Monday, November 30, 2009

In the Contemplation of Life and Twinkies

I get amazingly varied comments when I tell people that I like Twinkies, especially frozen Twinkies. My wife refuses to buy them for me, my friends and neighbors shun me, and my doctor beats me up. Today, when I bought my two boxes, the grocery store checkout asked me how many kids I had. I smiled to tell her when I noticed that it was the Twinkies that prompted her to ask the question. She assumed I had kids whom I was buying the Twinkies for. When I said they were for me she could barely contain her surprise and confusion. There are a few situations in my life where it would be much easier to explain myself if I had a toddler running around at my knees: going to a G-rated cartoon movie; playing with Lego's, and buying Twinkies. For some reason each of these seem inappropriate or even creepy unless there is a kid around.

Let me attempt to explain Twinkies to you: they are shallow and simple and a welcome vacation from the opposite. Some days I am studying "Advanced Thought Particles" and the History of Ancient Chinese Philosophy and how it compares to the writings of the Jewish thinker Maimonedes in the 13th century. Some days I am dealing with near death hospital experiences, surgeries, and communication issues that could destroy marriages and relationships with grown children and their parents. Sometimes I am making decisions that cost jobs, change work flow, start or kill new businesses, and investing tens of thousands of dollars in one direction or another. And sometimes I just eat a Twinkie.

To me, Twinkies are like a mini Harley-Davidson motorcycle; they are rebellious. Every time I get the sugar rush from the "cream-filled sponge cake" I am making a statement of defiance, of standing against "The Man!" Twinkies are a dirty, delicious secret that won't destroy my marriage, won't kill me financially, and I can't find a "Thou shalt not partake of cream-filled sponge cake" in the Bible anywhere.

So as I pull the clear wrapper off my Twinkie let me give you some Twinkisms (A Twinkism is a shallow and simple contemplation of life while chewing an authentic Hostess Twinkie).

- Shouldn't Allstate change its name if its disclaimer states "not available in all States"?
- If pro is the opposite of con, then shouldn't the opposite of progress be congress?
- If a kid refuses to take a nap can he be charged with resisting a rest?
- How did Tonto feel when his partner was called the Lone Ranger?
- If ghosts can walk through walls why don't they fall through floors?
- How fast do hotcakes sell, really?
- Do Chinese people have tattoos in English?
- Is there an interstate highway in Hawaii?

Boy that was good, sugar rush coming, and time to get back to real life. Enjoy it.

What do you Remember?

I remember a new Kodak camera for Christmas. Not me, my parents, got the new instant Kodak. It had those huge cartridges that you would put in them and most of all it had a onetime use bulb flash. I used to love looking at the used bulbs that has some crazy white substance around them like some barnacle clinging to the blackened glass. But I most remember being BLINDED by the bulb to the point where the second picture was of all of us cringing with the anticipated solar flare that was about to erupt in our corneas. "Don't blink" mom would say. Right.

But memories are kind of like that flash bulb in our minds. Depending on your age you remember when the flash bulb seared these things into your memory. You remember where you were and what you were doing when Kennedy was killed, when Reagan was shot, when the Challenger blew up and 9/11. Those events are like extreme flash bulbs searing them into your permanent memory.

On a lesser scare, a lesser wattage maybe, we also remember things that surprise us. We remember things that flash past the normal, mundane, and ordinary of life and surprise us with delight, disgust, or simple poetic humor. We remember the funny TV commercials, the daring billboards, and the extreme crimes. The thing about them that makes them funny, daring, or extreme is the light bulb that imprints it in our minds.

Other events are connected with songs to the point where EVERY TIME you hear that song you remember where you were and what you were doing when that flash bulb was lit. Songs will give pleasant memories (a love song playing during your first kiss or dance) or they will give unpleasant memories (organ music brings up stuff uncomfortable church services). I have a song that, every time I hear it, causes a nausea in me that I cannot explain or remember.

You remember those flash points embedded in the silver-nitrate of your brain. If you want to make something memorable? Surprise me, delight me, or even disgust me and I, you, we will remember it. It works in advertising, in speeches and sermons, in writing, and most of all in your daily lives. As we approach the holidays and family times I hope you pull out your Kodak and blind all your relatives with a surprise and delight that will never fade.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Butt Dust

"Dear Lord," the minister began with his arms extended towards heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face. "Without your Spirit we are but dust ..." He would have continued but at that time a young girl leaned over to her mom and in a shrill 4-year-old voice asked, "Mom, what is BUTT DUST?"

I remember NOTHING of what my pastor said growing up and going to church each week. But I do remember the cadence of his voice and was always amazed that I could tell right when he was going to say "amen" at the end of his sermon because that is when I would have to wake up from my seated nap. If I didn't time it right I would get a poke from my mother, snickers from my brothers, or a leg pinch from my father.

As kids we don't understand all that is going on at church. We don't understand why we have to go to this boring and senseless exercise. We moan about the hard seats, the uncomfortable clothes, the lack of entertainment, and the scary people there. So many of my generation decided that they should give their kids an option of going to church or not. After all, they don't understand it and when they are older THEN they can make the choice to go to church or not. Some churches decided to make church more entertaining for the kids, more lively music and even comedy full of videos of movies and dramatic plays and puppetry. Now I don't believe there is anything wrong with worship and church at the level that kids can understand it. I don't believe church should be boring. Yet ... yet:

- There is something to be said about church NOT appealing to everyone at every time because that tends to water down the message.
- There is something to be said about children learning the discipline of sitting quietly and respectfully even when they don't understand what is going on.
- There is something to be said about realizing that church is not here to entertain you or even to make you feel good.
- There is something to be said about a certain kind of osmosis that takes place in the life of children who sit in a church service or two every Sunday of their lives.

That osmosis happened to me whether I knew it or not. I don't remember a word of any sermon but I do remember the spirit of the people, the desire of the people, and the discipline and joy people found in church. I remember that and I miss that when I am not a part of a fellowship of believers.

The pews have a purpose greater than butt dust.

Monday, November 09, 2009

THE Truth vs. A Truth. Part VI

I never intended to do a sixth part to this series on THE truth vs A truth but because of the crazy amazing responses I have been getting to the first five parts I have HAD to follow up.

I have been getting beat up by both sides of the issue. I have been getting emails from one side saying that there is no such thing as THE truth and my search for it is impossible because it is a moving target that can never be pinned down. This side tells me that A truth is also relative to the times. What is true now will not be true tomorrow so even truisms are fleeting. From the other side I have been getting emails telling me that I am making THE truth relative and that I am demoting and denigrating truth to a series of truisms at the expense of ultimate truth.

The truth is (pun intended) I am doing neither. It is my habit of teaching to let you struggle with issues all the while defining the terms so that the answers become clear to you. I am convinced that many of our problems and prejudices would be solved if we simple defined our words better. Once we know the definitions of the words we are fighting over we can then move onto a good debate. So here are my terms:

THE truth: is the complete picture, known only to God himself. You can legitimately say that God IS truth since only he knows it. For those who don't believe in God this is proof that there must be a God unless you live in an endless see of relativistic mush.

A truth: is a small part of the grand picture of THE truth. It is a truism or something that will reliably happen every time the same conditions occur.

Relative: is what things are when you can never rely on the outcome even when conditions are the same. If everything was relative then there would be no truth at all: no ULTIMATE truth nor truisms.

So let me quit beating around the bush. THE truth is only known or found in God himself. If you don't believe in God then you CANNOT believe in an Ultimate truth; it would be making a contradictory oxymoronic statement. There are many truisms out there all of which add up to a fuzzy picture of who or what God is; for after all "we see through a glass darkly." Truth is NOT relative it is just unknown, or not known well. THE truth being found in God is not true simply because Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life" that was not the context of Jesus' statement nor does the Greek support a definite article in front of the noun (it is NOT "I am THE way, THE truth, and THE light). I KNOW that God is but I am FAR from knowing WHO God is.

And that's A truth.

Monday, November 02, 2009

THE Truth vs. A Truth. Part V

Here's THE thing ...

An American 30 something had it all. He was surrounded by friends of similar wealth who went with him to the gym and then to their favorite health food hang out to talk over the latest trends in politics and share clips on their iPhones of John Stewart and Stewie. Rarely will religion come up but when it does it is relegated to prejudicial comments about intolerance for gay marriage or the hypocrisy of their parent's divorce. This particular 30 something had been getting some strange vibes about something deeper and spiritual. It started when he attended the funeral of his grandparents. They had been married for 69 years: he couldn't even imagine that! They had died within days of each other: something spooky about that! The funeral and reception afterward had been a celebration: THAT was the last thing he expected. It was NOT a celebration of their long life but a celebration of where they are now AFTER they died: THAT seemed crazy to him!

Now, when he and his friends talked about their sexual exploits and business acumen, it seemed somehow shallow. His internet company had gone viral in the market and now people paid to read his blogs and thousands followed his tweets. He had all he ever wanted in life: money, looks, girls, friends, and acclaim. So why did it feel like he was just swimming in the shallow end? Why did it feel like all he had was paper thin?

While checking his blog hits one day he came across a youtube clip of a preacher. He didn't remember what he said so much as he remembered that it seemed he looked right at him while he said it. He showed it to one of his friends as they sat down with their fruit smoothies and he watched it. The friend said, "Yea, that's just the same love and sacrifice BS you hear from those guys all the time. I bet he's got GoogleAds attached to make money off it doesn't he?" The American 30 something said "His site says he's going to be in town next week. I think I'm going to go see him." While his friends gather around the brightly colored round table with his the poked fun but 4 or 5 agreed to go with him: "It might be an experience. If nothing else we'll get a good video clip out of it for our facebook page."

The day came and the American 30 something, with his entourage of friends, saw the preacher. They laughed and joked while buried in the crowd of tear-filled followers but the American 30 something made his way to the front. After, while the singing was still going on, he walked to the security for the venue and found he knew one of the guys. He let him and his entourage through to see the preacher and they made it back stage.

The American 30 something came to the preacher and waited for him to look his way. When he did the American 30 something asked, "What good things should I do?" The preacher looked at him with his piercing eyes and asked in return, "Why do you ask me about what is good? If you want to REALLY live then do the RIGHT thing." "But what IS the right thing?" The preacher smiled "You know what the right thing is: LOVE people, don't kill them, abuse them, lie to them, or take advantage of them." The American 30 something said, "But I have done this and I still feel there is something more that I must do, some deeper truth?"

Now the preacher realized this wasn't the average American 30 something so he dropped everything, took the American 30 something by the shoulders and looked right into his eyes. "There is one thing that you lack: give up your current lifestyle and be my protégé. Follow me, do what I do, live like I live, and preach what I preach."

What did he do? What would you do? The story behind the allegory in scripture tells us the Judean 30 something walked away sad, because of his great wealth. What does this have to do with the truth? I find in all my cogitation on truth that it is THERE RIGHT IN FRONT OF US! Yet, like high-chair clad children we cover our own eyes and say "I can't see you, I can't see you!" We are afraid of the truth and attempt to mystify, denigrate, marginalize, and ignore it until truth has no meaning. With no meaning truth has no hold on our wealthy, selfish lives.

Here's the thing. Find A truth and hang onto it. Use it to find another truth and use those two to find the third and fourth. Before long you will get a clearer and clearer picture of THE truth. Don't be afraid of what others say or do. Here is A truth to start out with: God is. See where that takes you.