Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pets as Family

Bobby and I often say we wouldn't take a million dollars for our bird Lulu. We couldn't - it would be like selling a member of the family. Pet lovers, you know exactly what we mean and probable agree with the sentiment. An understanding of the bond between pets and owners is why a story out of the Miami Herald resonated so much with me - A dog owner jumped in and punched a shark to save his rat terrier dog. The story has a happy ending. You can read it here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ray Barone & The Shorter Catechism

A saw a clip from Everybody Loves Raymond the other night that got me thinking about catechisms.

The faith tradition I grew up in didn’t do catechism instruction, so when my soon-to-become Presbyterian and then fiancĂ© Bobby started studying the Westminster Shorter Catechism, I wasn’t sure what to think about it. It sounded “too catholic” to my Baptist ears!

Now I teach Children’s Sunday School and every week part of our lesson is reviewing questions in the shorter catechism with the goal of memorization. I now have a great appreciation for the catechism and the importance of learning it. This is where Everybody Loves Raymond comes in. . .

In the brief clip, Ray’s daughter Ally has asked, “How did we get here?” Ray and Debra assume the question needs the “birds and the bees” answer and so with great trepidation, Ray gulps and begins his talk with his daughter, saying “When two people love each other...”

Ally stops him and clarifies her question by saying, “No, I mean why did God put us here?” The camera switches to Ray with his classic deer-in-the-headlights look.

I immediately thought of the 1st question and answer in the Shorter Catechism:
What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

How easily that child’s question would have been to answer. We are put here to have fellowship with God and to glorify Him. A brief discussion would follow fleshing out exactly what it means to “glorify God”, but the basic question would have been answered.

I thought of other questions of life – What are we supposed to do?
Question 39: What is the duty which God requires of man? The duty which God requires of man is obedience to His revealed will.

The catechism discusses not only what is forbidden by the Ten Commandments, but also what is required:
Q. 79. Which is the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment is, Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.
Q. 80. What is required in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment requires full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbor, and all that is his.
Q. 81. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment forbids all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

Great reminders in our age of class envy!

The catechism has Scripture references for all the answers, so a Bible Study is just waiting for you with each subject. I am currently trying to memorize this because I can see the benefits of being able to recall these succinct explanations when questions arise.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Modern Day Deborah

I’ve been thinking a lot about chapter 4 of the Book of Judges in the last week or so:

Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: 'Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.' "

Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go." "Very well," Deborah said, "I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman." So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh, where he summoned Zebulun and Naphtali. Ten thousand men followed him, and Deborah also went with him.

Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses' brother-in-law, and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh. When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera gathered together his nine hundred iron chariots and all the men with him, from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River.

Then Deborah said to Barak, "Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?" So Barak went down Mount Tabor, followed by ten thousand men. At Barak's advance, the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera abandoned his chariot and fled on foot. But Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim. All the troops of Sisera fell by the sword; not a man was left.

Sisera, however, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there were friendly relations between Jabin king of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite.
Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, "Come, my Lord , come right in. Don't be afraid." So he entered her tent, and she put a covering over him.

"I'm thirsty," he said. "Please give me some water." She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

"Stand in the doorway of the tent," he told her. "If someone comes by and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say 'No.' "

But Jael, Heber's wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. "Come," she said, "I will show you the man you're looking for." So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple-dead.

I have told friends that I believe Sarah Palin is our Deborah. I’m old school – I prefer my leaders to be men. However, when men won’t lead (or lead appropriately) women fill in the gap. I think this is the case in this year’s election.

The parallel with Judges goes beyond a woman as leader. Just as Barak was floundering before Deborah, so McCain’s support was tepid at best among the base and now, as the talking heads on the evening news put it, “[McCain] is riding her [Palin] coattails!”

In Scripture, the victory that was to be Barak’s went to a woman instead - twice actually. Deborah had to accompany Barak for victory and Jael (one of my favorite biblical ladies) took care of Sisera with a hammer and nail!

Also interesting in this election is the prominence of the abortion debate. From David Letterman’s snarky remarks (and subsequent smackdown by Dr. Phil), to the obscene treatment of Bristol Palin by the press, to the not-so-subtle insinuations that Sarah Palin maybe shouldn’t have had her Downs baby, the unborn are at the forefront. My hubby recently relayed a comment by one of his favorite authors that men are to protect women and women are to protect babies. By living out her pro-life views, Sarah Palin is doing just that.

With Gov. Palin, I have a conservative for whom I can vote. While early in the campaign, the GOP pundits were saying the Reagan era was over and that the base needed to move past the Gipper into the future, Palin’s acceptance speech was replete with explicit and implicit references to the speeches of Ronald Reagan.

More than that, she represents the idea of a citizen politician. There is a down-home quality about her that exudes warmth and winsomeness. In video clips of campaign stops, you can hear the supporters saying, “Thanks, Sarah” and not “thanks, Governor.” That’s very telling. People feel they know Sarah Palin and, more importantly, they see her as one of them.

I’m actually excited about this election. This November, for the first time since the 80s, I will be voting for a candidate rather than just voting against one.