Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Top Ten Muppets

When people think "muppets" often they limit themselves to The Muppet Show or movies.  And that show was a lot of fun, but we need to remember that muppets got their break on Sesame Street, and they made important appearances in other films.  My list will be more comprehensive:

Yoda: Always wise, trying to reach a balance between waiting and action, he's a great creation and voiced by regular muppet-master Frank Oz.

Grover: Not too bright, but always ready to help and full of energy.

Animal: Hyper, wild, not-so-articulate, but always there to speak up.  Loudly.

Cookie Monster: The most adorable addict ever.

Ludo: Sensitive, helpful, but also really, really strong, he's my favorite character from Labyrinth.  

Gonzo: The most unique of the muppets.  He looks different, thinks different and... does unique things.

Herry Monster: A muppet who is not often considered, but his gentle ways have always charmed me.

Count von Count: Whenever I have to count to a number less than ten, I always want to end it: Ah hahahaha!  And sometimes do.  I am often disappointed that there is no thunderclap.

Beeker:  Always anxious, and always having reason to, he can never say more than "meep".

Prarie Dawn: Very girlie, a good leader and sometimes very pushy. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Personal Facebook Rules

1.       Make peace, encourage love, seek God, stir up thinking on Facebook.  Repost whatever fits those categories.

2.       Don’t post if I am too tired, cranky, or depressed.

3.       Don’t try to offend people, but if I do, don’t sweat it

4.       FB is public: If my post isn’t appropriate to share from a pulpit, it’s not appropriate to post. No personal information, no insults, no personal rants (unless it’s funny), no passive aggressive posts, nothing crude (lightly crude is okay). Look at a post again.  Is it really appropriate?  If I have doubts, either check with my wife or take it off.

5.       I am responsible for the content on my timeline.  If someone posts slander or an insult on my timeline, then I am responsible to take it off.

6.       Occasionally try to initiate discussion.  Ask questions, seek input.  It’s more fun if more people are involved.

7.       Don’t get into long, pointless arguments.  Once either I or the other are no longer listening, or we repeat ourselves, it’s time to stop.

8.       Don’t be so serious. Post heavy stuff, but also exchange it with some funny.  If I laugh at something, I like or share it

9.   Always try to say "Happy birthday" to my friends.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Modern Medicine

Four weeks ago, Mike-- our handyman at Anawim and good friend-- fell and hit his head on a sidewalk near our house.  He happened to fall in front of the police, who saw he wasn't getting up, so they picked him up and took him to the hospital. It turned out he had blood on his brain, which caused a severe memory lapse. Health-wise, he wasn't doing well, so the kept him in ICU.

Mike also drank daily, and being without alcohol put him into shock.  They sedated him in the hospital, but his body wasn't really equipped to deal with such a sudden change.  Complications arose, and his heart stopped, with no oxygen going to his brain for a short period of time.  He remained sedated for a week, and when he came out, he didn't respond to anyone.  He is alive, but he isn't there.  Today they will take out his ventilator tube and he will die.

I thought I was prepared for this, but I'm really not.

If he had just dropped dead, or not woken up one day, I was ready for that.  But death doesn't seem to work that way anymore.  I've had dozens of my friends die, but usually it is sudden, or they make choices to (basically) end their lives by their actions.  Mike wasn't like that, neither was Rick who was in my house last year.  And death isn't sudden, but a long, drawn out process.  When we have hope and very, very gradually, that hope is dashed until we realize that they will linger, as different people, and just fade away, as completely different people than who they were the rest of their lives.

Not only that, but I find myself (as a pastor of people who are often estranged from their family) making life and death choices that family should be doing.  I'm not complaining about this so much as realizing that I am not emotionally prepared to deal with this.  Almost all of us have to make these kinds of choices for our parents as they grow older, but to have this long-term grief, and anger, and being "wise" (or at least boldly faking it) for many people is too difficult for anyone.

I remember a few years ago wishing that family didn't have as much power over people they didn't really know.  I've had family call me and tell me that they were glad that their homeless family member was dead.  I've had family call me and blame me for their deaths because I didn't force them to make better choices.   Family like that shouldn't really be making life and death decisions.  On the other hand, the burden of making these choices, and not knowing if one has the right to make these decisions, as well as wondering if I'm smart enough or wise enough or worthy to make such choices.

Especially when I am struggling deeply with the ethical issues that our increased medicine gives us.  More and more often choices have to be made for people who are mentally incapacitated.  We-- family members or otherwise-- are asked "what would they chose in this situation?", and there is, of course, no answer, unless they have a living will.   They haven't been in this situation before.  And hardly anyone talks to their friends about what they would want if they were going to live their lives in a lower mental capacity for the rest of their lives.  It's all guesswork.

Mike's daughter was found.  It turns out that she hadn't seen him for fifteen years, even though he claimed to have seen her every couple months.  He has two grandsons he had never seen.  Sarah, his daughter, last saw him when she was learning how to drive at 16.  Now she sees him, unconscious, almost dead.  She never learned who her father was, really.  Now she is the one to decide whether he will live or die.  I feel horrible for her.  It must be terrible to be responsible for someone you loved but didn't really know.  It must be so hard to know that you will never get to know your own father, even though he is right there, in front of you.

Things are much more complicated than they used to be.  Years ago, Mike might have just died.  Or we would have taken him home, made sure he had his beers, and he would still be alive, if a bit impaired.  We would have made the life and death decisions, who have lived with him and loved him for the last seven years.  Sarah still would be ignorant of what happened.  I'm not saying the old system is better.  But I think I could process all this better the old way.

Honestly, I'm not upset at anything that happened along the way.  I'm just processing.  Long death is so difficult.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

C.S. Lewis on Why We Need Modern Translations

There has been some controversy about why we should have modern translations of the Bible.  "After all, if the King James English was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it's good enough for me."  Well, C.S. Lewis disagreed with that sort of thinking, and here is his introduction to J.B. Philips modern translation of the New Testament:

"It is possible that the reader who opens this volume on the counter of a bookshop may ask himself why we need a new translation of any part of the Bible, and, if of any, why of the Epistles. ‘Do we not already possess’, it may be said, ‘in the Authorised Version the most beautiful rendering which any language can boast?’ Some people whom I have met go further and feel that a modern translation is not only unnecessary but even offensive. They cannot bear to see the time-honoured words altered; it seems to them irreverent.

There are several answers to such people. In the first place the kind of objection which they feel to a new translation is very like the objection which was once felt to any English translation at all. Dozens of sincerely pious people in the sixteenth century shuddered at the idea of turning the time-honoured Latin of the Vulgate into our common and (as they thought) ‘barbarous’ English. A sacred truth seemed to them to have lost its sanctity when it was stripped of the polysyllabic Latin, long heard at Mass and at Hours, and put into ‘language such as men do use’ — language steeped in all the commonplace associations of the nursery, the inn, the stable, and the street. The answer then was the same as the answer now.

The only kind of sanctity which Scripture can lose (or, at least, New Testament scripture) by being modernized is an accidental kind which it never had for its writers or its earliest readers. The New Testament in the original Greek is not a work of literary art: it is not written in a solemn, ecclesiastical language, it is written in the sort of Greek which was spoken over the Eastern Mediterranean after Greek had become an international language and therefore lost its real beauty and subtlety. In it we see Greek used by people who have no real feeling for Greek words because Greek words are not the words they spoke when they were children. It is sort of ‘basic’ Greek; a language without roots in the soil, a utilitarian, commercial and administrative language.

Does this shock us? It ought not to, except as the Incarnation itself ought to shock us. The same divine humility which decreed that God should become a baby at a peasant-woman’s breast, and later an arrested field preacher in the hands of the Roman police, decreed also that He should be preached in a vulgar, prosaic and unliterary language. If you can stomach the one, you can stomach the other. The Incarnation is in that sense, an incurably irreverent doctrine: Christianity, in that sense, an incurably irreverent religion. When we expect that it should have come before the World in all the beauty that we now feel in the Authorised Version we are as wide of the mark as the Jews were in expecting that the Messiah would come as a great earthly King. The real sanctity, the real beauty and sublimity of the New Testament (as of Christ’s life) are of a different sort: miles deeper or further in.

In the second place, the Authorised Version has ceased to be a good (that is, a clear) translation. It is no longer modern English: the meanings of words have changed. The same antique glamour which has made it (in the superficial sense) so ‘beautiful’, so ’sacred’, so ‘comforting’, and so ‘inspiring’, has also made it in many place unintelligible. Thus where St Paul says ‘I know nothing against myself,’ it translates ‘I know nothing by myself.’ That was a good translation (though even then rather old-fashioned) in the sixteenth century: to the modern reader it means either nothing, or something quite different from what St Paul said. The truth is that if we are to have translation at all we must have periodical re-translation. There is no such thing as translating a book into another language once for all, for a language is a changing thing. If your son is to have clothes it is no good buying him a suit once for all: he will grow out of it and have to be re-clothed.

And finally, though it may seem a sour paradox — we must sometimes get away from the Authorised Version, if for no other reason, simply because it is so beautiful and so solemn. Beauty exalts, but beauty so lulls. Early associations endear but they also confuse. Through that beautiful solemnity the transporting or horrifying realities of which the Book tells may come to us blunted and disarmed and we may only sigh with tranquil veneration when we ought to be burning with shame or struck dumb with terror or carried out of ourselves by ravishing hopes and adorations. Does the word ’scourged’ really come home to us like ‘flogged’? Does ‘mocked him’ sting like ‘jeered at him’?

We ought therefore to welcome all new translations (when they are made by sound scholars) and most certainly those who are approaching the Bible for the first time will be wise not to begin with the Authorised Version — except perhaps for the historical books of the Old Testament where its anachronisms suit the saga-like material well enough. … It would have saved me a great deal of labour if this book had come into my hands when I first seriously began to try to discover what Christianity was."