There you are, nervously pushing your wife in a wheelchair out the front doors of the hospital toward your car where it is waiting in the pull-up lane. There she is, your new born baby girl, sleeping peacefully in your wife's arms. There it is, the heavy duty, factory shock tested, high-strength, military-grade, aluminum-alloy car seat that is designed to save your daughter from earthquakes, nuclear bombing and alien invasions.
Strapping her into the back seat and gazing into her perfect eyes you instantly realize two things: (1) I will do anything for this child, (2) I have no idea what I am doing? As your exhausted wife falls fast asleep in the passenger seat you drive a comfortable 5 miles per hour on the highway home, avoiding every pothole and plastic cup in order to allow your daughter and wife the safe tranquility they need to arrive home in one piece.
Meanwhile you pray, “Lord teach me how to raise a human.”
Did you know there really is no owner’s manual on raising a daughter? Oh sure, the Bible has principles and descriptions of character qualities you want your child to have, but where is the youtube video that shows you, “Step One...Step Two...Step Three?” Where is the book that says INPUT “A” to get OUTPUT “B”?
Well with our first child, my wife and I thought we found that book called, “Growing Kids God’s Way” written by Gary Ezzo and his wife Anne Marie. Don’t you like the name of their book? They actually were claiming that they figured out how to do it “God’s Way”. In my amatuer parental mind I thought, "Finally, somebody cracked the code!"
Reading between the lines, the Ezzos seemed to suggest that if a parent followed their system of parenting you were guaranteed to produce “good kids” who smiled and obeyed. What parent doesn’t want that? Their system was based on a singular premise, “A child must be taught quickly that the world does not revolve around him; otherwise”, they said, “the child ‘will develop a self-centered perception that will carry into every relationship.’” And this teaching begins immediately, beginning with the baby's feeding and nighttime sleep schedule.
According to the worldview of the Ezzo’s, that little fat ball of love in the crib is really an evil genius that is conspiring to take over your house. And your main priority as a parent must be to stop them from gaining control. So instead of feeding them when they want to be fed, you feed them when you want them to be fed. And did you know a child’s cry most of the time is a manipulative tool to bend your will to them?
Didn’t know 3 month old babies were so devious, did you?
I remember one night I woke up at 2:00 in the morning and my wife was comforting our crying daughter in her bedroom. I looked at her while she was patting her on the back and I said, “Don't give in, she’s playing you, just look at that innocent face, next thing you know she will be asking for $20 bucks and the car keys. Don’t give in!”
Well a couple nights later I woke up again at 2:00 in the morning, this time my wife was zonked out enjoying a deep R.E.M. cycle of sleep. She was probably dreaming about her wonderful husband flying over Metropolis saving the world. Anyhow, I heard my daughter whimpering in the other room. I slowly went in, and there she was, tangled up in her blanket with tiny beads of sweat appearing on her arms and legs. She was hot and bothered and needed her dad to rescue her. So I reached in, picked her up and walked around the room letting her fall asleep on my shoulder. A thought came into my mind, “Chris, don’t give in, it is all a ploy. Your daughter is a master con-artist. If you give into this ‘caught in the blanket’ ploy you will be raising the next female Al Capone.”
It was at that moment I decided I am done with the Ezzos and their stupid book. I decided to compare what they wrote to the Bible and came to the conclusion their principles to “Growing Kids God’s Way” was nothing more than behavioristic balderdash. I also realized that the reason there is no owner’s manual on a child is because there is no child that is like anyone else.
Every baby is a completely unique human being, and they have been given parents to love them and daily care for them - - not to control them like a robot.
After raising four kids I realized that parenting is not as much about doing the right things as it is avoiding the wrong things. Neglect, anger and hypocrisy can destroy your children. But if you are trying to do your best with careful love, the incredible grace of God will carry you the rest of the way.
Capturing your child’s heart is more about your heart than theirs. Why do you want your child to be good? So you will look good as a parent, so you can have peace and quiet, or so they will have a life that is full of joy? If you just want a kid who is “seen and not heard” this is more about your selfishness than theirs. Why do you want them to obey? So you can be in control, or so they will learn to trust their God?
The truth is, parenting is really tough. We need to stop comparing with others or thinking we have found the magic formula on how to raise great kids. But parenting is also one of the greatest privileges to ever be given. There is nothing like having your toddlers become your best friends after just a few short years of growing up.
May God give every parent reading this grace to love their children as they have been created to be - - not to raise a robot.
Chapter Thirteen: Vanity Eve
by Tina Semanas
The final two days arrived. The most anticipated two days of the year, “Vanity Eve” and “Vanity Night Supreme.” Usually Beck would be basking in the excitement of this moment - fashion, pageantry and social media mania - but not today. She couldn't get Athan off her fevered mind. “What was he caught up in? Why would he be linked to the two fugitives? And where has he been? He’s so secretive?”
But more than any other thought, the one that haunted Beck the most was, “What would I do without him? I have never been so happy, being married to a man who loves me - - it feels so right, so good.”
“Beck, two minutes until we go LIVE!” said a headset wearing, clipboard holding eunuch dressed in all black. This petite production manager was scurrying around making sure everyone was in place.
Tension at the state television studio, Sis 1, was running high. Top brass knew everyone across the country was tuned in to their station for these last two days which meant boatloads of money for the network, and if viewership was pleased there was continual potential for huge revenues. Sums in the billions from large corporations and advocacy groups were pouring in promoting hair products, clothing lines and of course, progressive femme-think. To have a perfect society The Sisters knew you had to have a common mind. And there was no better platform than the final festivities of Vanity Week to subtly infuse state propaganda to the unsuspecting millions watching.
Partnering with The Sisters on their aggressive cultural engineering experiment was the cash laden LGBTQIAPEX (LAPEX) Foundation. The LAPEX agenda was clear: “To promote the wonder and glorious queerness of the ever-evolving and always changing human species. Relentlessly striving for complete individual autonomy and sexual liberty for every marginalized person was LAPEX’s ultimate goal.”
To help achieve this, LAPEX and their vast network of richly endowed social justice associations focused most of their substantial wealth on Day 4, “Vanity Eve”, and Sis 1 felt the pressure to perform and push their agenda hard. With such large sums of money at their disposal, they went for the best, and the best was of course Beck Paris. To get her to leave her live vlogging for one day cost Sis 1 millions.
And Beck Paris, Dowager extraordinaire, could not refuse.
So from morning till midnight Beck agreed to host the Vanity Eve Extravaganza which included interviews and performances from an array of special guests, celebrities and Vanity Night contestants. And Beck knew an enormous amount of money was riding on her performance. Once again she was being signaled - - it was time for her to take her place in front of the cameras.
“Beck, we are going live in 5-4-3-2-…,” The lisping eunuch in black said pointing his perfectly manicured index finger at Beck.
“Hey, good morning and greetings as we get this party started! All day and all night I will be coming to you live as we countdown till midnight before the full-blown Vanity festivities come to herald in another year of Holiday cheer and unrestrained pleasure.” Beck turned to sit down on a soft black-leather lounge chair facing two large round women with their arms around each other sitting on a soft black-leather couch of the same design.
“To begin our day we have in studio the prolific writing team of Tina & Nina Swinehart, who just came out with a new LAPEX Press best-seller entitled, ’Lesbian Love: The Closest Thing to Heaven.’” Beck’s mind - still clouded with thoughts of Athan - wandered off-script, something her years of polish and professionalism before the camera would never let occur before this turmoil with Athan. “I want to begin by welcoming you both. You look fabulous in your clashing, I mean, matching outfits of sparkling teal and peach.” Beck said with a slanted smirk. The ladies nodded.
“Now, I want to begin with a question that has me puzzled...Heaven, huh? Why include the word heaven in your title? Hasn’t that been considered a forbidden topic of conversation for the last 50 years by The Sisters? You aren’t members of some secret cult or practitioners of an ancient superstition, are you?”
Nina & Tina squirmed in their seats, hoping for a quick puff-piece and a volley of easy softball questions from Beck; they sat stunned by this awkward interrogation. Finally clearing her throat Nina said, “Well Ms. Paris, the word ‘heaven’ is being used metaphorically here, it is a state of mind denoting something that is above and better than the normal existence people daily wallow in. So all we are trying to say with this term is that ‘Lesbian Love’ is that sort of heaven for us and it can be for you.” Smiling at her lover for such a deft answer to Beck’s strange question, Tina gave Nina a soft squeeze of assurance on her arm.
“So Nina, in your book you say Lesbian marriage, a solemn promise of commitment, is the ideal construct for obtaining this higher love. Why is that?” Beck asked.
“Well, we believe a long term promise allows for us to be free and vulnerable with each other when you have a guaranteed commitment with each other. You can trust that the intimacy you share with your partner will not be exploited or shared with another, which research proves, leads to emotional health. Also marriage, by definition, assumes there must be a sacrificial commitment between both parties. And I find sacrifice demands a give and take, and a sharing of roles.” Tina said. This time Nina squeezed her partner's arm adding a quick giggle.
Beck smiled, “How precious! Now let me jump off your last comment. You talk about two roles in your book, hinting that one partner must take on more masculine duties and one must embrace the feminine or softer position in the marriage for it to work - right? Now if I was to read between the lines, you are saying one must play the man? How can we expect a woman to lower herself and betray her superior gender by taking on the role of a man? Doesn’t the whole idea of the word “Lesbian” assume men and maleness and masculinity is unnecessary?”
Both of the ladies’ eyes narrowed, and Nina the larger of the two, replied, “Well, we aren't praising men, we are just saying it is helpful to have complementary roles so you can assign specific duties to those roles. We have found the more masculine role is necessary to make final decisions when the partnership requires someone to make the difficult decision. Someone needs to keep a job so a steady income will come in so the other will be free in handling the domestic affairs. To say only males can do this sounds misogynistic, and we would never promote hatred toward women - - for heaven’s sake there are severe laws on the books for such crimes.”
“There you go bringing up heaven again!” Beck said with a playful smile. “And, ladies, remember you were the ones praising the concept of masculine roles in your book - so you are the ones who should be careful. And with that being said, Nina, in the book it says you rather enjoy making decisions for the two of you and taking the lead, right?”
Nina nodded, but no longer was her arm around Nina, but rather she sat up erect with both arms crossed.
“Well reading your bio, it says at the age of 15 you decided to switch genders... you went from dressing like a male to a female, but you never fully went under transformative surgery. Are you not still a male? And could that be the reason why you chose the ‘masculine’ role that you did? And how can this be considered a legitimate lesbian relationship?” Beck was on a roll. Clinching her closed fists, Nina looked like she was going to pounce.
“Now wait a minute Ms. Paris, we have true love!” Nina said.
“Oh, I am not doubting that, it is the lesbian part I question...and Tina, what did you say earlier, ‘Marriage is a sacrificial commitment?’” Tina gave a slow reluctant nod, wondering about this line of reasoning, “Yes, I did say that.”
“Well isn’t it true this relationship with Nina is your third marriage in the last 15 years? How is that sacrifice? How do you know now you have a higher love than before.” Beck said.
A red-faced Tina replied, “It is precisely because research has said lesbian love at a late age is the most beautiful kind of love because it is the moment when a woman finds her true self. And with Nina I know this love is true!”
Off stage an angry eunuch was signaling for cameras to cut the live tape. Scrolling across the television feed was a teaser for the upcoming teenage boy drag pageant that was to happen later that evening started playing.
“Beck, come over here now!”, the eunuch said. “What has gotten into you? Our sponsors will not be pleased...oh no … they will not be pleased at all! Go to your dressing room and gather your wits, I will give you 15 minutes to compose yourself before you come back on to go live? I am going to lose my head.”
Nina was consoling Tina with soft pats to her fat pink hand, “There, there,” Nina said, “we will call our vitup immediately after we are out of this studio to sue Sis 1 for emotional damages. And honey, it will be alright, remember, heaven is all a state of mind.”
“Is this Octavia Hulambu? Hello, my name is Lacy Dias and I understand you are part of the Doyenne Conclave so I think you will want to hear this information I have found.” Lacy was calling from her apartment on her flat pad.
“Who gave you my number? Do you know the severe danger for a mere citizen to contact a member of the Conclave privately? How dare any neophyte of the state approach me as an equal?” Octavia responded in a loud burst.
“I am willing to take that chance because the information I have is of the highest threat level to our state and The Sister’s plan for a more unified people.” Lacy said swallowing hard. She rather liked the danger and the adrenaline rush that accompanied ‘living in the edge.’
“I’m listening.” Octavia said.
“I know the name and the whereabouts of the person who is hiding the two fugitives. He is a wealthy and well connected industry mogul, and even more important than that, I have the name of a person who has been working alongside him in a secretive plot against the state - this person is a very well known celebrity in fact.” Lacy knew how to play poker.
“Wait a minute, how does a singular citizen have such high level information while the rest of the government is still in the dark? If you are lying to me I will send you off to be processed in exile like a useless man. Do you understand me?” Octavia’s voice was shouting through the speaker of Lacy’s flat pad.
“I even have reason to believe your very own Dr. Gladstone has been given this information and has chosen not to do anything about it while the fugitives remain at large. I am giving you this information because I am a concerned citizen, and I know a brilliant leader like you may be able to benefit with an ally like me in your corner.” Lacy knew she was pushing the limits dangerously close. On the other end of the line there was dead silence.
A few seconds later Octavia responded, “So you are going to use flattery and blackmail? I will have your hide for this insolence….”
“I can take this to another source if you don't want it.” Lacy was sure by Octavia’s tone she wanted this information something fierce. “All I want is to help the state.”
Octavia replied, “If this information pleases me I will give you want you want. If it does not I will make sure you undergo a transformative surgery that is so hideous, so horrible you will be unrecognizable when the plastic surgeons are through with you. Do you understand?”
Lacy smiled, she thought to herself, “Beck, now I will have my revenge!”
Athan’s flat pad kept buzzing, it was Beck. He wanted to pick up and talk, he missed her voice, her smile, her radiance, but as it stood he knew she couldn’t be trusted.
“How did she know he was associated with Phen and Drew? Did she have his home bugged? Was she faking this marriage the whole time? Maybe she was what his father once said,’Never trust the gorgeous face of a Dowager princess for black widow poison runs deep in their veins.’”
Stifling his feelings Athan knew there was one thing he must do, get Phen and Drew as far away from this place as possible and it was time to expedite production of project “Milk.” Phen was all the proof he needed of the blocker’s success.
I get a peaceful easy feelin'
And I know you won't let me down
'Cause I'm already standin'
On the ground
And I found out a long time ago
What a woman can do to your soul
Aw but she can't take you any way
You don't already know how to go
The Eagles 1972
Isn’t that enough - a feeling of peace?
If you have ever read about the exploits of King David in the Old Testament Scriptures you probably know some of the more famous stories about him…
But I will bet the story you know more than any other is about his adulterous tryst with the beautiful Bathsheba. One afternoon when he should have been fighting, he was playing the peeping Tom and saw her bathing on the roof ... and he wanted her badly. So he had her come to his apartment for an amorous secret meeting and indulged in his more baser instincts.
Why are our baser instincts so compelling?
Some people call what David did "sin", and even the prophet Nathan says to David, “You are the man!” - the one who offended God and deserved to die. But c’mon, we all know these were two, of age, consenting adults. And like the Eagles’s song says, he was standing on solid ground -- for when David was sleeping with Bathsheba he had a ‘peaceful easy feeling’ about it.
Isn’t that enough? A feeling of Peace? We all know ‘peace’ is a sure indication God is pleased or at least o.k. with your choices. Isn’t ‘having peace’ about something the way to determine God’s will? “Hey man, I’m doing it because I have peace about it!”
Peace is the magic “Get out of jail free” card for every wandering heart!
Well, how do I know David was at peace you may wonder? If you read the rest of the story, right after David slept with Bathsheba, she was found to be with child. A tell-tale sign they did have sex - remember, your sin is sure to find you out. To hide it David had her husband Uriah taken from the front lines of war to have him over for some heavy drinking, get him all liquored up, barn-dog drunk, so he would go home and sleep with her and hopefully David could place the pregnancy on him.
The problem for David was that Uriah was a noble man and he wouldn’t drink while his buddies were dying in battle. Plan A didn’t work, but that didn’t stop David.
Plan B, David had him sent to the fiercest part of the front lines so he was sure to die. And, surprise, surprise, Uriah died. Bathsheba mourned, and after that - get this - David married the dead man’s wife and was happy about it! Now that is what I call having peace!
Why do we think we can discern the will of God through peace? And what does it even mean to have peace? Is it when no lightning bolts are shooting? No hurricane winds are blowing? No broken bones or cancer? No immediate wrath of God?
That isn’t peace, it’s called mercy! And mercy’s intent is to cause us to repent: “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgement is revealed.” (Romans 2:4-5)
Ironically God told David after all this peace happened, “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.” In other words, he would never be at peace again. Have you ever noticed that having peace “now” never guarantees having peace “later"?
As I write this the people in Corpus Christi, Texas are bracing for a monster storm, 110 mph winds, 35+ inches of rain, -- but last night the weather there was great. I checked it, 80 degrees with clear skies. They were at peace...but not today…they are singing the Eagles’s song a little differently:
I don't have a peaceful, easy feeling
And I feel like I’m gonna drown
‘Cause I’m already standin’
On flooded ground...
“And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me -- My boy was just like me!”
This sappy, sad, and terribly morbid song makes me cry every time I hear it. Big salty crocodile tears. It’s cruel. Especially when it flashes across your mind as you send your oldest son off to his last year in High School.
How did this happen?
Harry Chapin’s ode to fatherhood has two harrowing themes: (1) the unrelenting swiftness of time, and (2) the bitter regret of moments lost. While both of these realities for fathers and sons are true, one can actually be avoided.
It is impossible to slow Father Time down - you blink and your 5 year old is 18. The baby faced boy you once had to carry up the stairs is now shaving. Time cannot be stopped.
Now regret, on the other hand, while it may seem inevitable, does not have to be so - - if you are intentional in your relationship with your son, you can stop it’s sting. Thinking back on our 18 years together, I have learned a few things about being the father of Joseph Weeks that has allowed me to be more “present” in his life. I call these four principles the “regret stoppers”:
Toward the end of the song “Cats in the Cradle” Harry Chaplin sings the haunting line, “I don’t know when, But we’ll get together then, you know we'll have a good time then.” The beauty of having no regret is you never have to sing that line. Joseph and I "know when then was" and boy did we have some good times!
But I do have one regret. Learning the lines to that stupid song, once they come in they never leave! Arrrggggg..............................
Chapter Twelve: Dionysus' Disciple
by Tina Semanas
Tearing down Highway 58, Duenna Black was ready to show Simone Gladstone just how valuable of an asset she was. It was a clear night and the full moon illuminated the old country highway that led to the Oberlin College campus.
“Dr. Babbitt, do you have all your findings ready to show Dr. Gladstone? If we don’t come prepared, she will not be happy at this late at night. I have a lot riding on this and if you screw this up and make me look bad, I have the authority to send you back to the factory to administer Xenon drops.” Duenna Black said.
“Don’t worry, I have pinpointed the exact locations of both numbers. The detection software has a 98% certainty rate in its findings. I also have detailed information about the possible sleeper cell associated with the first number, and the classified background research on one Athan Stone…”
“Excellent!” Deanna Black was as much nervous as she was determined to impress.
The light on the front porch of the old Victorian house was on. Duenna Black thought this was a strange choice for the most powerful woman of state to reside in, but Simone Gladstone was always a bit of an eccentric. Circling around the full three acres of the Head Sister’s estate was a ten foot high iron security fence with two massive Termagant patrol officers standing guard at the front entrance.
Motioning for the glider to stop, the larger officer leaned into the driver’s side window, “Is Dr. Gladstone expecting you?”
“Yes officer, my name is Madylyn Black, Duenna of the Girl’s Development Institute in Westlake. I called to make an appointment with her about two hours ago. She is expecting me.”
The officer replied, “State your business.”
Duenna Black said, “I have important information concerning the fugitives.”
The officer called ahead and the large iron gate slowly opened letting the glider pass. The driveway wound around the back of the mansion where two more guards were waiting fully armed to escort the guests in. Duenna Black was the first to get out of the glider followed by Dr. Babbitt and a diminutive Ara Dias. They were led through two heavily fortified steel doors with observation cameras mounted overhead.
The inside of the building had none of the vestiges of the old Victorian style as the outside had. Resembling a nuclear fallout shelter, the massive hallway was made of thick concrete and was equipped with the newest security and motion detectors. At the end of the hall was another door leading to a staircase that went down to a huge conference room. In the middle was a mahogany table surrounded by 5 chairs. There were three doors, one on each wall around the room, and the guards led the three visitors to the farthest door. Punching a code on the wall unlatched a tumbler on the lock.
The lead guard opened the door and said, “Please go in and take a seat. Dr. Gladstone will meet you when she is ready.”
The waiting room to Dr. Gladstone’s office was not suprisingly ornamented with Victorian furniture and wall tapestries. Dr. Babbitt and Ara sat down on a white high backed couch while Duenna Black paced the small room trying to calm her nerves. Meeting Simone Gladstone face to face terrified her. On the opposite wall from the couch hung a giant oil painting of a beautiful auburn haired woman. Underneath was a small golden plaque, Duenna Black went over to read it, “William Bouguereau ‘s ‘Bacchante 1889.’ A Bacchante in Roman mythology is a female follower of Bacchus, god of wine and intoxication. In Greek mythology, they are called Maenads. Bacchantes are depicted as mad or wild women, running through the forest, tearing animals to pieces, and engaging in other acts of frenzied intoxication.”
As Duenna Black was reading the plaque a soft voice behind her said, “Do you like it? This painting depicts the spirit of the Maenad, a follower of Dionysus. According to myth, these enchanting disciples of the wine god often converted others to their hedonistic ways. It is said that they would travel the mountainsides, banging on drums, dancing ecstatically to gather followers for Dionysus. Most men could not resist them.”
Duenna Black stood confused by these comments for a moment, gathered her wits and said, “We have come to report on the urgent fugitive crisis. We know where to find Phen and Drew Dias, and we have reason to believe they are receiving aid from a small remnant of the ‘Last Resistance Movement’ financed by a very familiar player.”
Dr. Gladstone’s eyes narrowed, ignoring what Duenna Black just said, she replied, “My dear Madylyn, why does everything need to be a crisis? You needn’t have come at such a late hour, events can always wait. I have been rather enjoying this manhunt. Hunting men is fun, wouldn’t you say?”
“But Dr. Gladstone,” Duenna Black interrupted, “this is a matter of state security! There may be a serious rebel faction forming which could upset the peaceful balance of our perfectly engineered society. I think The Sisters would want to know?”
“With all due respect, Duenna Black, I will decide what The Sisters should know. I see your eagerness and determination to extend and expand feminist ideals, but frankly, I really don’t care about such theoretical nonsense.”
Dr. Gladstone walked over to the painting and turned to Duenna Black. “You see this woman? This is what I want.”
“I don’t understand?” Duenna Black replied.
“Look my dear, hopelessly serious, Duenna; feminist ideals are all a bunch of crap. For that matter so is every ideology, it is simply a means to an end, not the end in itself. I once thought female power was the goal to reach in life, but controlling the lives of others has very little return. I have come to realize pleasure is what people really want. If all we are striving for is a world full of women, I think I would go mad.” Dr. Blackstone said smiling.
Duenna Black replied, “But I read your works, you have been the foremost champion of female domination and superiority. You have so eloquently extolled female virtue. You have argued time and time again for complete male subjugation as the only way for civilization to advance...is that not true?”said Duenna Black.
With a distant look, Dr. Blackstone said, “I was wrong. Plain and simple, I attributed all my hurt to men, but over the years I realized that women are just as screwed up, just as petty, and they can be just as brutal as men. Like this Maenad here. But instead of power, she wants pleasure.”
“Tell me Madylyn, why is Vanity Night so popular? Every female led household in our state is tuned in, twenty four hours a day, to the rather empty parade of beautiful faces and bodies. Why, for power? No, pleasure! That is all women really want -- the ones who say they want power are protecting themselves from being hurt again. I have found the more militant a female is the more rejected she feels. Tell me Duenna, why do you want to be a Sister so badly?”
Duenna Black hesitated, she was caught off guard by this line of thinking. “I want to continue female advancement.”
Dr. Gladstone smiled, “What is female advancement? Where we all become like the men we so hate? Is not imitation the highest form of flattery?”
Duenna Black responded, “What are you saying? The feminist cause is a waste of time and it is actually an admission that maleness is praiseworthy? How stupid….”
“Careful Madylyn...I will still use my power if I need to, and right now I hold your future in my hand. What I am saying is that feminism has run its course. It has flattened life. Look at the Termagant Force, it is nothing more than women wanting to be men, why else do they take Testosterone-shots? They never would have the natural strength on their own, they need male hormones to become strong. They have to become what they supposedly hate. Look at this picture, a Maenad’s strength was in her ability woo men. Fertility was once honored, now it has become a sterile function in some biologist’s lab.” Dr. Gladstone looked over at Ara whose was listening to the whole conversation.
“And you my dear girl,” Dr. Gladstone said, “Drew Dias is your brother, is he not?”
Ara with teary eyes nodded her head.
“Do you want him to go back to the factory and become a mindless drone again? Is that what you want?” Dr. Gladstone hit a nerve. Ara started crying.
“Dr. Gladstone, young Ara here has genius level capabilities. She is my best prospect for being a Vitup of renown, she has no room for familial sentiment. I am training her to be cold and calculating, a servant of the state.” Duenna Black said with confident strength.
“Oh, you want to be a Vitup? And to do that you will gladly destroy the life of your brother?” Turning to Duenna Black Dr. Blackstone said, “Tell me Madylyn, are not women in our state becoming just like the men we once hated? Where is the virtue in that?”
There was only silence.
Dr. Gladstone headed out the room and said, “Go home ladies, I have no use for this information this hour of night. Leave your findings on the table, I’m tired. And plus, I still want to see how this plays out.” Slamming the door behind her, Dr. Gladstone left the three women alone in the room with the painting staring back.
Between contestant curtain calls, Beck would check her flat pad to see if Athan left a message. Each time she checked there was nothing. After introducing a 16 year old beauty queen in a black bikini from the Bahamas, Beck noticed her pad was buzzing. She picked up...
“Athan, finally!” Beck said.
“It’s Lacy you fool. I have some information that will definitely interest you.” There was a strange smugness to Lacy’ voice Beck thought.
Beck replied, “I don't have time for this, it is day three of Vanity Night competition. I’m live vlogging.”
“I know Beck, I’m not stupid. Not like the sap you are becoming. I think it is time you finally ditch Athan and take him for all he is worth like you said you were going to do a month ago. I need that money Beck, and I will do what I have to to get it.” Lacy said.
“Lacy I don't have time for this now!”
“Well you better because I have information how your wonderful man, Athan Stone, may be aiding and abetting the two fugitive escapees, Drew and Phen Dias. And if it is true you may be implicated by an anonymous source.” Lacy was pressing on Beck hard.
“Give me a few minutes...I’ll call you back.” Beck hung up. It was time to introduce Miss Virgin Islands, but how could she go out after hearing what she just did? Athan involved with the fugitives? What? Beck quickly gained her composure, walked out before the hot stage lights and raucous music, “Ladies and Plastics, Miss Virgin Islands.”
Quickly she once again she ran off set, grabbed her flat pad and dialed. The other line picked up, “Athan, it is you! Where are you?”
“Babe, I told you I am at my dad’s plant in southern Ohio.” Athan replied.
“I just heard you may know the whereabouts of the two fugitives...is that true?” Beck sounded worried.
“What? Who?” Athan said, “Where in the world did you hear that?”
Beck said, “I can’t talk now, I need to know if that is true…” A camera man was waiving her to get ready to come back on stage. “Athan I gotta go. Call you tonight.” She hung up.
Athan put down his pad, looked to Jim Defabio and said, “We have real trouble…”
Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
(2 Samuel 7:22)
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David.
Who is really great, and are you great?
The word “Great” has a rather simple definition, “of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average.” So what is normal or average? That is the better question. If we could decide on normal or average we could then get to a better idea of great. Because everyone wants to be considered great, don't you?
So what is normal? “Conforming to a standard, typical.” Who is typical? And who decides on the standard? Lots of questions, but to get to great you must ask them. I am very typical for a man of 50 in height (5’ 10”), weight (none of your business), and shoe size (10). I am built like an average square man, very typical. My wife would not say I am typical at all, she claims I am weird. So do my kids.
When it comes to sports what team is typical? The Golden State Warriors? No, they are great. But my neighbor has a kid in ABYT and he says their team is great. I would hate for them to play the Golden State Warriors. So it depends on age, school size, gender, and of course the competition you play. I was once on a great basketball team, we never lost a game - does it matter if the competition we played against never played basketball before? It doesn’t matter, we were still great at that moment.
So greatness is determined by a few things: Someone claiming authority to judge greatness, comparison to others, and impression it leaves people. My Grandma made a cherry pie for me with the pits still in it and my grandfather thought it tasted great. But then again he only knew pies with pits...I choked on them.
So greatness is relative. Everybody is great at something. We are bound to be better than the typical and norm. I once had a kid in youth group that was great at catching spit in the air. No one was better. So if you are depressed, find something that you are great at to make yourself feel better.
Most depressed people are comparing with others on the wrong thing. Depressed because you're not good at shooting a ball in a hoop? How are you with eating a Box of M&M's? From heaven's vantage point both shooting an orange sphere in a metal hoop and eating brown colored chocolates are pretty comparable. So don't fret. If you can eat a lot of chocolate, more than the average, you are great. So cheer up!
Is there ever an absolute standard of greatness? Is there one person that is simply the greatest? It can’t be Muhammad Ali either, he died and lost once to Joe Frazier. I also saw him at a sports conference and I had him sign an autograph for me, he really wasn't that great at penmanship...my grandmother was always a stickler for neat handwriting and Muhammad would simply not cut it for my grandmother. Below average more like it.
What if I told you there is an absolute greatest person? The greatest human being ever! When it comes to being human we often forget who we are. The word human comes from the root, humus, of the earth. We are made of dust, clay and ash. Dirt! And often in our daily lives we can't see past the mud puddles around us.
But there is a person who is also made of the Divine, he is God in human flesh. God is not limited, he has infinite power, wisdom and ability. Can he beat the Golden State Warriors? He made them. The only reason they exist is because he holds them together with the power of his word.
The truth is, God doesn't need a thing from us. Need means he is lacking. And one thing God is not, is lacking. He doesn’t need your good works, your devotion or even your prayers. He wants you to worship him for your good, he wants to fill your lack. We need to always have this perspective because when we finally understand our need, it will bring us to him. As one man once said, “Hunger is the best cook.”
Here is the strangest part of this whole interchange, “God sure loves this piece of dirt!” The greatest died for the smallest. See, in God’s eyes you are great after all!
Summer in Bay Village for a boy of ten was the perfect place to grow up: 8:00 am - a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, 8:30 am - take dog to Lake Erie to throw rocks and sticks, 10:00 am - backyard wiffle-ball game with 3 of my next door neighbors, 11:30 am - lunch of cherry jelly and peanut butter sandwiches, Noon - all day seasonal swim pass at nearby pool, 5:30 pm - dinner of boiled hot dogs and chicken-noodle soup, 6:00 pm - little league baseball...next day...rinse and repeat. Boy, I miss that life.
But when there was a Bay Village downpour of hot July rain, all bets were off. As Karen Carpenter sang, my neighbors and I were left “hanging around with nothing to do but frown.”
On one of these long gray days, when the rain was streaming out the gutter downspouts and forming long-standing mud puddles, cancelling all swimming and evening baseball games, my 3 friends and I sat with sad faces on a dry pic-nic table that we pushed under a rain covering. Resting our heavy heads on our folded arms and hands, we watched the water come down.
"I'm bored, what do you guys want to do?" One of the boys said. (Remember, the only video games that were available for boys to play in the mid-seventies was Atari Pong. One minute of watching a slow pin-point of light going back and forth over a screen was all I could take). On this particular day, one of my nieghbors who rarely played with us said, "Hey, you can come over to my house and we could play hockey in my basement. I have a plastic orange hockey puck and some sticks, it will be fun. And plus, my mom is at work." We all looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and said, "Sure, lets go."
This person's house was half-way up the block. Taking off our shoes, we headed down into the large dark basement of his house. Leading the way, he turned on the light and said, "Let's play on the other side of this room because our dog and cats poop right next to the stairwell on this side of the room...watch your step, the poop gets rather messy."
Yuck! Right when he said poop my senses were attacked by the smell of the rancid air and ammonia hanging like a fog in his messy basement. Two of the other boys and myself couldn't help it, but we had to pinch our nose as we tried to step around the brown land-mines littered all over the floor. Needless to say, we didn't play for too long because you just couldn't hold your breath that long. And the game ended when an errant shot landed on a newly steaming mound of brown poop.
"See ya!" Three of us ran like rockets out of the smelly basement, and as I was anxiously putting on my muddy Converse All-Star tennis shoes to leave I noticed his greasy-haired older brother sitting on the living room couch, eating tuna fish and watching a strange show called "Dr. Who" on a fuzzy PBS channel. Wierd.
Once out of the house, we took a deep breath of the fresh rain soaked air, and ran home. We never went over to his house again - and after that day - I think he was too embarrassed to hang out with us anymore. He knew the poop freaked us out.
I learned some very important lessons that day:
(1) Allowing animals to poop in your basement is not something sane people do. That night for dinner I told my dad about our experience and he said, "Ah sick. I knew there was something a little funny about that family. Letting your animals poop in the house is just plain wrong."
(2) Some people choose to live in ways you never would. People are strange. And the more families that think poop in the basement is Ok, the more stink there will be.
(3) You are not a genuis because you know poop stinks. It is so obviously offensive to your senses, you just can't ignore it.
(4) Just because it stinks in one house doesn't mean it stinks in another. Ever since that experience, I have had a tough time even smelling tuna fish, and I wonder about people who watch "Dr. Who" to this day. "Do they have poop in their basement too?" I remember having tuna fish at another friends house and I was scared to go into his basement...but luckily, there was no poop. I was relieved!
Brilliant lessons learned. And I have realized something else. Racism is just like having poop in your basement. It causes you to stink. And you can apply the same exact four lessons:
(1) Racism is not something sane people allow in their life.
(2) Some people choose to be racists because people are strange, they are broken, and the more people allow racism to capture their heart the more moral stink there will be.
(3) You are not a genuis because you know racism is wrong. Stop acting like you are the only one who is offended by racism, stop thinking you are the sole spokesman who can point out the obvious stink that accompanies poop.
(4) Just because a person from a certain political point of view might be a racist doesn't mean all the people from that point of view are racists as well. Just because a racist votes for someone doesn't make the person they voted for racist.
I agree with this statement I read yesterday written by Tom Knighton, "decrying the racists at Charlottesville is a bit of a national pastime. I’ll admit, I’ve done so, as well. That kind of thinking, the idea that any race is more American or more superior than any other, has no place not being decried in this country."
He goes on to say that both leftists and alt-right supporters are decrying it, they both are completely ignoring their own role in its return. He also believes the white majority are left in between a rock and hard place, "If white folks decry white supremacy, there’s a problem. If we don’t, there’s a problem." As another writer puts it, "I"m against racism and you should be too!"
In other words, we all know poop stinks!
Chapter Eleven: The Blackmail Begins
by Tina Semanas
Exhausted was too trifling a word for how Beck was feeling. After Vanity Week's first day of non-stop vlogging; returning to her city apartment, Beck wanted to crawl into a deep, dark hole and die. Reporting on the "Fashion & Faces Parade" sucked every last drop of adrenline from her system. And pounding on the gray matter of her spent mind was the haunting reality that this was only the first night - - she had four more to go!
Collapsing on a luxiourous queen-sized mattress in her massive Manhattan rental, Beck rubbed her aching temples trying to relieve some tension. Rambling cynically, Beck engaged in a hot debate with herself, "Beck, you fool, how much longer will you do this? No rational being can keep acting interested in the never ending camel train of such imbecilic and dizzy-headed girls. I have never seen so many no-talent, wanna-be fashion models prancing around like a bunch of stuffed peacocks for 10 straight hours in my life! Don't these spoiled debutantes know that anyone can squeeze into a plastic butt-hugging gown, apply cosmetic enhancements, make digital edits on a stupid photo-shoot, and then have their rich mothers and wealthy clothing companies payoff the judges just so thier wonderful, special, fabulous daughters might have a chance at being named this year's goddess? It makes me sick."
Thinking back to earlier in the day and the vacuous interviews she had with most of the contestants, Beck asked herself, "Why are these women so in love with themselves? They can't do anything but smile and strut - - that is not talent!"
With ears still ringing from the beating fashion show music and her head pounding, Beck reluctantly stood up and walked to the bathroom in order to take off the thick layer of paint she was wearing on her face. Did she look as bad as she felt? A large wall-sized crystal glass mirror was placed above a bleached white vanity counter-top in the sprawling bathroom. Wincing, Beck noticed the weathered face that was staring back at her. She couldn't believe it, thick new wrinkles and dark rings were forming under both eyes. "Beck, you're not as young as you used to be." Grabbing a tube of the newest bio-facial cleanser, she squirted out a healthy amount of the green lotion to apply across her face.
Beck laughed, "What a joke, when will I and other unsatisfied queens like me ever realize just how empty this endless chasing of beauty really is? Once you think you caught it, time steals it back. And lurking in the shadows, there is always that younger she-devil, with softer skin, toner limbs, and finer clothes who has come to take away your spotlight. Image and managing charm -- the Dowager's never ending bloodsport."
Beck wondered if maybe Athan was right? "I should just quit my job and forget the world."
Oh, Athan...the thought of him caused Beck's heart to race. "I should call him. He knows how to calm me down." Punching in Athan's number on her flat pad, Beck waited for a response. Nothing. Two more times. Again, nothing. Placing her pad on the bathroom counter, she smiled remembering back to her Honeymoon and the early morning when she watched Athan sleeping soundly in bed, "I'll bet he's not answering because he is passed out on the couch, choking down his scotch, and hating every minute of the Vanity Night spectacle." Splashing her face with warm water, Beck longed to return with Athan to the dream that was Telluride.
"Buzz, buzz." Her pad sprange to life. "Buzz, buzz."
Grabbing for a towel to clean off the remainder of the green face scrub, Beck read the digital number that appeared on the screen. "It's Athan! But the call is coming from Xenia, Ohio. Wierd?" Touching to answer Beck said, "Athan, where are you?"
"Hey Beck. I just want to let you know I have some business down in southern Ohio. I am just checking on some of my father's old businesses. They are having troubles and they need my help."
"What?" Beck was confused, "Why do they need you? I thought you were done with them? And I didn't know your father had places down there...I thought all of the Stone Laboratories were around Cleveland?"
Athan curtly responded, "I guess I never wanted to talk about it? I'll be gone for a few days."
"A few days? I thought you would fly up and spend some time with me in New York on Thursday and Friday? We could hit the restaraunts on Time's Square?" Athan was irritated, "Beck, I don't want to be anywhere near New York during this stupid holiday season. You know how I despise the pretension surrounding Vanity Night. I know you love all the plastic people and the State's orchastrated facade of female empowerment, but I dont have time for it. I live in reality."
Beck was caught off gaurd by his caustic tone. This wasn't the man she knew. "Are you sure you don't want to come and hang out with your 'wife?' The place I rented is amazing, and so is the hot tub?" In cool indifference, Athan replied, "Have fun Beck. Hope your vlogging goes well? Talk to you tomorrow. Click." The connection abruptly shut off leaving Beck in stunned silence.
"What just happened?" She wondered to herself. "I have never heard Athan so disinterested, so distant. Usually he wants to talk?" Wiping off the rest of the cleanser and throwing the towel at her angry visage in the mirror, Beck turned and went back to the main room falling heavy on the bed. Buring her head deep under her pillow, she wanted to hide away forever. She never felt more alone.
Real hot showers, a soft bunk, and scrambled eggs! Drew knew he had cheated the odds and been given a new lease on life - - but what kind of life?
Since their arrival at Kramer's the night before, Drew for the first time in a long time, felt a sense of peace. He didn't have to be on the run forever. Here in the safehouse of the LR, there was a whole city of friendlies living and working in a labyrinth of tunnels and massive rooms deep underneath the ground. Thousands of monitors were mounted to every avaible bit of wallspace in every room, and some were even affixed on the cielings. On these same monitors danced pixilated images lighting up the dark research areas, from corner to crevice, with pulsating hues of blues and greens, and in every room were seated men and women wearing serious faces, ever vigilant - - taking notes and recording movements of the State's police force.
Across one monitor Drew saw his face, the scroll bar underneath screamed in silence, "wanted....large...reward...notify your local NWP agent...". On another monitor, there was Phen. Arial photos were flashed of possible escape routes, search helicopters littered the sky, female news reporters looked desperate. On another wall stood a bank of 10 to 12 monitors picturing downtown New York City in real-time, where colorful crowds were just kicking off the celebration for Vanity Night's day two festivities. Drew remembered how just a year before he and Ara would be sitting in the basement watching the holiday action non-stop.
"Ara? I wonder how Ara is doing?"
"How do you like being hunted?" A large hand squezzed Drew's shoulder. Looking up, Drew saw Jim DeFabio's bearded face smiling down on him. "I don't really know. I have been drugged up so much for the last few months I am not sure about anything anymore. Life is a constant fog." Drew replied.
Jim offered Drew some reassurance, "Don't worry son, you have come to the right place. LR is the securest place on the planet. Funded by Stone Industries, we are able to access governmental computers and national survelience reports without being detected. We know where the State's police force is at all times. We have hacked thier communications, so you and your dad... I mean your home mentor...are safe here." The giant of a man lumbered back upstairs to return to his normal post, playing his part well, as bartender of Kramer's bar.
Looking back up on the screen where the Vanity festivities were taking place, Drew once again thought of Ara. "I haven't spoken to her since Dia's death and that horrible night I was thrown in the black rover. I wonder how she is doing?" Heading back to his bunkroom to catch on a few more hours of rest, Drew noticed an empty room with a small desk and on top sat an auto-think processor, connected to a familiar looking blinking screen. He remembers reading about this new technology in class, with cellular array processing bits, the enhanced speed and AI capabilities were mindblowing. Noticing the verbal response unit on the side of the unit, he decided to sneak in and take a try at locating Ara.
"Computer, search Ara Dias, Girl's Development Institute, Westlake, Ohio." Watching the blinking screen, a white soft tapering light responded in a friendly female voice, "Searching for Ara Dias. . . . . .locating 3 correlating matches: Ara Dias, student at Girl's Development Institute, contact Duenna Madylyn Black at this number"...blinking....blinking... "Ara Dias, Colleen Camp Entrance results, contact Vitup review board at this number"...blinking...blinking..."'Next of Kin', Lacy Dias, retired Termagant Officer, employed at the Dowager V.I.P. Security Unit, current residence, M. Sanger Luxury Condominiums, Room 217, Bay Village, Ohio, contact this number."
Drew finding a scratch pad and small hardpen, wrote down all three numbers, circling the final number. There was something different about this contact? Lacy Dias? "Computer, search public records for Lacy Dias." The white soft light responded in same voice, "Searching for Lacy Dias...20 correlating matches: Truthfinder search located Lacy Dias. Related to Roberta Dias, Dia Dias (deceased), and Thomas Dias (deceased). Plaintiff in Cuyuhoga County Municiple Court, Docket Pending...."
The name popped-out at him like a neon sign, "Dia Dias (deceased)." This woman was his mom's sister, his aunt! No wonder she is Ara's "Next of Kin", the title for secondary responsibility after the mother and in-home mentor cannot fulfill duties. Drew knew this is where Ara must be. Itching his palm he wondered if he should call?
"Computer dial M. Sanger Luxury Condominiums, room 217." The blinking screen started instantly dialing as it switched to all black with a faint ringing noise heard on the small speakers. After four rings, someone picked up on the other end, "Yeah, Lacy Dias here. Who is this?" Drew couldn't speak. "Lacy Dias, who is this?" No response as he tapped the off button on the computer screen.
Drew realized last minute that he could be compromising his position. He thought to himself, "Whew, that was close, you stupid idoit."
After hanging up the phone, Lacy went back to the kitchen to continue rolling pink, wet strips of fresh chicken in egg-batter and a flakey seasoned breading. Ara was scribbling school notes on the couch not thinking much of the call Lacy just recieved.
"I got it! I got it!" A skinny pinched nosed woman with a short crop-cut of greasy black hair and glasses came out of the back room of Lacy's apartment smiling. Holding a touch pad with a set of algorithmic numbers she motioned for Lacy to look, "Duenna Black was right! That call you just got Lacy is encrypted with a non-source identification. I have it all recorded here and I am sure this is what we have been waiting for. Once we figure out what these numbers mean, we can pinpoint the call, and I am sure it will be one of the fugitives trying to contact you Ara." Lacy didn't look, nor did she care, being too busy fixing her evening meal.
Ara dropped her pen, "What do you mean Dr. Babbit? Do you think they would be stupid enough to call?" Ara was hoping it didn't turn out to be Drew or Phen, she didn't want to be put in the spot of reporting them to the State. She didn't want her loyalties tested. Even though she longed to see her brother, she wanted to be simply left alone.
Dr. Babbit looked closely at the numbers while punching various buttons on her pad. "I really think I can pinpoint the location of the call. Duenna Black was somehow able to get her hands on some sophisticated software, it can decode almost anything." Punching a few more numbers the pad responded quickly, "Calculating, calculating...the area code for the incoming call is 9. . .3. . .7."
A large map of southern ohio focused in on the city of Dayton, Ohio. With a blinking pin toward the southern part of the map. Dr. Babbit grew excited. I better call Duenna Black, I think I have a location. Dialing a number from her pad you could hear a faint voice on the other end, "Hello, this is Duenna Black. Dr. Babbit, is that you?"
Peering over a skinny pair of clear glasses, Dr. Babbit in nervous excitement responded, "Duenna, I know the location. Area code 937 places a 10 second call from Dayton, Ohio. It seems to be coming from an area that once was around a University campus. That is all I know. What do you want me to do?"
On the other end of the call you could hear Duenna Black responding, "Ok, very good work. Is it possible to call the number back?" Dr Babbit punched some more numbers on her pad.
"Duenna Black, I think so. I think I can? There seems to be two possible numbers that this detection software seemed to pick up. The other number seems to be a government issued account. What should I do?"
On the other end Duenna Black shot back a response, "Have Ara call them both and have her ask for Drew." Ara's heart sunk, she wanted to run as far away from this as she could. Dr. Babbit dialed the first number and handed the pad to Ara. "What do you want me to do?" Ara snapped. "Ask for Drew, that is all."
As the pad dialed, Ara could hear her heart beating in her ears, thinking to herself, "Please, please Drew, do not pick up." After seven rings, no answer. "Must not be a real number, " Ara said handing the pad back. Dr. Babbit dialed another number, "Here girl, I dialed the second number, ask for Drew." Gulping down some air, Ara again waited for the ring.
Ring...ring...ring..."Who is this and how did you get this number?" Ara's eyes went wide and whispered to Dr. Babbit, "What do I do, someone answered?" "Dammint girl, ask for Drew."
Ara held the pad tight, "Is Drew Dias there?" There was a moment of silence, and a voice on the other line said, "Who is this? There is no one by that name here, I am Athan Stone the sole person registered to this number. Please give me your name." Ara dripping a bead of sweat answered, "I am sorry sir, I dialed the wrong number." On the other end you could hear the clear demands through the pad's speaker, "I demand to know who gave you this unregistered number?"
Dr. Babbit pushed the screen of the pad to hang up. Ara asked, "What just happened?" Dr. Babbit smiled, "I think we hit the jackpot." Reconnecting with Duenna Black, Dr. Babbit said, "My dear Duenna, one of the numbers linked us to a government access only number linked to Athan Stone, a chemist hired and then bought out by The Sisters. He sounded furious after he heard the name Drew Dias. I think we found what you were looking for. A way to impress The Conclave."
On the other end of the line you could hear Duenna Black's short reply, "Excellent!"
Towering over Ara and Dr. Babbit, Lacy came near wiping her hands on a washcloth, "Ara, did you say Athan Stone?" Looking nervous Ara nodded. "Athan Stone, that is Beck's new money target, he's a freaking millionaire and son of a famous chemist. What would he be doing communicating with two escape fugatives? Are you sure he said Athan Stone?"
Ara nodded once again. It was the first time Lacy smiled in years...
Some of my readers may not know this, but surprisingly, I am a Baptist pastor. Yes, that’s right. And one thing I know about being a good Baptist, there are some things which you should never be caught doing in public.
If you want to be considered as godly and righteous by others, there are certain actions and cultural no-no’s you must avoid at all costs.
So naturally, during my reading in the Bible this week for my Sunday sermon, I came across a story that was both horrifying and shocking for this ole’ Baptist heart of mine. In both 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles you will find one of the holiest people in all of the Bible doing something that quite frankly, ought not to be done. Not never, not no how!
It says in 2 Samuel 6:14-16 that he stripped down to his white undergarments, and in front of the whole city, he was “leaping and dancing before the Lord.” Why would a dignified man like a David, the greatest King in Israel's history, join in such worldly behavior?
Well, he was really happy and he couldn’t hold back his joy. He finally was crowned as king, he just built a new home in Jerusalem, and God allowed him to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the city. Life could not get any better. So he decided to dance.
His wife Michal wasn't having it! It says in the story that she was watching her husband from a window, and she "despised him in her heart." She was mad! Can you blame her? Her husband was embarassing himself in front of all her friends! What would they say? As she says in 2 Samuel 6:20, "How the king of Israel honored himself today before the eyes of his servants' female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!"
She sounds like she would make for a good deacon's wife - - I can see her, as many fine Baptist regularly do, sitting in the pew, arms crossed with a disapproving look on her face. Good Christians should always try to keep others in line, shouldn't they? Is it not our job to control other people's behavior? There is nothing more worrisome than earning an angry woman's or stoic man's disdain.
Well, as it turns out, David wasn't having it. He turned to her and said, "It was before the Lord, and I will celebrate before him. And I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor."
David is pointing out something about Michal that runs deeper than being religious, or even being a good Baptist; she is nothing more than a judgemental cynic. While he is dancing before God, she's worried about her reputation. She doesn't want to be embarrassed, and so instead of worshipping alongside David, she gets angry and assumes he is joyful for other reasons. This is the problem with a cynical heart.
Cynicism does not believe in the sincerity or goodness of other people's motives or actions. It always doubts that there are people who sincerely believe in God - - and instead of praising alongside with them, all a cynic can do is mock and criticize. And did you know cynicism kills?
Are you a cynic? Do you assume everyone is a hypocrite? When it is time for worship do you cross your arms and say, "I wish we were singing something different, or why are people so happy?" A true Christian rejoices when others rejoice.
The story of David and Michal ends in a shocking way, listen to 2 Samuel 6:7, "And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death." Can you believe that? Her cynicism and judgmental heart ruined her! Wasn't David the one embarrassing himself? No, he was worshipping.
Here is my take: It may do you some good to stop being so bottled up, worrying too much about what other's think about you, and start enjoying the good things God has given you. Maybe you need to start asking yourself this simple question: "Who cares?" Who cares what the judgmental cynic thinks?
Because the one who really is in danger before God is the one who thinks they are better than others. Cynicism poisons the soul.
My father was a downright deliriously positive guy. At times he was so positive it could make a negative person want to be that much more grumpy and surly.
Being a career salesman who was trained in the groovy, feel good 70’s, my dad saturated himself in the writings of Zig Ziglar, Og Mandino and Dale Carnegie. For quite a long time he really bought into their teaching on “the power of positive thinking.” I can even remember him tuning in to watch the famous prosperity preacher, Robert Schuller and his “Hour of Power” from the now defunct Crystal Cathedral:
“The only place where your dream becomes impossible is in your own thinking!”
For a few years there, I think he actually believed positivity was the key needed to unlock the universe’s secret hidden powers - - like there was an invisible fountain of joy that you can always drink from simply by being happy. Success was achieved by channeling something called ‘enthusiasm.’ And for my dad, enthusiasm became a magic elixir he was determined to pass on to all of his children.
On some sleepy mornings when I would wake up feeling cruddy and acting crabby, which was almost every morning, my dad would say smiling, “Good morning Chris, it’s going to be a great day!” I wouldn’t respond but rather take another sloppy spoonful of Fruity Pebbles and grunt. So he would motion for me to follow him into the bathroom. Then he would say, “Look into the mirror and repeat after me, ‘BOY AM I ENTHUSIASTIC!’...Say it three times getting louder each time. By the time you're done, you will feel like a whole new man!”
So I looked at my sorry self in the mirror and said in a rather lifeless tone, “Boy am I enthusiastic...hmmph.” My dad wasn’t buying it, so he would shout, “Louder, until you believe it!” So three times I called out for enthusiasm to rush into my heart hoping that would make him happy. He turned to me, “Now doesn’t that feel better?”
He slapped me on the back and headed off to work whistling. After he was finally out the door, I looked back in the mirror and said, “Boy do I feel silly.” Between you and me, being enthusiastic or not, I still had to go dig ditches, pick weeds, and shovel topsoil at my landscaping job while nursing an aching back and creaky bones. Smile or no smile -- sweat and pain, the flotsam and jetsam of the original curse, still remained ...enthusiasm notwithstanding.
Last week while reading on vacation, I was surprised to learn that the concept of enthusiasm originated from the ancient Greeks. Ian Murray in his excellent book on revival titled “Pentecost - Today?” says this about enthusiasm, “‘Enthusiasm’ came into the English language from the Greek word enthousiasmos, meaning ‘being possessed by a pagan god.”
He goes on to say how this concept was used in the seventeenth century to describe “the unbalanced religious emotion of those who supposed they had some special nearness to God...the word we use now is fanaticism.” A fanatic is someone who leaps before he looks. As Murray writes, “Fanaticism may be orthodox in belief but it is more concerned with emotion and with results than it is with objective truth.”
The key concept here is “special nearness.” A fanatic, or a person who is caught up in the throws of enthusiasm, really believes they have access to a “blessedness above anything known to ordinary Christians.” Somehow because you felt something you believe you have more access to God than others. Shedding tears and shouting strings of superlatives concerning God are now seen to be of more importance in some circles of Christianity than living by his truth. The danger in this is that if not evaluated honestly, tears and moments of emotional high can become master tools of deceit making you believe something that isn't actually true.
It is akin to looking in the mirror and shouting, "Boy am I enthusiastic!"
This desire to have a special nearness reminds me of a man who came into my office and said “Pastor, you should come visit our prayer group, when we worship and pray we really meet with God.” So what does that mean? Regular average church people don’t? Because you feel something that means God shows up more?
Because of this lure for the enthusiasm elixir, many churches have turned into concert halls and motivational conferences. I often drive by a local church that has a sign which reads, “Holy Spirit service every Sunday at 11:00 a.m.” Is that the only time he shows up? And where is the Third Person of the Godhead the rest of the week? Wating for people to enter a tiny building with loud drums, flashing lights and people crying?
11 years ago my dad was really acting tired and was getting constant chills because he said his office desk was right next to the air conditioner and it was blowing on him all day. My mom and sisters suggested that he go to the doctor to get checked out, “Nah, I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me!” That was my dad, ever positive and enthusiastic. Later in the month he went to a vitamin and health store to buy some herbs to try to help stop this fatigue he was fighting. “I’ll feel better in no time!” I can still hear him convincing himself of his wellness through personal positivity.
Two months later he fell down dead with a massive heart-attack. I miss my wonderful best friend and dad terribly, and I miss his enthusiasm...even though it didn’t save him. Maybe that is why teaching on positivity often drives me nuts?!?!?
Paul writes, “Faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of God.” Emotion is not the source of life, it is the bi-product. Joy is a spiritual fruit from saving faith, not a source to channel power. Worship is a response to God's presence that is already there, not a way to get more of him or invoke his presence.
Enthusiasm is not a bad thing, nor is it the thing. Jesus Christ and his word is!