The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get

Here’s a great read from Forbes.  The only addition I’d make is that our society, as a whole, could learn from this article.  Hiding behind a keyboard, spending more than you make, and participating in cancerous office cultures are cultural problems , not generational issues.


From Forbes:  20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get



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Living Proof

Right on cue, the niece who dubbed Rocky as her “uncle,” sent this yesterday from Nashville.

See Rocky Relationships.

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Bucket Book – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I’m cheating.  This Bucket Book is a three-for-one special that includes the three volumes from John Le Carre that features George Smiley as the protagonist: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Honourable Schoolboy; and Smiley’s People.  These book comprise the “Karla Trilogy,” in which  Smiley (an employee of British Intelligence MI6) attempts to outsmart Karla, his KGB opposite.

tinker coverhounorablesmiley

Le Carre is the master teller of spy stories, but his books represent anti-James Bond tales.  Smiley is old and frumpy, not debonair and muscular.  The plots are carried by the moral dilemmas of the characters and author’s insights into their struggles, not by fast-paced action.  While James Bond used cigarette guns or an Aston Martin with machine guns to do his job, Smiley’s tradecraft includes the knowledge of how to get a someone to tell secrets without asking.  Instead of winning all the women, Smiley constantly deals with the distraction of a beautiful wife, whose chief function in the novels is to distract him from his case due to her unfaithfulness.  James Bond may be the ultimate action hero, but George Smiley is the ultimate moral hero.  He struggles, yes.  But principles, convictions, and past loyalties shape his actions and torment his soul.

If you are looking for a page-turning, fast paced beach read, none of these may be your first choice.  But if you are intrigued by the ways men and women maintain their convictions and justify their sins, how average people rise to heroic stature in the face of certain defeat, what people under stress say to themselves when making decisions about loyalty and betrayal, Le Carre will be an author you enjoy.  Be prepared for plenty of British idioms and slang, plus wonderful English understatement.   I’ve read very few novels twice in my life; the three listed above represents the only series I’ve read twice, with the readings separated by 20+ years.


Here are some quotes to give you an idea of Le Carre’s insights into the heart:

“Home’s where you go when you run out of homes.”

 (Speaking of a widower) “We men who cook for ourselves are half-creatures, he thought as he scanned the two shelves, tugged out the saucepan and the frying-pan, poked among the cayenne and paprika. Anywhere else in the house—even in bed—you can cut yourself off, read your books, deceive yourself that solitude is best. But in the kitchen the signs of incompleteness are too strident. Half of one black loaf. Half of one coarse sausage. Half an onion. Half a pint of milk. Half a lemon. Half a packet of black tea. Half a life.”

“By repetition, each lie becomes an irreversible fact upon which other lies are constructed.”


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Rocky Relationships

I’m trying to figure out my relationship to Rocky, our dog.

My confusion started when my wife accused, ” You don’t love Rocky, do you?”

“Of course,” I answered, “but he is just a dog.”

Uh-ohh. I made two mistakes in the last five words. Just. A dog.

“No he’s not,” she huffed.  “He’s family!”

I should have seen this coming.  My first hints were strangers who rode around with bumper stickers that say, “I love my grand-dog.”  Or,  “My Beagle  is smarter than your honor student. ”  Seriously? A Dachshund, maybe, but not a Beagle.

The dog-as-family movement came to our house  when our niece decided that, since Rocky was originally my father-in-law’s dog, Rocky was her uncle. Uncle Rocky.  My daughters picked up the idea and soon all the cousins spoke of Rocky as their uncle.  If you take time to think through the consequences, Rocky was now my brother-in-law.  Someone help me.

In case you missed my first column on Rocky – he came to live with us after my father-in-law passed away.  Rocky’s move to our house started a new chapter in my relationship with him. Thus, my relationship crisis hit a new level when my wife sent me to pick him up at Dippity-Do-Da-Dogs after a grooming session.  “I’m here to pick up Rocky,” I announced.

The nice woman behind the counter said, “We have two Rocky’s today. Which one?”

“The Yorkie mix who thinks he’s human.”

“Ohhhhh,” said the woman behind the counter. “You mean Rocky Snider.”

Excuse me?  I didn’t know my dog had a last name.  My last name?

I didn’t say these words, but they  were going through my mind.  The woman either noticed the surprise on my face or the 30 second delay in  responding  as I processed the information.  Anticipating my resistance, she added, “All our customers have last names.  What else would his name be?”

I’m paying the bill.  I am the customer and I already have a last name.  That’s not what she meant.  As if she could read my mind, she looked at me with a mixture of scorn and pity for refusing to acknowledge my- dare I say it – son.

All the way home Rocky sat in the passenger seat with his back to me.  He was mad and giving me the silent treatment.   I’m not sure his anger was provoked by my wife sending him to the groomer or my failure to acknowledge the new relationship.  Somehow, I have adopted my no good brother in law who sits around all day yelling at the TV (see my first column).  I pay for his food, haircuts, and medical bills.  He decides what we watch on TV.  I walk behind him with the plastic bag.  Could this be any worse?

Yes, it could.  My daughter recently pointed out that Rocky was my grand-daughter’s uncle and great uncle.  Think it through.  You’ll get it.  I heard this sort of thing is illegal in 40 states.  I just hope Georgia is one of them.




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Prayer from Helen Ring Robinson

O, God, our Father, our souls are made weary by the sight of hunger and want in nakedness; of little children bearing on their bent backs the burden of the world’s work; of motherhood drawn under the grinding wheels of modern industry; and overburdened manhood, with empty hands, stumbling and falling.

Help us to understand that it is not Thy purpose to do away with life’s struggle, but that thou desirest us to make the conditions of that struggle just and its results fair.

Enable us to know that we may bring this to pass only through love and sympathy and understanding; only as we realize that all are alike Thy children – the rich and the poor, the strong in the week, the fortunate in the unfortunate. And so, our Father, give us an ever truer sense of human sisterhood; that with patience and steadfastness we may do our part in ending the injustice that is in the land, so that all may rejoice in the fruits of their toil and be glad in thy sunshine.

Keep us in hope and courage even amid the vastness of the undertaking in the slowness of the progress, and sustain us with the knowledge that our times are in Thy hand. Amen.

Helen Ring Robinson

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Politics and Patriotism – Quotes for Independence Day

From Gandhi

The Roots of Violence:

Wealth without work,
Pleasure without conscience,
Knowledge without character,
Commerce without morality,
Science without humanity,
Worship without sacrifice,
Politics without principles.

From Baron Charles de Montesquieu in  The Spirit of Laws, 1748

 A dictatorship depends upon fear and when fear disappears, the dictatorship is overthrown.  A monarchy depends upon the loyalty of the people and dies when loyalty dies.  The most desirable form of government is a free republic, obviously; but it is also the most fragile form of government because it depends on a virtuous people. (summary, not a direct quote)

From Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America.  Anchor Books, 1969.

In order to enjoy the benefits of society, one must shoulder its obligations. p. 14

The great cause of the superiority of the federal Constitution lies in the actual character of the lawgivers.  p. 152

How can tyranny be resisted in country where each individual is weak and where no common interest unites individuals? p. 96

From  E. J.Dionne, Why Americans Hate Politics, New York, Touchstone Books, 1991.

 Americans hate politics as it is now practiced because we have lost all sense of the public good.  p.332

From Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon,  The Truth About God, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1999.

 Democracy tends to delude us into thinking that we may live our lives as if no authority need be acknowledged unless it personally suits us. p. 75

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