"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Grab a dog by the ears

     Police dread the inevitable call to intervene in a domestic dispute. Two people who seem about to kill one another will vent their collective wrath on the officer who was only trying to restore peace.
     Of course such intervention is the peace officers' public commission. They are the only exception to Proverbs 26:17's injunction: Laying hold on the ears of a dog, [Is] a passer-by making himself wrath for strife not his own.
     Where does that principle end, however, when a passer-by witnesses abuse or bullying in progress? If I have the ability to subdue a bully would I violate Proverbs 26:17 by doing so? Let's see what the meddler in that verse is actually doing.
     A "passer-by" is a stranger. By definition, he is completely ignorant of the situation he witnesses. The person who seems to be bullying may, in fact, be justified in his action. But what if one of the parties in the dispute welcomes the stranger's involvement, or has actually solicited it? Does that guarantee the stranger is taking the right side of the argument? He bases his intervention on a brief moment's observation or one party's version of a confrontation that may have been years in the making. He has no guarantee that his assessment is based on truth.
     "Making himself wrath" means the passer-by unilaterally assumes the role of avenger. If he is uninvited, both parties in the dispute may resent his intervention. He has, in effect, grabbed a fierce dog by the ears.
     Often the meddler fancies himself as a mediator when, in fact, he has taken up one party's offense against the other. He is blinded by his own bias, exacerbating rather than ameliorating the situation.
     So, when should a stranger intervene? When he can remain unbiased, and function as a peacemaker rather than a judge. And if he can avoid being shot or stabbed, that would be a distinct bonus.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

"Cross My Heart ...

     ... and hope to die." Isn't that what we kids used to say when we promised something? I doubt we'd admit to meaning it literally if we were pressed on the issue, but it sure sounded good at the time.
     God proved His promises not by simply crossing His heart and hoping to die, but by allowing His heart to literally be pierced and by actually dying--in the Person of His Son Jesus. That dreadful act proved for eternity how He loves us, and was the culmination of all His scriptural promises.
     The other day my pastor's sermon cited Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. I don't know how many times I've read that verse in the past, without its meaning anything more than a thousand other Bible verses. But those other times I hadn't just had a major prayer answered.
     Driving to work, I usually pray on God's full armor. Sometimes my prayer takes a detour as I think of other things to bring up with the Lord. On that particular day I had prayed for God to make me the husband, father and friend He wanted me to be since my performance in those areas had been inadequate.
     As an answer to that prayer, God turned a light onto a sin that I didn't fully realize was a sin: maligning myself with negative self-talk when I make mistakes. He showed me that such behavior is nothing more than indulging my self-pity and self-hatred. It just creates a self-fulfilling prophesy that gives Satan even greater victory in my life. And it cheats those I love out of the person God wants me to be.
     It sounds vain to say I'm God's gift to anyone, but if I obey Him, I may very well become God's gift to someone in need--like maybe, Nancy. Pop psychology says "you can't love others unless you first love yourself." A truer statement is "you can't let God love others through you unless you first let Him love you." And if I try to hate myself through some sick, neurotic self-flagellation I'm effectively short-circuiting God's efforts at loving me--and others through me.
     Besides, I have no business whatsoever hating someone God loved enough to die for--myself included. Praise God for the flashlight of His word, and for His precious promises that took Him to the cross for my sins.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


          They say "the art is in the details." Okay, I said it. They would never admit to stating such an inane generalization.
          Anyway, with A Family Forever, Brenda Coulter reveals visual details that open Shelby Franklin's newly upset world to the reader. Subtle-though-vivid images carry her or him--real men can love romance too--gently through the eye gate into Dublin, Ohio, where "good girl" and violin teacher Shelby Franklin has made a mistake. Presuming on her imminent wedding vows in a moment of passion, she had said "yes" to David Sharpe when her faith and her rearing had told her to say "no." But before they could be wed, David had died in a tragic accident.
          So Tucker, David's adoptive brother, rides to the rescue, offering Shelby marriage in place of social stigma, support in place of single-parent poverty. All that, even though Shelby doesn't love him, and she's sure he doesn't even like her.
          Coulter's picturesque writing style manages to draw even this middle-aged guy into a young woman's life. Amazing, since I normally don't even like romances.