Who Are You?

There is a song by The Brothers Frantzich called Abraham that purports to answer this very question. I first heard it a few weeks ago on the Prairie Home Companion, and I remember thinking initially that it was a very cool song. Then I paid closer attention to the lyrics:

I am not what I do,
I am not the house I live in,
I am not my dead end job,
I’m not real, I’m just beginning,
I am not the words I speak,
I am not the clothes I wear,
I’m not war and I’m not peace,
My advice you shouldn’t care

But there’s a mountain range that runs
from Alaska to Mexico,
During the hottest days of summer,
its peaks are blessed with snow
Repeat after me,
in the words of Abraham,
those mountains are a part of who I am.

I still like the idea of the song. The idea of self-identification, of claiming separation from certain things and declaring an affinity for others is an idea I can identify with, but in the end, they go too far. There is a kernel of Manicheanism in the song, an over-separation of the physical and the spiritual. If you are not any of these things, if I cannot begin to know you by anything I observe about you, then who are you? Are you anything at all?

If the song has accomplished anything, it has encouraged me to think about my actual identity, as a man, a husband, a father, a Christian. It has encouraged me to ask who I tell myself and others that I am, by the millions of decisions I make each and every day. And since I have been thinking about these things, I thought I would ask you as well.

Who are you? Have you stopped and asked the question lately?

As always, comments are appreciated.

Why You Cannot Afford to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils

I have said this before, and I will say it again. Eventually, all things come to blood. If a nation heads in the wrong direction for long enough, good men will die. Here’s the thing though: how can you expect a nation to turn around if you do not pursue that which is great, rather than that which is barely acceptable? How can you expect goodness to come forth by choosing between the lesser of two evils?

Let’s take it a step further: If you believe that America is heading in the wrong direction but you are not willing to fight for what is good nor willing to look the part of a fool for the sake of righteousness; if you continue to be complacent and hope that tomorrow will be no different than today, then let me congratulate you on the murder of your children1.

For if you truly believe that all things come to blood, and you do not fight today, then you are leaving that fight to your children. You are leaving them to live in a world made worse by your inaction and to either become corrupted by that world, or to be killed by it.

You are leaving them to death.

And if you are that sort of man; if America is a nation composed of men who are willing to make that choice, then we will deserve the death that comes. We will deserve it, because day by day, in a million tiny ways, we will have chosen it.

1Let me be clear here: if you are fighting for good as well as you know how, I cannot accuse you. But there are those of you who are and have been compromising. Who know it, and need to be confronted with it. You have made easy choices for the very reason that they are easy. I have been one of you. I say, let it end today.

A Little More About Good Books

John’s comment made me realize that I might need to be a little clearer about the gauntlet I threw down statement I made last week.

I love reading a good book for the first time. I absolutely love it. There is nothing quite like the excitement that builds as you are masterfully forced to consider new ideas or pulled along in the exploration of some new world or brought face-to-face with a fascinating new character. It is breathtaking and wonderful, and I find it hard to pass up the chance.

It is also overrated.

You see, a good book is an intimate thing. It is a secret conversation with a man or woman of genius, it is a world unto itself, it is Odin’s eye plucked out and traded for magic and secrets, it is a pearl-white drop of wisdom poured out from someone’s soul. And it is deserving of more than just your passing notice.

You might think to say that I am taking this too seriously. I promise you, I’m not. I have and will continue to read almost anything and everything1 that comes my way with even an ounce of story and an even tinier amount of wit. I will read it, and I will enjoy it.

But given the opportunity, I will delve back into my bookshelves before I will grace the door of the library or allow my shadow to fall across the rack of new releases. To me, reading only new books is like meeting many fascinating people, but only getting to do so once. It is like dating for pleasure. I mean, come on, get married already. Settle down. Have some kids. Commit for crying out loud. To me, a book I’ve read five or six or seven times, is like an old familiar friend. A good book is, without belittling her or it, a little like my wife: well known, somewhat comfortable, but still chock full of secrets.

And I find that it changes the way I read. No longer do I merely read from line to line or page to page, but rather from chapter to chapter, theme to theme, thought to thought. I float atop these books. I swim through them. I know them.

Seriously, you should try it.

1 Case in point, I remember back when I was seven or eight, Cheez Doodles® started printing a story on the back of each their bags. It was about a castle or something and I think Cheez Doodles® were involved, but the point is, I read it, and liked it, and was disappointed when they stopped. To be even more honest: to this day, I still find myself occasionally checking the back of the bags just in case they’ve started up. Sir Cheez-a-lot was in trouble when they left him, and I’d like to see how things turned out…

Turning Our Nation Around II: The War at Home

If a man would change the world, let him begin with something that is right before his eyes, let him lead his home.

My church hosted a father/son retreat this weekend, and I was fortunate enough to attend several of the sessions. I came away with a deeper appreciation for the incredible relationship that fathers and sons have and for the primal nature of that relationship. Some of the highlights that were particularly relevant to the discussion at hand are as follows:

The story of the Bible and of this world is essentially the story of a Father working through His Son, of Jehovah God, accomplishing all things through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Children, when you obey your father, you are testifying to the fact that there is a God in heaven who must be obeyed.  Father’s when you care for and discipline your children, you are testifying that there is a God who loves and chastens those who are His own.

Children, when you disobey your father, when you roll your eyes and mock his authority, you are committing high treason against heaven. Fathers, when you take too lightly your children’s rebellion, when you wink at it and let it exist unchecked, you are tolerating witchcraft in your homes.

We also spent a lot of time in Deuteronomy 6, reading the Shema Yisrael, and asking ourselves what a family would look like if it built itself around the Hebrew concept of learning, around the idea of a father walking and talking with his sons, taking them with him everywhere that he can, letting them see the world through the lens of his knowledge and experience. And not a perfect father, mind you, or perfect sons. Through all of this, we were reminded that every son is challenged by being forced to submit to and learn from an imperfect father and that every father is similarly challenged by having to lead and discipline imperfect sons.

To my mind, this is the first step in turning our nation around, that of turning our homes back to God, putting away our childishness and our love of sin and the easy life.

What do you say?

Turning Our Nation Around

Children die because of their father’s decisions.

Do you believe that? Lately that phrase keeps popping into my head, pushing out every other thought, until all I can do is stop whatever it is I’m doing and pray for my nation, for myself, for my wife, for my son and my daughter, and for the children that I hope they will have one day. If this seems strange to you, let me at least try to make a simple case for why I’ve been thinking about this.

I hope you won’t think I’m being melodramatic when I say that I believe America has been headed in the wrong direction for some time now. I hope you still won’t think it when I say that if a nation heads in the wrong direction for long enough, it means that at some point, there will come a day when good men will die as a consequence. If you aren’t shaking your head in disagreement yet, then humor me one moment longer. If both of those statements are true, then among the people who will die, will be my children.

Children die because of their father’s decisions.

Do you believe that? And if so, what are you doing?

For the Love of God

I was reading John B’s most recent Blog Meridian post when I came across this description of a Wichita bookstore that he frequents:

There’s no coffee bar there, no fancy tilted shelving displaying the stock, no subdued, recessed lighting. You go there to buy, sell, trade and talk about books. But not in a pretentious or refined way. Books are the commodity there, just as with any bookstore, but nothing there detracts from the books. You don’t go there for Atmosphere. You go there for books. Period. It possesses all the analogous refinement of a livestock-auction arena; it’s a meat-market for book-lovers. Everyone in there is on the bibliophilic make. You hope to get lucky and pick up a few to take home. Everybody knows why you’re there, so you don’t have to pretend. Drool. Fondle. Grab an armload of books–the implicit promise of a trip home–until something better presents itself around the corner… Take one over to the comfortable (if well-used) couches for, um, closer examination. Hope for jouissance.

Besides the thought that if I’m ever in Wichita, I want need to visit this Bookaholic place, here’s what popped into my head as I read this: when was the last time you heard someone praising a church for similar reasons?

There’s no coffee bar there, no “come early and have a doughnut” sign on the front lawn, no grandiose choir, no special classes for 3 year olds, 5 year olds, junior high teens, senior high teens, college kids, career-minded girls, single moms, single people, desperate housewives, mid-life crisesing men or golden agers. You go there to think, talk, hear, and learn about God. You go there to worship. But not in a pretentious or refined way. God is the focus there, just as with any church, but nothing there detracts from Him. You don’t go there for Atmosphere. You go there for God. Period. It transcends analogous comparison; it is the only thing like it. Everyone in there is there for worship. Everybody knows why you’re there, so you don’t have to pretend. Listen. Sing. Ask. Fellowship. Sit in your pew or chair and meditate upon the greatness of God and His Son Jesus Christ. Pray for conformity to Him.

What do you say?

Cialis, Viagra spam attacking Calvin

Portait  of John CalvinWell, the spam bots are still at it, beating away on the Askimet-flavored invisible shell that protects this site from a flood of vile and unwanted comments. If you’re not familiar with spam bots, the way they work is that someone writes a program that knows how to go out on the web and visit blogs. Once the program finds a blog, it clicks on the link for a particular post and then tries to leave a comment advertising whatever evil product it was designed to promote (pornography, drugs, Jessica Simpson, etc.) What’s interesting though is that the latest round of Viagra and Cialis bots that come to this site are exclusively attacking articles about John Calvin and Calvinism. Which is ironic, because hawking vitality enhancers using Calvin is like using Chewbacca to sell Rogaine, Dick Clark to sell anti-aging cream, or Joel Osteen to sell pseudo-Christian heresy. What I’m saying is, Calvin is potent and the bots know it!! But this has set me to thinking (a rare and lofty achievement), what will be the next Reformation figure tie-in? What will the bots try to advertise on articles about Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, and so on?

If you have an idea, leave a comment. But be forewarned — somewhere in this wild and crazy world, bathed in the dim glow of a monitor, and with nothing but thoughts of personal gain, a programmer is already thinking about it. (Except, you know, not really…)

On C. S. Lewis, His Personal Devotion to Relationships, and My Depravity

Courtesy of The Inklings, we have this this excerpt of Erik Routley’s remembrance of C. S. Lewis taken from C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table and other Reminiscences:

I know myself what others know far better — how unfailingly courteous Lewis was in answering letters. I think I corresponded with him on three or four occasions… But there was a reply every time — it might be quite brief, but it was always written for you and for nobody else. I think this was his greatest secret. He hated casual contacts; human contact must, for him, be serious and concentrated and attentive, or it was better avoided. It might be for a moment only, but that was its invariable quality. That is not only why so many people have precious memories of him; it is also why he couldn’t write three words without the reader’s feeling that they were written for him and him alone. It’s why his massive books of scholarship read as delightfully as his children’s stories, and why he’s one of the few preachers who can be read without losing their message.

Having read this, I find myself ashamed at the thought of my own inattention to others, at the very lack of effort I put into achieving quality in a shared experience. I find that I am vain and self-absorbed, wholly committed to the selling of myself on the stock market of the moment, more concerned with how I am perceived than with how I truly am. Even now, as I read back through this, I find myself thinking, what will people think of me when they read these things? Will they think me genuine? Perhaps if I tell them that I’m thinking about it they will… My only consolation is that I am not alone in my depravity, and that is almost no consolation at all.

How do you rate compared to Lewis?

A Preacher without Arms and Legs

About five months ago, I started noticing google searches in my site’s logs showing that people were searching the web with phrase like “Preacher without arms and legs” and “Preacher + no arms + no legs”. And for whatever reason, google was sending them my way.

Naturally, this made me curious, and because The Preacher is just that nice of a web site, I did a few searches of my own and found Life Without Limbs, the home page of Nick Vujicic, a 20 something Australian man who was born without arms and legs and who now travels the world sharing his testimony and the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Even if this wasn’t the guy you were looking for, this is someone you might want to read about. Also, check out the video below