Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

Hang out with the old preacher by browsing my blogs.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Of the Writing of Blogs

To paraphrase the Teacher, "Of the writing of blogs there is no end." Actually the word he used was "books", but I feel licensed by twenty-first century technology to make the more modern paraphrase. Everyone seems to be writing a blog these days, even my 12 year old grandson. I was emboldened by my daughter-in-law and her exceptionally clever writing to try blogging myself. I have always enjoyed creative writing, and thought I would give it my best shot. After all I am an old enough codger to have a large backlog of experience from which to draw. But there is a law of diminishing returns to that proposition. You see, although I may have a plethora of rich experience from which to draw, I can't remember them. Age brings with it experience, and at least some of that experience has taught me a little wisdom. But I'm not sure I have taken enough zinc to retrieve all that good stuff. That's why it is so scary to realize my friends at Presbytery call me a "father" in the church, and expect the requisite wisdom to flow from my shriveling brain. I don't know how he does it, but Andy Rooney always has an entertaining last word on "60 Minutes". I know he does it on TV, but what he does is the same as a blog, except it is audio-visual instead of in print. The old curmudgeon is interesting, even when I disagree with his perspective. He just keeps blogging on. I hope I might do something like that with this obscure column. In fact I have just completed a blog which says absolutely nothing, and yet (I hope) you found to be mildly entertaining.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I like to say that Barbara and I fell in love on a roller coaster. It is a slight exaggeration, but it sounds so romantic. Okay, maybe not to everyone, but if you are the adventuresome type, it does sound exciting. Of course there are the lame attempts at humor: "our relationship has experienced its ups and downs". "Our life together has been one long exciting ride."

In a very early blog I told the story of how my date, Nance, balked at getting on the roller coaster at Long Beach New Pike, and Barbara spoke up, saying, "I'll go." During our courtship and marriage we have laughed together on many different coasters. Now that I am 74 years old, I'd rather say "been there, done that." I have enjoyed my coaster career, but I have retired from that too. My Barbara Lu, however, still rides every coaster in sight.

When she was a teacher at Peninsula Christian School, the eighth grade "ditch day" was often a trip to Magic Mountain. Guess what? When you buy group tickets, they give a freebie to the chaperons, and BL was always ready to go. In fact the kids used to ask her to accompany them around the park because she was willing to go on anything, but some of their companions shied at steep, terrifying rides.

Because of an incentive package for listening to a time share sales pitch in Las Vegas, we got tickets to ascend the Stratosphere. You know, it's the tallest structure in Vegas, and it always is seen in the opening pitch for the original CSI show on TV. The observation deck is 105 stories up, and it is breathtaking to look over the rail from up there. It seems that some insane entrepreneur actually built a roller coaster on the roof of this observation deck! Of course my Barbara was ready to try it. I had to tell her that if she took the ride, I would have a heart attack. She only had to think a moment or two before deciding to refrain.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Polished Speaking

When we were still "young people" in the OPC there was a Presbytery-wide youth group known as the "Machen League". It was a fond reference to our beloved founder of the OPC. As a new believer, and barely still a teen ager, I found myself a vice president of the Machen League of Southern California. It was in that capacity that I traveled from my home church, Westminster, Eagle Rock, to Long Beach to address the troops about commitment. It was a mini sermon. I had just made reference to Jesus' shocking demand that His disciples hate father, mother, wife and brother in order to follow Him. I told the young people that He did not really mean "hate" but simply used hyperbole to emphasize the priority of love to Him. To support my exegesis, I pointed out that the Scripture actually commands husbands to love their wives. As accurate as my intentions were, the execution of them left something to be desired. From the podium I was heard to say, "Husbands obey your wives." We all had a good laugh. I was proud of my composure when I paused to say, "Okay, we had our laugh, but the point is important." Then I went on to quote the Scripture and said the same words again: "Husbands obey your wives." Well, there was no more regaining of composure after that.

I discovered that day, before ever attending seminary or being ordained, just how easy it is to get my tongue tangled on my eye tooth so I couldn't see what I was saying. Since that time I have reminded a congregation of worshippers how during Jesus' time Israel was under the "roke of yome". That one was dangerous because it was a phrase that just seemed to roll off my tongue so smoothly that it seemed right.

My only comfort in the public speaking gaff department is that my dear friend, Carl Erickson, has thrown a few out there that top mine by quite a large margin. When he said that Moses refused to be called the daughter of Pharaoh's son, his mother-in-law turned to his wife and said, "Frankly, I don't blame him." When getting to a place in history during his preaching, he said, "You all remember VD day in Europe."

His congregation threw him a great party, celebrating his 40 years of ministry in the same congregation, so I guess they find him that much more lovable for his human ability to Malaprop his way through a sermon. Ministers are also frail creatures who need plenty of love, overlooking their gaffs.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Growing Lilly

Hey, I haven't stopped playing with my grandchildren. Someone took them away and gave me great grandchildren instead. One night I went to bed and when I got up in the morning I was a very old man with great grandchildren. It was a dirty trick! But I want to say that these great grandchildren are every bit as much fun as the grandchildren were.

Our little Lilly is almost three already. Whoa, slow down a bit. I want her to be that grinning, irascible little towhead for several years, and I know from experience that if I blink too many times it will be all over. She is such a happy child. Her parents must be doing something right.

Now the other day, when her body language wreaked of defiance and she told her daddy "No!" she was threatened with a spank. Sure enough she pushed the envelope, and she earned her swat. I know something about the hand that administered that swat. I was there on the day she was born to see that same hand holding and caressing this little Lilly. I saw her daddy use the little finger of that same hand as a pacifier on that day. There was a lot of love in the bonding I witnessed almost three years ago. And I know that same love was there administering the swat

As this Lilly grows she may be delicate in many ways, but there was no mark left on her little derriere. Instead there was a little mark placed on her memory board, saying "You may not cross this line." When a parent fails to place that marker, it is not because of love for the child, but love for himself. This child is always cheerful, cute and fun to be with. It's such a crazy life. I can easily remember when Lilly's mother was the child, asking for the swat.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Calvin!

You're looking good for 500. I'm sure to be forgotten in a few years after my perpetual vault is sealed with my earthly remains. My grand kids will remember their silly papa, but my lasting influence will be nothing like that of George whatsisname in "It's a Wonderful Life". But you, John, even though you asked for an unmarked grave, you have a bunch of groupies like no rock star ever thought of having. Even my western culture that is throwing away it's Christian memory as rapidly as possible, has reluctantly demonstrated your lingering influence in it's history. We have taken the principle of the separation of church and state and turned it against the church, when you used it to protect the church. We have labeled a hard working man of integrity with the Calvinistic work ethic. It would be a shame if future generations were to follow a Keller work ethic. It would not bear the weight of scrutiny for integrity.

Dear John Calvin, you have taught me that God is really God. He really is in control, and He really is good. His holiness deserves my best praise. My miserable efforts at doing good or pleasing God's perfect evaluation only cry out for my everlasting condemnation. On my best day my motives are mixed and the results are shallow. That God is so loving that He upholds me with sovereign grace is my only hope--and it is a living hope.

When I read your theology it jumps off the page with living relevance. Other theology works, cogent and helpful as they may be, just do not ring with the pulsing vitality that I find in the "Institutes". Thanks, John. I will see you in glory.