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Wednesday, January 18th, 2017
9:12 am - Words, words, words
I read a couple of articles lately on "inclusive language," that great bugaboo. It reminded me of my first sermon as a young associate pastor in the big collegiate church (in 1980). A lady came up to me after the service and thanked me for using inclusive language. I was nonplussed. "Thank you," I said, "but I wasn't trying to."

I had already tumbled to the problem of overusing male figures in illustrations. For that matter, overusing adult figures. If you want people to identify with what you're saying -- to see themselves in the people you're describing -- then you don't want to present a steady stream of illustrations and descriptive terms that paint a picture of only one kind of person. Sometimes you can do this by multiplying referents. Sometimes you can be a bit vague as to the exact age or sex of the person being described (though if you're too vague, people can't put themselves in the situation you're describing).

At the same time that I was trying to widen the applicability of my referents, I was using some grammatical tricks to do the same. I use "one" as a pronoun a lot. "One can see" how useful this would be. This allows me to use a singular subject to agree with a singular verb and avoid using "they" as a pronoun for a singular antecedent. Except when I'm being very colloquial, I have this odd prejudice that I ought to be grammatical, too, and therefore things need to agree in number.

I'm not just a grammar Nazi, though. Back in the 1980s, "inclusive language" was being used an excuse to avoid or change certain terms which results in some very bad results. Meanings were changed -- sometimes with heretical results, as when some ignorant but zealous persons started praying to the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier rather than to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And particularly when hymns were being updated, there were times when rhyme and meter were butchered in order to gouge out some expression that offended the inclusivists and stick some ugly substitute in its place.

With all that in mind, let's think about some of these things.

Gendered language

English started out as a gendered language. As in German or Latin, words were either masculine, feminine, or neuter. This had little connection with whether a particular thing was male or female. In German, "maiden" (Mädchen) is neuter because the ending -chen makes whatever it is attached to neuter. It is a diminutive of the feminine Magd, "maid." For that matter, the German word for "wife" (Weib) is neuter, while certain intimate parts of female anatomy are masculine. Meanwhile, over in Latin, the word for "farmer" (agricola) is feminine, even if the farmer we're talking about is not.

But grammatical gender doesn't just refer to person-words. In a gendered language, the words for rock, sky, dirt, tree all have an assigned gender, and they change form to become plural or possessive or whatever in accordance with other words of the same gender. English has largely lost this. Only our pronouns retain gendered forms that inflect for grammatical case. I have often wondered if our obsession with "inclusive language" is merely a product of certain persons' grammatical ignorance, and if they would find it harder to see certain words as instruments of oppression if every noun in modern English were still inflected for case according to gender.

Besides grammatical gender, of course, we also use what one might call "notional gender." Even though we don't change the forms of our nouns by their gender any more, certain things are traditionally referred to as if they had a gender. Ships, for instance, are always "she": The U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, she's a good ship. In theological parlance, the Church (meaning, the Church as a whole, the Bride of Christ, not just a congregation or Conference as an organization) is also "she." Many people call all cats "she," unless the sex of a particular cat is of importance. And babies are traditionally referred to as "it": Ooh, has it lost its little blankie?

Then, of course, there is "descriptive gender," and here the inclusivists have a point. We have lots of pairs of words for people of different sexes engaged in the same occupation: actor/actress, waiter/waitress, tailor/seamstress, aviator/aviatrix, alumnus/alumna. Some of these derive from Latin, but many are native English words. We don't need so many of them, I suppose. But still, some of them are useful; for instance, "bag man," "bag boy," and "bag lady" do not describe persons of various age and sex engaged in the same activities. I'm all for simplifying language, but I'm not a fanatic about it. I like specificity, and sometimes there is a helpful shade of meaning attached to some sex distinction.

Inclusivists also object to using masculine forms as generic, as in "lion" for all members of the species Leo panthera, with "lioness" as the form specifically referring to a female member of the species. At least, they pitch a fit when we use "Man" as the name of our species, as in The Rights of Man. They want to demote "Man" to only refer to a male human and use ungendered names for our species, as in "humanity." I don't mind this, but it gets old sometimes. If it forces you to use ungainly expressions, it's not helpful.

Inclusivists really get their knickers in a twist, of course, over references to God. They don't want to call God he/He, Father, Lord, King, Master, and so on, despite these being the Biblical terms. This can lead to heretical alternatives, but it can also lead to a monotonous use of "God" in order to avoid using masculine pronouns. It can even lead to grammatical abominations like "Godself." Ick.

Color words

At the same time that feminists were attacking gender in English, other inclusivists were attacking color words. They wanted to eliminate the pejorative use of words like "dark" or "black," as in "black as a murderer's soul." Likewise, they wanted to eliminate the affirmative use of words like "white" to denote purity or cleanliness or high status. "Whiter than snow" -- a hymn's allusion to a passage in Isaiah -- became "brighter than snow." This got to ridiculous levels quickly. I know of one congregation in our Conference that changed its name from "White Harvest UMC" to "Abundant Harvest UMC" in order to avoid the idea (to whom this would occur beats me) that they were only interested in evangelizing white people. When Jesus said "the fields are white unto harvest," he was, of course, referring to the ripeness, the readiness of the harvest, for cereal grains turn from green to a pale tan as they ripen. I mean, yeah, the harvest is also abundant, but that's not the point.

Ethnic slurs

Removing ethnic slurs from the language is something many people have said we ought to do. And you don't have to be an inclusivist to think that there's something ugly about the term "Indian giver." What has always boggled me is that the same people who would immediately recognize that "Indian giver" is a pejorative term based upon white people's view of Native Americans will then turn around and accuse somebody of "welshing" on a deal -- which is a pejorative term based upon English people's view of Welsh people.

Yes, to talk of "jewing somebody down" (hard bargaining) is obviously slanderous. Is "Dutch courage" equally slanderous? A member of my congregation makes these tasty little appetizers of sausage and melted cheese on rye bread. She calls them "Polish mistakes." Is that okay, since she's from a Polish family?

I remember lots of lectures on color words and ethnic slurs back in the days when we had a black bishop. At the time, I also had a black superintendent. And I have heard both of them refer to "grandfathering" some provision in an Annual Conference policy for the benefit of those who were engaged in something or other before we had defined how it was to be done. I was appalled. Did these African-American men not know that a "grandfather clause" -- the origin of "grandfathering" -- was a bit of legal chicanery thought up after Reconstruction in order to deny black men the vote? Various southern States passed laws that said a person was unqualified to vote if his grandfather had been unqualified to vote. All the grandfathers in question had been slaves, of course, so they couldn't have voted.

We've come a long way, though. You almost never hear the hate words of the past, like Polack, kike, wop, dago, chink. This is a good thing. The casual racism of the past is largely gone, and we are a better society for leaving it behind. Still, these words sometimes come back, and new ones are invented as one group describes another it disdains.

Our society is still convulsed at times over the term we all carefully refer to as "the n-word." It's the one word you absolutely cannot use, in any context. Unless you're black. Even then, the unspoken rules for its use are complicated, I suppose. I have no need to ever use such a term, and wouldn't -- but if I were teaching The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I'd have to face up to the fact that we would be using this toxic word every day. And I don't agree with bowdlerization of texts, so there you are. One of the greatest American novels ever written uses the dialect of the day in proper context, and there is this word.

Meanwhile, "cracker" continues in use with all its pejorative overtones, and those who use it -- almost all of them black -- are rarely called on it. One sign of progress: "redneck" is now a term of pride used mostly by those who so describe themselves.

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Saturday, January 14th, 2017
4:57 pm - Substantially done
While Kara set up for son Zach's Eagle Court of Honor this afternoon, I finished cleaning the front of the latest stained glass window. Then I added the little painted details and swabbed patina on the solder. Then wiped it clean, finally fishing up detailing the joints with Q-tips.

Okay, we're substantially done on this one. We'll be starting the fourth and final window in the display next week after Winter Rendezvous. Now, I've just got to find a place to safely store this until we can build a window frame for it.

Soli Deo Gloria!


This window shows the animal side of creation, remembering God's command to Noah to bring all kinds of critters into the ark with him. The flanking window on the other side of the display will feature pictures of human beings in their relationship to God and each other.

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Friday, January 13th, 2017
1:29 pm - Soldering on
On Wednesday, Evan and Jack learned how to solder on the back side of our current stained glass project. Alex arrived for the second hour and helped out. Just got to clean this window up and paint the features on the animals, and we're done with it.

Good job, everybody.


Evan displays a fierce concentration


Jack is more laid back


Art and Alex work on rebar

Photos courtesy Tiffany Willingham

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Thursday, January 12th, 2017
9:52 pm - Worth 1,000 words
This old Bill Mauldin cartoon expresses my feeling about politicians giving each other medals better than anything I can say.


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Wednesday, January 11th, 2017
10:55 pm - A trip down Memory Lane
I heard from Michael Lawson, current pastor at TVUMC, asking for details on the stained glass window my last confirmation classes did there.

The window is a Nativity Angel. Posing for the window was Megan Paolello. She was 12 or 13 in November, 2003, when we did study photos for a series of windows. Megan was posing for the Nativity window. Two other girls posed for a pair of Resurrection Angels to flank the main church entryway. Those other windows never went beyond the drawing stage because I moved in June, 2006, to EFUMC, where I still am. So Megan is now immortalized in glass. I told her that only I could make her an angel, and there's the proof.

Megan Paolello

Megan Paolello
Study for stained glass Nativity Angel window

Anyway, my 2004 and 2005 confirmation classes cooperated on this project, dedicating it on October 30, 2005. I was feeling woozy that morning in church, and later that day wound up in the hospital with an unsuspected abscess that almost killed me. Thank God for IV antibiotics. It took me months to recover.

Some of the crafters with their window before dedication in morning worship

Some of the crafters with their window before dedication in morning worship
L to R: Justin Ahaus, Casey Brice, Josh Hooten, Aaron Bender, Elizabeth Brice

As most of you know, my current youth are working on a set of stained glass windows here at EFUMC. I post pics of them from time to time. Today, 11-year-old Evan and her 8-year-old brother Jack helped college freshman Alex and me solder the joints on the back of the third of a four-window set under construction.

I believe in what kids can do, because I believe in what Christ can do.


Nativity Angel window installed
Tanner Valley United Methodist Church

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12:32 pm - The roaring of the sea
My daughter posted on Facebook her astonishment at the uproar on Twitter over the accusations re: Russian blackmail of Donald Trump. I replied that it reminded me of the assault on Helm's Deep. Trump is neither so noble as Theoden or Aragorn, nor so brittle as Denethor, but he is, in his way, a defender of what we think of as the West. So these lines from The Two Towers resonate with me.
The assault on the gates was redoubled. Against the Deeping Wall the hosts of Isengard roared like a sea.

They hate us, and they are glad; for our doom seems certain to them. "The king, the king!" they cry. "We will take their king. Death to the Forgoil! Death to the Strawheads! Death to the robbers of the North!" Such names they have for us. Not in half a thousand years have they forgotten their grievance . . .

How shall any tower withstand such numbers and such reckless hate?
I understand those who dislike Trump. I understand the fear of what he might bring. I understand the pain and shock of losing an election you thought you had in the bag. But the dominant impression I have of the left these days is just one tossing, roaring sea of bellowing hate.

They use words and argument, but there is no reason in it. There is only rage. And in that rage they sometimes say things they don't mean. More frightening, they sometimes say things they actually do mean, but are normally too suave to disclose; the mask slips sometimes. Such unreasoning hate. Underneath all the noble words about caring for the disadvantaged, there is such unreasoning contempt for everything and everybody who stands in their way.

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9:02 am - But the government is here to help you
Deanne and I were talking over the pressure she feels at her job. She was hired as a professional, but the Obama Labor Dept.'s new rule on overtime (since stayed by a federal court) meant that her non-profit had to shift her to an hourly wage. Same overall pay, but the pressures are different.

She's being pressed to make "production," which in her case means billable hours. But there are other things that have to be done, too, which don't count as billable hours -- certain reports, follow-ups, and so on. She's not supposed to stay late to get them done, because then they'd have to pay her overtime, but there's no other time to do them. She's been working over her lunch break to try to keep up. This is a problem.

I told her that she's getting the worst of both salaried and hourly statuses, and needs to get some things clarified. A salaried person -- a professional -- understands that the job is the totality of what needs to be done, and to carry work home is usual. But if you're hourly, then you get paid for everything they ask you to do. If you're working at McDonald's and they call you in for a store training meeting, you get paid. If you're on the clock, you get paid, and if you're off the clock, you don't work. A business asking you to work off the clock is not merely demanding; they're breaking the law.

So we talked about how factory work is done, and how hourly workers manage to met production goals within the rules set by their employers. There are all kinds of internal adjustments workers make to succeed in this environment, which professionals don't do. Deanne used to do factory work, and she lit up as she remembered how it was done.

Anyway, I'm sure what has happened is that the bosses at her non-profit got the memo from the Labor Dept. and figured they'd just diddle the numbers to comply and then go on about their business same as always. They probably don't understand that they're paying people by the hour to work like salaried people; they haven't made the transition in their heads.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping that the power grab by the outdoing Labor Dept. gets overturned. But that may not mean that all the non-profits (including the local Boy Scout Council) can go back to the status quo ante. People have lost their jobs over this craziness, as non-profits have had to figure out how to stay within their budgets, and those jobs aren't going to be restored. Similarly, those who've had their statuses changed might not have them changed back, so the question of what is work and what expectations are reasonable will still have to be answered.

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Monday, January 2nd, 2017
11:01 pm - On the ninth day of Christmas...
We drove over to Richmond to see the rest of our family.

Brian was on call both of the last two weekends, so our family day was today. Gifts were exchanged, games were played, and a large ham (no, not Brian Blessed) was baked. We ate lots of goodies. Percivale curled up with me and we took a nap together on the couch. It was a lovely day.

I've been missing the grandcubs a lot, so getting to see them was a treat. On their side, they were thrilled to have all of us over -- especially Uncle Zach, who is a very patient reader of stories and player of games.

On the way home, we talked over what to get James for his fourth birthday, which is coming up in just under two weeks. He loves to sing and dance, so I'm thinking something musical; on the other hand, the house doesn't need more noisemakers. Hmmm.

Anna and Brian and Daniel and James will all be helping again with the Winter Rendezvous later this month. Daniel and James are old hands at this by now: it'll be their third Winter Rendezvous.

Story time with Uncle Zach

Story time with Uncle Zach

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Sunday, January 1st, 2017
3:53 pm - The discipline of preaching
This morning was the last worship service in the Advent & Christmastide seasons. That means I need to have all the worship stuff done for the next several weeks' bulletins. Not only does the church secretary need to know sermon texts and titles, hymns, psalms, collects, and so on; the choir director and organist need to know what hymns to rehearse and what the overall themes are so they can pick anthems and service music.

For this reason, I plan 6-13 weeks at a time, several times a year. First, I need to know what I'm preaching about. This doesn't need to be too detailed at this point, just the germ of an idea, a text, and a title for each sermon. As we go through the season of worship, all these sermons are slowly simmering on the back burner of my mind. Sometimes I think about a sermon in great detail, sometimes several times; other times, stuff just bubbles up. I'm thinking over all these sermons even when I'm not thinking about them. Final prep each week, then, is kind of like adjusting seasoning and working up the presentation. But the basic work of chopping and putting in the pot all comes at once, and that's what I've been doing this afternoon.

Next, I go through both our hymnals (and sometimes other resources) and write down all the songs that might possibly go with the liturgical season or with this collection of sermon ideas. After I've reduced the universe of hymns to a smaller list, I then go through and plug particular hymns into their places week by week. I don't repeat any song within the planning period. I also try not to have more than one unfamiliar song per week.

Finally, I have to pick psalms and collects and other bits of liturgy for each Sunday. When I'm done with all that, I make up a document of all these details and furnish it to the church secretary, choir director, and organist. By my doing all this work at once, I free myself from having to come up with stuff week by week. I also empower the other worship leaders, who don't have to stress out because the pastor is stuck and doesn't know what he's doing this Sunday.

This afternoon, I took all the ideas I've been jotting down for the last couple of weeks and finished up sermon texts and titles for January 8-February 26 (Ordinary Time between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday). Picked the hymns and psalms. Just got collects and a few other details to do; I'll have them finished by Wednesday, when I'll give them to the other leaders to work with.

It's a discipline I've followed for forty years. I find it frees me up to think and pray, without stressing out week by week over details. And it's helpful and courteous to the other members of the team. I recommend it to others.

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Thursday, December 29th, 2016
11:41 am - Dear LJ Fairy
Is there a way to download your entire LJ archive and store it somewhere?

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Saturday, December 24th, 2016
6:57 pm - People who live in grass houses shouldn't throw scones
I was watching a British YouTube video and had to tune my ear in to the accent of the presenter. I was listening to her pronunciation of scones, when it occurred to me, not for the first time, how odd it was.

We Americans would say skohnz for the biscuit-like things. We would also typically pronounce the Scottish town of Scone as Skohn. In Britain, however, the biscuity scones are pronounced skonnz, while the Scottish town is Skoon.

I'm sure this all has something to do with Noah Webster, who taught Americans to say fore-head and waist-coat instead of forrid and weskit.

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Thursday, December 22nd, 2016
6:06 pm - Just in time for the Winter Rendezvous!

Creamed Possum with Sweet Potatoes Garnished in Coon Fat Gravy

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Wednesday, December 21st, 2016
9:56 pm - PSA
dog poop

We've all had that one person, who didn't just disagree with us but thought that our space was theirs to unload their whole dump truck of disagreeableness on.

Lord, don't let me be That Guy.

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Tuesday, December 20th, 2016
2:01 pm - New verse on an old carol
The Gloucestershire Wassail salutes the master, the butler, the maid -- but also the horse (Dobbin), cow (Fillpail), and other animals by name. So why shouldn't it include a housecat?

Wassail, wassail, all over the town,
our toast it is white and our ale it is brown.
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree,
with the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

And here's to Hera and to her soft fur,
we love to hold her and listen to her purr.
And list'ning to her purr, it fills us with glee,
with the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

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Thursday, December 15th, 2016
11:04 am - I'm agin' it
A friend recently posted in an online group I belong to that a pastor in our Conference (I don’t know who) has just been called to a meeting with the Superintendent of that District because the pastor preached a sermon on sexual sin from the lectionary passage about the beheading of John the Baptist. Several parishioners walked out of the service in anger. I have no idea what he or she actually said, or what the tone of his or her remarks was, but this is ridiculous.

Calvin Coolidge’s wife once had to stay home from church because of illness. When ol’ Silent Cal came home, she asked what the preacher preached about. “Sin,” he replied. But what did he say, she probed. “He was agin’ it.” We’re supposed to preach about sin, and we’re supposed to be against it.

It’s true that there are many other kinds of sins than sexual ones, though sometimes that’s all people think we’re against. A young man once came up to Dorothy Sayers, who had mentioned the Seven Deadly Sins in a talk, and said to her, “I did not know there were seven deadly sins. Please tell me the names of the other six.” My experience has been that people don’t mind if you preach against dishonesty or hatred or idolatry. They’ll even cheerfully repent of these sins if you tell them they’re committing them. But they get positively huffy if you suggest that our sexual practices and lifestyles are also open for discussion.

In C.S. Lewis’s short story, “Ministering Angels,” he writes about the first scientific colony on Mars, which is all male. (Lewis died in 1963, so in his day, any major feat of exploration would have been all male.) An unexpected ship arrives, bringing new team members: two women, who have volunteered to provide sexual solace to men far from home. The joke is, neither of these two women is in the least bit desirable as a sexual partner, even for those stuck on Mars. When the Captain of the colony objects to the situation being foisted on them by the authorities back on Earth, the pilot says, “Then there’s the new ethics, forbye.”

To which the Captain replies, “Oh stow it, you old rascal. What is new there either? Who ever tried to live clean except a minority who had a religion or were in love? They’ll try it still on Mars, as they did on earth. As for the majority, did they ever hesitate to take their pleasures wherever they could get them?”

The majority of people have always done whatever they thought they could get away with in sexual matters, as long as they could avoid adverse consequences. In the old days, those consequences were primarily four: loss of reputation (a serious matter to those who value the opinions of others in the community); collapse of one’s marriage and loss of one’s children; an unplanned pregnancy, with all its responsibilities and costs; and disease. What has changed is that today, these consequences are no longer considered adverse -- or at least have been ameliorated. Reputations no longer depend upon appearing to follow traditional values. Marriages are routinely ended with little fuss and people mostly continue to see their children. Cheap and safe birth control, combined with abortion on demand, mean that unplanned pregnancies are not the problem they once were. And though STDs are rampant in our society, science keeps coming up with medicines that help people manage their effects.

And it is still true that only the minority that has a religion or is in love — that is, those who either have a God they don’t want to disappoint, or a lover they don’t want to disappoint — tries to live up to any kind of standard in matters of sexual life. Sadly, many even of those who have a religion now want one that allows them to live however they want. They don't even want to hear that forgivenessness is free; they are offended by the very thought that they need to be forgiven for anything.

But what value is there in a religion that approves everything you do, just because you do it? Such a religion doesn't reconcile you to God and his standards; it only means you are your own god and are to be worshiped for whatever standards you choose. And since you are your own god under such a system, as a practical matter you will find that your human loves will tend to be sterile and unsatisfying. After all, if you don't fear to disappoint God, why should you fear to disappoint a human lover? If you are your own god, then in the end, you are like Narcissus, enchanted by your own reflection and unable to really see anybody else as worth bothering with.

Without someone to remind us that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we remain trapped in our own muddy souls, and there is no chance of embracing that glory at last. We preachers preach against sin not in order to condemn people for their misdeeds, but to raise the possibility that there might be more to life than scratching the same itch over and over in search of a satisfaction that recedes ever further from us, yea, though we claw ourselves bloody.

We preachers don't preach against sin in order to hold people down, but to lift people up. And if people get offended, well that can't be helped. It's what the job's about.

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Monday, December 12th, 2016
7:37 pm - Some thoughts on Men's ministry
I'm talking to some of the men at my church about what sort of Men's ministry they want/need/would participate in. We're in a time of transition. This made me think about some essentials for any Men's group.

He fills the hungry with good things.

The one thing you hear a lot in discussions of Men's groups is, "We don't want to have just a meet-and-eat group. We need something real to do, or it's not worth showing up for." Well, yes. But I'd still start with food. Food matters.

From the earliest beginnings of society, men have gathered around the dinner table. Being messmates is a fundamental sort of relationship for guys. Ancient Spartans took their meals together in groups. So did the comitatus -- the king's companions -- in ancient Germanic tribes. Sitting Bull belonged to several dining groups in Lakota society, including the Silent Eaters. As G.K. Chesterton put it, prehistoric man may not have wielded a club, but he certainly belonged to one.

Sometimes, a meal at the church can be the basis of our meeting. Sometimes, we can get together at a restaurant. Or someone's home. And not every meeting has to have food in it, but we shouldn't try to get all "efficient," and forego the pleasures of elbows on the table. That's when relationships get built.

Man does not live by bread alone.

This doesn't mean that we have to eat every time we get together, but still, eating together is important. The reason isn't the food, though, it's the talk. Man Talk. Men talk about important stuff. Of course, the important stuff is mixed in with lots of other stuff -- stories, brags, bawdy, whatnot. Men talk around the table. They reveal, they share, they pay honor to each other.

Of course, just jackin' yer jaws isn't necessarily edifying, however fun it might be. As a Christian group -- as a group of Christian men -- our talk should be "seasoned with salt." It should be focused on our relationship with Christ, on what it means to be a Man in Christ, on spiritual growth.

Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.

As important as Man Talk is, it's also important that Boys have a chance to take part from time to time. Boys learn how to be Men by being with men, by hearing what they talk about and watching how they act. Boys learn about how to follow Christ by being with men who are serious about following Christ. So, we need to plan activities that boys can take part in, too.

No doubt there are some activities that boys should not be encouraged to take part in. There are adult tasks that boys can't participate in without hobbling the group. And there are adult conversations that boys probably shouldn't take part in: Not because they would fry the boys' ears, but because they might inhibit the adults' participation. But however that might be, I would submit that there are fewer occasions for excluding boys than you might think. Most of our Men's group activities should be open to boys coming with the men in their lives.

You give them something to eat

Food is important, but Men don't just gather to eat. Feeding others is important to men. In so-called primitive societies, we see the traditional practice that women feed their families, but men (when they cook) feed the community. Whether it's a neighborhood barbecue or a church dinner or a ministry that feeds the hungry, Men need to cook for others. (In traditional societies, this is probably the only time that men cook.)

Church Men's groups should develop at least one activity a year in which the men (and boys) cook together. It could be a fundraiser, a Mother-Daughter banquet, a grill-off, a ministry that feeds the homeless, or a recognition banquet. Planning it together and accomplishing it as a team will build the group up, in addition to whatever other good purpose it serves.

I'll return to this train of thought later, but this will serve to get started.

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Friday, December 9th, 2016
10:00 pm - 'Tis the season
Incipit gestis Rudolphi rangifer tarandus

Hwæt, Hrodulf readnosa hrandeor --
Næfde þæt nieten unsciende næsðyrlas!
Glitenode and gladode godlice nosgrisele.
Ða hofberendas mid huscwordum hine gehefigodon;
Nolden þa geneatas Hrodulf næftig
To gomene hraniscum geador ætsomne.
Þa in Cristesmæsseæfne stormigum clommum,
Halga Claus þæt gemunde to him maðelode:
"Neahfreond nihteage nosubeorhtende!
Min hroden hrædwæn gelæd ðu, Hrodulf!"
Ða gelufodon hira laddeor þa lyftflogan --
Wæs glædnes and gliwdream; hornede sum gegieddode
"Hwæt, Hrodulf readnosa hrandeor,
Brad springð þin blæd: breme eart þu!"


Here begins the deeds of Rudolph, Tundra-Wanderer
Lo, Hrodulf the red-nosed reindeer --
That beast didn't have unshiny nostrils!
The goodly nose-cartilage glittered and glowed.
The hoof-bearers taunted him with proud words;
The comrades wouldn't allow wretched Hrodulf
To join the reindeer games.
Then, on Christmas Eve bound in storms
Santa Claus remembered that, spoke formally to him:
"Dear night-sighted friend, nose-bright one!
You, Hrodulf, shall lead my adorned rapid-wagon!"
Then the sky-flyers praised their lead-deer --
There was gladness and music; one of the horned ones sang
"Lo, Hrodulf the red-nosed reindeer,
Your fame spreads broadly, you are renowned!"

Copyright © 1996 Philip Chapman-Bell

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Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
11:13 am - Meanwhile, in another galaxy, far, far away
Knowing the good he is

Knowing the good he is

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Thursday, December 1st, 2016
6:46 am - Crying wolf
Are hate crimes on the rise these days? The news these days is full of incidents of ugly things said and done by Trump supporters. Letters to the editor telling Muslims that they are about to be treated as the Jews were under Hitler, swastikas and ugly words painted on black churches, a lady refusing to pay for a shopping bag while shouting "Trump won!" (neener neener neener) -- the list goes on. Progressives on social media exercise their outrage each time, solemnly warning us of the incipient fascism we are facing.

Several things need to be said.

First, obviously, each and every one of these incidents is deplorable. There is no justification for expressions of hate or contempt toward our fellows. Vandalism is never okay. And nobody is owed anything, just because one's candidate has won an election.

But, second: are these incidents actually on the rise? Remember, during the Reagan and elder Bush administrations, the news was full of stories on homelessness. We were in a national crisis of homelessness, apparently. It was suggested -- nay, sometimes outright claimed -- that the increase in homelessness was directly caused by the economic policies of the Republicans in power. Oh, those nasty Repubs! Well, Bill Clinton apparently solved the problem in a single day: January 20, 1993. For on the day of his inauguration, the news simply stopped carrying stories on homelessness. Did homelessness disappear? No, but the news media doesn't carry many such stories when their guy is in power. So, I have to ask: are incidents of hate increasing, or are they suddenly just being reported more because the news media think they're newsworthy now that a Trump presidency is on the horizon?

And, third: for those paying attention these last few years, there has been a low rumble of these kinds of incidents all along. And a not inconsiderable number of them have turned out to be hoaxes, perpetrated by those claiming to be the targets of the hate. The follow-up stories revealing the hoaxers don't get quite the splash as the original incident reports. How many of the incidents now being reported will turn out to have been perpetrated by progressives? And will that make a difference to the number of these stories being reported or the way they're covered?

Finally: while I don't ever condone expressions of payback, in some of these cases I'm willing to cut people some slack. The expressions of hate and contempt directed toward ordinary Americans by progressives is one of the big stories of this election. From the original Tea Party Patriots of a few years ago being maligned with homosexual slurs about "teabagging" to Hillary Clinton's calling Trump supporters "a basket of deplorables," the Left has felt free to indulge in all kinds of ugly rhetoric toward their opponents. So their sanctimony about ugly rhetoric now doesn't move me much. Hate breeds hate, contempt excites contempt. I don't say it's okay, but I'm not surprised at some of the things I've seen said and done by those on the winning side; indeed, I'm surprised at how little of that there's been.

Expect to see many, many stories about hate and fascism in the years ahead. The news media and the grievance industry (but I repeat myself) will beat this drum for all it's worth. Which doesn't mean that there's never something that needs rebuking in our society; it just means that the low smoulder of trash fires that goes on all the time will be reported as catastrophic forest fires caused by Trump supporters playing with matches.

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Wednesday, November 30th, 2016
2:53 pm - In which I offend pretty much everybody
When I was digging the Christmas stuff out of the upstairs walk-in closet, I found a half dozen gallon jugs of distilled water, unopened. I asked Deanne why she kept including water on our grocery list when we had all this water, and she replied that that had been set by for emergencies. You know, tornadoes, earthquakes, zombie apocalypses. Deanne is a bit of a survivalist at heart, a trait I find more often among men of my internet acquaintance. Indeed, I've always seen that as quintessentially a male trait -- nay, a husband and father trait. "Protect the women and children! Keep the family safe in a crisis!"

Meanwhile, women's tin-foil hat tendencies incline more often toward exotic diets, purges, holistic health, and so on. "Have you had a bowel movement today, Honey?" In their extreme form, they reach unto anti-vaxer weirdness. Oh, I know men who get into this sort of thing, but it still seems more common among women to me. Why? Maybe it's a Mom sort of thing. Mothers are supposed to take care of their children, and always know what's best for them. So the health obsessions and fads are kind of an assertion of the superior knowledge of Everymom against the bullying of doctors. "How dare those men in white lab coats make me feel inadequate? What do they know?"

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