Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Monday
Nov182013

THREE VALUABLE LEARNINGS

Three-Card Monte

"David, you're trying too hard. Look, I'll make it easy."  William Morse bent the corner of the red jack.

This was in 1982.  My son, David, was ten, and with William, David was dealing with a pro.  I had recently hired William Morse as a renovator at Sign of the Cross Housing.  In the dozen years prior, he had made his living as a basketball hustler. That is, he'd get on a public court and shoot some sloppy hoops, but mostly lead with his lip. "I wouldn't show 'em any of my good stuff."

Before long, some guy would challenge him to one-on-one. Either he or William would suggest they put some money on the game. "See," William explained to me, "you can only con a con. The other guy figured I'd be easy money. I took a lot of guys that way—including at least two University of Cincinnati Bearcats."

But, basketball was only one of William's cons. He was also slick with three-card monte. One afternoon at our house, he spotted a new deck of cards. With David in the next room—and out of earshot—William asked me if he could both wreck the deck and train Dave not to be a sucker. I agreed.

So, William pulled two black jokers and a red jack from the deck. He bent them lengthwise into a slight U-shape. We called David and William challenged Dave to outsmart him in a simple card game. William explained, "See, David, here are three cards, two jokers and a red jack." I'll move the cards around, and your job is to pick the jack. To start, the jack's here in the middle." William then deftly shifted the cards for ten seconds. David pointed to the card that he was sure was the jack. William turned it over. It was a joker.

They repeated this half a dozen times. Each time, David lost. William and I explained to Dave that people had lost hundreds, and even thousands of dollars playing this game.

Then William said, "David, you're trying too hard. Look, I'll make it easy for you."  William Morse bent the corner of the red jack and mixed the cards. David pointed to the card with the bent corner. William turned it over. It was a joker.

"David, what have you learned from this?"

"Don't play three-card monte?"

"Oh the message is deeper than that: Never bet against the man who controls the game."

[Footnote: William Morse is a deep thinker. On breaks at work, he often read philosophy, including Wittgenstein. I was a philosophy major in college. Then and now, I don't read Wittgenstein who wrote the 75-page Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus in 1921. For a seasoned philosopher, reading and comprehending the Tractatus is a full-time job for six months.

[Second footnote: Three-card monte is outlawed in Canada. Arrest and conviction for running a game carries a two-year prison term.]

Trespasses and Debts

When you're saying the LORD's prayer, do you know what you're saying?

"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors?" Are you asking the LORD to forgive you for having credit cards or a mortgage loan on your house?

In grade school, I always took a shortcut to school, right through three neighbors' yards. So I knew I'd been bad when I said, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." But, that didn't seem right either. I didn't have any trespassers to forgive, and if someone walked across our lawn, I didn't care. And the matter seemed mighty small for God to worry about it every week.

My pastors never told me what these debts and trespasses were about.  Of course not; they hadn't been educated in the matter either.

However, I did learn about debts and trespasses in law school.

The King James Bible was published in 1611, when any educated Englishman was familiar with the writs of the Courts of Common Pleas. When reading the LORD's Prayer in the Gospel of Matthew, they would have recognized that "debts" referred to the Writ of Debt and "trespasses" to the Writs of Trespass. The writs were used to initiate lawsuits when suing for monetary damages. (Today, your attorney files a complaint.)

A Writ of Debt was filed when a loan was past due and unpaid. Thus, "debts" refers directly to the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant found in Matthew 18:23-35. 

As G. K. Chesterton wrote, "The world is, or rather has, only one good thing, and that is a bad debt." Think about it. That brief sentence summarizes the whole Bible.

The Writs of Trespass were more complicated. There were four:

The Writ of Trespass Quare Clausum Fregit (wherefore he broke the close)—a violation of another's property rights.

The Writ of Trespass De Bonis Asportatis (taking another's goods)—theft and embezzlement.

The Writ of Trespass Vi et Armis (with force and arms)—a civil suit for assault or battery; also for emotional injury, false imprisonment or fraud.

The Writ of Trespass on the Case—a grab-bag which included negligence, recklessness, nuisance, obscenity or defamation.

So in the 1600's, the words "debts" and "trespasses" in the LORD's Prayer overflowed with meaning. They covered all intentional and negligent wrongs.

Of course, the King James Bible translators could have written "Forgive us our torts as we forgive our tortfeasors," but they didn't.

Then as now, it's simpler to use the wording from Luke 11:4. "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us."  That's how we taught our children to say it.

Discovering Your Calling

In 7½ years with General Electric, my best learning was a two-sentence challenge:

"Suppose I could give you one-hundred thousand dollars a year for life. How would you spend your time?"

If you need explanation—and many do—I use the following patter:  "OK, let's also suppose you're one of the world's leading jazz trumpeters. You can play as many gigs as you want. Union rules, Uncle Sam, and your contracts all require that you be paid. But you have to donate all your paychecks to charity. Then, on January 2, each year, you get a check for $100,000. And to protect you from inflation, I'll throw in a cost of living adder.  Now, how will you spend your time?"

This is a profound question. It is also a blessing.

How do we choose our careers? Often it's for the expected lifetime income. That's why our law schools, medical schools and business schools are crammed with students—syphonning off some of the best minds in our Nation and usually disqualifying them from becoming entrepreneurs, evangelists or inventors.

The $100,000 question, however, relieves us of our money addiction. It frees us to realize what we really find to be fun, challenging, fascinating, satisfying—what would really fulfill our lives.

So, this is holy ground. The challenge liberates us to discover what is the real purpose for our lives. Why are we here? What is the one great gift that God has placed in the core of our being? What is that one talent that is death to hide?

Garrison Keillor gives wise counsel: "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch."

Keep in touch with God and the unique gift deep within you.

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Are you willing to pursue your unique talent? If so, you'll find that at first, there's no funding for it. How could there be? It's unique. It's individual. It's you.

But, if you pursue your dream, you'll discover kindred souls, and you'll learn how to survive.

Over a period of ten to twenty years, you may also discover that others get accustomed to your unique ways and value them. Then, you're rewarded. And you may discover that the problem is not having too little money, but too much.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2013 by Jack Towe

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