So, Am I a Christian?

Thomas Jefferson had died. He was our third president, our second vice-president, and our first Secretary of State. He wrote the Declaration of Independence and drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. As president, he established the US Military Academy, purchased the Louisiana Territory (doubling the size of the US), and commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore the west. He founded the University of Virginia, made the Library of Congress possible and abolished the international slave trade. He was also a husband and a father of six or more (oh yeah, way more) children. And that is just a quick sample of all the things he accomplished. I know, it’s a pretty impressive list. Now, based on all of this, what do you think should be inscribed on his tombstone? Let’s put this discussion into a context. Søren Kierkegaard, the philosopher, author, and all-around great Dane dictated exactly what he

Jesus and the Committed Life

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” I’ve used that quote a dozen times to illustrate unrelenting commitment. Here was Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb, struggling to find a filament that would not burn out after a few illuminating moments. But it was Edison’s perseverance; his commitment to excellence, innovation and light that propelled Edison to carry on, failure after failure. And when he was asked if he was frustrated after trying so many things that did not work, Edison’s response was an encouragement to all of us to endure, regardless of the obstacles in our lives.  Ask anyone for a picture of unwavering, courageous commitment and they will point to Edison, the inventor of the light bulb. Except for one thing: Edison didn’t really invent the lightbulb. Seventy-seven years before Edison (in 1802), an English chemist named Sir Humphry Davy made

Jesus and Wisdom

Some people play music to set the mood. Some look at their mood rings for inspiration. Others adjust the lighting. I hear mod fabrics is even a thing. Some people use candles to set the perfect atmosphere. Me? I tell stories (all three of these stories I found in a Leland Gregory book). 2,300 years ago, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, looked up into the far reaches of the northern sky. There he saw the constellation Ursa Major. Ursa Major, of course, is, as anyone looking at the constellation can easily see, “the big bear,” even though it may appear at first, second and third, and maybe even fourth glance, in the form of a big dipper. In any case, Aristotle named the land mass under it, “the bear.” He then looked in the opposite direction; and since it was indeed the opposite, he named the land mass to the south,

Jesus and the Sheep

The innocent always suffer. It was 1943; and Great Britain was in the midst of a terrible war, a war they feared they could lose.  But war had not yet reached a tiny remote, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland, until it did in a big way. On this day, a group of soldiers brought 80 sheep to the island. But they weren’t actually soldiers, they were scientists. And they had come to this island on a secret, deadly mission. They wanted to see if their anthrax bombs were as lethal as they believed. If they were, the next step was to drop anthrax on German cities. The scientists were wearing cloth overalls, rubber gloves, and gas masks; but that hardly seemed like enough protection. They launched the anthrax by mortar and watched the effects. At first, the sheep showed no signs of infection; but when they did,

Jesus and Justice

Okay, I lied. I gave Columbus the benefit of the doubt in my last post saying it was more likely that Columbus was simply bad at math and not a swindler. Having now read more of the Columbus story, I need to retract that statement. Plain and simple, it is far more likely that Columbus was a crook. If that is too strong, then let me just say, he was a horrible human being.  Consider the evidence. He was a terrible sea captain (half of his voyages ended in dismal failure). He was notoriously cruel (natives who did not bring in a sufficient amount of gold would have their hands cut off). He trafficked in slaves. He and his crew spread disease which almost eradicated the entire Taino population (how do you spell “genocide”?). As governor, he was both utterly corrupt and tyrannical (as a result of his thieving and

Dreaming During the Day

Honestly, the only thing I admire about Christopher Columbus is that he was bad at math. Of all the deficiencies in one’s education, being bad at math is the only one that doesn’t count. For example, Paul Harvey may not have been a great mathematician, but he still was extremely wise. It was Harvey who gave us this truism and tell me you don’t agree with it: "If there is a 50-50 chance that something can go wrong, then 9 times out of 10, it will." Amen and amen. Back to my point: in the 1400’s, navigation depended upon a lot of guesswork. This was primarily because no one knew the circumference of the earth or how to measure latitude. But there were theories. The first theory came from the Greeks. It utilized the Roman mile (roughly 1.47 kilometers). The second theory came from Arabic scholars. Unsurprisingly, it also utilized

Defining “Holy Guacamole”

I’m not sure where I first heard this story, but it was love at first sight (hearing? reading? whatever!). In 1962, Congresswoman Clare Booth Luce walked into the oval office.  She had been thinking for a long time of what she wanted to communicate to then President John F. Kennedy, and she finally had it.  She walked into his office and said: “A great man is one sentence.” And then, she dropped the bomb: “So, what is your sentence?” Luce feared that Kennedy was trying to do too much, that he had too many priorities and too little focus.  He didn’t have a sentence.  He had a cluttered paragraph. Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, had a sentence.  It was: “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.” Franklin Roosevelt’s sentence was, “He lifted us out of a great depression and helped us win a world war.”  Luce’s question was

Following Hints (more or less)

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “It means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”  I love it. Someday, I am going to read the whole Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland book. I missed it the first 50 plus years of my life, but one of these days I am going to get to it. And, why, you may ask? Because I am “curiouser and curiouser” about who gets to define words. Now, I’m not worried about who gets to define the word, “Christian.” I think Jesus ought to be the master of that one. Hence, when he says, “a Christian is someone who follows him,” that settles it for me. However, the word

To Plagiarize or Not to Plagiarize

Let’s start off today with some thoughts (and these are thoughts that I personally have thought and no one else has ever thought before). And because I know these thoughts will be a big hit once they get out in the public, I’ve even put my thoughts in a form for easy quoting. Behold my thoughts. . . . A plagiarist should be made to copy the author a hundred times. Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal. The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. Anticipatory plagiarism occurs when someone steals your original idea and publishes it a hundred years before you were born. All work and no plagiarism make for dull sermons! Okay, so maybe these weren’t quite my own thoughts. As Jonathan Swift once wrote: “Fine words! I wonder where you stole them.”  So, time to come clean. I stole them. The first quote is

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