Archive | September 2012

Character Wrinkles

Confession time. I used to iron my jeans.

I blame my Dad. He used to iron everything, including his socks. I can still see him standing behind an old ironing board, steaming a crease into his blue jeans.

Once I asked him, “Dad, why are you ironing your underwear?” Without hesitation, he said, “Because you never know what might happen. You could get into an accident and end up in the hospital. They may have to remove your clothes.”

So I started ironing, not my underwear, but most everything else. I don’t do it as often anymore. In recent years, I have mastered the art of tossing clothes in the dryer for five minutes—convenient and cuddly warm.

But the other day I needed a button-down for church, so I pulled out the ironing board. As I started on the shirt, I thought, “I don’t need to iron the whole thing, just the parts that will be visible underneath the blazer.”

It was early. I was tired, and kind of in a hurry. Fortunately, I realized how lazy I was being and continued. My logic was flawed. Sure, the blazer was neatly pressed and covered the shirt; no one would see more than a few inches below the collar.

But what if I got hot and decided to remove the blazer, forgetting about the wrinkled mess?

A thought struck me. You can learn a lot about character from ironing.

Read More…

Evangelical Vegans

I’m not sure how it started, but all my friends are going vegan.

Pretty soon, I’ll be the only meat-eater left in the bunch. The others are laying down their burgers and fries in pursuit of quinoa salads. I’m not entirely sure what that is, but I’m proud of them.

I really am. It requires a great deal of commitment to live that way. A vegan can’t just go to any restaurant and point at a picture on the menu, not with all the meat, dairy, processed food, and added sugar. This means custom food orders or cooking at home. It means washing and preparing real food instead of cutting open a bag or popping something in the microwave.

But it also means better health. Eating organic whole foods and vegetables has proven to promote weight loss and prevent and reverse disease.

Still, I have yet to convert. It’s not that I haven’t considered it.

I’ve seen Forks Over Knives, a documentary on the tragic effects of our Western diet and the benefits of going vegan. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. The research is compelling. The point from the film that rattled me is that humans are the only mammals that consume another mammal’s secretion (milk). Yikes.

When I heard that I thought, “Well, no more dairy for me.” And then I had a bowl of ice cream.

But, there is still hope. I feel like first century king, Agrippa in his response to the conversion attempts of the Apostle Paul:

Almost thou persuadest me to be a vegan.

Or something like that. Don’t give up on me guys. I may come around. Read More…

Don’t waste the last hour.

Life is short. Really short. Even if a person lives to see 100 years, he or she will only have flirted with time on this spinning ball of crust and iron.

We don’t believe this as kids. The message is drowned out by the sound of swirling hormones and daydreams of the future. Death is something that happens later. Much later. For now, we focus on graduation, and love and marriage, and a house, and car insurance.

But, as you read this line, you are closer to death than you were when you clicked the link that brought you here. There you sit, exhaling breath that will never return. Skin cells flake from your body and begin to settle into the carpet. Seconds melt from the clock like a Salvador Dali painting.

You get the point.

These are the thoughts that only show up after a funeral. Last night, I attended the “going home” service of an incredible woman. Vicki Leininger—Aunt Vic as I knew her—was awesome. Tender, but tough when it mattered. She could sing your heart out of your chest. And she led me to believe I wasn’t half bad myself.

But that was how she lived, always encouraging, choosing to see the best in people. As I sat in the packed sanctuary, I considered the impact she had on every person in the room.

She didn’t waste her life.

I have to be honest. I was there to honor Aunt Vic, but I spent a great deal of time thinking about myself. I looked around at the crowd, young and old, some with teary eyes, and many with smiles on their faces, and thought about the impact of one life. Read More…

We need to talk about your neighbors.

My neighbors are pigs. I should say, my neighbors own pigs. Five of them.

I’ll never forget when they first moved in. My wife and I were headed somewhere, and when we stepped out of the house, this guy was blocking our way to the car.

At the time we thought he was alone. We were shocked to learn he was only one of five, and that they lived inside the house.

Talk about pigs in a blanket! (See what I did there?)

Things quickly became awkward. The pigs constantly wandered into our yard, eating the grass and leaving “treats” behind. We were getting frustrated. But after time, and a few calls to the owner, they put a fence up. Now all we deal with is the occasional visit from their sweater vest wearing Siamese cat. I can’t make this stuff up.

Living among others is tricky isn’t it? Maybe you live next to the couple who always fights or yells at their kids, or the neighbor planting a car-part garden. Perhaps you enjoy a neatly groomed lawn and you’re convinced the guy next door has never used a lawnmower.

Maybe you are that neighbor. That’s an interesting thought. What do my neighbors think about me?

What kind of neighbor am I?

For me, it probably depends on who you ask. Beth, the sweet lady across the street might say I’m a nice young man. The pig owners may have a different opinion. I’m not sure. I don’t even know their names.

Not good for someone who takes the Bible seriously. Read More…

Pictures of Grace

Grace is a hard thing to grasp. Reconciling undeserving offenders with unmerited grace is difficult to do.

With biblical words like sin and depravity, justice and mercy, it’s even harder to explain.

But, occasionally a picture finds its way into the culture, an incomplete, yet beautiful illustration of costly grace personified.

I came across a news story, which you can read here, about an 18-year-old boy whose decision to drink and drive resulted in the death of his two passengers. Facing between 15 months and 30 years, this young man’s life will never be the same. On the night of his graduation, he became an accidental murderer.

Takunda Mavinda feels the weight of his crime. Through tears, he addressed the victims’ families. “I’m so sorry that I took two bright, intelligent, wonderful people out of this world …. I wish … I’m so sorry.”

A plea was made to the court on his behalf.

I am begging you to let Takunda make something of himself in the real world — don’t send him to prison and get hard and bitter, that boy has learned his lesson a thousand times over and he’ll never make the same mistake again. Read More…

I’m Only Human

“I’m only human” works well as an 80’s pop song (Watch this if you don’t believe me). It also works as the explanation for why I am unable to step off my roof and take flight, or why I can’t outrun, say, a cheetah.

It just doesn’t work the way we normally use it.

Why did you cheat on her?

Hey, man. I’m only human.

Ah yes, it’s the humanity factor. Aliens have no idea what it’s like to deal with these pesky human hormones. Must be nice.

Unfortunately, this argument isn’t sustainable. While human beings lack the capacity to leap tall buildings in a single bound, we are fully capable of keeping pants zipped and buttoned. The problem isn’t physical ability; something else contributes to our moral missteps.

Even from a purely humanist perspective, the “I’m only human” plea is limited. The popular politician may apply this defense to infidelity, and with time and “good” behavior, the people will probably forgive him. But if this politician molests a child the excuse is removed from the table, and rightfully so.

But why is that? Violation of rights aside, the same sex drive that led him to his assistant’s hotel room also put him in the presence of a vulnerable child. Give the guy a break. Right?

If that was as hard to read as it was for me to write, you will agree that something much darker than impulse is at play.

Something evil. Read More…

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