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Archive for January, 2008

“But we trusted…and beside all this, today is the third day…” Luke 24:21

Every fact that the disciples stated was right; but the inferences they drew from those facts were wrong. Anything that savours of dejection spiritually is always wrong. If depression and oppression visit me, I am to blame; God is not, nor is anyone else. Dejection springs from one of two sources–I have either satisfied a lust or I have not. Lust means–I must have it at once. Spiritual lust makes me demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Who gives the answer. What have I been trusting God would do?

And today–the immediate present–is the third day, and He has not done it; therefore I imagine I am justified in being dejected and in blaming God. Whenever the insistence is on the point that God answers prayer, we are off the track. The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not of the answer. It is impossible to be well physically and to be dejected. Dejection is a sign of sickness, and the same thing is true spiritually. Dejection spiritually is wrong, and we are always to blame for it.

 We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God’s power (the fact that we are dejected proves that we do), and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him. One of the most amazing revelations of God comes when we learn that it is in the commonplace things that the Deity of Jesus Christ is realized.

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If Hell were a place to be joked about, I might compare it to an Iowa winter right now as I saw that Leonard Pitts, the far left Miami columnist, had something reasonably positive to write about George Bush, even if it was one line. Pitts wrote, “When President Bush decries ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations’ he speaks insight and truth.” What I find interesting is this turn of phrase, I believe originally credited to Gerson.

According to many in the educational elite, if one believes in school discipline, one is cruel. Uniforms rob teenagers of self-expression; demands of timeliness aren’t culturally sensitive; one should accept that teenagers sometimes wear pajamas and who are you to pass judgment? Any behavior needs to be tempered by the mere possibility of a lower economic scale or rough homelife. After all, how can one expect a child to behave when he has been deprived of the latest I-pod? For having high expectations, one will be called cruel, callous, unfeeling, and heartless and perhaps a bigot.

What Pitts and Bush seem to be saying is that adults’ low expectations, laissez-faire shrugging of the shoulders, and winking at poor behavior in order to be “down,” “cool,” or liked is in fact bigotry and cruelty. School administrators and some teachers would do well to follow such lessons.

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This is an eight-post series on discipline continued in the next four parts with the writings of the Scottish Oswald Chambers who lived for only 42 years but not before writing a beautiful meditation, My Utmost for His Highest. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. Reading Martin Lloyd Jones, that great Welsh preacher of the WWII era, drives home the point–discipline and punishment are two different things.

Indeed, when we are disciplined, Lloyd Jones contends that we ought not feel that we are now being punished; rather, we are being disciplined in the sense of being trained. This is very different from punishment which seeks retribution for a wrong. It is that God knows our excesses, weaknesses, what is out of joint. He is specifically training that aspect which needs edification or building up. The analogy works like this. Say my arm is so badly broken in a fall that I have no use of it for quite some time. I am assigned to do physical therapy and follow physical regiment in order to help slowly regain use, motion, and muscle.

But oh the pain of such a thing! How cruel it seems when the therapist demands ten more repetitions. Hamlet says, “I must be cruel only to be kind,” and there is much truth in that for the physical therapist who winks, gets paid, and chats for the half-hour is deadly. An atrophied, withered and useless arm one might as well cut off awaits that poor patient. The physical therapist who demands focus, pushes, and is relentless while measured and encouraging is priceless. So it is that God will painfully prune from us that which we rely upon not in the sense of punishment for that has been paid at the Cross but in the sense of training us as a TI yells and calls the new recruit out for not keeping up on runs.

Not that this makes the discipline easy. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” The requirement is that we are trained by it, we do not look on hatred, a rolling of the eyes, or bitterness at our therapist or trainer (God). In the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, Mayo looks at his T.I. who has demanded his drop-on-request and put him through a kind of hell in order to break him; Mayo stands tall and with gratitude in knowing that the seeming cruelty was full of purpose.

May we pray for the grace to understand the purpose of our pain.

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Rick Majerus, St. Louis University basketball coach, will start Men Like Trees Walking off on an eight-post series which will include Majerus’ pithy quote, four meditations by Oswald Chambers on discipline, a couple of pop-psychologists, and an excerpt of a conversation that I had with John McCain’s cell mate Colonel Bud Day.

Parents want to take all the pain, all the heartache and all the sadness out of their kids’ lives. All the things that make you a better person, a better coach, a better teacher–all the things that are so much the fabric of life. I’m so much better for every loss I’ve had. You become so much better a person for all the bad things that happen to you. But all these helicopter parents, they just hover there, and they want to take all that away from their kids. They just don’t want them to fight through it.

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By insisting on re-labeling terrorism committed by Muslims in the name of Islam as “anti-Islamic activity,” Her Majesty’s government is engaging not merely in Orwellian Newspeak but in self-defeating Orwellian Newspeak. Read on…

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We are almost certainly headed for a brokered convention. The Republican candidate must have a simple majority in at the convention which works out to 1,191 out of 2,380 candidates in Minneapolis. To date the count goes Romney (59), Huckabee (40), and McCain (36). For those who say Huckabee is fading fast, the momentum and not being in the spotlight as of late has hurt him.

Indeed, Huckabee’s brilliance as a campaigner was taking advantage of free media such as his comments on Michael Moore’s weight costing insurance companies, the quirky and effective Chuck Norris TV ad and Christmas ad which were Youtubed over a million times, not to mention winning Iowa and appearing on the late night shows with Letterman and Leno. Giuliani was the opposite and so we see the result of staying out of the buzz. Certainly right now, McCain and Romney are sharing the spotlight with the media ready to crown one the nominee before at least 40 states have weighed in.

Does Huckabee have a viable path to the nomination? Absolutely. But it will take three things to happen.

  1. John McCain must lose Florida. This is plausible, especially given Romney’s strong debate performance. 
  2. Rudy Giuliani must stay in the race through Super Tuesday as he probably will as Giuliani figures he might as well see what happens in New York and California. Giuliani will siphon off some votes from McCain and Romney but probably not from those who would support Huckabee.
  3. Huckabee must win a scad of Southern states where he is currently leading or tied. While Huckabee leaves the others to fight in Florida, he quietly campaigns in the Southern states. He leads or is tied in Georgia (72 delegates), Arkansas (34 delegates), Missouri (58 delegates), and Alabama (48 delegates). A McCain loss in Florida coupled with Huckabee’s hard campaigning may just be the tipping point. If he can win a host of Southern states on Super Tuesday and then pull of Texas where he has campaigned and won the endorsement of the Dallas Morning News, he may have a viable shot at the brokered convention.

Is it likely? Given his Georgia numbers where he leads 34% to McCain’s 19% and questions about McCain and Romney’s genuine conservatism, it may not be likely but it’s certainly possible.

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G.K. Chesterton (1818-1901), the great British mystery writer and Dickens critic, wrote a life of Thomas Aquinas called The Dumb Ox, a pejorative leveled at Aquinas’ bulking presence and quietude by some of his fellow students. Chesterton asserts that nothing could be further from the truth and spends the whole of the book praising Aquinas’ brilliant intellect and says that he can but touch upon a rude sketch of Aquinas’ theology, his depth of understanding and complexity being such that it would take volumes to even outline it. However, for our understanding of humility, I cherish one scene which describes Aquinas’ death:

We need not discuss the doubtful medical problems [of some unnamed malady.] He was eventually taken to a monastery at Fossanuova; and his strange end came upon him with great strides. It may be worth remarking, for those who think that he thought too little of the emotional or romantic side of religious truth, that he asked to have the Song of Solomon read through to him from beginning to end.

The feelings of the men about him must have been mingled and rather indescribable; and certainly quite different from his own. He confessed his sins and received his God; and we may be sure that the great philosopher had entirely forgotten philosophy. But it was not entirely so with those who had loved him, or even those who merely lived in his time. The elements of the narrative are so few, yet so essential, that we have a strong sense in reading the story of the two emotional sides of the event. Those men must have known that a great mind was still labouring like a great mill in the midst of them. They must have felt that, for that moment, the inside of the monastery was larger than the outside. It must have resembled the case of some mighty modern engine, shaking the ramshackle building in which it is for the moment enclosed.

For truly that machine was made of the wheels of all the worlds; and revolved like that cosmos of concentric spheres which, whatever its fate in the face of changing science, must always be something of a symbol of philosophy; the depth of double and triple transparencies more mysterious than darkness; the sevenfold, the terrible crystal. In the world of that mind there was a wheel of angels, and a wheel of planets, and a wheel of plants or of animals; but there was also a just and intelligible order of all earthly things, a sane authority and a self-respecting liberty, and a hundred answers to a hundred questions in the complexity of ethics or economics.

But there must have been a moment, when men knew that the thunderous mill of thought had stopped suddenly; and that after the shock of stillness that wheel would shake the world no more; that there was nothing now within that hollow house but a great hill of clay; and the confessor, who had been with him in the inner chamber, ran forth as if in fear, and whispered that his confession had been that of a child of five.

The following is from Orthodoxy

A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough… It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again,” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again,” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

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