The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being

Growing up as the son of a Presbyterian minister had its more interesting moments, I can assure you, but one thing that much of my upbringing lacked was an experience in racially diverse congregations. Presbyterians, not known to be a terribly diverse lot, tend to put the “W” in WASP, in my experience (and lest you griefers complain, I’m going to make like an Ivy League admissions officer and ignore the hundreds of thousands of Korean Presbyterians just so’s I can make a point). We’re mainly Persons of Pallor, so to speak, so it was with quite a bit of mirth that I listened to my father relay the following story to me.
Well, before the story, some backstory/serious caveating [if it’s not a word, I just made it one. -ed.]: I enjoy my father’s sermons greatly. I believe that he’s an excellent speaker and, as a child, constantly wondered why those other slackers all had Sunday morning radio shows while my father’s genius reached “only” the people in his congregation. A bit of filial piety, perhaps, but I still believe him to be an excellent preacher. He’s also a very structured one; his sermon “cheat sheets” are nigh-legendary, as they lay out the sermon in its thematic high points and 3 to 5 central tenets, all augmented with conveniently-placed fill-in-the-blanks so that those wishing to do so may follow along in aural and written form. He usually develops a word or phrase that captures the essence of his message and then repeats it at strategic points throughout the sermon, just to make sure that everyone gets the point, I suppose.
Back to the story.
My father recently developed a sermon that he was fairly excited about and one in which he sought to invoke the energy and excitement that is present in so many African American churches by laying claim to one of the stereotypical sayings that abound within the halls of black churches (if movies and TV are to be believed). And so he preached an entire sermon entitled “Can I Have A Witness!” He held forth at length on this point, repeating it each time it was called for in order to draw people in further. He finished the service on an emotional high, then walked down the church aisle after giving the benediction and stood at the rear of the church to shake hands and greet the departing parishioners in his typical fashion.
He was soon approached by an elderly white woman who praised his sermon thusly (and I’m paraphrasing): “Lovely sermon, Pastor, but, and I could be mistaken, isn’t it ‘Can I Get A Witness’?” My father said he just about died of embarassment on the spot, although he was quickly able to recover and have a good laugh about it.
I hear he may follow it up with a very special sermon entitled “Might I Perchance Trouble You For An Amen?”

Someone’s Getting A Fatwa For Christmas

Imagine my total non-surprise to find out that the man behind Dashboard Mohammed, a bobblheaded version of the now-infamous “bomb turban Mohammed” Danish cartoon, is a former United States Marine (Note to the NY Daily News: There is no such thing as an “ex-“Marine, unless they’ve been disgraced. They’re all “former” Marines.). Guy’s gotta have quite a set of, umm, guts on him to go out on a limb like that.
Be sure to snatch one up for every stocking you plan on stuffing this Christmas. *grin*

A “Gideon” Experience

I can’t speak in detail about it, but yesterday offered me some clarity and insight into current goings-on in my life. I completely whiffed on an important step in pursuit of an opportunity about which I already had a great deal of ambivalence and so, like Gideon in Judges 7, it’s all on God now. I’m down to 300 men against 30,000 Midianites, thus I know that if “victory” is to be delivered to me, it’s God’s and God’s alone. It’s actually rather liberating because, should the experience result in a “yea”, I know I’ll have to take it but if it’s a “nay”, then I’ll know that it was never meant to be. Absent yesterday’s experience, this wouldn’t be the case – I could conceivably have credited myself with the “victory” and thus remained unsure of God’s actual plan.
I should know more inside of a week.

Providential Timing

A few weeks ago, an anonymous generous soul decided to liberate our Passat wagon of its driver’s-side rearview mirror. Apparently, its existence was superfluous, so much so that said generous soul neglected to even stop and offer an explanation, so generous was their course of action.
I took the wagon in to the VW dealership last friday in order to get an oil change and an estimate on replacing the mirror. Bob, the service manager at Cherry Hill Imports, graciously offered to give me an estimate ($220! For a mirror!) and then proceeded to tell me that the work couldn’t be completed in a single day (the paint takes two days to dry, apparently), so he would have the paint guys do the mirror up proper and then I would drop by on Monday to have it installed.
We’re not exactly rolling in the dough around these parts at this point, so $220 was a bit of a hard pill to swallow. My wife and I had a word when I got home and simply threw up our hands and a brief prayer to God. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much – it’s not that I don’t trust God to provide for us, it’s just that I guess I consider car repairs to be in the noise of daily life and something that, well, I should be responsible for. I bought the car (so my flawed thinking goes), thus I should be good and happy to take repsonsibility for anything that goes wrong with it. “Cattle of a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10) only penetrates my psyche so far, I guess.
Monday rolled around and I put off dropping by the dealership in the morning, opting instead to go around lunch time. I pulled up to the service entrance just as Bob was getting up to leave for lunch, apparently. “All of my installation guys are out for lunch!” he said. “Tell you what, I’ll just install it myself and only charge you for the parts.”
The bill came to a little over $75, tax included – quite a bit off the $220 I was expecting. I sat down in the driver’s seat and offered up a prayer of thanks as soon as Bob ambled back off to grab his lunch, most likely unaware of the odd blessing he had bestowed upon me.

Doings And Goings-On

Things have been busy – very busy – over the last few days, hence my lack of posting.
First off, I was officially installed as an elder of my church this past Sunday. I had to give my testimony in brief (read: less than 5 minutes, a real chore, for those of you that know how much I love to talk… *grin*). I spent most of the weekend trying to pull together my testimony and condense the salient points into a mere 5 minutes and found myself utterly frustrated at every turn. Finally, around 11pm Saturday night, I threw my hands up in frustration and said “Well, God, I’ve got nothing. You’re going to have to do all the talking for me, ’cause my wit, insight, knowledge and natural abiliities aren’t going to cut it.”
Believe it or not, I actually walked to the front of the theater as I was about to give my testimony with no idea on what I was going to talk about. God completely stepped in and led me to talk on Acts 22 (which was the subject of our pastor’s sermon this week) and how Paul, under the Jewish law, was flawless. If anyone had a claim on “righteousness” and “zeal”, it was Paul, yet his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus revealed to him precisely how little any of that legalism matters to God. I talked about how, by way of my upbringing, I had a similar claim on church-y “righteousness” – son of a pastor, well-versed (no pun intended) in my Bible, I said all the right things, I did all the right things (well, for the most part…), and yet, as God has been leading me to see, all that means precisely bupkiss. I talked about the vision for our church that God has been laying on my heart and I talked about my excitement at being able to serve as an elder. God completely came through for me.
Secondly, I’ll probably be occupied for 95% of the work day for the next three days training a team member in Apple Open Directory Fu, so there likely won’t be much time for me to slip in any postings. “See” y’all Friday, most likely.

Lousy Fake Chinese Saying…

May you live in interesting times.
Supposed ancient Chinese curse

“Watching” the events in Lebanon unfold on the newswires, I ran through an extremely odd combination of feelings at work today. I felt detached, almost entirely removed from the world as I watched Israel escalate their offensive against Hizb’allah in the south of Lebanon; I felt anger at the psychopaths responsible for the kidnappings of Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldvasser and Eldad Regev; I felt hope that Israel might finally strike mortal blows against not only the Islamists in south Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, but also against their exiled leaders operating openly in the streets of Damascus; I dearly wished that Bashaar Assad be next on the list for his part in this affair.
Most of all, though, I felt anger, not with the parties currently involved in the conflict, but with the U.S. government. I felt anger most specifically towards the Office of the President and those who have held it over the past 30 years – most especially the detestable Jimmy Carter, but also Reagan, H.W. Bush, Clinton and W. Bush. Each and every one of them failed to take action[s] that could have prevented the current conflict. I fumed at Carter’s ineptitude, his waffling, his undermining of the Shah, his latent and unhidden anti-Semitism and his handling of the Embassy hostage crisis. I raged against Reagan’s refusal to take definitive action against Hizb’allah for the slaughter of 241 brave U.S. Marines in Beirut in ’83. I nearly retched over H.W.’s disgusting near-obeisance to the House of Saud, his craven refusal to push to Baghdad and his abandonment of the Kurds and Shia that his administration encouraged to rise up against Hussein. Clinton’s cut-n-run from Somalia, his pressuring of Israel for concessions to the detestable Arafat-lead P.L.O. and his flubbing of the USS Cole attack elicited more than anger. W.’s continuation of his father’s Saudi butt-kissing and his willingness to listen to the careerists-gone-native in the State Department cautioning against “destabilizing action” infuriated me.
Each and every Israeli soldier that dies in this current conflict can be traced back to the US kicking the can of Middle Eastern terrorism down the road. The blame for the attacks themselves are obviously the fault of the perpetrators – Iran, Syria and their Hizb’allah attack dogs in this case – but we have allowed for this sort of thing to creep in for fear of being labeled, well, I don’t know what. I can tell you what all of our avoidance and dissembling has labeled us in the eyes of the Arab Islamic world: the weak horse.
I hope that the U.S. government bites its collective tongue this time around and lets Israel finally do some much-needed terrorist house cleaning. Heck, it appears as if even the other Arab governments think Hizb’allah has gone too far this time, so the gloves might actually come off this time. Maybe the IDF will finally have the guts and the wherewithal to finish at least some of the jobs that we should have finished long ago.

On To Plan B

My wife recently read a book outlining a decent spiritual/mental model to help one to deal with the ins and outs of daily life. The model goes as follows: Either the night prior to or the morning of a day (any day, really), mentally lay out and pray over your plans for the day, asking God for His help on any big issues that you think you might encounter. Label this view of the day ahead as “Plan A”. As you go about your day, note any deviations from that plan and consider them “Plan B”, placed there by God.
Today is definitely shaping up to be a “Plan B” day and it’s not even 11am. All ongoing projects have been set aside as our primary DB server decided to take a walk in the park. Poof! there goes “Plan A”. Onwards and upwards we go, on to Plan B!