Why pocket change is nothing to brag about

Col. Pickering: “Have you no morals, man?”

Alfred P. Doolittle: “Nah, can’t afford ’em. Neither could you, if you were as poor as me.”

~ My Fair Lady (Alan Jay Lerner)

It creeps up in political debates or when you read the comments after an article about the atrocities going on worldwide or that took place in history: There’s this idea that we’re better people because we know better.

We look with disdain at drug addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, thievery, racism, religious extremism, and the shedding of innocent blood. We shake our heads, click our tongues, and mutter, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers . . .

It’s like we think we can take credit for “good breeding.”

I have tried many a time over the years to imagine what type of person I would be if I was born in another country, family, regime, social class, or time period. I can imagine myself recreated a thousand times over, like the theory of parallel universes where in some worlds you’re better and in others much worse. But this can be overwhelming, so let’s start with something seemingly small. Consider your good manners:

Were you born saying please and thank you, putting others first, and observing the Golden Rule, or was social etiquette grilled into you by parents and teachers over the course of many years?

I can think of many examples from my own childhood in which my natural inclination was the wrong one, and someone had to correct me.

To share just one, my parents were looking after a mentally disabled man who needed 24/7 care and couldn’t speak beyond the odd mumble. One day he was trying to eat an ice cream cone and was making a mess, struggling to get it in his mouth. A mere child, I began snickering as I watched. Immediately filled with righteous indignation, my mother took me to another room and admonished me for my behavior. I was ashamed and sorry for what I had done. And from that time onward, my heart successfully softened, I was very careful how I treated people with special needs. Yet if my mother hadn’t reacted that way, if she’d ignored my behavior or even condoned it – what then?

Victorian writers speak of “good breeding” and the genteel class. These were carefully groomed and primed men and women, of noble birth, who spent their childhoods being tutored in academia, learning perfect etiquette, proper English, how to draw, play musical instruments, and how to dress fashionably. In contrast to them were the tradesmen and laborers, the common people; many of which were illiterate. Then, as it still is today, those born into the upper class had access to incredible privileges that could only be dreamed of by the lower.

In his treatise on manners, Jonathan Swift said:
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Is Everything Grey?

I once overheard the following:

There is no such thing as black and white, everything is grey.

Do you see the irony in this comment?

It’s a black and white statement. There is no elbow room, no negotiating, no degrees of grey, just one single shade of it: the unbending opinion that there are no moral absolutes. Clearly it is a self-contradicting statement, for if everything is grey, what of the statement itself? How could it be the unquestionable truth that all things are grey, if one thing is not? That is – the black and white belief that all things are grey.

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The Peach Comes With a Pit – how the curse is the cure for ingratitude

The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. (Psalm 89:11)

In my last post, Pt.3, Good Himself, I looked at mankind’s love of storytelling and heroes. The same theme is used again and again of a good man, a saviour, willing to sacrifice his very life in order to save the lives of others: good must always triumph over evil.

“But he who dares not grasp the thorn

Should never crave the rose.”

~ Anne Brontë

What we refer to as the Curse, the Fall, might also be the cure. The cure for ingratitude.

Ever wondered what an ideal life would be like? An Edenic existence?

Would it be like a luxury vacation, drinks on hand; housekeeping fairies to make your bed and put fresh towels in the bathroom; gourmet chefs to prepare your meals, staff to wash the dishes. Would it be like Downton Abbey where you don’t even have to dress yourself?
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A “monster” character is not meant to shock readers but to challenge their preconceptions

Making people up.

Every novelist and screenwriter does it.

And the characters in some books/shows are fascinating or lovable, while others come across as flat and unrealistic, mere stereotypes. Caricatures without character. I often feel inadequate to the task; who am I that I have the audacity to create characters, characters I hope readers will identify with and feel compassion, empathy, and affection for? Not easy.

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When we ignore the rats in our cellars

I had a couple of grumpy days last week and was reminded how easy it is to be a prickly pear when I’m not in a cheerful mood. On those days it’s easy to blame my poor behavior/attitude on particulars. For example: It’s because I’m feeling ill, or because I’m bogged down with mundane chores; worn out from childcare; sad and depressed; or disappointed with this and that. I then follow up those rationalities with this: If I wasn’t feeling this way, I’d be kinder, more loving, gentle, patient, forgiving, or playful.

But thanks to C.S. Lewis, I’ve learned (reluctantly) to be more objective. A person could go their whole life thinking they were patient and kind only because their unique circumstances spared them from ever being tested. They thinks they’re kind, of their own virtue, only because they’ve never been provoked.

Here is what C.S. Lewis says in, Mere Christianity:
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Good Himself – On why one can’t be evil for the sake of being evil

The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. (Psalm 89:11)

My last post in this series, The Great Migration, was how a Christian’s treacherous and lifelong journey to reach the Promised Land is annually portrayed in the harmonious voyage of migrating birds, animals and fish who must cross land and sea against all odds to reach their own promised land. God has scattered Truth abroad for those who have eyes to see; has woven the Gospel message into the very fabric of life. And that is what this series is all about.

For example: Good triumphing over evil is the thread of gold in every epic story.

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The Great Migration – how animals, birds and fish do every single year what each Christian does in a lifetime

The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. (Psalm 89:11)

My last post, The White Witch, was about how the winter and summer solstices represent moving away from the sun (the Son) causing cold, death, and decay; and moving closer to the sun resulting in new life and rebirth. I’ve decided to make a series of it since I see the Gospel in many other aspects of nature as well.

Recently, I watched the BBC miniseries, Nature’s Great Events, and one episode in particular stood out to me: The Great Migration.

It occurred to me suddenly, like a rush of wind, that animals, birds and fish do every single year what each Christian does in a lifetime.

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The White Witch – how the Gospel message is shared every year between the winter and summer solstices

The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. (Psalm 89:11)

Today is All Hallow’s Evening; Halloween. The commercialized version we celebrate today originally descended from a combination of several traditions, the two perhaps best known being All Hallow’s Eve/Day (also known as All Saint’s Day), which was a Catholic celebration for saints who had died; and Samhain (pronounced Sow-un), a Celtic/Irish/Druid pagan observance.

As autumn draws to a close, death and decay surround us. Barren trees with spindly skeletal branches; dried-out leaves crunching underfoot like brittle bones; putrefying flowers; drizzle, muck, and dankness. The twilight of a cold, dark winter is ahead and the days are growing shorter as this side of the earth moves away from the sun. It was believed (and still is) that at the end of October, early November, the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest, and spirits can cross over to haunt those they feel a need to torment or visit.

I propose that God has written the Gospel message into the winter and summer solstice, commencing with Halloween.

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The Deacon’s Effects – when junk bubbles up like water from a broken pipe under the floorboards

The last three months have been a whirlwind. We bought our first home after ten years of renting. Yet despite the fact that I take a box of superfluous items to the thrift shop every two months or so, when I really got to packing, the junk bubbled up like a water from a broken pipe under the floorboards.

I took multiple van loads of boxes to the thrift store, in 30 degree weather with no air-conditioning, straining my arms and back, and still there was more to unearth. And here I’d thought my house was relatively organized and clutter-free (with the exception of toys which fill every corner). Yet when I took things down off shelves and out of closets and drawers, I thought, “Why on earth have I been hanging on to these items?” The last thing I wanted to do was clog the new house with trumpery.

Then we moved and as I began to unpack, there was that broken pipe all over again.

It was as if some little bric-a-brac gnomes had infested the moving truck in conveyance. Again I filled boxes for the thrift shop. I was unpacking one box, only to fill another marked for removal. Charles Long, author of “How to Survive Without a Salary” said we buy a garbage can and bring it home in a bag; then we take it out of the bag and put the bag in it. It’s ridiculous but this was exactly my scenario. Multiple boxes have gone to Goodwill, and still the sorting continues. Perhaps some of it can be explained easily enough by a different layout, but for the most part I think to myself, “if I can donate this without any sense of loss, why did I move it here in the first place?” I guess it’s like weeding. You think you’ve finished the garden and then you move a pot to another corner, exposing a hidden patch that was growing behind it.

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How can you continue to despise the face that is so treasured by those who love you?

Grandpa - 1986
We love the faces of those precious to us; we hold their images dear in our hearts.

My beloved Grandma is 82 years old now, and relies on a walker to get around. She is still trying to lose weight and spends a lot of time thinking about her weight and worrying about it and talking about it. Her reason for wanting to lose weight isn’t for health reasons, she’s just unsatisfied with her physical appearance.

Grandma has raised four good sons, has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and has been married to a wonderful, loving man for nearly 60 years now. She’s had an exceptionally good life with many blessings and few tragedies. She is well-loved by her family and no one cares in the slightest what she weighs.

1 Peter 3:3-4 says:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

My Grandma has this unfading beauty and she is cherished. I wish that she could see just how beautiful she is to me, extra pounds and all.

Imagine a world where we all looked exactly alike. How boring would that be? The varying shapes of eyes and color, the shapes and sizes of noses, chins and jaws, cheekbones, straight or arching eyebrows, crow’s feet, laughter lines, straight hair or curly, are all features that give a person character. So, what aspect of your body do you dislike most? The shape of your legs? Your waist? Your backside? Your nose? Let it go. No one else is obsessing about that part of your body. They’re too busy obsessing over some aspect of their own body.

While the media portrays physical beauty as perfection only, the truth is that a person can actually be beautiful, lovely, attractive, cute, or handsome, regardless of any number of physical “flaws” they might have.

For all you know, that crooked smile is one of your most endearing physical attributes.

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