Occupy Buchmanville

My chickens have become a bit famous at church. Along with a manger scene appearance on Christmas Eve, they produce quite prolifically with the biggest and best brown eggs in the history of eggdom – Caleb thanks all his weekly customers – buy early, buy often! (The price of chicken feed increased $3.00 a bag in one week due to the drought.)

Well, there is a wrinkle in the henhouse right now. One of the hens has decided to stop laying and resort to sitting. In the world of poultry raising, this is called a “broody hen.” The latent natural desire to make a nest and sit on eggs until they hatch takes over the otherwise happy and content coop camper.

But here is the problem – along with no production or work on her part – she spends all of her time finding eggs in other chickens’ nests, claiming them as her own, and sitting on them until forcibly removed. She did not make those eggs, does not own them, has no right to sit on them, but squats there nonetheless. This a case of literally stealing someone else’s nest egg!

I’m calling this fowl activity “Occupy Buchmanville.”  It has many similar features as the other Occupy Movement – squatting, foul/fowl smells, pooping in the place you sleep, trespassing, stealing, arrogance, anger, squawking, and logic the size of a chicken brain. It does little good to evict her; she just waits until I walk away and goes back to occupy the same “spot n’ squat.”

There are some remedies that might work, and perhaps there could be some application for authorities beyond Buchmanville…

1.  I could cut her head off and eat her. This seems a bit like overkill, but would effect a permanent cure for the problem. But my few experiences with animal slaughtering revealed to me that I have little interest in beastly blood and guts. If I had to do such to have meat, well … I’d probably end up vegetarian. Though some authorities might like the human application of this technique, it is probably not especially legal, except maybe in parts of Texas.

2.  The poultry books say to take the broody hen and put her in an uncomfortable and isolated cage by herself, and she’ll soon lose interest in nesting. Well, I don’t readily have that, so, the solution is almost more trouble than the problem. The authorities actually use this technique quite a bit with the Occupy Movement – it is called “jail.”

3.  The poultry books also say that an old-timers solution to this problem is to take the hen and dunk her in a bucket of cold water. Apparently an elevated internal temperature stimulates and continues this problem. I would do this, except the neighbors might see me; and at least one set of them are liberals and may call the SPCA on me (like some church person did a few years ago when I gave a sermon illustration about my goat being tied by a rope … I’m not making this up!).  Actually, the police also use this wet technique with the Occupy Movement – I think the tool they employ is called a “water canon!”

I’m going to give Henrietta a few more days to fix her own problem before making a choice from the list above. But surely you have to agree with me that the similarities between Occupy Buchmanville and the Occupy Movement of other places are quite amazing!

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Low Esteem for Self-Esteem

I have several times recently read or heard stories of the failure of self-esteem ideology to grant people the fulfillment it was initiated to provide. Though none of this research is from a Christian perspective, it certainly squares totally with the teachings of Christ.

The first item to catch my attention was a Wall Street Journal article about “Gray Divorce” – the phenomenon of people over age 50 leaving marriages in record numbers. The divorce rate for people over 50 has doubled in the past two decades … at the same time that rates for the general population are actually slightly falling.

Why is this? The reasons vary, but a part of almost every explanation is some version of a self-fulfillment story. Baby Boomers of the “Me Generation” entered marriage with a different viewpoint from generations before. Not strongly endorsing the long-term values of fulfilling roles of spouse and parent, this generation entered with some high expectations for how the marriage would fulfill personal dreams and aspirations. And now, facing maybe 25-35 years more of life with someone they’ve found to be a personal disappointment, they are bailing out to go make it happen while it still can happen.

A second item that caught my ear was on a radio talk show – where the host was interviewing two secular researchers who found that those people who are religious are indeed far more often happy than those who do not have this life component. The researchers were very clear in saying that the religious people had a different world view – one more focused away from self and rather upon the helping of others and serving God, faith, etc.  For the secular folks, the writers came right out and blamed decades of self-esteem educational ideologies. The fact is that those folks who focus upon their own personal-centric universe are not fulfilled and hence carry a higher load of sadness and disappointment.

This should not surprise the biblically literate person, as we are able to know what Christ taught about the human condition – that life is not about us and our fulfillment, but about knowing Him and finding our pleasure in His service. Fulfillment is not a product; it is a by-product of something much bigger. Jesus said, For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

Marriage, Scripture, the State, and the Church – Complicated!

Last week the Maryland Legislature narrowly passed a bill allowing for same-sex marriage, and the Governor has signed it, as expected. This is not a subject about which the Scriptures can somehow legitimately be twisted to authorize. An appeal to referendum process will be pursued with this, though the pressures for legalizing such marital status is felt everywhere in the country. The increasingly secularized culture may provide for same-sex marriage proponents the weight of opinion in their favor, and thereby eventually prevail everywhere.

This is not the only issue that raises conundrums within the institution of the evangelical church. In my pastors’ email loop this week, a question was raised (too complicated to detail here) that certainly did not have an immediate easy answer. The scope of the question involved what is the nature of marriage:  A. in the eyes of the state, versus B. in the eyes of God.

Currently, when we (as a church) do a marriage, we are doing so for both a spiritual connection in the eyes of God, while also performing a civil ceremony in the eyes of the state. I believe that multiple pressures and difficulties are arising that in some fashion, these duties are going to be separate events at some juncture. I don’t know what that will look like exactly; nor do I know that it answers any and all questions. I would like to believe that it puts us in a better place. I have long said that we need an entirely new paradigm of the “Christian Wedding.”

None of this is as easy as it was some decades ago. I know that I now do ceremonies on occasion that I would have refused to do 30 years ago … now reasoning that working with people, who are going to get married whether I’m involved or not, gives me at least some opportunity to have a biblically-based impact in a transitional moment of their lives. I cannot say I’ve always been sure that God was pleased with me; though I don’t just want to be the guy who takes the easy way out and just says “no” to anything short of ideal (yet I would not facilitate for anyone who is writing off God and not stating their desire to follow Him).

I’m looking forward to the annual pastors’ gathering of E-Free guys that I go to each Spring. I believe this will be one of the top discussion items, as it has attracted the attention and thought processes of our denominational leaders – who were also weighing in with their thoughts on our loop.

I am amazed at how in the lifespan of one person (ME!), ministry has gotten much more complicated!

Already a Book on Jeremy Lin

I know I am a freak. After years of educational demands with its written requirements, along with decades of writing sermons and other church materials, I can cover page after page with text in a rather short time. That is how I feed three blogs along with everything else.

Chris Wiles makes me look like Charlie Brown hunched over a pre-electricity typewriter. I’ve never met anyone personally who can throw so much information together onto a screen or page quite so quickly. Not long ago, Chris had a short deadline and whipped off a commentary on Ephesians (or something like that) for an African Pastors digital training library … and did it all in a matter of days with little sleep.

But I might have heard of a “rapid-write” match for Chris in the person of a fellow who wrote  a book on basketball sensation Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks. If you don’t know the story of Lin, just look back in the blog about 4-5 posts and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The book is entitled “Linsanity: The Improbable Rise of Jeremy Lin.”  The author did the research (all online with quotes of Lin, family, and others who know him) and wrote it in its entirety in 72 hours. From idea to final marketable product, it was less than one week!

As books go, it is fairly short – about 15,000 words, and is available as an e-book. But still, having a book out this fast is linsanity! It only took a linstant to do, and I’m sure it is linteresting and full of linformation! I confess it is all rather lingenius! And my relative lack of writing speed makes me feel linept, and I’m lindecisive if it is something I’d ever like to linaugurate!

By the way, you can download the book onto your Lindle reader.

What Hath Technology Wrought?

My father was born in 1908 and died in 1995. He lived to see incredible changes in the world during the span of his life. Growing up on a farm, he worked hard even as a child with milking cows by hand at 5:00 in the morning, and with shelling lima beans for the vegetable route his father ran to the nearby town of Phillipsburg, NJ. Dad remembers the day when, resting the horses on a farm lane, all sorts of whistles sounded in the nearby town at the same time – signaling the end of World War 1.  Dad attended a one-room schoolhouse, saw the beginnings of indoor plumbing and rural electrification, the advent of the automobile, advances in radio and television, the space program, and the beginnings of the computer age.

My own lifespan has seen incredible change, though it seems to me they pale relative to dad’s experience. Ancient times in my memory are of simple black and white TV and a telephone that was on a “party line.”  The most dramatic changes that have affected me are the computer age innovations in varied communications devises, along with the huge changes in the way church ministry is done – especially in the area of music. Of the latter, all my training was done in a classical background of choral and orchestral study – assuming that music would always be this way in church … oh my!

But ultimately it is the computer that has most changed the way I do life. I look back now at my college and graduate school years and cannot imagine how I did nine consecutive years of education after high school without anything more advanced than an electric typewriter!  Given the literal hours upon hours of every day that I now work on a computer, I hardly remember life without such! What in the world did I do with my time? I probably watched more television – though I’ve never ever watched too much compared to most folks. I guess I spent a lot of time playing with the boys when they were little … though I remember in those early ministry years I had few nights at home – was always going to a meeting, making visits, or leading discipleship groups. I have horrible memories of the kids crying when I would leave the dinner table to rush off to do some church thing … again!

Now, if I walk out of the house and forget my phone, I feel completely lost and disconnected from the world – fearing there are a dozen things going on that I’m unaware of, but should be hearing about. This condition has a name – nomo phobia – the fear of being disconnected without a working cell phone.

And God forbid the computer goes down on me! I am honestly not sure I could function again in a world without this connectivity and this tool. My cabinet files, however, are still filled with hundreds of pages of handwritten study notes and sermons from my earlier life.

I am a member of the Hagerstown Rotary Club. As such, I get a monthly Rotarian Magazine. There was an article in the last issue that really spiked my interest. It is called “Tech Savants: Five thing you need to know about the gadget generation” by a Patty Lamberti – a professor of journalism at a Midwestern University. She says of the young adult generation:

1.  They are blind to technology etiquette.  By this, she means that this generation cannot resist continually fussing with their devices – even during class or at other inappropriate times. This they do without much thought – evidencing a narcissistic culture where it is all about how what is wanted will be pursued – NOW.

2.  Multitasking is hurting their brains. They cannot stop themselves from doing several tech things at a time, and even scientific research has shown that students who spend lots of time online have less gray matter in their brains.

3.  They dislike conversing face to face.  The writer spoke about how quiet it is in her room before and after class – that few students are conversing, but are rather working with their devices. Many of this generation don’t want to get into a lot of personal conversations, because it may take too long and be annoying. Tweeting, texting, and posting gives them a better control.

4.  Their only news comes from Facebook.  The professor wrote that 99.5% of her students had FB accounts, but only about 10% read newspapers or followed this news beyond FB postings of friends – and most of that was pop culture.

5.  Life without technology leaves them depressed and anxious.  The professor challenged the students to a project also employed by other researchers – to go 48 hours without technology, and then write about the experience. The most common words used to describe the time: lonely and depressed.

Her final line is that perhaps over time for this generation, “they will learn to rule technology and not let it rule them.”

The modern technological world presents wonderful tools for all of us … and especially for those of us involved in ministry. But there are challenges with it. The article reminded me of some of the difficulty we have even found as a church in getting our young adult generation to spend time together in group activity. The fact is that God did not wire us to be successful without intimate relationships with others, and ultimately with Him. Sooner or later, this need has to prevail.

I don’t want to go back to the pre-technology world. I have made a renewed commitment to keep up with new technology “to the end” … which is why you’ll see me around church carrying and oft speaking from a computer tablet. But, these things are tools and the accoutrements of a passing and dying material world. Let’s remember that.

The Basketball Tebow

If you’ve not had it come to your attention yet, there is a new Tebow-like sports sensation in the NBA on the NY Knicks – a Taiwanese/Californian young man named Jeremy Lin, who is a Harvard grad.  Harvard? The NBA??  Yep, and though he is playing for his 3rd team this season, he is on fire and has led the formerly hapless team to six consecutive victories.

Almost overnight, Jeremy Lin has become a sensation for Chinese-Americans, and even more to those back home where he is dominating the news.

But here is another angle: he is also a committed Christian. He’s not wearing it quiet as publically as Tim Tebow, but neither is it being hidden under a bushel basket. In an interview in recent days he said, “There is so much temptation to hold on to my career even more now … to try to micromanage and dictate every little aspect. But that’s not how I want to do things anymore. I’m thinking about how can I trust God more. How can I surrender more? How can I bring him more glory? It’s a fight. But it’s one I’m going to keep fighting.”

Wow! Tebow in football, Lin in basketball … so who will it be in baseball? Lord, I’m willing to volunteer for that!  Maybe I’ll finally get that call from the Orioles scout who told me after he saw me pitch in 1975 that he was going to be in contact!

Success Does Not Equal Happiness and Satisfaction

Whitney Houston has died at age 48. I am sad – not because I’m a follower of pop stars and pop culture, for indeed, I am about the most ignorant person on the planet in that regard. No, Whitney Houston was a great, great singer … what a voice.

The passion in her vocals was deeply rooted in the wonderful musical heritage of the Black church. She could sell a song, and look good doing it too.

So many of us, when thinking of her music, remember first the performance of the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXV in 1991. It has been recorded and sold over and over, and is to this day played at many sporting events. Just awesome – a fabulous orchestration, and one of the most highly acclaimed renditions and recordings of all time.

Being ignorant of pop culture and the comings and goings of the “stars,” I was not aware until the current news of her passing that she struggling with substance abuse. That is hardly a shocker in her world. And why does it seem that these fabulously popular and wealthy stars often end up dying alone in a hotel?

It seems to me that so many of these folks have indeed two very divergent worlds – a popular one with all the glamour and lights, but a dark one of loneliness, doubt and despair.

There is no secret where this post is going. That lack of surprise supports the overarching thought – there is no satisfaction in life apart from a vital connection to Christ. Happiness is illusive – even for the Christian; but contentment born of eternal perspective is the common experience of a genuine faith connection.