Discernment or Judginess?

child reading bible discernmentI’ve written about this before- I am a person who spots discrepancies, anachronisms, and small continuity details in movie scenes. When I point them out, often just as one may point out a passing bird, or a decoration you do or do not care for, most people respond, “Why do you go hunting for that stuff? Why not just enjoy the book/movie/show/etc.” What I find interesting and worth commenting on (logical inconsistencies and contradictions, a bracelet on a character’s left arm which inexplicably is on her other arm in the next screen shot, a period book or film expressing very nonperiod POV)- other people find annoying, and imagine that since they don’t notice these things, I must be working hard to find them.

However, for some of us, it’s impossible not to notice these things. It’s like asking a highly visual person not to notice a crooked picture. We don’t go looking to find things – we have to work hard NOT to see them, or to ignore what we see as glaring issues, issues we notice without even trying.

More often than not I’m clubbed between the eyes with a two by four by something others don’t even notice, and they will resent if it’s pointed out to them.

Once up on a time I was on an email list where one particular person kept sending those forwards about how deodorant causes cancer, and this company is being populated by witches, and that company is promoting demon worship, and this company is growing headless chickens for food- and every time somebody would explain to her that it was a hoax and kindly explain where she could go to find out which forwards were hoaxes she would say, “I guess I’m just too trusting. I’ll have to stop sending them….” and then she would send another one the very next week. She wasn’t trusting, she was gullible and lacking in logic or discernment, but somehow had turned gullibility into a virtue and discernment into something for cranks.

You know how people forward those twenty year old emails about a missing child who was found ten minutes after the first email was sent ( if it’s even real) and is now a mother herself?  It just baffles me when somebody points out that they’ve wasted everybody’s time and emotional energy by sending out a hoax and they respond indignantly, “But I just care about children.”

It baffles me because hitting the forward button to everybody without taking five minutes to google that email first is hardly an exercise in compassion or care.  It’s more like lazy, self-complacent, self-indulgence. It makes the sender feel good, but it doesn’t do anybody else any good, and it does have a real down-side- it makes people like me start to delete your emails unread, and while that may not be that much of a bad thing, it also starts to desensitize people and make them jaded and suspicious of genuine needs passed on through email.  It’s not a bad thing to be wise as serpents or merely momentarily responsible enough to verify facts before spreading what well may be untruth. I will never understand why the person who sends this junk responds with anger and resentment when confronted with the truth, and usually uses the example of her gullibility as an opportunity for self-praise.

Now, pointing out a continuity error in a film may be trivial, but the same skill that allows some of us to effortlessly spot continuity errors allows us to see other kinds of errors in stark relief as well.

I see this happen when self appointed religious leaders stray, or get caught in horrific sex scandals and/or cover-ups. It was a mistake, we all make them, don’t be so critical, there but for the grace of God, judge not (which is not a right dividing of the word of God). I make self-disparaging jokes about being cynical and pessimistic, but it’s protective coloring, really, or armour. Too many people who claim allegiance to Christ would be uncomfortable with his assessment of the religious leaders of His own day and would be asking Him, ‘Why can’t we all just be nice and get along. Why do we need to be so critical?’

While it’s true that we do need to guard against a critical spirit and not let discernment stray over into snap judgments, we don’t need to guard against critical thinking. We need, in fact, to practice it more. Yes, practice. While I agree that discernment can be a spiritual gift, I also believe it’s informed by study, and it’s something we can all improve through practice.

Think about it the next time one of your friends (you know, the one you think is negative and overly critical), says something that makes you want to respond with, “Oh, why do you always have to look for something wrong!? Can’t you just enjoy and appreciate (fill in the blank)???” Instead of being critical, even judgmental (you did realize that’s what your response was, didn’t you?), try being discerning. Look at whatever the issue is a little more carefully and try to see what they’re seeing. Compare what is with what ought to be (which means we need to really study ‘what ought to be’), and maybe you’ll find it’s not the ‘critical spirit’ of somebody else at fault, it’s your own weak skills at critical thinking- or a need to alter our own standards.

If we do that enough times, maybe this scripture will some day apply to us, too:

Heb 5:14
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
‘by reason of use’ is another way of saying ‘practice.’
Heb 5:14
14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Heb 5:14
14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Think about that verse the next time you hear somebody (maybe even yourself) saying, “Well, we can’t judge….” No? What is judgment if not distinguishing between good and evil? And that’s exactly what we are called to do.

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Doodlebugs & Antlions, oh my!


Over the week-end I picked up a copy of Jennifer Ackerman’s Notes From The Shore, a book of essays about shore life along Cape Henlopen, Delaware. Books about the ocean are always sure to catch my interest, and since we had the good fortune to be able to visit Cape Henlopen a few years ago, I was doubly interested.

I’m not very far into it yet, but I love her writing style and I’m learning more about the natural world, which was one of my reading goals this year.  Today I’m fascinated by the antlion; here’s what Ackerman writes:
Here on a sunbaked slope is the pit of a creature with a name like an oxymoron or an odd chimera out of my childhood bestiary: the ant lion. It is the larva of a delicate, long-bodied insect. In its adult form, the creature looks like a damselfly, but its larva is a grotesque, wedge-shaped thing the color of slate with long, bristling sickle like jaws. It digs a conical pit by moving backward in a circle, plowing the sand with the tip of its sharp abdomen and flipping the grains upwards with its flat head. The pit is about the width of a child’s thumb and perfectly engineered as a live trap. The smooth, sloping sides form an angle of exactly 32 degrees, the angle of repose for sand grains. The ant lion lies in wait at the apex of the pit, all but its jaws concealed. When an ant stumbles over the edge, it starts an avalanche of sand on the slipface, loses its toehold, and tumbles into the jaws of the larva. With a quick jab, the ant lion pierces its prey, sucks out the juices, and flips the empty body out of the trap.”

I found a National Geographic video of an antlion in Africa setting its trap and capturing prey. I showed it to the children (shuddering the whole way through; it *is* grotesque) and they are, of course, now playing antlions in the bedroom. The type described in the video can remain in the larval stage for up to three years. Isn’t that crazy?!

According to Wikipedia, they are “worldwide in distribution,” and here in America, we call them doodlebugs because of the marks they leave in the sand. Or, rather, other Americans apparently call them doodlebugs. It sounds vaguely familiar to me, but I’m certain I’ve never used it before. The name refers to the shape they leave in the sand, their “doodles.”

What really caught my attention in Ackerman’s description was how perfect the angle formed by the antlion was ~ the 32 degrees. This precision made me curious and I found an article in the Journal of Experimental Biology that discussed the antlions and their traps.  As the article summary says:

  “Antlions produce efficient traps, with slopes steep enough to guide preys to their mouths without any attack, and shallow enough to avoid the likelihood of avalanches typical of crater angles.”

As I skim the article (children have moved on from playing antlion to playing in the chilly backyard, coming in for a hot cider snack break, talking to me about their outdoor play, and going back outside again. plus I put the baby down for a nap. So concentrated scientific reading is Right Out and skimming is In Order), I’m amazed at the beauty and design in this less than beautiful creature.  Yes, I said it. Design. I know the authors of the scientific article may think it nonsense. Ackerman may think so, too. But as I read about the “near perfect” cones constructed by the sandlions, as I marvel at the efficiency of their system, the academic forces required to research and share what this creature does so effortlessly, I am left with these verses reverberating in my mind:
  “…God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out,

      who spread out the earth and what comes from it,

     who gives breath to the people on it

    and spirit to those who walk in it…”

(Isaiah 42:5)

As God spread out the earth, He made room for the lion (the mammal), the ant (the insect), and the antlion (that weird little larva!). Plus the millions of other animals out there. And then US. Who are we, that He is mindful of us? What an intricate, beautiful world He’s created… and then He shared it with us, so we could discover it. What a precious gift!

Posted in Books, Nature Study | Leave a comment

Government Cookie Jars

Who has total control of our tax dollars? Who takes them? Who decides where they go? Who decides to raise our taxes and take more from us to give to others? Who is who chooses to give some firms our tax dollars as corporate welfare? Politicians.
Corporations do lobby for money and favorable legislature, and accept those perks when they are given.   However, they can’t force politicians to give them our money. Politicians CHOOSE to do that. Remove the politicians’ ability to do that, and you stop the problem at its root.

Many of those who claim to object to corporate welfare really do not have a problem with politicians giving away our money to businesses, it’s just that they would pick different winners in the corporate lobbying game.  For those people, the complaints they have about big, bad business are simply a power struggle, not principled objection.

Salaries for CEOs are determined by the shareholders and board members of the business. Shareholders include pension funds for teachers, police officers, state employees, and others. Many of the so called 99% make 100% of their retirement money from the 1%.

Salaries for politicians are determined by… themselves.  And their money comes directly and only from ‘we the people.’

The mortgage crisis?  *Politicians* demanded that mortgages worth zip be offered, right? They *required* it, so here again we have a case of the government being the instrument responsible for economic destruction, and corporations merely being a willing enough tool in the hands of the politicians.   Most of the left seems to want merely to punish the tool (and only a few of those, based entirely on politics, not principles).  I am in favor of yanking corporate hands out of the cookie jar, but I want to also limit the power of the tool wielders so that they do not have the ability to own and operate a cookie jar for favored corporations and cannot do such damage ever again.

One argument that really amuses me, while it depresses me as well, is the complain that businesses who receive corporate welfare, government bailouts, are then ” refusing to invest taxpayer money back into the economy.” Hello?  This is a charade and more than a bit of a shell game.  Why not let the taxpayers KEEP their OWN money and decide where in this economy WE want to invest it?  Why do we need the middle men of government and businesses the government chooses to support to do this for us?

Note well: Obama has been giving taxpayer money away to his friends and supporters. Corporations are his biggest supporters. I do not want to see more of the governmental power grab so government officials can continue to enrich themselves and reward their cronies, regardless of whether those cronies are successful at business or not (Solynydra, anybody?)

If you want taxpayer money invested back into the economy, why not let *taxpayers* do that by letting us keep our money?


But corporate hotshots are merely thieves.


Hmmm.  I’m not admiring their moral code.  But it’s not stealing when the powers that be *give* you the money. That’s what politicians did. That’s what crony capitalism is- it is the problem. The way to fix crony capitalism is to remove the incentive to lobby government for its political favors, and you do that by getting the politician’s hands out of the cookie jar and putting a wall between them and corporations. Get them out of the business of picking winners and losers in business.


Posted in economics, politicians, Politics | Leave a comment

Shocking: Child sex offender behind Charlotte bathroom ordinance push

The leader of efforts to pass the Charlotte bathroom ordinance is a convicted sex offender. Chad Sevearance, now-former president of the Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce, worked as a youth minister in the late 1990s. More

Paypal, doing business around our world in places where gays and transgendered are legally stoned to death or thrown off buildings, gets the jitters about those who are not in favor of letting men and little girls use the same bathroom at the same time.  Paypal’s headquarters are in Singapore

Germans demanded ‘breathing room,’ too.

When reasoned discourse, or merely a chalk scrawl is ‘unsafe,’ your position and your reason are weak.


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God, give us men! A time like this demands

God, give us men! A time like this demands

Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;

Men whom the lust of office does not kill;

Men whom the spoils of office can not buy;

Men who possess opinions and a will;

Men who have honor; men who will not lie;

Men who can stand before a demagogue

And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!

Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog

In public duty, and in private thinking;

For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,

Their large professions and their little deeds,

Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,

Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.

Josiah Gilbert Holland

Read More »

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