Monthly Archives: March 2012

Delusions of Most Favored Nation

Sometimes we think God blesses us because we’re good people. America prospers because God likes us. This is a pretty common sentiment among American Christians. We’re big and rich and powerful, therefore God favors us. And if God favors us, it must be because we’re a godly nation.

Today my Bible reading included Deuteronomy 9-10. The Israelites apparently thought the same about themselves–that God was doing all of these great things for them because of their goodness. But throughout this chapter, Moses repeatedly castigates the Israelites for thinking like that. He mentions over and over God’s fury against the Israelites, and that only fervent appeals by Moses, on many occasions, prevented God from destroying the Israelites.

Look at these words of Moses from Deuteronomy 9:4-6:

4 After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Moses is saying, “You are NOT good people. You infuriate God. But you’re better than the peoples around you.”

I wonder if God has a similar attitude toward America. I’m sure God’s wrath burned against us as we permitted slavery, as we slaughtered and abused Indians, and as we in recent years have descended into so much immorality, ravage the earth to satisfy our cravings, and increasingly thumb our noses at the poor while coddling and protecting the interests of the rich. Would not these things, among others, provoke God’s wrath?

And yet, while being like the Israelites–not people of righteousness or integrity–we’ve been better than the nations who have come against us, at least at that time–Britain, Mexico, Spain, Germany, Japan, Afghanistan, Iraq. It was not our goodness that made the difference, but their greater wickedness.

Yes, we are good…compared to other nations. But remember how Moses, over and over, strongly reminded the Israelites about the many times God was ready to totally wipe them out. Yes, they were his chosen people, and he had made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet God was on the verge of chucking the whole thing and just annihilating the stubborn, disobedient Israelites. He came really really close to doing that.

Think about that.

And then ask, “Are we better than the Israelites? Why wouldn’t God be just as disgusted with us, and ready to wipe us out?” Ready to do it except, perhaps, for the prayers of the righteous among us. That’s all that saved Israel.

God’s standards and expectations far exceed anything we can imagine. Let’s not think that God is head-over-heels for us because we’re such a goody-goody nation. We’re not. In God’s standards, we may be just the lesser of many evils.

No, I’m not an America hater. I’m just using Scripture to try to understand how God might view us.

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Christlikeness at the Chrysler Dealership

This morning I had a chance to practice a minimal degree of Christlikeness. But it didn’t start this morning.

It was somewhere around 1983. I was single, living in an apartment, and not exactly pulling in big bucks. One Friday I arrived home from work to find my electricity had been turned off. The relevant office was closed. I would need to wait until Monday to get it taken care of.

I’d been reading something about how Christians should treat people (can’t remember specifically what it was, now), and I knew this was a test to see how I would respond. So when I showed up first thing Monday morning, I didn’t mention how I’d been inconvenienced, that I’d been using outlets in the hallway all weekend, and that I lost everything (which wasn’t much) in my freezer. I could have made a real indignant scene. Lots of people, Christians and non, thrive on making a scene when they feel they’ve been wronged.

But that’s not Christlike.

I just very nicely told what had happened and produced my cancelled checks. The lady looked it up. Yep, their error, and they would get my electricity turned on right away. She sort of apologized. I thanked her, said I really appreciated them taking care of it, and went on my way without demanding some kind of compensation for my spoiled food. I left feeling very good about having remained civil.

That experience set a pattern which I’ve repeated many, many times over the years in similar situations. Which brings us to today.

Last Friday, O’Daniel’s, a Chrysler dealership, replaced my bad fuel pump. This morning, on my way to work, I stopped at the gas station. Four gallons later, I noticed a splashing sound. I looked down and saw gas pouring out underneath my pickup. I quickly turned off the pump. Hmmm, what to do.

I pushed the truck away from the pump, and mentioned the spill to the attendant. Then, on fumes, I drove to O’Daniel’s. I could have made a big scene–how they didn’t get it right, how their mistake cost me $17 in gas, how I would be late for work and had oh so much to do, how the truck could have caught on fire and left me disfigured or my wife a widow….

But that wouldn’t be Christlike.

Instead, I kindly explained what had happened, and asked if they could look at it right away. I also mentioned that the Check Engine light had been on all weekend. Could they look at that, too? Thanks, I appreciate it.

They quickly found the gas-leak problem and fixed it (no charge, of course). And 20 minutes later, I was on my way.

I stopped at the nearest gas station, just down the road. No leakage. BUT, the Check Engine light remained on. Phooey. I drove back to O’Daniel’s.

When I pulled into the service bay, the service people had an “Uh oh” look. The service manager, a woman who had always treated me real well, came right out to the truck with a dire expression, expecting to get the riot act for something or other. She asked what was wrong. Again, I COULD have ripped her about how I was being inconvenienced, about how incompetent they were, about how I would never use or recommend them again, about how I would be even later for work, blah blah blah. Stuff she hears every day, I imagine.

But that wouldn’t be Christlike.

With a cheerful demeanor, I explained that the Check Engine light was still on, and I thought I might as well bring it back. She took the truck immediately, while I (again) grabbed my laptop and headed for their nice customer lounge (with free Wi-Fi). Within 10 minutes, she came to get me. It was just a matter of clearing a computer code.

She apologized for the trouble. Again, she was just waiting for me to pummel her. Instead, to set her at ease, I chuckled. “No problem,” I said. “Things happen. Thanks for taking care of it so quickly.”

And I drove off. I couldn’t help hoping she was thinking, “I wish all of our customers were like that.”

In American society, we’re so caught up in our rights, our entitlements, our expectations. When things fall short, we think it’s perfectly acceptable to chew people out. Especially in business relationships, like in relating to service people. We feel entitled to be demanding and, when our demands aren’t met, caustic and demeaning. Christians do that as much as nonChristians. We’ve all seen that.

Now, I can be stern and straightforward. Sometimes it’s necessary. There is a place for being stern and straightforward. But there is never a place for being unChristlike.

Jesus taught about denying ourselves. About treating others better than we are treated. About giving and loving way beyond what anyone else would expect. About going the extra mile. He suffered and died because of problems he didn’t cause. So the least I could do was to accept some inconvenience from the O’Daniels people without getting bent all out of shape.

That service manager at O’Daniels will never know that my attitude was rooted in being a Christian. I didn’t mention my faith in any way. But God and angels and demons were all watching, and they knew. It’s a little thing, but a tiny spark of Christlikeness, a few molecules of the real thing, won the day, and that’s always makes Jesus smile.

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Goodbye to the Hardbound Encyclopedia

After 244 years, Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer be published in a dead-tree edition. It’s going out of print. The company will continue publishing online and will do curriculum for schools. But the 32-volume 2010 edition is the last.

That’s sad. And yet, it’s a valid business decision. The company derives 85% of its revenue from school curriculum, and about 15% from subscriptions to the web site ($70 per year). The printed encyclopedias account for less than 1% of their revenue.

Today, the internet gives us instant access to the very latest information. Why go to a hardbound volume for an entry which may be out of date? For me, even if I had a set of Britannicas on the shelf, I would still go to Google first. For several reasons.

  • I can probaby get the information faster.
  • I can find multiple sources for the information I want.
  • I can get multiple points of view, rather than just the point of view of the encylopedia author for that entry.
  • I can make sure it’s the very latest information.

But as a kid, I sure loved encyclopedias.

At home, we had a set of the Book of Knowledge. I was buried in those books all the time, especially reading about various countries of the world. Later we got a World Book set, which was always my favorite encyclopedia. Very kid-friendly. I think World Book was preferred by the working class and middle class, while Britannica was a status symbol for the upper classes.

I never much liked Britannica. In elementary school, we usually had several different sets of encyclopedias in our classroom. But I rarely consulted Britannica. It always seemed too big, too serious, and the individual volumes were much heavier than with other encyclopedias. Then, when they divided the set into the Micropaedia (12 volumes of short articles) and the Macropaedia (17 volumes of in-depth articles), they totally lost me. How was I supposed to know whether I wanted the Micropaedia or the Macropaedia? So I stuck even more closely to my favored World Book.

Back in the 1980s, a Britannica salesman came to my apartment. He made a good pitch. But when I mentioned off-hand that I grew up on World Book, he began criticizing it, pointing out entries that Britannica had but which weren’t covered in World Book. He lost me right there. He might as well have been criticizing Mom’s pumpkin pie.

I recall the names of some other encyclopedias. Compton’s. Collier’s. Americana. Funk & Wagnalls. Wonder if any of them are still in print.

As I recall my formative years, engrossed in a volume of the Book of Knowledge or World Book, I’m saddened that today’s children won’t experience the same thing. You don’t “page through” Wikipedia. And crowdsourcing, which has built Wikipedia, certainly lacks the accuracy and intellectual vigor of the big encyclopedias. But it looks like Wikipedia is the future. No more little kids, like me, pulling the S volume off the shelf and spending hours leafing through it, absorbing information. A human sponge I was.

I see that you can still buy the 2010 edition of Britannica for $1400. In 1990, Britannica sold 120,000 sets in the United States. But they printed only 12,000 copies of the 2010 edition, and have sold only 8,000 sets. The remaining 4,000 sit in a warehouse, awaiting buyers.

Britannica boasts 65,000 articles from 4000+ contributors. Wikipedia has over 350,000 full articles, and hundreds of thousands of other entries, with over 100,000 regular contributors. And Wikipedia is entirely free. Of course, many Wikipedia articles deal with silly stuff from pop culture, whereas Britannica sticks to important stuff. But still, most anything you want to know, Wikipedia can tell you. I consult it several times a week.

Crowdsourcing attracts some true experts, but it also attracts common idiots like me. I have contributed to various Wikipedia articles related to the United Brethren church (just part of my job as Communications Director). Wikipedia is generally trustworthy, but certainly not authoritative. And yet, anymore ,it’s pretty much the best we got.

Another thing: encyclopedias look great on your bookshelf. Wikipedia can’t duplicate that. And nothing ever looked more classy than a set of Britannicas.

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Book: “One Rough Man,” by Brad Taylor

I mostly read mysteries and domestic thrillers, but sometimes I’m in the mood for an international thriller with a grand plot. You know, writers like Robert Ludlum and Clive Cussler. Books filled with action, with a hero who traipses around the world pursuing or being pursued by bad guys.

At one time, broad-scope thrillers were pretty much all I read. But at some point, my primary interest turned to mysteries. In recent years, while I’ve had my head buried in works by Henning Mankell, Jim Thompson, et al, a whole new bunch of writers have arisen. You’ve got Steve Berry, Alex Berenson, Joseph Finder, Doug Preston, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, and various others–writers largely unfamiliar to me. I’ve read one Berenson and one Finder, but that’s it.

But when I’m browsing a bookstore or Sam’s Club, and read the jacket description of an international thriller, my heart kind of leaps. I guess I’m always in the mood for mindless, mayhem-filled escapism.

So it was that I bought “One Rough Man” (2011), the debut novel by Brad Taylor. The title comes from the George Orwell quote, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” In this case, the rough man is Pike Logan.

Ex-Delta (like the author), Logan heads an elite unit of the Taskforce (one word), a secret group working directly under the President whose job is to pursue and kill terrorists. Don’t worry about what’s legal; just find and kill.

When Logan’s wife and daughter are brutally murdered, he goes on the stereotypical Hollywood self-destructive spiral–living on a boat in squalor, drinking heavily, picking fights.

Then he meets a damsel in distress, and gets pulled back into the game. What starts out with a Guatemalan smuggler expands to include two Al Qaeda operatives, an unusual Weapon of Mass Destruction, a duplicitous National Security Advisor, a psycho ex-SEAL, and trips to Norway and Bosnia. The aforementioned damsel, of course, remains with Logan throughout.

It’s an interesting plot (as is the case with most international thrillers), perhaps a bit unusual and creative, and the writing moves along at a brisk pace, with more than sufficient action. Which is why I read such books. Mysteries usually force me to think, to keep track of characters and motives and clues. A thriller is a roller-coaster ride, and you just hang on to your hat and enjoy the journey. “One Rough Man” was a pretty good rollercoaster.

It was also, clearly, a debut novel. I could, if so inclined, identify a variety of weaknesses, none of them fatal. Let me just mention one thing. Three times (at least; I sometimes skim over parts), Taylor used the cliche “pregnant pause” in the midst of dialogue. Like, “There was a pregnant pause.” A good editor would have caught this and deleted two of the pregnant pauses. But, since Taylor was a newbie, and maybe the publisher figured the thriller world already had a Brad (Thor), perhaps “One Rough Man” got assigned to an inexperienced editor.

Well, that won’t happen again. With this book, Taylor will rocket to the big time. I don’t know how Taylor compares to veteran guys like Vince Flynn and Brad Thor (with whom Taylor is typically compared), but Taylor can hold his own in this genre. He’ll do well, and will keep getting better (especially with a higher-calibre editor). Plus, with 21 years in the military, apparently much of it in Special Forces and Delta conducting classified operations, he knows the terrain.

And what of Pike Logan? Most of these writers use a continuing protagonist. Tributes on the book speak of Pike Logan being, you know, the ultimate tough guy, and there’s the requisite comparison to Jack Reacher (and to Jason Bourne, and to Jack Bauer).

Yes, Logan is an action hero. But I found nothing particularly distinctive about him. Very generic. Jack Reacher’s got the unusual, off-the-grid, used-clothes lifestyle. Jason Bourne’s got the whole Who Am I? thing. Spenser cooks and wisecracks. Dirk Pitt collects cars. But Pike Logan? He needs a hobby or quirk or something.

I’ll definitely read Taylor’s next Pike Logan book, “All Necessary Force,” now in hardback. I’m not gonna rush out to get it. But when it arrives in paperback at Sam’s, it’ll go in my cart.

 

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The Nun Who Slayed My Stereotypes

Last week, I wrote about the Sisters of Mary. As I wrote, I was continually thinking about Ann McNulty. So let me tell you about her.

You’d love Ann. When I met her back in 1981, she was 54 years old, never-married, and in fulltime Christian service. I met her one night in a downtown Huntington teen outreach center operated by Huntington University students. I was there to do an article. She was an adult sponsor that night.

Ann, slender with short-cropped graying hair, was running around in bluejeans having a great time. All around her, rock music blared deafeningly and unkempt teenagers loitered, smoked, and generally acted cool, hip, with-it, or whatever term they used back then. Ann looked out of place there, but yet, she seemed to be enjoying it more than anyone else.

I began talking to her.

“Isn’t this great!” Ann told me with genuine enthusiasm. “All these kids here!”

We talked a while.

“What church do you attend?” I eventually asked.

“Victory Noll,” she replied.

What? Isn’t Victory Noll–no, can’t be!

But it was true. Victory Noll was the local convent. So Ann was a–nun!?! Sister Ann. But–a nun wearing bluejeans!

Twice in the next few months, a couple singles from my church (both of them former missionaries) joined me in visiting Sister Ann at the convent. During those times, she demolished every stereotype we held about nuns. She was totally delightful. Humorous, lively, expressive, open-minded, and deeply committed to the Lord. We ate a meal at the convent and, like everyone else, washed our own dishes. We had some beautiful Christian fellowship as, steering clear of our differences in theology and worship, we shared our common desire to please God in all things and honor Him as Lord.

Sister Ann told us her story. She worked in secular jobs until age 27, all the time sensing God’s call on her life to become a nun. She couldn’t understand it.

“I love guys, kids, and homemaking,” she told a priest. “With those desires, how could God want me to become a nun!”

“It just means you’re normal,” he told her. “If you didn’t have those desires, we probably wouldn’t want you to become a nun.”

She continued struggling with the idea. Then her boyfriend proposed.

He was the type of man she had always wanted to marry, and she would have been very happy spending her life with him. But she couldn’t escape God’s call–which she increasingly felt was God’s call–and now she was forced to make a decision.

“No,” she told her boyfriend, “l have to take care of something else.”

Not long after that, Ann entered Victory Noll, the home base for her order. Since then, she had served two-year assignments in at least seven states, usually ministering to children (interestingly, one stint was in Tulare, Calif., where I graduated from high school). When she was back in Huntington, she helped care for some of the very elderly nuns living at Victory Noll; she expressed the joy she received caring for these women, who had devoted their own lifetime to ministering to others. Sister Ann had undoubtedly influenced countless people with her deep spiritual commitment and bubbly enthusiasm for life.

At the time, as a Christian single, I envied Sister Ann. She didn’t have to contend with people pressuring her to find a husband, get married, settle down, raise a family, etc. Twenty-seven years before, she had made a public vow to remain single so she could serve God unreservedly.

She didn’t wonder, every time she met a handsome guy, “Is this the one for me?” That had already been decided. He wasn’t. And she didn’t hear well-meaning people say, “I’ve got a friend I’d like you to meet,” or “There’s this new guy in my church. I think you’d really like him.” They knew her heart was already committed elsewhere.

In a way, I wish the Protestant community had a counterpart for nuns and monks. It would take a lot of pressure off Christian singles who are as committed to ministry as Sister Ann. For Catholics, a life of singleness and service is legitimate, valued, and honored. But evangelical Christians view singleness as a second-rate lifestyle, something to be abandoned as soon as “the right person,” or someone fairly close to it, comes along. In the evangelical mindset, marriage always overrules singleness.

I think of some single missionaries who have given their entire adult lives to serving Christ overseas. That is a high calling. And yet, I’m sure they have endured the shortsighted coaxings of other people to exchange it for marriage, to settle down and raise a family. To be altogether normal, average. When I see a single give up a very productive ministry in a parachurch organization or mission in order to get married, I don’t always view it as a good thing for God’s Kingdom.

I did it. I gave up ten years of ministry-filled singleness to get married. But that was the path God wanted me to take–I have no doubt about that. But it’s not everybody’s path. We Christians just think it is. And so, we have a lot of singles out there who are waiting for the right guy or gal to come along, so that they can “start” their life. And that always makes me sad.

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After We Attack Iran

There’s a lot of war-talk going on, people wanting us to attack Iran. Santorum and Gingrich are just itching to go to war with Iran. It sounds eerily similar to the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Makes me wonder how much baloney we’re being fed this time, once again, to justify another invasion. And they talk as if it would be a cake-walk…just like Iraq was, right?

You can find many people with a more realistic approach, who will explain the real consequences of a war with Iran. That you can’t take out their nuclear program with a few surgical strikes. That a war with Iran could destabilize the whole region.

General Anthony Zinni, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is one such voice asking people to chill out. When people advocate attacking Iran, he said in a speech to the New America Foundation, he likes to respond, “And then what?”

After you’ve dropped those bombs on those hardened facilities, what happens next? What happens if they decide, in their hardened shelters with their mobile missiles, to start launching those? What happens if they launch them into U.S. bases on the other side of the Gulf? What happens if they launch into Israel, or somewhere else? Into a Saudi oil field? Into Ras Laffan, with all the natural gas?

What happens if they now flush their fast patrol boats, their cruise missiles…and they sink a tanker, an oil tanker? And of course the economy of the world goes absolutely nuts. What happens if they activate sleeper cells? The MOIS, the intelligence service — what happens if, in another preemptive attack by the West, the U.S. and Israel, they fire up the streets and now we got problems. Just tell me how to deal with all that, okay?

Because, eventually, if you follow this all the way down, eventually I’m putting boots on the ground somewhere. And like I tell my friends, if you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.

The other side is to ask, “Once Iran gets nuclear weapons, now what?” I guess I’m not one who assumes apocalyptic consequences whenever a country acquires nuclear weapons. The technology is out there. Japan, South Korea, Brazil, and South Africa could probably develop nuclear weapons overnight if they wanted to, and we probably wouldn’t object, because those are the Good Guys. But it’s going to spread to Bad Guys too. Some Bad Guys have them now–Russia, China, Pakistan, North Korea. More and more countries will develop nuclear weapons, because they can, and because voices will arise in their countries saying their national security demands it.

I don’t like, don’t like at all, what such a world looks like. Where country after country possesses nuclear weapons, and where the next party that takes power, whether driven by ideology or religion, might be far more inclined to use them. It’d be like walking down the street, and every other person is carrying an AK-47. At some point, they’re going to be used.

David Sanger’s 2009 book, “The Inheritance,” begins with four chapters about Iran. This is not a nice country. However, an air attack wouldn’t be the quick surgical strike everyone envisions–send a plane over, drop a bomb…done. Military experts told Sanger that taking out Iran’s nuclear capability would probably require a thousand strike sorties, with some of everything–air bombardment, cruise missiles, and multiple restrikes. After each day’s bombing, we would consult satellite photos to see if we’d gone deep enough, and then order up a new set of strikes for the next day. Probably for several weeks. Unfortunately, we couldn’t be sure that we got everything; there could be installations we’ve never learned about. And even if we did get everything, experts say it would just set back Iran’s nuclear program about two years. Then the fun would start all over.

Meanwhile, as we’re attacking Iran, they would not only be fighting back with far more ability than we faced in Iraq, but would probably be launching terror strikes at Americans around the world.

Before going to war, shouldn’t we exhaust all other options? With all due respect to Santorum and Gingrich, your feverish eagerness to show Iran who’s boss is severely misguided. I know, you’re all full of American swagger and bluster and relish carrying a Big Stick, and your right-wing base just eats up that stuff. But Obama’s measured stance, and his caution that this isn’t a casual game, is far more to my liking. It may still lead to war. But at least it’ll happen later rather than sooner.

So no, I don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons. But it’s not CERTAIN that they would use them in any way beyond mere deterrence to hostile neighbors. I don’t want to get into another protracted war out of mere paranoia about what we THINK they might do with nuclear weapons. Even though a regime like the current one in Iran certainly gives paranoia credence.

If there’s any chance we could settle into detente, or maybe even, given enough time, become something resembling friendly–that’s what I want. Rather than making a decision, based on machismo, that causes hundreds or thousands of Americans to come home in body bags and further cripples our economic future.

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Marines vs. the Sisters of Mary

Joe Leatherman, drummer extraordinaire, soon-to-be Marine.

Members of the Sisters of Mary

A member of the Sisters of Mary

Joe Leatherman, the drummer for Anchor’s worship team for the past several years, left for San Diego on Sunday, March 4. He enlisted in the Marines last summer, and now it was time to head off to boot camp. I imagine that right about now, he’s not having a particularly fun time. Tired and hungry and yelled at. But it’ll be a life-changing experience for Joe. He’ll do great.

Several months ago, I asked Joe, “Why did you pick the Marines, as opposed to another branch?”

He said, “Because they’re the best.”

Anchor gave up its best young man for the Marines. It’s fitting, and we’re very proud.

Yesterday, I was researching the Sisters of Mary, a Dominican order of nuns founded just 15 years ago. A United Brethren church here in Huntington, Ind., where I work, bought the local St. Felix Friary back in 1980, and that was their church building for 20 years. But they decided to move out a couple years ago, and a foundation run by a Catholic businessman bought the monastery. He poured over $1 million into renovating it. I wrote about it on our denominational news site.

And now, the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, will be locating 40 novices there.

To become a nun in the Sisters of Mary, you go through an eight-year process before saying your vows. During that time, you earn a degree in education (if you don’t already have one), because the Sisters of Mary focus on teaching. They go all over the country teaching in Catholic schools, and they are in demand. But they are also committed to evangelism, to proclaiming Christ wherever are.

On their website, I read the testimonies of 14 nuns. It was very moving. They told about their spiritual journey, using much the same lingo that an evangelical would use–God’s call on their life, a personal relationship with Jesus, wanting to be totally committed to his will, giving yourself completely to Christ, etc. These women have a true heart for God.

In taking their vows, they commit themselves to povery, chastity, and obedience. These are quality people–most of them just young women–and they have totally sold out to their Savior. No distractions. No men, no material pursuits, no ambitions beyond what Christ wants for them.

When Joe Leatherman headed off to bootcamp, he took practically nothing with him–just the clothes he was wearing, and the hair on his head, which the Marines would soon take away. For six weeks, he would be forced into poverty, chastity, and obedience. Those weeks would train him to be a great soldier, the best, a killing machine. But just six weeks.

Then here are these Sisters of Mary. Eight years of preparation. A life of single-minded, total devotion to God. These are the people teaching young children in schools across the country.

If I’m in a scrape, I’d like a Marine beside me. Joe.

But when it comes to lots of things that really matter, I think these nuns are probably a whole lot tougher.

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How to Make Sacred Anointing Oil

I don’t know how many recipes the Bible contains, but Exodus 30 gives one for sacred anointing oil.

  • 500 shekels of liquid myrrh (that’s about 12 pounds)
  • 250 shekels of fragrant cane (6 pounds)
  • 500 shekels of cassia (12 pounds). Cassia is akin to cinnamon.
  • 1 hin of olive oil (a hin is about a gallon)

This was to be specially made by a perfumer, and then used to anoint most everything in the temple, including the priests themselves.

Here’s the rub: it couldn’t be used for anything else. If you made a concoction like this, or put it on anyone except a priest, you would be “cut off from the people,” which I assume means you would be exiled.

So I’m wondering: does this still apply? Has anyone tried making this formula? Is it good for anything except anointing sacred objects? Might it actually turn out to be a bestseller at Macy’s, if they bothered mixing it up?

I’m just wondering. This recipe came straight from God, so it must be good. I’m pretty sure that if I mixed up a batch, my church wouldn’t excommunicate me.

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My iPhone and Me, Re-United

I visited Shoe Carnival this afternoon, and was about a mile away, heading home, when I realized I didn’t have my cell phone. I remembered referring to it at Shoe Carnival. The belt pouch had been coming loose lately, not staying tight. I figured it fell off.

I rushed back to Shoe Carnival. We scoured the store, called the number–nothing. My iPhone 4S wasn’t there. Somebody, I figured, found it and walked off with it. I drove off praying, “Lord, you know who has my cell phone. Please get it back to me.”

It always helps to pray. I had read from Brother Lawrence that morning, who said we should maintain a constant state of prayer, “imploring His assistance in our affairs just as they happen.” This had just happened. So I implored.

At home, I signed in to my iCloud account, and clicked on the “Find My Phone” button. There it was–just off South Anthony. (If you’re from Fort Wayne, you are now groaning.) I could see the house in Google satellite view.

From the computer, I locked the phone. I was about ready to remotely wipe it clean, when I noticed that I could send a message. So I sent, “If you have this, please call” and I gave my home phone number.

Within 30 seconds, a woman called. She had found my phone outside Shoe Carnival and tried to turn it in to the store, but she was told to just drop it in a mailbox (which explains the somewhat odd and unhelpful behavior of the store manager–he already KNEW the phone wasn’t in the store, because he turned this lady away). So she was kind of stuck with the phone, and just went home with it.

“Where can I meet you to get my phone?” I asked.

“You can just come to my house,” she said, and gave me the address.

I drove there. A black lady met me at the door with the phone. I gave her $15 in gratitude, and was on my way home.

A prayer was answered. My pearl of great price was returned.

And I was pretty impressed by what I could do remotely to a lost phone.

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