Friday, March 31, 2006

The Death of Secularism?

I came across this compelling Oz Guinness quote today:

Americans with a purely secular view of life have too much to live with, too little to live for. Everything is permitted and nothing is important. But once growth and prosperity cease to be their reason for existence, they are bound to ask questions about the purpose and meaning of their lives: Whence? Whither? Why? And to such questions secularism has no answers that have yet proved widely satisfying in practice. Few of the great thinkers of the twentieth century have remained loyal to secular humanism. Secularism in its sophisticated form rarely flourishes outside intellectual centers where the mind is the organizing center of life. In its more "popular" Marxist form, it is keeling over arthritically. The very emptiness of our secular age is its deepest spiritual significance.

It is even conceivable that our generation is standing on the threshold of a rebound of historic proportions. The collapse of the great counterreligious ideologies - Freudianism's failure to recodify the private world and Marxism's to recodify the public - clears the greatest obstacle to this possibility. Philosophical denials of faith have become affirmations that need denying. Social permissions have become constrictions from which we need liberating. Secular iconoclasms have become idols that need debunking. Moral inversions have become blind orthodoxies against which we need new heresies. Critical deconstruction has become destructiveness against which the need is to build and rebuild. Even secular humanism turns out to be, not the bogey its enemies fear, but an oxymoron its supporters regret - for secularism does not produce humanism; humanism requires, not secularism, but supernaturalism.
You might need to read that more than once. I did. And each time I read it, it made more sense than before.

Oz Guinness, The American Hour: A Time of Reckoning and the Once and Future Role of Faith (New York: Free Press, 1993), p. 398.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Five Most Irritating Things About Christians

Later this summer, I'll be preaching a series of sermons about those things we find most annoying about Christians. At first, I thought I would just spend five weeks hashing over my personal pet peeves. But, of course, this series isn't all about me, its about what makes you itch. So, let me know - what irritates you about Christians? I want to hear from both believers and pagans. What rubs you the wrong way? You can click on comments below this posting to leave me a message.


Friday, March 24, 2006


Yesterday Mrs. Frankly Speaking frantically phoned my office to come home immediately. "It's important" she hollered.

I went. I wish I had not.

It seems that Vivian, the lovely Golden Hamster we bought two weeks ago came from the pet store with an unexpected surprise. Vivian had pups.

I wanted to buy the boy hamster, but the girl at Petsmart talked me into Vivian, the knocked-up hamster.

Stop laughing. This isn't funny.

Anyone want a pet hamster for Easter?

Bill Gates' Home Church?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


There sits, atop our coffee table, a forlorn bowl of jelly beans. Colorless, these are the rejects. The orange were first to go, even before the bowl made it to the table. My wife's favorites, she segregated them straight from the bag and hid them in her private "stash." Red and yellow soon followed. Too bright to avoid notice, our small group scarfed them down on Sunday night. Green is gone. Even purple (yuck) is absent.

All that is left are black and white. They'll stay there until a new bag is bought. Then, rejected, they'll be tossed in the trash never to be eaten.

Sometimes I feel like a jelly bean reject.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Going Home

I am ten years old, and it is the perfect spring day. I lie beneath the apple tree and stare at the pink tinged blossoms. In the distance, I hear the clatter of livestock eating. The pigs snort as they root in their feeder. The hens cluck and strut among the grass pecking for bits of corn. The thrumming of the tractor is louder then softer then louder again as my father weaves across the field plowing. The musty dirt shines as it is startled from its winter sleep, overturned, worms scrambling at the sudden eviction from their dark tunnels.

Later I climb the maple tree and "hunt" the barn cats as they yawn in the afternoon sun, their heads resting on pillows of crossed paws. I clamber to the barn loft and arrange the bales of hay into an impenetrable, itchy "Alamo." I’m Davy Crockett taking on Santa Ana. Once Texas is secured (and I am sufficiently martyred), I take a break for lunch. (Even John Wayne has to eat.) Mom yells out the back door, and I scramble down the ladder and through the alley-way past the wooden feed bin filled with dusty yellow hog feed. I turn right, run ten steps, leap over a fifty-year-old fence that long ago lost its last bit of paint, and dash across the barnyard and into the house.

I sit down to eat, but mom tells me to wash up and get ready to go to the field to meet dad. There is a mayonnaise jar on the table, and it is filled with ice water. Condensation trickles down its side onto the News-Sentinel beneath it. I wash my hands in the ancient porcelain sink while mom wraps the jar with news stories about a peanut farmer turned President and sets it in a bucket next to meatloaf sandwiches and a half-filled bag of Seyfert’s.

At the field, my sister and I wait with mom until our family’s bright green Oliver tractor completes its round and pulls up short of where I strain at mom’s hand. Dad shuts the motor off. Today, he has time to enjoy lunch. If there were rain clouds to the west, he’d just grab the bucket, eat on the run, and toss the leftovers to me the next time around. But the sun is shining, and both he and the tractor can use the rest.

He climbs down, and the four of us flop at the edge of the field, our backs to the rusty wire fence. We tussle and laugh. Dad makes up silly rhymes. He wonders out loud about the promise of this year’s crop. I am home.

At least, I am as close to home as I can be on this earth.

In the heart of every person, there is a longing to go home but not to the place of our birth or to the town where we grew up. While we pine for the places of our childhood, the longing for our earthly "home" is but a hint of the real yearning to which it alludes - the desire to go home to be with the Father.

Jesus said,

"There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am." John 14:2-3 (NLT)
I guess I’m just a little homesick.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

If Engineers Wrote Cookbooks . . .

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1.) 532.35 cm3 gluten (flour)
2.) 4.9 cm3 NaHCO3 (baking Powder)
3.) 4.9 cm3 refined halite (salt)
4.) 236.6 cm3 partially hydrogenated tallow triglyceride (Crisco)
5.) 177.45 cm3 crystalline C12H22O11(Sugar)
6.) 177.45 cm3 unrefined C12H22O11 (sugar)
7.) 4.9 cm3 methyl ether of protocatechuic aldehyde (my guess vanilla flavoring)
8.) Two calcium carbonate-encapsulated avian albumen-coated protein (eggs)
9.) 473.2 cm3 theobroma cacao (cocoa)
10.) 236.6 cm3 de-encapsulated legume meats (sieve size #10)(nuts)

To a 2-L jacketed round reactor vessel (reactor #1) with an overall heat transfer coefficient of about 100 Btu/F-ft2-hr, add ingredients one, two and three with constant agitation. In a second 2-L reactor vessel with a radial flow impeller operating at 100 rpm, add ingredients four, five, six, and seven until the mixture is homogenous.To reactor #2, add ingredient eight, followed by three equal volumes of the homogenous mixture in reactor #1.

Additionally, add ingredient nine and ten slowly, with constant agitation. Care must be taken at this point in the reaction to control any temperature rise that may be the result of an exothermic reaction. Using a screw extrude attached to a #4 nodulizer, place the mixture piece-meal on a 316SS sheet (300x 600 mm). Heat in a 460K oven for a period of time that is in agreement with Frank & Johnston's first order rate expression (see JACOS, 21,55), or until golden brown. Once the reaction is complete, place the sheet on a 25C heat-transfer table, allowing the product to come to equilibrium.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Madeleine L'Engle on Creativity

From Madeleine L'Engle's book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art . .

Finley Eversole, in The Politics of Creativity, writes,

In our society, at the age of five, 90 percent of the population measures "high creativity." By the age of seven, the figure has dropped to 10 percent. And the percentage of adults with high creativity is only two percent! Our creativity is destroyed not through the use of outside force, but through criticism, innuendo,
by the dirty devices of this world. So we are diminished, and we forget that we are more than we know. The child is aware of unlimited potential, and this munificence is one of the joys of creativity.

Those of us who struggle in our own ways, small or great, trickles or rivers, to create, are constantly having to unlearn what the world would teach us; it is not easy to keep a child's high creativity in these late years of the twentieth century.

Dumb Question? Maybe not . . .

Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people - blind, lame, or paralyzed - lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew how long he had been ill, he asked him, "Would you like to get well?" John 5:1-6 (NLT)

For thirty-eight years this man was waiting for a healing. Thirty-eight years.

Jesus first question to the man? Not, "What happened to you?" It wasn't, "How long have you been here?" Jesus already knew that. Jesus first words: "Would you like to get well?"

My reaction to reading this: a very teenagerly "DUH!" The man had only been waiting for nearly four decades for a healing. He had hoped beyond hope that he might encounter miracle at the water's edge. Of course he wanted to be healed; that is why he was there! What was Jesus thinking?

But then I think about my prayers. I ponder the times when I ask Christ to remove some temptation, or help me overcome some difficulty. And I think I can hear Him whispering, "Do you really want to get well, Frank?"

After the man is healed, Jesus tells him to stop sinning. And there is the rub, I think. If I ask Jesus to heal me and He does, I think that means I will have to change. I can't hang on to my old identity. I may profess to dislike who I am, but the fact is I am comfortable in this skin.

The wife and I had our weekly "ER" date last night. One of the main characters in the television show, Carrie, walks with a crutch. She has a degenerative hip disease and has used the crutch her whole life. As her condition worsens, she schedules hip replacement surgery. The operation will relieve her pain, and it will also enable her to throw down her crutch - permanently. Surprisingly, Carrie cancels the procedure, not once, but three times before finally going under the knife. As she explains it to her friend Abby, her disability has become her identity. Without her crutch, she will have to re-learn who she really is.

I think all of us are a little that way. Without my gossip, without my addiction, without my anger, without my lust, (the list is endless) I have to relearn who I am - who I am in Christ.

And so Jesus comes to me in my desperation. He meets me right where I said I hoped He would and he asks, "Would you like to get well?"

I guess it isn't such a dumb question after all.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Cell Phone Funeral

Today at Frances Carr's funeral it finally happened. Someone's cell phone went off during the closing prayer, right about the time I was asking the Holy Spirit to comfort the assembled in their grief. I say "went off" because nobody's phone "rings" anymore. They all play some insipid, badly produced electronic melody (not to be confused with, say, a song).

Of course it took forever for the owner to find it, and shut it off. Meanwhile, we were all treated to a melodic version of . . . and I'm not kidding here . . . When the Saints Go Marching In.

I guess if you're too big a redneck to shut your phone off at a funeral, that is an appropriate song to hear.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Who Knew?

I for one am shocked to find out that Barry Bonds uses more steroids than a Wisconsin Dairy farm. A new article in Sport's Illustrated Online details the upcoming cover story and the book by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams from which it is excerpted.

Between the Living and the Dead

"He stood between the living and the dead until the plague was stopped." Numbers 16:48 (NLT)
When the ancient Israelites rebelled against Moses, God struck them with a plague. As death spread across the camp, Aaron filled his incense burner and ran to stand between those who were dying and those who had not yet been infected. 14,700 people died that day. Myriads more were saved because of Aaron's and Moses' actions.

There is a word for standing between the living and the dead: ministry.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Following . . .

Two meteorological miracles enabled the ancient Hebrews to follow God's leading as they trekked from Egypt to the Promised Land. Numbers 9:15-23 reads:

The Tabernacle was set up, and on that day the cloud covered it. Then from evening until morning the cloud over the Tabernacle appeared to be a pillar of fire. This was the regular pattern—at night the cloud changed to the appearance of fire. When the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel followed it. And wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel camped. In this way, they traveled at the LORD's command and stopped wherever he told them to. Then they remained where they were as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle. If the cloud remained over the Tabernacle for a long time, the Israelites stayed for a long time, just as the LORD commanded. Sometimes the cloud would stay over the Tabernacle for only a few days, so the people would stay for only a few days. Then at the LORD's command they would break camp. Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and moved on the next morning. But day or night, when the cloud lifted, the people broke camp and followed. Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. So they camped or traveled at the LORD's command, and they did whatever the LORD told them through Moses. (New Living Translation)
I wonder: If you and I so keenly followed God's leading, where would He take us?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The First Amendment

WANE-TV reported today on a study revealing that more Americans can name the five members of "The Simpson's" family than can name the five rights enumerated in The First Amendment. Let me think . . . Marge, Homer, Bart . . . that's all I know.

How about The First Amendment? Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble . . . what was the other one? Four out of five. Does that make me dumber or smarter than average? Or maybe I am average

Here is the text of The First Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America:

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The right to petition the government for redress of grievances! Of course! Now, what does that mean, exactly?