#1 Rule of Cults and Apocalyptic Prophets

Even before we get into this, I am mindful of the bigger issue.  There is no enforcing body.  Even if we were to all agree on the rules and regulations that we need to put on cult leaders and apocalyptic prophets, there is no way we could agree to get them to submit to them.  These guys, you know, are kinda known for their desire to go against the grain.  More on this later.

Here is the rule:

If you make a specific prediction that can be measured and it fails to come true, you are done.

You have to publicly apologize and then you have to quit and go get a job where you can’t do any more damage, maybe a window-washer for skyscrapers? (Random I know but I was trying to brainstorm about a job where you aren’t around people. No, I’m not wishing them to fall, just not to be able to talk to people anymore.)  You wanted us all to believe that you have special insight into God and the world and are a prophet.  Great. Way to go buddy.  You are putting it on the line with something tangible.  However, when (it’s always when not if) you are wrong, you are done.  No further clarifications or redirects, just done.

Let’s take our latest prophet as an example.  He once predicted that the world would end in 1994.  It didn’t come true, so what did he say back then?  Mathematical miscalculation.  Are you kidding me?  That offends me, deeply.  Not as a pastor, (well yes as a pastor as well) but as a mathematician. Little known fact: Cloften was a math major.

Let me get this straight. You are predicting the end of the world, END OF THE WORLD and you cannot be bothered to check your math.  Seriously?  You should check your math if you are taking an algebra quiz that’s only worth 5 points. You most certainly should make sure that you carry the one if there is an impending apocalypse.  “Sorry everyone.  Turns out 7*7+1 is 50.  I had a scribble on my page that I thought was a parenthesis but it wasn’t. I had it as 56.  My bad.”

Once that happens you are done. You don’t get to come back 17 years later with better calculations and declare the real date.  But let’s assume that we can be gracious with his math and we let him come back for one more go at it.  He misses again.  What does he say now?  “I’m confused, but I’m real sure about the other date I predicted.  Sure I predicted two dates and the first was flat out wrong, but I’m just as confident in the 2nd.”  (I suppose I shouldn’t have put quotation marks there.  That isn’t what he said.  However, if he can wrongly predict the end of days twice, I can misquote him.  However, that was his basic sentiment.)  No, no, no.  The only answer is, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.  I’ve asked God to forgive me and asking you to do the same. I’m stepping down from leadership.”

Back to the other question, how do we enforce this?  I think we have to play on their arrogance.  They make the prediction, and since we cannot be trusted to ignore these people completely.  We interview him and ask the question, “Are you sure?” “Are you willing to stake you reputation on it?”  “Ok, great. Do you promise that if you are wrong, you will apologize and leave?”  If they start hemming and hawing (Old school southern expression), then they are done right then.  If they agree, then we have them on tape, and we play it incessantly after the nonpocalpyse.

Next week on Rules for Cults: Why would you ever pick an ascetic cult when there are plenty of good hedonist ones out there?

The True Measure of Character

This post initially started out in my mind as a straight-up anti-Laker rant.  Hopefully (for you), this post will be more subdued.  For those who don’t know why I would be ranting about it at all, let me briefly explain.  Yesterday, the 2-time defending NBA champions were eliminated from the playoffs.  They got swept out, which means they lost their best of 7 series 4-0, without winning a game.

In that final game yesterday, they were down by 20+ points most of the game.  Late in the game, 2 of the Lakers best 4 players (Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom) intentionally knocked someone to the ground for no reason.  One of them was especially bad, because the fouler had about 100 pounds on the foulee and said foulee was airborne at the time when he received the forearm to his ribcage.  Those 2 fouls were cheap shots and dirty plays, and they will most likely be fined and suspended.

Before I continue the mini-rant, a couple of disclaimers:

1) I root against the Lakers.  I always root against teams that win all the time, especially if I’m told repeatedly by sports media that I’m supposed to like them.  Many teams and individuals fall into this category.  Lakers are near the top. (They can thank the Duke Blue Devils and Tiger Woods from keeping them off the top of the list)

2) I don’t follow the NBA too closely.  Most of what I know comes from Sportscenter and PTI (best show on television).  I start watching during the 2nd round of the playoffs.

What I do know from watching ESPN is that the Lakers are great champions with great leaders in their coaches and players.  I was disinclined to believe these things (see disclaimer 1), but what do I know (see disclaimer 2)?

Before we go too far down this road, I do not want to judge their character.  I don’t even know them.  Athletes are barely any different than cartoon characters to us.  If my worst moments were caught on national TV, I would hope that people would give me grace and that I would not be defined by them.  I will separate silly sports rants from bigger picture questions of specific individual people’s character.

However (you knew something was coming), people who put themselves in the public eye do give us opportunity to reflect and analyze issues of character, not based on their character (which we don’t know) but their behavior (which we can see).

Given that mega-disclaimer, here is what we all need to understand–our true character is tested and measured by adversity.

Here is a list of things you shouldn’t say:

“I’m really nice, unless you make me mad.”

“I love people when they aren’t annoying me.”

“I’m incredibly patient until something stressful happens.”

“I’m very gracious unless you cross me.”

“They are great champions unless they lose and start knocking people around the court with uncalled for forearms (sorry, had to throw that in there)”

It is easy to be patient when there is no cause to be impatient.  It’s easy to be gracious when people are being nice.  It’s easy to be a “winner” or a “champion” when you are winning.  But what are we like when we are “losing” and when life is stressful and painful and hard?  Are we truly allowing God to refine deep character into us? Are we allowing adversity to make us more like Jesus?  Or are we simply surviving bad times with mediocre (or worse) character and waiting to be the “real me” again?

The “real me” is not the me when everything is going just my way, but the person that is on display in adversity.  My hope is that, whether or not there are television cameras on or not, when those times hit me that the love and light of God would shine.

James 1:2-4
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Matthew 5:43-48
Love for Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Apartment Living

I am not a snob.  I am not too cool, rich, awesome, etc. to live in an apartment.  By that, I mean that I don’t want you to think that I am.

It has been quite an experience over the last couple of months.  We’ve had a lot of fun/difficulty with the maintenance department especially.  Department might be strong of a word, 3-Stoogian Group perhaps.  When we first moved in, we told them that the fan in our room was broken.  It makes a whack-whack-whack sound.  Someone came by and said, “That’s not good. That would make it hard to sleep.”  “Yes, thank you.”  “We need to replace that.”  “Thanks, again.”

2 1/2 months and many promises later, I come home with the girls after school and we hear someone in the apartment (scared us just a little bit).  I walk around and there is a maintenance guy replacing the fan…in the girls’ room.  That fan was not broken, had no problems, but it was now being replaced.

I try to tell him that it was the wrong fan, but it is clear that he doesn’t speak English.  That’s cool though.  While I don’t know enough Spanish to say, “We need you to fix the fan in the other room,” I am convinced that I will be to explain to him well enough in Spanish the situation when he is done.

As he is leaving, I try to get his attention, this time in Spanish.  It doesn’t work; he is out the door.  I ask him to wait in English and in Spanish, no good.  I finally just get his attention and bring him to our room and turn on the fan.  It starts making the noise, which I imitate in the international language of onomatopoeia.  He gets the message, gets his stuff and tightens up the fan.  It no longer makes that noise.  Victory.  It was hard work, but we got there.  (Seriously though, I really do wonder what language that dude spoke)

Oh, btw, did I mention that we discovered last night, when going to bed, that the new fan (You know the one that replaced the fan that worked fine), doesn’t work?

Moral of the Story: Someone please by our house.

Editorial Disclaimer:  We are not mad at anyone.  We believe that the people that run the apartment complex and the maintenance crew are good-hearted people doing their best.  While the facts of this story are not exaggerated, the snarky tone is added for comedic effect and do not reflect the heart of the author or his family.

That’s Not My Job

August 16, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I was planning on blogging this morning.  I had a few ideas in mind.  I was going to possibly talk about how hard moving is on kids and the importance of Dad stepping in to engage (still probably will) and was possibly going to talk about my neurotic issue of how often better isn’t good enough, a rambly post about impatience and trust (may not make the cut this week).  Then I strolled in to a local fast food restaurant for some tea and some free wi-fi.  It was not my usual local hangout and will not come here again. (No plug ins, spotty internet)  However, even if it had been computer friendly, I would still be out.  Why? (Let the rant begin)

I am standing at the counter waiting to order.  There are 9, yes I said 9, people behind the counter that I can see.  That doesn’t count the people behind that are cooking (?) the food and the one dude that is also behind the counter but is going on break.  One person was “supposed to be” on the register, but she was bagging an order with a scowl that said, “I hate my job and may beat everyone to a bloody pulp with a sleeve of cups.”  I am not sure what the two people at the station where they bag the orders were doing.  One person seemed to be in charge of holding a sleeve a cups (protecting herself from the register girl, to be sure).  One person was in charge, seemingly, of making sure the smoothie machine didn’t move.  There were two managers who were in charge of keeping certain tiles on the floor from moving.  One person was in charge of telling funny stories near the drive-thru.  Of course, we also had a floater.  Is that 9?

I noticed all of that, because I had time.  Plenty of time.  Some of the workers (?) made the mistake of making eye contact with me, but they held strong and never left their positions.  Others knew better and stayed locked in on their position.  As many of you know, I did a year and a half at a Chick-Fil-A in Colorado.  This never would have flied if you were on my crew.  There was only one thing that I truly cared about and that was making the customers cranky.  We had positions, but you did whatever you had to do to serve the customer.  If someone was waiting at the counter, wanted a refill, whatever, you helped the customer, quickly and with a smile.  You never got to say “that’s not my job.”  We did whatever it took to make it work and serve customers.

This kind of attitude should follow us wherever we go, whatever we do.  You are not too good, too special to do even the smallest of tasks.  God has called each of us to be servants.  There is no task beneath us.  If you see a piece of trash where you work, live, worship, wherever, pick it up.  If someone needs help, help them.  We don’t graduate or promote from roles of serving others.  In fact as we get promoted, all the more reason to be servants and do whatever it takes.

Mark 10:44-45
and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Did I mention that when she finally did come to the register that she glared at me and said nothing?   But that’s a rant for another day.

I’m Begging You, Say Something Meaningful (A Brief Political Rant)

I know that I have said many times that I don’t like to get into a lot of politics.  It’s not that I shy away from controversial things, it’s just that what the Bible says is controversial enough.  I certainly don’t want anyone to think that my public endorsement of a candidate or party represents the church, or certainly not God.  I know that seems spineless to you activists out there.  If you say something ugly on the comments, I might turn the why of those comments into a full blown blog post.

On the other hand, I am a political junkie.  I have a handful of web sites that I check regularly that are all over the spectrum.  I cross pollinate that with some talk radio and poltical TV that crosses the spectrum as well.  If you looked at what I watch, read, listen to, etc. you still couldn’t guess my affiliation, if there is one.  However, I know that you can guess my poltical affiliation.  I agree with you, because don’t all reasonable, good-hearted, intellectual people agree with you? (Wow, I have already ranted 150+ words and haven’t even gotten to the topic)

I am fed up with the poltical rhetoric.  I hope that we get a small reprieve between now and the campaign this Fall.  People running for office will say some of the stupidest, vaccuous things.  Then we cheer like crazy people as if they have said something valuable.  An example:

Washington is broken.  It is time to tell Washington that the government serves the people.  Lobbyists, Washington insiders and the special interests have taken over.  Now is the time for the people to tell all of them that this is our country.  We have to put petty partisan politics aside.  I will reach across the aisle and set aside partisan bickering to do what is best for the American people.  Let’s send a message to Washington and the special interests that “we the people” are taking our government back.

You know who says that?  Everybody.  That was actually a pretty good political commercial that I wrote there in about 45 seconds (the time it took to type it).  Arent you inspired?  Aren’t you ready to vote for me? 

Does it really matter what my party affiliation is?  Does it matter how I will vote?  No, it doesn’t, because we are taking back Washington from the special inter…blah blah blah, shut up.  I would love to just rant about how politicians should stop talking in empty sound bites, but do you know why they talk that way?  Because people want to hear that.  We let them get away with it. 

Here’s something crazy.  Let’s evaluate candidates based on what they believe and how they will vote, rather than whether or not they say they are going to “stand up to the special interests.”  (Psst.  Let me tell you a secret.  Everything is a special interest.  Every cluster of people or individual has interests that are unique, read special, to them.  When a politician says he is going to stand up to special interests, they mean the people that have interests with which they disagree.  Meanwhile, truckloads of money of the groups that are eSPECIALly INTERESTed in their views will find their way to the campaign.) 

There are certain values that you have.  There are certain issues that are important to you.  Find out which candidate is most closely aligned to those values and vote appropriately.

If not, Big Business, Big Tobacco, Big Pharmaceuticals, Big Momma’s House, Big Lots, Wall Street, Sesame Street, Special Interests, .38 Special will win.  Then who will fix Washington?

(Thanks, I feel better now)