March 2009

I am listening to a Matt Chandler series on Luke right now, because a) our house church is going through Luke and b) I listen to Matt Chandler anyway.  This past Sunday I listened to the one that covered the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13).  The whole thing was good, as always, but the second part stuck out to me.  When he talked about the second temptation, he categorized it as a temptation to power and control.  And then he talked about how we often try to manipulate and control others to change their behavior but we can’t manipulate the condition of the soul.  So even if you achieve the desired behavioral results you basically squish the person’s soul and damage the relationship, and REALLY what we want is for their heart to change but we can’t do that because that’s God-stuff.  (And then he made this connection with how that’s like the Law and the Gospel – behavior versus heart.)

I have never thought of it quite like that before.  If you had asked me at any point in my life whether I could change someone’s heart, I wouldn’t have even had to think to answer “No.”  Because I know that.  But when I am irritated or angry with someone it is because THEY AREN’T DOING WHAT I WANT THEM TO.  And then I use sarcasm or my irritation to get them to do what I want, and that is just caving in to this temptation for control because I’m trying to get them to conform to whatever behavior I want – when really I should just be praying for a heart change for them.

And me too, because obviously my motivation in the whole process is selfishness.  But even if I am legitimately right I usually still have a bad attitude about it.

Whew.  Preach it, Chandler.

  • Tex-Mex.  English is my heart language, Tex-Mex is my soul food.
  • Chick-fil-A
  • understanding what is going on around me
  • “normal” cooking ingredients (in a land famed for its food, how is it that the grocery store only has like 3 spices (salt, garlic, and the local herb blend)? no cream of chicken soup? no shortening for flaky pastry creation?) (and how is it that Kroger in Texas has a better selection of EVERYTHING than a grocery store in exotic France?)
  • people acknowledging my existence
  • customer service
  • being able to explain something without gesturing wildly and miming
  • getting what I want, when I want it
  • extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • ultimate frisbee
  • elevators. and escalators.
  • cheap groceries
  • and coupons.
  • cheap ANYTHING.
  • family and friends. of course.
  • Girl Scout cookies
  • cream soda on a bad day. or any day.

I read this article online today.  It’s about this really old guy who is being charged with 29,000 counts of accessory to murder because he was a Nazi guard.  He is, of course, denying that he is guilty.  His story is that he was in the Russian army and captured by the Germans.

Now, the Holocaust was an atrocity.  There is absolutely no way around that and in fact, atrocity is a weak term.  So what I am about to say is in no way a defense of anything that happened there and being from Texas I obviously believe that wrong should be punished.  But the article concerned me in a few ways, the first being the guy’s age.  He is 88.  I am pretty sure that if you are convicted of Nazi war crimes, you get executed.  Especially if you’re convicted of 29,000 of them.  There is something very disturbing in the idea of an 88-year-old man being executed.  The second issue is the absolute glee with which some people hailed the announcement; basically, “Yippee!!  I hope they kill the old guy ASAP!”  This guy could have done some truly terrible things but that is no reason to celebrate that he may die a bit sooner than nature intended.  There has already been one grave error regarding this man’s identity and his involvement in Nazi crimes and in America, where he currently resides and is a citizen, you are innocent until PROVEN guilty.  Assuming he is extradited the trial will take place in Germany and I believe (hope) they have a similar policy with justice.

And the glee – well, it just seems so self-righteous.  Like I said, “atrocity” doesn’t even begin to cover what the Jewish people suffered during that time, but on the other hand it is extremely easy to look back on the Holocaust with a horror that people allowed such things to happen.  I believe that horror is right, but a closer look reveals that not all “Nazis” were on board with Nazi policies like eliminating certain people groups and torturing undesirables.  Part of the genius of Hitler’s plan (Note: “diabolical” or “evil” genius, of course; you can’t deny the man had a certain skill for acquiring power) was frightening dissenters into silence and acquiescence.  People will stoop to levels they never dreamed in order to protect their families.

Like I said, I’m not defending anyone’s choices to participate in Nazi crimes.  It is, however, very easy to say that people should “just” have not given in.  “Giving in” may wear a very different name when your husband/wife’s and children’s lives are at stake; suddenly it may look a lot more like protecting your family than selling your soul.  I think it’s wise to consider, before making a judgment call, that most of us have never faced the sort of choices that a lot of people had to face then – and also consider that a long life of soul-tormenting regret may be a far worse punishment than a human court could dole out.  C.S. Lewis has an interesting theory that hell is actually in you, something that grows over your lifetime and continues to grow throughout eternity, and if that were true…well, maybe we shouldn’t be so elated over the capture of an old man in Cleveland.

Last night Jake & I watched Cinderella Man.  I have been trying to avoid watching that movie for a while now, with no particular reason except that I don’t like Russell Crowe very much.  It turned out to be good, enough so that I wasn’t even distracted by Russell Crowe’s presence.  In one fight scene in particular, they slowed the action down just a bit and there was this noise with every punch to the mouth/jaw which sounded like breaking china.

me: (wincing, covering my mouth)
Jake: You know that is the sound of the flash bulbs, right?
me: oh. Well, you know how I feel about teeth.

See, I don’t dream very often, or at least not memorably, thanks to my sleeping issues.  When, on the rare occasion, I do dream, it is often a nightmare in which something horrible happens to my teeth.  In one they slowly dissolve into this chalky powder, and in another they just keep falling out.  In everyday life I am a bit paranoid about something bad happening to my teeth.  I don’t know if it would be all the wasted money and years of orthodontia or what, I just really want my teeth to be ok forever.  Because of this I am always bothered to see a movie or read a book in which people lose teeth.  I spent much of A Thousand Splendid Suns slightly ill over the loss of so many teeth.  This is a mildly irrational fear, but it is less irrational than my fear of sharks.

However, the movie did illustrate that until Central Park in New York is a shantytown, calling the current economic situation “the second Great Depression” does the people who survived that time an enormous disrespect.