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Monthly Archives: February, 2014

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HEADING INTO MONDAY

February 27th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

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THERE YOU GO

February 27th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Swag blog aesthetic you probably haven’t heard of them, Truffaut wolf meh selvage Vice paleo irony Schlitz. Beard American Apparel try-hard, kogi squid +1 put a bird on it roof party dreamcatcher 8-bit pug occupy asymmetrical. Disrupt pickled synth Williamsburg, Austin direct trade deep v Neutra mixtape asymmetrical VHS.
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LOVE THESE

February 27th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

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EVERYTHING IS INCLUDED

February 27th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

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LET’S GO

February 27th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

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BEST RESPONSE

February 27th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

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God Shed His Grace on Thee – More or Less

February 20th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

In last week’s Musing, I shared an outrageous occurrence that happened at an educational program put on by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Two homeschooling moms who were in the audience (my daughter and a friend) penned a letter to the organizer expressing their dismay. I have good news and bad news to report about the response they got.

The women received a swift apology in the form of a phone call from the letter’s recipient. That was the first piece of good news. With more than the average number of children and busy lives, had their letter been ignored there’s a good chance that the incident would have ended there. The even better news is that the program’s organizer volunteered the information that there had been many complaints. I mentioned in my Musing that my daughter thought she might have been the only one to gasp aloud. Whether others responses were audible or not (and whether her gasp was heard by anyone but her) clearly the corruption of the lyrics bothered a number of participants.

The symphony representative’s response offered further reason for optimism. Since Baltimore had a heavy snowfall last week, they had postponed a second, similar performance. She assured my daughter that they would post the correct lyrics for the delayed program.

What did I find disappointing that causes me to say that there was good news and bad news?

The organizer assured my daughter that the change in lyrics was a mistake. I believe that mistakes and accidents happen all the time. Yet, when one of my children sported a chocolate stained face and hands while explaining how the cookie jar fell down ‘by accident’ I didn’t buy it. When President Obama claims that the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS in the months leading up to his reelection was an ‘accident’, I am enraged. When lyrics of a well-known, traditional song are altered by a professional organization in a way that fits a popular agenda, I am skeptical.

I would prefer for this ‘accident’ to be explored. Did an individual intern deliberately make the change while the rest of the staff was ignorant? In that case, the intern needs to be reproved and, if not fired, his or her future performance needs intensified monitoring.  Did a directive come down from the top encouraging the removal of God from performances? In that case, this ‘accident’ needs greater exposure. I can’t be the only one to feel overwhelmed by perversions of truth occurring in politics, media and the culture.  I have the impression that the attitude is, “Let’s try everything, and if we get caught once or twice, we’ll back off on those but will have still advanced dozens of other falsehoods.”

I am proud that these young American mothers pushed back. I appreciated the symphony’s taking their complaint seriously. Yet I can’t help feeling that an approaching tsunami will engulf us without an aggressive, orchestrated, sophisticated and Godly counter-attack to the forces reshaping America.

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Eye Follow My Heart

February 18th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Do you remember seeing the Sharper Image stores that were found in nearly two hundred malls around the country?  After thirty years of retailing innovative gadgets, it failed and folded in 2008.

Entering a Sharper Image store was a visual extravaganza.  Brushed stainless steel, colorful glowing lights, gently oscillating fans and air-purifiers, irresistible massager chairs in elegant leather, and a cornucopia of gadgets overwhelmed the eye.  I found it almost impossible to stroll by that store without entering.  Though I confess that I seldom bought anything.

It turns out that I wasn’t alone.  In the 80s and 90s, cutting edge technological innovation for better living was usually found in specialty stores like Sharper Image.  However, within a few years one could obtain the same advanced functionality from gadgets sold at Office Depot and Best Buy.  Sharper Image lost its competitive edge.  Richard Thalheimer, its founder, confesses to having become complacent.

Obviously, complacency is just as lethal to a business professional as it is to an Olympic competitor.  What complacency sank Sharper Image?  It was mostly failure to recognize that once the novelty faded, high-tech gadgetry would eventually become commoditized.  Once that happened, customers were no longer lured by spectacularly eye-catching displays.  They now shop for features not flashiness.

As merchants and retailers realize, customers are seduced by their eyes.  This is why companies that market fluffy merchandise know to advertise on television and not radio.  If their customer sees their product, they stand a far better chance of selling than if the customer merely hears about the product.

And it behooves us all to realize the extent to which we can also be seduced by our eyes into making bad decisions.

Consider these words:

You shall not pervert judgment…nor take a bribe; for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise…
(Deuteronomy 16:19)

Ancient Jewish wisdom declares that if two litigants stand before the bench in a civil trial, one wearing the clothing of the successful and well-to-do, while the other is dressed in a way suggesting financial hardship, the judge is required to send them away.  He must instruct them to return only when they are dressed similarly for fear he might favor the richer of the two.

One of my great teachers said to me, “But what’s the point? Even if he returns in rags, the judge already knows he is the richer litigant?”  I remember being baffled until he continued speaking.  “He might well know in his head but not in his heart.”  A judge can combat the evil tendency to favor the successful as long as it is in his head.  But if it goes to the heart, it becomes much tougher.

As Woody Allen notoriously said in explanation for his immoral behavior, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”  If the judge sees a rich person versus a poor person, his heart will want to favor the one more likely to help him in the future.  But if he knows in his head which is poor and which is rich he can better win that moral struggle with himself.  Having the two litigants appear in similar clothing removes the dangerous emotional appeal.

It is valuable to understand that when Scripture talks of a ‘judge’ it doesn’t mean only an official of the judiciary.  Scripture is talking to each one of us.  After all, there is hardly an hour of the day when we are not acting as a judge.  Perhaps you are choosing one brand of breakfast cereal over another for your family.  One is less expensive while the other claims unique benefits. You’re the judge.  Perhaps you are choosing one candidate for employment over another. You’re the judge.  Perhaps you are deciding which of your children was the aggressor in a recent argument.  You’re the judge. No matter the circumstances, it always pays to remember how easy it is for a ‘bribe’ to blind the eyes of the wise.

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Feathers and Fashion

February 13th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

A beautiful pine tree stands outside my window, obviously irresistible to a pair of woodpeckers.  That towering evergreen makes me happy but so do those two birds.  Whenever I hear the familiar rat-a-tat-tat, I look up with a huge grin in the hope of catching a glimpse of the feathery miscreants.  The male sports splendid streaks of red while the female…you’ll pardon me, but she’s a bit dowdy.

The peacock and the peahen display the same bifurcation of beauty as do male and female mallard ducks; the male sporting an iridescent green head and snappy back while the female makes do in plain-looking mottled brown. Among animals it is almost always the male that nature endows with extra adornment.

At social events, women are glamorously arrayed with make-up, jewelry, and brightly colored fashion while the men appear boring in black tuxedos.  Whether in the workplace or the street, female humans look more ornamental than men. Even at informal gatherings, a man might throw on a pair of jeans and a tee shirt while most women take far more trouble with their appearance.  That’s why fashion giants like Dior, Versace, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Chanel and others flourish on their women’s lines.

To gain a glimpse into God’s sense of the sartorial, we should scrutinize His directions for the clothing of the priests. Exodus 25 launches the construction of the Tabernacle with the words:

And they shall make for me a sanctuary and I shall dwell among them.
(Exodus 25:8)

From that verse all the way through Exodus chapter 30, we read detailed directions for constructing the Tabernacle and its holy articles. (Holy, because through their use in worship, they bring us closer to God).

Right in the middle of meticulous instructions for the menorah and the altar, we take a detour, finding equally detailed instructions for the priests’ clothing.

And you must make holy garments for Aharon your brother…
(Exodus 28:2)

The special Hebrew structure of the verse suggests that, in reality, all garments are “holy garments”.  Clothing is holy because clothing distinguishes us from animals. Anything that differentiates humans from animals brings us closer to God—another way of saying holy.

God could have said something like, “When the priests serve in the Tabernacle, they should wear modest clothing that covers their bodies and that is also clean and neatly pressed.”  Yet we do not find that casual attitude.

From the fact that God chose to issue intricate priestly clothing particulars right in the middle of His directions for constructing things like a menorah and an altar, we know that He views clothing as just as holy as the worship items in the Tabernacle.

Wait, you might think this is true for the clothing of the priests, but not for the rest of us. No, nothing could be further from the truth.   We are all meant to conduct ourselves like priests in these matters.

And you shall all be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…
(Exodus 19:6)

Why must all the priests wear an identical uniform?  For the same reason that one of the most effective institutions in a culture, the army, also dresses its members identically.  For the same reason that at that fancy gala event, while the women wear different and distinctive dresses, the men dress in evening uniform—the tuxedo.

Animals are driven only by a biological imperative in which the healthiest and showiest male catches the eye of a fertile female.  In contrast, people are driven also by a spiritual imperative. In the human world, females are most attracted to the male capable of subduing his egotistical drive and proclaiming himself part of the team, a wearer of the uniform.

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Shed Grace on Thee

February 12th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

A fuss has been made about the Super Bowl XLVIII Coca Cola commercial, featuring America the Beautiful being sung in many different languages. I admit to skepticism about this comment from ABC news, “However, the soda maker is set to air a new 90-second version of the ad during today’s Olympics opening ceremony, hoping the controversy will simply fizzle out.” (my emphasis) Last I heard, controversy means that the commercial will be looked at incessantly, so I imagine that fizzling out is the last thing Coke would want.

Nonetheless, when I watched the ad online, it didn’t bother me in the least. While there might be an agenda behind it, I found the commercial moving.  My grandparents were grateful and patriotic American immigrants who, although they learned English, might have expressed their love for the country in their native languages as well.
However, a real America the Beautiful outrage happened concurrently. Recently, our eldest daughter and a friend took their children to participate in a youth program at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. These programs are wonderful opportunities, exposing children to various music styles, instruments and musicians. Both mothers appreciate that the symphony invites homeschoolers to join.

The program they attended was on American music, featuring the music of artists like Aaron Copeland and Duke Ellington. All was well until the orchestra played a rendition of America the Beautiful. To add to the children’s enjoyment and allow them to sing along, the words to the song were shown on a screen.  Except, they weren’t the actual words; they were an altered, politically correct version of the words.

Our daughter gasped aloud at seeing the following in which I’ve highlighted the amended line.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! We shed our grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

She gasped again at realizing that most of the teachers showed no reaction to the lie being taught to their students. Did they not know or not care that around 1895 Katherine Lee Bates actually wrote, “God shed His grace on thee.” (Put to music a number of years later.) Did they not know or care that the “new and improved” version makes no sense? Who was responsible for deciding that revisionist history should be imposed on innocent children?

Our eldest and her friend were in a bit of a quandary. They are grateful to the symphony for their programs. They certainly don’t want to rock the boat and lead to pesky, educated, traditional homeschoolers being excluded. Yet, they did feel the need to say something. Here is a copy of their letter to the organizer of the program.

Dear Ms….,

We are two homeschooling mothers who enjoy attending the BSO mid-week education concerts.  We find them to be an enriching component of our homeschooling programs.

On Feb 4, 2014, we were enjoying the music, pictures, and guest artists at the America the Beautiful concert when we were shocked to hear an inaccurate representation of the song, America the Beautiful.  As we are sure you are aware, the correct lyrics written by Katharine Lee Bates in 1913 are as follows: 

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

To our dismay, the words on the screen were “We shed our grace on thee.”   In our opinion, altering the words of a significant song is problematic on many counts. It teaches children to distrust those in authority, breeding cynicism and lack of respect. It betrays a trust to be true to the intent of the composer and bring the composer’s work to the public.  Corrupting the words of the song to reflect an agenda is inappropriate and insulting. It deeply offended us, as Americans and as Jews who appreciate the freedom of religion found here, which is historically based on the deeply God-loving roots of this country.

Once again, we appreciate the performances you stage. However, we feel that a message apologizing and stating the correct lyrics is owed to the participating students, teachers and parents. We look forward to hearing from you.

Were they right to send this letter?
Have you been in a similar situation? I’d love to know.