Monday, September 29, 2008

Circus: a parable and critique

When my two-year old daughter yawned at the circus, I was convinced it was a bust. We'd looked for reasons to clap, laugh, ooh, and aah. But none came until the final moments, when the little elephant, dwarfed by age and shame, sat in its own excrement. This, of course, was not a choreographed move, but it aroused the audience from its slumber. I whooped and clapped and came to my feet.

There were signs that Baron von Applesauce's traveling show would flop from the beginning. The very name, billed under the auspices of nobility, concerned me. Nor was I convinced that the location--a vacant car lot in Warsaw, Indiana--provided the Big Top feel of Barnum and Co.

In addition to Poop the Elephant and Baron the Tamer, the supporting cast comprised a pony that could lift its leg only when struck by a whip, two yawning tigers, three climbing goats, and four pre-pubescent children, whose talents ranged from hanging upside down to juggling fire to bending over backwards and making eye contact with the audience from between arched legs.

As if the exploitation of the circus-children wasn't enough, the audience received its turn. The transition between acts frequently showcased a 'limited time offer' for circus schwag. Apparently, three-dollar cans of soda and twelve-dollar tickets weren't bringing in sufficient revenue. Thus patrons were tempted with 'limited offer' color books, bags of peanuts, bull whips, and tranquilizer guns. The last item several parents purchased to survive the final moments of the show.

After the rebate, the experience cost me eighteen dollars and two hours of my life. I've spent time and money on worse things, but I fear my daughters may be forever scarred. This was their first and only experience of a circus. This is their filter, their schema, their ruberick for what a circus is like. They may never want to come back.

But if they do, there's always another show on Sunday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tribute

I've never been a bigger fan of MOPS than right now. An international, faith-based organization that reaches out to 'mothers of pre-schoolers', MOPS is a bulwark for feminine sanity. While the children play, color, fill diapers, and hear stories, the moms get a break. Nothing feeds the misery-loves-company machine better than a morning away from children and a table spread with pastries. Speakers, crafts, and prizes are merely consolation prizes.

MOPS assures that my wife has opportunity to speak in full sentences and use polysyllabic words before eight o'clock at night; that she'll get two hours of reprieve from having her lap occupied and need for the phrase 'Quit whining' -- that is, if there are no especially needy moms there; that she can retreat to the restroom with the promise of privacy and no unsolicited offers to wipe her.

But, selfish as I am, the reason I applaud MOPS today is because it is my bulwark. For five days my wife has been vacationing, and I have been entrusted with the lonesome duty of caring for/raising/discipling my two daughters. Now I have precisely one hour and forty-five minutes to attend my soul, manage my accounts, and maintain my workload.

So if I don't close this entry with a tidy analogy about my renewed appreciation for stay-at-home parents, it's because I have dishes to do and laundry to fold.

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife...
Her children stand and bless her.
Her husband praises her:
“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!”
(Proverbs 31:10-31)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Liberal

I don't want to be a conservative anymore. I'll leave the gate-keeping to Peter, and the watch-dogging to the AFA; I'll let the political circus run its tour, and weed out the 'lesser of two evils' (or as one columnist recently said, 'the evil of two lessers').

What I won't do is conserve.

Conserving is for my job-depleted, fuel-depleted, moral-depleted, eco-friendly nation. It is their approach to life consumed by the fear of scarcity. It can also be the way of religion. Their food is biblical truth--their fuel the Spirit of God. But God is not scarce. He is unlimited, renewable, and does not need to be plugged in at night for a full charge.

Jesus did not conserve His life; He poured it out and God raised Him. Paul did not conserve his life; he poured it out and God continued to fill him. This is living liberally. A liberal does not save the best for last.

The words of Annie Dillard are appropriate:

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

God fills from every direction. And he fills better and faster when the vessel has made room.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Presumption

After Jericho fell the people of Israel grew pretty presumptuous. Their next target was Ai. "It's a small town, and it won't take more than two or three thousand of us to destroy it. There's no need for all of us to go there." They sent their small battalion and reduced God to a lethal weapon. The results are almost comical: "The men of Ai chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the quarries, and they killed about thirty-six who were retreating down the slope. The Israelites were paralyzed with fear at this turn of events, and their courage melted away" (Joshua 7:5, NLT).

Courage founded on presumption will melt. Faith based upon a mechanized view of God will inevitably turn to fear.