Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cletus: the Keys and Pants

I received a distress call from cousin Cletus last Wednesday, “Bob, I’m in stall number 2 in the restroom at work and I need a pair of pants.”

This is not the kind of call you get everyday, even when your cousins are Clovis, Cletus, Clive, Clyde, and Cleve; even when their sister is Clare.

“You need a pair of pants?” I asked. “You must have had a pretty bad accident.”

“Well, it wasn’t exactly an accident, it was a predicament.”

“A what?”

“I said it was a predicament.”

“What do you mean a predicament?”

“Well, as I was walking across the parking lot to get in my car and drive to an appointment I reached into my right pants pocket to get my keys out and they were stuck.”

“Stuck, what do you mean stuck? Did you have Super Glue in your pocket?”

“They were stuck in that little insert they put in a pocket that keeps your pocket from wearing out from carrying loose change.”

“Loose change? Nobody carries loose change anymore, do you mean you carry loose change that has Super Glue on it and when your keys came in contact with the change and the Super Glue they stuck?”

“No Bob, I mean I didn’t have any loose change in my pocket and that when I put my keys in that pocket they got down in that little insert pocket and wouldn’t come out.

“As I was walking toward my car I kept pulling on my keys, trying to rearrange them so they’d come out – but they wouldn’t come.

“Finally, when I got to the car I pulled my pocket inside-out to get a look at the problem; I tried to move the keys this way and that way – all the while looking around to see if anyone was watching me fight with my own pants. The more I pulled and twisted the keys and the pocket the more frustrated I got until…rippppppppp…not only did I rip my pocket but my pants ripped about 12 inches down my thigh…and I still couldn’t dislodge my keys to get in the car.

“Luckily I was parked pretty close to the door of the office building, and fortunately the men’s room is not far from the lobby, so I tore off to the lobby and then the men’s room before anyone could see me – at least I hope before anyone could see me.

“So here I am in the second stall as you come into the men’s room and I need you to please run by Wal-Mart and get me some size 42 waist 32 length pants – jeans are fine, I just need something to get me out of there so I can deal with my next problem.”

“Your next problem?” I asked. “What’s your next problem?”

“As I was running to the building the keys fell out of the pocket insert.”

“That doesn’t sound like a problem to me,” I said. “It sounds like good news.”

“It ain’t good news Bob, I was running across a storm grate and the keys fell through the opening – once I get some pants I’m going to need to try to retrieve my keys. So can you please run by Wal-Mart and get me some pants – 42 waist, 32 long?”

“Sorry Cletus, I’m out-of-town at a conference.”

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Caricature of Father

During Father’s Day week we received an advertisement from Netflix encouraging us to rent a movie with “lovingly evil” dads – there were four movies highlighted: Star Wars, The Birdcage, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and The Godfather. The inclusion of the Indiana Jones movie struck me because Indiana Jones’s father, played by Sean Connery, doesn’t strike me as evil – certainly not evil in the sense that Darth Vader or Don Vito Corleone are evil. Of course the Connery character is immoral and hardly a father in a godly sense, but compared with the fathers of Star Wars and The Godfather he doesn’t belong on an evil fathers list. Since I haven’t seen The Birdcage I won’t comment on the father in that production.

As I read the Netflix advertisement I thought, “If someone reads this who has seen Star Wars but not seen Indiana Jones they will put Jones’s father in the same class as Darth Vader. I wonder how many people associate our heavenly Father with caricatured images of him.”

I meet caricatured images of our Father both in and out of the church, from a benign God who looks the other way at all we do, to a harsh God looking for us to mess up so he can pounce on us with wrath, to an uncaring God, to an impotent God – the list seems endless. When we make God the Father one dimensional we caricature him, when we make him in our image we caricature him, when we use ourselves as the standard for God we caricature him.

One way to view the Bible is as a letter from God the Father to us in which God reveals who he is and who we are; we need God to reveal who we are because in our current condition we can’t really know who we are and who we are called to become, we can’t really know who we are anymore than we can know who God is without God’s illumination in our hearts and minds. If we don’t read God’s letter, the Bible, and if we don’t submit our understanding and our lives to his letter, we will live with a caricatured image of God.

Far from the Bible presenting a one-dimensional image of God, God portrays himself in Scripture as a person, and being a person he has many attributes and facets – unlike the facets of our personalities which are often contradictory and mixed with good and evil, God is entirely holy and just and good and without evil. While philosophies speculate about God, the Bible is God’s self-disclosure, his definitive statement about himself in both complexity and simplicity, in unity and diversity, in narrative, in propositional statement, in didactic teaching, in metaphor and analogy, and in image.

I’m reminded of God proclaiming himself to Moses in Exodus Chapter 34: Yahweh descended in the cloud and stood there with him [Moses] as he called upon the name of Yahweh. Then Yahweh passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “Yahweh, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet he will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

Of course God’s ultimate self-disclosure is in his Son, Jesus Christ, as John writes (John 1:14, 18): And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth…No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.

When we live in relationship with our heavenly Father through our Lord Jesus Christ we will know Him as He is…and not as He may be caricatured.

Monday, June 10, 2013

After the Storm

A day after the storm the young cardinal returned to what it assumed was "its" hibiscus tree, only to find a wren taking up residence. You'll have to look closely, or enlarge the photo, to see the wren.

Fledgling in a Storm

During the heavy rain from the tropical storm there were two fledgling cardinals sheltering in our hibiscus tree, here's a shot of one of them; it's as if she's asking, "What's going on? Where's mom and dad?"

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Catching Up

I haven’t posted much lately, in fact it’s been about a month and a half since I’ve posted on Kaleidoscope; it isn’t that I haven’t been pondering and thinking, it’s more of an issue of what exactly do I want to write about and is what I want to write about something that I should write about. How’s that for confusing?

I’ve been trying to write about leadership on my apartment industry blog; that has been difficult. How do you write about leadership in a society in which virtually anything and everything goes? From the top of society to the bottom everyone has an excuse or a rationalization for things that are wrong – wrong in the sight of God and things that used to be wrong in the sight of man – even the people who used to do wrong things generally knew they were doing wrong, not so anymore. Now it’s just a question of what we can get away with.

Vickie and I occasionally watch a television show called Mystery Diners. Restaurant owners with problems call in a company that places cameras throughout the business, they also send in mystery shoppers and mystery employees; almost without exception when people are caught stealing and lying and treating others unethically they not only have excuses, they blame the owners for their behavior. Rarely does anyone say, “I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.” This is a picture of the way we live, it is not the exception but rather the rule. We live in a world of spin and excuse and amorality – we are no longer immoral, we are just plain amoral.

A few weeks ago I read that Congress had agreed to cut the Food Stamp Program. I think everyone who voted to cut food stamps should be made to go hungry for a month and to watch people he or she loves go hungry. Why is it that only people at the lower rung of the economic ladder get accused of abusing the system? It’s because they don’t vote and don’t have economic power. We don’t hear consistent complaints about businesses abusing the system, about the wealthy abusing the system, about what’s left of the middle class abusing the system – it’s the folks at the lower end of society who are accused of abusing the system – well they are hardly the ones that we all bailed out a few years ago, they are hardly the ones who didn’t have to pay for their robber-baron actions, they are not the ones who got a “Get out of Jail free” card.

I see those on the lower end of life every week in the housing industry and most of them are hard-working people trying to do the best they can, I don’t see BMWs or Lexuses or Cadillacs in the parking lots, in fact lots of the residents take the bus to work.

And then someone got the bright idea to suggest that everyone on welfare (whatever that is) ought to be made to take a drug test. Duh. Well then let’s all take drug tests. Since everyone in this country receives some type of government service or benefit let’s not be partial in our approach to worthiness. Why is it that the defenseless are the ones generally picked on? Is it because we think we can do so with impunity? I don’t get it when professing Christians kick those who are down – it’s as if they’ve never read what the Bible teaches about how we are to treat the poor and needy and widow and orphan (and there are many functional orphans in America), nor what the Bible teaches about treating all with equity and without partiality.

I’ll tell you this, when we stand before Christ to be judged for our words and deeds it isn’t likely He’ll ask, “Why didn’t you spend more on space exploration, or on corporate bailouts, or on another missile?”; but it just could be that He’ll ask, “Why didn’t you feed the poor and shelter the homeless?”

How can professing Christians not think that the sanctity of life extends to hunger and shelter and health care? When we worship the dollar we make excuses for everything, when life is reduced to economic terms we sell our birthright as Christians.

Well, I see that this post is getting lengthy and I should bring it to a close – I guess I’m making up for a few weeks of silence.