Monday, June 27, 2005


Is God's blessing still with us?

Lately, my daily Scripture reading has had me in the prophet Jeremiah. As I've read the lengthy prophecies regarding God's judgment on Israel, I've kept noticing how God tells Israel that He has withdrawn His blessing on account of their disobedience to His Word. In turn, this has led my thoughts back to the earlier history of Israel when the Lord would grant Israel victory in battle if it was faithful to Him, but if they were unfaithful and disobedient, He often left them to lose on the battlefield.

In the present day, the US has been waging a war against terror in Iraq and Afganistan. Although we don't yet know the final outcome of this war, the news these days seems to suggest that the efforts of the US military have not be as successful as we'd once hoped they would be. Compared with the victories we enjoyed in the latter days of WWII, the present war seems like a long, slow go.

Putting these thoughts together, it's occurred to me that it's possible that one reason why the US military doesn't seem to be all that successful right now may have to do with the spiritual condition of America. To put it frankly, the US is a whole is far from a God-fearing nation. If anything, we seem to be doing whatever we can to run away from God and His holy Law as quickly as we possibly can. We are certainly not obedient to Him! If so, then why should we expect His blessings? Isn't it only fair that He allow us to suffer failure and defeat from time to time? As I think about it, given the magnitude of our nation's wickedness, the wonder is that He hasn't turned His back on us entirely. I pray that God will yet have mercy on the US and grant us a willing heart to turn to Christ and submit to His holy rule.


Surprise, surprise!

Come to think of it, one of the things I most enjoy doing is surprising people, and given my personality, I manage to do this from time to time. In person at least, I'm not the type of person who likes tooting my own horn or banging on my own drum. Instead, I prefer to let my gifts and talents become visible in the ordinary course of things. That's why it was nice lately when a few people noticed my singing voice and my city driving without my having first told them about my abilities.

This approach makes me a rather odd duck at my work place, the information technology group of a large public institution of higher education. All around me are people who don't hesitate to boast or brag about their knowledge. What's more, a group of them who share the office next door to mine are rather, er, gregarious in style and enjoy each other's company in a sometimes noisy manner. This is quite a contrast from my style, which tends towards the quiet and introspective. In a way it's understandable that people might come to the conclusion that I'm stuck up or anti-social, not realizing that I don't go for horseplay and that I prefer to interact with people in a reasonably mature manner.

Thus, I think I surprise my collegues a bit when they have occasion to work together with me on a project. Several have gone so far as to comment that they hadn't realized that I was such a nice guy. I'm sure I could make more of an impression if I carried on with the fun-loving crowd, but since I'd rather have the people of this world respect as opposed to like me, this is fine with me.

In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, I recall that Mr. Darcy's housekeeper rather surprises Elizabeth Bennet and her aunt and uncle when she comments that although some people find him to be cold, it's just that he doesn't choose to prattle on as other young men. Although I enjoy it when people like me, I don't think it's honoring to God for me to make cultivating such admiration a priority. Instead, I'll continue to strive to model the character of Christ as God gives me grace to do so, expecting that in so doing God will in due time give me the connections and relationships that will best honor Him.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


To tide you over...


I've been quiet for a while, so I thought I ought to post something to let you know that I'm still alive and kicking, by the grace of God. Although I've had some topics swirling around my head, I'm not quite ready to write anything about them, so I'll just share a few mini-items:

  1. I've been more of a nerd than usual lately. For one thing, I've just passed the tests for becoming a Certified Linux Professional. Woo-hoo! :-) For another, I've been using my spare time to work on a program to help solve acrostic puzzles. The need supplied by the program is very simple, but that hasn't stopped me from adding all sorts of cool features. Once I get further along with it, I may post some screenshots. Warning: this is a Linux/UNIX program and won't run on Windows unless you install a UNIX emulator such as Cygwin.
  2. On the other hand, maybe I'm not that much of a nerd. Case in point: I've taken some of my income tax refund and invested in one of the most mundane gadgets imaginable: a refrigerator. Were a true geek, I would have invested in a new PC, but nnnooooo... :-)
  3. My DVD viewing remains eclectic, albeit throughly rooted in the past. A few weeks ago, I picked up the first season of one of my childhood TV favorites, The Partridge Family. When I'm able to overlook the horribly bad lip-synching and miming that's done during the musical numbers, I see that I had pretty good taste as a kid: it was, after all, a fairly decent comedy, squeaky clean compared to what I see during my rare channel-surfing excursions. In one episode, the family attends church on Sunday(!), where they hear a folk singer leading the congregation in a fairly lightweight spiritual that actually names the name of Jesus. In today's God-free media world, this kind of thing wouldn't be done, but way back in 1970 it was still no big deal. How far we've come since then. Sigh.
  4. I've been discovering lately that I have some unexpected talents. A couple of weeks ago, a friend at church gave me a complement on my singing voice and said that I'd helped him to stay on key. Given that he's a musician, that was quite a complement. I've been practicing in the shower ever since. :-) More recently, I took some of my family members on a day trip to downtown Chicago. They couldn't stop talking about how well I did driving in such stressful conditions. To put this in context, I live in a town of 21,000, work in another town of 35,000, and shop and worship in a city of 150,000, and generally enjoy far less stressful driving conditions than I endure in a city like Chicago.

So, what's in store for the days to come? Well, I've been thinking about subjects such as Christian liberty and the demise of the age-old pursuit of artistic and cultural beauty at the expense of the celebration of what is ugly and profane.

Thanks for visiting, and stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


The casual generation: it's time for a change!

Confession time: I wasn't always the most obedient or cheerful son. I caused my parents more grief than I ought to have done. One situation that often provoked me to disobedience was getting "dressed up" for some special occasion. I'd gotten used to my standard uniform--jeans, T-shirts, etc.--and I just didn't care to wear anything else. This was back in the late sixties and early seventies, so history makes it clear I was not alone in my rebellion against old traditions.

Well, here we are in the early twenty-first century, and I must say that my generation's small rebellion has been a tremendous success. People hardly dress up for anything any more. I've even seen people wear blue jeans or shorts to weddings and funerals! Today's philosophy seems to be "All casual, all the time!"

As I've matured, I've come to differ somewhat with this once-revolutionary orthodoxy. No, I haven't gone back to Ward Cleaver--necktie for dinner at home and all that--but for me blue jeans are just for "dirty" outdoor activities such as hiking in the park or working in the yard. The rest of the time--work, church, shopping, relaxing around the house--I'm in a business casual mode. I've come to like this style for two main reasons: (1) I feel that it's more respectful to those around me and (2) it's still comfortable. For truly special occasions, of course, I'll dress up more.

So, I've not exactly gone back to the ways of my grandparents, but I must admit that I'm getting rather nostalgic for them. Judging by old photographs, movies, and the like, I've been thinking that the old "dress for the occasion" style had a lot going for it. For one thing, it helped to enhance the occasion, to make it more special. For another, dressing for the occasion was a way of demonstrating respect for the others who were present.

Today, we just throw on pretty much the same type of clothes every day for most every occasion. Frankly, that's boring, and it can show less respect for others than we ought. Doesn't it say something when we look the same when we entertain company as we do when we mow the lawn? I'm sure that we intend no disrespect by doing so. Nowadays, being casual is one way of being yourself: a common way of showing people that you're comfortable around them. Although it would be improper for me to judge anyone's motives but my own, I would like to pose a question: given that it sends a good message to tell your family/friends/etc. that you're comfortable around them, wouldn't it send a better message if you go to the trouble to look extra-nice when you host them or visit with them?

Please don't get me wrong. I'm the last person on earth who'd like to go back to stiff collars and corsets (except for the most special of occasions, perhaps :-) ). I value my comfort as much as anyone, and would hate to see the pendulum swing so far back in the direction of formality that I can't be comfortable. Instead, I think it would be beneficial if we could strive for a balance between comfort and style. Reserve the really casual garments for truly casual situations, wear "in-between" clothing for most day-to-day stuff, and have some more formal garments on hand for special occasions. Gentlemen might consider wearing khakis, dress slacks, and collared shirts, and ladies might consider wearing nice shirts/sweaters or casual skirts/dresses more frequently. (I in no way advocate that ladies wear only skirts--there are situations when nice pants can be more modest than a skirt or dress--but it would be nice to see more ladies wear nice slacks instead of blue jeans or sweats.) I think there's all sorts of ways we could upgrade our appearance without going back to the bad old days of uncomfortable clothing.

OK, that's enough pontificating for now, but I just had to get this off my chest. Frankly, I've grown weary of seeing jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweat pants on both men and women almost all of the time. Please excuse the pun, but it's time for a change!

Not-too-formally yours,
The (In)scrutable One

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