Containment Policy

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(FYI: I just added a “Books” page above. You might want to check it out…)

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“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” 1961

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A childhood memory surfaced the other day and prompted me to immediately call my mom and ask her this, “Why did you cook split pea soup in a pressure cooker, anyway?”

I was remembering a traumatically funny incident that occurred when I was around ten or eleven. It was a time when my friend and I heard a huge BANG erupt from the kitchen while we were quietly playing in my room. We ran out to be greeted by the nightmarish sight of steaming, thick green goo splattered all over the stove, counter, wall and ceiling. A dripping pressure cooker sat chugging and burping on a burner, like a naughty kid who’s just vomited all over. It was a split pea soup explosion, unlike anything I had witnessed before in my sheltered life.

Mom’s answer to my above question was simply, “It was your father’s fault.”

I pressed for details and she said that Dad figured the pressure cooker could greatly speed up the pea softening process. Mom added that the cooker’s manual advised against cooking split pea soup under pressure, but “of course your dad didn’t bother to read the instructions.”

I asked Mom how long it took to clean up the disaster and she said she couldn’t really remember.

“It was your dad’s problem,” she said. “I told him to clean it up, so he did.”

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I have a pressure cooker but am too terrified of it to use it. I think the pea soup thing did a bit of lasting damage to my still-developing psyche when I was a kid. My husband, being much braver and more mentally stable than me, has cooked with the pressure pot a couple of times, but I’ve avoided it, being terrified of having something akin to an over-fired steam engine chugging away inside my home. It seems way too dangerous–no amount of tenderized pork butt is worth that kind of risk.

I don’t think my phobia is completely unwarranted. Pressurized containers burst all the time. In fact, history is peppered with examples of large-scale burstings that terrorized entire communities and even killed people. The “Boston Molassacre” of 1919 is one example. This disaster resulted when a giant storage tank filled with molasses exploded in the middle of a crowded Boston neighborhood, creating a deadly, sticky situation. Read on:

“1919: A giant molasses tank blows up, sending a wall of thick, sticky syrup through the streets of a Boston neighborhood. The blast and the molasses flood kill 21 people and injure 150.

http://en.wikipedia.org – photo by Globe Newspaper Co. (Boston Public Library)

The Purity Distilling Company built the tank in 1915…With a diameter of 90 feet and 50 feet high, the iron tank could hold about 2½ million gallons of molasses, ready to be distilled into rum or industrial alcohol.

… No one is sure what caused the disaster…the tank didn’t merely give way —it exploded.

[T]he tank gave out a dull roar, and then its two sides flew outward with a mighty blast. One huge piece knocked out the support of an elevated railway, buckling the tracks…Fragments of metal landed 200 feet away.

Besides sending shrapnel whizzing through the air, the explosion flattened people, horses and buildings with a huge shockwave. As some tried to get to their feet, the sudden vacuum where the tank once was created a reverse shockwave, sucking air in and knocking people, animals and vehicles around once more, and shaking homes off their foundations.

That was just the first few seconds. The real terror was about to begin.

The tank had been filled to near capacity, and 2.3 million gallons of thick, heavy, odorous molasses formed a sticky tsunami that started at 25 or 30 feet high and coursed through the streets at 35 mph. Victims couldn’t outrun it. It knocked them into buildings and other obstacles, it swept them off their feet, and it pulled them under to drown in a viscous, suffocating, brown death.When it was over, more than a score had died, and seven or eight times that number suffered injuries.”[1]

Can you imagine? What a horrific way to die! Occurring long before the implementation of federal safety standards, this disaster might have at least planted the idea that industrial equipment needed to be regularly checked for weak points.

This story prompted me to run and check our hot water tank for leaks.

It also prompted me to inspect the giant plastic bottle of corn syrup I bought two years ago that’s huddling in the back of my baking cupboard, patiently waiting to be used for the bold Christmas candy-making project I dreamed up in the manic phase of one of my sugar-craving episodes. I don’t think the bottle is big enough to produce a shockwave if it inexplicably bursts and pours out into the cupboard, but it might drown some ants in a viscous, suffocating, clear death.

Maybe I should just use it all up in something today. Hmm. Let’s see. Homemade marshmallows, anyone? Or, better yet–fake Halloween blood. Yes, that ‘s it. Talk about killing two birds with one stone–I can finally use up all my corn syrup and stage a realistic zombie apocalypse at the same time.

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So, the potential breakdown of containers like pressure cookers, molasses tanks and zombies’ graves brought to mind a certain bible verse. It’s Matthew 9:17, where Jesus said,

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.” (NLT)

Way back, goatskins were used to store wine. While fermenting, fresh grape juice would expand, so it was vital to store it in a goatskin that was stretchy enough to accommodate the expansion. A used wineskin, already stretched to its max and often brittle, would break if filled with new wine.

Jesus used this word picture to show the futility of  trying to contain the New Covenant within the parameters of the old order–the Law. God had announced in Jeremiah 31:31 that the New Covenant (God’s promise that people may have a relationship with him based on His grace rather than their adherence to the law) could not be contained, or defined, within the old system.

“‘But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'” (NLT)

So, the Holy Spirit is the metaphorical wine. Our hearts are the metaphorical wineskins–the containers that the Spirit is poured into. I have already written about this before, so I’m going to take liberties with my own words and reblog what I said about this from a May post:

“…Wally, my inner Pharisee, insisted that the real Messiah chose to live inside a traditional system. He made me forget that Jesus said the Holy Spirit, under the new system, would choose to take up residence inside people.

I had definitely known that and felt that energy operating inside me at one time. But as the insidious Pharisaism disease slowly took over, I began losing that power. Wally did his best to make sure that I basically forgot my first love. He slowly turned my attention back to the physical side of my faith—namely, duties, rules, appearances, good behavior and good politics—and away from the mystical, poetic, unfathomable, unsearchable, merciful, joyful, and alive Spirit of God.

The fermenting, effervescing, eternal, and organic Being.

The Love part of Jesus that stayed behind when his physical body left the earth.

The Life part of God that can only be contained within living, stretchy, biological tissue…

…which makes up the hearts and brains of real people…

…even silly ones like me.”

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The Holy Spirit is a delightfully dangerous substance. It can ferment, overheat, or explode. Or it can quietly pump, unseen, unheard, through a person’s veins, providing the life and light necessary for true love to develop and overflow from one heart container into another.

It can’t be–won’t be–contained within anything manmade.

Not even a church.

The first wave of the Holy Spirit poured out all over the first Christian believers right after Jesus left the earth. And the effects of that moment continue to seep out, over the face of the whole earth, inside and outside of religion.

That brings me back to the end of the Boston Molassacre article I quoted earlier:

“One of the strangest industrial accidents ever lingered on, and not just in a few safety improvements. On warm days for decades after, the neighborhood smelled of molasses. And if you listen to old-timers, even today, hot weather brings a vague, sweet smell to the streets of the North End.” [1]

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The Boston Post Coverage, 1919

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[1] Alfred, Randy. “Jan. 15, 1919: Morass of Molasses Mucks Up Boston.” Wired.com http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2009/01/dayintech_0115

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In The 70’s, Bread Was Money, In My Prayers, Bread is Time

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Anybody else out there remember the Mod Squad? It was a groovy, hip TV crime drama that ran from 1968 to 1973 on ABC. Even though I was a little kid in the middle of its airing years, I can recall being fascinated with it the few times I snuck in a viewing.

My dad wouldn’t tolerate it when he was in the room.

“Dang hippie show,” he’d mutter as he directed me to slide forward on the carpet and turn the channel dial. I was the remote.

Dad was right, of course–The Mod Squad was unabashedly a hippie show. It was a cutting-edge program, targeted to the youth counterculture of that era, showcasing all the beads, miniskirts, aviator sunglasses, and spectacular afros an eight-year-old honky girl could dream of.

I especially liked the lingo. The Mod Squad’s jive talkin’ was so funky my parents didn’t even understand it. Peter, Julie and Linc called the police “fuzz,” said, “far out, man,” and called each other “cool cats.”

My Malibu Barbie started talking the same way to Skipper. When their Country Camper ran over my sister’s Ken doll, Barbie said, “Outta sight!” and when the Carousel Kitchen’s batteries ran low, Skipper would say, “Heavy, man.”

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But it was my Velvet doll, the one with the retractable hair feature, that always referred to money as “bread.” She would complain to her cousin Crissy doll that her constant hairstyling appointments cost her a lot of bread.

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Remembering that phrase now always makes the “give us this day our daily bread” part of the Lord’s Prayer more relevant in a trippy sort of way.

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Time is a strange entity. It exists, but it doesn’t feel like it does.

Time has always been the only thing I don’t feel I have enough of. As a consumeristic, over-blessed American, my house is full of too much food, too many shoes, and way too many pieces of blue glassware. But none of those things can be a receptacle in which to capture the elusive minutes that are always flying away from me. I’ve despaired many times over not having enough time.

That’s changed a bit in this last year, however. A while back, I was at a church service in which the pastor preached on the “daily bread” part of the Lord’s Prayer. He talked about how bread represented provision and how we can daily trust that God will provide us with just what we need for that day. He mentioned various types of provisions that God grants, but the one that stuck out for me was time. I had never really thought of time as a provision before.

Yet, it is. Just like food, money, water, shelter–time is something granted to me each day and I can choose to use it wisely or squander it on worthless, selfish pursuits (which shall remain nameless for the moment).

So, if time is what I need, then I have to trust that I’ll get enough of it to do whatever I’m supposed to for that day, right?

That epiphany made me view the concept of time in a different light. I haven’t been as stressed about not getting certain things done lately, because I now realize that if I haven’t been given the time to do them, I must not need to get them done that day. That idea has been freeing, to say the least.

And even though I’m no mathematician, I did homeschool my boys just long enough to relearn the transitive property thing: if a=b, and b=c, then a=c. Therefore, if the Mod Squad called bread money, and money equals time, then time must equal bread. Groovy, huh?

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Wally, my inner Pharisee, lied to me about time. He told me that time was given to me first and foremost to further the kingdom of God. He said that because the kingdom of God was built on the church, my time must be spent primarily on church commitment. Even at the expense of my relationships.

He was a liar, of course, but it would take a lot of frustration for me to finally see that. Wally was passing down the lies that his ancestors, the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, had instilled in him. Those old guys spent so much time studying, nit-picking, and carrying out their law interpretations that they completely lost sight of the purpose of the law. Because they spent all their time on the process they had none left with which to enjoy the results. In John 5:39 Jesus said:

“You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about me [point to me], yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (NIV)

In other words, the Pharisees got so wrapped up in their process, they completely missed the divine results! That’s what happened to me when I got so wrapped up in churchiness I completely missed the point of fellowship. The spirit of gathering with other believers involves connecting with people through relationships. We need relationships in order to stay emotionally healthy and to learn from each other. But when I exhausted all my time and energy on keeping the club sparkling and organized according to the right charts and standards, I had no time left to enjoy people. I wasted way too much time on the process and ended up disconnected from people, and thus, from Jesus. It was a sad state of affairs, but like the Pharisees, I felt superior in my over-the-top commitment and resented people who were free to enjoy the results of fellowship…

…those far-out, fellowshipping dudes who wisely saved enough of their valuable time for gettin’ down and enjoyin’ a little boogie fever together.

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As a history lover, I’m currently reading, “Killing Lincoln” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. It’s a fascinating account of the last weeks of Abraham Lincoln’s life and the events that led to his assassination.

The very first sentence of the book’s prologue was ingenius. Talk about crafting the perfect opening hook:

“The man with six weeks to live is anxious.”

Only nine words into the story and I was already induced to ponder life. If Lincoln had known he would be killed in six weeks would he have done anything differently? Would that knowledge have made him change his plans and possibly change the course of American history?

What if I was told I only have six weeks to live?

Would I do anything differently?

I think I would. Even though I’m far from being one of the more careful, organized type of people on this planet, the knowledge that I was about to leave earth would still make me loosen up about a few things. I think it would suddenly make time more precious than anything else in the world and I’d imagine I’d stop wasting it on things that really don’t matter.

As much as I love my faith, I think that now, as a former Pharisee, the last thing on earth I’d worry about would involve church stuff. I would hope that I’d finally see Who church was supposed to point to and stop obsessing over the pointing process. I’d really hope I wouldn’t waste another valuable minute policing the after-church snack volunteer list. Or worry about who was supposed to get the bulletin copies made. Or whether or not the worship team played my favorite songs. Or why I was always the only one who ever remembered to clean the coffee pots.

I imagine that anything and everything I could do to spend every moment with my family and friends would become my top priority. I’d run, not walk, to my car and race to my in-state and out-of-state kids’ houses and plop down on their couches and try to say everything that I thought I’d have a lifetime to say.

Hmm. Maybe that wouldn’t be right. Maybe it’d be better for me to plop down and listen to them. Listen to everything they’ve ever needed to say to me.

Or, maybe we’d just hug and cry and hold each other tight.  That would probably be enough, because time is precious.

Precious bread, man.

Righteous, precious bread.

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In The Trunks of Our Cars

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Zach and Dusty, 1994

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One day, about fifteen years ago, my mom realized that their beloved dog, Dusty, was missing. He was the sweet Springer Spaniel my parents had adopted as a puppy after my sister and I left home.  He was smart and gentle–a great companion to my younger brother as a teenager, and a patient playmate for the grandkids that came in quick succession during the 1980’s.

I’ll never forget the panic I heard in my mom’s voice on that fateful day when she called to say that Dusty had disappeared.

“When did you see him last?” I asked.

“When we got home from the store. He ran out and greeted us as usual, but that was hours ago and we haven’t seen him since. He’s not in the yard, anywhere. I’ve called and called for him–even went into the woods, but there’s just no sign of him!”

Mom was really upset. Dusty was Mom’s constant companion during the day, and Dad’s walking partner in the evenings. He had eased their transition to empty-nesters by simply being his friendly self.

“Are you sure he’s not in the house, hiding somewhere?”

“I’ve searched every room, and besides that, he always comes when I call.”

“Do you think he’s run off, farther away?”

“We’ve already driven up and down the road for miles and called and called, but nothing. I’ve talked to all the neighbors and they haven’t seen him.” Her voice broke, making my heart hurt for her. “Oh, Willow–I hope he’s okay!”

I hung up the phone, feeling helpless from my distant location on the other end of Montana. All I could do was pray.

The next morning, I awoke thinking of Dusty.

The phone rang a little while later. “He’s back! Dusty’s here!” Mom’s tone was jubilant.

“Where was he? How did you find him?” I asked.

Mom and Dad’s old Nissan was similar to this one. The trunk was actually quite roomy.

Mom giggled in a rather odd way and then hesitated. She cleared her throat before going on to tell me that prior to leaving for work that morning, Dad had opened the trunk of their little Nissan sedan to put something in and out jumped Dusty. It seems he had been in the trunk of the car all along. For something like a terrible eighteen hours.

Apparently, Dad had walked by the car after unloading it the day before and closed the trunk lid without looking inside it. Looking back, he figured Dusty must have jumped inside, but didn’t protest when the lid slammed down. Dad and Mom both felt horrible.

Especially considering that the whole evening before, while they were driving the back roads, searching the ditches and calling for him from the car windows, the dog was right there–right behind the back seat, in the trunk. Being a patient fellow, he hadn’t made a noise, at least nothing that could be heard above the hum of the engine.

My parents’ immense relief was mixed with immense guilt. They might as well have been Mafia bosses driving around with a silenced informant stuffed in their trunk.

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The Pharisees, along with all the Jewish people, were watching and waiting for the arrival of the long-predicted Messiah. They were desperate for God to raise up a mighty leader who would deliver them from Roman oppression and re-establish the nation of Israel as a kingdom under a Messianic kingship. As a defeated people, the Jews were expecting a political reformer to lead them to national victory, not a humble carpenter’s son who, shunning politics, was there to lead them to spiritual freedom.

And so it was, when Jesus came and lived among them, most of the Jews (especially the Pharisees) refused to believe that he was the one they were looking for. But Jesus stated his identity plainly from the beginning of his ministry:

“Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached…’The time promised by God has come at last!…’The Kingdom of God is near!'” Mark 1:14-15 (NLT)

And,

“…the Pharisees asked Jesus, ‘When will the Kingdom of God come?’ Jesus replied, ‘The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you. “‘Luke 17:20-21 (NLT)

Of course, most of the Pharisees were blind and deaf to Jesus’ truth. Rather than humbly opening themselves up to the possibility that their presumptions regarding the Messiah’s return were too narrow, they dug in, refusing to see Jesus as anything but a threat to their authority.

In the end, their search for something they already had would result in Jesus’ agonizing death.

Dusty, too, would have eventually died if Mom and Dad hadn’t discovered that, all along, while they were diligently and frantically searching for him, he was right there with them…only a few feet away.

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One of the more aggravating symptoms of my Pharisaism disease was a bout of unhealthy expectations. Most likely related to the larger problem of presumption, these expectations became chronic and damaging over time. They caused me to narrow my perspective on the purpose of church, and caused me to expect that the way I did church was the way that God had universally prescribed for all Christians.

I expected that every church should be housed in a clean, respectable facility, should conduct regular Sunday morning services, should have pleasing worship music, should insist on literal word-for-word bible studies, and be led by a qualified, professional pastor. Anything less could put its members in danger of heresy, or apostasy, or any number of other dangerous conditions ending in –sy.

I expected that the kingdom of God was populated with committed, sober, upright people whose good behavior was the vehicle that allowed them to bring Jesus to their community. That it was every Christian’s duty to whip our culture back into shape–to get people to all live respectably, as I defined respectability, that is.

I fully expected that the American Christian Church model was the only true representation of God’s kingdom to society and I needed to do everything right in order to keep God’s displeasure with America at bay, and then be first in line to receive my reward for doing so.

The problem was, though, that I wasted a ton of time preparing for something that had already arrived.

I was driving around in my religious institutional vehicle, calling out for Jesus, searching for him, longing for him to come and show himself to the pagan culture, not realizing that he was already with me and everyone else.

I didn’t realize I had locked him up inside my sick presumptions.

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Concerning the whole Dusty ordeal, Mom later said the worst part was hoping the neighbors wouldn’t press for specifics when they asked if the dog had been found. Dad said the worst part for him was when the the poor dog leapt out of the trunk and started running around on three legs so he could pee while still running. Practically flooded the yard, Dad reported.

But everything turned out okay in the end. Dusty survived just fine.

And, as a diseased church person, so did I…

…but only after I opened my mind.

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Boxed Inside The Clean Club

(Due to summer busyness, I’m rerunning an April post.)

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I’ve never been much of a club person. The main reason is probably because the majority of  clubs in the small towns I’ve lived in are usually craft-oriented. I’ve lived among whole colonies of Martha Stewart clones.  These amazing women organize clubs for quilters, knitters, scrapbookers, beaders, potters, wool-spinners, candlemakers, soap carvers and twiggy wreathers, to name a few.

But never anything for someone with my particular disability. You see, I was born with an unfortunate predisposition to clumsiness and fumbly-fingeredness.

I am handicraft impaired.

There is no humiliation quite as raw as the type that occurs when someone like me struggles through a Friendly Plastic jewelry making class only to find that their modeling plastic is anything but friendly. Especially when the year is 1989 and everyone else has produced glorious purple, fuchsia, and silver-colored earring medallions with their plastic chunks. My medallions look like toucan poop on juice can lids.

There is only one club involving craft-making in which I can achieve a modicum of success. It is called Kindergarten. My back and legs may cramp from crouching on the tiny chairs, and the cracker portions may be unsatisfyingly small, but the oohs and ahhs I receive from my tablemates when I hold up a completed paper bag pig puppet make it all worthwhile. I am at home in the safety scissors crowd.

Sewing defeats me before I even start. I cried my way through sewing in 4H and got a generous D in ninth grade Home Ec when the teacher pointed out that I had sewed the skirt waistband onto the hem end. I modeled that fiasco with a Mrs. Wiggin’s gait as the darts constricted my knees. (Does anyone else out there remember Carol Burnett as Mrs. Wiggins and how Tim Conway’s Mr. Tudball said Mrs. HuhWiggins?)

Suffice it to say that I’m happiest when I’m outside a crafting club, rather than inside where, even though the members are sweet and kind and the coffee is delicious, I just don’t fit in.

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The most notable member of the mega-righteous Pharisee Club was Saul–later known as Paul the Apostle.  As a Pharisee, Paul lived and breathed the Old Covenant practices and prided himself on mastering the art of regulation-keeping. He reported that he was “faultless” in his legalistic righteousness. This extreme legalism also blinded him. Similar to the other strict Pharisees, he had no vision beyond what he presumed God to be.

Metaphorically speaking, Paul and his Pharisee cronies lived in a big box.  Orderly, spacious, fenced and hedged, it was their Law Clubhouse. It had taken centuries to build, but was nearly complete by the time Jesus arrived. The Law Clubhouse became an elite retreat for the brightest and best of the Pharisees. They stayed separated from the rest of society in the immaculate building and admitted entrance only to those who conformed to their high standards.

As nice a place as the Law House was, however, its interior was always dark. And that was exactly what led to the blindness of the Pharisees. Like moles living underground, the Pharisees had no need for eyesight as long as they stayed inside their familiar, dark dwelling. They could feel their way around just fine.

Inside the Law House, Paul was the supervisor of the house’s security team, ordering various punishments and death sentences to the pagans who tried to gain entrance illegally. The blasphemers who, even though they didn’t submit to proper rule-keeping, claimed to be children of God. Being that sort of commander was hard work, but somebody had to do it. And, in spite of, or maybe because of his blindness, Paul did it well.

Unfortunately though, like an Olympian whose promising athletic future is brought to a screeching halt by a serious injury, Paul’s career was derailed on the road to Damascus. In a curious twist, his Pharisaical, spiritual blindness would be zapped with a dose of physical blindness. He would be struck blind by a LASIK beam so powerful it would knock him right out the Clubhouse and out beyond the perfect hedges. When he would finally regain his sight, he would find himself among the clumsy pagans he had previously punished. And he would surprise himself by enjoying their company.

Even more astonishing would be his face-to-face with Jesus. Once his blindness was cured, Paul would see that Jesus was the Messiah and that Jesus had chosen to live outside the immaculate Clubhouse.

Outside the rules.

Outside the traditions.

Outside the box.

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Pharisaism is an equal opportunity disease. It infects Christians of all persuasions, denominations, and non-denominations. Its symptoms are not necessarily manifested in the practices of individual churches, but in the prevailing attitudes of individual members. I believe God is happy with the differences He has created in the hearts of believers, so we shouldn’t judge whether or not Pharisaism exists in certain congregations based on their worship preferences.

Unfortunately though, Pharisaism has definitely sickened some churches. These are the ones with a number of people as ill as I used to be. The ones with the amazing ability to craft gorgeous church services and build frameworks on which to display their immaculate standards. Places where even though the members are kind and sweet, and the coffee is delicious, the  orthodoxy-impaired among us just don’t fit in.

Places and people that the struggling, fumbly-fingered sinners steer away from in the same way I run from an army of kindly scrapbookers carrying their nauseatingly organized supply boxes.

But that’s okay. I’m perfectly content to spend my time crafting a poem–an ode to God–while waiting in the car in a Home Depot parking lot. A lot of inspiration can occur when one’s husband is dreaming big in the store’s power tool aisle. And sometimes, even though my poems are now written outside a church clubhouse, they still turn out theologically correct.

At least my kindergarten friends think so.

Our family photos. Scrapbook this, Martha Stewart!

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A Kick in the Seat of Entitlement

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Matt Sullivan/Reuters  http://www.nytimes.com

Money and fame made me believe I was entitled. I was wrong and foolish. – Tiger Woods

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Entitlement is a curious condition. The dictionary definition of entitle is, “to give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something; furnish with grounds for laying claim.”[1]

In spite of that definition, though, it’s not uncommon for people to feel entitled to things they really haven’t furnished legitimate grounds for. Take seats, for example. Paying $10,000+ for a first class airline seat entitles one to something like this:

                                 Thai Airways –  http://www.businessinsider.com/best-first-class-airlines-2010-12

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Pretty nice, huh?

In contrast, searching out the cheapest deal I could find for my last domestic flight economy seat only entitled me to sit in this section:

                                                                                                                http://www.futuresmag.com/2012/07/05

So, what would happen if I, the purchaser of a cattle stall ticket, saw an empty seat in first class and sat down in that one instead? I’d probably be frowned upon and swiftly sent back to my smelly, cramped misery by a check-listing attendant. I’ve read internet stories about a few passengers who did manage to pull off such a “self upgrade,” but the majority were discovered and treated like shoplifters.

Similar stories abound for premium sports arena seat tickets. The more you pay for your seat ticket, the closer you will be to the action, and the greater superiority you can wield over your nosebleed section compatriots.

You can pay serious money for a view like this:

http://www.charitybuzz.com/catalog_items/266404

Or a whole lot less for the bird’s-eye view:

Al Bello/Getty Images

Either way, first class airline and premium ballpark ticket holders alike feel entitled to their optimum seats by virtue of the high price they pay. Certainly, no one in their position would tolerate seat-stealing from a lowly nosebleeder.

Yet, that’s what Jesus did. He strode right on in in New Testament times and sat himself down in a teaching seat–the place of authority reserved for the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.

In the Pharisees’ eyes, Jesus had no right to take this place. He was one of the unschooled masses, one of the local hicks who hadn’t gone to their Rabbinic schools or spent every waking hour studying and interpreting the Law. He did not have any theology or divinity degrees, so they assumed he was not qualified to speak on spiritual subjects with authority as they viewed it. They were incensed that he would even try.

In Matthew 23:2 Jesus said, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

It was another “letter of the law vs. Spirit of the law” thing. The Pharisees said all the correct words when they taught the law of Moses, but didn’t demonstrate any of God’s compassion or care that the law was originally intended to promote. They didn’t think they needed to engender loyalty from people by simply being nice. They believed their authority seats automatically entitled them to be honored and obeyed regardless of how they treated others. They had worked hard for the glory of the Moses’ seat, after all–being fawned over was simply their due.

So when Jesus garnered more support for his radical teaching than the Pharisees ever did for their conservative doctrines, it infuriated the Pharisees. They saw him as an imposter. A heretic to be silenced. A seat usurper to be bumped back to the cattle stall.

Of course, what they couldn’t know was that Jesus would pay a higher price for their precious authority seats than they could ever afford. And after he paid that price, he would turn around and open his box section for all his hick friends to occupy.

It would change the whole meaning of premium seating.

Jesus wouldn’t just be a seat-stealer, he would be a seat-wrecker.

**********

I’ve wrecked a few seats in my time. Literally.

Accidentally.

Tragically.

In the same way that my clothes rip inexplicably and liquids mysteriously spill around me, seats have a habit of spontaneously breaking underneath me. I don’t understand why this is so. I’m no bigger than the average mom and I’m not the type to throw myself forcefully into furniture, yet on several notable public occasions chairs have reached the end of their allotted life span at the exact moment I sit in them. It’s horrible.

I’m like Martin Short’s chronically unlucky character, Eugene, in the 1991 movie, Pure Luck. Does anybody else remember that movie? In one scene a psychologist, setting out to prove his observation that Eugene is cursed, purposely breaks a chair that’s among a couple dozen circling a board room table. The psychologist then sets the chair back up, making it appear perfectly fine. He opens the door for Eugene to enter the room and invites him to sit anywhere he’d like. Against the odds, Eugene predictably gravitates toward the broken chair, sits down and ends up deposited on the floor in a heap.

Something like that happened to me once. The odds would have been about one in eighty that I would sit in the singular lecture hall chair that was compromised. Of course, for most people those are pretty good numbers. But, of course again, not for me. The numbers gods seem to delight in picking my number again and again.

I walked into high school study hall that day determined to find an unobtrusive spot in which to finish reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I went all the way up the steep steps to the top level. It was the farthest away from the mean wrestling coach/room monitor who treated study hall like it was a Supermax receptacle for prison riot instigators. I sat down on one of the chairs that was actually just a plastic seat bolted onto a metal pedestal that was, in turn, bolted into the floor.

Although not quite this fancy, our high school lecture hall was similarly arranged.

Settling in, I leaned back in the seat, noticing that it had just enough give to actually recline a tiny bit. Hmm. I had never before discovered that the lecture hall seats would do that. It felt curiously comfortable. I could even rock a bit. And, because the coach/warden kept the room so quiet, I was able to mentally detach from my surroundings and lose myself completely in the novel.

Unfortunately, my mind wasn’t the only thing that would detach from its moorings that day.

I opened my book to the scary part where Scout and Jem were accosted while walking home in the dark. I became so engrossed in the story that when Jem screamed for Scout to run, I could actually hear her anguished squeals. EEEECH! The sound in my head surprised me. I kept reading and rocking in my delightful chair.

Scout tries to run, but is hindered by her unwieldy ham costume and falls. Again, I really hear her screams–EEEEERRR! I paused at that point, realizing that maybe the sound wasn’t in my head, after all.

I looked around and saw that people were looking in my direction. EEEEEEGH! What the…? Of course, because I tend to be a bit of a slow processor, the truth about the noise didn’t hit my cognition until the seat jerked completely back and hit the floor.

With me still in it.

The ear-piercing noises had been coming from me–from my chair. The one chair out of eighty with a seat that I would later learn had all its bolts loosened by an evil top-row prankster.

It was just so bad. One minute I’m with Scout and Jem on a dark, wooded path and the next I’m laying on my back on a concrete floor staring up at institutional lighting. My feet, now on the table, were the only part of me that showed to everyone in the lower rows. Whispered exclamations erupted from the rest of the class as people tried to ascertain from the shoes who it was that had met with such entertaining tragedy. I stayed on my back for a few crucial moments, cringing more from social pain than from my throbbing head pain. Staring hard into the institutional lights, I prayed that I was actually heading toward them in a tunnel and that I was on my way off the cruel planet where I was destined to be the object of people’s jeering and a constant victim to the whims of gravity. I wanted God to whisk me away.

But He didn’t, and so I slowly got off the floor and satisfied my audience’s burning curiosity.

“It’s Willow! Ha, ha!” and “Willow Carson’s seat broke! Hee, hee…”

People repeated various versions of the story for days. Other, even crueler pranksters, started loosening seat bolts everywhere in a global bid to create a funnier world at the expense of the unfortunate luck-impaired folks among them. It marked an era, and a sad one at that.

**********

The era of my Pharisaical entitlement reached its high point right before my disease diagnosis. I erroneously believed that if I paid a high enough price, I could get a higher seat in the Kingdom. And my all my bible studies and good deeds were the currency I shelled out for this premium standing.

I was the older son in the Prodigal Son story. I thought my standing as the obedient, hard-working Christian should have entitled me to be celebrated, not the rebellious, pagan younger sibling. The younger son had only paid for a cattle stall ticket, but our generous Father let him come up and steal my seat in the posh first class section. It made my Pharisaism-disease fever rage through my whole spirit, infiltrating not just my church life, but my home life as well.

The only cure for my Pharisaical entitlement would be steady doses of combative truths. When I finally allowed God to plug his IV bag into me, the following truths dripped successively into me, one after the other, almost like steps in a 12-step recovery program. I had to learn that:

-I am not always right about everything, and even some of my Christian beliefs are skewed or wrong.

-Diligent bible study does not guarantee 100% correct interpretation. I am created by God to need others’ views.

-My time is no more important than anyone else’s, even if I think I work harder than others.

-I am not entitled to be served by others. If someone chooses to do so, it is a bonus and I should appreciate it.

-I must respect others’ feelings and opinions if I want them to respect mine.

-I cannot disrespect others by insisting they do everything the way I think it should be done.

-Impatience is not a virtue and only serves to make others despise me secretly.

-The surliness and disrespect I exhibit toward others who work with me can never justify even the best of results.

-The mean words I say in my mind are louder in God’s ears than the sweet things I say with my mouth.

-I am not entitled to be loved. Love is a gift, whether from God or people, and should always be received with humble gratitude.

And finally, possibly the most important truth of all–

The only seat of true entitlement is the driver’s seat. This means that:

a. The driver is entitled to signal, pass, and/or speed whenever they do or do not want to.

b. I must submit to their choice of a parking spot, even if I don’t like its location, and I must execute said submission without sarcastic comments.

c. When I am in the lowlier passenger seat, I must behave like a passenger and give up all my driving rights. I must seal my lips and close my eyes if necessary to humbly accept this inferior position…

…or else get my seat kicked out of the car.

[1] “entitle.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 13 Jul. 2012. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/entitle>.

The Silencing of The Jacket’s Voice

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Here’s an interesting tidbit I ran across on the Listverse website:

“Joanne Perez, the widow of vaudeville performer Pepito the Spanish Clown, cleaned out the area underneath her bed and discovered the only existing copy of the pilot for the TV series I Love Lucy. Pepito had coached Lucille Ball and had guest-starred in the pilot. Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, had given it to Pepito as a gift in 1951 and it had remained under the bed for thirty years.”  (http://listverse.com/2007/06/30/8-expensive-art-works-found-accidentally/)

Wow! Almost makes me want to go clean underneath my bed.

Not.

I really don’t want to know what’s under there. I’m sure there’s nothing interesting, and besides, the dust bunnies prefer to live in an undisturbed environment where they can grow large enough to self-generate their own static charges and attract more than just dust. That’s when they can collect enough dog hair to scare the dog with his own hair. And when they get big enough to hold a sock off the ground is when we have to get them out with a shotgun instead of a broom. Of course, that’s when things get messier than if we’d just left them until we either move out of the house someday or die and leave them for the kids to kill.

Unlike Pepito the Spanish Clown’s wife, the only surprising thing I’ve ever chanced upon under any bed was certainly not interesting or valuable, and could have even triggered a home evacuation if someone had tipped off the health department. I won’t go into it, but it involved a teenager’s dirty snack dish cache and technicolor mold deposits. (Actually, it was sort of interesting, now that I think about it, considering that the removal of the infectious dishes resulted in a miraculous healing of a certain young person’s pesky nasal drip.)

I did uncover a valuable article once, however, in a clothing hand-me-down bag. Now that was a find. A real treasure.

It happened at a time when I really thought I could be a suave, put-together type of lady if I could just procure the right clothes.  I suspect my synapses weren’t all synapping correctly during those whipper-snapper thirties’ years. I really did think that it was possible to have six kids, live sixty-five miles from the nearest Wal Mart, work on a mail route, tend two woodstoves and still find a way to upgrade from Frumpy Mom to Fab Fashionista. All on a limited budget to boot. It was an impossible dream, one that deep down I knew should be put away. And I almost did.

But one day dawned with a surprising glimmer of hope.

Is was that day. The mid-1990’s day when a dear friend bestowed upon me the mother of all hand-me-downs. It was a very expensive blazer that another friend, a rich friend, had given her, but it hadn’t fit either friend quite right. So, Friend 2 passed it on to me…and it fit me perfect. It was like a gift from heaven.

It wasn’t just any Ross For Less clearance rack blazer, it was a designer brand–a fitted, cream-colored, pristine jacket that spoke softly to me the minute I saw it.

It called to me. It said, “Hi. I’m Meg Ryan. Put me on. I’ll make you look like you’re unable to sleep in Seattle, and I’m yours.”

When I held it up with trembling hands, the understated buttons cooed in unison, “We’ll make you look like a star.”

A star? Clutzy, frazzled Mom Me–look like a star?? It was too good to be true, and yet...it might just be worth a try.

All I needed was the proper occasion on which to unveil my stardom, and as luck would have it, my occasion was already in front of me. Our wedding anniversary was only a few days away and Mike had promised to take me out for a nice meal in Billings to celebrate. I had three days to plan.

And plan I did. I experimented with different skirts and dresses with which to pair the precious jacket. I actually owned one newer dress that really did work well under the blazer. I then experimented with my hair. A low ponytail twisted through and underneath itself did the trick. The results were surprising. I might not have been small, blonde and blue-eyed like Meg, but my brunette, hazel-eyed, beefier self still appeared somewhat trendier than it had in years.

It was the magic of the blazer.

Protecting that blazer then become Job One. But before I continue I need to give a bit of background. (In conversations with Mike, this is when he always sighs.)

I love to drink and drive. Coffee, that is. It’s not just that I like to do it–I am an addict and I must do it. Back when this story was unfolding, we lived twelve miles from town. It was about a fifteen minute drive, but long enough for me to get another precious travel mug of coffee down my gullet while I drove.

The problem was, though, that I drove an old Toyota Tercel station wagon. A five-speed manual stick shift.

Two of the eight Toyota Tercel wagons we have owned over the years.

Not a good choice for someone who cannot safely handle liquids. Even fluids from sealed units such as snow globes and Magic 8 Balls mysteriously spring leaks in my fumbly grasp.

It took years of spilled coffee, stinky car mats, and ruined clothing for me to realize that there is not, and never will be, a travel mug impervious to my spilling habit. I had learned instead to do what all people with disabilities do–I made accommodations for myself. I started wearing large protective bibs in the car. Inspired by earlier visits to my Gramma in the nursing home, I simply draped old towels around my front and clipped them behind my neck with clothespins.

These washable, absorbent bibs freed me from all the negative effects of my drinking, shifting and driving habit. It embarrassed my kids, but that was their problem. As long as I remembered to take the towel off when I got out of the car, I didn’t care if the occasional passing driver saw me. And even when I did forget to take it off when I got out to gas the car once, I figured I just looked like someone who was fleeing from the dentist.

And so the day of my Big Reveal arrived. The plan was for me to meet Mike when he got off work and make the trip to Billings in his car. I took extra time that day to make myself look nice. As I wisped my bangs, twisted my ponytail, and paired my floral cotton dress with flat shoes, I realized that my true goal was to simply be a worthy showcase for the blazer. It would speak for me if I presented it just so. It would tell the world that Willow was sophisticated and fashionable.

The problem was, it wasn’t me. The type of person who would normally wear that jacket probably wouldn’t have been driving a 1983 Toyota Tercel wagon while wearing a huge towel bib, and besides that, several yards’ worth of unsullied cream-colored material draped over my person was a set-up for disaster.

Until that blazer came into our home, I had always shied away from white or light-colored shirts in the fear that I might spill bright liquids on myself or incur a sudden nosebleed. The fact that I’ve rarely ever had a nosebleed didn’t diminish my fear, but only made me worry that the odds were stacking against me. Yet because this blazer–this Sleepless in Seattle Blazer–promised so much, I recklessly ignored all my previous worries and fears.

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I gingerly placed the clean-as-the-driven-snow jacket on the back seat of the Tercel and smiled at my own keen foresightedness. It looked lovely, pressed and resting serenely in a protected spot, far behind me and my coffee. I could drink, shift, and drive, and then put the blazer on when I got to town. Hmm. Maybe clothes really do make the woman. I felt smarter than I had in years.

Feeling smart is not the same as being smart, however.

Being smart would have involved remembering that my fears were not irrational. They were based on history.

And so, my sad and sorry spilling history now includes that day’s incident. If my annals of time were written somewhere in literal form, that day’s entry would go something like this:

“2:00 PM – Willow begins driving down dirt lane toward highway to town, glances back in rearview mirror to admire awesome jacket on back seat, veers slightly off road, brakes to slow down, places coffee mug in center console to free her holding hand to shift down, hits a large rock in road which jars her shifting arm and causes her right elbow to jerk back. Elbow hits coffee mug hard, sends mug flying backward through the air where it lands squarely on jacket on back seat and vomits its entire staining contents onto once-beautiful blazer. Blazer receives full force of coffee, leaving seat, mats, and Willow’s bib untouched. Willow stops car, gets out, yells, kicks rock off road, hurts her toes inside flimsy shoes, and shakes fist at the gravity gods.”

My movie didn’t end well that day. But then, clutzes who insist on drinking and driving shouldn’t expect happy endings.

Ever.

**********

My Pharisaism disease kept me in a constant state of determination. It was a determination to make my faith look smart and sophisticated. I thought it was my duty to fancy-up the world’s image of Christianity, and so I constantly looked for ways to make my beliefs look more special than the pagans’ beliefs. I thought God looked best to the world when presented by someone wearing their “gift” like a tailored jacket.

In Matthew 23, Jesus talked about how the Pharisees put on clothes that were specifically designed to make them look smarter than the average Joe. Jesus states: “Everything they [the Pharisees] do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries [prayer boxes worn on the forehead and arm] wide and the tassels on their garments long…” (NIV)

In other words, the Pharisees dressed for celebrity and success. It was quite opposite of how Jesus dressed and presented himself. He wore plain clothing that didn’t say anything about him except that he was ordinary. Instead, he let his actions–specifically his love for people–speak for him. And that was anything but ordinary.

Churches that are infected with Pharisaism will gussy things up to try and impress the world, too. Unfortunately, that brings with it a constant need to protect that fancy image as well. And that, then, launches the potential for the image to get sullied and for people to get mad at each other.

Do we really need any more special Christian “clothing?” Are we protecting our precious gatherings to the point where our whole reputation will be ruined if something goes wrong? Do we really need any more fights over the accoutrements of our Sunday morning club meetings?

Jesus solved the problem of image promotion by giving the Pharisees such a bumpy ride they spilled their coffee all over their coats. They got mad, not realizing it was good for them.

As it turned out, it was good for me to give up on my blazer project. I went home, changed into my usual clothes and proceeded to have a really nice date with Mike. Mike didn’t need or want Meg Ryan. She was a total stranger to him.

He just wanted the plain woman he married to spend some time with him…even if she did end up spilling hot coffee in his lap and searing the skin underneath his jeans.

I’m so lucky he’s such a forgiving guy.

Nudist Colony Disappointment

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Long before Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl mishap added the term “wardrobe malfunction” to popular American vernacular, I coined my own original phrase for the many clothing disasters I have endured throughout my troubled social life. It is the simple sentence, “Oh no–I think my pants just ripped.”

The signalling rush of cool air through my seat area usually sets off a panicky search for a wall to back up against. In lieu of walls or trees or even a drinking fountain to hover in front of, I often grip the back of whatever chintzy pants or shorts I’m wearing and look for a gracious way to reverse walk out of public view. Of course, the act of walking backwards carries with it the potential of even worse hazards and so these moments have never ended well.

I can’t explain why I seem to be the victim of more pants-ripping than most people. I don’t wear my pants too tight and I try to steer toward sensible, sturdy fabrics. I think it has more to do with my tendency toward jerky, quick movements. I’m always rushing, and when that is combined with my clutziness–I drop things constantly and subsequently must bend over a lot–my clothing is put to the test. And more often than not, it flunks those tests.

For a time, I carried a tiny sewing kit in my purse. I even used it once. But once was all it took for me to find out that the snippet of thread that the kit contained would never be enough to sew up one of my signature San Andreas Fault-sized rips. I’ve also resorted to stapling a few rips with an office stapler, but that repair method always leaves odd puckers that make it look like I have a seat full of gravel or something.

It was the  discovery of duct tape for fabric repair that considerably reduced the severity of my clothing emergencies.

Hmm. Wait–before I go any further, the topic of fabric repair has just brought another childhood memory to the surface. I suddenly have a mental picture of my grandparents’ recliners stationed in front of their big RCA wood cabineted TV. I remember how they kept an end table between their two chairs that was always fully stocked with nail clippers, reading glasses, candy bowls, and of course, the two most important articles every devoted TV watcher in the 1970’s owned–the TV Guide mini magazine and the amazing remote control, something still quite novel for working class families back then.

I loved that remote. We didn’t have one at our house. As the person who usually sat on the floor in front of the TV at home, I was the remote. Obeying the whims of the watchers, I slid back and forth on the sculpted carpet, garnering plenty of static charges as I operated the clicking channel dial and the volume knobs.  I took a lot of electric hits, needless to say. Maybe enough to add up to a modern Tase or two. It’s a good thing we only got a few channels and we always sat through all the commercials.

Everybody sat through commercials back then. Commercial breaks gave people an opportunity to go to the bathroom and replenish their snack bowls. It probably wasn’t until sometime around the year 1985 that it dawned on Americans that they could watch something else between commercials. That must have then coincided with the start of antibiotic overuse and subsequent resistance as Americans began to experience a huge upsurge in the number of bladder infections from that time on.

But I digress. Back to fabric repair and then back to wardrobe malfunctions and then I promise I’ll get to the Pharisees’ clothing issues. Hang in here with me, please.

I was going to say that my Grampa’s recliner was upholstered in olive green vinyl. Even though the vinyl made for a really noisy and skin-rippingly sticky sitting experience when wearing shorts, it was an easy material to repair if damaged.

I’ll never forget how afraid I was to show Grampa the hole my pointy scissors made in the arm of his chair when I was cutting out paper dolls while watching The Price is Right. I was worried that I was going to be in big trouble because I had made a really big slit in the vinyl, but Grampa didn’t get upset at all. He just went to the kitchen, pawed around in the junk drawer, and came back with a piece of olive green patching vinyl and a book of matches. He then proceeded to wave the lit match above the slit until the material softened and placed a teensy piece of patch over it. He heated it up again, rubbed over the patch, and, voila!, good as new.

I’ve sometimes entertained the idea of owning vinyl pants.

That was, until I discovered duct tape.

My first brush with duct tape for fabric repair happened one day when, while doing my job as a part time highway contract mail carrier, I stupidly didn’t question the unusual amount of cool air that was flowing through the back of my jean shorts. After hefting bags of mail into the miniature post office at my route’s termination point and stopping to mingle with the customers, I discovered in the restroom that a huge rip had occurred sometime earlier and was irreverently displaying a (ahem) derriere cheek for all the world to see.

Mortified, I asked one of the ladies I had been visiting with why she hadn’t pointed this out to me and she replied that she “thought it was intentional.” What? It might have been the era of 90’s grunge, but I was a church pianist, for heaven’s sake—not a brazen hussy intentionally running around in public with my leopard-print panties roaring for attention from all the farmers and fisherman in the post office!

It was a scorching Montana prairie day and so I had no jacket or extra clothing with me. I was forty-five miles from home and I still had to finish my route. Thank goodness the postmistress had duct tape. Holding back tears of intense embarrassment, I patched my shorts from the inside, praying the rip would stay closed. It did. But I’ve had to put seven hundred miles between me and that place now to escape the humiliation of that moment.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last of such moments.

**********

So, finally, this brings me around to the subject of Pharisaism. Specifically to Mark 12:38:

“Jesus also taught: ‘Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces.'” (NLT)

To me, the point of this reference isn’t so much about the clothes themselves, as it is about the flowing and parading of said robes. It sounds like these guys were showing off, like they were purposefully using their clothes to attract attention. And they were. Several commentaries mention that the Pharisees wore special robes to signify their position as religious gurus and to keep them visually separated from the common Jewish people.

They were a prime example of ostentation, which the dictionary defines as, “pretentious or conspicuous show; display intended to impress others.”

They wore these ostentatious robes, then, like fancy sandwich board signs. Like they were advertising their superior positions and intellectual greatness.

Before I come down too hard on the Pharisees, though, I have to say that we all use our clothing to say something or other about us. It’s natural. Even people who are adamantly against following fashion trends are telling us just that by wearing plain, utilitarian clothes. The only way to escape using clothes as a message about ourselves would be to revert back to a Chinese Red Revolution-style uniform code for all of society. Mao suits for everyone.Yay.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with diverse clothing choices. We all need to express our unique selves through our wardrobe from time to time. (Within the boundaries of modesty, of course.) But, using clothing to try and be someone we’re not can have silly consequences, indeed. Trust me, I know.

**********

The problem with the Pharisees’ robes was that it was yet another example of externalism–of trying to make the outside look like something that the inside just doesn’t match. Jesus called the Pharisees on this on many separate occasions, but they couldn’t comprehend what he was talking about. Most of them just tried even harder to prove their superiority to him.

The disease symptom of superiority was particularly vexing for me as a Pharisaism sufferer. I simply thought that, as a Christian, I was truly better than most people. I certainly would never have said that, but looking back, I see now how I really did feel that way about myself and my fellow believers.

I donned a religious persona, an ostentatious way of presenting myself and my beliefs that I thought would impress others. It made me think that I was above ordinary sinners, that through all my extensive bible study and worship, I had achieved a higher standing in regular society.  I displayed my lofty knowledge by speaking out and by being instructional at every opportunity to make sure no one would miss how exceptional I was as a devoted Christian.

I wore my spirituality robe like a sandwich board.

But it didn’t impress anyone. In fact, it only served to keep me separate, apart. And tragically so, considering the very ones I was trying to impress were the ones that I could have learned the most from. I wasted a lot of time parading about in a sandwich board when I could have been sitting quietly at a table with all kinds of ordinary, but really very wise sinners.

Eek! Well now–will you look at the clock?! I’VE GONE WAY OVER TIME AGAIN! Oh man–now my post title has nothing to do with the content so far and you’re probably feeling quite let down. I’m sorry.

I haven’t even gotten to my main point yet. I was about to talk about how clothes are also meant to cover stuff up and how we can make things look really good on the outside when they’re really awful underneath. And then I had planned to tell a story about an electrician I knew once who was overjoyed to win a bid on a rewiring project in a building at a nudist colony, but his experience didn’t pan out the way he had hoped it would.

He was greatly disappointed to find out that young, toned women generally don’t join nudist colonies. Aging, overweight people do. It was one giant wardrobe malfunction with nary anything even close to a Janet Jackson physique anywhere to be seen.

He regretted accepting the job there.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that truly wise, honest, reliable, God-fearing people don’t’ bother to drape themselves in layers of ostentation.

It’s generally the insecure, bloated, self-righteous Pharisees who do that. So it’s best to stay away from their colonies. You might see them stripped of their outside adornments and then you’ll find out they’re mushy like the rest of us.

It won’t be near as spiritually thrilling as you had hoped.

You’d regret accepting a job there.

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