gulag are the natural outcomes of one-sided rule.

That's why I believe in our parties.

I desperately believe we need the Conservatives (today that's the GOP mostly) to remind us that we are individuals and that collectivism batters incentive, trashes the economy, lowers a yoke of bondage to the group.

I desperately believe (though I don't want to) that we need the Liberals (mostly the Democratic party) to remind us that the group must work as a whole to lay out a safety net, that individualism can leave many in the dust.

As believers we must have BOTH parts to us... we are a body... we are one in Christ... we are individually saved and stand alone before our Judge.

But I believe if we do not choose one party or the other to be involved with we are saying that Christ does not belong in the Public Square. That we abandon the ideas of the parties to the godless who will run them both into the ground and attempt to gain absolute precedence.

Christians ARE the middle.. but only if we are engaged.

But still...

Which party?


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Party Animals...

What about party affiliation? Can an avid disciple of Jesus be active in a party? Is it right, or should they remain actively independent??

First, it is my belief that the CHURCH of Jesus should NEVER attach themselves to a party. I believe the American Evangelical church has done that too much today. Say Evangelical, and you hear Republican.

The problem is that Jesus is superior to politics. The church can be the handmaiden only of Jesus, and not of a party as well.

Power-politics, also, is not the way that Jesus' Kingdom is realized.

My Kingdom is not of this world.


That said, the American system IS a party system. As individuals, if we are activist (SHOULD we be activist??) the only adequate mechanism to work within is the party.

To say we should NOT be party members strikes me as saying we should not belong to any corporation or organization outside the Church of Jesus.

Not very practical.

Yet party membership is often delusional. IT's so easy to forget that it IS Jesus' Kingdom we seek. That we are working for a Kingdom and Master not of this world. That we will NOT make His Kingdom come by any means save His power.

And Jesus' power is usually at cross-purposes with the World.

But if we absent ourselves from parties (retreating back to the Evangelical/Fundamentalist model of pre-1976) we cede the ground. We are to be IN the world and not OF the world.

But which party???


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

Just a quick one today... Emerging church "father" Brian McLaren has said that Christians should not be Red or Blue, but should be Purple.

Meaning? We need to stay away from party affiliations. The whole of the gospel is not containable in either.

More on that tomorrow...


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Compare and Contrast...

Thomas Sowell is an incredible thinker and writer. Occupying the Ruth and Milton Friedman Chair at the Hoover Institute at Stanford (an amazing common-sense think-tank ... alright ... CONSERVATIVE think-tank) Sowell is an economist with breadth.

His book Conflict of Vision lays out the roots of this political divide we find ourselves in. In 1900 the discussion was of monopolies and monetary standards. But there was actually a pretty common ground from which these individuals fought.

Even in the Civil War, there was a common ground. It didn't stop bloodshed. But it made talking possible.

Sowell points out the vast difference between the American and the French revolutions. And in so doing he points out the divide we now face in this country.

The American revolution took a view of man that was limited. Man is constrained by his own sin and fallenness. Whether that view is held as a religious view, or simply a common-sense one, those holding that view crafted a country of checks and balances.

The American Revolution had an end. It did not seek to destroy what came before, only to put in its place something superior.

The French Revolution adoped the glorious progress of Man... if unchecked, Man could and would advance and perfect and throw off all bondage and emerge ... clean, pure, renewed.

For a modern mythology, check out the Star Trek universe... Man would overcome an Earth of conflict to reach for the stars and found the best hope for the universe.

So the French Revolution cast off all morals of the past, all ties. The Revolutionaries believed that Equality, Liberty and Fraternity would be enough to craft a society ever moving to perfection.

It did not move to perfection. It moved to a horrific scourge of purgings and brutality.

Meanwhile, the American Revolution checked its own impulses to spin out of control (and it almost DID spin out of control the very same way... the Revolutionary soldiers, unpaid, almost ran amok, the Whiskey Rebellion almost tore apart the fragile federation of States).

But the recognition that man is constrained by his own fallenness began a ferment that became, a decade later, the Constitution. Checks and balances.

Fast forward. The true conflict today is not Democrat/Republican. It's not even, in a way, liberal/conservative. After all, there are liberals and Democrats who are closer in action and belief to conservative Republicans than some other Republicans. And there are some conservatives who espouse a world more suited to the French Revolution.

The base of our political life today is the conflict of vision.

There are those who believe that man is fallen and society can be good but never perfect... that all actions have a cost. That the prevailing rule is the Law of Unintended Consequences. That cleaning the air rubs the economy. That letting the economy flow unfettered dirties the water... and on and on...

There are those who believe that Man can become perfected... evolve... become ever better. All that's needed is the right legislators, judges and leaders. All that's needed is for the obstructionists to get out of the way ... or be forced aside. Unfettered, man's best instincts will drive us out of darkness, poverty and sin.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Why Does 1900 Matter???

Something happened around the turn of the last century. Christianity was profoundly changed.

Modernism happened.

The scientific method permeated Christianity and split it in two.

Splitting to one side were those who embraced fully the modern secular life. God was about ethics and morals. Good and kind living.

To the other side went those (who may actually have been equally modern and scientific) who embraced fully the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. Who embraced man's fallen nature and necessity for salvation completely apart from himself.

The group that hold tightly to the Biblical realm of Christianity retreated. They had enough internal battles to keep themselves busy.

Recognizing that man was inherently sinful and inherently unable to save himself, recognizing that the mission of Jesus to save was in danger of being overshadowed by modernism, this more conservative church concentrated on salvation and fought it's battles for doctrinal purity.

There was a lot to fight. At times it seemed as if Biblical salvation would disappear. As if Biblical confession and doctrine would be wiped away.

The Professing church became known as Fundamentalist... concentrating on the Fundamentals of faith. They adoped that label as a badge of honor.

Slowly, though, this church's withdrawal marked it as out of touch and irrelevant. By the late 60s, the church was the only place that still looked like Ozzie and Harrie.

American social issues mattered little. Those concerned with social concerns were suspicious. Social concerns marked the churches who no longer held to any Biblical authority.

The Fundamentalist church was very concerned with social concerns outside America. they poured immense amounts of time and energy into misison work, establishing hospitals, working on plans for better farming and procedures in villages.

After all, a man with an empty stomach couldn't hear the gospel! And it was better to teach a man to fish than to simply give him fish.

Abroad, the Fundamentalists worked so much social work that their orgnizations like World Vision and others created problems we associate here with American welfare.

There are whole areas of Africa that will not allow such organizations to operate because their barrage of food and aid decimate what little local economy there is.

The Fundamentalists became spiritual at home and ignored politics.

Until the revolutionary 60s. The 60s and 70s woke them up. They did not recognize America. They had to act and act fast.

But their culture was alien to the social problems that the revolutionaries saw. They saw an entirely different set of social problems. Permissiveness. Immorality.

And so was born the Christian Right.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Consideration Break...

This blog has been silent for a few days. It's taken me a while to digest Tuesday's election. I'm still digesting.

This headline is what I'm currently chewing on... it's worth registering with the New York Times to read this article:

Incoming Democrats Put Populism Before Ideology

Populism lives.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Life of Bryan...

The years around 1900 were fascinating ones for European Christianity. The confluence of science, technology, Christian saturation, missions and world exploration had led to an amazing thoery.

It was taken pretty much as gospel that European (and hence American) Christians had done such a good job of living Christianity that the world was just about ready to turn a corner. Poverty would be a thing of the past. Disease was just about over. The earth was bending to the will of man.

Why, Christian society had done it... We had brought about the millenium... Lions were about ready to lay down with lambs. All it would take was a little more work. A little more effort... Christian effort.

A magazine was launched at this time which is still around today. It was called, "Christian Century." After all, would not the 20th century truly be the Christian Century?

All this was before WWI... that war to end all wars which ironically was the precipitating cause of almost every war we've fought since then, particularly our trauma today in the Middle East.

This was the Christianity that William Jennings Bryan embraced. It seemed thoroughly Biblical. He even warred against Darwinism and modernism in Biblical interpretation.

But a careful reading of his Christian writings show that his was a pretty secular Christianity. Jesus was commended for His example more than His Salvation. Standing at the crossroads of a dominant Evangelical Christianity and a dominant secular Christianity, Bryan spoke as an Evangelical but his message was secular.

One only needs to look at the results of that time. The vibrant Christian movements of the Salvation Army, the YMCA and other similar organizations were what characterized the age.

And yet, within 20 years, the centrality of Jesus was eliminated in favor of social work. The Gospel was about helping people, not realizing the helplessness outside of Christ.

When Bryan is viewed in this light, that particular Christian politic is more evident. That we now have such a hard split between adherance to real faith and adnerance to helping others becomes more obvious. It's a factor of what happened in those days.

Somerset Maugham puts words in his hero's mouth in Of Human Bondage. The hero speaks of how the time at the turn of the century broke society free of their religious and spiritual roots. Yet there was no ethic to replace the Christian ethic, so they held on to it.

And bit by bit, that ethic has grown and hardened into a religion of its own... but bereft of the correction and centrality of Jesus and HIS own ethic. Picking and choosing, our society today chooses tolerance and inclusion (certainly a message of Christ) without the balance of justice and right living.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Christian Politics...

Is this the future of Jesus' Church??

Why William Jennings Bryan?

You will not crucify humanity on a cross of gold!

And the crowd in the Kansas City convention hall went absolutely beserk.

It's hard to believe that monetary policy was the monstrous issue of the 1896 presidential race.

Maybe it was a different time. Maybe people studied politics more, knew economics better. Maybe, for all the cries of "country bumpkin" the East Coast elite dished out, maybe those bumpkins knew more than all but a few economists do today.

And they probably did.

Because it affected them so profoundly.

The vast middle of the US, the breadbasket, was small farmers at the turn of the century. Farmers are surprisingly like any other small business man... they desperately need capital. They invented, after all, the term "seed money".

The banking elite wanted only gold as the backer of currency. Gold provided more stability, it was thought. Big business very much loved that currency was limited to gold reserves on hand.

But for small farmers, the limited supply of gold meant a limited supply of money, and most of that in the hands of the bankers and big business.

Limited money supply meant limited money available for loans every spring to put seed in the ground. Expensive money.

As the US pushed a single-metal currency, farmers' access to capital was starved off.

It was this issue that drove young Congressman William Jennings Bryan. He was from a farm state, born in another farm state.

Very quickly he made his name as an orator. It had always been his goal, as he had seen what God had given him in talent, to use the spoken word to effect change for the good of the common man.

He arrived in Chicago a relatively inexperienced Congressman. His Democratic party wasn't that different from the Republican. They were backed by old money and didn't listen to the cries of the little man.

It was the time of the Populist party. When Communism seemed better than Capitalism.

And Bryan was the immense underdog arriving at the 1896 Democratic convention. The Populist party and several others were threatening to tear the Western/Southern 2/3s of the Democratic party and render the Democrats even more marginalized than they currently were.

Bryan had the ability to fill a 15,000 seat auditorium with his voice alone... and he had words that mattered and words that held together. He was an ORATOR.

His passion for the people brought the house down. The "Cross of Gold" speech is still the standard for American political oratory.

Politics and religion met in Bryan... And he left Kansas City the upstart surpise, the nominee of his party.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

... And What About Morality?

Rev. Ted Haggard's troubles shine a bright spotlight on the disucssion of Christians in politics. Haggard's story would be huge without the gay marriage debate. With it, it just underlines that Christianity is just a powerplay for moral hammering.

Evangelical Christians look little different than the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. Loud, strident ... and hypocritical.

Should believers back down from moral politics, or politics as a whole? Is taking moral stands something that hurts rather than hinders the cause of Christ and the communication of the Gospel?

We end up looking like rigid nasty spiteful buffoons.

Yet a fall like this is nothing new. Mankind is inherently sinful and we will often turn away from Jesus' power and love. Our culture sees it most with sex, but we quietly do it with money and with many other areas.

Perhaps in this search for a real Christian political expression this needs to be kept in mind, that what people should see first is Jesus. And I don't think that's where we're headed right now.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

In Times of War...

I was planning on a logical progression of these thoughts, but ran across something as I read this morning that was too good not to post now...

My current read is a history by Victor Davis Hanson. I highly recommend his Ripples of Battle. Hanson is a classicist whose books continually answer the question, "Why should I care?". Why should I care about history and what went before?

A Christian High School teacher of mine was known for her phrase: "Man's Heart Never Changes". That could be the subtitle of this post, and perhaps the first tenent of a Christian political understanding.

My current read is about the Peloponnesian War. That famous conflict between the Greeks that we studied in school. And it's full of application. The title of this Hanson book is A War Like No Others.

From this morning's chapter about political turmoil at home while the troops were out fighting... turmoil both in Athens and in Sparta:

When the war appeared to be stalemated and the eventual victor uncertain, internal revolution was less likely. Yet after a particular side or the other grew emboldened that change at home might reflect the course of the larger war. If proof were needed that many people lack an ideology but instead prefer to look first to their own self-interests, no better examples exist than the first Peloponnesian War... the ebb and flow of Greek opinion that followed each particular Sparan or Athenian reverse. War ... when combined with political tension, turned what would have otherwise been heated, but mostly restrained, civil disputes into unchecked bloodletting. ... Thucydides (the War's notable historian) thought civil unrest and coups were central to his story of the war itself and that soon after hostilities broke out the "entire Hellenic world, so to speak, was so convulsed."

Oligarchs usually sought to parade their cause under the misleading rubric of wishing for "a temperate aristocracy". Democrats countered by professing loyalty to the idea of "equality under the law". Once the struggle began, the former were rarely temperate and the latter seldom lawful.

We are not shedding blood over our current war. But we did during the Viet Nam era. Any biography of a Nixon insider shows how much the mental instability of that administration was tinged by the horror of violent overthrow of our very government. Of machine gun emplacements wrapped by mounds of sandbags in the basement corridors of the White House and Congress.

I hadn't thought about it, but there truly is blood in the streets at home when there is war abroad. Generally the war is longer in duration than the tidal wave of patriotism upon the start of conflict. As the war drags, the political opponents begin to use the war as leverage.

What does that mean for the disciple of Christ who engages in politics?

Our position on issues must be carefully separated out from the current sweep of emotion. Who and what we are as redeemed men and women is easily pulled or pushed along by either side of the war's aftermath at home. But we serve a King not of this world.

This, then, might be my first pillar... Our politics must move heavenward just as all areas of our lives do, as we are weaned from the flesh and more and more recognize our new creation in Christ.

Of course, what that means then must be answered.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Political musings

I'm hijacking my own blog for a time. It's silly season, mid-term elections. I've always been fascinated--held captive really--by politics. So for a time this will be a political commentary blog.

I'm in the midst of reading a second political book in a row... Just recently finished a book I recommend to any interested in political history.

That book was A Godly Hero. It's a biography of William Jennings Bryan. He was a 3-time Democratic presidential candidate. An Illinois boy who found fame and fortune by his mellifluous voice and passionate stands.

The history is fascinating because it covers a time when what we now take to be leftist politics was highly Christian in nature. It covers a time when Western populism was nearly socialist, when Communism was considered a viable option. When Christianity and the causes of the left marched in lockstep.

Those days are past, but I want to use this space to seek out what is a Christian political manifesto.

I'm not happy that the Evangelical church has made a tight alliance with the GOP. I'm not comfortable that the social causes of Jesus are now owned by the rabid secularists.

I'm not happy that I squirm when the word Christian and Democrat are linked.

So ... hold on... here we go.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thoughts on politics

I've been studying my reactions to the Mark Foley scandal. I'm not comfortable with my own thinking...

First of all, I'm disgusted with both parties. And I'm disgusted with the media coverage. There is no doubt in my mind that this is an engineered scandal... that the Democratic party held onto this information and timed it's release to squash any GOP headway at the midterms.

I've looked at the blog that "broke" this data (I think it's or something like that... I don't have it in front of me). It's pretty clear that it's a site manufactured to LOOK like a grass-roots anti-abuse site... but if you look at it critically it seems scripted. It leads to only one true "blockbuster" and that's this one... It's shrewd.

So their pontificating about the GOP not dealing with this information earlier rings hollow if you look at this deeply. They had the info and held it too, for exactly the same reason... to protect electoral advantage.

Now my own dis-ease... I find myself almost letting Foley off the hook because of the use of this as a political football. I find myself guilty of the same things...

It's tough in politics... because it's so easy to believe that the cause is worth more than the people.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In Defense of Starbucks...

I've written here before that I was concerned about the trashing of Starbuck's. The conservative Christian core (or is that corps) led by Focus on the Family pointed out complaints based largely on comments on their cups.

Starbucks does run a "The Way I See It" series of brief quotes from luminaries and other customers. Some comments run in past months were in defense of gay rights.

OK, I may not agree with that particular series, but there were many I have agreed with, smiled at or disagreed but had good thoughts stimulated.

I find it interesting that Starbucks is coming under fire from a variety of sources. I chuckle to hear the Left denigrating it as a symptom of the multi-cultural glut. Of the massive standardization and blight.

So Left and Right are complaining... that tells me there's something good going on. And here's what I think it is. Starbucks (and for that matter, Panera) are the first examples of a socially redeeming mass-market retail food chain.

Yes, McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King have had their value. No really, I mean it, there is a value in the quick food. As any parent with a car full of kids trying to get from Point A to Point B in a limited amount of time. To be able to top of the blood sugar and keep them chewing (and not fighting) for a time is priceless.

But our food blob chains of the 50s and 60s enforced a certain individualization. A growing apart.

Interesting aside that CS Lewis pictured Hell in The Great Divorce as a place where people moved a little further apart from each other every day... the cold blackness descending ever-so-slowly on them, sliding further and further apart from the love and care of others...

But our new places are places that bring us together. Throw in Barnes and Noble and Borders with their coffee shops. These are places that invite us in. Invite us to share our lives.

The baristas who pour my coffee get to know me. They're encouraged to do that.

And as a believing Christian, I find that these are amazing places where God works. I'm in Starbucks now. It was here I first heard of John Eldredge. Where Blue Like Jazz first came to my attention. Where I've overheard some marvellous conversations.

It was in Panera where I first met my pastor and now my friend, Darin Shaw.

Even the cups. They urge me to slow down. To read. To reflect.

OK, some will be ideas I don't like. But some will be ideas that advance God's Kingdom...

Another aside... I wonder if Jim Dobson thought of submitting a gentle "The Way I See It..." He'd reach a far broader audience, and one that needs his message of Jesus' love.

So I came into Starbucks today, beaten and down... the first day of school, the kids are gone and I'm feeling the strain of 5 years of managing it all by myself.

And what should happen but the most amazing and sweet Christian meeting as I learned that one of my favorite baristas is a believer. She introduced me to another believer.

I'm humbled and I'm encouraged. Starbucks has created a place where God can work... by simply creating a space where we can meet, talk and connect.

That's a good thing.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Far Side of weather...

Somebody actually said it to me today ... "Hot enough for you?"

Weatherbug says it's 98. But hey, don't worry. It's a wet heat.

I was in Starbuck's for a time this afternoon. The people were pouring in. So many of them obviously had never been in to a Starbuck's before.

I think I heard it 6 or 7 times in 90 minutes. "I'd like something cold, do you sell anything cold?"


Cultural recluses I guess.

I thought our entire Western Civilization had actually done away with the internal combustion engine and our reliance on fossil fuel and we were running on Frappucinos and iced lattes these days.

Which takes me back to the most miserable I've ever been in the heat...

My parents decided every summer from the year before my sister (2 years my senior) graduated high school until we I was out of college for 2 years that, "This is the last summer we'll be able to travel as a family."

So began the yearly installments. Before that, they'd been the "every so often" miserable trips ... maybe the "every 3 or 4 year torture chambers." Now, the dreaded all-family LoveBoat cruise became a necessary yearly event. OH my...

We started "small". Just a little trip around the whole United States in a 20' motor home. Seattle. Chicago. Boston. NYC. Charleston/Savannah (getting the picture?). Hobart, OK (don't ask). Montana. Home.

Perhaps that's where I developed this darn nervous tic tic tic tic tic.

Eventually it got to be a European vacation. This was actually inspired by me (I am shamed to admit it).

I desperately wanted to travel, so when I graduated college and had a job, I booked a trip to England. I wanted to just go and wander... but bowed to pressure (as I always did in those days) because it wasn't safe to just wander such a wild and violent country as England, Scotland and Wales.

This was before Braveheart so you can't blame Mel Gibson for that one.

I went on the ultimate old-folks tour. What a wonderful group! What social outlet!

The nearest person to my age was 40 years my senior, though a grammy and grampy or two HAD brought along a young teen or two.

England by motorbus. Yeehaw.

But I did have a great time anyway. My first time abroad. The first of the family to travel off the North American continent.

So of course, my sister had to take 4 trips in the next year. And then ... the family trip.

We wound up in Paris, our last stop.

It was about this time of year... I know because the World Cup was just ending.

We had rooms in Paris' Grand Hotel. Everyone was on floors 2 and 3. Except us. WE had the wonderful garrett rooms at the top of the hotel, the fifth floor. Oh they were so wonderfully quaint.

And one teensy problem. There was no a/c on the fifth floor. But never mind, Paris just doesn't get that...


Breeze? Windows?

Oh, did I mention my insane sister didn't like the fumes from the city, and didn't want to take a risk of getting raped (on the 5th floor)... so we had to shut and lock our windows.

Nevermind we were in the room next door to her... there was a connecting door... so we were required (Dad opted for conflict reduction) to keep the connecting door open so she could come in and check, several times a night. Vital to make SURE we hadn't snuck those windows open...

Until the night it hit about 100 in the city... she relented. We could open the windows...

Who knew there were that many Italians in Paris? Who knew the World Cup would end at about 1am? Who know how much noise Italians in Paris could make as they circled our block with music, horns, singing, fireworks.

Who knew it could go on until well after dawn?

I subsisted those few days in Paris on a little drink I discovered called a "Caffe Liegois"... Coffee. Cream. Sugar. Ice. Blended together. It may sound familiar...

How expensive could the lot of them be? When delivered by room service?

Ummmm.. $150?

Ever see the Far Side panel, "Nerds in Hell"? A couple of guys in geeky clothing and taped glasses... and one of them is saying ....

... hot enough for ya?


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Faux foe...

... "I know, let's do it in a faux weathered surface, you know, one of those crackle things."

So spoke I in the heat of the moment, the flush of battle. When things were good and times were right. When we were fresh and unsullied. When I was REALLY stupid.

So right now we can't afford the really big fixes. But paint, who can't do paint?

First off, let me counteract a lie: "It's just a gallon of paint, that's CHEAP!"

OK, here's the truth. There's no such thing as "just a gallon of paint".

Lowe's knows this. Home Despot knows this.

I go in for a $0.10 latex glove and walk out with $138.99 worth of absolutely indispensible things I didn't know I needed.

And faux! Who invented the faux? How many faux (or fauxes, or faus, or fauxi?) were killed in the making of a quart of that stuff?

Next side note: The faux is the corporate iconic beast of the home shopping channel QVC.

So this room, this living room. Let me describe its original paint scheme as we obtained it... slime beige. It has an alternate name, urine creme. Too strong? I think not.

And the ceiling, WELLLLLLlll now THAT has been a work of art.

My original home design consultant (ex-wife) one Christmas looked at the faux (there it is again!) texture cracking off the ceiling and the beautiful browns and rusts and mildew-blacks of a long-gone storm and roof failure and said, "You know, with the angel up there on the tree against that background it looks almost like the Sistine Chapel!"

Right. A faux Sistine Chapel. If viewed through the prism of a Timothy Leary experience.

I'd tried to perk that room up. Spent more than I should on two couches. It just occurs to me now what they were. They were ... faux couches.

Faux suede. Micro fiber.

Now think about it. Fiber is fiber. Micro fiber means it's really little. Not really fibrous at all. Maybe under the microscope they're really more like little nubbins or balls. In fact, I know what they REALLY are... FAUX FIBER!!!

That impulsive furniture day, I'd looked that day at twills and denims and such... But no, said the clerk, "You have kids and cats, you need something that will really stand up... Only leather and micro-suede will do that."

My question 2.5 years later is: Stand up to what?

I knew instinctively that leather would NOT stand up to cat claws... but certainly faux suede would, right? Right. For 15.2 seconds. The couch arms are shreds. (Maybe I need faux cats.)

And to continue the thought string (more of a micro-thought-fiber, really), I thought until today that those couches were grey. I'd have SWORN to you they were gray. Grey. Gray.

Until I spoke my belief outloud today during another run to Lowe's to work on those walls.

I said "grey".

My current design consultant and her associate (brother) said, "Grey? Dad, what couches are YOU talking about."

Now I'm SURE I describe them as GRAY to the clerk at the furniture store. She agreed with me, grey. That was probably AFTER I said something about being red-green color-blind. (As a person who truly enjoys color and design, this always turns out to be just a tad-bit inconvenient.)

BUT... if the customer said gray, no need to correct him.

Come to think of it, I think they probably are a kind of gray. FAUX GREY.

SO... we painted on our "High Hiding Primer". That really worked. Hid the stuff we were really too lazy to fix. My 4th declared, "Dad, that's cool, let's just leave the walls like that!"

Oh no! We had plans. Color depth. Pop. Pow. Wow!

We were going to CRACKLE!

So we painted on the peachy-creamy undercoat. It looked good in the store.

It looked good on the walls!

HOORAY! We're doing well (I must add that the goal here was to surprise our interior coordinator/designer while she was on a babysitting foray... so the assistant and I were doing this quickly... always a good plan).

Next day we opened the faux crackle stuff. Figured out what it really was. Elmer's glue slightly thinned. And marked up to $13 a quart.

But we're gonna crackle so it's worth it.

Now another aside, the assistant and I have really got this painting thing down. I've now mastered the rolling edger (what a handy contraption... a pad that works like a roller/brush... a faux brush!). The assistant has the roller down.

I edge, he rolls... we did the 3 walls 15', 10', 15', in about 45 minutes. WOW are we good!

Only thing is... it's 10:45 when we finish. PM. Instructions say we must begin the next piece within 1-4 hours, or it's no-go.

11:45PM and we begin phase FOUR of this "pop, pow, wow". Here's the famous quote from the instructions: "For more dramatic surfaces, use a brush rather than a roller".

A brush. Ummm... I'm not good with brushes. I'm ok, but not great. Haven't really done it enough to be confident. Kinda tend to ... brush and brush and ... "Do not overwork topcoat as surface may become gummy."

OOOooh my. How did they know? Could they see into my future?

And when "surface becomes gummy" it ... well... it sags. The crackle faux stuff sticks to the top paint but SLIDES on the bottom paint. And slides. And slides.

Assistant is banished... He's not confident or steady enough with the brush. Course netierh am I.

It's 12:15. AM. The minions are sent to their perches in the lofts.

Progress is torturously slow. This whole missive is drafted while ... stroking. Up. Down. Over. My head is full.

I begin to get the hang of it, and by the time I'm on the back wall (3 hours later) I have crackle. But what of the early areas? WAAAAY too much "drama". The creamy show-through is big enough to ... to drive a faux through.

At 3:30 I stop looking at the clock. Later I look over my shoulder as I'm coming into the home ... stretch (reaching up for the high places) and see ... dawn breaking.

I put the last touches on and finally look at the clock... repair some sags too big to leave (ugh, that looks ugly up close) and wash the brushes, tumbling into bed for faux sleep at 7:30.

It's a work day. More like faux work I'm afraid, after that night.

... And when I awake ...

I HATE it.

No, not really that. I mean, it's ok, even kinda cool.

But I had something in my mind, and that wasn't it. Not even close. And the early places where there's so much light showing through... just NOT right. Not blending with the other walls.

Only one thing to do ... I have a faux collapse. A dad-breakdown.

My muse talked some sense into me (I was talking of paint remover and scraping the thing clean... what fauxlly). She recommended a couple of approaches, one of which I adopted today... It worked.

Any gueses????

That's right...

A faux finish!


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Amazing Fatwah ... Or ... The Confessions of a Baptized Humorist ...

I'll admit it, I find the Danish cartoons hilarious. I suppose I'm risking a fatwah myself in saying it. But the picture of Mohammed in a turban of bombs... Of Mohammed urging terrorists to stop encouraging suicide bombers because, "We're running out of virgins..." All those make me laugh hard.

I admit, too, that I've always had a secret little love for Christian versions of the same. I thought the Church Lady on SNL was the funniest running skit they ever did (apologies Fernando). And who do you suppose is urging me to say that? Who? Who? Could it be ... SAAATTTTAAAAANNNNN????

When I was in college, The Wittenburg Door began it's regime as the Mad Magazine of Christian theology. Frankly, I sputtered about it being awful, but that was mostly because they were skewering my favorite theologians. I was too young to be confident in the face of humor.

Now, looking back, I see they were right.

So I wonder, why is it that the tradition of a free press, satire and humor have flourished in the countries saturated (at least at some point) by the Gospel? Why is it that in those places saturated by other religions, their symbols are simply not open to ANY humor??

Now understand, we Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have at times engaged in our own fatwah. But on the whole, we haven't bombed, maimed, murdered in reaction. Instead, we've tended to use that humor right back.

I believe that without GRACE man is pretty much humorless. Except for the humor of racism and bullying.

With grace, the grace Jesus poured out at Calvary, our minds have been opened to a new possibility. That all men are filled with foibles and sins. That our self-righteousness is funny and NEEDS to be poked and prodded.

Jesus used humor more than we now recognize. When he called the Pharisees "Whitewashed tombs" I've heard it said that it would have struck his audience as hilariously funny. He skewered the self-pious much like Dana Carvey did.

Our Savior shows us that humility, coming to Him as a little child, is the only way to seize His Kingdom. And there's nothing like the laughter of a little child.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Terrible Allure of the Past...

Keeping The Faith -- Billy Joel

If it seems like I've been lost
In let's remember
If you think I'm feelin older
And missing my younger days
Oh, then you should have known
Me much better
Cause my past is something that never
Got in my way
Oh no

I am lost in "let's remember". It's 1982, 1983. It's California, La Habra, La Mirada, Bellflower, Long Beach.

I've just moved there, started grad school. I hook up with an old acquaintance and we start going out.

The days fly by. Joy is everywhere. Such freedom. Such discovery. Living truly on my own. Being an adult.

Dinner, a walk in Belmont. Hamburger Henry's for Marua Burgers. Cheesecake at Grandmas Sugarplums. Walks through the art gallery.

The movies. The music. The long late talks. Her hair, her scent. Her soft touch on the back of my hand.

Thank God we don't see the future. Thank God we walk forward with hope, with confidence.

Looking back I see that just 6 months later it had evaporated. The realities of marriage and what I know now were her sickness made the very same places seem like dry sawdust, not the sweet fruit of the so-recent days.

I looked up. I looked around. All I saw was fear. Choking, abandoning fear. Raging in my mind. Seeming to have lost all the joy.

How did joy disappear so suddenly? Eventually I forgot that the joy evaporated like a minute's rain in the desert. But it did. It left me parched, aching, fearful. Feelings I learned to live with but never understood, never identified again til so much later.

Joy disappeared suddenly because all was an illusion. Carefully crafted to make it seem like there was life. I had my hand in that too.

The past never got in my way. But these days, it looms, lurks, hulks.

I don't wish her back. But I ache for the joy that was. Or seemed to be.

I ache for the man I was. I ache for the dreams, shredded.

I'm tired.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Purple Butterfly...

When Katie Retelle contracted leukemia, she had to leave school. She was left with a lot of time on her hands and picked up beading.

Her friends have taken up where her death left off... Their bead collection is online. All proceeds will go to the Leukemia Society.


The Purple Butterfly Collection

Too much death. Too much dying...

Beloved kitty Daisy, nearly 19 years old.

We had to euthanize her. These wonderful animals that mean so much. It hurts when they leave us.

She was a good and faithful friend.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What the heck am I doing???

Just thinking... Do people see Jesus in me? Are my kids growing toward Christ?

This life is SO different than what I envisioned...

In so many ways, for that I am SO grateful. This world we are in is REAL.

The coccoon of unrealism I grew up in (called the Evangelical community) was SO unreal. But still, in all of that, Jesus must never be lost.

Jesus, work in me. Shine in me.