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Stopping the Choir for One Wrong Note

In college I had the chance to study under one of the most respected choir directors in the state. Quite often, he would drive those of us in the choir crazy because of his common practice of stopping the choir the moment he heard a mistake. Sometimes, we wouldn’t sing two notes before he would stop us and start us again. You see, as far as our director was concerned, we were striving for perfection. We never really achieved perfection as a choir and I don’t think our director was under any illusions that we could ever be perfect. But he believed that if he pushed us toward perfection and we strove for it ourselves, we might get very close.

I have always enjoyed reading the Psalms, especially those attributed to David. But the other day something occurred to me that had never occurred to me before. I was reading Psalm 101, a psalm of David, where the psalmist writes, No one who acts deceitfully will live in my palace; no one who tells lies will remain in my presence. Every morning I w…
Recent posts

Integrity is Like a Nice, Juicy Steak

A few years ago I was introduced to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. I had wandered in with a group of friends as we were visiting Washington D.C. and was completely unprepared for the experience. Under most circumstances, I have a hard time justifying paying $12 for a steak and Ruth's Chris's steaks started at $30 each. So I was very skeptical about dishing out that much money. But this steak came out piping out, bubbling in butter and extremely tender. As the meal ended, I gladly dished out more than I'd ever paid for a single meal in my life and began plotting how to return. When I got home and my wife wanted to go to a local restaurant where I normally ate steak, I discovered that the old steak wasn't any good anymore after having Ruth's Chris's steak.  I had been ruined for steak. But as the months progressed and I continued to order steaks knowing they weren't going to be as good, my distaste for them slowly lessened. Eventually, I found normal steaks to…

Entertaining Fortune Cookies

My children's favorite part of Chinese food is getting the fortune cookie at the end of the meal. But fortune cookies and I have always had a love/hate relationship because you never know what kind of "fortune" you are going to get. Some fortunes are ambitious and attempt to predict life-changes like "You will soon have an opportunity to change your life, don't let it pass you by." Those fortunes are an attempt to tell the future by reminding us of things we should already know, but they at least put on the pretense of giving a fortune. Others, I feel, are much less entertaining because they say something like, "No one wants to be friends with a grumpy person." The fortune cookies in this second category are probably much more useful but those aren't the ones that I want to get. I want the fortune cookies that entertain me, not the ones that tell me some more useful thing that I should already be living by.
The author of the book of Lamentati…

Moral and Ethical Subroutines

In the movie Star Trek: Insurrection, there is a very interesting contrast between one of the Enterprise crew members and a Starfleet Admiral. Data, the android second officer of the Enterprise is injured and his moral and ethical subroutines kick-in. In essence, these subroutines cause Data to have a hyper-sensitivity to right and wrong so that no one can take advantage of him in his injured state. Another crew member described his condition as, in essence, being able only to act on the difference between right and wrong. Data is foiled against a Starfleet Admiral who, because he thinks it is necessary for the survival of the Federation, violates the Federation's most sacred law. I don't know that the writers set up this comparison on purpose but they effectively posed the question, "When circumstances get tough, do you abandon your morals for the sake of survival or cling to them even more?"
Toward the end of 1 Samuel, we see a similar choice made by King Saul. Sa…

Getting Electrocuted By Hell

From as young as he was able to understand, we warned my son to stay away from electrical outlets. Sure, we had the house kid-proofed as much as possible and had all the outlets covered as best we could. But something always slips through the cracks and you want to warn him anyway. We warned him it would hurt if he played with them and told him to stay away from them. But that didn't stop him one day from taking a little metallic play spoon from his toy box and sticking it into an outlet. One moment everything was fine. The next moment we heard a pop, followed by the wailing of a two-year old. My wife and I rushed in to see our toddler holding a blackened metallic spoon and staring at the familiar electrical outlet like he had never seen it before. In spite of our numerous warnings and our attempts to safeguard him, the possible pain of playing with an electrical outlet wasn't real to him; it was just something his parents had told him about. But after that day, we never had a…

Scriptural Murder in the Dark

In my younger days, I enjoyed playing a group game called Murder in the Dark. You turned the lights off and hid while one person was designated the murderer. The murderer would have to find people alone and run his finger across their throats. Most often, you would use an entire building or, at least, a large portion of the building to play the game, so frequently, you would end up in rooms you had either never seen or seen only once or twice, alone, in the dark, unable to tell what was really around you. Feeling as much as you could, sometimes you came close to figuring out what was in the room. Quite often what you expected was completely different when the lights came on. But no matter how close your guess may have been, there was always something in the room that you missed or misinterpreted just by touch. It took removing the veil of darkness to see how things really were.

The Apostle Paul described trying to understand Scripture in much the same way. In 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, h…

Ugly Facebook Fights and Handwritten Letters

A while ago, I witnessed a very ugly Facebook attack between two people I know. One person was in the process of making a decision she would regret for the rest of her life and a family member, seeing that this person was repeating the mistakes her own parent had made, tried to warn her about that choice in a private text message. The warning was as polite and thoughtful as it can be when you have to tell someone they are being selfish and doing something they will regret for the rest of their life but this woman didn't take it well.  Instead, she posted a screen capture of the text message on Facebook and attempted to berate this loving family member for being "ugly" and "mean" and "judgmental." Another person (who was also making bad life-choices at least partially in response to her own parent's mistakes) jumped in, berating the family member who had sent the text, stating that loving and helping someone means that you "support them no ma…