April 18, 2016

Just a brief forward.  I realize the issue I am about to address is complicated and represents centuries of history.  And I know it is fraught with emotion which makes it difficult for us to see our way ahead.  So don’t fuss at me about my brevity here.  I know… okay.

I just learned something today about women and weddings.  I mean… I don’t know how many weddings I have done in 32 years, but for sure my fair share.  And it’s not that I think I know everything.  There are absolutely parts of the whole “women/wedding world” that are a mystery to me.  So, with that in mind, Ellen was on the internet a few days ago and I happened to walk past.  She was looking at dresses and preparing to purchase one.  She is not a big “shopper” so I asked what she was up to.  She said that she was “tired of the old dress she had that she always wore to weddings and wanted to get a new one.”  I asked what I thought was a perfectly reasonable question, “Don’t you have two dresses that you wore to our kids’ weddings last year?”  (And honestly I’m not even sure why she has TWO.)  Okay… now here comes the lesson.  She looked at me like I was insane and said, “You never do that!”  “Oh,” Mr. Naïve responded.  “How come?”  Once again the crazy look.  I mean it all seemed so self-evident to her and yet to me, uh… a dress is a dress is a dress.  She went on to explain that a wedding is not just the bride and groom’s day but it also has something to do with what the mothers wear, i.e., NO ONE attending the wedding (did I mention “NO ONE”) should compete with either of the mothers on who has the nicer dress!  I mean some mothers I’m told go so far as to communicate with each other on what they are going to wear so they don’t… I don’t know… Clash?  I wonder if any mom has ever had this thought about the other mother:  “Her dress isn’t nearly as nice as mine!”  Or, “Her dress is amazing… she just wants to make me look bad.  I don’t think I like her.”  Um… NAH!  No one would ever think that, right?

This might be hard to believe but men don’t tend to… um… you know… think that way.  (Some might say we don’t think at all but that’s a topic for another rumination).  In actuality, we are pretty baffled and clueless about most of these things.  Let me say that a little more clearly… WE COULDN’T, FOR THE MOST PART, CARE LESS ABOUT THIS STUFF.  Actually to the point where many fathers at weddings wear THE SAME THING as the groom.  THE SAME THING… get it?  Well, okay maybe a different colored flower that we don’t especially want in the first place.  Tools we might want but not flowers.  I might even start a new fad.  Dads can carry screw drivers and cordless drills down the aisle.  Maybe even a spare battery.  What the heck let’s wear leather tool belts.  We would be much happier.

Yep, yinz women are WAY different than us guys.  And that’s what this rumination is about.  I know!  It seems like that should be self-evident, but in this day and age of “equality and gender confusion,” when some in our culture think we are all the same or should be the same, well, it’s apparently not as clear as one might think.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am very much of the opinion that women should be paid the same as men for equal work; women should have as much to say about the direction of our world as men should have, etc.  Those things really seem like no brainers, thus the lack of gray matter for those who might not agree.  But let’s be clear…WE ARE NOT THE SAME!  We were not created the same, nor were we formed to think and feel the same.  One of the great mistakes made by the feminist movement was to try and create women in the image of men rather than to glorify, honor and elevate the uniqueness of women.  Truth be told, there are MANY things that women in their “differentness” can do WAY better than men and I don’t mean being barefoot in the kitchen!  For example they are much more intuitive than men when it comes to relational matters.  Women are better communicators.  Women as a whole are better nurturers.  But when the very awkward and heavy communion table in our church needs to be lifted and placed back up on the chancel, no one calls any women to do it.

There is a small movement in our country called “single sex education.”  It’s a group of people who figured out what many private schools discovered years ago (and have since gone away from).  Boys and girls learn differently, so teach them separately.  Predictably this method is condemned by the ACLU, feminist groups and many liberals.  Why?  Because you have to recognize that boys and girls are unique genders and these groups, for the most part, abhor that thought!  Interestingly school districts that have gone to some form of this type of education have in many cases seen dramatic up swings in test scores.  Huh… go figure.

Regardless of how one might approach the creation account and the Adam and Eve story in scripture (allegorically, literally…), we can hardly deny that men and women are represented as being created as distinct unique characters.  The punishment for their sin alone is dramatically different.  Look at Genesis 3.

Our culture would be much better off (in my humble opinion) if we recognized and celebrated the uniqueness of men and women and set them up to use their gifts and abilities.  Rather than the current attempt to create a phony, genderless, mass of confused humanity who can’t figure out who or what they are supposed to be.


Family Values

April 13, 2016

One of the many things that occur when two people get married is the merging of family traditions, values, mores…  I don’t know how long it takes to figure it out.  It probably depends on the couple and how adaptable they are and how diverse their families are, but I can assure you it doesn’t happen overnight.  Nor does it happen in a matter of months or even years.  Just when you think you “have it” and you’ve got some notion that the two of you are on the same page… for some, kids come along.  Very quickly you realize there is much more to be worked out, learned, negotiated and argued over.  If you hadn’t discovered it before, you rapidly realize how different your parents were regarding their rules and expectations.

A few simple examples:

Making dinner.  If Ellen’s mother was making dinner and there were 3 people, she made 3 pork chops.  If there were 5 people she made 5 pork chops.  When my mother made dinner and there were 3 people she made enough for the neighborhood.  If there were 5 people she made enough for the neighborhood.  If the neighborhood was there she made enough for an army.  To this day Ellen tends to underestimate quantities of food necessary for events and I overestimate.  Just a little aside… Ellen’s mother had a recipe for how many potatoes to put in potato salad.  “1 potato for each normal person and 5 for Bill.”  😉

At the dinner table:  When my family sat for dinner it was understood that you were to eat everything on your plate, including peas, brussel sprouts, broccoli and other disgusting things.  But my dad had one additional rule.  We had to eat within the time limit he gave.  If not he would pile more revolting food on our plates.  I have very clear memories of crying my heart out as my dad was heaping additional peas in front of me.  Let me add that there was no feeding it to the dog under the table or filling our mouths and going to the bathroom.  That might explain my girth.  Just sayin.  Ellen’s family on the other hand had a similar rule about finishing what was on your plate but each of the kids was allowed to opt out of one food from the family menu.  Ellen’s was pizza.  Back then it was that awful Chef-Boy-R-Dee in a box stuff.  The worst pizza EVER!  Another aside:  I have been intrigued over the years to hear from a number of people of my parents’ generation who have said they were not allowed to speak at the dinner table when they were children.  I guess the idea was that Dad had come home from work after a long day and he didn’t want to hear a bunch of kids.  Or it was some respect thing.  I don’t really know.

Expectations:  We learned rapidly in our marriage that “expectations” caused most of our problems.  You’re going to think that all I do is contemplate food… and you wouldn’t be completely wrong but…  In our first year of marriage Ellen… um… shall I say… uh… she couldn’t cook toast.  So I was often either helping her in the kitchen make something out of a disaster she had wrought… or I was just making dinner myself.  I was sure that was pretty special and I thought she should have appreciated and recognized it as such.  After all, my dad might have starved if he had to turn the stove on.  (That being said he could have taken it apart and rebuilt it.  But cooking on it was out of the question.)  What I didn’t know was that Ellen’s father cooked her and her siblings’ breakfast many days before they went to school.  Get it?  My expectation for men cooking was that it was unusual and special.  But for her it was only part of her everyday life.  Thus I didn’t get the affirmation and appreciation I thought I was due.

It would not take me long to list dozens of dissimilarities between her family and mine.  Given some time I could probably come up with hundreds.  None of these things are “right or wrong” they are just “different.”  And yet we tend to treat folks as if their way of doing things is “wrong” particularly if their ways are different from ours.  Okay, no doubt some things are “wrong” but it behooves us to figure out when things are “wrong” versus when they are just “different.”  I suspect that disparity explains some of the tensions in our culture.   You know what I mean?  Some people (me) think abortion is “wrong” and not God’s intention.  I think someone ought to speak on behalf of unborn children who cannot speak for themselves.  Others think a woman’s right to her own body trumps a child in her womb.  Thus “tension and discord.”

What we have tried to do in our culture is worship the “god of tolerance,” thus we think we can live in diversity with little conflict.  Um…. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha….  Oh that was a good one… let me catch my breath.  I sort of got myself there.  Honestly, we live in conflict because we are broken human beings.  ALL OF US.  Not because we can’t agree on some things.  Utopia is a pipe dream.  We have enough history to affirm that.

It would be an interesting exercise to go through our list of “values” and determine which of them are “right and wrong” as we see them versus which of them are “different.”  Of course it takes a certain amount of courage to do that.  After all we might find ourselves challenged regarding long standing beliefs.  And of course we might ponder why we believe the things we do and affirm them.


Oh wait… was I supposed to say something “religious?”  Hmmmmmmmmm…  Okay, read Leviticus 2:12-16:

12 “‘If your offering is a goat, you are to present it before the Lord, 13 lay your hand on its head and slaughter it in front of the tent of meeting. Then Aaron’s sons shall splash its blood against the sides of the altar. 14 From what you offer you are to present this food offering to the Lord: the internal organs and all the fat that is connected to them, 15 both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which you will remove with the kidneys. 16 The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering, a pleasing aroma. All the fat is the Lord’s.

Um…. Uh…. Yeah.

Have a blessed day!

Clothed for church

April 6, 2016

Ellen and I were married on February 15, 1975.  I was in the military and came home three days before the wedding.  As you can imagine there was much to do in those few days.  Because I had been 5000 miles away I played a very small part in preparing for the festivities.  One of the responsibilities Ellen and I took on was to go pick her sister Nancy up from college in Wooster, OH a couple of days before the wedding.  I recall two events from that trip.  First, I was not very experienced at driving so looking occasionally at the gas gauge was not a discipline I had mastered yet.  Yep… right outside of Wooster we drifted to the side of the road.  I have no recollection of how we got gas, but eventually we got going again.  When we finally got to Nancy’s dorm we asked where we could go to get something to eat.  She only knew two places.  One was McDonalds and the second was a place called “The Wooster Inn.”  None of us were up for (or shall I say “down” for) McDonalds, so we decided to give the Inn a go.  I was dressed in blue jeans and a t-shirt.  I don’t think Ellen or Nancy were much fancier.  We should have had some sort of a clue when we drove up to the large stone edifice and saw women wrapped in dead animals being dropped off at the front door from Mercedes and Cadillacs.  It took only a moment’s observation once inside (and a few stares) to realize we were woefully underdressed.  But being young I would have been too embarrassed to walk out.  One might wonder why I wasn’t too embarrassed to stay there!  I know.  I don’t get it either.

This raises the issue of “dress.”  Can we agree that dress in any circumstance is 100% cultural?  I mean whatever standard you use for whatever situation you are in regarding dress is totally dictated by the current culture.  Right?  I had a conversation with someone recently who works in Wooster.  I mentioned the story above.  Know what she said?  “Oh, well, the Wooster Inn isn’t like that anymore.  You can wear most anything.”  No doubt some will respond with a “what a shame.”  Yeah, maybe so, but it is what it has become so wishing and pining for yesteryear doesn’t change reality.

This conversation makes me think of one of THE most shallow issues in The Church, i.e., what people wear.  Seriously?!  You know what I mean don’t you.  There are some who would argue that we ought to be dressed to go to the Wooster Inn in 1975 when we go to church.  “We ought to wear our very best for God.”  Um… show me that in the Bible.  I have a tux in my closet.  Why are we not advocating for that, along with ball gowns?  Aren’t they our “very best?”  I suspect what we really mean is this, “Everybody ought to wear what I deem to be appropriate on Sunday mornings.”  And what I deem to be appropriate has something to do with the culture in which I grew up.  And even that doesn’t apply much any longer.  I don’t recall one woman with a hat (bonnet) this past Easter… not to mentioned white gloves or corsages.  Know what I mean?

Listen… I’m not saying that we ought to dig up the sewer in our front yard early Sunday morning and then take a break to attend church in the same clothes.  However, the N.T. is filled with examples of people coming to Jesus with less than stellar resumes and all He did was love them.  Blind people, “crippled” people, lepers, prostitutes, misguided religious leaders… Jesus welcomed them all into his presence.  I don’t recall one example of him fussing about what they were wearing.

Honestly… this clothing debacle comes across as simply arrogant rich people, i.e., “dress up to my standard or get the heck out of here.”  I know, I know… YOU are not rich.  Let me dispel that.  If you live in the USA, you/we are RICH.  As a matter of fact you/we are likely in the top 2% of wealth in the world.

Let’s remember something… the church is not your house (or mine).  You can have any standards you want in the place you live.  The Church is God’s house.  He sets the rules.  He sets the standards.  It seems pretty clear that God is much more concerned with what is inside of you than what is outside of you.  And that’s really the point of all of this.  Frankly the “clothing” issue is not what it once was but our focus on outward things still runs hot and heavy.

Read and meditate on these words of Jesus found in Matthew 15.

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips (clothing?),     but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;     their teachings are merely human rules.

Our Faith is not about our outward behavior or our human rules… it’s about our hearts.  If our hearts are critical and hateful, then it seems to matter little to God what kind of clothes we wear or what we claim about our beliefs.  Let us pray that God radically changes our hearts, not our clothes or the clothes of those around us.