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Archive for August, 2010


This 2008 movie offers a different take on the holocaust- that of a child.  This was sort of taken by 1998’s award-winning Life is Beautiful.  It focused on the father, and the lies he told to his son.  That movie was not so beautiful to me as I was struggling in my relationship with my father at the time.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas focuses on the perspective of Bruno as he tries to sort out what is going on in the “farm” behind their new home.  His dad is the new Commandant of the camp.  His father’s parents are split on the morality of the German government.  His father & grandfather basically have a “my country is always right” attitude (which is pretty much always dangerous- as dangerous as the “my country is always wrong” attitude).

Bruno on the swing

Bruno misses his friends and the isolation is difficult for him.  After an accident on the swing, the strange old man who peels potatoes patches up his knee.  In a sad yet amusing discussion (amusing because he tries poorly to put the facts together) he learns this pitiful old man before him used to be a doctor.  (The swing is an important prop in the film and may be a metaphor for his own shifting opinions.)

Bruno disobeys his parents and explores the woods behind the house.  There he discovers Shmuel, a broken little boy on the other side of the fence.  Bruno, hungry for company, keeps returning and slowly building a relationship with the Jewish boy.  He’s oblivious to all that is going in the world at the time.  But he slowly, and painfully, loses that innocence.

Herr Commandant

The longer they live there, the more the family is torn apart over what is happening in the camp.  Bruno’s mom begins to hate what she sees, and the brutality of her people against the Jews.   His older sister, wanting the affection of the handsome yet cruel driver, becomes the perfect Aryan princess.  She has posters of Hitler on the wall as if he were a pop singer.

Bruno begins to see the cruelty, but can’t quite figure it out.  Why did Pavel, the potato-peeling doctor, disappear?  What are they burning over the that smells so bad?  His father lies to him to cover up the truth.

One day Bruno discovers Shmuel cleaning glasses in the house.  He offers a famished Shmuel some food from the table.  It is at this moment that the driver/assistant appears.  Stricken by fear, like any 8 year-old, he lies about knowing and feeding Shmuel.  Little does he understand the gravity of the situation.  Finally he sees a bruised and battered Shmuel again.  There are tears, confessions and … amazingly, forgiveness. (more…)

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I’ve written on modesty recently.  It is not a popular topic.  It is an under-addressed topic, including among Christians.  The issue was driven home to me the other day while checking the Fox News website.  Under their style section, there was an article on how to best present your “girls”.  I did not click the link since I didn’t need to see “well presented” breasts.  My calling is to satisfied with the breasts of the wife of my semi-youth.  Most men want to see them, but this is meant to be part of the exclusivity of marriage- I am to enjoy my wife’s, and not those of another.  This is not so easy with many women wanting to display theirs for all the world to see.

In his book Undefiled, Harry Schaumburg has a number of appendices.  One of them is on modesty.  In light of 1 Timothy 2, he says that one of the male issues tends to be “anger or quarreling.”  This is painful to hear, but you see it all the time.  Too many times I hear such quarreling come from my own lips, including with my wife.  I can be a contrarian at times.  I am not immune.

The female issue Paul addresses in that same text is modesty.  “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness- with good works.”

Paul hits displays of wealth.  It is immodest to display one’s material wealth.  It can quickly establish sinful barriers in the body of Christ.  Men can be guilty of this, no doubt.  But women are especially vulnerable to this.  One of the things that drew me to CavWife was the absence of flash.  Of course, she was not wealthy.  But aside from a few earrings, she did not wear jewelry or much make-up.  Her concern was with inner beauty.

It is also immodest to display one’s physical assets with plunging necklines, short shorts, miniskirts and the like.  It is a heart issue.  Such people (men can also do this, and as pathetically comical as it sounds I did).  In our hearts we want to be desirable, found to be attractive.  And so, out of this messed up heart comes the flaunting of the physical and material so that people will notice us and find us attractive or important.

Schaumburg quotes Carolyn Mahaney regarding this:

“If we earnestly apply his word in our hearts, it will be displayed by what we wear.  When it comes to selecting clothes to buy and wear, however, we can often feel lost and confused.  Which items are seductive and immodest and which display a heart of modesty and self-control?”

I understand that sometimes this comes from a place of sexual brokenness, a lack of appropriate boundaries due to abuse.  I remember one group I led with a female friend.  One of the women in the group often wore revealing clothing.  I was not sure how to address that, and should have talked with my co-leader.  But one day it became clear.  She announced that the janitor at work has placed his hand on her breast.  She asked us, “is that okay?”.  She thought she was community property, and by her dress he sinfully thought so too.

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This is really part 3, but the 2nd part was limited to the idea of Gospel Pardon arising from the book.  I’ve now finished the first part of The Marrow of Modern Divinity.  The 2nd part is an exposition of the law.  The first, and original, part covered some significant territory.  In case you didn’t read the other post, I’m reading the new edition with notes by Thomas Boston.

I previously wrote about the difference between the law of works and the law of Christ.  Fisher writes in the form of a dialogue between a legalist, an antinomian, a new convert and a pastor.  The pastor helps to sort out their misunderstandings about our relationship to the law.  I won’t revisit that territory.

The dialogue touches on the free offer of the gospel.  There was a strain of legalism that was hyper-Calvinistic which rejected (and still does) the free offer of the gospel.  They restrict the offer of the gospel to those who show signs of being elect- seeking Christ, and conviction of sin are two.  Some have since accused Fisher of teaching a universal pardon, or his doctrine implying one.  Thomas Boston protects him from such erroneous charges in his notes.

“… yet so long as the Lord has concealed their names, and not set a mark of reprobation upon any man in particular, but offers the pardon generally to all, without having any respect either to election or reprobation, …”  Edward Fisher

The Scriptures often make a general pronouncement of the pardon.  In fact, all men everywhere are commanded to repent.  we are merely calling them to repentance in light of the work of Christ for sinners.  God is the one who sheds his light into their hearts and converts them (2 Corinthians 3-4).  The elect will respond with faith and repentance.  The reprobate will not.  We are not to play God and try to discern whether or not someone is elect prior to offering them the gospel.

“… for all this general pardon, the formal personal pardon remains to be obtained by the sinner, namely, by his accepting of the pardon offered.”  Thomas Boston

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One of the things we have historically done on vacation is head to the Enchanted Forest/Water Safari Park in Old Forge, NY.  Late August is not typically a good time to go to a water park.  My brother-in-law and I deal with the chilly temps by making jokes.  This is what we do best (yes, pretty pathetic).  I was not excited to see that today’s projected high, yes high temperature, in Old Forge was 63.  I don’t know about you, but the thought of a water park in 63 degrees does not fill me with joy.

It was about 63 when we left just before 8 am.  I drove my brother-in-law’s G6 with CavSon in the back seat with a few of his older cousins.  My brother-in-law and I enjoyed some Rez Band.  I hadn’t heard much Rez Band recently since my Rez Band CDs were stolen in 1995.  I’d forgotten how good a guitarist Glenn Kaiser is.  I may have to pick up a few discs.

Along the way I had to slow down for a doe in the road, and her fawn.  I wish I had a camera.  They were beautiful.  The fawn scampered back into the woods as we drew near.  Later we saw a young buck with small velvety antlers grazing along the side of the road.

When we arrived at the Enchanted Forest it was 60 degrees, tops.  Real exciting.  Thankfully there are other rides not involving water there.  The kids wanted to ride the Sky Ride, so their uncle and I took them.  It may have taken a few years off of my life.  Suddenly I’m a dad knowing his squirmy son is liable to do something really stupid and plummet to the ground.  Not so much fun.  But they enjoyed it.

Then they wanted to ride the train to the other side of the park.  We neglected to tell CavWife when we passed overhead the 2nd time.  Oh well.  On the other side the kids suddenly wanted to ride other rides.  They have crossed the line- suddenly rides are exciting to them.

Tilt-a-Hurl

On the other hand, I’ve crossed the other line.  Suddenly the Tilt-a-Whirl nearly became the Tilt-a-Hurl.  That was added by the operators giving rides 2x (at least) as long as normal due to the smallish crowd.  A few years ago I realized life had changed after riding the Tilt-a-Whirl, Scrambler & Round-Up consecutively without waiting in line nearly made me lose breakfast.

The little girl suddenly wanted to go on the  Bumper Cars.  Huh?  Where did THAT come from?  On the way they went on the helicopter ride.  By now CavWife had caught up to us.  Then, the bumper cars.  Somehow I was the only man on the ride.  I shifted into alpha dog mode, wrecking havoc on the women and girls while an evil sounding laugh persistently came out of my mouth.  Yes, the great evil in my heart had erupted in destructive, dominating driving.  It was sweet.

The kids rode a few more kiddie rides, and that is when the first wave of showers passed by.  Now it was wet, and chilly.  More chilly in fact.  We enjoyed a snack during the rain.  All the kids wanted to ride the train, so 10 kids took to the train- with 1 adult.  Yes, we dumped them on the single woman.  Didn’t mean to…

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I’ve finished reading When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.  It was a very challenging read.  I previously mentioned the foundational concepts they covered, including the differences between relief, rehabilitation and development.  We hurt the poor, and ourselves, when we neglect these differences and act the wrong way.  The 2nd section covers General Principles for Helping Without Hurting.  The 3rd covers Practical Strategies.  The book is not just theoretical, but tries to provide some helpful ways to think about missions, both local and international, and community development.

The second section helps you to identify the needs of the poor, and emphasize their assets.  The latter is often neglected, which furthers the paternalism that ends up continuing and even worsening their poverty.  Paternalism takes many forms: resources, spiritually, knowledge, labor and managerial.  Pride is very subtle, and finds many ways to exalt ourselves above others.  We mistakenly believe that since we have more material resources we are somehow better than them in all ways.  We forget the providence of God in the distribution of resources/abilities.  I say this, not to keep people in poverty, but to humble many of us that we realize the advantages we do enjoy are not earned or deserved.  We benefit from where we are born, the family, community and culture into which we are born and all that it entails.

One chapter focuses on how not understanding the culture, not listening to the people, can result of wasting resources.  They tell of a group that built a home for a pastor in Africa.  They designed the home without input from the pastor.  He tried to inform them that in his culture, bathrooms are in the back.  But they refused to listen and continued to build the home with it in the middle of the home.  This was a huge culture faux paux that would lead to great shame if he lived in the house.  Their efforts were wasted because they did not listen.

It isn’t just mission teams.  The U.S. government, in an early attempt to provide low income homes, built identical homes.  The plan called for carpets and clothes washers in the kitchen.  Most of the people worked in jobs that left lots of dirt on clothes and shoes.  Linoleum would have been much easier for them to keep clean than carpet.  Their old washers overflowed in the kitchens.  So much didn’t make since for those people.  But they thought they knew better (and things really haven’t changed).

My small group and local leaders

The chapter on short-term missions was very challenging.  It prompted me to think about my experiences in Mexico.  Thankfully, I can see that we were led by people who submitted to local leaders.  But many don’t.  As the church I pastor now considers some trips, we will need to ask some important questions.  One of those is whether or not that is the best way to use the resources.  Sometimes it is better to provide the funds to them to enhance their work.

In that chapter they mentioned the problem of our notion of “equality”.

“A STM team will tend to assume that treating every individual in the community the same way is obviously the right thing to do and may give out, say, food, in equal amounts to everyone.  But some collectivist societies have found that giving a disproportionately large amount of food to particular individuals can increase the chances of financial success for those individuals, who will then share their earnings with the community as a whole.”

I could not help think about our own nation’s quest for equality of resources via income redistribution.  Some people are better stewards of resources, and expand the wealth of the community.  They provide jobs for others.  Taking money away from them doesn’t really create jobs.  Our misguided notions of “fairness” will impoverish more and more.  It is telling that after 40+ years of the “war on poverty”, the poverty rate in America is essentially the same.  Whole lot of good that has done, and at what cost?

Locally the focus tends to be on relief.  It sells, plain and simple.  And it tends to impoverish people spiritually and emotionally.  They provide some examples of people who have implemented programs to rehabilitate or develop communities and individuals.  This is more nuts and bolts than the earlier theoretical section.  It can be of great assistance to deacons and parachurch ministries.

This was an easy book to read.  They  include questions for small groups to answer to process the information and consider how to implement it in their communities.  It gets 2 thumbs up from the Cavman.

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I read False Intimacy by Harry Schaumburg in the late 90’s and discovered one of the best books on sexual addiction.  Now, 20 years after the release of False Intimacy, Harry has followed it up with Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships.  I’m only 2 chapters into the book, but already I’ve found some very thought provoking nuggets.

He mentions a phrase that I’m shamed to say I had not heard before- relationship specific erectile dysfunction.  This is the concept that a particular person’s erectile dysfunction is not rooted in a medical problem.  The person is able to function properly with another person or alone.  They only experience this failure with a specific person- obviously on a fairly regular basis.  But wait…

He mentions one of the indicators of sexual dysfunction as Diminished Masculinity and Femininity.  This means that the person, in at least that relationship (if not others) the person functions as a child or teen.  In other words, they are immature.

“One of the signs of diminished femininity and masculinity is that the wife feels like a mother with her husband, and the husband feels like a child with his wife.”

Obviously, these roles can be reversed so that he feels like a father, and she the child.  But the most common is the one he mentions.  He ties them together.

“If you feel like a child around your wife,wouldn’t impotence be a problem?  … Likewise for a woman, if you feel like a mother around your husband, wouldn’t there be a lack of sexual desire?”

Now the concept of relationship specific dysfunction makes sense.  It sort of feels like incest.  These are some of the things often missed because we fail to ask appropriate questions in counseling.  Too often we rush to the medicinal cure, and miss the relational & spiritual matters driving the dysfunction.  When we do, we actually do the person a disservice.  They are “functional” but still sinning because those relational and spiritual matters have never been addressed.

The main premise of his book is that spiritual maturity and sexual maturity go hand in hand.  Sexual immaturity hinder spiritual maturity (and vice versa).  Picture them as an interactive spiral that moves either up or down.  This is how they interact to either pull us up or drag us down.  The failure to address our sexual dysfunctions can cripple us spiritually.  But sexual function is not properly pursued apart from spiritual maturity either.

Schaumburg is offering the church a much more wholistic understanding of sexual dysfunction and restoration than we have gotten before.  This is why I’m excited to continue reading.

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While I was in college “I Still Believe (Grand Design)” was often on the radio.  It was a great song, but I didn’t follow up on the band at all.  Then things changed.

First, I became a Christian.  After discovering that there were a few interesting Christian bands out there, I subscribed to a magazine called Harvest Rock Syndicate, later called The Syndicate.  They focused on Christians who were making rock and alternative music.  I found a reviewer in Brian Quincy Newcomb whose tastes closely mirrored mine.  When he reviewed Into the Woods I knew I had to check it out.  Soon thereafter I purchased my first CD player.  I bought 4 or 5 new CDs to celebrate.  Among them was Into the Woods and Reconciled.  I was hooked.

They were a progressive band- part new wave (especially the earliest albums) and part rock.  They had some great lyrics that wrestled with life.  They didn’t settle for the simplistic, but still had a soul anchor.  Tom Ferrier’s lefty guitar work was great.  They had a great sound to accompany those lyrics.

After U2 broke the world wide open with Joshua Tree, it seemed the Call was poised to take advantage.  They were called the future of American music, and people like Peter Gabriel hailed them.  I was excited.  Let the Day Begin, another fantastic album was released.  The song was popular on rock radio, but the explosion never happened.  As what often happens, the ‘next big thing’ didn’t become anything.  I wasn’t crushed when Dexy’s Midnight Runners fizzled (just an example), but I was disappointed for the Call that they didn’t take off.  It didn’t seem fair… they were more talented and thoughtful than 98% of the drivel being sold/purchased at the time.  Fantasy was in; real life honesty not so much.  U2 must have exhausted the market.

I caught a live show at Gordon College.  The acoustics were horrible, but the band was great.  They put on a good show.  Not fancy- it was all about the music.

Then they shifted styles.  Red Moon was more subtle musically.  It was a very good album, but I don’t recall hearing anything from it on the radio.  By this time I was in seminary down in FL.  My discretionary spending was nil.  Somehow a live album, Live Under the Red Moon, slipped out without my knowledge in 2000.  You can find it, but it is a bit expensive.  I may still have to bit the bullet since I love live albums.

For a short time Michael Been took a break to explore some different territory solo.  Sort of solo anyway.  His friends from The Call showed up on On the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough.  Though different from his work with the Call, it was still a great album forged during a dissolving relationship.  He also wrote the soundtrack for a little seen movie called Light Sleeper (I’ve only seen parts of it).  It starred Willem Defoe, whom he met on the set of The Last Temptation of Christ.  I never saw that, but I think Been played the Apostle John.

The Call would release one more album, To Heaven and Back, but the magic was gone.  It was better than most albums, but not up to the standards set by earlier albums.   Around this time they played Cornerstone.  In 1997 they did a 3-piece acoustic tour.

In recent years Michael has focused on his son’s band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.  He was working the sound board for their European tour when he suffered a heart attack.  If he still believed, to die is gain and he beholds all he’d longed for.

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