Thursday Thoughts and Miscellaneous Ramblings


When your child comes up to you and sighs, “Dad, are you ever gonna get off the computer?” you know you’ve been crankin’. Work has consumed my every waking second the last ten days, thus the cobwebs and crickets on the blog. It’s great that business has recovered from the lull I experienced the first half of the year, but I’ve actually got a case of tendonitis from spending too much time interfacing with my anti-ergonomic office setup. Heck, my desk and chair are the same ones from when I was 13-years old, so what does that tell you? (Hey, don’t laugh. Ethan Allen is good furniture, unlike the sawdust-board junk coming out of China today.)

Anyway, I’m still hoping to post on genuine revival someday. Got another post that will probably get me delisted from a number of blogs, too, called “The Rescue of Moonbase Asimov!” Genuine storyline in that one. Now if I could just find the time to write them both.

When I don’t have time to write something well-researched and filled with gravitas, I toss out various disconnected thoughts, the kind of sampling that goes on in my head every 1.5 seconds, so it’s true to life, even if it is a bit scary to the uninitiated.

So here goes:

Many of you know that I’ve been advocating a low-glycemic diet. I’ve lost 30 pounds on that diet and kept them off. I’ve even added back in a few “no-no” foods and still kept the weight off. Very cool. What’s uncool is that I finally realized that the three bouts with kidney stones I’ve had in the last seven months are…well, due to the diet. Seems that switching to healthier foods and substituting foods with a lower glycemic index means eating more foods higher in oxylates, calcium oxylate being the primary ingredient in the most common kind of kidney stone. In fact, I checked what I eat and almost every single item is high in oxylates. Some people don’t tolerate that well, and I just happen to be one of those people. Any urologists out there with some advice? Ugh.

If you’ve got an old, unused PC sitting around that might have a 1GB 168-pin PC100/133 ECC DIMM, and you’re willing to sell the DIMM for a cheap price, let me know. I need one badly.

I’ve been too busy to keep up with all the comments on my Lakeland posts, but thanks and welcome to all the first-timers who came and commented. Things are a bit abnormal around here right now blogging-wise, but I hope to get back to my normal schedule soon.

Thank you also to all the people praying for my family in the wake of some of the illnesses we’ve endured recently. Those prayers are still coveted. What’s happened in the last few months is a major reason the blogging continues to suffer.

A number of regional banks are in deep doo-doo, including one I banked at for years, a bank considered in the industry to be one of the best run. In fact, three of the largest banks in my area are in trouble. The problem? Collapsing hedge funds coupled with turmoil in the mortgage industry. In fact, if I were you, I’d be very careful about where you have your money right now. Some big name banks may go belly up. As someone who is familiar with this (I had money in the savings & loan that precipitated the savings & loan crisis long ago), I know the signs. Be careful out  there. Don’t rely on FDIC. We’re in for some nasty bumps ahead.

This continues to be the rainiest spring I can recall. Great sleeping weather, though. Now if only I could find some time to sleep!

Do social networking sites actually DO anything for you? I’ve been on LinkedIn for a long time, but I’m mystified at what it brings me. Any LinkedIn gurus out there who really know how to play that network?

As a child, the neighbor’s collie used to bite me constantly. When you’re being routinely attacked by Lassie… well, it can scar you for life. Nonetheless, we became dog owners recently.  RosebudWe come to ownership reluctantly as our new mutt (pictured right) was unceremoniously abandoned on our property by yet another heartless fiend. See, we live a mile off a rural highway out in an idyllic spot, and people love to dump their puppies and kittens on our property thinking we’ll take care of them. Here’s a clue: most die. Feral dogs and coyotes mangle the kittens for fun (or else the furballs starve to death) and puppies wind up roadkill or diseased. It breaks my heart that some people are so thoughtless, but then again, even Jodi Minivan is capable of atrocities done in the name of expediency and personal comfort.

More than just about anything else, I want to believe that the American Church is healthy. The facts prove otherwise.  I am weary of people pulling out the “touch not the Lord’s anointed” and “so-called ‘discernment’ is nothing more than divisiveness” trump cards. But hey, what people want to fill themselves with is between them and God. I just want to add this: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” That’s worth memorizing.

Any other men out there at that strange age where you realize that the attractive businesswomen in their early twenties that you run into in the course of your day, the kind you would’ve chatted up in your single days, are now young enough to be your daughters?

I’m old enough to remember that presidential nominations occurred at the party convention. Anyone else remember? You didn’t have a presidential candidate tabbed until then. Quaint, I know. This is why I am deeply disturbed by the events unfolding in the Democratic Party (as if the party isn’t disturbing enough already). You’ve got two candidates that split the vote right down the middle, yet it’s as if one never existed. In another time, Obama and Clinton would’ve both gone into their convention flying high and no one would have thought it unusual to have two viable candidates to choose from in a real, gen-u-wine nominating convention. Instead, you’ve got this travesty of superdelegates that has usurped the people’s vote. And what craven political monsters those superdelegates are. You can bet that most are just trying to save their political futures and alliances rather than thinking about what is best for this country. But hey, I’m in a flyover state, so what do I know.

Man, is there anything more time consuming than trying to switch automatic checking account debits from one bank to another? I’ve spent almost ten hours following up on a dozen of these things and I’m still not done. It’s a great convenience when you don’t have to pay the bills, but the act of switching may undo all the time you saved!

In that same vein, the older I get, the more I see that all our time-saving devices don’t really save us time. They only make life more frantic trying to pay for and maintain them.

With age also comes this serious question: How do most people live? (Darned if I know.)

The box of store brand chocolate-chip cookies that was $1.29 last year is now $2.19. I don’t know who these economists are who keep talking about the slow, meager rise in consumer prices, but going from $1.29 to $2.19 in a year is not “a slow, meager rise.”

We’re seeing wild turkeys on our property regularly. I never saw turkeys around here until just the last few years. Now I see them everywhere.

On the other hand, the rural highway near us looks like a deer abattoir. Talk in the insurance industry has insurance companies ditching payment for accidents involving deer. Nice.

The Wall Street Journal, the newspaper of record in the Edelen household, could not be any more schizophrenic than it is right now on the topic of the economy. Every day they print a flurry of editorials talking about the fact that the country is NOT slipping into recession (or worse), yet their business pages are filled with one company after another reporting massive downturns in revenue or declaring bankruptcy outright. My take? Too many rich pundits are out of touch with how “the other half” live.

Considering all the spurious commentary on my part so far, I want to end with a serious question: When was the last time a stranger came up to you and asked whether you were born again? Used to happen to me all the time more than a decade ago, but almost never now. Now we can say that’s because people found that form of evangelism to be unproductive, but are we just lying to ourselves? Maybe we’re not really all that interested anymore in evangelism and where people spend eternity. Does any legitimate reason exist that you and I can’t help lead at least one person to Christ each year? Honestly?

Have a great weekend.

The Saint Wore Negligee


I’ve long held a theory that while women are generally more sensitive to spiritual issues in their broader context, the nature of men to take bigger risks will mean that they will best women in seeking out the deeper aspects of the faith. That may not be a popular view with some, but it explains a great deal. That theory has also been the cornerstone of the advancement of Christianity since the age of the apostles.

I have to admit, though, that a brief survey of American Christianity bears a strikingly different picture. When I look at the composition of most churches, the sex on the leading edge of ministry is, more often than not, female.

Which sex predominates on Sunday mornings? Women.

Which sex predominates in small groups? Women.

Which sex predominates in non-leadership roles of ministry (which comprise the largest total numbers of participants)? Women.

Which sex reads Christian material in order to grow their spiritual lives? Women.

Which sex drives the spiritual life of the average home? Women.

This concerns me because a quick overview of the hotspots of revival around the globe always reveals the same truth: men are at the forefront.

So what’s going on here in America?

I have a few theories on this:

1. Men choose money over ministry. This has led to an abdication of the masculine role of leadership on spiritual matters. It’s not that Christian men aren’t truly Christian or fail to hold a Christian belief system. It’s just that Christianity occupies a secondary station in a man’s life. American Evangelicalism continues to hold out a standard of the male as breadwinner (and preferably sole breadwinner) that forces men to choose which role they will more ably fill with their increasingly limited time, breadwinner or spiritual leader. Men aren’t stupid; they chose what was presented to them as the best option by those held up as leaders within the Faith. Being a captain of industry who mouths Christian platitudes plays better than struggling to make ends meet while being faithful to the demands of true discipleship.

2. Women have encouraged #1, whether they realize it or not. The demands of cultural conformity coupled with the (false) sense of security that predominates in the American Dream only amplifies men’s abdication of spiritual leadership. This has led Christian women to prefer men who are captains of industry over those who are poorer in the pocketbook yet richer in treasures in heaven. Having one’s kids in an expensive private Christian school looks a whole lot better on paper than sending little Joey or Janie to the wreck they call public school, especially when that public school is vilified from the pulpit each Sunday.

3. The pursuit of #1 has enabled/forced women to pick up the spiritual slack. With men pursuing the American Dream, women have been freed in some respects to bolster their spiritual lives, even if this comes at the expense of men’s overall spiritual health. However, while some women gladly take up the mantle of leadership, a few are resentful that their men have laid it down for them to carry (though, in most cases, those wives fail to understand the hidden forces bending men toward that abdication).

4. The Church no longer preaches godly rewards for faithfulness that in the past appealed to the souls of men. While the prosperity gospel has some traction in some sectors of the American Church, men, in general, are engaging in self-examination that finds them asking where the real reward is. Work is not always its own reward, nor is the Church embodying any example of the rewards of faithfulness outside of reinforcing the American Dream. In time, this lack leads to spiritual malaise in men. They end up, more often than not, merely going through the spiritual motions, either to please the Church or to satisfy their wives.

5. Because Church leaders have not gone deeper, they are unable to lead other men to that deeper place. Shallowness breeds shallowness. While men may be capable of great depths of faith, more often than not those depths are achieved through spiritual heroes who have gone on before to mark the way. Modern Evangelicalism is a vast spiritual wasteland devoid of true spiritual adventurers. Rather than holding up as examples those men who have made it to “the third heaven,” Evangelicalism holds up for emulation those men who have made it to the corner office or the boardroom. Much of the blame here lies with today’s American Evangelical leaders, men who are a mile wide and an inch deep. The end result? Far too many men in America are tasting what is being held out as the ne plus ultra of the Christian life and are asking, “Is this it?”

The upshot of all this is that the bastions of faith in the country are the women. Satin and bows...and spiritual headship?The real saints in America 2008 wear negligee.

Some people seem perfectly fine with this. In fact, if you polled a lot of pastors in Evangelical churches, you’d find that most of them think everything’s just fine and dandy. Actually, George Barna’s already done that polling. Sure enough, he’s found that few male leaders in the Church today are alarmed that men have largely handed over the reins of spiritual leadership in church and household to the ladies.

Something has to give for the proper order to be restored.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been engaging the readers of a few other blogs that have linked to my posts on these issues of money, ministry, work, and economics. What I’m finding is a total inability to question the status quo on these issues and to ask what the true Christian response might be. We have become so fused to our way of living that even if that way of living cannot be reconciled with genuine discipleship, we’ll forgo the discipleship before we give up the lifestyle. How that’s going to play before God is beyond me.

I’m convinced that the only way the Church in America is going to catch blaze like the church in the Third World is if we radically rethink every part of how we live. This may seem like the same chronic drum I’ve been beating for years on this blog, but unless we change, we will definitely become irrelevant. Our cultural conditioning will extinguish our lampstand and God will remove that lampstand to whatever place is willing to keep it ablaze. That removal may already be in process.

Here’s 10 questions I ask you:

  • How do we break this pattern of living that reinforces the five issues I raise above?
  • What does a truly countercultural Christianity in America 2008 look like?
  • What can we do to not only break the hold our jobs have on our spiritual lives, but replace our current ideas of employment with genuinely Christian models?
  • What would those models of work look like when practically enabled?
  • What do you believe are the rewards for faithfulness that we are failing to emphasize in our churches today, rewards that appeal to men as much as to women?
  • What must we do to encourage our leadership to go deeper?
  • How does the average American Evangelical man take back his proper position as spiritual leader?
  • What tools is that man lacking that he will need to be all God intended?
  • How do we sharpen those tools?
  • What is the first step toward making these changes?

Thanks for your input. Have a blessed weekend.

In the Eye of the Beheld


God couldn’t have filled a woman with more admirable traits than Cassie possessed. She cooked like Julia Child. Entertained others as well as Martha Stewart. She had a faith as big as Corrie Ten Boom’s. She lived every word from Elisabeth Elliot’s books on womanhood. In short, she would have made the perfect wife.

I suspect she’s still waiting for that gold ring, though.

You see, to call Cassie “pretty” would have confused Webster. No heads swiveled when she walked by. Young guys on Sunday never anxiously dropped the question, “Have you seen Cassie in church today?”

No, Cassie wasn’t blessed with the one thing so many men crave above all else: physical beauty.

Cassie loved me. I didn’t return “those feelings,” though. Sure, her dowry of other fabulous qualities overflowed, but I could never get past the fact that she wasn’t physically beautiful.

I lost track of her years ago.

Looking back, I probably had two or three other Cassies in my single days, girls whose hearts would have leapt if I asked them out.  Fact is, each was a better person than I could ever hope to be.

I turned 44 last week. In thinking over my life, I realized I’d done all those Cassies wrong. I love my wife immensely, don’t misunderstand me. I had my 25th high school reunion and I can say with confidence that despite all the gorgeous girls in my high school back in the early Eighties, at the reunion my wife eclipsed them all. I’m very fortunate to have married a physically beautiful woman.

But I still dealt poorly with Cassie. Only now do I realize that the one thing Cassie was missing in her life was a real flesh and blood Christian man to tell her she was beautiful.

Time has a way of giving us room to think. As I look around this country and witness the Girls Gone Wild culture that threatens to tear our social fabric apart, I can’t help but think that most of those girls are dying on the inside. Why? Because they simply don’t believe they’re beautiful because no man they respect has ever told them so.

I don’t know what dads are doing at home that they turn out these shattered girls. Either dad doesn’t tell his daughter she’s beautiful, or he doesn’t command enough respect for his word to mean anything. Melancholy girlAnd we all know the story: If a girl doesn’t get admiration from her closest male relatives, she’s going to search for it elsewhere. And elsewhere isn’t always a nice place.

Ultimately, in our churches, the fault lies with Christian men of all ages. I perpetually hear how men in the church are bored. Yet when our young people are getting mugged by the world, where are all those Christian men? If we’re supposed to be the image of Christ, what are we saying about Him by our silence?

I can’t imagine what it does for a young woman to hear from a Christian man she respects, “God made you beautiful.” I don’t think there’s enough of that candor in our churches today. I think a lot of young women are dying to hear that they’re beautiful, but for whatever reason they never hear it. Or they hear it from the wrong people.

It’s sad to me that we’ve fouled this up so badly. Whether we can ever redeem this lack in our churches without it seeming “weird” is a question I can’t answer. Perhaps the older men in the church could pull this off without it being judged inappropriate. I don’t know. All I do know is that young women today simply aren’t hearing it enough from the right people.

Cassie needed to hear she was beautiful. No, she’d never be confused for Miss America. But how did we ever get to a point that her other traits garnered her no accolades? If we looked in her eyes, could we not find the beauty of God?

No doubt Cassie stayed true to the Lord, even when the rest of us didn’t give her the time of day. Still, I’ve got to believe that plenty of young women not as devout as Cassie would have found a word or two said in their favor to be all they needed to keep from straying.

I’m not sure that we cherish our young Christian women as much as we should. Few of us men stand in the gap for them. We don’t pray for them and their families. We don’t keep a watch out for them. We don’t build them up as we should.

Is there a young woman in your church who gets overlooked? Someone needs to tell her she’s loved and appreciated. Someone needs to encourage her to use her gifts for the Lord.

Someone may even need to tell her she’s beautiful.