Thursday, June 25, 2009

Just a Holiday

I couldn't help myself. When a South Carolina newspaper said that they had copies of the E-mails from Mark Sanford's correspondence with a woman he's currently having an affair with, I broke down and had to read them. It was pretty standard fare for love letters: "I want you, I need you, you're so wonderful," and thankfully low on the eroticism. And the excitement of their tryst is amplified, of course, by the secrecy of it all.

There was one interesting tidbit that caught my eye that I'd like to share. Listen to what one of them says about their favorite movie:

was just going to find the movie The Holiday as we had spoken of it last Thursday. Its music was pleasant and made me think of you — its mood and the notion of a holiday (wrapped up in our case over two days) certainly fit as well ...

Do you remember this film? It's a movie about two women who switch places. One lives in cold, rainy England. And the other lives in warm, exciting Los Angeles. And when they change places, it sets them on a journey of rediscovery where I'm sure they find their true identity & fulfillment. Or, at least that's how I imagine it goes; I haven't seen it yet.

Anyway, I find it fascinating that two forbidden lovers would latch on to a story like that. "What we're doing here -- we're not ruining a marriage or scarring my four boys for life, or soiling an already struggling political party, or abandoning my duties as Governor, or letting down other Christians everywhere -- this is just... A HOLIDAY."

Satan is really impressive, isn't he? He is the spin-master extraordinaire. The notion that he can convince us of lies -- fixating us only on the fun, enjoyable parts of sin and not all the sad, devastating consequences. We swallow his bait & hook as if we're as ignorant as fish. Satan does his job well.

Whenever one of these stories pops up in the media (as with John Ensign recently, or John Edwards last summer, or Elliot Spitzer a few months before that), I take it as a personal reminder to shore up my own integrity in terms of sexual temptation. Here's what I wrote after the revelations about John Edwards last summer:

I think Edwards' misdeed, though, serves an even larger purpose as a reminder that sexual immorality is a seductive temptation for people who outwardly appear to have it all together. John Edwards had so much to lose, and yet he still chose to gamble all that away for the euphoric flattery of another woman & a few fleeting moments of sensual pleasure.

The older I get the more I realize how real & how insidious of a temptation this is. But look at how much John Edwards has lost. The next time you're tempted, I hope you're reminded of John Edwards. And I hope that a little ray of rationality can poke through the haze & fog of lust to remind you that there is too much to lose. Sex is just not worth THAT.

Satan would have us dwell on the glory of what a "Holiday" would be like. Do yourself a favor and medidate on what Mark Sanford's life is going to be like in the near future. A bitter, distrustful wife. Four boys that don't know how to act around their own father. He may perhaps lose his job. That's no Holiday. That's a catastrophe. A catastrophe that could have been avoided if he had made better choices.

Finally, I'll leave you with this. Mark Sanford wrote over & over how this woman had won his heart. He declared it was over for him; he was surrendering to the woman who had conquered his heart.

And that's how it happens -- you let those desires & that flattery take over, and it will reign over your heart. And if something rules your heart, it rules you. So guard your heart. Fortify your walls around it, and build them high; set boundaries, and keep to them. Make certain that you let into your heart only those things that are good and wholesome. Guard your heart. Above all else.

"Above all else, guard your heart,"
       for everything you do flows from it."

Proverbs 4:23 (TNIV)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

"These are the Boys... These are the Men"

You can just sense Peggy Noonan's articulate pen seeping through this whole speech. What gives it life, though, is Reagan's soft-spoken voice. Delivered 25 years ago on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, it's plain & evident what America loved about The Gipper.

It's also apparent what Conservatives have lost over the last quarter century: the modest, conservative tone that used to bespeak the Republican brand. Now taken over by shrill-toned cacophony, or wild hyperbole, or classlessly making ticky-tack issues into headlines, or unscrupulous fear-mongering.

Anyway, here's Ronnie...

Also, I appreciated Brokaw's Op-Ed in the WSJ today. It's worth a read.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Following Instructions

I was just thinking about how devious free trial offers are. You know -- those offers your receive that give you a 15- or 30-day free trial to this, that, or the other. Or 12 CD's for a dollar, or 10 books for a dime, or whatever. If you don't cancel by a certain date, then they'll charge you $79.95. And then they'll continue to send you more of their product & continue to charge you.

You know these treacherous schemes.

Anyway, I'm trying to unravel my way out of one of those (don't judge me!), and I just finished sitting on hold with a Customer Service Line for 46 minutes (... and 23 seconds, but who's counting...) before getting hung-up on. It's not that bad -- I actually enjoyed the classical music on their hold line as I finished up another task. Nevertheless, I now recognize that I'm gonna have to go the extra mile in terms of inconveniencing myself to be able to free myself from the clutches of this diabolical arrangement.

I only recognized the fine print later, you see. Had I read it in the first place, I likely wouldn't have signed up to become a possible victim of this fiendish plot.

And then it occurred to me: this plot wasn't wicked after all. It was brilliant! How many people ever really read & follow the instructions? So many don't! That's the point!

I recently hosted a movie/Bible Study at my home. My Church Family is big on eating (quite literally), so I made sure to advertise that this was a finger-food-only event (you should see the looks I get when I try to insist that "we don't have to have Thanksgiving everytime"). I was doing BBQ kielbasa (which I carved up & placed on toothpicks), and instructed those who were coming to only bring "Chips, Drinks, or Cookies." That's how it read in the Bulletin. "Chips, Drinks, or Cookies." That's how I spoke it from the pulpit multiple times. This way, I could avoid the need to buy any disposable silverware. So, of course, one of our good-hearted ladies brought a dessert dish in a casserole pan that she just had to whip up. It was a good thing that all the forks in my home were clean.

We don't follow directions. We don't even read the directions. "Who cares about directions?" "Aren't I smart enough to figure it out on my own?" "I know which way I'm going; I don't need a map or a set of guidelines to get in my way of getting there." "What a waste of my time."

Are we too proud for instructions? There's this myth about being a grown up, especially in America, that we are to be self-sufficient every way. And so we think that we can blaze our own trail in any direction without ever stopping to read the directions in the first place.

Part of what makes a good human being, it seems to me, is being able to receive instruction. To be humble enough to accept being rebuked when you need it. To be able to listen intently when a friend takes the time to spell out the directions to something important they've asked you to do for them. Instead of incessantly nodding your head, looking around distracted, and anxiously uttering, "Yeah, yeah, yeah... I *GOT* it!" Or being able to listen to the wisdom God would share with us if we could just crack open the good book.

So I say good for the profiteers for figuring out a way to capitalize off of those who don't ever stop to read the instructions. Make an offer that folks cannot refuse in bold print, while in fine print laying out a near impossible set of conditions that have to be met along with a steep penalty for not meeting them. Brilliant! These clever engineers of commerce are not evil; they're just entrepreneurially-minded to take money from careless people.

And don't forget to stop to read the directions when you're supposed to. It'll do you a world of good.