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: The 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 what the Victorian’s called “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 spoke 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?

If yes, then many people already enjoy this ideal life. But are they happy?

Substance abuse, eating disorders, infidelity, divorce, and suicide rates amongst the very rich suggest they are not. Furthermore, those housekeeping fairies are actually real people who have to work hard. Not everyone can live the life of Riley, because Riley requires a host of servants.

Adam and Eve, however, led the original Edenic life, and they did not have servants. Nevertheless, they were required to tend the garden. And anyone who has tended a garden knows this is grubby work involving soiled knees and dirt-caked hands. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).

Were Adam and Eve thankful to have all their needs provided for, working for pleasure rather than sustenance? Were they content? It seems they were not. Why else the forbidden fruit? Why does anyone taste forbidden fruit unless they hope, deep down, that this is the final thing they need to be fulfilled?

Ann Voskamp, best-selling author of One Thousand Gifts, says the first sin stemmed from a spirit of ingratitude. C.S. Lewis said it came from pride, just as it did for Lucifer. But these are not contrary statements, since pride and ingratitude go hand in hand: when we have a sense of entitlement (pride), thinking we deserve better (discontentment), we become ungrateful.

So, what happened to Adam and Eve when they became prideful and ungrateful, setting themselves up to be gods, and ate the forbidden fruit?

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

1) Tending a garden before the earth was cursed must have been a very pleasant thing, despite the labor involved and the grimy hands. Climatic conditions meant a perfect amount of water and sun to keep things growing optimally. Indeed even today many people enjoying gardening and consider it therapeutic. But after the Fall, this burden to produce all our own food became back-breaking labor for many people; particularly in unfavorable conditions like heat and drought. It would seem all the joy was sucked out of it.

2) The very thing (dirt) that brings us life is the very thing that will one day absorb the life out of us too (death). The peach comes with a pit.

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

Why? Because everything was handed to Adam and Eve, hassle-free, on a platter, and they were not content.
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The Gospel Message in Nature Series

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

In this series, I explore ways in which the Gospel message is revealed through creation.

Pt. 1, The White Witch – how the gospel message is shared every year between the winter and summer solstices

Pt. 2, The Great Migration – how animals, birds and fish do every single year what each Christian does in a lifetime

Pt.3, Good Himself – On why one can’t be evil for the sake of being evil

Pt. 4, The Peach Comes with a Pit – how the curse is the cure for ingratitude

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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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Pro-life: Not simply a religious belief

It is a common bias today that the pro-life position is a religious belief while the pro-choice position is a scientific one. This bias likely stems from the reality that pro-lifers are often Catholics and Protestants. And since secular society believes religion and science are antithetical, they conclude that the pro-choice position must therefore be the scientific one.

The truth is, the pro-life position is actually based on the biological science of embryology and the sanctity of human life, while the pro-choice position is based on the subjective views of bodily autonomy, pregnancy by rape, viability, the mother’s health, eugenics, and the spiritualization of Personhood.

Here’s a comparative overview of the two positions:
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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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