Monday, March 27, 2017

Fake News – Old News

Last night 60 Minutes did a piece on Fake News. Normally an organization like 60 Minutes likes to present new news to its viewers, but this time it presented old news – at least it was old news to those who value truth and know history and know the nature of man.

An academic expert in Fake News confessed that before he studied Fake News that he assumed, along with many people, that only uneducated people believed Fake News – he admitted he was wrong. According to his research, educated and uneducated people believe Fake News in equal percentages. This is old news to those who value truth and know history and know the nature of man.

Researchers also found that Fake News is as prevalent on the political right as on the political left – once again, Fake News is no respecter of persons; once again, this is old news to those who value truth and know history and know the nature of man.

Sadly, were 60 Minutes to do a segment on Fake News within the professing church it would find the same phenomena.  Since most Christians do not know the Bible they have nothing against which to measure trendy Christian teaching; whether it comes from popular media Christians or academic ivory palaces or esoteric groups which promise initiation into truths that only the few can receive.  

We live in a world of Fake News and the propensity of mankind is to believe Fake News. The headwaters of Fake News (found in Genesis Chapter 3) is, “Has God really said this?” The people at 60 Minutes are purveyors themselves of Fake News in so far as they think that humanity can discern the truth in and of itself – were 60 Minutes to devote itself to an exploration of how many times humanity has been wrong it would see that we are all suckers for Fake News.

In one interview Scott Pelley was incredulous that the person he was interviewing, a purveyor of Fake News, maintained that the Fake News he generates (such as Pizzagate) is as true news as news that is verifiable. (This interview, as is the entire segment, is worth watching online). Yet, the Fake News that humanity is the product of time plus matter plus chance should make us all incredulous for it flies in the face of daily life and love and aspiration and all that motivates most of humanity – in terms of both good and evil. Of course, there can be no good or evil if we are indeed the products of a cosmic accident. If we are products of a cosmic accident there can be no Fake News for there can be no truth; everything is a matter of perception – who can trust a cosmic accident.

Sadly in much of the church Fake News doesn’t matter anymore, as long as the book or the movie or the music or the message makes us feel good we will defend it. This is, in one respect, old news – much of the Law and the Prophets and the New Testament was written to reveal Fake News; the New Testament letters deal with Fake News in the church over and over again.

How much Fake News is in our thinking today? 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

His Life Was In Those Bottles

I don’t recall who first introduced me to Stubbs; it could have been Price Chopper, or Stop & Shop, or Market Basket – but since I first purchased the barbeque sauce produced by Mr. Stubbs in New England it was likely one of these grocery store chains who did me the fine service of introduction.

Amidst the BBQ sauce offerings of the major food companies the bottle of Stubbs stood out as if it wanted to shake my hand and become friends. It was as if the bottle was saying, “I ain’t like the rest of them. Fact is, I don’t reckon I really know why they are all here alongside me, unless it is to show folks the difference between the fake and the real.” Not that I think Mr. Stubbs would have said that about other companies, but if his bottle could have talked it just might have said those words.

On every bottle of Stubbs BBQ is the face of Mr. Stubbs (his real name was Christopher Stubblefield). It’s a face that you want to know, it’s the face of man whose hand you’d like to shake. This man not only put his name on his product (his nickname was Stubbs), he put his face on it. Then there were the words, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m a cook.” I like that – a cook developed this product, a cook who cooked, not a cook who worked in an industrial test kitchen, but a cook who cooked and fed people 52 weeks a year, a cook who ran a restaurant where if the cooking weren’t good he’d go broke.

But then there was another saying from Mr. Christopher Stubblefield on his BBQ sauce, and this is the one that really got me, that still gets me, “My life is in these bottles.” You gotta love a saying like that, a man proud enough of his work to put his face on a bottle and his life in a bottle.

Ever since my first encounter with Stubbs he has been my go-to man for BBQ sauce and he has never let me down. I recall that once when we had friends over for a cookout in Becket, MA that Jody Lampro, our drummer and sometimes bass player, asked me what kind of BBQ sauce we had, and when I said, “Stubbs”, he looked at me knowingly and said, “Stubbs…he’s the man.”

I don’t think many of us approach our work the way Christopher Stubblefield approached his. How many of us would put our name and face on our work? How many of us would say, “My life is in what I did today”? How many of us take pride in what we do, real pride? The pride of workmanship? The pride of integrity? And how many of us find joy in our work?

And if we are professing Christians, are we offering our work to God as an offering, as something beautiful, bearing the image of our Creator? (Colossians 3:23-24).

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Wrens and the Garage

When we lived on Physic Hill Road there was a garage window with a hole in it; it was too small for a crow to fly through but just big enough for a wren to negotiate. Wrens are always on the lookout for a safe place to build a nest and one year a pair of wrens found the safety of our garage – a nest they did built and young ones they did have.

The garage had an upstairs storage area, safe from our comings and goings, nice and sheltered, an almost perfect place for a nest; I say “almost” because while daddy and mommy wren had thought about most everything, there was one thing they hadn’t thought about – how were their fledglings going to exit the garage? After all, it takes an experienced wren to locate and fly through a small hole in a window.

When Vickie heard the sound of the baby wrens flying and chirping and investigated she saw the problem – they were flying from wall to wall and from ceiling to floor but they couldn’t get out. No doubt mommy and daddy had tried to show them the way, but to no avail – the brood was too inexperienced to thread a needle or to fly through a small opening.

We opened the garage door, we opened the door into the workshop that was part of the garage building, we pulled the attic stairs down, and then we went wren herding. Vickie caught one of the little birds in her hands and carried it outside and the rest were encouraged to vacate by our making them uncomfortable in the attic – after all, even a bird can only take hearing “shoo-shoo” so many times. From one end of the attic to the other we went until the birds finally found the open stairs and flew down to the next level and then found an open door into the outdoors.

The wren parents meant well, but if we hadn’t realized their babies were trapped in the building they all would have died. Not a pleasant thought.

It’s one thing to protect those we love, it’s another when our desire to protect them traps them.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Climbing Down From A Tree

Climbing trees is something that kids seldom do anymore; there are either no trees to climb, or kids no longer enjoy going where there are trees to climb, or kids no longer want to be outdoors, or perhaps parents no longer allow kids to explore the world of adventure and risk. Many people of my generation have a tree story; a favorite tree they used to climb, a treehouse story, or my special favorite – a tree they climbed that was difficult to descend from. There is nothing quite like climbing a tree, looking down, and experiencing that moment of fright with the question, “Now that I’m here, how will I get down?”

When Vickie was a little girl she climbed a tall pine tree, higher and higher she went – then she stopped and looked down…and froze. She was frightened. But she didn’t want the other children she was playing with to know she was frightened. There she was, frozen to the pine tree as if she had been an icicle in a winter storm with no thaw in sight.

While the children she was playing with didn’t understand Vickie’s fear, a young mother in the neighborhood had been keeping an eye on the kids and she realized what was going on inside the young girl at the top of the tree. The mother’s solution to the problem of Vickie’s fear was not to “talk her down”. Instead, the mother climbed the tree up to where Vickie was, engaged Vickie in conversation, and then said, “Well, let’s climb down now,” and climb down together they did, branch by branch.

It can be lonely when you’ve climbed a tree and don’t know how to get down.

There are times we don’t need people to tell us what to do, we need people to be with us, to walk with us through life’s vicissitudes. We may be at the top of a tree or at the bottom of a well; we don’t need words, we need presence, we need companionship. There are times we don’t need people to tell us the way, we need them to show us the way.

How many times have others climbed a tree to be with me? How many times have people climbed a tree to be with you?

Perhaps more importantly, who is there today who needs me to climb a tree to be with them? Of course, if I’m not paying attention to others the way that young mother was I’ll not notice them.

Can you find someone today to climb up to? Or down to? 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Still Blooming

Our Christmas cactus is still blooming; from before Christmas into Lent it has bloomed.  Pleasure and beauty to enjoy daily. This cactus started out as a little thing, but Vickie's care and nurture over the years has brought it to where it is now.

You don't have to care for an artificial plant, it doesn't need sun or water or TLC. You don't have to touch it, your fingers don't have to get grimy, you don't have to get dirt under your nails.

Friendships need sun and water, and a willingness to get dirty. Relationships usually start small, but oh how they can grow if tended to. They can blossom, they can bloom, and they can be beautiful and give us much joy. But it does take practice, and it takes trial and error, and a willingness to say "I'm sorry" and to keep working on the friendship. Not all plants are the same, not all people are the same.

We have more than just the Christmas cactus in our sun room, but Vickie knows how to treat each one, how much sun, how much water, what nutrients, and when the weather warms up she knows which ones can go outside and which ones will need to remain indoors.

So much today is artificial, including what passes for relationship. It's nice to enjoy the real thing.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Glow in the Dark

My friend George Bowers sent me a devotional book titled, The Wonders of Nature. George, a pastor and former public school teacher, has a number of meditations in this 365-day anthology that was recently published and I am enjoying reading it. As with many publications of this genre, some days are better than others, but I’ve been pleased with the consistency of  its overall content .

On Day 43 I read something that caught my attention, a little gem. I can’t attribute this meditation to a particular author because while the book lists the contributors, it does not indicate who wrote each particular day. There is a message in this, the sum is greater than its parts and we are the Body of Christ – seeing Christ in His Body has a special beauty and attraction; we ought to be looking for Him and not for ourselves.

The verse for Day 43 is, “Even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you,” (Psalm 139:12 NLT).

The author writes, “When darkness invades your soul and you wonder when you’ll see another scrap of light, rest in knowing that the One who created both day and night knows your name…Condition your eyes to see the candle of God’s presence…God’s Word shines bright when we meditate upon it.” [Italics mine].

I’m reminded of Isaiah 60:1-2, “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of Yahweh is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but Yahweh will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.”

As Psalm 119 tells us, the Word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Jesus teaches us that if our eye is single that we will be filled with light. As we meditate on God’s Word we condition our eyes to see God.

When we lived on the Zook Homestead there were no lights between our home and David and Sally’s, so when we visited one another at night we needed a flashlight to lighten our path to and from our homes. We didn’t need a floodlight, we didn’t need a huge lamp, we didn’t need a massive industrial flashlight – a small flashlight was enough to lighten our way, our eyes were conditioned so that a small light was enough, it was sufficient, and it guided us safely home.

When we look at the darkness around us, when we take that darkness into our souls, we lose our sensitivity to light. When the words of man take preeminence over the Word of God our ears become deaf and our spiritual sight becomes faint. When we submit our minds and our wills to the values and priorities of the world our spiritual thinking and understanding becomes dull.

We desperately need the Word of God, we desperately need the presence of God, we desperately need to live in fellowship, communion, koinonia with the Trinity and with one another. The people of our generation need for us to live in the light, the people of our generation need us to, in Christ, be light.

One candle gives light. How much more thousands upon thousands – to the point where they all merge into one Light?

The mediation on Day 43 ends thusly:

“God allows darkness so He can be our light. When we choose to believe [in Him], not only will we see a light in the darkness, we will actually glow in the dark.” [Italics mine].