How to respect your ward organist

December 1, 2013

So I’ve decided to take a month off from church, but I thought it would be wise to give some feedback that may help others in the future.

Here are the 8 laws for Bishopric Members to follow to respect your ward organist.

1.) Provide hymn choices at least a month in advance.
2.) Respect that there are some songs we cannot play (well), and that there are some songs we refuse to play.
3.) Do not constantly drop all of the verses except one.
4.) Do not stand up at the beginning or middle of a prelude song, wait till near the end and politely wait for the organist to finish the verse.
5.) As the handbook instructs, do not talk or greet people, relay messages, or converse before the meeting.
6.) Do not assume everyone is OK with being asked to play or direct a hymn at a moments notice; not all of us accept mediocrity, and preparation helps dispel mediocrity.
7.) Allow organists latitude for prelude, instruct them that “If musical selections other than hymns are used, they should be in keeping with the spirit of the hymns. Texts should be doctrinally correct.” Allow them as much latitude as they want, inasmuch as they understand that principle.
8.) Barring major accidents and disasters, call/write in advance if something is changing or someone is unavailable to fulfill their calling/assignment. Simply not coming is not very respectful.

1.) Provide hymn choices at least a month in advance.
Why is it important to choose hymns a month in advance? Because not all of us are professional musicians, who can play anything at a moments notice. The LDS Church handbook of instruction asks for the music to be chosen well in advance.

3.) Do not constantly drop all of the verses except one.
Whether time runs out because a meeting is poorly planned (too many speakers), the speakers are poorly instructed (they take more time than allotted), or too many people come up after the meeting time ends during Testimony meeting, does NOT mean you take that time out on the hymns. Hymns often tell a story, whose meaning is destroyed when one blindly cuts all of the verses except the first verse. Often the first verse is NOT the best verse. If you’re going to reduce the number of verses sung, please do so intelligently.
Also, do not simply dictatorially announce fewer verses. There may be extenuating circumstances that would do a lot of harm in so doing. Ask if it would be alright, and accept that it might not. The organist might suggest swapping a hymn rather than cutting all than the first verse.
The handbook specifically states: “Do not routinely shorten a hymn by singing just the first one or two verses. Singing the verses printed below the music is encouraged.”
In some cases it may be better to forego a musical piece rather than shortening it.

4.) Do not stand up at the beginning or middle of a prelude song. Some Bishopric members seem to be completely clueless as to what’s happening with regards to prelude. I don’t really care if you listen or not, but it is better for everyone, and it looks more professional and planned out if the conducting member stands near the end of a prelude piece.

5.) As the handbook instructs, do not talk or greet people, relay messages, or converse before the meeting. I’ve watched several times as the Bishop has reminded the ward that they are in the chapel. I’ve noted the irony that many ward members simply follow the example of their leaders in conversing, planning, transmitting messages, etc. The Handbook states that: “Leaders set an example of reverence during the time before sacrament meeting. The bishopric and the speakers should be in their seats at least five minutes before the meeting begins. This is not a time for conversation or transmitting messages. Setting an example of reverence encourages the congregation to be spiritually prepared for a worshipful experience. Members should be taught to make the time before sacrament meeting a period of prayerful meditation as they prepare spiritually for the sacrament.”

Skeptics, Doubters, and Negativites

November 8, 2013

My good friend Jacob has recently posted questions on
whether “tough questions” and “doubts” are tolerated in the church. I will answer that question here, and post the answer there as well.

For the moment I will separate that question from it’s context, because I want to deal with the context separately.

I personally do not feel the expectation that Church leaders must bare their own dirty laundry before the world, let alone that of their forbears. As a scientist who has a specific job, I can understand the need to only worry about certain facts that help me accomplish a certain job. For instance, it may be true that some human beings are unable to tell the difference between green and red, but that fact isn’t useful if my job is to create a spectrometer that can. The job of the apostles and prophets is not to give a titillating, comprehensive, maybe even boring history of the church. Some folks whose expectation is that the church provide them with everything sometimes claim whitewashing and hiding, when in reality the valid reality of “doing one’s job” is actually happening. As Elder Oaks said, “Not all that is true is useful.”

Quite frankly, I consider it even an insulting question, somewhere along the lines of, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” It assumes negative assumptions (“facts” not in evidence) that have been used, and are intended as well-poisoners. It paints a picture of the person that the questioner is, and it’s not a pretty picture.

“Is it okay to ask questions?” I personally do not feel that “there is no such thing as a stupid question.” There ARE stupid questions, there ARE stupid questioners, there ARE rude questions. So I would say, “It is okay to ask respectful questions.” Just like I think it would be rude to ask, “why are you afraid of the truth?” I don’t think it is fair for a student to derail a teacher’s well-planned, faithful, logical lesson, with a question that has no relevance to the day’s topic, a question that isn’t sincere, or that has so many false assumptions that it can’t even be answered.

Of course, usually we expect people to apply their own filters? “Will this question uplift others or bring others down.” Sometimes we should ask ourselves, “Will asking this question even uplift me?” Some questioners are impertinent, and in scientific circles, rude, impertinent questioners aren’t tolerated, why should they be in the church? If someone asks you a personal, inappropriate question, don’t you wisely build a wall of protection against that person? That may be more calm than running with pitchforks, but I for one just consider it wise to put-up mental protections against the mentally unwell, which is sometimes indicated by their questions.

So I guess the question shouldn’t be, “Are questions allowed”, but rather “What types of questions bring myself and others closer to God?” From my own life experience, questions which assume a priori that my understanding is right, and everyone else’s (including Church Leader’s and God’s) is wrong or incomplete, do not uplift myself or others. Questions which demand answers or explanations (“Why does it work this way?”) lead to unhappiness when they are not answered to my satisfaction. Questions which do not allow for the recognition of my assumptions, and limited understanding will not necessarily lead me into truth. So I would modify Jacob’s statement: “Mormons believe in a God who loves good questions, that lead to higher truth and better understanding and higher righteousness.” Questions which don’t fit those ideas will ultimately people away from God, and I don’t think He “loves” those types of questions.

Mormons and abuse

March 26, 2012

A while back, I was talking with a very capable LDS therapist in a friendly exchange. I asked whether or not Mormons were worse at infringing on proper boundaries than those in different faiths (even the apparent faithless). My premise, was that among my sample size, usually it is the Mormons who are most willing to infringe on appropriate boundaries than the non-Mormons. I was assured, that “I just knew more Mormons on a deeper level.” This assessment made sense then (statistically), and still makes sense now.

However, there is something about institutional abuse I’ve found within Mormonism that I haven’t found elsewhere. Additionally, I’ve found more Mormons willing to rationalize, excuse, and in some cases, even promote the behavior, and this truly worries me. Now, maybe there are some who simply cannot compartmentalize the fact that prophets are fallible, and just maybe Joseph Smith was in the wrong here. If so, we’d have to discuss that with them.

Truman Madsen shared a story illustrating how Joseph Smith needed to know who was loyal to him.

On one occasion, [Joseph Smith] vigorously chastised Brigham Young – accusing the latter of something he had never done in what was clearly a harsh, cruel, unfair manner. As Brigham said, ‘Joseph, what would you have me do?’ – Smith broke down in tears and hugged him. ‘Brigham,’ he said, ‘I was testing you and you have passed.’ “
-Truman G. Madsen
(Joseph Smith, The Prophet)

Now, while I don’t necessarily blame Truman Madsen for including this story, (he was a historian after-all), and I don’t know all the context. But today’s Mormons tell this story in order to illustrate Brigham Young’s loyalty and humility, with a subtext of “We should all be this humble.”

But this is wrong. No one should ever feel forced to accept guilt in order to be someone’s friend. (Think of that bully who told you, “I’ll beat you up if you don’t admit to taking the last cookie.”) You should not have to do “whatever is necessary to make it right” (think of that bully adviser who told you 100% of interactions were your fault, and not 50%).

If I had been Brigham, I hope would have answered, “Joseph, I have not done what you have accused me of. I accept you as a prophet, but I respect myself, and will not be treated like this. I heard a prophet of the Lord declare:

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile— Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

Therefore, I will try and persuade you, in gentleness and meekness, that I have not done the things you have accused me of. I find such baseless accusations to lack kindness, love, and knowledge. I therefore reprove you for incorrectly accusing me, yet express my love. My faithfulness is stronger to thee than the cords of death, but in full honesty. I will be charitable to you, and allow you to repent and apologize. I will sustain you as a prophet, but not in actions that are untrue. THAT is what being “Honest in your dealings with your fellowmen” means to me.

So, I guess I’m going to print this out, and give it to every teacher when this story is shared.

Feel Good Songs: “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal- O Day Full of Grace”

March 12, 2012

I learned from my time in the Martin Luther Men’s Choir of Flatville, IL, that songs of praise can help carry you in times of sadness. Liz and I sang this song (but not this recording) in the Chorale. Praise the Lamb, Praise the great I am…

Then listen to Christiansen’s “O Day full of Grace”, and think about how you can prove that the night is ending… Remember the glory of the rising Son, dispelling darkness and fear from your heart. Remember, in our Father’s house we shall walk in endless light, no more a slave to darkness or sadness.

Hark, I hear the harps eternal
Ringing on the farther shore,
As I near those swollen waters,
With their deep and solemn roar.

Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Hallelujah, praise the Lamb.
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Glory to the Great I Am!

And my soul tho’ stained with sorrow,
Fading as the light of day,
Passes swiftly o’er those waters
To that city far away.

Some have cross’d before us safely
To that land of perfect rest.
Can you hear them singing faintly
In the mansion of the blest?

Mighty Jesus, bear us over,
There to kneel before Thy throne.
May we join the saints forever
Praising Thee, and Thee alone.

by Gilbert M. Martin

O Day Full of Grace
Den signede dag by N.F.S. Grundtvig, 1826

O day full of grace, which we behold,
to us from the sea ascending;
you over the earth your reign unfold,
good cheer to all mortals lending,
that children of light in every clime
may prove that the night is ending!

How blest was that gracious midnight hour,
when Christ in the flesh was given;
then flushed from the east the dawn with pow’r,
that spread o’er the darkened heaven;
then rose o’er the world that sun divine
which gloom from our hearts has driven.

Were all of the trees endowed with speech,
were all of the leaflets singing,
they never with praise His worth could reach,
though earth with their praise were ringing.
Who fully could praise the Light of Life,
who light to our souls is bringing?

As birds in the morning sing God’s praise,
His fatherly love we cherish,
for giving to us this day of grace,
for life that shall never perish.
His Church He has kept these thousand years,
and hungering souls did nourish.

With joy we approach our Father’s land,
where day is forever dwelling,
where ready for us His mansions stand,
where heaven with praise is swelling;
and there we shall walk in endless light,
with blest ones His praise forth telling.

Feel Good Songs: “Don’t Give Up”

March 12, 2012

“You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)”

For the last two weeks, I’ve had a sore throat. I’m finding it hard to feel like I’m able to express myself; I feel others trying to silence and control me … I can relate to this song so much, and I kind of imagine Groban singing words that Jesus would say. I try very hard at communicating, writing things out deliberately, consulting with my wife, seeing if they make sense, and if they can be misunderstood.

Unfortunately, I’ve found those who are either complete idiots or very uncharitable in all of their interpretations. I’ve found those who say I’m not allowed to have an opinion or express it because I’m male. I’ve found those who say I’m not allowed to have an opinion or express it because I’m not a teacher… I guess I should remember that these people are just bullies. No one has the right to silence anyone else simply because they disagree.

I want to be understood, and if I take the effort to write out a 1000 word blog post, you should expect that I care about it, that I’ve taken the effort to rethink and re-word it. In essence, you should at least read it before criticizing it or me for “having the gall to express myself”.

But Christ has not called me to be weak, to be submissive, or unfaithful to my calling. He encourages me to not give up, to always be true to myself. God help me, I will try.

Don’t give up
It’s just the weight of the world
When your heart’s heavy
I…I will lift it for you

Don’t give up
Because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you
I…I will break it for you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don’t give up
Because you are loved

v2
Don’t give up
It’s just the hurt that you hide
When you’re lost inside
I…I will be there to find you

Don’t give up
Because you want to burn bright
If darkness blinds you
I…I will shine to guide you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don’t give up
Because you are loved

You are loved
Don’t give up
It’s just the weight of the world
Don’t give up
Every one needs to be heard
You are loved

The Logical Fallacy of “Don’t Knock It Till You Try It”

March 10, 2012

Years ago, my Grandmother told me, that her Presbyterian pastor had instructed the congregation to never choose not to do something without experiencing it first. I’m sure the pastor wanted to teach the congregation something useful, to be more open-minded and tolerant, less judgmental about things when they don’t have all of the facts… But it’s dumb logic. In fact, it is liberal logic. The problem is, this logic has been adopted by some people who can’t see the problem with it. Therefore, I’m going to go through the problem with this, “Logic” and then provide two examples of this I have experienced.

Is it true that one shouldn’t “knock it until you try it”(hereafter DKITYTI)? No, it isn’t true. To determine whether a statement is valid we test it under all circumstances. If the rule fails under any circumstance it is not a universal rule, but one which requires a caveat. The caveat should be expressed. Here is the proof that DKITYTI isn’t “true”. Here’s a list of things where this fails. Drugs, Pornography, Abuse (Physical, Emotional, Sexual), Suicide, Liberalism (OK the last one was just a cheap shot)… I do not need to experience any drug, alcohol, marijuana, any harder drug, to know that they are bad… To know that abusing a substance to try and escape the emotional or physical reality will ultimately lead to more pain. I know this because my parents allowed some of my family to bring their soul-destroying substances into our home, further defiling what should have been a sacred temple with mild-altering substances. I do not need experience with Pornography to know that it destroys souls. I know this because I have had friends describe their struggles, who read about the medical studies describing how it alters their minds, making them crave more, destroying their sense of self-worth and righteous sexuality. Before I learned of my friends’ struggles we had loving church leaders prophecy of this problem warning us all beforehand, and through the fulfillment of that prophecy, the Church of Jesus Christ has been more than proven true to me. I did not need to experience physical and emotional abuse to know how wrong and destructive it is, nor do I need to be sexually abused to recognize the trauma, the sense of violation, the infringement of agency it entails. I did not need to experience depression to know that it is not ideal, that it is a symptom that something is wrong and that something needs to be fixed. I certainly don’t need to experience suicide to have an opinion on it.

Now it may be that I can have more compassion for those who have experienced the same traumas that I have. Perhaps. But I don’t feel it is necessary for having a valid opinion. In fact, in some ways, having the experiences I’ve had have added emotional, visceral, and sometimes irrational reactions that can’t be tempered by the rational arguments of others. For example, I believe that welfare recipients should receive drug testing (including alcohol), because of the human cost associated with children in homes of drug users. I think that those who physically or emotionally abuse children should be sterilized, and those who sexually abuse children should be put to death (I’m deadly serious, not a joke).

In actuality, maybe it’s best that people don’t listen to me more because of my experience. Those who claim the DKITYTI philosophy are just restating the logical fallacy of an “argument to authority”. Wikipedia explains this fallacy is created whenever 1.) the person cited as an expert isn’t actually an expert or when 2.) there is not census among legitimate experts. Just because someone has experienced something does not make them an expert on it. An example of this is bullying, just because one has been bullied in the past does not mean they are on expert on recognizing, or even responding well to the bullying, in teaching others how to recognize, or respond to the bullying. The second way it is a logical fallacy is that there is not a consensus among legitimate experts. We, the human race, are fallen, and we judge ourselves and each other with broken rulers. We are not experts and we have reached no consensus. God is the only expert. Therefore, we must end these silly logical fallacies, these claims of “Don’t Knock It Till You Try It”

Now I’ll share some examples of this unfortunate fallacy. Now I don’t care which side of the recent abortion and contraception debate you side on, and that is beside the point of this post. But during this debate, we have encountered plenty of this DKITYTI mentality. So-called “women’s rights groups” have declared that men have no right to an opinion or a voice in this matter. A matter that deeply affects our families, our children, and our very society, men are to stay silent on, just because we don’t carry the right plumbing… We’ve heard these arguments before, and they are now, as they were then, sexist. And the quickest way to end sexual and racial discrimination, is to cease discriminating based on race or sex.

The second example came from the most unlikely of sources. While discussing with a teacher the fact that 1.) teachers are not infallible, and 2.) sometimes make mistakes when punishing children … I was informed by a friends mother-in-law that “unless I was a k-8 teacher” I wasn’t allowed to say anything. Now, I’ve known that elementary school teachers tend to treat adults like children, but I was pretty surprised by this unprofessional, un-adult, infringement of proper boundaries… but I think it illustrates perfectly this problem. Of course I don’t have the same feelings and even understanding as a k-8 teacher, but it is precisely that distance which helps me to make more rational decisions about it. It is the duty of the k-8 teacher to be able to describe their viewpoint, both facts and feelings, so that everyone else can come together and reach a consensus. If they weren’t teaching “my” (figuratively) children or using “my” (literally) tax funds to do so, I wouldn’t care as much, but as I’m paying for it, and it affects my future, I get a say. This f/b conversation has mysteriously disappeared … so I don’t know how my friend responded … but sufficient to say, I’m getting tired of this logical fallacy.

If you think you’re viewpoint is right, find a way to express it in words that convince. Don’t appeal to your own authority, because I don’t take you as an expert. Abandon the sexist viewpoint that men aren’t allowed to have valid opinions, thoughts, and ideas about any topic, and allow men to express their viewpoint as well.

Well, I’ve gotten to the end of my rant. Earlier I thought demanding that anyone who buys into this philosophy promptly remove themselves from my friend list. I have too many good friends to waste my time with sexist, logical-fallacy loving people. But maybe I’ll take my own advice first and allow others to have their say too, before I de-friend them. They may even find something wrong with my logic.

Fixing the problems with “Praise to the Man”

March 5, 2012

One of my philosophies in life, is that one shouldn’t just complain about life. If you see something that you don’t like, try to fix it. Today I’ve followed that philosophy. A year ago a wrote about the problem with the LDS hymn “Praise to the Man.”

Today, we had Stake Conference, Liz and I sang in the choir. Everything went fine until the “rest” hymn when the congregation stood and sang it, apparently with “gusto”. As I promised I did not participate, neither standing nor singing. But those damned lyrics kept annoying me. Unfortunately, their existence spoiled the rest of the meeting for me. So in order to help myself feel better, I’ve attempted a re-write on the lyrics. It’s not perfect, and I welcome suggestions, or better examples. My hope, was to remove the focus from Joseph Smith and back to God (where it should be in a “worship meeting.”). As I pointed out before, I have no problem with “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer” precisely because the focus is still on God.

I wrote these up, and after the meeting went home and printed up my previous post with these lyrics. Then I returned to the conference and delivered them to the presiding authority, with the admission that I expected nothing from him (no response, no action, just that he read them).

Anyway, I open this up for suggestions.

1.
Praise to the Lord who communed with a mortal,
Calling, anointing a Prophet and Seer
Instructing him to open this last dispensation
That all men may know and worship their King.

2.
Praise to the Lord, Joseph died as a martyr,
to honor and praise Jesus’ blessed name,
cleansed by Christ’s blood shed for our salvation,
We implore heaven for the redemption of all.

3.
Praise to the Lord for sharing His priesthood,
given to man for His service below.
Faithfully obedient we enter Christ’s kingdom
with Joseph and faithful prophets of old.

4.
Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven
we will give our all for our Father’ great cause.
We labor to teach the truth of the gospel,
till the world shall follow the gospel again.

-Andrew Mills

In Defense of Reality

March 4, 2012

There are some things in life that are true only because we (individually, and a society) choose for them to exist as they are. There are other things in the universe which are actually true. Millenia ago, everything fell into the latter category. Today, in the post-modern world, those who follow the religious viewpoints (even if they call themselves reasonable agnostics) of the former. The problem is that neither of these viewpoints is correct, and jumping from one extreme on the pendulum to the other has helped no one.

Classifications of truth.

Earlier worldviews accepted that all truths were immutable. Today godless crew accept the viewpoint that there is no truth, only perception.

Part of my explanation involves this visual. On the left side I classify truths that are not dependent on us recognizing them, things which are true regardless of whether we know them. This includes things which are physically verifiable (to humans) and things which are currently not. Our understanding of which classification truth fits in may change as our understandings change, but these categories are eternal.

An example of eternal truth, not physically verifiable is that God Exists. I cannot prove to you that God Exists. I have had experiences which have given me reason to believe (faith) that He Exists. But he would continue to Exist (capitalized because it is a sacred verb), even if you or I refuse to acknowledge it.

An example of eternal, physically verifiable truth, is that neon absorbs light at 632 nm (at least in our area of the Universe). I have had experiences which have given me knowledge, that Neon absorbs red light. I can physically prove that to you, but it still absorbs light there, even if you or I don’t recognize that.

An example of metastable (non-eternal), physically verifiable truth, is that some Jewish survivors perceive LDS proxy baptisms as “offensive”. We could take a survey of every person on the planet to “prove” this. But it is not an eternal truth, it currently exists, dependent on the contrivings of people with an ax to grind: 1) A silly ex-Mormon with literally nothing better to do with her time (Helen Radkey), 2) Silly Jewish groups who somehow claim to speak the will of the dead, 3) News organizations whose existence depends on the outright fabrication and misrepresentation of “the facts” all calling it “news fit to print”. In the end, these fabrications and contrived representations will be removed, and will look as ghastly as the ghosts in the presence of Real Truth in CS Lewis’s “The Great Divorce”.

An example of a metastable, physically unverifiable truth is those things which I think, feel, and what my motivations are. No one, least of all an intelligence-starved liberal, can know what I think, feel, or why I do what I do. It’s not a verifiable truth. But I can know it.

All truth exists within its own realm, yet it all exists around us today. Each of us will have to do their best to put up with the genre of these truths. You may not like the rules about the genre, but you don’t get to choose them. And their existence doesn’t depend on you recognizing them. My admonition is to place your faith in the eternal truths, and recognize the meta-stable truths only as necessary. Those who choose to make the meta-stable truths generally go insane, while those who ignore the eternal truths find that Eternal Truth can be a hard opponent to ignore.

Atonement Parable: Push-ups and donuts

May 26, 2011

This parable was found at the LDS.org facebook group called General Conference. I feel that it is a marvelous parable, and I’ve removed some of the extra words making it more streamlined. Now of course, all parables fall apart, but I’m very grateful for the changes President Benson made in the Church (outlined here) to have more of a focus on the Book of Mormon and less “folklore-ish” doctrines. That makes it possible for parables like this to get published on the Churches Facebook page.

DON’T LEAVE IT ON THE DESK

Dr. Christianson was a Professor of Religion at a small college who taught a required survey course on Christianity. Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the Christian gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously. One year, Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve who was studying to go to seminary to enter the ministry. Steve was popular, well liked, and was very physically fit, being the starting center on the football team. He was also the best student in the professor’s class.

One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. “How many push-ups can you do?”
Steve said, “I do about 200 every night.”
“200? That’s pretty good, Steve,” Dr. Christianson said. “Do you think you could do 300?”
Steve replied, “I don’t know…. I’ve never done 300 at a time”
“Do you think you could?” again asked Dr. Christianson.
“Well, I can try,” said Steve.
“Can you do 300 in sets of 10?
I have a class project in mind and I need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it,” said the professor.
Steve said, “Well… I think I can…yeah, I can do it.”
Dr. Christianson said, “Good! I need you to do this on Friday.. Let me explain what I have in mind.”

Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. No, these weren’t the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson’s class.

Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, “Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?”
Cynthia said, “Yes.”
Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?”
“Sure!” Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.
Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, “Joe, do you want a donut?”
Joe said, “Yes.” Dr. Christianson asked, “Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?”
Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten push-ups for every person before they got their donut.
Walking down the second aisle, Dr. Christianson came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship..
When the professor asked, “Scott do you want a donut?”
Scott’s reply was, “Well, can I do my own push-ups?”
Dr. Christianson said, “No, Steve has to do them.”
Then Scott said, “Well, I don’t want one then.”
Dr… Christianson shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?”
With perfect obedience Steve started to do ten push-ups.
Scott said, “HEY! I said I didn’t want one!”
Dr.. Christianson said, “Look! This is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.” And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.
Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow.
Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr.. Christianson asked Jenny, “Jenny, do you want a donut?”
Sternly, Jenny said, “No.”
Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, “Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?” Steve did ten….
Jenny got a donut.
By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say, “No!” and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks..
Steve also had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these push-ups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.
Dr. Christianson asked Robert, who was the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push up to make sure he did the full ten push-ups in a set because he couldn’t bear to watch all of Steve’s work for all of those uneaten donuts. He sent Robert over to where Steve was so Robert count the set and watch Steve closely.
Dr. Christianson started down the fourth row.. During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.
Dr. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.
Steve asked Dr. Christianson, “Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?”
Dr. Christianson thought for a moment, “Well, they’re your push-ups. You are in charge now. You can do them any way that you want.” And Dr. Christianson went on.
A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, “NO! Don’t come in! Stay out!”
Jason didn’t know what was going on. Steve picked up his head and said, “No, let him come.”
Professor Christianson said, “You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him?”
Steve said, “Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut.”
Dr. Christianson said, “Okay, Steve, I’ll let you get Jason’s out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?”
Jason, new to the room, hardly knew what was going on. “Yes,” he said, “give me a donut.”
“Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?”
Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.
Dr Christianson finished the fourth row, and then started on those visitors seated by the heaters. Steve’s arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. By this time sweat was profusely dropping off of his face, there was no sound except his heavybreathing; there was not a dry eye in the room..
The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very popular. Dr. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, “Linda, do you want a doughnut?”
Linda said, very sadly, “No, thank you.”
Professor Christianson quietly asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?”
Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda.
Then Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. “Susan, do you want a donut?”
Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. “Dr. Christianson, why can’t I help him?”
Dr Christianson, with tears of his own, said, “No, Steve has to do it alone; I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not.. When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve here is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes up he must do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your push-ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes.”
“Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?”
As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 push-ups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.

Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said, “And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, plead to the Father, ‘Into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, He yielded up His life. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten. “
Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile. “
Well done, good and faithful servant,” said the professor, adding, “Not all sermons are preached in words.”
Turning to his class, the professor said, “My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He spared not His Only Begotten Son, but gave Him up for us all, for the whole Church, now and forever. Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us, the price has been paid.”
“Wouldn’t you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it lying on the desk?”

The Parable of the Mirror

May 26, 2011

My late Grandmother enjoyed using seashells to decorate mirrors. She would collect the seashells from the beaches of Oregon and Hawaii, and glue them onto mirrors and give them as gifts. My parents received one such decorated mirror.

Now I present a fictitious event. Let’s say someone were to gift you such a mirror. You unwrap it and are very happy to see the beautiful shells, varied in color and shape. You pull it out an look closer at the mirror, and marvel at how the light bounces off giving you a reflection of yourself. You look even closer at the mirror and notice a fingerprint near the edge of the mirror, not in the center, not incredibly large, but not indiscernible either.

At this point you have two options.

You could assume that the person who made mirror was a perfect designer, one who can’t make mistakes, one who isn’t fallible. You must then assume, that since the mirror-maker can’t make mistakes, the fingerprint must be intended, otherwise the mirror maker wouldn’t be perfect.

You then have a couple of options.

You could pretend that the fingerprint doesn’t exist.
You could tell yourself that there’s nothing wrong with the fingerprint.
You could make up an “artsy” reason for it existing, “Just as this fingerprint blurs the reflection of myself, so too do I recognize that this mirror-maker has touched my life and their imprint on my life is just as visible as the fingerprint.”
You could listen to others who tell you that you’re not allowed to point out fingerprints, you know, because some people “may be harmed” by you pointing out the fingerprint.
You could fret about whether or not your overstepping your authority by cleaning the mirror.

Or you could just grab some Windex.

Guess what I’d do.


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