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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Five things I've learned in 42 years

Being "middle aged" at forty-two would mean I'll live to be eighty-four. Statistically, that's unlikely, though if genes mean anything, my German-American heritage may take me into my nineties.

"Over the hill" or not, maybe today is the time to write down a few of the things I've learned in forty-two years on God's green earth:

1. New and improved isn't necessarily. Remember "new Coke"? That stuff was terrible. I'm glad that "classic Coke" came back.

2. Beauty and character rarely keep company. Our culture worships the beautiful face, the perfect physique. What is it about that kind of adulation that makes jerks of the individuals who receive it? Some of the kindest people I know are the plainest.

3. The best head of lettuce is underneath. The produce department always rotates the fresh stuff to the bottom, so people will buy what's been on display for the longest, and therefore closest to spoiling. This goes for iceberg lettuce, but also for summer fruit. If it's still cold, it probably just came out of the cooler. Keep digging!

4. God is the same, but we experience Him differently. Some will claim to have been "saved" in an encounter with Jesus. Others can trace no such experience, but nonetheless profess loyalty to Christ. A person might have been brought up in a Christian tradition that uses different vocabulary than yours. Keep your cookie cutters in the kitchen; God works differently in different persons.

5. Find what you're good at, and go for it. Parents, let your kids try lots of different things when they're growing up. That's how they'll discover something they're good at. When they do, positive self-esteem is just around the corner. And by the way, what you like and are good at isn't necessarily the same for them. You play trumpet; they might want to play the drums.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Harmony in the heartland

A few years ago, "Denny's" was sued for racial insensitivity. No one else will report a story that cuts the other direction, but they're out there. I found such a story tonight in Indianapolis.

It was my 42nd birthday, and for my party my wife and two sons took me out to "Golden Corral." After we'd loaded our plates higher than we probably should have, we sat and began to feast in a restaurant that was jammed with customers, even though it was late (7:30 p.m.) I looked at the faces around me. What did I see? Off to the left was a white family with toddlers, and beside them a black family. Both families had mom and dad present. I saw a single Anglo man conversing with a Korean and his several children. The four black women to my right smiled at me, and were happy to pass me a sugar packet for my coffee. Our server was a young black man, very efficient. Everyone that I heard addressed him as "sir" and when asking for things said "please." At another table I heard Spanish being spoken. Laughter was in the house.

After eating for ten or so minutes, I looked across the table at my wife and asked her: "Do you see what I see all around us?" She'd noticed, too. "I feel so good here," I said. "This is how it's supposed to be." Our family of four paid about $ 50.00 with the tip for that meal. Others likely paid about the same. Something right is happening with our economy, and whatever it is, it's colorblind.

Later tonight, I walked with my son in the downtown area. Two police officers passed on horseback, patrolling the area near the military park. They were engaged in easy conversation. One was white, one was black. It turned no heads; it's just too normal.

Earlier in the day, I chatted with a young man from Texas. Next year, he'll be attending an all black university in East Africa. No big deal. He can save big bucks on his college education, and he wants to learn about a place in the world far different than the whitebread one where he grew up.

A birthday dinner, a park patrol, and a cloistered young man yearning for other perspectives. Three times today, I saw a glimpse of our better angels. You can't wrap it up with a bow, but that really doesn't matter. It was my best present of all.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The grace of a red Peterbilt - Has anyone ever sung an ode to these enduring work horses of the American highway? Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

On the road again

Why is the last day before vacation always so impossible? There are a thousand details that resist resolving until the last minute. Seventy lbs. per suitcase back to America seems huge, until you actually start packing, then where did all that space go?

I'm not sure how much blogging I'll get done over the three weeks of our wandering. We'll clock many a mile in a rental car, so we'll see how 1 of 2 and 2 of 2 manage cooped up in the back. Hey, at least teens are easier to entertain than munchkins. Meanwhile, I'll have my trusty Pentax Optio along. I'm no Michael Totten when it comes to photography, but should post a nice shot or two from our travels.

Oh yeah, thanks to Justin Delabar at Digital Dissent for the link!

If you like "Three of Six," spread the word.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Fishing buddies in the Caribbean Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Is the U.S. a Christian nation?

It's an explosive question. Even raising it can set off alarm bells for practitioners of other faiths, or those of no faith at all. Is America a Christian nation? It may seem like fence-straddling for those who want just plain old "yes" or "no," but the answer is both "yes" and "no."

We are a Christian nation. The Mayflower Compact (1620), signed by 41 of the 102 passengers on-board, mentions not only "the honor of our King and Country," but "the Glory of God" and the "Advancement of the Christian Faith" as reasons for having undertaken the trans-Atlantic voyage. The Declaration of Independence (1776) speaks of both "the Laws of Nature" and "Nature's God." In the decades leading up to the Civil War (1861-65), it was Christians who advanced the most telling arguments against slavery. In 2001, Gallup measured church attendance at 41%, meaning more than 4 of 10 Americans went to church at least one per week. Across our country's short history, Christianity has played a key role.

We are not a Christian nation. In-light of the above church attendance statistics, it would be better to say that we are a nation where Christianity is the predominant religion. Even if 41% of us are in church at least once per week, this does not mean that our government sanctions one religion over another. On the contrary,our federal Constitution makes no mention of God; in this sense, it is a thorougly secular document. Religion is mentioned in the First Amendment, but only to say that Congress is forbidden from playing favorites, establishing one religion over another. By explicitly denying that a particular faith, whether Christian, Mormon, Muslim, or any other, is the state-recognized religion, there is a level playing field for all religions. Neutrality in religion is also implied in Article VI. Section 3 of the Constitution, which explicity prohibits the application of a "religious test" to candidates for public office.

Are there current threats to the time-honored principle of favoring all religions by establishing none? Yes. In the United States, two threats loom on the horizon:

1. Reconstructionism -Bruce Prescott documents the rise of so-called "Dominion theology" in Oklahoma. He dubs it "a revival of the holy war theology of the Hebrew Bible under the guise of Christianity." Dominionists expect to usher in the Kingdom of God by force of law, and, if necessary, by force of arms. Prescott credits their success to date to their "allying themselves with the Republican party and other conservative Christians and working through the political process."

2. Sharia - Nigeria provides an interesting study of what happens when Sharia (Islamic) law is imposed through governmental mechanisms. Now existing in 12 of Nigeria's 36 states, capital punishment is imposed for cases of adultery, and thieves lose a hand. Flogging is the punishment for drinking alcohol. Historically, Islamic law has been imposed even when significant numbers of practitioners of other faiths remain, such as in North Africa in the 7th century. "Dhimmitude" refers to the second-class status that Jews and Christians are made to suffer under Islamic rule, and is a telling warning of what happens when government makes one religion official.

Is the United States a religious nation? Obviously. Is it a Christian nation? It has many Christians, yes, but governmentally remains neutral toward all faiths, neither requiring faith of any citizen, nor in theory opposing believers of any persuasion who are willing to live peacefully within our borders. Only a clear understanding of this balancing act and a willingness to defend it can guarantee the free exercise of faith by all. It's an American tradition, part of our heritage, and worth defending!

Six sons, and no theories

Years ago, my mom found a colorful porcelain plate at a rummage sale. Now hanging on her dining room wall, it simply reads:

"Before I got married, I had six theories about raising sons. Now I have six sons, and no theories."

Three of Six is a blog written by me, son # 3. I've never pondered much how birth order has affected my outlook on life, though I'm sure it has in ways I'll never understand. Lots of other factors that I never chose, though, have inevitably shaped my worldview: where I grew up, my parents' religious faith, the "heritage" of trumpet lessons starting in fourth grade, etc. In due time, these things and more will show up here at Three of Six.

If you're having trouble sleeping at night, maybe I am too. Hey, you might find even find something new here! Lots of politics, some theology, occasional talk about good books I've read, and frequent observatons from my "perch" outside the U.S., things I've noticed as an American "on the outside, looking in."

Just one rule for comments. Let's all say it together three times: respect, respect, respect.

Pull up a chair. Welcome to Three of Six!