Through a glass darkly

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)KJV

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dante's Levels of Hell Test

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)Very Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Moderate
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

I'm glad I don't believe in Purgatory - good Protestant that I am. Amusing though.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Loyalty Part 4

Persons talking the Naturalization oath to become US citizens pledge:
"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

They renounce allegiance to their country of birth and swear loyalty to their adopted nation. Their loyalty means that in the case of war, they may have to take up arms against their former country in order to defend their new one. During WWII, there were many stories of immigrants doing just that -Japanese-Americans fighting against the European Axis powers, sons of Italian and German migrants fighting against their father's homelands. A person who pretended to support and defend his new country while secretly working for his old would be defined as a traitor; in time of war, his life would be forfeit. At the least, the person would be considered a fraud and their citizenship could be stripped from them.

When a person becomes a Christian, he/she leaves the kingdom of darkness and enters into the Kingdom of Light. As the Apostle Paul puts it: are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.(Ephesians 2:19-20, NIV)

We owe allegiance to Christ Himself, to follow Him and obey His commands. He stated that our greatest duty was this :
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35, NIV)

Yet too often Christians behave as if we are still playing for the other team. It seems we act as if we are agents for the kingdom of darkness instead of warriors for the Light. As stated earlier, to maintain the old allegiance while pledged to a new one is treason. If God weren't so patient and gracious towards us despite our wavering loyalty, we would surely and swiftly be put to the death for our crimes against Him. Instead, He lovingly, yet firmly calls us to live out our citizenship anew everyday. As we grow in our relationship with Him, our fidelity to His cause becomes more sure, more certain. The treacherous actions that in which we once participated become a faint memory the more closely we follow our new Master.

Regretfully, there are some that want it both ways -they like the privileges and benefits of the new citizenship -eternal life, forgiveness of sin, guaranteed inheritance as God's child. But they also like the pleasure and "excitement" of the old life. "It's okay," they tell themselves, "God will forgive my indiscretions and welcome me back to my homeland." We might wonder if that person had truly taken the oath and become a new citizen with thinking such as that.

Loyalty demands that we stay true to the one to whom we have pledged our oath. If it is to our friend, we must stand by him/her even when times are difficult. Standing by can mean having the courage to say that they are wrong when they are and not letting them get away with it. We can show loyalty to our nation, even when we disagree with national policies. Most of all though, loyalty is a character trait of God Himself. He is the One "who sticks closer than a brother". As we are transformed into Christ-likeness, loyalty becomes one of the characteristics of our life and manifests itself in our loyalty to our God. The world doesn't truly understand true loyalty because they don't have the mind of Christ. That's why the secularists are so puzzled when a man, such a President Bush, would show such unwavering loyalty to an underling. Whether or not Mr. Bush is demonstrating Christ-like character is not the issue here, but rather a world that does not recognize Jesus as God, certainly would not recognize a virtue as such.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Loyalty Part 3

As a child, my family lived down the street from a family I'll call the "Duncans". Mr. and Mrs. Duncan had 5 or 6 kids (the oldest had left home or were away at college) including twins "Stevie" and "Evie" who were two years younger than I was. Mr. Duncan, an aerospace engineer as I remember, had been raised by strict Christian parents, but had rejected those teachings for himself and his family. He would come home from work around 4pm where his wife would have a pitcher of Martinis waiting for their next-door neighbors and them to consume before dinner. When the pitcher ran dry, Mrs. Duncan (or one of the older children) would refill it so the adults could continue with their own personal "happy hour". Mr. Duncan also liked to leave his copies of Playboy lying around the den for all to see. Probably his only redeeming virtue (and the only reason I was ever allowed at their house) was that he had built his daughters the most amazing two-story play house with lineoleum floors and paneled walls; the second story was a sleeping loft where the two youngest daughters could stretch out their sleeping bags and escape their brothers.

The one value that the Duncans did receive from their devout Scottish parents and then drilled into their children was FAMILY LOYALTY -you stick up for kin, right or wrong. I didn't quite understand this concept - if my brother was acting creepy towards one of my friends, it was my responsibility to make sure that his creepy behavior would be duly accounted for and my friend protected. The Duncans had a different idea. When I was about 11 (my brother would've been 8), Stevie, aged 9, decided it would be fun to sharpen a popsicle stick and repeatedly stab/poke my brother in the back with it. Evidently, my brother didn't mind much because although Stevie was older, my brother was much bigger and stronger than Stevie -Stevie would have come out the worse if my brother had decided to extract retribution for the stabbing.

That night however, my mother saw his scratched-up back after his bath time. After hearing the details of what had transpired earlier in the day, my parents marched my brother four doors down to confront the Duncans (not a good idea, remember the pitchers of Martinis they'd have consumed by then). This family closed ranks tighter than any Marine Corps unit in combat -it must've been my brother's fault, not Stevie's and so nothing resembling discipline happened to him. The following day, Evie told me that she and I were no longer permitted to play together because of what had happened. Neither one of us had been involved in the fray, yet further contact was prohibited - in fact now there was a "feud" between our families. Family loyalty demanded, in the Duncan's thinking, that their hostility be shared among all their members and directed towards all of ours. That mentality, I learned, had been what fueled the conflict between the infamous Hatfields and McCoys. The original offense had long been forgotten, replaced instead with a feud based on "blood", not on the righteousness of position.

And this is what loyalty is not -loyalty does not mean demonstrating unswerving allegiance to someone's misdeeds just because you have a relationship with them. In the story of David and Jonathan I mentioned earlier, Jonathan didn't take his father's "side" against David just because he (Jonathan) was the son of the man at war with his friend. Jonathan knew that Saul's behavior towards David was unjust and therefore he declined to take up his father's feud - so much so that Saul accused Jonathan of being a disloyal son.

Loyalty doesn't mean standing by silently when a friend (or family member) is doing something wrong. Loyalty to a company or country doesn't mean you must sacrifice your moral convictions to be a team player or a patriot. As a Christian, we have a higher duty, a more important loyalty to Whom allegiance is owed. In the next installment, I will discuss that loyalty.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Loyalty Part 2

What is loyalty? Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines the word loyal as "1 : unswerving in allegiance: as a : faithful in allegiance to one's lawful sovereign or government b : faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due c : faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product." So loyalty is the "quality or state of being loyal."

To whom or to what do I owe allegiance? How about faithfulness? Part of the difficulty is that far too often, we feel that we owe fidelity only to ourselves. It's all about me and my needs; it's what I want for my life, forget about you. Recently, I was reflecting on a relationship in which I felt betrayed by another person. I remember being angry because this "friend" was less concerned about my feelings or the consequence to our friendship, than they were about their own feelings - sticking by me in the situation had some negative personal costs and so it was easier for them to "save their own skin".

A more specific example comes from my teenybopper years. "Lisa" and I were friends, we'd hang out with each other, spending the night at each other's house, going places, doing things. When school began that fall, "Lisa" started hanging out with a new, more popular crowd that did not treat those outside the clique well. The way she "proved" that she was one of them, was to deny her friendship with me by behaving cruelly towards me. She traded our friendship for the approval and acceptance of others- she traded loyalties from me to them.

One of the most extraordinary examples of loyalty between two friends is found in the Biblical story of Jonathan and David. Despite the fact that Jonathan's father, King Saul wanted to kill David, Jonathan demonstrated amazing fidelity by standing by his friend. Jonathan aided David's escape from Saul's wrath, drawing his father's fierce anger. Their loyalty to one another survived even Jonathan's death as David fulfilled his oath to care for Jonathan's descendants when he brought Jonathan's handicapped son, Mephibosheth to live in his palace and eat at his table. This was despite the fact that as the grandson of the former king, Mephibosheth could've provided a challenge to David's claim on the throne.

In the next installment, I will discuss what I think loyalty is not...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


On the way home from work tonight, one of the local radio talk show hosts was talking about the concept of loyalty. He and his callers were discussing the loyalty of President Bush towards his staff, particularly as it's been demonstrated towards his Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, sticking with him despite the cries in the media to fire him. The question for the radio listeners was why would someone demonstrate such loyalty in the face of opposition, especially in our culture where everyone seems to be out for themselves. Why have we as a society seemed to abandon the virtue of loyalty? Is this even a characteristic of Christians? Do followers of Christ demonstrate loyalty anymore than their secular counterparts?

Over the next few days, I would like to discuss this concept here. Feel free to comment on this subject.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Political Test

You are a

Social Conservative
(18% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(75% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Republican

Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Gee, this has me as a bit more liberal than I would've guessed. Those who have thought I was a fascist are wrong....he he!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Two Weeks of Blogging Silence

One of my friends commented yesterday that they hadn't seen any new posts from me lately. My response is that I have been too busy and too depressed to blog. Laura reminded me that it's okay to blog when you're depressed, sometimes it is helpful to do so. True, but I don't want to turn my blog into some dark cloud of unhappiness in the blogosphere either. So I will start with the good things that have happened to me before I get to the more depressing items.

Good Things
1. I got a raise!!! Not just an average little cost of living type adjustment, but one, with the promotion I received last year, that helps to rectify some past salary injustice ( you know, when the guy next to you makes 20% more eventhough your education, experience and responsibility level are identical.)
2. My boss is on vacation for almost two weeks. Mind you, I like my boss, I really do, but it is nice, after the grind of last week to not have 10 emails and 2 phone messages waiting for me some mornings.
3. Palm Sunday, where our church did Group's Jerusalem Marketplace instead of regular church service and Sunday School, is over. (I was the pottery shopkeeper and had to remember how to throw a pot on the wheel from 30 years ago.)

1. I'm still waiting for those "exciting new ministries" I was promised by church leadership after I was allowed to be fired from youth ministy. Even worse is that there seems to be some negative false stories being spread as to why I was terminated that vary from "Ann doesn't like to work with students anymore, so she quit" to "Ann must've done something really terrible to be removed from the youth group, is she a pervert?" Great, it's not enough to say , "I don't agree with the Youth Pastor on everything; he demands 110% conformity to his way of thinking so he put me on a year's sabbatical."
2. My boss is on vacation for almost two weeks and I'm in charge while he's gone. Now I know why he sends out 10 emails and 2 phone messages. I've been working on this costing exercise at work with everyone telling me the proposal will never fly with the big boss -it's too much. I met with the big boss yesterday -he says it's too little. I need a vacation.
3. The pottery shop experience -there is a reason I left high school ceramics class screaming -the pottery wheel is why.
4. I feel disconnected from everyone and everything. No time for relationship and relaxing. Even so my personal email is filled with ads and to do things; my telephone is silent except for the junk phonecall. Snail mail is just bills and solicitations.
Calgon take me away!!!